On Saturday, the men of American Legion Post 14 held its fifth male "beauty" pageant for a cheering and jeering audience of family and friends. The pageant, a raunchy, gender-bending spectacle of loud make-up and extra-large high heels, is one of the legion's best fundraisers. All the money raised goes towards the Veteran's Relief Fund, which was established to provide financial aid to military personnel, past and present, in times of crisis.
More than 20 men participated, each choosing an alter ego for the stage, including recognizable characters like Wonder Woman and Dolly Parton as well as more imaginative choices like "Eskimo Pi" and "Trailer Park Queen."
The man to beat this year was Johnny Rhoades, a previous two-time winner, who took to the stage this year as Rosie the Riveter. Rhoades is known for going all out, with bold costumes, wigs and make-up.
However, the third time was not the charm for Rhoades. He was unseated by newcomer and out-of-towner Dennis Martin of Middletown who brought his own version of Lady Gaga to Smyrna.
Martin took time this week to discuss how he got involved and if he'll pull out his Lady Gaga persona for the next contest.
Q How did you get involved?
A I know Faron Marshall, Billy Keplinger and Brad Whitebread. They were nice enough to help me with an event recently so when they asked me to return the favor, I didn't even hesitate. I love these guys. The charity they do is great and their mission to help veterans is so important. Some of their work will give you a whole new perspective on what the veterans have given us.
Q You were Lady Gaga for the pageant. How did you get into character?
A It started with the make-up. A good friend of mine, Jason Suto, helped me with it. I just knew that if I was going to do it, I had to overdo it. Jason did the make-up and believe it or not, it only took 45 to 50 minutes. It was actually easier that I thought. Needless to say, though, I have a whole new respect for what women go through. If my wife needs a few more minutes to get ready, you won't hear any complaining from me anymore. I get it now. I had on two layers of pantyhose and a body suit. I also had real nails. That was hard. I was so concerned about them coming off or ripping my pantyhose.
Q Was is hard to portray someone so over the top?
A Actually, I had to tone it down some. Growing up, I loved KISS-the make-up, the heels, the whole show they put on. And, we always dress up for Halloween. But, like I said, I wanted to overdo it. We were talking about back-up dancers, a fog machine and a disco ball. We tried everywhere for high heels and shoes in my size but there was nothing out there. I wear a size 13 but in women's shoes that would have been more like a size 15. It's probably for the best, though. In four-inch heels, I may have fallen into the crowd.
Page 2 of 2 - Q Will you defend your title for the next pageant?
A I've already told them that I would. It was a blast. And, like I said, I love those guys. The charity is great and I will happily defend my title. But, I will take it even further next time. I'm bringing the fog machine and the back-up dancers. I'm already looking forward to it.
Q Were there any stand-out moments for you?
A I actually had women coming up and asking me for make-up tips. One wanted to inspect my eye make-up and another woman said that she needed a closer look at my lipstick.