Eileen Booth, aka the Flapper Tapper, performs (Jason Cox/KEIZERTIMES)

By JASON COX
Of the Keizertimes

The TV show that inspired the Senior Idol contest at Willamette Lutheran Retirement Community has a strict age limit – no one under 16 and over 28.

At the Senior Idol, however, only 65 and older need apply.

Eleven entrants entertained folks at the retirement home in north Keizer Friday, Feb. 4, with a variety of musical and dancing styles to offer.

“Cowboy” Ken Gaskin took home the crown for King of the Senior Idol competition, while Eileen Booth – better known to some as The Flapper Tapper – was this year’s queen. Both live in West Salem.

Gaskin sang two tunes: Johnny Cash’s “I Walk The Line” and the spiritual “How Great Thou Art.”

At age 72, Gaskin regularly takes his classic country act to retirement homes throughout the Willamette Valley.

“What I do is songs they remember from years back and songs they probably hadn’t heard for 50 years – Gene Autry and that sort of thing,” Gaskin said.

Booth said she’d been shy to share her age in previous years, but this year she was proud to say she was 84 years old.

“It was last night I decided I should tell my age,” she said. “I always kept it a secret but I thought I could be inspirational to seniors.”

Booth then was told just that by Arlene Egli.

She plans to donate her $125 prize to a local pet charity. Gaskin, who worked as a typesetter and in newspaper press rooms for many years, wasn’t sure yet.

“If I was a nice person I’d probably just turn it back in and say do something nice for the old folks,” Gaskin said. “I’ll have to give that some thought.”

Booth was born in Nova Scotia, Canada, then moved to Montreal. During World War II she entertained Canadian soldiers, and became an American citizen when she moved to Salem 30 years ago.

“I don’t have to take drugs to get high – all I have to do is dance and sing,” she said.

Performers included Melba Henderson on violin, singing by Judy Chartier, Jenny Hitchcock, Noor Chukavarty and the duo of Jack and Edith Tankersley, fiddle by Lou and Alice Holt, piano by David Jaynes and a saxophone-keyboard duet courtesy of Don and Pat Schuetz. Juliet Royal sang and danced the rumba.