Sunday, February 21, 2010

Diary of a Cub Contestant at International Bear Rendezvous 2010

Craig Gunderson
George Hains and jd Legget
As I sauntered into the contestant holding room there were about 6 or 7 of the 12 contestants sitting and chatting. A podium was set up where our Contestant Coordinator would stand and give us the lay of the land in IBR contest world. His name was Paul Almy and he resembled a sweet little walrus with glasses. He wore a fine patina of sweat as he raced about to and fro and my feeling was that he had a little too much to deal with. I was corrected later that Paul always comes off that way. While I was there I had met a few of the boys. I sat next to Jeff Breeze Contestant # 2. He looked young but gave off a bear vibe more than cub. He gave me a list of names I could call him but concluded that list with " a lotta people just call me asshole." I got a little nervous at that, but he turned out to be ANYTHING but. He was and is a nice guy in all reality. He also was a little nervous. I think he really wanted a title. Next to him was a 50 something Daddy Bear with a big Wedge of Cheese on his head. Craig Gunderson Contestant # 11 hailed from Greenbay WI and wore his Cheese hat with pride. Did you know that when you flipped it over it had a little depression for chips and two cup holders? He was wise to wear it because it did indeed make him stand out. He exuded an amiable Dad-next-door quality that was very appealing. He also looked like he was ready for a GOOD time. Contestant # 12 Paul Cain had entered last year's competition and was very helpful with an e-mail that he sent to all of us  on what to expect at IBR as a contestant. He also was quick with the turn of phrase. When Paul Almy informed us he was going to break us (the group) in half Paul Cain said, "Ouch!" He was full of quips like that. I made a mental note that he was a smart ass. Luckily I could keep up with him. He asked me later where I had learned to be a smart ass and I said, same place as him: The School of Hard of Knocks. He resembled a High School Science teacher that was always winning Teacher of the Year. He is also part of a group called C-Men. This is a group of California men who are nudists. I saw their calendar which Paul gave us. All fine looking men-a little skinny- but fine looking none-the-less.

I also met Marcus MacLeod, Contestant 13. He was a tall cub with an extra heaping helping of personality. He also looked as if he would like to win a title. He informed me that the Portland Bears had asked him to cut off all is dyed pink hair. He currently wore a slight faux hawk buzz cut that did have a rose tint near the ends. Despite his size, he had a very boy-like quality to him. He appeared naive and gangly and tried to master tact and command of the room.  It was indisputably endearing. I asked him why the Portland Bears had asked him to cut his pink hair off. He said that they would feel it would increase his chances of placing a title. I frowned and said that, we here in San Francisco don't look kindly on eliminating individuality.Paul Cain and I felt that one of us needed to write a letter to the Portland Bears and let them know of their error. Then he clarified that we were dealing with Portland Oregon - not Portland Maine...Oh! Now I understood.

 I really couldn't criticise Marcus' decision to comply with the bear asthetic, because I too had done some  of my own alterations to my look for the contest. I spent some time in a spray tan booth, (I am naturally pasty white), and also worked with Evan Kaminsky of Oui Three Queens /Bear Care, (more on that in a separate blog), in his comfy sweet smelling studio on "masculinizing" my look. It was some careful beard and eye brow tinting that gave me a harder, tougher look. A few friends at IBR commented that I looked different, but they couldn't figure out why exactly. I guess Marcus and Jeff weren't the only Bears who wanted to win.!  Eventually the rest of the contestants wandered in. Matt Stearn Contestant # 5 was yet another happy playful bear who gave off such a good vibe that I wanted to hug him. I regretted not spending more time with him and getting to know him better. Contestants # 4 and # 10, jd Legget and George Hains arrived together. They were the boys from New York. I was drawn to jd and quickly learned why. We had just earned our local cub titles last year, and he was an actor -and then there's the fact that we both had initials for first names-AND THEN THERE'S THE FACT that we are BOTH producing a Burlesque shows in April! Unfortunately he wasn't wearing the other half of my amulet that I've had since birth. (Kidding folks)  He is very clever and comes off like a quiet Oscar winner trying to blend in with the crowd. We chatted a lot about our theater backgrounds and our history was eerily similar. I fell in love with him immediately-as well as his humongous friend George. George gave off this dry Bea Arthur sense of humor. Despite his massive height and bulk George was as gentle as a lamb. I bet  he could have easily picked any of us up and tossed us over his shoulder. He was indeed memorable at first sight. Then in sashayed Jack Miller from New Jersey. He is this little chunk of chocolate with a big Maryland accent and about as sweet as Mississippi Mud Pie with a sassy smile and some big dreams. He had never won any contest and just thought it would be fun to enter this one. This sweet little queen went and raised the money to come all the way to California and shoot for the stars. It was at this point that I began to notice that this year's contestants didn't look at all like the previous years  winners I had seen on the IBR website. With what I knew about the Bears so far, I found it fascinating that none of us  fit the dreamy Bear Porn star mold. Later I met the warm Michael Ferguson, Contestant # 9. He was very easy going and came off to me like a sexier version of Jed Clampett. Contestant # 6 had an ill mother to deal with and couldn't participate. I was number 7.

Several of us turned our heads to see contestant Javier Lorente # 1 enter the room and we -well most of us anyway felt we just knew who was going to win the big Intnl Bear title. He is gorgeous. Breathtakingly sexy and hot hot hot! He is all the way from Spain and doesn't speak a word of English. Well maybe a word or two,but he had an interpreter that wasn't hard on the eyes either. His lack of knowledge of the English language was not going to hamper him at all. Anyone with eyes could see that. It also helped that he was friendly and eager to establish a friendship with each of us. The last one was Jason Flores -a Gamer Bear who scurried rather than walked or ran and reminded me of some character from a fantasy sci-fi movie. He would say things like " By the toe of Hoth, I am late!" Well maybe not exactly that but it sounded like that. 

The charismatic, sexy, Dominick Zurlo entered the room. He was to be our Emcee during the ceremony and he was simply one of the most scrumptious Daddy Bears I have seen in some time. This was shaping up to be a pretty interesting and decent group of guys. I kept wondering about the fact that 90% of us just looked like everyday Joe's. I thought about the titles we were competing for: Intnl Daddy Bear, Intnl Grizzly, and Intnl Cub-and of course Intnl Mr. Bear. What would determine who won? Everyone was friendly and playful, and with a couple of exceptions most all the contestants wanted to simply make friends and have a good time, and not be fraught with competition heebie jeebies. I had read in several publications that pageants were not a "Bear" thing. Supposedly the subculture didn't want to idealize appearances. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. As a current title holder I understood it was about how much good I had done while representing our community. Maybe that's what mattered here? Not how big our arms were or whether our sexiness appealed on a mass level, but what we were made up of in character. I suddenly felt good. I felt very good about entering the competition with this particular group. These contestants were real men not magazine dreams, (although each guy had his own sex appeal.) Would that hurt the contest or help it? I hoped the latter.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the update on what Craig Gunderson, is doing. You are right he really is like the bear dad from next door. Friendly affable fellow.