Bay Area Idols: Becker and Gardner Live
By MITCH TRAPHAGEN
KINGS POINT — Roy Gardner and Joe Becker have the stuff American idols are made of. Both men, residents of Kings Point, were selected to perform for the Bright House Senior Idol competition at Ruth Eckard Hall in Clearwater on April 1. The winner will take home $1,000 and all will go home with a terrific acknowledgement of talent. The competition is high level. The viewing public — that means you — is the judge with voting to begin on April 7.
“We went through two levels with contestants from four counties,” Becker said. “This is the finals.”
According to Bright House, twelve talented acts were chosen as the top 55+ years young talent in their respective communities at the 2010 Bright Stars Senior Talent Shows. These twelve acts competed in the finals of the Bright Stars Senior Idol Show on April 1. The Senior Idol show will be shown on Tampa Bay On Demand; Bright House Networks channel 340 from April 7 to May 7. Customers are encouraged to watch the program and visit Bright House online to vote for their favorite performer. Voting is open from April 7 through April 21. The performer with the most votes during this time will be named “2010 Bright Stars Senior Idol” and will win $1,000 cash compliments of Bright House Networks.
If their warm smiles and infectious laughter are any indication, both men deserve to take the show — and the title. While only one of the twelve contestants will be the 2010 Senior Idol, both men are already winners. They are successful, modest and engaging. Sitting together, they are reminiscent of celebrity duos from a time when talent and charisma still meant something.
Becker and Gardner met through the competition. “He lived down the block and I didn’t even know it,” Becker said. And now they have been through the finals together and both await the results.
“People can vote online once per day — but they can vote every day,” Gardner said. “Yeah, vote often,” Becker added with a laugh.
For both men, the competition is just for fun; but it isn’t their sole shot at fame.
“I did get paid for a singing performance when I was seven years old,” Gardner said laughing. “I could sing “MacNamara’s Band” and my Dad took me into an Irish bar. It was a win-win audience for me. I had a lot of fun with that.”
Win-win audience, perhaps, but that is not the kind of venue in which you want to make mistakes. National pride can easily turn to righteous indignation; but the young Gardner pulled it off without a hitch.
Becker has already racked up plenty of time on stage under the bright lights. He played the college professor Dr. Gerald Lyman in the 1950s play, Bus Stop — along with other performances.
“In Bus Stop, I played the drunken college professor — I had them convinced I was drunk,” Joe said laughing at the (perhaps not entirely disclosed) memory.
But his enduring claim to fame is from a toy he invented. “U-Fly-It” was a model ship and airplane that could be controlled via joystick. In 1974, Johnny Carson, to the glee of the audience and sidekick Ed McMahon, took a turn at the controls of Becker’s invention on the Tonight Show. In the end, Carson managed to land the plane on the four-foot long model aircraft carrier and Becker went on to sell $10 million worth of them. Even today, people continue searching the Web for information about it, most hoping to relive treasured childhood memories.
“I’m still custom building them,” Becker said. “Right now a Delta Airlines pilot wants one.”
Asked as to whether the bright lights and applause could sway them onto a new career path, Gardner was quick to reply.
“I sincerely doubt that,” he said with a smile.
Becker and Gardner simply enjoy singing and the competition makes for a fun event.
“I’ve been singing since high school,” Becker said. “I started in a swing band — remember swing bands? But I realized that I couldn’t make a living as a singer. I still sing — I sing at nursing homes and assisted living facilities — it’s a lot of fun. Its fun to see the people and to sing the old songs. To see them remember.”
“To help them remember, they enjoy it. It means a lot to them,” Gardner agreed.
Twelve talented seniors performed on April 1 for the finals in Clearwater. We won’t give away the details of their performances — you can see them for yourself beginning April 7 on Bright House channel 340.
“It was fantastic,” Gardner said after the performance. “Sure there was some nervousness beforehand but it was a wonderful experience being on stage.”
Gardner praised not only his friend Becker, but all of the contestants.
“You would be surprised at the level of talent and competition,” he said. “One guy sang My Way — and he did it his way. He said it was his first time on stage. A woman did a song with a real high note. It was beautiful hearing her voice coming out of her.”
According to Gardner, it was a good time for everyone involved.
“One of the contestants said that we ought to put this together as an act and go on the road,” he said with a laugh. “We could do cruise ships.”
Becker and Gardner both have lives they enjoy and singing is merely a part of it. But who knows what could happen in the future?
“The winner gets a thousand bucks,” Becker said.
“That’s good,” Roy chipped in.
“Last year’s winner got a thousand bucks and a TV show,” Becker added with a laugh.
“That’s even better,” Roy agreed.
Becker and Gardner Live… The Gardner and Becker Show… either could make for a nice marquee in lights outside a Las Vegas hotel — or, perhaps, on a cruise ship. The hard part now will be to decide which man to vote for. But in the end, both men have already won. Their goal, after all, was simply to have fun with it and in the process, they gained a new friend in each other.
To see the 2010 Senior Idol performances, visit Tampa Bay On Demand on Bright House cable channel 340 beginning April 7. Voting will be held online at www.brighthouse.com through April 21. You may vote once per day, every day.