Pair wins Eagle's parody songwriting contest

It started as a goofy plan to entertain themselves on a road trip to Omaha.

But now, parody has become a prizewinning preoccupation for best friends Kari Geschwentner and Mandy Robertson.

The pair, both 22, were the winners of The Wichita Eagle's first holiday parody song-writing contest. They'll split the first-place prize: a $200 gift card.

Their song, a lighthearted ode to Wichita set to the tune of "O Christmas Tree," is one of many parodies written, sung and recorded on video by the duo, who even plan a parody album under their band name Mostly Mosely.

For this year's contest, The Eagle solicited song parodies, set to the tune of famous Christmas songs, and then narrowed a pool of more than 400 entries down to 10 finalists.

From there, readers voted for the top three winners, all of whom had two things in common: Parody writing was a hobby, and they campaigned for votes through Facebook e-mail and other forms of friendly coercion.

The contest's two other winners were Irving Elementary principal Larry Perlman and Friends University student Mary Rose Biltz, who win $150 and $100 gift cards, respectively.

Geschwentner and Robertson are renowned among their friends for their parodies. One of their greatest hits includes "Gum on My Favorite Pants," set to the tune of Lady Gaga's "Bad Romance." Like many of the girls' parodies, "Gum" has a funny video, posted on their Mostly Mosely Facebook page, made by and starring the duo.

The funny thing about their win, Robertson said, is that the chosen song, "O Wichita," was their least favorite of two they submitted.

They spent three hours working on the other one and much less time on the winning song.

But that didn't diminish the moment.

"Neither of us ever won anything, so we were pretty excited," Robertson said.

Second-place winner Larry Perlman also has parody-writing experience.

He's become known for the parodies he writes for various school events, including retirement parties and other celebrations. He even has a band of fellow principals who sing backup with him.

Perlman, 46, who works on the side as a mobile disc jockey, says the skill comes naturally to him.

"I have to sort of have this motivation to do it," he said. "If I'm inspired, it just comes to me."

Friends and colleagues encouraged Perlman to enter The Eagle's contest, and he also worked hard on a version he preferred to the one voters chose — an ode to Wichita's plentiful dining scene titled "All I Want for Christmas Is Food" and set to the tune of Mariah Carey's "All I Want for Christmas Is You."

Third-place winner Mary Rose Biltz was aided to victory by an enthusiastic Friends University community.

Biltz, 23, said her poetry writing skills have aided her in writing several parodies, including her winner, a "Jingle Bells" parody called "Santa in the ICT" about Santa getting his sleigh stuck on the Keeper of the Plains.

Biltz, who is student conductor for the Singing Quakers musical group, said that when people around campus heard she was a finalist, the president of the university sent out an e-mail to all students, staff and alumni encouraging them to vote for her.

The Singing Quakers also performed Biltz's version of the song as a way to encourage campus voting.

Biltz said she wrote the song in about 90 minutes one day shortly before finals. She'd entered The Eagle's holiday story contest several times before and had been named in the honorable mention category.

But she knew parody was more like poetry and that would improve her chances.

"When I saw it was parody, I thought, 'Oh man. This could be my niche,' " she said.

The judges for the contest had a hard time narrowing the entries to 10 finalists.

The most commonly used song was "Jingle Bells," and the most common themes in the entries included Kellogg construction, aircraft company woes, Black Friday shopping, the wonders of Wichita and (oddly) intrusive airport patdowns.

The parodies submitted by the seven other contest finalists are on this page with the winning entries.