Last Saturday, a Middletown family man channeled his inner Lady Gaga to help Smyrna American Legion Post 14 raise funds for its Veterans Relief Fund. And, he wasn't alone. Local resident Dennis Martin was joined in his efforts by more than 25 other men, who were also channeling strong female characters, including recognizable figures like Wonder Woman and Dolly Parton as well as more imaginative choices like "Eskimo Pi" and "Trailer Park Queen."
The spectacle was all part of Post 14's fifth male "beauty" pageant, held every other year as a fundraiser that allows the organization to provide financial aid to military personnel, past and present, in times of crisis.
Like past events, this year's event was a raunchy, gender-bending spectacle of loud make-up and extra-large high heels. For a lot of men, dressing up like a woman would be too embarrassing to even consider but for the men involved in this fundraiser, the degradation is well worth the cause.
"It's a lot of fun and we do nothing but laugh," said event organizer and Legion member Faron Marshall. "Don't get me wrong. It's humiliating and embarrassing. But, the cause takes the sting out of it and we all actually look forward to it."
It was a case of quid pro quo that got Martin involved. The guys of Post 14 had graciously stepped in to help Martin with his own charity function, and Martin quickly promised that he'd gladly return the favor whenever it was needed. It turns out the he didn't have to wait long. Marshall called Martin, explaining the premise of the pageant and his desire to expand it. Martin didn't even hesitate.
But, not only did he readily agree to participate, he actually wound up winning and unseating the previous two-time winner Johnny Rhoades. Post-win, Martin took time to discuss his role as Lady Gaga, his admiration for the men of Post 14 and what he now thinks about women's beauty routines.
Q So, there was absolutely no hesitation about participating in an event that would require you to dress up like a woman?
A None. They were nice enough to help me with an event recently so when they asked me to return the favor, I didn't even hesitate. I love these guys. The charity they do is great and their mission to help veterans is so important. Some of their work will give you a whole new perspective on what the veterans have given us.
Q You were Lady Gaga for the pageant. How did you get into character?
A It started with the make-up. A good friend of mine, Jason Suto, helped me with it. I just knew that if I was going to do it, I had to overdo it. Jason did the make-up and believe it or not, it only took 45 to 50 minutes. It was actually easier that I thought. Needless to say, though, I have a whole new respect for what women go through. If my wife needs a few more minutes to get ready, you won't hear any complaining from me anymore. I get it now. I had on two layers of pantyhose and a body suit. I also had real nails. That was hard. I was so concerned about them coming off or ripping my pantyhose.
Page 2 of 2 - Q Was is hard to portray someone so over the top?
A Actually, I had to tone it down some. Growing up, I loved KISS-the make-up, the heels, the whole show they put on. And, we always dress up for Halloween. But, like I said, I wanted to overdo it. We were talking about back-up dancers, a fog machine and a disco ball at first. We tried everywhere for high heels and shoes in my size but there was nothing out there. I wear a size 13 but in women's shoes that would have been more like a size 15. It's probably for the best, though. In four-inch heels, I may have fallen into the crowd.
Q Will you defend your title for the next pageant?
A I've already told them that I would. It was a blast. And, like I said, I love those guys. The charity is great and I will happily defend my title. But, I will take it even further next time. I'm bringing the fog machine and the back-up dancers. I'm already looking forward to it.
Q Were there any stand-out moments for you?
A I actually had women coming up and asking me for make-up tips. One wanted to inspect my eye make-up and another woman said that she needed a closer look at my lipstick.