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Iowa City, Ep. 1

April 3, 2010 — In an epic Iowa City clash that featured countless LDM firsts (three rounds, live mini-burlesque, an on-stage kiss, and so much more), in the end it was David Gorin out-backsiding co-finalists Tim Denevi and Rachel Yoder in a fierce three-way Muzikal Chairs finale to bring home the biggest first of all: the Literary Death Match championship. 

But well before the final song was spun by Mission Creek Festival organizer and finale DJ Andre Perry, the night kicked off with a tweaking of the traditional LDM rules. Instead of two rounds, three were declared by host Todd Zuniga, with the first pitting Gorin against Benjamin Nugent (Tin House). Nugent was quick and masterful, coming nowhere near the four-minute time limit, before Gorin stepped up to first recite song lyrics from the band both he and Nugent played in, then reeled off a pair of fantastic poems. 

The mic was thing turned over to the trio of all-star judges including Ben Hale, the Poison Control Center's Patrick Tape Fleming and Les Dames Burlesque's Tough Köokie (who had stripped down to the eye-catching essentials before the show began). Hale hilariously responded to Nugent's reading with "All I have written down here is Jack Nicholson." And after Fleming and Köokie took turns spouting affectionate critique, they deliberated for a short time before declaring Gorin the night's first finalist. 

In the second round, the two female readers clashed, with Montreux Rotholtz (representing Anthology Reading Series) against Necessary Fiction rep Rachel Yoder. Rotholtz stormed out with a set of poems, the first, a Tom & Jerry based treat that won the audience and the judges affection, then Yoder stepped up and wowed onlookers with a smart and sharp tale that made the judges second finalist selection a difficult one. After a series of comments, including Hale's distaste for the "Iowa lilt," Yoder was narrowly selected as the night's second finalist. 

Then came round three, a titan-like clash that pitted NOON-rep Dylan Nice against Tim Denevi, representing The Hawaii Review. Nice was a smash hit, as he read a smart, sex-based selection that had laughter rippling through the audience. His work cut out, Denevi was unfazed, reading his piece, The Wolfman in Barry Bonds

The judges were once again handed the mic, and history was made when Köokie asked Nice if he had a girlfriend (no), then asked if she could kiss him on the lips (yes). But the momentary lip-lock didn't stop the judges from selecting the excellent Denevi as the night's second finalist. 

Then came the finale, in which three randomly selected volunteers were paired with the three finalists in a historic Muzikal Chairs battle that saw Denevi bounced early, but his wild-haired volunteer hung in until there were only three: Yoder, Gorin and Denevi's passionate proxy. After the proxy was hip-checked clear, Yoder and Gorin circled the lone stool while Joy Division's "Love Will Tear Us Apart" played, The Mill's packed-in crowd roared, and Zuniga swayed and weaved for the best angle. When the song stalled, Gorin's bottom took up a fraction more space, an incredibly narrow margin that gave him the LDM crown. 

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