Brooklyn got a double dose of half-naked irony last Friday with dueling satirical beauty pageants glorifying Coney Island’s trashy vaudeville soul and celebrating Williamsburg’s famous irony.
At Brooklyn’s southern tip was the sixth annual Miss Coney Island burlesque show pageant. Seven buxom and bawdy ladies (and one transvestite) stripped, strutted and grinded their way across the stage in Coney Island USA’s Surf Avenue theater.
“The girls get pretty serious about it, but it’s kind of a spoof and parody of your typical beauty pageant,” said “Bambi the Mermaid,” a former contest winner who is now the brain’s behind the scantily clad operation.
Things were steamy enough with shimmering costumes flying off the dancers, but it was the packed, unventilated house that got just about everyone hot and bothered.
Stealing the show and the hearts of the beer-guzzling audience was “Gal Friday,” a 27-year-old starlet who vowed “to start eating again” if she won the crown, the sash and one year’s worth of bragging rights that makes the title Miss Coney Island the fantasy of up-and-coming exotic dancers from Queens to Parsippany.
In spite of her heady win, she’s keeping her high heels on the ground.
“Miss Coney Island is wonderful, but it’s not going to pave the way for me for the rest of my life,” she said.
She might not rest on laurels, but it will be the site of Friday adorned with a platinum wig and lacquered with a fake bronze tan — plus a coating of Vaseline on her teeth to lubricate her smiles — that will live on in Coney Island lore.
Titillating the audience and propelling her to victory was her admittedly atonal a cappella version of “My Country ’Tis of Thee” in a style that would have sent Roseanne Barr scurrying and followed up by rousing choreographed piece to the tune of “America! F— Yeah!” from “Team America World Police.”
“God bless America,” said a starry-eyed man in the third row.
At about the same time, in a neighborhood far, far away, two scenesters took home the titles of Mr. and Miss Williamsburg in a pageant mired with controversy.
Clad in a sky blue onesie, CJ Johnson earned the tiara during the talent portion of the pageant by demonstrating “what [she] spent five and a half years in liberal arts school doing best”: The head-banded hipster punctured a can of Pabst Blue Ribbon beer with a key and guzzled down its contents (an act known as “shotgunning”) while simultaneously removing her panties with the other hand.
Obviously, judges agreed that is one heck of a talent.
Johnson’s complicated maneuver gave her an edge over rivals — whose talents included blogging and complaining — and earned her high marks from a board of hipster judges featuring an American Apparel designer, a rocker in the klezmer-influenced indie band Beirut, an editor of the fashionable women’s magazine Missbehave, and a comedian in the troupe The Whitest Kids U Know.
On the men’s side, muralist and Grand Street resident David Ort one-upped competitors by wearing an elaborate trench coat and creating a surreal charcoal sketch in under three minutes.
But contestants in the pageant, which was held in the sweaty back room of the North Eighth Street bar Supreme Trading, claimed that the whole event was a set-up.
Organizer Misha Calvert said she created the event to fulfill the community service sentence she received after shoplifting two 40-ounce bottles of Colt 45 from a Williamsburg bodega.
But one snubbed beauty queen says Calvert invented that back story to generate buzz for the party — which was generously sponsored by, you guessed it, the makers of Colt 45 malt liquor.
Indeed, the District Attorney’s office has no record of a defendant named Misha Calvert, and Calvert was able to name neither the name of the judge who issued the supposed sentence nor the bodega from which she said she shoplifted.
Slighted competitor Lola Wakefield made the scathing criticism on her blog, Stuff Hipsters Don’t Life, where she also alleged an even more offensive crime: that Johnson was not actually a Brooklynite.
After the pageant, Johnson — who upon winning promised to promote “post-post-modern dance and hotness” — told The Brooklyn Paper that she lives at the corner of South Fourth Street and Bedford Avenue and attends graduate school at Smith College in Massachusetts.
Calvert maintains that Johnson is a part-time Williamsburg resident who also resides in Westchester, and that Colt 45 contacted her about sponsoring the pageant only after it received news coverage.