Lenny, an old guy with sparkling bling who calls himself "The Granddaddy Rapper," presented a flawless a cappella rendition of Sir Mix-A-Lot's "Baby Got Back," riding onstage atop a Rascal electric wheelchair.
Marlene Jenkins only started singing six years ago when her adult son started a karaoke business. When she performed "I Can't Give You Anything But Love, Baby," she spent a minute behind the piano stuffing her belly with a pillow, emerging "pregnant" to the audience's delight. When she had trouble putting the mic back in the stand, Jenkins announced, "For once, I can't get it in!"
Senior Idol, which took place at the Parker Playhouse last night, wasn't all giggles and glitter. But it certainly demonstrated a mix of humor and sincerity by a group not typically in the spotlight for anything other than Medicare and Social Security.
Based loosely on American Idol, 12 seniors took to the stage to belt out some classics. While American Idol limits contestants' talent by age, keeping them young (much like The Real World limits talentless people by age), Senior Idol only takes singers over 65. These golden oldies competed for a cash prize and a free TriRail pass in front of a cheering and enthusiastic audience of their peers.
After the Original Florida Follies, all also over 65, tapped their way through "There's No Business Like Show Business," host Tamera G. from Coast 97.3 FM made sure to let the audience know, "They're going to show you they've still got it." Some of these performers sincerely must have got it more now than ever.
After each contestant sang a song, the judges narrowed them down to the top five, who we were fortunate enough to learn a little more about. Lenny Dwoskin, the rapper, for instance, performs all over town. Dressed in bling, black sunglasses, and dark chapeau, he's a fan of Eminem.
Glenda Granger-Cohen, a larger than life singer of "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" does her show for the gays at Magnum and Lords South Beach. Her favorite thing about singing at Magnum is "performing for the audiences that appreciate the great American songbook." She said, "They ask for requests. And if I know the song, I sing it. If I don't, I make it up!" Granger's inspired by Mel Torme and Rosemary Clooney, who both had "great jazz chops." She made sure to mention that this writer's too young to remember them, even though this writer knows who they are, thank you very much. In her life, she most enjoyed performing her own hour-and-a-half one-woman show opening for Milton Berle and Jackie Mason, "I'm a ham," she said, "I love to perform, and I'm lucky my voice is still there at my age."
Maxine Jaffe is a sexy 72 year old, who ripped off the skirt of her sexy short dress when transitioning from "Besame Mucho" to "All that Jazz." The audience was delighted and surprised. "Look at those legs!" someone squealed next to me. She and her hubby do Dirty Dancing-style moves but have never had a lesson. About getting sensual onstage, "I gotta move a little," she said, "'cause I dance. I feel it."
Over 90 years old, second place winner Bernard Smetanka watched the Parker Playhouse being built in the '60s, but never performed on its stage. He said, "I sing at the clubhouse up in Vero Beach," but "this is the big stuff." A former Marine with two Purple Hearts, Bernard joked, "There's something about being a Marine. You just think you're better than everybody," he laughed, "But it gave me confidence." Definitely a crowd favorite, he exclaimed, "What a thrill to have all you women making a fuss over me!"
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The winner of the night was 68-year-old, Juilliard-trained professional opera singer Josephine Dolce whose "O Mio Babbino Caro" kicked off the night emotionally and impressively. Although the hijinks of some of the others brought laughter, Dolce's genuine talent, skill, and sincerity won out with the judges.
These seniors were the liveliest, least self-conscious group of performers that South Florida's seen in once place probably since last year's Senior Idol. Sure, the young people out there may get all of the attention. But age brings confidence. And Senior Idol demonstrated the strengths of having years of experience behind you.