Going, going...GONG!
Durangoans to showcase talents at first annual Snowdown Gong Show

The Cave Sisters Jodie Petersen, left, and Petie Jenkins perform as a pair of inseparable Siamese twins. /Photo by Todd Newcomer.

One of my more memorable childhood traumas occurred when auditioning for my elementary school’s Gong Show. Some girlfriends and I had worked out a fabulous act that involved sock puppets lip synching to that Wham song “Wake Me Up Before You Go-Go.”

Somehow, we didn’t make the cut.

So when I arrived at the Abbey Theatre on Monday for auditions for Durango’s first-ever Snowdown Gong Show, I was relieved to be there as a reporter and not a performer. Visions of spoon hanging and men in drag danced in my head as I introduced myself to Jen Prosser, the event’s producer. But she shook her head wistfully and told me that only three acts had signed up.

“We might be the Gong Show that got gonged,” she said. “We’ll wait a little longer and see if more people show up.”

I found a seat and looked around at the handful of people in the theater. A woman was sitting on the edge of her chair near me.

“Are you auditioning?” I asked her.

“I’m gonna wait and see,” she answered.

“I think they just want warm bodies,” I replied. “What’s your talent?”

She guffawed.

“I have no talent – isn’t that the point of the Gong Show? I’m telling a joke about my dog’s penis operation.”

She told me part of her anecdote, which involved a phrase that made me laugh, and she headed to the judges’ table to sign up. She told them about her act, “A Bone-Age Story,” and I heard another performer ex-claim, “Well I’m outclassed – I’m going home!”

After the dog lady, a few more people surfaced and signed up, at which point Prosser triumphantly announced, “There will be a show!”

My “Bone-Age” friend was first up and got big laughs from the smattering of audience members. She was followed by a Durango High School junior who, just like she’d said, tap danced for a minute and 45 seconds. After her number, a man in the audience yelled to the judges, “How are you going to find any acts that are gongable? So far, these are beautiful!”

The next act featured local legend Candye Sauer, who entered the stage in a gold lame Elvis suit and announced, “I’m Elvis Hula Pelvis – Come-on-i-wanna-laya!” She then proceeded to hula hoop while singing “Heartbreak

Candye Sauer swings her hips and
hula hoops during her flawless Elvis act./Photo by Todd Newcomer

Hotel,” a cappella. The crowd went wild as she completed a hula hoop trick and hollered, “Elvis Hula Pelvis is leaving the building!” (Hot tip: See her now before she’s rich and famous; Sauer acted in an upcoming Kim Basinger movie that should be released this summer. Fittingly, she plays an Elvis impersonator who starts a riot.)

Sauer was a tough act to follow, but “The Cave Sisters” came through by dressing as Siamese twins and lip synching to an old song with lyrics like, “Men have tried to split us up but no one can.” They threw in some chorus line kicks with their common leg at the end to add some spice to the routine.

Possibly another future Kim Basinger co-star, Heidi Stewart, stole the show with a soliloquy from Shakes-peare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream. I had a chance to meet the young thespian and asked if she attends DHS. The look on her face told me I was wrong, so I guessed again. “The Fort?” Turns out she’s an eighth -grader at Miller Middle School.

“Is there an age minimum?” she asked me worriedly as the judges discussed whether performers had to be 21 like the audience members. They decided underage performers were OK, and I returned to my seat in time for Davitt Armstrong’s stand-up routine “Hard Work.”

(“That’s what Snowdown’s all about: hard work,” the Snowdown board member quipped later.)

He started out strong and then said, “I want to tell you about hard work – if I can, since it’s been 12 years since I’ve done this bit ...”

“Gong!” someone yelled.

But he went on to kill with “examples” of his hard work, like “I held 19 babies and changed diapers on 45 of ’em... ,” but still went up to the judges afterward and offered, “I truly volunteer to be a gongee.”

That was it for the acts, and Prosser thanked the performers and said auditions would continue for several days, and that they should try to recruit their friends.

“I must admit I’m a little surprised (at the low turn-out) when we have great prizes – $206 for first place,” she said.

“Forget the friends, then!” a performer called out.

“People in Durango are late,” Prosser mused. “We need to give them time...to get liquored up, I guess.”

A pretty 20-something appeared in the doorway.

“Are you trying out?” someone asked.

“No, I’m just checking it out,” she said as she sidled out the door to calls of “Chicken!”

Prosser said everyone could go, though she and the judges would stay for late-comers. A few more acts did materialize, such as a tribute to Michael Jackson sung as a variation on a famous Elton John song – “Don’t Let Your Son Go Down On Me.”

Armstrong wandered over to me to go on the record with: “I predict that the Gong Show will become the next Snowdown ‘can’t miss’ event. It will be as big as the Follies and Fashion Dos and Don’ts and people will wonder, ‘Why didn’t I buy tickets last year?’”

In the meantime, Prosser says she’ll be recruiting additional acts (call her at 759-9707 if interested). On my way out, she even asked me, “So Jen, do you have a talent?”

I decided to keep the Wham sock puppet routine to myself.








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