‘Beauties’ raise bucks at ‘Cancer Is A Drag’ event
If only for a few hours, cancer was vanquished by laughter the evening of April 2.
But vanquished it was at the American Legion hall in Varina, as a bevy of 13 male beauties competed to raise funds for the American Cancer Society -- and honor the memory of the late Shelby Layne Bowery.
Flaunting names like “Scarlett,” “Jezzabelle,” “Showgirl Pearl,” and “Waynonna Juggs,” contestants sashayed down the aisle, bumping and grinding to various musical themes -- and stopping at nothing to coax another dollar in tips out of onlookers.
The womanless beauty pageant, devised by Tracy Bowman in an effort to honor Bowery’s memory, raised $7,162.
“Shelby was my daughter’s best friend,” said Bowman. “They had cheered together since they were five years old.” When she first learned of Bowery’s cancer diagnosis – just three days after Shelby’s 11th birthday – Bowman organized a Relay for Life team. In just one month in 2010, Team Shelby Rocks raised $2,000.
“This is kind of our therapy,” Bowman said of the relay and pageant. “It’s how we cope.”
This year, Bowman set a goal of topping last year’s sum by at least another thousand. Because Bowery was a part of the Richmond Twisters for eight years, she turned to Twisters families and the greater Varina community for pageant participants.
Initially, she had doubts that men would be willing to embarrass themselves by dressing in drag.
“I thought, ‘We might get five if we’re lucky,’ “ Bowman said. “But we ended up having to turn people away.”
Lipstick and Leather Skirts
All 200 tickets to the pageant sold out as well, and contestants had a full house waiting as they put final touches on their wardrobes in the hour prior to the pageant.
In one corner, beauties sat patiently while spouses or friends applied makeup and buffed their nails, painted in shades of peach and maroon to match their gowns.
“Can Mike borrow your lipstick?” shouted one wife to a friend, failing to suppress a snicker.
“Wow, you look like your mother!” another wife told her husband with a chuckle.
Across the room, contestants posed for photos and practiced their waves and flourishes, blowing kisses and swaying their hips to a chorus of hoots and catcalls.
“Hey! You’re in the presence of a lady!” one contestant reminded a heckler indignantly.
In another corner, contestants adjusted leather skirts, feather boas, and various layers of padding as they struggled to master the art of walking in high heels.
“Whatcha got in there?” an observer asked, eying a contestant’s ample bosom as the contenders lined up for their grand entrance.
“Socks,” answered the beauty with a smirk. “Want to smell ‘em?”
The laughter and banter reached a crescendo as each of the contestants took a turn gliding -- or more accurately, teetering -- down the runway to reveal their outfits to the waiting crowd.
Spectators stood to cheer and snap photos, and fans crowded around their favorite beauties to tucks wads of dollar bills behind straps and into waistbands. Others clamored for the chance to buy “glamour-grams” and write messages that would be read onstage to their contestant of choice.
During the talent portion of the program, a few fans collected piles of bills to scatter on the stage, collapsing in shrieks of laughter as their efforts were acknowledged with winks, leers and a kiss tossed their way.
Talents displayed included baton twirling, card tricks, Hula-Hooping, and building a Slinky course. One beauty performed a handstand for her talent, revealing underwear with a message urging the crowd to vote for her. Another beauty tended bar for her talent, garnering a quick $60 for the cause by selling shots to the crowd.
When all was said and done, "Truly Delish" (a.k.a. Travis Flippen) topped the field by garnering $942 in votes.
But judging from the comments after the show, everyone -- contestants, volunteers, and audience members -- felt they came away winners.
“Making this much money for such a great cause was great,” said Bowman following the event, adding that plans are already underway for a teen pageant. “The guys were great and the support I received from the girls was over the top.
“But the icing on the cake was people coming up to me afterward and telling me that they were going through some tough times -- and they feel so much better after laughing so much.
“Shelby is still touching lives a year after her death.”
Leslie Bowman, the pageant emcee and Shelby’s mother, agreed that her daughter’s presence loomed large throughout the event.
“I don’t like to say that Shelby lost her battle with cancer,” Leslie Bowman told the crowd.
“Her body may have lost the battle . . . but her spunky, sassy spirit is alive and with us today.”
To donate or to get involved with the Relay for Life team (event date June 4 at New Kent High School), visit http://tinyurl.com/3dh6con and search for the team name “Shelby Rocks.”
The Richmond West Breakfast Lions Club (based in western Henrico) recently donated 59 backpacks to the Westover Hills Elementary School on Jahnke Road.
Above, club members display some of the backpacks prior to their distribution. > Read more.
Thanks to a first-place win in The American Protege International Vocal Competition 2014, Glen Allen High School student Matija Tomas will travel to New York City to perform at Carnegie Hall in December.
At the first-place winners recital in Weill Hall, Matija will perform Giacomo Puccini’s opera aria, “Chi il bel sogna di doretta.” She will perform with other vocalists from around the world and have the opportunity to win other awards and scholarships.
Locally, Thomas has performed with Richmond’s renowned Glorious Christmas Nights, Christian Youth Theatre, and WEAG’s Urban Gospel Youth Choir. > Read more.
The John Rolfe YMCA and Gayton Baptist Church have partnered in an effort to bring greater health and wellness opportunities to the community.
Through this partnership, the John Rolfe Y will run Youth Winter Sports programs, including basketball and indoor soccer, in Gayton’s newly renovated $5.5 million outreach center that features a new gymnasium, youth and teen space, social space with café, meeting space and full service commercial kitchen. > Read more.
CAT Theatre will hold auditions for Book of Days on Sunday, Oct. 26 and Monday, Oct. 27, at 7 p.m. each day. Auditions will be held at CAT Theatre, 319 North Wilkinson Road in Henrico. Book of Days will run Jan. 23-Feb. 7 and is one of CAT’s submissions to the Acts of Faith Festival.
Book of Days, by Pulitzer Prize winner Lanford Wilson is an exploration of faith, justice, and corruption, amidst the backdrop of murder – and community theatre – in small town America. Book of Days was first written for and produced by Jeff Daniels Purple Rose Theatre Company of Michigan.
Director Leslie Cline is seeking five females between the ages of 20-65 and seven males between the ages of 24-65. > Read more.
CAT Theatre’s 51st season will open with Sherlock Holmes: The Final Adventure, which will run Oct. 24 through Nov. 8. The play is based on the original 1899 play by William Gillette and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and adapted by Steven Dietz, and was the winner of the 2007 Edgar Award for Best Mystery Play.
The story follows Holmes, whose career as the world’s greatest detective seems to have reached its end until he is confronted with a case far too tempting to ignore. When the King of Bohemia faces blackmail by famed opera singer, Irene Adler, Holmes and his companion Dr. Watson find themselves falling into the trap of evil genius Professor Moriarty. > Read more.
Find out how your favorite dining establishments fared during their most recent inspections by the Virginia Department of Health. > Read more.
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