The title of Miss Hooker 2008 went up for grabs last week. The beauty pageant of the damned took place at the Dragonfly nightclub on Santa Monica Boulevard, not too far away from the intersection of Hollywood and Vine, that venerable Wimbledon of hooking venues. The event was organized by Los Angeles artist Natalia Fabia, who paints, makes jewelry and designs clothes, and who is inspired by phenomena such as light, color, punk-rock music, sparkles and the aforementioned hookers. Of course, the pageant girls are not “real” hookers. Just like the rest of us writers, lawyers, bartenders, accountants, waitresses and secretaries with clients to please and bosses to appease aren’t hookers either.
Fabia had been using the word as a term of endearment for her best girlfriends for as long as she could remember — seven years at least — because it symbolized to her “that cute, fun, independent hot-chick-doing-it-for-the-money thing.” She imagined an evening organized around that central conceit, an amalgam of fashion, music, art, comedy, dance, burlesque, improvisation, provocation and commerce. “Get there early!” she urged readers of her Web site. “I will also be selling limited-edition prints of my new Miss Hooker drawing and NEW jewelry ... Bring $$$.”
The beauty pageant manifests just as Fabia predicted: It’s as if one of the paintings from her recent “Hooker Safari” series has come to life. Her oil portraits at Corey Helford Gallery a few months ago were like explosions in a sherbet factory, depicting girls in beautiful gowns posing with African animals, the suggestion being that girls and animals are both killers.
Illustrator Gary Baseman, one of the pageant judges, says that he likes what’s going on with art these days, in particular with “Pervasive Art,” the term he coined to describe art that is accessible to the masses. It’s not art that’s stuck inside the walls of a gallery. It encompasses everything. In this case, the entire hooker mise en scène: The drunken guests. The leering, perverted judges with art-house aspirations. The pretty girls in ripped fishnet stockings and rabbit-fur jackets, raising the question, Are they slutty all the time or just for tonight?
For the talent competition, one hooker whistles a song from Mozart’s Cosí Fan Tutte. Another hooker fries an egg on a portable hot plate while stripping (creativity = 5, technical difficulty = 9.5). Several hookers play the piano and croon. One particularly intrepid hooker, a Miss Squirt, pokes a nail into her nose, then extracts it with a small hammer. One hooker does a set of tricks — no, not tricks — with a yo-yo. Yet another hooker, dressed in baby diapers, fiddles with a bubble machine, plays with stuffed toys and strips, a performance both disturbing and epic.
Then the question-and-answer session. Says Skyler Stone, announcer, to Miss Squirt: “What are your best and worst qualities?”
Miss Squirt: [Downs her drink.] “Yes.”
Stone to Miss Strawberry: “If you could be on the cover of any magazine, which would it be and why?”
Miss Strawberry: [Bites her lip.] “World peace?”
And again, and again, until you feel like crying tears of blood.
By 1 a.m., we’re tumbling toward a weepy, sloppy, slobbery finish, replete with smeared mascara and smudged lipstick and tiaras thrown willy-nilly as the former Miss Hooker crowns the new Miss Hooker. It is a grand old time.
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Others are having, well, slightly less fun. “Oh, what, they’re announcing the winner now? I can’t stand the suspense because I’m so emotionally involved right now,” says the man sitting beside me. “This is a horror show! I could be home watching Grey’s Anatomy, and I fucking hate Grey’s Anatomy! I want my money back, and I didn’t even pay anything. I’d rather take a brick to my eye than keep watching this. I’d rather saw off my own hand. In fact, I need to go rob a bank to feel normal. I can’t believe we’re all part of the same species. These people make me not want to procreate! This is worse than 9/11! Wait, did I say that out loud?”
But no matter. Because Miss One Dolla No Holla, our champion, is already clutching her bouquet of roses, fanning her face with her hands and hugging runners-up Miss Guided and Miss Platinum Puss, and the crowd is getting ready to pay $5 a pop for a Polaroid photo with its new queen.
“Beauty pageants like Miss America are so retarded,” says Fabia later on. “Although mine was retarded as well. You know they eliminated the talent competition from all national pageants now?” For a while, her girls had difficulty figuring out what their talents would be. Do anything, Fabia says, it’s the most important part. Get up there and brush your hair. Hooking isn’t easy, but someone’s got to do it.