by Jahna Peloquin
It's not a man pageant!" someone exclaims as the nominees for One Man Minneapolis huddle beneath the Pantages stage before the evening's big event. At this, the rest of the guys laugh and raise their voices in raucous banter as they sip their protein shakes. Being one of the lone ladies in the room, I'm picking up on an increasing testosterone level, which minutes before the show is hitting the enter-at-your-own-risk zone.
The competition to name the one man "who represents the best of the Twin Cities" has battled this criticism since its inception last year. But founder Scott Mayer and his right-hand man Mitch Kelly have crafted an event that, despite having some serious potential as coming off hokey, showcases a bunch of altruistic, community-driven dudes as well as a wide spectrum of local charities. It's not just about a bunch of pretty boys, despite the good-looking gents among the competition's 20 finalists.
"It was way cooler than I thought it'd be," 2009 contestant Dave Michela said. "I thought it'd be some kind of tool fest, but it wasn't."
"There's a great energy, a great vibe," concurred Jatin Setia (representing Twin Cities Film Fest). "It doesn't matter who wins."
In fact, in talking to contestants both past and present, it became clear that the guys were having just as much fun hanging out with each other as they did having the chance to give a voice to the charities they support. For Jeffrey Cloninger, lending supporting to his charity, the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF), it was a deeply personal experience; Cloninger has lived with diabetes since his mid-twenties. "It has been a great way to connect with the charity," he said.
Top five finalist Brian Gioelli (representing the YMCA) echoed this sentiment, saying, "Only one person wins, but we all have the chance to talk about the charities."
The event itself, held at the historic Pantages Theatre, had a Dating Game-meets-variety show format, with the contestants first going through a Q&A challenge before the final five were announced. From there, they went onto to more questions, a series of outfit changes (with day looks provided by Elsworth and tuxes from savvi Formalwear), and a hilarious "fitness" challenge involving the dudes attempting to knock over bottles with a ball tied around their waist (though it wasn't as dirty as it sounds).
In between, hosts Christiana Clark and Ann Michels entertained with an Elton John song-and-dance and wink-wink double entendres directed toward the male-dominated stage. They were joined by local comedienne Jodie Maruska and singer-songwriter Lucy Michelle (she of the Velvet Lapelles), who regaled us with a darling cover of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face" on ukulele.
In the end, the dapper Bill Tamlyn (representing MN Reading Corps) took home the crown - er, title. But this isn't the end for the rest of the guys. This year, Mayer is having the entire group work together on the winner's project. And as Gioelli put it, "We are all One Man Minneapolis." We'll second that.
All photos by Stephen Stephens for Digital Crush Photo. Check out more One Man Minneapolis photos at DigitalCrushPhoto.com. Jahna Peloquin is the Fashion Editor for l'etoile magazine and a freelance writer and stylist based out of Minneapolis.