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The Beauty of the Dork 

A Dialog by Ron Athey & Vaginal Davis with photographs by Jack Gould

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RON ATHEY: In the early ’80s, there was an elitist, almost snooty quality to the underground scene in L.A. This attitude sort of deteriorated after MTV, which functioned as an inverted subversion. Gangster clothes, kooky-color hair and dreads no longer signified specific cultural identities, but became public domain. In the ’90s, when a lot of underground people began dressing ducky, you coined the term “neoconservative chic,” and lately fashion’s been wrapped up in the house of geek chic. But more fetishistically, we’ve both been going on about the mystique of the hot, humpy dork. How does the humpy dork differ from the geek?

VAGINAL DAVIS: Geeks are insufferable. If anything chic comes out of them, I assure you it’s purely by accident. Geeks are also manipulative and passive-aggressive. Oh, and covetous of anything that someone with style and pizzazz possesses. I especially can’t stand the beady-eyed geek, the weasel, the worm or the mole. A lot of geeks got into punk rock and underground culture because they secretly wanted to be jocks and cheerleaders and lord it over everyone, but never achieved that in high school. In the underground they were finally able to create a hierarchy that they could be at the top of.

Marc and Robbie in Jil underwear.

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R.A.: So are you saying the geek is clueless?

V.D.: Not exactly. Most geeks are clued in enough to want savagely to be that obscure object of desire. What makes the dorkus better is that he isn’t fully aware of his charms. Extreme modesty always prevails — a nice body will almost always be covered in ill-fitting or baggy clothes, the better to hide any traces of post-pubescent development.

Anna cooks in a suede two-piece/one-shoulder dress from Estevan Ramos. Twins horse around in vintage swim trunks.

R.A.: The physical traits that constitute dorkiness — i.e., harelip, buckteeth, myopia, post-adolescent acne and so on — are basically minor congenital defects, and that doesn’t add up to sexy-humpy. Wouldn’t you say it’s the dynamic of perfection prevailing over scar tissue that makes the humpy dork a veritable prodigal son? I’m thinking of the strabismic cholo busboy at Astro Family everyone’s been drooling over for years, or Joaquin Phoenix’s accentuated harelip in Gladiator. They’re both hypermasculine, yet flawed. This contrast is humbling — while knowing they are sexy, they still emote an eyes-downcast low self-esteem.

Anna wears Soyun’s white wrap skirt and tie-sleeved blouse. Marc and Robbie in Vivienne Westwood shorts

V.D.: The low-self-esteem issue is what truly warms my heart. Dorks rarely toot their own horn the way geeks have a tendency to do. The young male ingénue Jason Biggs, who starred in the teen flick in which he sodomized an apple pie, is now a geek who has become completely full of himself. He was so cute and personable in that movie, his chubby post-adolescent body so perfectly awkward. But recently I saw him at a multiplex, overly trim and exuding such big-dick arrogance that I was ashamed I ever found him attractive.

Anna wears an Estevan Ramos short-sleeved leather trench coat over vintage one-piece swimsuit from SquaresVille. Sun-glasses from Peggy Guggenheim. The boys stand at attention in Jared Gold striped-crotch shorts and sleeveless T-shirts.

R.A.: Maybe it’s a geographical issue. Anyone who lives in an urban environment is overly aware of their market value — it seems every somewhat good-looking teenager wants a modeling career — and only country bumpkins or suburbanites are oblivious to their worth. There aren’t as many pairs of hungry eyes, and therefore not the same level of body consciousness. Underground was a rebellion against mainstream, neoconservative chic the backlash against underground gone mainstream. But humpy dork is more of an accident, or a triumph over certain traits that are considered imperfect. It’s the relationship of the dork to the super-Adonis, as seen in advertising or American gay iconography, that creates this special beauty. Also, humpy dorks are usually much shorter than model height, 5-foot-7 or under. A tall dork is a goofus. Many humpy dorks are thusly so because they suffer from body-dysmorphic disorders, perhaps at a higher rate than average, because of the need to overcome their childhood traumas of being relentlessly badgered. The commonplace use of braces, contact lenses and corrective surgeries is causing less severe traits to disappear. I personally love gap teeth, overbites, underbites, thick eyeglasses, freckles, lazy eyes, prematurely receding hairlines, as long as they aren’t all happening at once. And I disagree about the baggy clothes. A lot of humpy dorks are consciously understated in tight-fitting jock gear, or seem to be stuck in fashions from the unhappiest period of their lives — Buster Brown shorts and sandals.

Anna makes a splash in Soyun’s three-tone halter gown; Marc and Robbie have their Jared Gold shirts tucked into heat-absorbing vintage polyester check pants from SquaresVille.

V.D.: My dear, recently deceased mother was very prejudiced against “diminutive” men. She felt a man wasn’t really a man unless he was 6 feet or taller. I’d howl every time she’d rant, “I don’t like little men with little hands and little feet. How would you like something little crawling all over you?” That’s an image deeply embedded in my mind. There are certain types of tiny men I find really attractive, such as ’40s film stars like John Garfield, John Hodiak and Eddie Bracken (who was so adorable as Judy Garland’s love interest in Summer Stock, with his tortoiseshell glasses and ever-so-slight lisp). The short and stocky barrel-chested bulldog is such a masculine type — those men looked so sharp in World War II uniforms. That’s one look that will undoubtedly return to vogue, maybe not the next season, but the one after that. I predict that soon every boy on the runway will be a 5-foot-nothing pud able to leap tall buildings in a single cartwheel.

Styled by Ron Athey & Susan Matheson

Models: Marc Herbst (marc@c-level.cc) Robbie Herbst Anna Geotze is represented by John Stauffer at Warning Talent Group, warningla@aol.com.

Hair & Makeup: Veronica Lorenz www.veronica lorenz.com

Location: Courtesy Paul & Rhonda Davis

Clothes: Soyun Available at Diavolina II and Curve

Estevan Ramos Available at Macy’s, Nordstrom or, for custom work, at estyram@aol.com

Jared Gold Available at American Rag, Aero & Co., Fred Segal, Barney’s, Curve and Prototype

Vivienne Westwood Available at Traffic and Maxfield’s

SquaresVille 7312 Melrose Ave., (323) 525-1425

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