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Berlin, Ep. 1

June 19, 2012 — In one of the great Literary Death Match debuts in world history, a sparkling night at .HBC — presented by Dialogue Books — went from great to amazing, as Team Clare Wigfall outdueled Team Julian Gough in a nip-tuck Pin the Mustache on Hemingway finale that had the sold out crowd in throes of delight. Wigfall took home the LDM Berlin, Ep. 1 medal, and literary immortality to boot! 

But before the finale was even a thought, the night kicked off with a Round 1 that pit award-winning Finnish poet Risto Oikarinen against BBC Short Story Award-winning writer Julian Gough (author of Juno & Juliet and Jude in London). Oikarinen led off and charmed the audience with a multi-language reading that was part poetry/part music and all performance, concluded by a clarinet solo. Next up was Gough, who worked his own spell on the judges, first showing them his lucky red briefs, followed by an outstanding mix of prose and poetry (featuring the line: “Who needs Greeks and Romans when we’ve got doughnuts in the park where the drug dealers are?”). 

The mic was then handed to the night's trio of all-star judges: Dialogue Books' own Sharmaine Lovegrovesugharhigh co-founder Alonso Dominguez and do-it-all smarty-pants and ArtStars* star Nadja Sayej. Lovegrove loved the languages in Risto’s work, while Sayej boldly insinuated a better score if her neck were to be kissed, while Dominguez had just two words: “Kenny G.” About Gough, Lovegrove dubbed his reading as “James Joyce meets causality. Pinocchio meets Pamela Anderson. Berlin nights meet Tony Blair.” Sayej complimented his bold performance, suggesting that men like him are only shy around women like her. Dominguez gave high praise in the form of a limerick: “There once was a lesbian from Cancun/ who took a young man up to her room/ where they argued all night/ as to who had the right/ to do what and how much and to whom!”

With their comments finished, the three huddled, and forced to make an impossible decision, Lovegrove was announced as the first round's winner. 

After a boozy intermission, Round 2 commenced with Lady Gaby ("the Peaches of poetry") leading off against short fictionist Clare Wigfall (a BBC National Short Story Award winner). Lady Gaby's sequence of poems were highlighted by the tale of “Pimp Up My Ride,” a true story of figuring out where you’re from while traveling on the U-8 in Berlin with a hangover. Wigfall was up next, and stepped demurely to the microphone and read a darkly moving narrative, which starts with the birds falling from the sky in a post-apocalyptic world. 

Again the mic was handed to the judges, with Lovegrove thinking Lady Gaby was channeling a bit of Grace Jones and managed to realistically capture the truth and rush of Berlin life, while Dominguez saw a bit more of Peaches in the performance. Meanwhile Sayej simply revealed that she thought there should be more poetry about U-Bahn ticket controllers. About Wigfall, Lovegrove felt her performance was reminiscent of Jane Austen. Sayej declared that Wigfall as a very talented writer, “and so on, and blah blah blah,” but perhaps a bit of self-exploration would do some good in cracking her good girl image. Finally Dominguez concluded that no one really knows when the world will end, but perhaps Wigfall should try wearing a jumpsuit next time, like Lady Gaby.

Again, the judges huddled, and again an impossible decision was to be made, and after a long chat, it was Wigfall who was declared as the night's second finalist. 

Then it was on to the finale, with LDM creator Todd Zuniga taking center stage, and hauling four volunteers from the crowd to participate in a rousing game of Pin the Mustache on Hemingway. The volunteers and finalists were blindfolded one by one, moving forward blindly to pin the mustache on the massive Hemingway-faced poster. They hit the forehead, the cheeks, but after the six mustaches were pinned, it was Wigfall who was declared the winner, earning the first-ever LDM Berlin medal, and literary immortality to go with it.

—by Alicia Reuter

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