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Like a Eurovision Virgin

Monday, May 16, 2016 • Paris, France

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Dear Parler Paris Reader,

The Eurovision Party

Conchita WurstConchita Wurst

Eurovision 2016 scorecardEurovision 2016 scorecard

Petra Mede & Måns ZelmerlöwPetra Mede & Måns Zelmerlöw

Eurovision 2016 openingEurovision 2016 flashy opening

Australia's Sound of SilenceAustralia's Sound of Silence

Eurovision Winner from UkraineEurovision Winner from Ukraine

Amir "Jai Cherche"France's Amir "Jai Cherche"

I was a virgin. The table was already bumper-to-bumper with plates of food buffet-style for all to take. Our host had a light-show flashing colors on the walls and ceiling in the luxurious Marais apartment as the large flat-screen TV was set and ready to broadcast the show. Chairs were arranged around the large living room so everyone had a good view.

"What show?," I asked.

"What show?? You've never seen the Eurovision Song Contest?? How is it possible?? Eeek!!"

"You're a virgin!!," several people screamed at once, standing in the kitchen where the feast was being prepared.

My mind went back to when I really was a virgin, with flashes of Madonna's "Like a Virgin" going through my head, until it dawned on me they were talking about the show about to air and how this was my first time seeing it...the Eurovision Song Contest 2016.

"Remember Conchita who won it in 2014?"

Of course I did. Who could have forgotten that? Conchita Wurst was the Austrian drag queen who won the 2014 contest with his song, "Rise Like a Phoenix." It made news around the world.

They were right. How is it possible that living here all these years, this has managed to escape me? Good question. At least now I was about to be "deflowered."

"Here's how it works," the host said. "Take a score card and here's a pen. Put 5€ in the pot. Make notes about each of the singers and try to guess which top five will win. Whomever gets closest to the final winners wins the pot."

The song contest, now in it's 61st year, is much like the Oscars. It lasted till well after midnight and was broadcast from Stockholm Saturday night with co-hosts Petra Mede and Måns Zelmerlöw. The reason for the Swedish venue is that it was the singer from Sweden who won the contest last year -- Måns Zelmerlöw himself, with his song "Heroes." Stockholm seems to do well in the contest -- this was the third time the event was held there.

I missed the semi-finals (and every previous show in its history) that took place on May 10 and 12, with all three shows hosted by Petra and Måns. They were certainly new to me, too. Petra changed wardrobes a half-dozen times in the show, although fashion critic Richard Blackwell might have had a field-day giving her hell for such outrageous evening gowns. She's a Swedish comedian, dancer, actress and television presenter who hosted Eurovision Song Contest in 2013, as well.

Our own audience was rowdy. We had party blow horns to add to the excitement. Plates were being filled and refilled. Wine and champagne were flowing freely. Smokers were on the patio from time to time. There were people insisting on blocking the screen and others who were screaming at them to move or sit down. Every time a great looking guy would come on screen, you'd hear someone say "hell-o!" and if it were a gorgeous woman, the rant would be "whoa!" Thumbs would go up or thumbs would go down and it was impossible to actually hear the singers for all the noise in the room.

It didn't matter. It was a blast! One performer was better than the next. The light show was fantastic and the costuming incredible. There was a lot of transgender stuff going on -- a few singers were so androgynous that we were arguing over whether they were male or female, gay or lesbian. You can imagine the hilarious comments coming out of our own very mixed group of observers?!

On our scorecards, we could take notes and consider how we wanted to score each one. This year the voting system changed from previous years. My favorite, Australia, would have won if it hadn't and I might have won the pot. (I'm dreaming.) The change in the scoring was "Swedenized," according to the official Web site. In the old rules, the jury ranks them one to 26 best to worst as do the televoters (from all the participating countries), then the ranking is combined and then the 10 highest ranking songs get points by the jurers -- 12,10,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1. In the new rules, it's exactly the same except that the televoters now add additional points to the 10 highest ranking songs -- 12,10,8,7,6,5,4,3,2,1. Confused? The point is that the audience now has more importance and that changed everything this go-round.

Twenty-six countries competed in the final contest, having started out with 42. What was Australia doing in the contest? I don't remember it being part of Europe, do you? It participated in the 2015 contest in Vienna, finished 5th and it's the first country from the "Oceania" region and the second country outside of Eurasia to participate (Morocco did in 1980). No complaints, we all agreed we liked her best, but Ukraine took the prize with Australia in second place. When Ukraine won, it surprised us all, except our host, who won the pot for his intelligent guess. France didn't do badly -- placing sixth with "J'ai Cherché" sung by Amir. (See it live)

Well, I'm not a virgin anymore, and am already addicted. It was Kitsch with a capital K and while it was broadcast in the U.S for the first time, it would never have passed as a U.S. production. In the last scene, a performance by the two hosts, filled with costumed dancers and an impressive light show, there were a lot of sexual innuendos...such as a young woman in a farm-girl costume churning butter by pumping the stick set between her legs and then licking the creamy butter off the bulbous end of the stick -- all in close-up. (Only in Europe, only in Europe!)

You can be deflowered, too, and relive the entire show, just by visiting the official site and clicking on the videos.

A la prochaine...

11 11 15Adrian Leeds at Cafe Charlot

Adrian Leeds
The Adrian Leeds Group

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