Rick Ludwig's Singing Cupid Telegrams
February 7th, 2010
MARY CHIND / REGISTER PHOTOS
Nobody knows how often Cupid actually succeeds, but Rick Ludwig is about to find out.
The Waukee man has sung telegrams for years - disguised as Elvis, Johnny Cash, even the bat-munching Ozzy Osborne - but this Valentine's season marks the first time he'll go as the world's most famous cherub.
Bow and arrow? Check.
Sequinned toga? Check.
Signature song? Well, almost.
He was still fine-tuning a version of Sam Cooke's "Cupid" (draw back your bow-woh . . .) during a visit to the Register's video studio earlier this week. But he's not too worried: Even if he forgets the words, his target audiences are often too stunned to notice.
"Sometimes they'll try to run, but their co-workers or their spouse make sure they stay right there," he said.
Ludwig, 43, started working part-time as a party DJ while he was a student at Central College in Pella. He expanded into the karaoke business in the early 1990s and has been a fixture in central Iowa's nightlife ever since.
He eventually started to compete in singing contests and spent his winnings, including a $2,500 prize from Prairie Meadows, on new costumes for the likes of Buddy Holly, Elton John, Neil Diamond and Willie Nelson. He added Santa to the mix this past Christmas and may don a green leprechaun suit in March.
"There's not a lot of money in it," he said, "but it's fun to just bring people a little happiness. It's a way to cut through their problems."
Ludwig has performed more than 3,500 gigs over the years wedding receptions, corporate parties, even some funerals and he's thinking about expanding his phone-a-gram business by distributing gift certificates to hospital gift shops. (After all, nothing says "Get Well" quite like a little Ozzy Osbourne.)
There are a few other telegram singers around town, notably a Marilyn Monroe impersonator (amyasmarilyn.biz) and Silly Sally the Clown/Chicken/Gorilla from Ames (sillysallytheclown.com).
But for now, at least, the Cupid market belongs mainly to the man in the toga.
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