August, 2006

Judging beauty: Values be damned, bring on the bathing suit contest

August 29th, 2006

Aaron gongs
Aaron Thompson’s thumbs weigh their options in front of the famed gong at Mist inside the Treasure Island for “Gong Karaoke.”

I am not a judge. I did not go to law school, I did not pass the Nevada State bar exam, I do not wear black robes nor wield gavels. However, I have dressed in black capes and wielded hammers, but neither of those have anything to do with casting judgment upon other human beings.

Apparently, no one cares about this. A few years ago, I was called upon to judge a battle of the bands. This kind of makes sense, as I have a history as a proto-musician and have been writing about music since I was old enough to grow a beard. I sat through one night of bad bands, and never returned.

Earlier this month, I was asked to judge karaoke at Mist lounge inside the Treasure Island, and part of a veritable judging squad made up of, for the most part, Las Vegas Weekly staffers and columnists who themselves could not carry a tune to save their lives. But it was all in fun, part of a promotion to drum up new faces at the bar’s monthly “Gong Karaoke” night. Yes, the premise is simple: “The Gong Show” meets karaoke bar.

Sadly, even that turned sour. No, the singers weren’t horrible, for the most part. But one member of our party, young Aaron Thompson, nearly got clobbered by some big, dumb lunkhead who didn’t like being gonged. Um, he was singing Godsmack in an upscale lounge. He needed to be gonged.

Well, after that less-than-enlightening experience – after which we fought over who was not going to gong the next contestant – I thought that maybe judging anything should be left to elected officials with fancy law degrees.

That was until I received a text message asking for my beauty judging skills to be employed at the Beauty Bar’s Drop Dead Gorgeous Beauty Pageant Sunday night. What beauty judging skills, you ask? Oh, I asked myself the same question.

I removed my mismatched light blue T-shirt and replaced it with a nondescript patterned button-down and headed to the Beauty Bar, unshaven and nowhere near beautiful myself, to judge the fourth round of local qualifiers for this multi-location beauty pageant.

What was I doing judging a beauty pageant? My fellow judges were far better-qualified: Tracy Lee, owner of, is responsible for putting beautiful people from multiple cities online, and is herself a former fitness model. Brandy Beavers is a vivacious local celebrity, shadow dancer and living pin-up. Frankie the File is the man that keeps the hands and nails of Beauty Bar’s patrons as gorgeous as they can be.

Me? I’m a journalist. We are not known for beauty, hygiene or even owning mirrors. Though I am a music and nightlife specialist and an occasional talking head, I still know about as much about judging a beauty pageant as I do about covering professional sports. Which is nothing, in case no one has been following my illustrious career.

Nevertheless, there I was, sitting on a plastic-coated sofa between Lee and Beavers, watching the five contestants in this round of the pageant strut their stuff down a makeshift runway, clipboard in lap, pen at the ready, passing judgment on women with whom I have no familiarity. They could be active members of charitable organizations, mothers of multiple children, survivors of abusive relationships – I had no idea. All I knew was that I had to rate them based on five criteria using the standard 1-10 numbering system.

Winner Natalie Summerlin poses with judge Brandy Beavers shortly after Summerlin’s victory is announced.And so they came out on the runway, first in skimpy outfits of their choice, then again in bathing suits, just before being asked purposely inane questions that read more like “truth or dare” jabs than personality-diggers. There was biting. There was straddling. There was shimmying. But in the end, there could only be one winner.

I guess the numbers on the white Xeroxed sheet on my clipboard were on the mark, at least in choosing a winner based on appearance, personality, bathing suit, Q&A and crowd reaction. Natalie Summerlin (not her real name), who is apparently the sister of some other hottie, was the leggy, raven-haired winner of this night’s showdown. No. 3 on my list was No. 2 in the final, the wild-haired, mocha-skinned beauty Amelian Kashiro, who is a senior at UNLV studying marketing.

In the end, I didn’t feel good or bad. Just … shallow, I suppose. I despise beauty pageants. They are the summation of everything we have done wrong with our society. Well, no, that’s MySpace. But beauty pageants are second. But I was doing a favor for a friend, and its semi-lowbrow approach made it slightly more palatable than the big TV freak shows – I mean, pageants.

Still, I don’t think I’ll jump at that chance again, unless someone’s career or rep is on the line. Next time you need something judged, please don’t call me. I like to sit back, observe, record and report – it’s what I do. I’m a journalist. What do I know about anything?