If you hadn’t noticed, the streets were covered in snow last week. We were hit with a small snowstorm which hadn’t shut down the city, but once you stepped foot outside you might have felt like a roach walking across the infamously, unabashed desk you saw covered in cocaine, inside of Tony Montana’s office at the end of Scarface. It was an endless sea of miniature mountains of snow. All of which were perforated by the feet of robotic New Yorkers, who treated the snowstorm as a mere irritant to their end-of-the-work-week routine. It was business as usual. People went to work, students went to school, and Tommy D the Naked Man was, well, naked.
The 15th Annual Mr. Lower East Side Beauty Pageant was in full swing. Writer, artist, and full-time elf, Rev Jen Miller, has been hosting this pageant in the Lower East Side of Manhattan for the last 15 years as a response to the objectification of women’s bodies in society, whether it’s done artistically or in an exploitive manner. And so, each year, there are 10 deranged men, some of who may have a number of undiagnosed mental health issues, willing to compete in this irreverent display of bizarre male nudity.
Appropriately, pages of the New York Times covered the floor, substituting for the absentee blankets and chairs, intended for members of the audience so they wouldn’t have to sit on puddles of water. It was the result of the many snow-filled boots which had assembled into the basement of this undisclosed venue. (According to one of the contestants, Raven Solano, it’s probably best not to mention the venue for fear that it could be promoting the exposure of a person, a violation under New York’s Penal Laws.)
I made my way towards the stage to greet 2013’s Mr. Lower East Side, Johnny Bizarre, who was in attendance to defend his crown. “He has done so much for our community,” said Rev Jen, in a humorous manner when introducing Johnny to the stage. She’s right though. After I had witnessed Johnny win last year, we linked up many times for a few professional, and yet, outlandish adventures. From watching Johnny clear out the bar at Home, Sweet, Home by performing the human blockhead to marching with him at the Mermaid Parade in Coney Island to sipping wine in Chelsea at one of Banksy’s Better Out Than In installments, Johnny and I have cultivated quite a relationship. It’s an offbeat friendship which began with me, drunk, holding a hammer, and hammering a nail into his penis, but nonetheless a friendship.
As I watched many young women in the audience whose eyes were beaming with terror, I chuckled, knowing that I had the same look in my eyes just a year ago, when I first saw Tommy D the Naked Man in all his glory. This year, however, he shared the stage with a woman, and while I didn’t find her particularly attractive, I, along with every man near the stage, just couldn’t stop staring at her vagina. It was hypnotic. Most disturbing, though, was the realization that one of the contestants, Chuck Funk, had one the best set of boobs I had ever seen on a man or a woman. That pales in comparison to the experience one young lady had when she was dragged onto the stage by Matthew Silver, the curator and host of Circus of Dreams at Bizarre.
Watching Matthew—a man so hairy that he proudly spread his ass cheeks to show and prove that he indeed has a hairy asshole—roll onto the stage in a striped leotard, riding a toy airplane, and carrying colorful foam sticks, is an image no one should live without. When he dragged that poor girl up on stage, the trauma of that sequence was immediately evident. But you know what? As terrified as she might have been, she had fun. She expressed the same emotions one would have after riding a roller coaster. That’s what Matthew Silver is: A roller coaster ride of love, imagination and obscure humor.
While votes were being tallied, I spoke with Matthew and told him that I thought he had a great chance to win this year. He wasn’t confident in his chance to win, though, mostly due to the fact that he knew others had the home-court advantage as residents of the Lower East Side. But as he taught me many times in the past, mainly through his performances, I reminded him that it’s all about having P.M.A (Positive Mental Attitude).
Standing by the side of the stage with Matthew, Darcey Leonard and Kevin Pelrine from House of Screwball, and street performer and contestant Kalan Sherrard, we waited anxiously as Rev Jen announced the special award-winners (Tommy D won Best Nutsack) and runner-ups. I could see a few contestants backstage getting stoned and wasted, while friends of the pageant committee started the cleanup. Soon, it was revealed that Raven Solano had placed second in voting and was officially dubbed Mr. Tribeca. His pageant dad delivered a concession speech which was met by a man screaming out that he sounded like Darth Vader swallowing a load. Before announcing the winner, Rev Jen revealed that it was the tightest race ever. The moment of truth had finally arrived. “In the name of stupidity, this year’s winner, as voted on by the women and gay men of the Lower East Side is Matthew Silver,” announced Rev Jen. I embraced Matthew for a congratulatory hug before he snatched a beer out of my hand and poured it on himself in celebration.
In the end, Matthew exposed himself to the crowd and credited his small penis for the victory. “It’s because you have to have a small penis, and you have to be like ‘Yes, I’ve got a small penis and a small ball sack.’ It’s okay,” said Matthew. “In 2014, the Love Portal is open! This is only the beginning, goddammit!” It truly is.
Featured image courtesy of Walter Wlodarcyzk