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[whitespace] Miss Hawaiian Tropic Beauty Calls

Are the scantily clad women who parade in swimsuit contests sex objects? No way, dude!

By Will Harper

BEFORE I DAZZLE YOU with my witty prose, let me first offer a self-conscious disclaimer: I am a horndog. That, of course, puts me in league with every other Y-chromosome-carrying primate in the world except for eunuchs and Gray Davis.

But being a horndog doesn't mean I'm a chauvinist. I don't consider men inherently superior intellectually or more capable physically, despite our God-given ability to urinate standing up.

In fact, women are better than men at many things--and one of them is modeling skimpy swimwear for beauty contests.

My intellectual female friends didn't buy this argument, however, when I told them I was going to be a judge at the Miss Hawaiian Tropic International pageant at Polly Esther's in downtown San Jose.

One gal pal asked me, "Doesn't it bother you?"

Bother me? Let me think. I'm being given license to gawk lecherously at a score of scantily clad women while they try to make their best first impression parading their talents on a nearby stage. I should be bothered by this?

"It's sexist," my uppity pal lectured. "What are your judgments of these women based on? [Beauty contests] encourage bulimia and anorexia and all kinds of bad things."

She had a point.

On the other hand, I was being offered an opportunity to judge a beauty contest. How often does that rise up for the average horndog?

Before embarking on my mission, I decided to ask event planner Robert Pope of Picture Perfect Productions what to expect.

Pope assured me that Hawaiian Tropic contestants are encouraged to cover up any tattoos they may have. He also said there wouldn't be a lot of silicone, though his business partner, Lianne Pinkston, later acknowledged that some contestants worry about being top-skinny. Pinkston said she tells them not to worry.

"Someone is not going to win or lose because they have big breasts," she explained. "It's their inner beauty and their outer beauty."

By the time I got to Polly Esther's, I still wasn't sure exactly what criteria I was supposed to use to rate the contestants; I soon discovered, after finding a guide on top of the judges' table: 50 percent facial beauty; 30 percent body form and tan; 10 percent swimsuit attire; 10 percent for personality, poise and stage presence. With this handy guide, the other judges--a couple who were local female business professionals--and I would rank our top five favorite contestants. The winner would go home with a bouquet of roses, $100 and a chance to compete in the regional semifinals later this month.

Right before the 16 bikini-wearing beauties--mostly local gals who were all pageant first-timers ranging from ages 18 to 21, according to Pinkston--made their initial walk down the runway, the emcee instructed, "Remember, judges: Smile at every contestant; do not point at the contestants; remain professional at all times." Each judge was given a sheet of paper with space next to each entrant's name so we could make notes.

Then the first contestant, an Oregon native who works at 24 Hour Fitness, came sauntering out in her pumps and bathing suit. She strolled to the middle of the stage, twirled for a backview and then smiled at us as she left the stage. I furiously scribbled down anything I could, but it was difficult to get anything legible down during the minute she was on stage. My notes show the first gal was "loyal" and boasted "a lot of inner strength."

Each contestant seemed to go by at a dizzying pace. I found myself not having enough time to both take decent notes and watch the contestants. I began using shorthand. For one contestant I wrote, "Nice ass." For another I thoughtfully observed, "Big boobs."

The judge next to me had a simpler method: He just wrote numbers from 1 to 10 next to their names. By the tenth contestant, it was all becoming a confusing blur of breasts, butts and bikinis.

Then, just as soon as it began, the hip parade was over. Time for the judges to make some choices. But what criteria would I use? I finally decided to make the "spunky" one my top pick. She's the one who shook her breasts for the crowd. She didn't win.

I left that evening feeling a bit guilty. My uptight gal pal had been right: I wound up judging these women on their physical assets and nothing more. But it's hard to do a personality profile in 15 seconds.

After confessing this to my friend, she asked pointedly, "Would you do it again?"

Well, duh. And to Ms. Spunky, wherever you are, keep that personality shaking.

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From the August 10-16, 2000 issue of Metro, Silicon Valley's Weekly Newspaper.

Copyright © 2000 Metro Publishing Inc. Metroactive is affiliated with the Boulevards Network.

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