Saturday, May 2, 2009

Miss California and Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover

My Bisordi girlfriends and I have a morbid fascination with pageants.

I don't know why exactly, maybe it has to do with being from the land of pageants (the South is all about crowns and trophies) or maybe there is something about my gay genes that makes me appreciate the fantasy of it all.

After all, there's nothing more exciting than the old "rags to riches", "shopgirl makes it big", story that I can watch over and over again. Cinderella come to life as it were.

I even have to admit (I hope you're sitting down), that as a teen, I was the accompanist to not one, but TWO, lovely Miss Rutherford County pageants contestants, one of whom performed Natalie Cole's 70's horny classic "I Got Love On My Mind" and the other was a drop deadon imitation of gay icon Barbra Streisand's "Evergreen". Both contestants, by the way, won the talent portions of the contest, I like to think because of my excellent but subtle piano improvisation in the background. These pageants were among the few ventures outside of church music that I sashayed into during those intensely closeted years. Oh God, was the writing on the wall or what???

I can still get a little excited even now when I hear that a national pageant is being televised.

Recently, Dana and her mother Marilyn and I attended the Miss Redwood City/Miss San Mateo County pageant after becoming re-invigorated by watching "Toddler and Tiaras" on TLC. Local pageants are really nothing like the big "show stopping" nationally televised pageants since this is where they weed out the real talent from the wannabes. Think early rounds of American Idol.

One thing you learn early on if you're into these things is that Miss America and Miss USA pageant systems are VERY different from each other.

"Why do we need BOTH a Miss America AND a Miss USA?" you ask.

First, Miss America's the one where you have to have a talent of some kind. This is the part I live for. Sure, there are plenty of singers, from Broadway to Opera and pianists, and dancers, but the ones I live for are the "nontraditional" talents, the bizarre and the excuse for talent in the non-talented.

Like the ventriloquists who move their mouths or the BAD soliloquies from the stage. Or baton twirling...hehehe.

Sometimes, Miss Americas actually have real talent, although it's pretty rare that they have risen to the heights of Vanessa Williams, the first black Miss America later dethroned for racy photos and now starring in "Ugly Betty".

The Miss America system also figured out years ago that it was much more PC to begin trying to encourage women to enter for the scholarship money, rather than for beauty alone. They kept the swimsuit competition however, referring obliquely to it as the "health and athleticism" aspect to being a well-rounded woman. Gotta love that.

Miss USA however makes no bones about what this competition is all about. It's all about the three B's: beauty, boobs and butts. There ain't no talent and their ain't no serious interview questions. It's all about fake tans, faker teeth and hair and silicone.

These women don't pretend that they want to be attorneys or surgeons or teachers- they are in it to be models, spokesmodels or ...well, umm...models! They want the prize money and the furs, and they are not afraid to shake it to get it.

Here's an explanation of the differences taken from the Miss America website:

Is the Miss America program different than Miss USA?

"Yes. In 1952, Catalina Swimsuits founded the Miss USA and Miss Universe pageants as product promotion tools. Developed by the Miss America Organization, the Miss America program exists to provide personal and professional opportunities for young women to promote their voices in culture, politics and the community. Almost all contestants have either received, or are in the process of earning college or postgraduate degrees and utilize Miss America scholarship grants to further their educations. The Miss America Organization is the leading provider of scholarships for young women in the world. Although some young women compete in both Miss America and Miss USA, the two systems are completely separate".

A few years back, noted beauty expert Donald Trump purchased the Miss USA pageant system, partially explaining, I believe, why many of the winners often look like Ivana and other Trump women.

This year, apparently as a frontrunner for the Miss USA crown, Miss California Carrie Prejean, a 21 year old woman from a small town called Vista in southern California, was asked by openly gay celebrity gossip guru Perez Hilton, whether she supported same sex marriage in her home state of California.

You know, first of all, I have to wonder if he knew the answer that he would get from her before he even asked. It probably wasn't too hard to predict her response if you knew anything about her background raised in an evangelical family. The party line is always the same "marriage is between a man and woman" or some such nonsense.

At 21, how mature could this aspiring model be?

Or maybe he thought that since most evangelicals don't usually bare their abs and a significant portion of other body parts, maybe she had put some of the religious fervor behind her. I mean come on, I was raised in a fundamentalist evangelical family in the South and walking around in stilettos and a string bikini on stage was definitely verboten.

And maybe Mr. Hilton was supposed to ask something controversial to boost ratings. After all, when was the last time you talked about the Miss USA pageant?

Maybe she was used to generate publicity for the pageant.

She's probably not a bad person. And she's probably no rocket scientist.

But she is likely someone who will do or say almost anything for attention and publicity. She lost the title, but immediately got to make the rounds of the morning shows and suddenly became a spokeswoman for the anti-gay marriage movement. Guillible? Opportunist? Both?

That's where Carl Joseph Walker-Hooper comes in.

If you didn't read about his story, he's the 11 year old boy who hung himself after school mates taunted him for weeks for being "gay". Sadly, there was no evidence of what his true sexuality was, or would be, but his bully peers felt a need to pick on him and persecute him. Until he couldn't take it anymore.

Just over a year before that, also in California, eighth grade student Lawrence King, age 15, was shot and killed by a fellow student, also later labeled a crime of hate.

When I was a kid, I knew I was gay, and I knew I needed to hide it. I must have been good enough at it to escape the likely torment I would have received by the fundamentalist Christians around me- fundamentalist Christians like Miss California Carrie Prejean.

When Miss California says something "innocent" like she believes that marriage should be between a man and a woman, she tells children everywhere that being labeled gay means that you are second class and should probably kill yourself.

And she covertly nods to the crazy ones out there that want to hurt or kill poeple, even children, who look, act or in face actually are a sexual minority.

Miss California, I hope your fifteen minutes of fame end soon. You are too young and too immature to have a platform. Go back to Vista.

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