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Oakmont Elks offer fun with a 'Twist'

| Thursday, Sept. 24, 2009

The way Janice Schlegel sees it, you can't put a price on a good time.

"It's all about being willing to shed your dignity, at any cost, to entertain and make people laugh," the Plum resident reasons. "And our lodge is very fortunate to have the people who are more than willing to do this!"

She is referring to the Oakmont Elks' "Oldies With a Twist" event on Saturday in the organization's Oakmont home. It benefits the charity work of the Elks.

It will be a traditional oldies dance with a DJ, but will feature about seven nontraditional skits in which members perform in costume as some of their favorite stars.

Schlegel drew the short straw and is doing the choreography for The Village Guys, a skit that includes her husband, Lodge Exalted Ruler Harry Schlegel, in a take off on The Village People.

The same men performed as The Hula Guys last year at an Elks' Hawaiian Luau, wearing coconut bras and grass skirts. "They had such a good time, and the audience response was so good, that they wanted to go on the road with the act," says Schlegel, laughing. She convinced them to channel their energies into "Oldies With a Twist."

Although she says they refer to her as "The Dance Nazi," she admits, "I only give them what I think they can pull off, and they really do try."

She guarantees that the audience will laugh and have a great time at the evening's skits and the opportunity to dance to the oldies all night.

Marilyn McNally of Upper Burrell originated the "Oldies" idea about six years ago by spoofing some of the songs at the dances. "Two of my friends and I called ourselves 'The Stuff Shells' and performed a song by the Shirelles," she recalls. The idea caught on, and other Elk members decided to join in.

The acts and performers have changed through the years, but it remains a good time for a good cause, she adds. Most of the performers also take part in the lodge's popular murder mysteries. "They are a group of talented and fun-loving people," McNally says. "It's very entertaining and more fun than just a regular oldies dance."

"We are blessed with a number of outgoing personalities who jump at the chance to go before an audience. None are professionals, which seems to help rather than detract," says Elk Doug Fletcher of Oakmont. "We seem to have a level of camaraderie that makes it work for us."

In addition to the Village People, there will be "visits" from Elvis Presley, Johnny and June Carter Cash, Little Orphan Annie, Mae West and a surprise vocalist from "Smokey Joe's Cafe," Fletcher says.

Eric Swierczewski of Brackenridge plans to bring Presley to life. A veteran musician, in addition to performing in a band he has an "Elvis, Elvis: A Tribute to the King" show he performs throughout the year.

"I like his showmanship, and his personality resonated off the stage. He was a very polite and very spiritual person who helped a lot of people," Swierczewski says.

Swierczewski says he likes the idea of the Elks' show. "There will be a little bit for everybody and a lot of fun," he says.

Dennie Kanouff of Plum intends to emphasize the fun side of the night, leading a take off on Danny and the Juniors as Dennie and the Seniors. "The first song I jitterbugged to was Danny and the Juniors' 'At The Hop,' " he recalls. "We'll be doing our moves and using our 'senior appliances' -- walkers and a cane. There will be a lot of laughs and surprises."

Additional Information:

'Oldies With a Twist'

When: 8 p.m. Saturday; doors open at 7 p.m.

Where: Oakmont Elks, 106 Washington Ave., Oakmont

Admission: $10

Details: Reservations, 412-828-1668

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