On September 21, Gay Activist Alliance in Morris County (GAAMC) celebrated a silver anniversary-25 annual editions of the "$1.98 Beauty Contest!" GAAMC first began hosting the "$1.98 Beauty Contest"-a send up of television's weekly "$1.98 Beauty Show," developed by Chuck Barris and hosted by Rip Taylor from 1978 to 1980-in the mid-'80s to entertain the burgeoning membership.
GAAMC was founded in 1972 during the wave of support that saw Gay Activist Alliances forming all over the country, inspired by the original Gay Activists Alliance, founded in 1969, soon after Stonewall, in New York City. Now the longest continually running LGBTI organization in New Jersey, GAAMC is the place where people coming out, coming to find the heart of NJ's LGBTI community, or returning, find the resources they need. And long-term members, new guests, and members, who make the annual pilgrimage for this and the other key events, filled the auditorium at the Morristown Unitarian Fellowship to see the field of contestants.
There were five contestants in the field Monday night including returning contender Nana; a mysterious Asian beauty, Virginia Hamm, who last year went with gender and this year pursued illusion; yours truly-Walker von Folds III; another audience favorite-Tevye; and second time gender bending contender Butch.
The casual wear competition established the character of the dramatis personae and the Talent/No Talent portion delineated characters further still. Nana did a dramatic soprano number in classic fashion, dressed elegantly, yet remaining in place as if she were doing a recital. Virginia Hamm brought out the perennial favorite "Bring on the Men," from "Jekyll and Hyde," and powered through some technical difficulties, when the CD player malfunctioned and wouldn't read the CD. Walker did a bravura performance of "Who's the Man," from the London production of the musical "Witches of Eastwick" and brought down the house. Tevye, just recovering from rotator cuff surgery, did a magical puppet duet, with Golde, of "Do You Love Me," that had the crowd wiping away more than a few tears. Butch, singing in his own voice, in falsetto, regaled us with a German operatic selection. This was set off especially well by his handmade haute couture of delicate white kitchen trash bags, stunningly set off by the red pull ties.
Finally, the contestants had their final walk in formal wear and the judges had to make their decisions. Nana strutted a stunning Chinese formal jacket in burgundy satin, hand-embellished with metallic embroidery and sparkly sequins. Virginia Hamm was in an empire waist short black dress, with insouciant red shawl, and some serious bling that really set off her Dutch boy brunette bob. Walker was debonair in black tuxedo pants, white tux shirt, military style long velvet dress jacket, with purple paisley vest and tie, and a dashing purple satin cape. Tevye, being a devout sort, wore his black suit, white shirt, prayer shawl and kepi, and Butch added a handsome jacket to his white "gown." After the formal wear strut, 2008 $1.98 winner Ms. Ruby Delight took her final walk, saluting us with Grace Slick's "Dreams," dressed as a dominatrix ringmaster-mmmm, how apropos!
The lead judge handed the final tally to Mr. Scarlett O'Hara, our MC and one of the creators of the pageant, who declared Virginia Hamm to be second runner up; Butch to be first runner up, where he placed last year, lamenting "Always a Bridesmaid;" and your own Walker von Folds III as the reigning "King" of the $1.98.
My prizes included a half dozen gorgeous red roses, a (vintage) mink stole from "Dicker and Dicker of Beverly Hills," a silver coffee service from "Michael C. Fina and Company," a tiara and, since this IS a scholarship competition, $1.98 in cold hard cash! Now I just need to find the quintessential drag king Christmas song, so let me know if you have any ideas-December's coming up quickly!