Rev. Jen, on what makes a Mr. Lower East Side
BY SCOTT STIFFLER | When she’s not conducting guided tours of her Lower East Side Troll Museum, hosting the Anti-Slam at Pyramid Club or writing books (such as the upcoming “BDSM 101”), chances are elf-eared art star icon Saint Reverend Jen is busy prepping for The Mr. Lower East Side Pageant.
Like the Macy’s Parade, this beloved annual NYC destination event requires year-round work in order to delight the masses with its intoxicating brew of satire, sexy spectacle and Budweiser-fueled shenanigans. But are those who triumph in their quest for the crown born or made? We asked this, and other penetrating questions, to Rev. Jen.
Can contestants train to develop the qualities one looks for in a Mr. L.E.S., or are they intangible traits?
Some men are naturally lazy multislackers, while others need to work at it. Training for the pageant should involve imbibing copious amounts of cheap alcohol, collecting unemployment checks, loosening one’s morality and ridding oneself of shame.
Only gay men and women are allowed to be judges. Like the Boy Scouts, have you faced external pressure to reflect the diversity that makes America the single greatest country on the face of the earth?
The decision to allow only women and gay men the right to vote has been controversial — but I believe that if straight men were allowed to vote, there would be too much underhanded alpha male bullshit to contend with. Women didn’t get the right to vote in this country until 1920, so dudes need to give us a break.
How do the duties of runner-up Mr. Tribeca differ from those of Mr. L.E.S.?
Mr. Tribeca’s only duty is to wear a vagina-shaped crown throughout his term, while Mr. L.E.S. has no duty other than to bask in the glory of being Mr. L.E.S. — though it should be stated that previous Mr. Lower East Sides have done quite a bit.
When Giuliani created a “decency panel” back in 2001, Mr. L.E.S. Mike Amato created a “Lower East Side Decency Panel.” When Mr. L.E.S. John Ennis had to relocate to L.A., he made pamphlets that spread the good news about the Lower East Side and handed them out to people on Hollywood Boulevard.
Would a scandal force Mr. L.E.S. to abdicate, or is bad behavior encouraged? How has 2012 winner Jason Thompson conducted himself?
Jason Thompson also recently relocated to L.A., which seems to be a trend. Fortunately, he is using his time wisely thanks to Grindr. We only had one impeachment trial, during Jeff Mac’s term in 2005. Laziness and insolence are encouraged…but he was just too lazy.
What are some of the most memorable responses to the Q&A segment?
Last year, when Jason Thompson was asked to name four films Cher had appeared in, he named every film Cher had ever appeared in. It also helped that his “evening wear” consisted of his birthday suit and a ZZ Top-style wig that just barely covered his wenis. He strutted onto the stage to “Sharp Dressed Man.” The Q&A plus evening wear segment is the deadliest. It makes or breaks contestants. It’s important to know two things: Lower East Side history and the female anatomy.
Rising rents, high rise buildings, shuttered theaters and a suffocating influx of monied twits — how have these exciting changes in the neighborhood impacted the pageant’s identity and mission, since its 1999 debut?
The first few pageants were held at Collective Unconscious, which we had to leave when the building was bulldozed by developers. Then we moved to Cake Shop. Then we moved to Bowery Poetry Club, which recently closed — and now, we are moving back to Cake Shop.
Obviously, the Mr. Lower East Sides aren’t doing quite enough. However, the pageant combats gentrification in that it reminds people that there are still freaks in New York City. The city should actually fund the pageant — because if folks in Middle America thought there were no more weirdos in New York, no one would come here. We are increasing tourism.
Describe the best, and worst, talent portion in pageant history.
This is a tough one…because after 13 years, I’ve witnessed so much greatness. The talent portion is one minute long and if contestants deign to go over one minute, the place erupts into the Roman Coliseum.
Moonshine Shorey (the only Triple Crown Mr. L.E.S.) chugged a beer and read a poem in under a minute. Sometimes just showing your “junk” isn’t enough. I witnessed one gentleman insert his wenis into his own anus and he still didn’t win.
Does this event have spin-off or corporate sponsorship potential (a Miss L.E.S. Pageant or perhaps a doggy version brought to you by Alpo)?
I started the pageant because I was fed up with the female body being objectified. I write for Penthouse, so I obviously have nothing against porn or naked female bodies.
But my open mic and the performance scene in general was sorely lacking in naked male bodies. Other women and gay men must have agreed, because the pageant was an immediate hit. Every year, it gets better. The contestants have a blast and so does the audience. I would love to curate a Chippendales-type spin-off that happens monthly. The world needs it. The more silly, dancing, half-naked men in this world, the better. But for now, the pageant only happens once a year — like Christmas.
THE 14th ANNUAL MR. LOWER EAST SIDE PAGEANT
Thurs., Feb. 21, 8pm
At Cake Shop
152 Ludlow St., btw. Rivington & Stanton Sts.
Contestants & Judges must arrive by 8pm
Contestants can register by e-mailing
firstname.lastname@example.org for details
Visit revjen.com and cake-shop.com