Bert Parks must be rolling over in his grave.
Well, if not in his grave, he is rolling in Natty Boh, Aqua Net and Old Bay.
The ruckus that could rile the late crooner – and perpetual pageant host – is the rhetoric surrounding this week’s third annual Baltimore Beauty Pageant. Forget the silk sashes and the sequined dresses of the five shapely hopefuls. When it comes to cooking crabs, these hometown Hons really know how to turn up the heat.
Hosted at the Ottobar by Merryland ex-pats Trixie Little and Mr. Gorgeous, the Baltimore Beauty Pageant is a Charm City-centric spectacle in which local contestants (all burlesque performers) compete to see who will sit (literally) on the porcelain throne and take home the coveted “Queen of Crabs” crown.
Little told the Baltimore Post-Examiner the idea for the pageant came from the homesickness she experienced when she moved to Brooklyn, New York three years ago.
“It was hard for me to move away from Baltimore; my heart was so heavy about it. I really loved Baltimore, but my husband, (Evil Hate) Monkey, and I were just working too much in NYC. Frankly, I was tired of spending every weekend driving back and forth on the Jersey Turnpike. So I came up with the idea to do something both irreverent and nostalgic at the same time. I teamed up with my best friend and fellow Baltimoron, Mr. Gorgeous (Gorgeous grew up in Parkville and went to MICA). He has always been obsessed with Toddlers & Tiaras, so he helped shape the idea into a fun spoof of ‘beauty’ pageants.”
Little added, “I wanted it to be an annual tradition, and Thanksgiving weekend is perfect because we always go home (to Baltimore) for the holidays. As long as I’m in the country, there’s no where else I’d rather be!”
Most pageants come with an entire laundry list of rules. But like a recipe for liver and onions, Little’s rules for contestants are surprisingly simple.
“The only rules to apply are that contestants have to have lived in Maryland at some point in their lives and be over 18. They also have to answer questions about what Baltimore and ‘beauty’ mean to them. Basically, we just want to make sure they know this is an ironic pageant that is meant to be tongue-in-cheek.”
Unfortunately, irony is lost on some people, and every year Little is forced to reject a handful of applicants.
“Sometimes people describe their whole beauty regimen or talk about how ‘beauty comes from within’. (When we see that,) we know they are taking it way too seriously. Those people definitely don’t get accepted.”
For those who do make the cut, Little said the competition can be quite imaginative and get extremely intense.
“The pageant’s first winner, Krystal Dangsheskanky, set the bar really high. Krystal was kind of nodding out while belly dancing to ‘Emotional Rescue’, and in her interview said she wanted to take all the rats from Baltimore down to the suburbs of Columbia. Last year’s winner, Bunny Vishus, made a costume of a street corner with a blue police light.”
No one is sure how many crimes Vishus’ blue light costume may have caught on camera that night.
Each contestant is judged in three different categories:
> Runway (where contestants must wear a Baltimore-inspired look)
> Interview (contestants are asked Baltimore-centric questions by the judges)
> Talent (contestants may perform anything they want in 3-5 minutes)
According to Little, the most difficult part for most hopefuls is the interview.
“For the Interview portion, we make the contestants sit on the ‘hot seat’ which is a toilet that we put on stage. (We found that) the Interview was really the make-or-break moment for a lot of past contestants. The audience quickly turns on them if they are too arrogant or not creative enough. It can be tough!”
Dealing with a hostile audience is one thing, but based on comments that have been appearing in social media, the contestants have already shed their elbow-length gloves; engaging in bellicose banter.
This is surprising since the five contestants – Kay Sera, The Lady Miz Scarlett, Ruby Rockafella, Sunny Sighed and Valeria Voxx – are not only mainstays on the Baltimore stage, they are also really good friends.
Or at least they used to be good friends.
Sera countered with a series of snarky comments about Rockafella’s diminutive stature and even questioned her ability to roast a simple Thanksgiving turkey.
Meanwhile, Voxx has been torched several times while at work and unable to reply, causing her cohorts from Black Tassel Boolesque to enter the fray. And Sunny Sighed tore a page straight from the Olivia Newton-John songbook and got physical with Rockafella – first starting fisticuffs and then a pillow fight with the pint-sized peeler.
At one point, Sera even posted pictures of adults having tantrums like toddlers, saying, “Oh, look, Sunny Sighed, Valeria Voxx, Ruby Rockafella and Lady Miz Scarlett. This is how you’ll be acting next week as you wail and sob when I’m crowned QUEEN OF CRABS.”
It’s hard to say if Miz Scarlett bothered to look at Sera’s post. Rockafella referenced Scarlett as being among those competitors actually practicing for the event while Kay Sera screwed around on the Internet.
Needless to say, this is one collection of biting, bitchy, Baltimore beauties.
Clearly, there won’t be a prize awarded for Ms. Congeniality.
As if the combination of the five aforementioned ecdysiasts weren’t enough, the revue will include pageant alumni Krystal Dangsheskanky, and Broadway Brassy – another Mobtown ex-pat.
“Brassy actually moved to NYC when she was in the final stages of auditioning to be Tracy Turnblad in the original Broadway version of ‘Hairspray’,” Little explained. “She is a great soulful singer who I work with in the NYC burlesque scene.”
Finally, Little will be performing high altitude tricks with Mr. Gorgeous.
“Mr. Gorgeous and I are also acrobatic partners and we will be doing a hand-to-hand act / ribbon dance in custom Maryland flag patterned unitards. We have lots more surprises planned too!”
Indeed. It should be interesting to watch Little run up the flagpole that is the chiseled frame of Mr. Gorgeous, and see if anyone in the audience salutes the pair.
I doubt Broadway Brassy will be singing Bert Parks’ familiar theme when the winner is announced. That’s just as well. Given the crab shaped crown the victor will wear, “Here she comes, Miss America….” really doesn’t fit the bill. But if anyone has her finger on the pulse of this town, it’s Trixie Little. Don’t be surprised if Little opts for Oriole Magic, the Baltimore Colts fight song or the catchy theme to The Captain Chesapeake Show.
Trixie Little and Mr. Gorgeous present The 2013 Baltimore Beauty Pageant this Saturday, Nov. 30 at The Ottobar: 2549 North Howard Street, Baltimore, Maryland 21218. Doors for this 18 and over event open at 7:00pm and the show starts promptly at 8:00 p.m. Tickets are $15 in advance; $18 at the door and may be purchased at missiontix.com; at Charmingtons 2601 N Howard St, Baltimore and at the Ottobar.
Anthony C. Hayes is an actor, author, raconteur, rapscallion and bon vivant. A one-time newsboy for the Evening Sun and professional presence at the Washington Herald, Tony’s poetry, photography, humor, and prose have also been featured in Smile, Hon, You’re in Baltimore!, Destination Maryland, Magic Octopus Magazine, Los Angeles Post-Examiner, Voice of Baltimore, SmartCEO, Alvarez Fiction, and Tales of Blood and Roses. If you notice that his work has been purloined, please let him know. As the Good Book says, “Thou shalt not steal.”