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Philadelphia, Ep. 1

May 26, 2011 — In the rowdiest debut Literary Death Match has ever seen, Philadelphia's monster lineup (presented by Painted Bride Quarterly) brought down the house again and again, with the night ending after Team Leonard Gontarek outdueled Team Angel Hogan in a wild and baffling game of Literary Charades, winning Gontarek the LDM crown by a oh-so-close! 3-2 score. 

But well before the finale, the night kicked off with LDM producer  Ann Heatherington introducing the night's two combatants: Hogan leading off against journalist Steve Volk (author of the soon-to-release Fringe-ology). Hogan read a brilliant piece about being adopted and raised by white people, and later on being adamantly mistaken for being white. Next up was Volk, who read about Elisabeth Kübler-Ross and how she'd cut any mention of life after death from her book (it wasn't a good idea). 

Then the mic was handed to the all-star trio of arbiters: Liz Spikol (editor-in-chief of the bilingual, technology and pop culture website Tek Lado), local bar-owning superhero Fergus “Fergie” Carey (Fergie’s Pub; Monk’s Café; The Nodding Head Tavern; Grace Tavern), and Polish American String Band-ist Larry Leso! Spikol admitted confusion that Kübler-Ross spelled her first name with an 's' and not a 'z', while Leso criticized each readers lack of strutting and/or sequins (he donned a brilliant outfit, with a fake (we think) parrot on his shoulder). Carey riled the crowd when he read his first note was "X-Men First Class..." — a commercial he'd seen on a TV. He instantly expressed his annoyance that TVs were on during a literary event, and Ladder 15 responded by immediately turning them off. The judges then deliberated, deciding it was Hogan who would be the night's first finalist. 

After a booze-fueled intermission, Round 2 began with Gontarek (author of Van Morrison Can’t Find His Feet) going up against the endlessly energetic fictionist Sarah Rose Etter (author of Tongue Party). Gontarek reeled off a sequence of obervational poems, some read from a huge tablet, one about how Quasimodo just wanted to be thought of as a "modo." Then up stepped Etter, who delivered a pair of powerhouse short stories, the latter a splendidly graphic walk-through of having sex with Ben Franklin. 

Again the mic was handed to the judges, with Spikol surprised to find Gontarek referenced Kübler-Ross after hearing her name in Round 1, and while Leso loved Gontarek's Steven Wright stylings, he didn't like having to look through a chair/back of a tablet to see what was written. The trio all praised Etter's daring reading that sexified Ben Franklin, with Carey expressing that the Ben Franklin lookalikes around Philly were just smelly old men, instead of libidnous. Again the judges convened and having to choose between two heavyweights made the difficult choice of electing Gontarek to advance. 

Then up stepped LDM creator Todd Zuniga, who introduced the debut of an all-new Literary Death Match finale: Literary Charades. Gontarek and Hogan were each given half the audience to guess, while they (and their team of three miming volunteers) were tasked with performing book titles from Time's list of the 100 Greatest Novels. After a few early scores with titles like 1984 and  The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, things surprisingly sputtered after Deliverance but with the game on the line, Team Gontarek's volunteer acted out One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest to give Gontarek a 3-2 victory, the Literary Death Match crown, and literary immortality to boot! 


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