By Maddy Vitale
Matthew Allen is a financial advisor. So, when it comes to helping people prepare for the future, he has the expertise to guide them.
But when it came to the best way to walk, interview and perform on stage, the 2017 Mr. Mature America Pageant contestant turned to his mentors, nieces Charlotte Erickson, 12, Little Miss Ocean City in 2016 and Julia Erickson, 20, a former Little Miss Ocean City and former Junior Miss Ocean City.
“They were going to help me with the walk, poise and some other tips because they knew what to do from their pageants,” said Allen, 65, of Newtown, Pa. “Once I entered the pageant I said, ‘Well, if I enter the pageant, I am in it to win, but I will have fun.”
But to win the 55 and up pageant held at the Music Pier in Ocean City, Allen had to prepare. After all, there was some tough competition.
And just like he puts all his effort into financial matters, he looked to his artistic side and got down to pageantry.
The financial expert practiced poise, brushed up on his interview skills, body language and eye contact so that when the important day arrived, he would wear the crown.
“Once I entered the pageant I said, ‘Well, if I enter the pageant, I am in it to win it, but I will have fun,’” Allen said.
When it came to his act, his nieces had to give it the thumbs-up before it was pageant-ready.
“The kids said, ‘We need to see it,’” and my sister-in-law Caroline (Erickson) said, ‘You need a costume.’”
When Allen performed “I Got You Babe,” singing the dual parts of Sonny and Cher, his family loved it.
They made sure he dressed the part too. He shed his business attire and transformed into a 1960s hippie, with a wig, “groovy” paisley shirt and peace necklace.
The audience loved it and it even led to some remarks by TV personality Regis Philbin, who was the master of ceremonies.
“Do you check these people before you land them?” Philbin had said.
“We do a background check,” Michael Hartman, pageant director replied.
Allen wondered what that reaction meant, he said of the time.
“The silliest part of it all was we weren’t sure what Regis thought of it,” he said.
Not too long afterward, when he became a “crown head” as his nieces call him, he realized his performance was a hit.
Allen and his wife Sharon have been married for 37 years and have two daughters Kimberly, and Jeannette, both in their 30’s. The whole family was there to cheer him on in his pageant win, especially since they all know of his zany sense of humor.
His Sonny and Cher performance didn’t begin at Mr. Mature America. It started as a spontaneous karaoke dare when he and his wife were on a cruise. The passengers liked it so much he went back and did it again the next night.
“I guess it is my alter-ego,” Allen joked. “I keep this guy in the closet and let him out. I show relatives, friends and even clients the video of the performance and they do a double-take and say, ‘Is that you?’”
In 2014 then Ocean City’s public relations director Mark Soifer created the Mr. Mature America Pageant. Allen said it was an ingenious idea.
“Whether by design or happenstance, part of the attraction of Mr. Mature is there is something unique about this baby-boomer generation,” Allen said. “We are living much longer; fuller lives and we are very active. Mr. Mature helps people see when you reach a certain age, you don’t have to fade into the sunset.”
When he was crowned Mr. Mature America it was just the beginning of his exciting reign.
“I went to eight or nine different events. All of them were fun. The Miss New Jersey pageant was so entertaining to me. There were 30 of the most beautiful girls in New Jersey and me,” Allen said with a laugh.
Then there was the Baby Parade. “One of my grandchildren was in the parade,” he said.
He also made appearances at other Ocean City events including, Unlocking of the Ocean, the Quiet Festival, Christmas Parade and events during Wacky Wednesday.
Allen said his last appearance will be in the Doo-Dah Parade which will be held on the day of the pageant April 14.
“There is nothing like the perspective of sitting in the back of a convertible when people are lined up just to have fun. I enjoyed that, and I enjoyed having banter with the crowd. Something about Ocean City,” Allen said. “I think it is such a friendly place. Mark Soifer created the environment with all the activities. Michael Hartman has just run with it. It really is unique. It is such a wonderful place to go. It is a destination. It has been just a joy to serve as an ambassador.”
And before Allen turns over his crown to the next Mr. Mature America, he has two acts in store for the audience.
“Sonny and Cher will return,” he said with a laugh. “Literally no one has any idea what I am planning for the second act. People should just come on out and see it for themselves. It is a lot of fun.”