altAt the end of last year, the Rank Group, which owns Mecca Bingo, announced that the search was over in their hunt for a new Gongman and Gongwoman. The competition was launched as part of Rank’s 75th birthday celebrations, and its purpose was to find a modern-day man and woman to represent the original Gongman, featured at the beginning of every Rank Entertainment film for a 50-year period. The company stopped making movies long ago, but the legend lives on every time one of their films is shown on TV. Potential hopefuls could enter one of two categories – Classic: where they had to replicate the original gong smash; and Freestyle: where they had to come up with a creative spin on the original ‘booooong.’ Thousands of people entered the contest since it was launched in August 2012, and one-by-one, they were wittled down to a Top 75 by a panel of judges.

By the end of November, the Mecca Bingo parent company had made their minds up on two contestants, who really stood out from the crowd. Chris Rowley, a semi-professional rugby player from Stoke (aged 25), and Kate Holderness, an actress from Preston (aged 28) were declared the new Gongman and Gongwoman. Not only will they be helping with launching the Rank Gongman social media brand, but they’ll also be helping launch new and redesigned Grosvenor Casino and Mecca Bingo clubs around the country.

In the original opening credits of Rank Movies, the famous gong wasn’t a real instrument at all, but actually a prop made from paper-mache or plaster, and the sound was dubbed over the top. The first ever Gongman, was an ex-circus performer called Karl Dane, who was a lofty 6ft, 5in. After Karl went on to pursue acting opportunities in Hollywood in 1948, a former heavyweight boxer called Billy Wells stepped into his shoes. The last man to feature in the iconic pose was Martin Grace – an actor and stuntman who appeared in the Milk Tray ads, and played stunt double for Roger Moore in many of the James Bond Films.

The newly-crowned King and Queen of the gong, have also each won a holiday for two to the gambling capital of the world – Las Vegas – along with $1,000 of spending money.

Did any of our readers enter the contest? If so, how close do you think you came to being picked? Perhaps, you’ve got fond memories of a particular Rank Entertainment movie? Leave us a comment with your stories below – you know we’d love to hear them!