4 min

Adding spark

Zain Meghji's talent contest rocks the Oasis

Credit: Kevin Teneycke

Pockets of fun emerge, even in Vancouver, the no-fun-city. Zain Meghji is one creative mind behind Vancouver’s very own West End Idol talent contest held every Monday at the Oasis Pub. The house rocks when Zain hosts this fabulous gong show. Meghji, who I first met when he was the court gesture on a lesbo version of Alice in Wonderland called Wonderland, has definitely added a spark to Davie Street culture.

Michael Venus: What has been going on down at the Oasis, mister?

Zain Meghji: I guess the main reason we’re here is to talk about the West End Idol. We all know or have heard of the American Idol show; it was a huge success. Since there is so much talent here in Vancouver, we wanted to showcase it here but in a fun manner-as opposed to having an open-mic night. We have brought in judges-not necessarily celebrities but definitely personalities. They will interact with all the talent and the audience gets to have a ‘yea’ or a ‘nay’ so it’s not just a talent show. A lot of the people who signed up were concerned about the singing, saying they weren’t a good enough singer especially because it’s live and not pre-recorded.

So, if they stack the pub with their friends, chances are they could win if they come every week (laughing).

MV: Who are the judges?

ZM: Barb Snelgrove from the Pride Society and the film community, a vocal coach who trained in New York and is a professional actor now in town-Andrew Toth-and Ryan Eagan, who is a promoter for Honey and Milk.

MV: So how did you picky pick pick the contestants for the show?

ZM: People signed up for the preliminary round, they got up and did their thing, the judges and audience narrowed it down to the Top 10 who are now on the show. Now that the Top 10 has begun, we’ve started weekly themes. The first show was show tunes and we’ve been going from there and we keep movin’ on. Everyone who enters the events gets one ballot and we are also joined with a charity called Shooting Stars Foundation which is an AIDS research organization. Anyway, we have a drink called The West End Idol Martini and The West End Champagne Cocktail and every time you purchase one of the drinks, proceeds go to benefit the charity and you also are eligible for another vote. So technically, if you’re a big alcoholic, you can sit there and make someone win and be helping out a great cause. So that makes it okay. The final episode evening will be November 25th. It is kinda gruelling for the contestants, having to perform something new every week. One of the prizes you win is a chance to perform here at the Oasis.

MV: So how did this project come to be?

ZM: My managers wanted to do this sort of event for Mondays and me, being the big pop culture fanatic, I jumped on the idea. I guess you could say I am producing the entertainment aspects of it. I got all the judges and handled all the contestants and I also host the evening. I have been a server here since we opened and I have been very involved.

MV: So tell us about your show- biz history.

ZM: Well, back when I met you, I was in university doing my theatre degree; that was back when I wanted to be an actor, not that I don’t now, but I am taking a break from that. Before I was involved with lots of theater I played Casanova for my graduation project. I did the whole agent thing but found it unfulfilling, I felt I had to move on. One of the things I want to fulfill in doing West End Idol is produce an event and then bring it to a media structure, getting into film. I’d love to direct music videos, get into broadcasting. There are so many avenues, but I don’t want to stretch myself too thin. But I also am not someone who is stagnant with only one thing going on.

MV: Let’s go back further now: are you always from these here parts?

ZM: I was born and raised in Ontario, North York, Toronto, lived a year in Africa. I grew up in the Lower Mainland in Delta, then university, and downtown ever since

MV: What do you love about your work?

ZM: The eclectic range of clientele, especially the crazy weekends. There are sometimes lots of regulars and then it changes with lots of new faces.

MV: So back to American Idol: Were like, all of those male contestants gay or what? Most of them seemed like total flamers? I mean, other than the little Latin boy with the soft voice, they all seemed a little limp, like Ricky Martin. Total queens! I mean, were there any straight idol wannabees?

ZM: I think if there were, they got cut right away. I don’t know for sure, I haven’t slept with them but I remember there were a few incidents and Side Show Bill (Justin) sure did like wearing leather pants.

MV: You’re obviously really busy with all this but what else can we expect to see you do?

ZM: Last summer, through my own theater company, I directed a multicultural version of The Wiz. I really love to embrace multiculturalism and I eventually want to go back to directing, but right now I certainly will continue producing stuff, eventually going into media. I feel Vancouver is a great place to start out. It has so many different avenues.

MV: Any words of wisdom?

ZM: If you believe in yourself others will believe in you.