The Kansas City Entertainment Group is a year-old business that plans events at local bars. Its acronym is K.E.G., by the way, instead of the less boozy K.C.E.G. It recently held its very first beauty competition to crown a "cover" model for its Web site, which is set to debut in January. Intrigued by the sociological ramifications (read: potential cheesiness) of such an event, we headed to Johnny's with Research Assistant Erik for a tit-tastic Tuesday night.
Located near a Hobby Lobby in one of the ubiquitous strip malls that dot Shawnee Mission Parkway like chickenpox, Johnny's is your typical sports bar. We like it, though; the place is spacious, and the unpretentious crowd gives it a neighborhood saloon feel. Neon beer signs dot the walls, sports signage abounds, and TVs and pool tables fill up the rest of the space. The décor is very woodlike and we're not just talking about the fratish sausagefest that came out for the pageant.
We enjoyed the Tuesday night drink specials: $2 Corona bottles and $5 domestic pitchers. After ordering our drinks, we spotted some contestants waiting back by the bathrooms. We made our way over and met 24-year-old Akeisha, a beautiful African-American woman dressed in a blue, low-cut, scoop-neck top that revealed JoCo-sized cleavage. With her were 21-year-old brunette Heather and a pair of blondes, 21-year-old Kaley and 22-year-old Carlie. All were gorgeous in that overly lip-glossed sorority-girl way. They said they were making themselves objects in the hope of winning a two-night trip to Vegas and "to have a little fun."
Akeisha, who seemed very earnest, confided that her game plan was to "just go up there and be myself." She said, "If being myself doesn't win, then oh well." She told us that she does some modeling, works full time at Wells Fargo and is studying for a master's degree at Rockhurst University. "So I've got a life outside something like this," she said. "This isn't plan A."
Well, insert tab A into B-list event. According to K.E.G. owner Jeremy Bonewitz, the contestants would be judged in three categories: clubwear, swimwear and a Q&A session. Crowd response would help pick the winner. As Van Halen's "Panama" blasted from the speakers, the four women sashayed onto a raised platform by the front door and just kind of stood there, preening and wiggling a little bit. We put our money on Carlie, who wore a sleeveless black number that attached in front by one strategically placed button at her boobs. A deep V-neck showed off the tops of her breasts, and an inverted V revealed her stomach. The garment was truly a feat of engineering that the ancient Romans would envy.
The crowd perked up more when the ladies re-emerged in bikinis. "They're all winners!" a guy cried out. The contestants walked back to the stage, then stood around and jiggled. Then Kaley and Heather started grinding on each other, and the guys went nuts. Catcalls and shouts of "Wooo!" punctuated the air.
The Q&A session came next. Because the microphone wasn't working, MC Jeremy had to conduct the interviews from behind the bar, where he had commandeered a microphone usually used by the kitchen. He started with a softball question: "Why would you make the best Ms. K.E.G. in 2006?"
The common theme was basically "I like to party!" But because of the microphone problems i.e., the fact that the women didn't have one we couldn't hear Carlie's answer. She did, however, turn around and shake her turquoise-bikini-clad ass. That also was how she responded to the next question: "What is your best feature?"
Then, the MC asked a Night Ranger-esque inquiry: "Where's the strangest place you've made out with a guy?"
"In grandma's bed," Heather answered. Ewwww.
Kaley said, "In a see-through elevator."
"Were you going down?" quipped RA Erik.
After the Q&A, the judges gauged the crowd response to each contestant. Carlie seemed to rank high on the applause-o-meter, and in an utterly anti-climactic fashion, she was declared the winner. Thus endeth the powder-K.E.G. contest, which wasn't the sleazefest that we had hoped it would be. To compensate we walked around the thinning crowd and asked our own contest-worthy questions.
We soon met 21-year-old Scot, a guy whose hair was dyed blond and cut in an artful shag and whose arms were colored with tattoos. He's a Wal-Mart associate who works the overnight shift. He swore he wasn't pre-drinking but had the night off. With him were Lee, an attractive 21-year-old guy in a black blazer and a quasi-faux hawk, and 21-year-old Liz, their friend from Arizona. All were friendly and outgoing, so we asked them to tell their strangest bar stories.
"I made out with my best friend," admitted Liz. She added that the friend was, in fact, a woman. "I didn't think that would happen, but she was totally down that night."
"At Harpo's, someone spilled beer from the top balcony on me," Scot said.
"I always leave before the crazy shit happens," Lee complained. Then he remembered something: "I watched an ex-girlfriend strip in a bar."
"That happened to me in Mexico, only the whole bar was naked," Liz said.
Skin to win, indeed.
By this point, we were ready to go, so we went to close out our tab. As we waited to pay, Boston's "More Than a Feeling" came on, which somehow inspired everyone to groove. A guy in a blue track jacket with carefully gelled hair and another duder in a red sweater did some sort of leg jig for each other, laughed, then high-fived. The effect was somewhat homoerotic. By the door, a guy in a camouflage top groped the ass of a blonde. A mustachioed guy standing next to us offered his analysis. "They never learn," he said. "They come here and get fucked up, then go to Westport and get fucked up."
Which brings us to our other epiphany of the night: We were all winners here.