Long Beach Idol Competition Set for Relaunch at Surf City Hotel in July

Jun 27, 2018
File Photo by: Ryan Morrill LBI Idol winner win in 2008, Rob Kaylin of Virginia.

A tradition is reborn.

Summon that star quality and sign up for the “new and improved” Long Beach Idol competition, starting Thursday, July 5, at the Surf City Hotel. The series will run four Thursdays in July, with two preliminary rounds followed by the semifinals and finals.

Years ago, when TV’s “American Idol” show was still relatively new, a version of the same competition was conceived for Long Beach Island. It ran at the Surf City Hotel from 2006 to 2011, with the band eleven eleven providing the music behind the contestants. But after six years, organizers felt it had run its course and discontinued it.

New owners Greg and Colleen Gewirtz have decided to resurrect it.

Instead of a live band, the backing music comes courtesy of Dawn LaFetra, herself an Long Beach Idol alumnus.

Emcee Jason Booth returns as the face of the contest, putting the “show” in talent show with his energy and charm. He says the formula for playing the part is “a little charm and a whole lot of sarcasm.” His strategy for the role is to “be the Simon Cowell” of Long Beach Idol – pulling no punches, callin’ ’em as he sees ’em.

This time he has taken on more of a producer role in putting the whole thing together, while Hotel beverage manager Mike Pawlishak has done the bulk of work of securing sponsors, including WJRZ as a major partner and media sponsor. Booth and LaFetra share “a great chemistry” and a playfully entertaining dynamic that enhances the production value as well, according to Booth.

“She’s the Robin Quivers to my Howard Stern,” he said.

Himself an entertainer, Booth is a household name in the LBI region for his work as a solo artist or duo with Ted Hammock. He started playing guitar and singing at the Hotel, where he has long been on the staff as a bartender, in 2010, and at that point “it just blew up” for him. Meanwhile, he earned his degree in acting and creative writing at Montclair State University and has since pursued a career in both music and show business.

Booth can be found performing five or six nights a week all summer at various venues on the Island and mainland.

As for what it takes to be crowned LBI’s next idol, Booth said the top three factors are talent, stage presence and fun. Wireless microphones mean contestants are untethered to the stage and encouraged to roam and interact with the audience.

Participants compete for weekly giveaways, plus a $500 second place and $1,000 grand prize in the form of gift certificates to the Surf City Hotel that can be used for food, bar tabs, lodging or the liquor store. Four winners will be selected from each prelim round, so eight will make it the semis, which will result in four finalists.

The goal is to provide an outlet or showcase for the unknowns, the talented individuals from local theater and performing arts programs, or those who love to sing but maybe don’t have an instrument or the opportunity to prove themselves.

Previously, the crowd reaction determined the winners of the preliminary rounds and then judges were brought in for the last two nights. This time, each round will have a full panel of judges making the decisions, which ups the ante, as far as Booth is concerned. The old way, a contestant could almost win on personality alone, if they brought enough supporters to applaud and scream for them.

One of the judges lined up is JRZ on-air host Dan Turi, who has judged talent shows and talent searches in the past and says his favorite thing to witness is the moment the confidence comes shining through and “you can tell it’s a dream come true” for some people. Also that moment when it hits them, it also hits the crowd, and the energy that fills the room is electric. It’s all about opportunity, timing, discovery.

Other judges will include Shore Bets Talent Management Agency founder and CEO Al Geary, singer-songwriter Robin Tricker from the musical duo Gypsy Moon, entertainment attorney Simon Rosen and record executive Jason Jordan. Booth said in addition to the official winners he’ll likely also name a crowd favorite.

Everyone involved has high hopes for the competition’s success. Ultimately, “we’re bringing it back and making it stay,” Booth said.

To sign up, contact Booth at jason@surfcityhotel.com or shoot him a Facebook message on the Surf City Hotel page.

— Victoria Ford


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