The pageant Saturday night on the Ocean City Music Pier was not pretty. Oh no, not pretty at all.
The beauty queens got lost in the time machine on the way to the opening number. They came out a little gray … and wrinkled … and, well, male.
But that, of course, was the idea behind the inaugural Mr. Mature America Pageant — a tribute to the “accomplishments, talents and relevance of men 60 and over,” in the words of Ocean City’s 81-year-old public relations director, Mark Soifer, who was the mastermind of an event billed as the first of its kind in the world.
A boisterous crowd of more than 400 was in on the joke, clapping and howling encouragement at six brave contestants, who obliged the audience with a celebration of nostalgia and a display of talent, good looks and poise worthy of any pageant.
In the end, all six were awarded prizes befitting their chutzpah: Dietz and Watson hams.
But a 61-year-old Cape May Court House man, Frank Faralli Jr., came home with the crown.
Faralli sang “Edelweiss” in the talent portion of the competition and was awarded top prize in both the poise and on-stage question segments.
Former Ocean City Mayor Roy Gillian, 84, won the talent competition with a piano medley.
Other contestants included: Rene Sese, 73 of Egg Harbor Township; Eugene Ross, 89, of Ocean City; Jerry Lukas, 66, of Vineland; and Joel Fogel, 69, of Somers Point.
Pinky Kravitz, an 86-year-old with a 57-year career in radio and broadcasting, was honored with the pageant’s Inspiration Award.
“I know a lot of you came here saying what the hell will these people do,” Kravitz told the audience. “But have you enjoyed it?”
And the crowd responded with a standing ovation.
He said the pageant was about fun “and that’s what we look for when we reach this stage of life.”
Kravitz called the pageant another one of Soifer’s “stupid ideas … every one of them a winner.”
Soifer has brought to Ocean City crustacean crab pageants, baby crawling races, french fry sculpting contests and a host of other events befitting the family resort. What he hasn’t created he’s borrowed — things like Ocean City’s Doo Dah Parade and First Night celebrations.
In his own remarks, Soifer said the pageant was not only about fun but about sending a message that “we’re still contributing.” He thanked his family and wife of 56 years, Toby.
And the pageant winner, Faralli thanked his family as well. Gravely ill, he said he woke up a year ago to find himself surrounded by family members. Not a good sign, he said.
But now recovered and encouraged by his wife to take part in the pageant, Faralli said he is grateful for their support.
The event included production numbers, emcees Maribeth Neall (also executive producer of the show) and former Philadelphia news anchor Dick Sheeran, and female entertainers (vocalist Peggy King, baton twirler Betty Lambert and Ms. Senior America Vanessa Shaw).
Ocean City’s Nancy Fox sang the National Anthem to open and the runway song honoring the new Mr. Mature America (written by Soifer):
All greet him now,
All greet him now,
Mr. Mature America!
Isn’t he a handsome geezer,
Certainly a people pleaser
So completely covered
Cheer loud! Cheer loud! And lustily!
His hearing ain’t what it used to be!