In the 1962 movie Gypsy, burlesque queen Gypsy Rose Lee (Natalie Wood) gets some valuable advice from a posse of withered old strippers: "You gotta have a gimmick."
Obviously, the contestants vying for the title of Miss Nude Oregon 2004 are film buffs.
It's a Wednesday night, and the Dolphin II Gentlemen's Club is sardine-city. Men in their mid-30s ravage plates of steak while younger horn dogs squirm like anxious puppies. The fleshy reckoning is about to begin, and Night Avenger is one of the three judges.
"This is no 'Best Butt in the West' or one of those other cheesy strip-club contests," Dolphin manager Gary Swanson says. "This is a full-on pageant. They just get naked."
OK, in strip parlance, "pageant" basically means "gonzo high-school homecoming skits." First off, the 12 finalists parade around the stage in a rainbow of skin-tight evening frocks. Each pauses briefly to list, Playboy-style, her turn-ons ("girl-on-girl action," "mullets") and turn-offs ("rude people," "hairy balls"). They look uncomfortable standing still with a brass pole within reach, but no matter--their floor shows are next.
Armed with only their bods and moxie, these hardworking women manage to devise Las Vegas-style spectacles on a Beaverton budget--bare-chested manservants, hot wax and ice included.
Urban cowgirl "Paris Heart" scores a bull's-eye when she hands out squirt guns to the audience. The crowd takes aim as the petite blonde tears off her sparkly chaps, and her set ends in a wet, wild shootout.
"Reagon" turns the Emerald City on its ear with a Technicolor Wizard of Oz booty blast. Shaking her caramel-colored hair like a tiger, she scampers up the pole and hangs from the rafters (splinters, anyone?). She bumps, she grinds, she slaps her ass with a torch that's on fire. And she does it all to the Lollipop Guild song. Brilliant.
But, as the fourth hour of this strobe-lit tit parade wears on, only the contestants' friends and Dolphin diehards are left to weather the aurally sadistic DJs' 1,000-decibel commands to "Get the fuck up outta those chairs, party people!"
In the end, Dorothy and her 6-inch platform ruby slippers beat 'em all. Reagon receives her crown, trophy and $2,000 check with a smile--oblivious to a few liquor-shellacked "boos" from her foes' supporters.
"I know this is not a big deal because it's just a strip-club contest," Reagon says, "but I'm so happy. I worked really hard on this."
Girl, your gimmick would've made Miss Gypsy proud.