BY REV. JEN (rev-jen.com) | Fifteen years ago, I noticed a disturbing trend in the world of Downtown performance art: lots of female nudity and almost no male nudity. Boobs were flappin’ in the breeze on practically every stage below Houston Street, but there was nary a male pectoral to be found. For a lady to see a male striptease back then, you either had to go to a gay bar where the gents were unattainable or shell out your life savings at an “official” strip club in order to watch a mullet-haired, ‘roided up man shake his spray-tanned gluteus.
Boozy annual pageant objectifies dudes, celebrates the weird
I wracked my brain wondering how to make up for the clear dearth of entertainment involving the objectification of men. Eventually, I decided to remedy the situation by creating The Mr. Lower East Side Pageant. It would be similar to the Miss USA Pageant, if all the performers were hairy and liked Budweiser. Even better, any woman or gay man in attendance would get to vote on the winner. Straight men often complain about this, but I remind them that women in this country didn’t get the right to vote until 1920 — so I’m just making up for lost time.
The pageant has three main categories: a one-minute talent competition, a swimsuit competition and evening wear combined with question and answer. To compete, contestants need not live on the Lower East Side — because honestly, who can afford it anymore? In fact, last year’s winner, Johnny Bizarre actually lives on the F Train. Competitors must simply possess qualities which would make them the proper representative of the LES (what those qualities are, I am not quite sure of).
The chosen monarch gets a crown (complete with detachable bong), a slice of pizza from Rosario’s and the knowledge that he has been chosen by the people. Runner-up receives the dubious honor of “Mr. Tribeca” and gets to wear a smaller, vagina-shaped crown throughout the year. Other prizes are given for “Best Male Tits,” “Congeniality” and “Best Nutsack.” There is even a “Susan Lucci Award” for most consecutive losses.
In my years as the pageant’s “Bob Barker,” I have seen many things. Moonshine Shorey, the pageant’s only triple-crown winner (who now has “Mr. Lower East Side” tattooed on his arm) once rescued a Barbie doll from a kiddie pool to the “Baywatch” theme song during swimwear. Two years ago, the crown went to Jason “J-Boy” Thompson — who, for evening wear, made his entrance to ZZ Top’s “Sharp Dressed Man” wearing nothing more than an extremely long beard and sunglasses. John Ennis won in 2002 via video from Los Angeles. This he did by handing out informative brochures about the Lower East Side along the Hollywood Walk of Fame. “Maybe not so many stars on the sidewalk,” he quipped, “but lots of Art Stars passed out on the sidewalk.” A few years ago, a rescued kitten named Pickles even entered the race. You will never hear me say, “I’ve seen it all” because just when I think I have, another Mr. LES Pageant rolls around and I see a grown man do something with a vegetable and an orifice that dumbfounds me.
Also dumbfounding have been the changes I’ve witnessed in the neighborhood. The first several pageants were held at former Ludlow Street art hole, Collective Unconscious, which was razed in order to make room for luxury condominiums. For several years, it was then held at Bowery Poetry Club, which is now an upscale supper club. The pageant eventually moved back to Ludlow Street and found a home at music venue, Cake Shop. Despite all the changes, one thing has remained the same: Downtown is still full of eccentric artists. Anyone doubting this claim clearly wasn’t at this year’s pageant, which witnessed full throttle weirdness and an audience that, after a few beers, turned into the Roman Colosseum. A plethora of brave dudes took the stage as the crowd shouted a battle cry of “Show us your balls!”
Former two-time winner, Mike Amato, who this year placed third, made onstage love to a blow-up doll and wore bloody pants as evening wear. Raven Solano, who came equipped with a “Pageant Dad,” nabbed “Mr. Tribeca” — despite answering the Q&A question, “Are you happy?” incorrectly (he answered “sure,” while the correct answer is always “no”). Despite this, he swung a mean pair of ass-tassels and sported tuxedo-themed lingerie while yet another contender named “La Bouchette” sported Octopus tentacles for arms. When all was said and done, ballots were collected and handed to filmmaker Kat Green, who sat at her computer (“The Ballsack 3,000”) and began to tally the votes. When the Ballsack abruptly began to malfunction, she was forced to hand count the votes, which only added to the anticipation.
Finally, winners were announced. Johnny Bizarre, who last year drove a nail into his “member” while speaking highly of his mother (and therefore took the crown), did not place. It was a tight race — but it was performance artist Matthew Silver who careened onstage aboard a little child’s car whilst wearing a Speedo during swimwear (and who dressed as a “Number 2 Pencil” for evening wear) who took home the crown. In an official statement, he declared: “As the 15th Mr. LES, I will use my fart heart power to destroy the idea of the economy and have people welcome back their hearts. Because in a tough city everybody needs love and in reality, love is the only thing that’s real!”
The Mr. Lower East Side Pageant: Keeping the Lower East Side Weird for Over 15 Years.