October 29, 2009—The Literary Death Match NYC, Ep. 19 at Bowery Poetry Club was a masterfully literary event with a dress-up flop of a finale that had Robert Lopez (author of Part of the World; representing Mixer) pulling out a narrow victory over his equally exceptional co-finalist, Sarah Jane Stratford, as each "raced" to produce a costume from a smattering of fun-time elements, but neither (disappointingly) utilized the beard.
But well before the conclusion was even a consideration, Kelly Helder and The Full Ginsburg's Jared Bloom welcomed David Henry Sterry (Hos, Hookers, Call-Girls, and Rent Boys: Prostitutes Writing on Life, Love, Work, Sex, and Money) to kick things off. Sterry recited a sharply-told memoir about his best experience as a hustler or, as he called it, "industrial sex technician." The follow-up was Sarah Jane Stratford (author of The Midnight Guardian; representing St. Martin's Press), who spilled a gruesomely sexy vampire tale rife with spine-snaps, moans and slashes and enough fresh blood to do the Literary Death Match proud.
After each read, the mic was turned over to an all-star cast of genius judges, including Grove/Atlantic's Amy Hundley who knocked off a point from Sterry for using the term "her sex" (a personal pet peeve), The Colbert Report's Peter Grosz (also featured in Sonic commercials), who said about Stratford that he "would've liked to see [her] tear someone's spine out, just to visualize it…and then bite a face off," followed by Gabe Liedman
who admitted about Sterry that, "rent-boy memoirs are my favorite genre, which made me give [your story] 10 stars out of 6 before I even started."
After an intense huddle the judges were pulled apart before Hundley announced Sarah Jane Stratford was the night's first finalist.
After a brief intermission, in which the rowdy audience was shown a short film by The Full Ginsburg, the competition resumed with Lopez leading off against Underwater New York. Lopez mesmerized with a heart-aching tale of man who's only real way to communicate is with a phone that won't dial out. Next up was David Hollander who ripped off an anti-F train narrative about a man missing a girl that warbled and spun with sharp prose (and the use of the word recidivism).
While Hundley found Lopez "menacing and polite," Grosz had this to say: "If you talk about masturbation, we want to see it, even if it's just a little bit. Show don't tell." The judges then turned their attention to Hollander, as Liedman said, "I ride the F train every day, and unless you're getting off at 2nd Avenue or Bergen Street, maybe you kiss people first, but this narrator was getting off at Fort Hamilton so he doesn't kiss a lot."
Again, the judges huddled up, and this time they selected Lopez as the night's second finalist.
For the finale, the Halloween-themed conclusion was an unmitigated disaster, as Lopez's costume as Johnny from the film Airplane ("You didn't look anything like him," said Grosz), outshined Stratford's actual efforts as he took home the Literary Death Match crown!