ROOTING FOR THE HOMETOWN
Thursday evening in beautiful downtown Mississauga and I’m
sweating in a basement conference room of the local Novotel
hotel, preparing to take in the splendour of the Miss Canada
International swimsuit competition. Thirty or so naïve
young women from across the country have taken the journey to
the land of sprawl with the hopes of securing this most prestigious
of titles. Tonight, they are gathering to flaunt their nubile
bodies to the assembled media horde and a panel of three judges:
two horrid old bags with overly made-up plastic faces and the
male executive responsible for marketing the remarkably unflattering
“one-size fits all” swamp green and bright orange
swimwear the contestants will be sporting.
swarm of media in attendance for this most important of events
is, by the way, me. Well, to be honest, not just me. There’s
also an Iranian couple with their adult son who is taking pictures
for their Web page, and some other guy with a used digicam who,
ostensibly, is recording the competition for some obscure Web
channel but whose motivations, I suspect, are of a more prurient
nature. Having my own unwholesome interest in beauty queens,
I can spot a fellow enthusiast from a mile off.
chicks arrive late and immediately start prancing awkwardly
before the judges to a loop of Buster Poindexter’s “Hot,
Hot, Hot” – a hip little number that the pageant’s
head of security/DJ is pumping from his PA system, a ghetto
blaster. Under the nasty fluorescent lights you
can see every pimple, vein and hint of cellulite that these
earnest young babes have to offer and, if you station yourself
at the right angle to the rear, you notice that the ill-fitting
bathing suits offer a nice–and sometimes not-so-nice–cheeky
view on a couple of the contestants. I position myself accordingly.
absolutely no good reason at all, the snap-happy son of the
Iranian couple decides he wants to make friends with me and
comes over to speculate on why this media friendly event seems
to be void of anything resembling media. I suggest that perhaps
since the pageant hasn’t been televised in over five years
it is essentially a non-event and he responds by saying he thinks
he knows me from another life. “That’s nice,”
I tell him.
over to the pageant’s sleazeball PR guy, Larry, to inquire
why the room is so unmercifully hot. He tells me they turn off
the air conditioning for the swimsuit competition in an effort
to keep the nipple action to a minimum. “We forgot one
year and, let me tell you, you could see everything, heh, heh,
heh. We wouldn’t want that to happen again, now would
we? Heh, heh, heh.” I suggest that we would but he isn’t
listening and wouldn’t care what I have to say anyway.
doesn’t like me and I don’t like him. He’s
a fat middle-aged fuck in a bad expensive suit and bowtie. He
won’t give me a media package.
to the Miss Canada International pageant – a decidedly
low-rent affair. The contestants have been here for almost a
week now doing fun, fun things like dining at the Keg and posing
at Canada’s Wonderland with some of the pageant’s
sponsors. They’ve been bunking upstairs in the Novotel
together and the girls all say they’ve become like a big
happy family – a team actually. Everywhere they go they
are obliged to wear their sashes and sometimes people point
and make fun of them. The winners of the swimsuit competition
will be announced at the big gala scheduled for Saturday. I
am beside myself with anticipation.
BAR AND EAGER TEENS
is the big wingding where all the parents who have accompanied
their daughters to Mississauga can get together and mingle at
the hotel dining room over a $30 buffet-style pasta dinner and
cash bar. It’s a happening event to be sure and everyone
is there, including most of the contestants from the Miss Teen
Canada International pageant that is running alongside the main
event. Also scheduled for tonight is a silent auction for some
charity that nobody is quite sure of. All of the beauty queens,
in an effort to demonstrate their Miss-Canada-worthy benevolence,
have dutifully gone out and bought consumer goods that will
be auctioned off at a no-doubt inflated price to their families
in attendance. Later, I’m told that the charity auction
is for the benefit of the pageant itself. Nice.
introduced to Tiffany Dawson, a 14-year-old Greenfield Park
girl who is running as Miss Teen Quebec. She’s a Mormon
and has been sponsored by her church to come here and kick some
teen pageant ass. She’s excited to finally be talking
to a big important media person like myself and asks if I have
any interest in the teen competition. I tell her I have a very
keen interest in teens and spend a lot of time researching them
on the Internet but that, no, for all intents and purposes,
I was planning on writing my story on the older girls. She seems
disappointed. She is cute as a button and refreshingly un-beauty-queen
like, almost like a normal kid. She’ll make some polygamist
very happy someday, but she also hasn’t got a prayer of
winning. I want to put my arms around her in a disturbingly
paternal way and shield her from the sickness that is the pageant
but decide I had better not, all things considered.
Iranian friend is in attendance taking pictures of Miss Ontario,
who also happens to be of Iranian heritage, hence his website’s
interest in the pageant. He spots me in the crowd and excitedly
rushes over to tell me that he’s finally figured out where
he knows me from.
the guy from the movie! The journalist in that documentary I
saw who wants to get in to the porn industry, that’s you,
right? That fucked up guy!” I tell him I don’t know
what he’s talking about, because I don’t, but he’s
sure he’s got me pegged and can’t understand why
I don’t want to cop to my true identity as an aspiring
pornographer. He thinks I’m pretty cool. Several times
that night I see him pointing me out to parents and people from
the pageant as the guy from the porno industry. I decide to
discreetly ditch my new Persian pal and go hunting for Dahlia,
this year’s Miss Montreal and my excuse for being here.
I find her at a table with her family, daintily slurping up
SHE IS: MISS MONTREAL
the majority of Miss Canada International contestants –
or “delegates” as the pageant’s organizers
insist they be called – Dahlia Mills was recruited over
the Internet and pronounced queen of our city in exchange for
a $2,600 entrance fee. No need to stage a costly local beauty
pageant that nobody cares about, $2,600 will buy pretty well
anyone a title. There are a few other girls from Montreal registered
in the pageant as well, but they’ve been reclassified
as Miss Quebec’s or Miss St-Tite’s so as not to
confuse things. Come up with 2,600 bucks and MCI will find a
town or province for you to represent. Don’t worry about
retail clerk with vague aspirations to a modeling career, Dahlia
stands out from the other delegates in that she is actually
kind of hot. Given the primary entrance requirement, it comes
as no big surprise that many of the delegates leave something
to be desired by way of physical beauty. Most of the girls come
from small towns and are, to say the least, neither the most
stunning nor sophisticated group of chicks one could ever hope
to meet. They all, of course, possess an exceptional inner beauty
that is difficult to quantify.
on the other hand, is poised, graceful, and, God forbid, even
exudes a hint of sexuality – something which I fear may
hurt her chances of becoming the next Miss Canada International.
also comes off as being a little brighter than most of the contestants,
another thing which I’m concerned might work to her detriment.
Last year’s Miss Canada, Connie Cho, apparently has an
IQ over 70 and is rumoured to have been none-too-pleased with
her treatment at the hands of the MCI establishment over the
course of her reign. Rumours stemming from a recent Toronto
Sun story about her displeasure with the organization have people
speculating on whether she will even show up on Saturday to
crown her successor. None of this bodes well for Dahlia. The
last thing the MCI brass need is yet another ornery and remotely
intelligent Miss Canada to bitch about them in the media.
Dahlia’s well-rehearsed rhetoric about just entering the
competition to have a swell time with a bunch of swell gals
from “all over Canada,” our Miss Montreal has clearly
come here to win. Plus, she has an ass that won’t quit.
I decide I like her and plan on rooting for her at the big showdown
the PR clown comes by our table and I overhear him talking enthusiastically
to some aspiring beauty queens about one of the celebrities
he’s just landed to appear at Saturday’s event.
Some kid from some Canadian reality TV show called The Lofters.
I expect to hear laughter but everyone is suitably impressed.
I’m told I will probably get a chance to meet the kid
DANCING AND SHAMELESS ADVERTISING
atmosphere in the gloriously generic Mississauga Living Arts
Centre is electric. Approximately 500 people, all no doubt friends
and family members of the contestants, have forked over $30
each to bear witness to this momentous occasion, the crowning
of Miss Canada International. Nobody seems to be all that sure
exactly what tonight’s winner will actually win, other
than the opportunity to represent Canadian womanhood at next
year’s Miss World pageant, but no one seems to be all
that concerned. One of the contestants told me earlier that
Miss Canada 2001 got a lot of free shoes from Payless, one of
the pageant’s major sponsors. Lucky girl.
lights go down and the chicks stumble out to do one of two wacky
dance numbers they’ve been rehearsing all week with Bob,
the pageant’s temperamental artiste/choreographer –
a man whom I’ve been instructed to treat with kid gloves
should I decide to interview him. Bob takes his art very seriously
and doesn’t take kindly to jokes about his dancers’
limited abilities or the deeper, more spiritual side of himself
so eloquently expressed in his presentations. If you’ve
seen the movie “Waiting for Guffman,” you’ve
seen Bob represented as the Corky St-Clair character. He’s
overweight and sweats a lot. The girls are all afraid of him.
So am I.
girls fall down during the dance number or do anything else
particularly embarrassing outside of simply participating in
this foolishness to begin with. The June Taylor dancers they’re
not, but the girls do their best. Dahlia looks good in her ballgown,
which we are told repeatedly has been provided to the contestants
courtesy of Aldo.
they introduce my hometown gal I yell, “Yahoo!”
very loudly and get snotty looks from the people around me.
A few rows over I hear somebody mumbling something about “a
goddamned pornographer.” I get intimidated and quiet down
pageant itself is spectacularly dull and seems to go on forever.
Twenty minutes of the gala, count ’em 20, are taken up
with a PowerPoint display celebrating MCI’s many proud
sponsors, like Dave and Buster’s Restaurant/Arcade at
120 Interchange Way, S.E. Corner Highways 400 and 7, “great
food and a big fun time!”
close to three hours of shameless advertising, nutty dance numbers
and heart-to-heart interviews with the contestants, Sylvia Stark,
a 250-pound horse of a woman and convicted criminal who owns
the Miss Canada International pageant (she was brought up on
a couple of fraud-related charges back in 1995 when she was
head honcho of the Miss Huronia pageant) waddles on to the stage
and informs us that Connie Cho, last year’s beaten-down
and sullen winner, is in the house. Everybody cheers, relieved,
I assume. The divine Miss Cho takes the mic and, not missing
a beat, gives a polite and tearful thanks to, among others,
Payless Shoes for all the top quality footwear they’ve
donated to her over the course of the year. Everybody cheers.
and mercifully, the moment of truth arrives when we learn which
lucky girl will be crowned Miss Canada International. Dahlia
has performed well. Her heart-to-heart interview with witty
co-host Ken Atkinson has revealed her to be a thoughtful, altruistic
young woman with an intense desire to help the poor people of
Little Burgundy. She is glowing, charismatic, alive! Her spectacular
ass has been well represented in all of the silly costumes the
pageant’s clothing sponsors have decked her out in. She
has made Montreal proud.
it is not to be. Our heroine makes it to the final 10 contestants
but ultimately loses out to Tara Hall, Miss Thornhill, Ontario,
a 21-year-old traffic announcer for the Skywards Traffic Network.
Dahlia politely applauds the announcement but I suspect inside
she is crushed. She is conspicuously absent from the post-gala
festivities back at the Mississauga Novotel, where I proceed
to get good and drunk at $5 a beer. I start asking around if
anybody has seen the kid from The Lofters anywhere but nobody
has. More disappointment. I cozy up to the new Miss Canada International
and ask her what incredible prizes she has won. She tells me
she’s not really sure just yet. She seems to be somewhat
wary of me. I’m not sure if it’s because of my rep
as a pornographer, or just as a result of my general disposition,
but along with most of the people in attendance, I get the feeling
that she thinks I’m kind of sleazy. Normally this sort
of thing wouldn’t bother me, but under the circumstances,
I find myself deeply offended. Go figure.
by Chris Barry:
Clubs as Safe Zones
- Swinging Ad Extremis