The kind of questions that arise when debating our community’s heritage are, well, unique. We held our annual celebration of Whistler’s history, Icon Gone, on Wednesday and the evening’s debate eventually boiled down to this: Which is more emblematic of our community’s cherished free spirit, a long-gone squat which sheltered hundreds of ski bums with a propensity for public nudity, or the timeless act of naked skiing itself. Seriously.
Maybe serious isn’t the best word to describe an event featuring hippie wigs, an ode to drinking, G.D. Maxwell singing (screaming?) “WHO LET THE DOGS OUT!?” and the anti-serious “Big Kev” Mikkelsen, but you get the point. In all, eight brave souls got in front of a packed crowd at Merlin’s to plead their case for a cherished icon from Whistler’s past. In the end, our town came out looking pretty darn good.
A celebration of, or nostalgia for, Whistler’s free spirit was a binding theme through much of the night. Mo Douglas, who has done an amazing job MCing all 6 Icon Gone’s, warmed the crowd by roasting every competitor before they had a chance to get on stage.
G.D. Maxwell opened the ceremony with an ode to dogs, and the integral role they have played in fighting ski town solitude over the decades. Little known fact: a dog once ran for mayor of Whistler (and some in attendance last night evidently wish Bob the Dog had won.) Max’s opening-round opponent, Emily Wood, narrowly took the bout with an ode to Whistler’s ultimate pioneering spirit, Myrtle Philip.
Up next Steve Andrews took the stage armed solely with his acoustic guitar and a nice little ditty about Dusty the Horse, everyone’s favourite taxidermied farm animal. Steve definitely had the best audience participation of the evening, as seemingly everyone was singing along with his Johnny Cash-inspired chorus. Despite the audience’s vote, defending champ Angie Nolan won over both judges (Museum prez John “Bushrat” Hetherington, and Whistler Question Editor Tanya Foubert) with her spirited defense of Whistler’s most famous squat, Toad Hall.
Mandy Rousseau used her generally quiet demeanour to totally floor the judge’s and audience with a hilarious profile of naked skiers. The Icon Gone neophyte managed to beat out event veteran and inaugural champion Stephen Vogler’s ode to drinking, despite the fact that virtually everyone in attendance, and virtually none were naked.
The final opening round match-up saw Kevin “Big Kev” Mikkelsen up against veteran scribe Michel Beaudry. Both had compellingly nostalgic performances: Kevin listed the powder-preserving advantages of the fast-disappearing fixed-grip chairlift, while Michel Beaudry celebrated the humility and free spirit of the under-appreciated Stefan Ples. Michel took the round, possibly due to his dominance in the facial hair department (no offense to Kev’s mutton chops).
The subsequent rounds were a blur of debate, dispute, and a little debauchery, but in the end, Angie Nolan simply wanted the prize the most. In the second round she managed to explain how every other icon up for debate was fundamentally indebted to the spirit of Toad Hall, and in the final showdown against Mandy and Max (who was voted back in as a wildcard) sealed the deal by proclaiming :
As long as we remember to break some rules, Toad Hall will never be gone.
And that is how you win Icon Gone.
A HUGE thanks to all the competitors, our judges, Mo Douglas, our sponsors (Merlin’s, Araxi, Whistler Foto Source, Sushi Village, Purebread Bakery, and the BC Provincial Government) and everyone who made it out to the show. Is Icon Gone now a thing of the past, or will it continue to make history in the near future? Only time will tell.