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[January 03, 2013]

A very good year: Awarding a rewarding year in arts and entertainment

Jan 03, 2013 (The Pantagraph - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) -- This was the year that was and never will be again.

So what are we going to do about it Well, here at GO! we're big into awards and special honors, especially those packing really unwieldy, longwinded names.

The Oscars and the Golden Globes may have more lustrous stars, the Tonys might be draped in finer attire and the Kennedy Center Honors likely pack more prestige per square inch.

But we have the award names that seem to go on for days, and sometimes do.

Per tradition, this annual summation of Pantagraphland's busy entertainment scene is eligible to any performer or performers who graced an area stage or reasonable facsimile thereof over the past 12 months.

The prestige these honors entail goes without saying. Just ask any of the past winners.

Then again, maybe you should just skip the past winners and take our word for it, OK w The That's the Way the Lower Mandible Crumbles Award: To Aaron Lewis, lead singer of alt-metal overlords Staind, who played a solo-acoustic country show in Bloomington's Castle Theatre in January.
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Recalling his dentally challenged reaction when Southern rock overlord Charlie Daniels agreed, after a quick phone call, to play fiddle on his country album, "Town Line": "I picked up the pieces of my jaw off the floor and said, 'well, (bleep), that was way too easy." w The Not Even Bon Ami Will Work Here Award: To veteran Blue Collar Comedy hedonist Ron White, who DIDN'T join the Blue Collar Comedy reunion tour that played Bloomington's U.S. Cellular Coliseum in January.

When told by Jeff Foxworthy that he and fellow alums Bill Engvall and Larry the Cable Guy wanted to keep the tour quasi-clean for the family trade, White (25-year-old Scotch in hand) replied, "Jeff, not only can I not write 20 minutes of clean material, I don't want to write 20 minutes of clean material." w The But It's the One Percent That Counts Award: To famously unusual troubadour Leon Redbone, who brought a mean "Polly Wolly Doodle" to the Bloomington Center for the Performing Arts stage in February.

Regarding his trademark stage attire of impenetrable shades, funky Panama hat and Groucho-worthy lip brush, Redbone asserted that, contrary to viscious rumors, "I don't put on a costume -- 99 percent of it is what I'm wearing that day." w The Well, We Guess It Beats Selling Your Soul to the Pointy-Tail Guy Award: To Charla Halpern, founder and director of Chicago's fabled ImprovOlympics and iO Theatre, whose "Improvised Musical" made things up as it went along in a February show at the BCPA.

Recalling the troupe's origins when Halpern successfully convinced Chicago improv legend Del Close to join forces and open a theater: "I offered him $200 and all the pot I had if he'd listen to what I had to say. He listened." w The, Shoot, Beats the Alternative Award: To country legend George Jones, famously press-shy but somehow agreeable to a GO! interview in March, prior to a destined-to-be-canceled-twice Peoria Civic Center show (the third try, in November, was the charm).

Asked if he gets tired being referred to as a "living legend," the 80-year-old with the precarious health record replied, "Well, it's nice to know people think you're a legend -- especially a LIVING legend." w The Tryin' to Get the Feeling (Back) Again Award: To 69-year-old pop icon Barry Manilow, who played a Coliseum show in April, his recent hip surgery notwithstanding.

Offering GO! readers an account of the procedure, sans even a drop of local anesthesia, he recalled: "What they found when they went in was that I'd ripped the muscles off my hip on both sides. So they had to pull them back, just like you would a window shade, and nail them back on." w The Tips for Meeting Your Maker Award: To veteran pop singer-composer Rupert ("The Pina Colada Song") Holmes, whose one-man George Burns show, "Say Goodnight, Gracie" played the BCPA in April.

When writing the script, Holmes told GO! he began to ponder the scenario of what happened when Burns, who played the Deity in three "Oh, God!" movies, finally met the Real Deal following his death in 1996. Holmes' proposed ice-breakers: "You're much taller than I thought" or, better yet, "I was just kidding." w The End of Days and, Worse Than That, No More Willie Chili Award: To world's greatest harmonica man Mickey Raphael, a key limb in Willie Nelson's family tree, which filled the Coliseum en masse in June.

Noting the advancing age of the clan, and still smarting from the recent death of bass player Bee Spears, Raphael noted that "the underlying theme for most of us these days is ... don't buy any green bananas." w The End of Days and, Worse Than That, No More April Lovin' Award: To 77-year-old pop patriarch Pat Boone, who warned that his April show at the BCPA might not be followed by an encore -- here, there or anywhere.

"I really do have the sense," he foretold GO!, "that any time I appear somewhere now, it will probably be the last time. I guess people should know that ... I don't expect to be making the rounds again." w The Wizard of Ozzy Award: One more round of kudos to Pat Boone (see above), whose GO! interview featured the famously white-bread singer breaking into imitations of his one-time neighbor in Hollywood, Brit rocker and debauchery devotee Ozzy Osbourne.

Sample of one over-the-hedges exchange: "I 'aven't 'ad a drink in seven months, and I even say a prayer now an' then." (That was Ozzy via Pat, not vice versa, by the way.) w The Being a Country Singer Is a Huge Undertaking Award: To country hit-maker John Conlee, who played the PrimeTime Country Opry near Stanford in June. Luckily for the audience, he was there to sing and not practice his secondary profession -- a licensed mortician.

"Yes, license No. 3783," he said of the annually renewed document, stemming from his pre-country-star stint as undertaker. "I still consider it one of my backburner plans." Or, put it this way: If he slays you with his music, he'll still be there for you.

w The Remembrance of Things Passed Award: To Dweezil Zappa, whose tribute band celebrating his late dad's music, Zappa Plays Zappa, played the Castle in July.

In his GO! interview, DZ reminded us that Bloomington played a key role in one of pop's reveries, 1976's fact-based "The Illinois Enema Bandit," which featured the line, "I heard it on the news, heard it on the news, Bloomington, Illinois, he has caused some alarm just sneakin' around there from farm to farm." (Guess you had to be there ) w The In the Event of a Musical Catastrophe Award: To EDM (electronic dance music) overlord Bassnectar, who packed 'em in at an October Coliseum show and, anticipating certain audience needs that might arise, offered GO! readers the following provisory, "We give out free water and earplugs to those needing them." w The When Life Gives You Wieners, Have a Wiener Roast Award: To Elaine Newport, founder/head writer of the political satire troupe The Capitol Steps, back for their third pass through the BCPA less than a month before Election Day.

Assessing the season's slim pickings, she flashed back, so to speak, to a year ago, when would-be New York mayoral candidate Anthony Wiener was making life a whole lot easier for the Steps: "It's tough when there's no huge issue like Wiener tweeting his underwear ... something so big it requires a whole new song list." w The Hard to Hold, No, Seriously, Award: To pop star Rick Springfield, whose November show in ISU's Braden Auditorium went on as scheduled, despite his having recently suffered a broken hand that limited his ability to grasp certain situations.

In a GO! interview, the star of 1984's prophetic "Hard to Hold" confessed that "I broke it because I punched a wall ... so the guitar's taken a back seat while my hand heals." w The What Price Amazing Award: To long-running mentalist The Amazing Kreskin, interviewed at year's end per his upcoming (Jan. 11) show in Washington's Five Points Center.

Remembering the strangest place anyone ever hid something for him to detect, AK told the story of a U of I Assembly Hall show where his paycheck for the performance had been hidden on site. Unless he located it, he'd forfeit it. "Sir, would you please open your mouth." Nothing. "Sir, does this have anything to do with the roof of your mouth " Presto: one paycheck formerly tucked between the roof of said mouth and an upper dental plate." Eeee-uggh ... but true.

___ (c)2013 The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.) Visit The Pantagraph (Bloomington, Ill.) at www.pantagraph.com Distributed by MCT Information Services

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