Crown for a king: Gordon Stewart wins ‘Mr. South Whidbey’

Gordon Stewart cracks a joke during his performance at the Mr. South Whidbey competition. Stewart later won the coveted title and went home with the crown.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Gordon Stewart cracks a joke during his performance at the Mr. South Whidbey competition. Stewart later won the coveted title and went home with the crown.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

Five men put on a raucous show of song, spoken word, dance and comedy in a competition to be crowned Mr. South Whidbey on Saturday.

At the end, only one wore the sash, cape and crown: Gordon Stewart, Mr. South Whidbey 2013. He raised the most votes in the form of money donations to the Friends of Friends Medical Support Fund. The South Whidbey group celebrated its eighth year hosting the men’s pageant and hauled in an estimated $15,000 to help people pay their medical and dental expenses.

“I’m always happy with anything,” said Christi Ruscigno, a Friends of Friends board member. “How great is it that these guys are willing to do it?”

The contestants put on a show beckoning for money to help people they may know or may never meet pay for everything from prescription drugs to transportation for chemotherapy treatment.

“Sometimes, it’s simply that they can’t pay their co-pay,” Ruscigno said.

A common thread for all five contestants was their showmanship. Each one stood on stage at Freeland Hall and was clearly comfortable in the spotlight as they danced, sang, spoke and joked.

Stewart, owner of the popular Gordon’s on Blueberry Hill restaurant, had the crowd of more than 125 people rolling with laughter from his entrance until his exit. During the introductions, Stewart, the last contestant to be announced, strolled down the aisle wearing a cloak, colored beads, a peacock —adorned fedora and carrying a voodoo-inspired staff, complete with a Saint Roch card, a Darth Vader figurine and a plastic skull. As he made his way down, he threw out beads to paying patrons.

The talent portion was stacked, and Stewart’s stand-up comedy rang loudest among the pack. He opened with a jab at the crowd’s anticipation, “I bet you all thought I was going to cook something, didn’t you? Bunch of suckers.”

His stories of growing up with a Pentecostal preacher father, however, drew the biggest applause. He shared a tale of his family piling into a Subaru, motioning to his hefty size and explaining, “Four heavy-set kids in a Subaru, we were low-ridin’.” The loudest laughter came at his final joke, one about being at a church service with his dad giving a sermon on David and Goliath. Having previously described his father as needing dentures, he set the scene of his animated father motioning as David swinging a slingshot. As he mimicked the release, Stewart said his father’s dentures came flying out toward him, but his dad grabbed them and put them back in his mouth before declaring, “Thank you, Jesus!”

One of the more engaging performances was from Russell Sparkman, who played bass to a medley of songs. He even had a few dancers work the crowd and seek dollar donations as they grooved, twirled and spun about the room.

Ben Thomas wowed the crowd with his introduction, putting on a full Bollywood-style dance and wearing Hindi attire as he took on the persona of the deity Ganesha, whom he referred to as the “destroyer of obstacles.”

Kent Ratekin re-worked Mr. South Whidbey-specific lyrics to an old blues standard with Karen Blaine, though his most memorable performance was as “Underdog,” who saved a lady from “Bad Dog” during the introductions by grabbing a newspaper and telling “Bad Dog” to sit in the crowd.

Tom Churchill took his turn with an entrance as a saint, complete with a halo, and blessed the crowd as he walked by. One blessing never happened, however, once he reached the stage.

“Forgive me, Father, for I have probably sinned,” quipped Sue Frause, the evening’s emcee.

All their work as Mr. South Whidbey contestants generated plenty of money which will help people in need of crutches, prescriptions, co-pays, and transportation, Ruscigno said. To date, Friends of Friends Medical Support Fund has helped 210 people in 2013, and the $15,000 raised by this year’s pageant will go a long way to help more people in the coming year, she said.


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