Shocks, Surprises at 2003’s Mr. Lower East SideSt. Rev Jen opens the show

By Mel Whitehead; photos by Pruiga Phur

Wednesday, October 23, 2002: Some say it’s a satire of traditional beauty pageants. Some say it’s sexist. And some say it’s just plain gross. But, now in its fourth year, the Mr. Lower East Side Pageant, hosted by Saint Reverend Jen at her Wednesday night Anti-Slam at Collective:Unconcious, has become an institution. Past Mr. LESes included a gay pimp, a drag queen, and some dude who lives in Los Angeles. This year, the money was on early favorite Choo-Choo Magoo, a chubby talking chihuahua. But the night produced many surprises, many screams of horror, and, for me, a huge headache on the next day.

As is often the case with lower east side events, many of the contestants had not shown up by the time the house opened at 8 PM. But the huge crowd was clambering to get inside and pick choice seats for the event, which sells out every year. Contestants continued to file in as the throngs began to fill in their ballots with the names of sixteen brave men who would shortly be gracing the stage in eveningwear and swimsuits, showing off their, ahem, talents.

Choo-burgers in paradiseAnd the surprises began almost immediately. Two genuine celebrities had signed up to vie for the covetous title of Mr. LES 2003--Osama bin Laden and Spiderman! Mike Amato, Mr. LES 2001, was also entering via remote feed. And someone signed up as "Johnny Hates Choo-Choo," garnering the immediate ire of all the dog lovers in the audience. Of course, stalwart and perpetual loser Eric Kirschberger, who is known as the Susan Lucci of the MR. LES pageant, was also competing.

The show began with a spectacular balloon-popping act by Johnny Fecal-beard, a skinny young man with brown stuff smeared over his face. Osama came out and menaced the crowd. The Big Hairy Jew did his rendition of "Putting on the Ritz" as done in Young Frankenstein. He sang the parts of both Gene Wilder and the Monster. Choo-Choo immediately won the crowd’s love with his heart-felt version of Jimmy Buffet’s "Cheese Burger in Paradise." Touching You, entering via a fancy-ass DVD, had a quickly edited segment of him showing off his chops and his long flowing hair. Amato surprised us all by roping his lovely young daughter Michelka into his act, something for which she will no doubt undergo years of therapy to get through. But Eric Kirschberger’s finely-crafted Art Star hip-hop song clearly showed that he was, indeed, the most talented. Or something. Or was it Neil Medlin in that weird spangly tutu, sucking on the giant dildo? It’s all so confusing now. It’s tough being a judge. No, Curtis Scagnetti was the most talented, Help! The baby has a gun!with his puppet theater tribute to that fave of all chick-flicks, Say Anything. Magical George called on the succulent Carmen Mofungo to assist him on stage, but she did not look happy about it. The sassy Latin spitfire told the audience how the tricks were being done, which probably cost Magic Boy some points. Johnny Hates Choo-Choo was particularly cruel in his video submission, wearing a mask for anonymity while he brutalized a plush toy, but I heard several ladies remark that he had pretty eyes. Yes, the pretty ones are often cruel.

The swimsuit competition was shocking in its modesty–no gak except from Osama! Ladies, the lanky and swarthy jihadist is packing more than just a pistol. And yes, he’s circumcised. The other tall-boy, the Big Hairy Jew, also showed a lot of skin, coming out covered only by his flimsy sash. Kirschberger took off lots of underwear and threw them to the audience–I now have a pair of Kirschberger’s sweaty boxers! I wonder if I can sell them on ebay?

After the eveningwear/Q&A segment, the votes were collected and tallied up by the only honest person on the LES, writer Erik Seims, who co-hosts the Lit series at Surf. Accordionist Corn Mo serenaded us during the break with his ingenuous tales of junior high trauma.

yumHost St. Rev Jen had a look of extreme surprise on her face when she was given the results. We all immediately began screaming "Oh no!" I think there was some fear that Touching You might win. We were all on the edges of our seats when Jen brought out the three finalists–Curtis Scagnetti, Neil Medlin, and Eric Kirschberger! I knew Kirschberger would be there–he has to come in second, he always does–but what happened to Choo-Choo? Maybe there was a fix, or maybe more people than Johnny hated Choo-Choo. Curtis was announced as the second-runner-up, which seemed to please the surrealist comic. Eric and Neil held hands as the first-runner-up was read. I was fully expecting to hear the name Eric, but instead Jen said Neil Medlin! Meaning that, after four years of entering, Kirschberger had finally won the illustrious honor of being Mr. Lower East Side! Eric cried hot sweet tears of joy as he was crowed by Jen, the patron saint of the uncool. Later, at Barramundi, we all wondered how Eric would differ from last year’s Mr. LES, John Ennis. Well, a least Kirschberger’s primary residence is New York.




winner Eric Kirschberger