Posted on | February 3, 2014 | No Comments
PATTY FROM NEW YORK STEPPED FORWARD, AWAY from the shadows next to the DJ’s shack, to take her rightful place in the sun. This was at a bikini contest, on a stage, close to the pool at the Hojo’s in Daytona Beach. It was the cusp of another fun-tastic summer. Patty smiled, her silky auburn hair aflip, her gams as fine as any gams you’ve ever seen. In fact, her entire body was an alive, curvilinear, and expectant thing. The guys out front—all two hundred of them— rocked back on their heels. “It’s Patty from New Yawk!” Dean hollered into his microphone. Dean was the MC here, a sharp, scrappy dude of the central Florida kind. “Guys, hey, guys, give it up for Patty one time!”
By the time Patty hit the stage today, many girls had been received before her. There were blonde girls and brunette girls, tall girls and squat girls, big-boobed girls and smaller-built girls, girls with poots, girls with abs. They leaned forward, shimmied their breasts. They slid their legs apart and sat on the stage, with strange noses just inches from the mystery. They bent over, grabbed their ankles, and made their buttocks dance. They mashed their breasts.
“Boobs! Boobs! Boobs!” the guys sang.
“Skin to win!” they yelled.
“Bush! Bush! Bush!” the guys called out. These were college kids mostly. They wore baseball caps, knee-length shorts, and sloshed, happy smiles. At the moment, they didn’t have a care in the world.
Now, Patty. Patty made her way onto the stage. An athletic sauciness overtook her step. She looked out upon the swaying field of boys, stood a little taller, smiled a little broader, both with her eyes, which were large, chipper orbs, and with her lips, her frosty pink summertime lips. She was wearing a long white T-shirt. Well, off that came. Then, over her hazelnut tan, she had on only a swimsuit, if you could call it that—two strands of mist that ran up in a V starting from her clean pubes, that then spanned her nipples, barely covering them, an afterthought of material.
“Holy cow!” Dean said. “Sheeeesh! God bless!”
Patty opened her arms, spread them wide, and as she did, the oddest thing happened. The crowd lost its voice. Gone, the bawling mew! of lust I’d heard for the other girls, the hyena-high chittering, the bleats. Something seemed wrong. You could hear insects. Patty stood there, arms outstretched, in shafts of sunlight, in a world of peace. Only briefly, though, for the crowd’s voice then returned. A rolling thing, it started low, began to push forward locomotive-like, and soon marshaled itself into something palpab!e, collective, combustible. It was windy. It buffeted people around.
“Patt-eee!” the crowd was roaring. “Patt-eee!”
HER NAME WAS PATTY ARBAUGH AND SHE WAS NOT FROM
New York but from Baltimore. Actually, she’d be from wherever the guys wanted her to be from—Ohio, Michigan, anywhere. She was a circuit girl, a bikini-contest professional who traveled from town to town, no fat on her hips, a bag full of bikinis in hand, searching out contests to enter and hopefully win. These could be bikini contests or their variants, the wet-T-shirt contest, the hotlegs contest, the tight-fittin’-jeans contest, others. It didn’t matter, not really. Have hooters, will travel.
Now, there were lots of other girls besides Patty trying to make a living on the circuit, and a pretty fine living it could be: for winners, $200 in cash and prizes on a so-so day, $3,000 on a good one. “Fifty grand a year, easy,” one observer of the scene told me. “With girls driving brand-new BMWs, Porsches, and ‘vettes.”
I was astounded, of course, for until recently I had not even known such a thing—a bikini circuit—existed. I’d heard about MTV’s Beauty and the Beach event and the annual Hawaiian Tropic event. But I’d assumed those cheesy, overstaged, rather dull contests were about the extent of it. It took Howie Sonnenschem, who once produced a TV show called The Bikini Open, to set me straight.
“It’s a bikini world out there, and it’s much bigger than people realize,” he told me. “There are over 10,000 bikini contests held each year in the United States!”
“Good God,” I said.
“Oh, yes,” said Sonnenschein. “It’s a big, big business, and big money’s involved. Why? Because Americans love to look at beautiful people. Look, bikinis bring people and people bring dollars. Here’s the thing: Bikini contests are everywhere.”
FLAT TO THE SEA, BRILLIANT AND HOT WITH SUN—DAYTONA.
Patty’s Hojo room overlooked the vast aqua-blue expanse of the Hojo pool, pool deck, and stage. Out there you could rent an inflatable sumo wrestling outfit and wrestle in it. Music throbbed. Guys tried to swing to it, white guys mostly, with a few days’ worth of golden stubble. A shooter girl moved among them, dispensing
booze. Sometimes a guy would fall down on the cement, his baseball cap blowing off. When the music stopped, Dean the MC announced a Lorena Bobbitt Weenie Toss contest. The main event, the bikini contest, was an hour or two away. There was lots 4 yelling. The guys had come from all around the country to see babes on a stage. They were hopped up and kind of horny, smack mg their palms on the stage lip, impatient for the contest to begin.
On this day, Patty didn’t feel all that great. She was suffering from PMS. From nerves, too, despite having made the prize cut every contest except four or five in her seven-year career. But that’s the way Patty was, a little tense sometimes.
Still, she was a tough competitor, and she had brought with her lots of bathing suits to compete in, thirty altogether, stored vidually in Baggies sitting on a table. She also had with her pairs of high heels, ten hats, and six pairs of shades. She picked three of her suits now, along with two pairs of pumps, some spray, a lipstick, a hairbrush, a mirror, a bottle of Zauder’s latex glue. Patty used the latex glue with what she called her money maker suits, the real guy-killers, so marginal that her nipples to be glued to the fabric to keep them from springing loose. She put on her white cover togs, a pair of shades, and puckered her pink lips.
I met her outside by the pool.
“Jeez,” I said happily.
Patty smiled and said hello. She kept on moving through crowd but fairly soon wanted to get one thing straight. “I number of things,” she informed me, “but a bimbo is not them. I hate that word.”
Her body was brown, her bangs were brown, and she sparkly, hominy-white teeth. I hurried to keep up with her. Unlike the celebrity-judged MTV contest, here the audience called the winner. The louder the guys wailed for a girl, the better she’d do. This interested me. I wondered what kind of girl would win here, whether Patty was that kind of girl, and what the wailing of the crowd said, if anything, about the guys caught up in it.
“There’s no crowd like Daytona’s,” Patty said. “They’re just so loud and so full of energy and sooooo trashed.”
“And the girls?”
“Well, they’re getting sleazier. Some of them will be bending over to touch their toes. They’ll be grabbing themselves. Sometimes the sleazier you are, the more they’ll yell for
you. If actions are what make a crowd respond, then ya know. .
I was about to ask Patty if those actions would describe her actions, when she clapped her hands. “Here’s the game plan for today,” she said brightly. “I’m going to do the bikini and the wet T-shirt here, then go over to the Whitehall Hotel and find out when their contest is. I won Razzles last night, so I can’t go back there until Thursday—that’s the rule.”
Suddenly, lots of boys were milling around Patty. Some razorback dickhead ribbed me. We passed through a pocket of throw-up smell and stopped near a scrawny guy asking girls to sumo wrestle with him.
“Yes.” That was Patty, who got suited up, got batted around, and hooted and laughed the entire time. Afterward she hung out with the guy and one of his friends.
“Hey,” she said to them, “I’m gonna be in the bikini contest. Will you guys come and cheer for me?”
“Yeah!” they said. “Sure nuff!”
LATER, PATTY EXPLAINED THAT IT WOULD
not do for me to be seen with her too much. “Appearing to be single is real important,” she said. “I don’t want anyone to think, She’s with that guy over there. I need the facade of being available. I like to talk to a lot of people. I don’t want to appear special. The less you appear to be a pro, the better.”
Patty gnawed on her lower lip and scanned the crowd. “From what I hear, the competition’s going to be really tough this year. Girls coming up from Miami and South Florida. Really tough.” Two of the toughest competitors were the Iegendarily extracurvy contest girl known everywhere as Tammy from Daytona and the totally blonde and fabulously clever Tiffany Cara of Miami, who won the MTV event in 1992.1 asked Patty if she knew Tiffany.
“Tiffany? Cara?” Patty said, seeming thoroughly perplexed. “No. No, I don’t think I do.”
RIGHT AT THAT VERY MOMENT, 215 MILES TO THE SOUTH,
Tiffany Cara was deciding not to visit Daytona for a while. I know this because I’d left her 40 million messages and she’d returned three of them. During one call she added, “I’m sorry I’m cracking gum in your ear.” During another call she said, “Did you ask Patty about me? Did she say she knew me?”
“Said she didn’t.”
Tiffany kind of chuckled. “Oh, she knows me. Oh yes. She knows me.”
By this I understood Tiffany to be implying several things— primarily, that her body was vastly superior to Patty’s, and that Patty knew it and feared it. She went on to suggest that Patty was in fact a dilettante, nothing more than a bikini-contest poseur. “She’s not like a big-circuit girl that’s been on the big shows and everything.” I thought this was pretty unsporting. Also,
if Patty was just a bikini-circuit pip-squeak, why did Tiffany know all about her? Even so, I detected rivalry, and that pleased me to no end.
FORTY-FIVE MILES TO THE SOUTH
west of me, the ever-sunny and utterly charming Tammy from Daytona was zipping along Route 4, on her way from Orlando to Daytona and Hojo’s. She was feeling dizzy. Though she did not know it, her car had sprung a carbon monoxide leak. Tammy thought maybe it was the nail fumes from school. About to get married and maybe even hang up her bikini, she was also about to graduate from Orlando’s Academy of Nail Tech-Neks school of fingernails, 120 course hours nearly completed.
On the circuit, if Tammy was known for anything (besides her long, wonderfully plush mane, currently blond) it was for two things. One, her bathing suits. She owned eighty of them, all custom-tailored, in styles plucked from her own teeming mind.
“Cup-top, T-back, two-piece, mono, triangle-top, chain-back, full-bottom, sling-bottom, string-bottom, suspender-bottom—the suit’s everything!” she once exclaimed to me. “When I first started, I went with white, then a bright pink, then a fluorescent green, then a royal blue, then black. I’m back to white again. The reason is, girls copy me. See, you have to be original. You have to stand out. My Suits give me confidence when I win, like Nya, nya, nya, my suit’s better than yours!
“I’m only 108 pounds but I’m full-figured,” she explained. “My butt’s a regular thirty-four or thirty-five inches but my waist is only twenty-one inches. You don’t know that by looking. I carry all my weight on my butt. I’ve won contests from the very first because of my butt. Really, I’m a butt girl.”
“A butt girl,” I said.
“A butt girl,” Tammy from Daytona said, positively.
WHEN A GUY IN DAYTONA IS SITTING IN AN ALUMINUM BEACH
chair with his shorts a strain of plaid, his skin the color of blood, and his eyes almost shut, he is most likely imagining the meeting of two girls like Patty of Baltimore and Tammy from Daytona. Inevitably, he’ll begin to view the contest as a grudge match, North meets South, Baltimore comes to Daytona. The event will be a heated competition that turns into a pitched battle. Stirring, martial music will fill the air. There’ll be gam-smacking sleaze and venomous catfights, with bikinis blown asunder. It’ll be delightful.
That a contest featuring Patty and Tammy from Daytona would have to occur in bikinis, however, was certain. Tammy totally eschews the wet T. Party wasn’t too happy about it either. “They don’t make me feel comfortable,” she told me, “but they do show that you have a versatility of personality, that you re not too prissy It 11 help with the other con tests.” I liked what this said about Patty. It suggested that she had a grasp of the big picture, of the interconnectedness of events. The guys no doubt didn’t care about this. Really, all they cared about was getting a more complete view of Patty’s breasts.
DEAN GATHERED THE WET-T-SHIRT CONTESTANTS TOGETHER
for a chat by the DJ’s booth. They’d already been tied into cut-up T-shirts by head Hojo’s T-shirt cutter John Cunnin twenty-three, a lumberjack of a guy from Michigan.
“I enjoy it, I mean it’s fun,” John told me. “A philosophy about cutting T-shirts? Well, I guess you could say it comes naturally.” He spotted a teetering, doughy college girl named Julie. “Hon, you’ve got to push this boob up to make it stick out more,” he said to her. “There you go.”
Dean waved his clipboard around and pursed his lips. “You your tits,” he said to the girls, “and I’ll disqualify you. I see a titty I don’t allow that. I’m watching you. If I tell you, Adjust your headlights, that means you’ve got a titty out, that means fix it!
“Okay!” the girls said.
Patty rolled up the sleeves on her T-shirt and took a puff on cigarette. She shook out her hair and leaned back on a catam that was set up there. Smiling, she glanced at chubby Julie recalled her first contest, at Hammerjacks in Baltimore.
“My friend Heather talked me into it,” she said. “I was ‘No way!’ Heather said, ‘Next week you’re in that contest!’! never had on anything that goes up your butt. I was flipping. was like, ‘Heather, my butt’s hanging Out!’
“Well, I won the contest: $500. I was like, ‘Oh my God!’ Fro that point on I was hooked. The high, the rush, the roar of crowd. The cash was awesome. I said, ‘I can’t wear this out in Pu lic, no way!” She tossed back her head. “Well, look at me now!”
Out front, Dean was saying things like “Leeza’s got mumbo jumbo monster melons!” And “It’s gettin’ a bit nipply out here, ain’t it?” Plus “Gentlemen, start your woodies!” He’d tell some girl to do ten jumping jacks and help the crowd count them off. “One! One! One!” Then he called for a spindly, yellow-haired contestant named Ann.
“You go, girl!” Patty said to her with a clap, as she did for every girl who went on. “You go get ‘em!” she said. “You look great!”
Ann got watered up and worked into what she hoped would be a hot sashay. One of her breasts plopped right out. It was a pale, etiolated thing.
“Garf!” some guy in the crowd yelled. “Blech!”
Dean frowned on that kind of behavior. “Hey!” he shouted. “Only a faggot boos a lady!”
When Dean called Patty’s name, Patty uncrossed her fingers. After getting doused with water and rubbing her nipples, she bounded onstage, waving, dancing, and shimmying all about.
“She’s got titties from hell!” Dean roared, and the crowd roared right back.
“Tits, tits, tits!” the crowd went. They couldn’t stop themselves. Oh, lovely, lovely tits of Patty! High, firm, two handfuls of joy! “Tits! Tits! Tits!” they kept on yelling.
Afterward—after winning and collecting her due—Patty was hungry. She gathered her belongings and marched into the Hojo’s eats place. She said with a frown, “If I don’t get some food soon, I’m just going to be boobs on a stick!”
OUT IN THE SUN WITH PATTY, ANOTHER GLORIOUS DAY. SITTiNG
on a towel, she held up the top of a fairly intricate spider-web suit, nothing more than a couple of spaghetti straps attached to some orange Ritz Bits—size ovals meant to cover her nipples. Since latex glue doesn’t wash out, the fabric was stiff and brown and crusty. I have meditated on Patty, trying to understand why she’s so appealing. It’s not just Patty’s breasts that make her so good; something else was going on. I hit a few Daytona nightclubs with her one night, and on all of the TV sets in the clubs were videos of that day’s Patty: Patty in a wet T-shirt, Patty in a money-maker, and so on. She sat on a stool studying herself, giving away nothing, her face a kind of mask, steady and clear.
Now she picked the glue specks off her bathing suit and flicked them away. “Until five years ago,” she said, “I was the most inhibited person in the world. I felt uncomfortable in clothes. I would not wear a swimsuit. In high school I would come home crying every day. ‘Mom, when is it going to happen for me?’ ‘ never developed breasts. I couldn’t wear clothes that normal
people could wear. I never grew into a bra, any size bra, except a training bra.
“I’ll never forget my first date. I was sixteen. I stuffed some tissues down there. At the end of the date this boy was kissing me. We both looked down, and the tissue was coming out. It slid across my chest. I never saw him again.
“In front of my own mother, if she walked into the bathroom,
I was just like. . And the boys in school, this boy named
Mike used to say things that hurt me so bad, about my not
having, you know.. He used to call me Flatty Patty. Flatty
Patty! Flatty Patty!
“I just said to the doctor, ‘Proportion me. I don’t want huge boobs. I just want to be in proportion.”
BEFORE THE ADVENT OF THE
bikini (and the wet T-shirt) you couldn’t really have a butt girl like Tammy or a boob girl like Patty, since all of that was too covered up to be able to judge. The flesh didn’t come out into the open until 1946, with the introduction of the Atome, so named for its atomlike shrimpiness, and later that year the bikini, a roughly identical design so named for reasons no one can agree upon.
Of bikinis and the women who could wear them, actress Jayne Mansfield said it all in 1952: A woman needs “a flat tummy, a firm bosom, and a nice derriere. Then you’re in business.” Heeding this message, American women ditched the bikini for the one-piece and didn’t return to it until the early ‘60s, when Harper’s Bazaar fashion editor Diana Vreeland informed the nation, “Bikini says to me the best things in life are free. The world of the bikini is. . . a world completely consumed by the elements.” That did it. Annette Funicello got one. Barbie got one. Suburban matrons let it all hang out. Since then, the trend has been to keep the breasts and pubic region covered, more or less, and to let everything else be consumed by such elements as Ms. Vreeland had in mind. Occasionally this will get the wearer into trouble. Not long ago, lawmen in Sarasota, Florida, arrested five sun-bathers for illegally revealing the “anal cleft.” It takes mighty good vision to make such busts, however, and more recently they have been rare. In other words, it was not a thing the girls at Hojo’s gave any thought to at all.
ONE THING I LEARNED ABOUT CIRCUIT GIRLS, THOUGH, IS
that, the cops aside, they still have many fears. They fear their period, for it bloats them terribly. Some fear the tax man, for they may not have declared all of their booty. Others fear questions about geography, about states they say they are from but have never seen. They all fear the inevitable appearance of a bottom in need of foundations.
Today Patty moved easily among the guys, laughing, trilling, smiling, greeting, quipping, waving. Today she was fearless. “After surgery, I thought people were going to make fun of me, to say I’m some kind of deformed animal, but that never happened,” she once told me. “I used to feel like a part of me was missing, like someone who’s missing a leg. Now I feel complete.”
She stopped at a table to write something down.
A feathery-looking contest girl named Lisa floated past. “What’re you doing, signing autographs? A star?” she said.
Patty laughed gaily and waved her pen in the air.
“Gawd!” a lot of guys said, taking ganders at Patty and the
grand collision of freckles between her breasts. They leaned on each other as they looked. They did this without reservation or sneakiness, because that’s what Daytona was all about: boob- and butt-driven madness. Who would care?
“I’ve had women say that what I do is degrading to other women,” Patty told me later. “Usually I say, ‘I apologize if I have offended you, but I feel very confident in myself, I work very hard to keep myself in shape, I make good money doing this, and I have a life outside of this.”
Patty’s life outside of bikini contests includes planning for the post-contest world. She wants to help other people, probably because her own family was often in need of help. She had an alcoholic grandmother. Her parents divorced when she was three, and her mom remarried three times since. Recently Patty won a scholarship to the University of Maryland, to study sociology. “I’ve always wanted to be a social worker or a counselor,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to help.”
TAMMY FROM DAYTONA MADE IT FROM
Orlando and fingernail school with time to spare. She and her custom suits found their way onto the pooi deck. Like Patty, Tammy from Daytona had had breast work. Unlike Patty, she didn’t believe in circulating among the guys. She believed her suits gave her the edge. And today they were spectacular. In golds and reds, visually complex and slickly engineered, they were spanned with more spaghetti straps than I had ever seen; the effect was one of advanced bridge-rigging systems.
Patty saw Tammy and came right up. I braced myself; I was sure there’d be words.
“Hey, Tammy,” Patty said. “You said you had suits you were selling?”
“Hey, Patty. Yeah, a couple.”
“The only thing is,” said Patty, “with my boobs, I’m afraid they won’t fit me here.”
“Well, I have some B-cup tops I’ve been selling. I had them made and they were too little.”
“I need a C or aD cup.”
“Probably a D you need,” Tammy said helpfully. “They’re big.”
I was stunned. What was their problem? Tammy from Daytona, a butt girl, and Patty of Baltimore, a boob girl, getting along? I could not believe what I was seeing. Soon they were talking about joining forces and splitting the pot. Then about trading off contests. It was awful. It was disappointing. On behalf of guys everywhere, I was outraged. Where was North versus South, the pitched battle? Where the petty hatred and spite so common among
today’s finer athletes? Where the wheedling and nasty insinuations, the good old-fashioned rivalry? In other words, where was Tiffany Cara of Miami when you needed her?
A contest girl named Sonya Theriault snorted. “I don’t lose sleep over Tiffany. I’ve done contests with Tiffany and Tiffany’s nothin’!”
“I heard she’s really out of shape right now,” said another girl.
Patty and Tammy shook out their hair and it sparkled in the light. A few feet away, a couple of girls were whispering among themselves. One of them said, “Jeez, looket that Tammy. On her right leg. A bruise. Yech.”
This was good, catty stuff, and of course I appreciated it. But it seemed an aberration. And besides, I got the feeling right then that the meaning of the bikini contest was not to be found here, among the girls, but out there, somewhere in the exchange of air between them and the bikini-loving world itself.
“OKAY,” DEAN WAS SAYING TO THE GUYS, “I want a good-neighbor policy. Stand twelve feet behind the guy in front of you. No poking him in the back with your chubby!”
The guys laughed, high-fived each other, and drank. Their faces were burnt and puffy. As usual, every so often one of them would hit the cement and have to be dragged away. His comrades would quickly fill the space. They pounded on the wooden stage.
This particular contest was almost over. Dean called the girls back for the vote. They came out, a line of eleven that included Patty but not Tammy, who’d decided to sit this one out. The girls waved and smiled their best smiles. “Pick out one lady and scream for her,” Dean told the guys. “Scream, raise your hands, and shoot sparks out your ass.”
At the moment, the contest was between Patty and a newcomer named Cheyenne. Cheyenne had appeared out of nowhere, a silky Asian stunner. When the guys first saw her, they slapped themselves on the forehead. They bellowed. Cheyenne knew how to keep them going, too. Leaning back, she grabbed the front of her suit and pulled up, revealing there the butterfly silhouette of her labia. She turned around and made triple-time humping gestures. She dipped her hand between her legs, then slowly leaned back, one finger vibrating wildly.
“Aaaiii!” the guys shrieked, several of them dropping to their knees.
Patty, on the other hand, had been strangely demure. She only cavorted and leaned just so far to show off her breasts. At one point, she snatched up a guy’s camera and pointed it at her fanny, but she didn’t snap the shot. In the end, the guys clapped and hooted, though not nearly so loudly, nor with such percussive
force, as they had for Cheyenne.
I felt bad for Patty, the former Flatty Patty, standing there now, grinning as if she had it sewn up, so naively confident.
She was a true, smiling beauty. I’d never seen anyone stand so tall or so proud. She kept her hands on her hips. She was without blemish. Her back was a perfect arch, with two perfectly placed ilium-high dimples. Her breasts were full and buttery beige, like the moon on certain rare nights. It did not matter that they were not real. In a sense, they were more rightly hers and more a part of her than if she’d been born with them. For her breasts, Patty had suffered.
But why hadn’t she made more of them onstage? Why had she not cupped them and goosed them and maybe even let them spill free? Had Tiffany been right about her? Did she not know her crowd? Her defeat was sure. It was depressing. This was more than just a bikini contest. It had turned into a showdown pitting all that was good against some stuff that was pretty bad. And bad was about to win. I hoped the end would be swift and merciful. /
“Okay, okay,” Dean said. He looked at his clipboard. “Let’s hear it for Cheyenne!” Cheyenne turned around. Her buttocks flickered and popped. There was some loud applause. But it died down just like that. I could see guys looking off, looking up, shuffling their feet, and otherwise appearing pretty mortified.
“Lawd. .” I heard one guy mutter.
“Now, let’s hear it for Patty!” Dean said.
Patty stepped forward, laughing with her mouth open. She pranced around and waved at the crowd.
“Hey!” Dean said, “Hey, I think I see some sparks out there!”
Actually I thought I saw some too. Then I heard a noise. It was a noise that took hold and grew. Pretty soon it was real loud. I grabbed for my hat.
IT TOOK ME A WHILE, BUT I HAVE FINALLY
figured out what happened when it came time to vote. The guys had suddenly seen and understood that their future, their right and proper future, was girls like Patty and Tammy, perhaps girls not so stunningly beautiful as them, but good girls, girls who kept their little butterflies to themselves and with whom they could decently live their lives.
“I’m ready to settle down and get married,” Patty said later. “I love kids. I get so attached to kids. I want to have babies.”
But that was still a ways off.
“We want bush!” the guys began chanting again.
“Tits to win!”
“Tits! Tits! Tits!”