Eleven Contestants - Each More Beautiful Than the Next

By Emily Schultz

TORONTO, May 27 — "We're not getting any prettier back here!" hollers one feisty dame through the dark dressing room where contestants are crammed together like commuters in a tube. It is Monday, May 27, 2002, just moments before the Miss Trampoline Hall Beauty Pageant will commence -- when seven skirts and four suits will begin to wield beauty as if on a battlefield, all of them vying for the folding greens-two hundred smackers-not to mention the metaphorical tiara.

"Eleven contestants-each more beautiful than the next," promises MC Misha Glouberman to a patio where people practically crouch in each other's laps in order to attend the pageant. The crowd has stood for over thirty minutes past showtime start-shuffling and shifting in a long lineup from Cadillac Lounge patio nearly to front entrance-yet they still part like the Red Sea for the black-dressed and be-pearled Miss Sheila Heti, the brains behind the operation. Most of the audience members -if not repeat offenders-have heard the rumours of reckless gambol and diversion to be had at a Trampoline Hall lecture or event, that it is an extravaganza of intellect and insanity. For this reason, they all profess pocketfuls of patience and armloads of enthusiasm in spite of the stampede and the unexplained delays. One gentleman explains, "I met Sheila at the last lecture at the Cameron House [the lecture series' regular digs] and I was absolutely captivated. She is magic realism incarnate." Audience jills and johns willing to open their chops claim they've been drawn in "by the anticipation of so much beauty."

"Consider Miss Trampoline Hall-neither too short nor too tall?" MC Glouberman melts the admittedly already hot and somewhat sweaty spectators when he really does sing it en español. And then without further ado, he introduces the beauty brigade, who-like schoolgirls on the sly-have been sharing scandalous rounds of moonshine in their spare moments backstage.

The first femme to grace the stage is the demure Miss Sugarbush, attired in a melon-green 50s frock with matching hat and pearl-look pocketbook. Miss Sugar claims that she feels most beautiful dancing over a shag carpet, the Electrolux purring at her feet. She believes "Miss Trampoline Hall should be a healthy combination of Audrey Hepburn, Montgomery Clift and Anita Ekberg dancing in that fountain in La Dolce Vita." Second to dance down the runway-or should I say "do the bunny-hop"-is Miss Bawdy Hare, decked out in rabbit ears and pink body suit from which explosions of wondrous downy brown pubis fight to make it out into the light. Miss Hare claims she is "celebrating pushy body tapestry one hair at a time," and that she would "rather sleep with a mangy dog than a slippery hairless ho." She will eventually proceed to the finals, wooing the judges with her ability to endure interrogation, including a question pertaining to why Mickey Mouse wears shorts but no shirts and Donald Duck wears shirts but no shorts. Miss Hare is followed by Mistress Chaos, the first contestant this century to speak on the platform of freedom and slavery, as she belly-dances past her pals in petal-pink genie panoply.

The fourth contestant breaks the homogenous sexuality of the stage, proving that men and women are equal, at least in terms of physical appeal. Dressed in stormy grey, Mr. North of Bloor-East of Bathurst explains that an ideal break-up would have to be if "we could take your toothbrush out of the house and I could keep the Stevie Wonder tapes." Ain't it the truth, fellas? Unfortunately, Mr. North's speech combining the story of Narcissus and the thirst for beauty as well as quotes from John Merrick a.k.a. the Elephant Man is cut short by the clock.

Then come the working-class darlings. Miss L.A. is dolled up in denim-perhaps fashioned for The Beverly Hillbillies' Ellie Mae Clampett -complete with rope belt. Mr. Junior Member (sexual innuendo unintentional) feels the need to prove himself. Boxing his way across the stage in rippling topless splendour, he sets new standards of acceptable decorum. Miss Bawdy Hare will later follow suit, bending over and waving her "pumpkin-shaped ass" at the audience. "Maybe I ain't rich; Maybe I ain't one of those folks who came in their big long cars," says Mr. Junior Member. "But I ain't here to beg your pardon." Mr. Junior Member's rousing speeches and jostling punches catch the judges in the guts, granting him third place at the end of the pageant.

Miss Be Yourself is the only dame who never told a lie. She confesses to owning "books purchased with sizeable intentions" and-in baby-blue baby-T reading "I-heart-ME"-she claims "the real you is far more interesting than the fake someone else." But the audience isn't buying those apple pies. They've obviously seen that kind of homegrown hoopla before. However, Miss Superstar-with her bumblebee-yellow beehive-has the audience buzzing. Allegedly she uses her beauty for charitable causes, including cloning various parts of her body to be purchased and enjoyed by the general populace, the nape of her neck being the top-seller. And I'll give it to you straight, if you saw the lady's neck, you'd sign on too.

But there's no time to count your pocket change. Ms. Quantini has arrived. No, it's not a woman, nor could you ever mistake him as one. For whatever reason, Quantini-a definite mister over six feet tall in shirt and tie-has chosen to carry the feminine title, perhaps in the spirit of pageantry. "Without you, our beauty is wasted," Quantini assures the audience. "For you-I stay. I am here on earth for these events." But the picnic is spoiled when Quantini's speech is cut short by a question, or rather a request that two of his fellow-or should I say sister-contestants kiss. In a scandal to top all scandals, the blushing girls are ushered forth to lay the chastest of kisses upon each another, unleashing Quantini's upstaged outrage.

But before you get your boa feathers ruffled, keep your eye on Miss Information. Operating on the idea that "the promise of beauty is actually greater than beauty, and that the most beautiful thing is a horizon," Miss Information will win over the audience almost immediately. "I think you see in me," she confesses "the capacity to bullshit." Trussed-up tall in all-black, hair coifed in a fuchsia pageboy, Miss Information is the ultimate in classic intrigue, not to mention a bit of the deer-in-the-headlights without the bloody aftermath. She will go on to claim runner-up in the competition. She is followed onto the stage by a mustachioed gentleman with broad shoulders dressed in bookish blue and brown, a Mr. Wonderful. His most wonderful idea is to establish a magic marker day and give out magic markers up and down the streets of the city, "because everyone needs a little magic." They certainly do, and this time it has come courtesy of Trampoline Hall.

And so, my gluttonous readers, we have come to the end of this evening's events, the virtues and vices of vanity and the crimes committed because of it. I hoped you learned something from my foray into the sordid underworld of beauty. I know I didn't. Oh yes! The crown, the title, the capped-tooth-and-polished-nail pittance, the matter of whom won out over the mascara-smeared masses? Let's just say if you don't have a tail, there's no tale to tell.

See you at the next Trampoline Hall, where it's always a bouncing, swinging time.