Dead Martin set to entertain your delicious brains
Beginning this Final Friday, Jan. 30, Roxy's Downtown will play host to a new monthly late-night event called "The Dead Martin Variety Hour," a show created and "sort of co-produced" by Don Winsor. Yes, that Don Winsor, the one found in these pages, who has spent a great deal of his life travelling the world as an actor and singer in shows like Mamma Mia and Les Miserables. Don and Roxy's have spent the last month looking for whatever unique acts could throw together five minutes of material. I sat down with Don for a few drinks to ask exactly that the hell is The Dead Martin Variety Hour.
MM: So, exactly what the hell is The Dead Martin Variety Hour?
DW: The show is a twisted riff of the kinds of variety shows that used to be televised in the '50s, '60s and '70s. It's me playing this character, Dead Martin, to basically provide a framework for acts we find locally that are either really good, so very bad, crazy weird or even just really awkward. It has the formulaic framework of those shows, with celebrity guests and an announcer and commercials and stuff, but mainly it's about the acts. It isn't a talent show, and it isn't a showcase or a competition… it's just… well, it is something of its own.
MM: What sorts of acts have you gotten? Have you had a lot of success finding anything unusual?
DW: The response has been tremendous, actually, but I hope it gets even better. I don't want to give away too much of the first show — I want it to be a surprise — but we have some legitimately funny people and some good music. We have a couple of things you won't have even heard of. We have some magic, some burlesque. We have people who have created their own homages or parodies of other other dead celebrities. It's all over the map.
MM: How long does it run?
DW: It'll be monthly to start, but it will be entirely different every single month. New acts. Even if we bring someone back, their act will be new. If you miss the show one month, you won't see that one again. Each show will be an experience of its own and If you miss it, you miss it.
MM: Where did the idea come from? What made you decide to do it here and now?
DW: It's a sort of combination of a bunch of ideas that I've had for a long time. I knew I was going to be in Wichita for a while, and so I figured why not try to make something cool while I'm here. My challenge to myself with this was to try to make something that, were it not something I was involved in, I would really want to see. I had a lot of ideas that I shot down myself. Too dull…. it's been done… not remotely marketable. I wanted this to be a late-night sort of show, but when I brought the idea to John Hammer, the guy who runs Roxy's Downtown, I kinda softballed it in the pitch. In that meeting he asked "could this be a late night thing?" and I shot up and said "Yes! Yes it could!" Because it needs to be risque, it needs to have that element of people not knowing exactly what they're going to get. At that moment I knew John and I would be on the same page, and it was his fairly brilliant idea to program it on Final Fridays after everything else is pretty well done, calling it the "Final Friday Finale" with the bar opening at 10.
MM: Who is Dead Martin? Is he a zombie Dean Martin?
DW: No, not exactly. There's a flavor of Dean there; he's clearly the inspiration, but really Dead is a combination of two of my favorite things: that sincere yet schmaltzy Rat Pack style of entertainer and those horror hosts that used to introduce movies on late night TV. Like The Host and Rodney were here in Wichita. Dead Martin bills himself as "the world's most beloved zombie crooner." He died a couple of decades ago and since then has been hanging around just eating brains and singing standards. He's not Dean Martin, but they do both like to drink — and smoke.
MM: Do you eat brains onstage?
DW: No… well, not in the first show, anyway. This is our first run at it, and the show will evolve and get weirder as we go along. I think it will be a great time and audiences will be able to watch it develop as we refine it and make it weirder and better every month. I really hope people give it a shot. It's $10 to get in, which is purposely priced at what I call "curiosity money." Meaning, "That might be interesting. $10, I'll give that a shot." It's definitely something unlike anything else around. Also, there's booze.
MM: That's very important.
DW: Crucial. Show up at 10, get your two drinks out of the way before we even start. We might be way ahead of ya.
The Dead Martin Variety Hour makes its world premiere at Roxy's Downtown at 10:30 p.m. on Friday, Jan. 30. The bar opens at 10 p.m.. Tickets are $10 plus a two-drink minimum and can be reserved at (316) 265-4400. Submissions for acts for future editions of the show are always being sought and can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.