Monday, March 15, 2010

Diary Of a Cub Contestant Finale

The One Armed Bandit
Jd Leggett Mr. International Bear
International Grizzly George Hains
International Daddy Bear Paul Cain
International Cub Javier Lorente
The whole gang
The big show was later that evening and I still had to find some way to regain my footing  from the “deposition” that the judges put me through. BOSF members were assembling a stage for us to parade on. It was a wood and plastic old timey saloon. One of my “secret”  IBR coaches was putting together the set and leaned over to me, “ How’d it go?” referring to my judges interview. I made a sad face. He said, “ Cheer up -everyone thinks they did badly afterwards.” Dominick Zurlo was reviewing each of the contestants Bear Minimum segment. He would call us up on to the stage one by one and review our “personal ads” that we had written while we walk the catwalk. At the time we were wearing our clothes and not the few patches of cloth that we would later don for this particular section. My costume for this was a good one. I had a gold robbers mask and my arm was in a gold sling. I had rip away pants and a rip away shirt and underneath I wore a tank top with three cherries on it. My black brief underwear had a huge gold codpiece filled with gold plastic coins that I ripped away at just the right time. This of course involved making sure that the other contestants wouldn’t trip on my gold coins and that I picked up all my clothes I had ripped off. I used lots of Slot Machine metaphors. “ If you give this one armed bandit the right yank, he’ll deliver a full payload” etc etc. I tried to work with Dominick, but he cut me off a few times and went on about what I should do as opposed to what I wanted to do. I simply gave in to whatever he wanted. Lucky for him he was cute. I figured that night I would do it as I had envisioned it and hope it coincides with how Dominick read it. I was in no mood to inform him of my experience on a stage-but more importantly he wasn’t in a listening frame of mind. In retrospect I can be more sympathetic because after all -it was his show.

We broke for lunch. As we were all munching pizza, I was told of my Diva Name. The boys had a little fun by renaming us into our alter ego Diva names. I was dubbed “Cher” due to my constant costume changes, and I was....well.. a little older. I enjoyed that, but I felt myself pulling away from the group. I was disheartened and found myself rehashing the judges table over and over. I tried to shake it and enjoy hanging out with everyone but I had trouble. As an actor that has gone through hundreds of technical rehearsals, this experience wasn’t exactly new to me. I wanted to be with Orlando badly and tell him how I felt so, he would rub my head and call me cuddle cub. The worst of it was I was having regrets. After I had learned that there was a faction of the Bear Community that looked down on Pageants, I noticed that I might feel the same way. Oh I know what you are thinking. P.A. loves to be told how cute he is and the Diva demands the spotlight-and you’d be right! That aside-I am not so sure the Bear Community should engage in this one bear being prettier than another bear thing. Then again-it did a lot of good. If it created great fundraisers and eloquent speakers for the community then that was a good thing right? I began to doubt my place. What was a Cub anyway? Everything seemed subjective and it rendered some of my beliefs temporarily invalid. Hey -it’s not like I was going to win. I based this on my interview with Judges. I was sure there was no way -no how that they were gonna crown me anything. Why was I doing this anyway?

Why would anyone do it? “Mommie Dearest” popped in my head briefly as I envisioned Diana Scarwid bellowing “Why Did You ADOPT ME???!!!” and Faye Dunaway lets it slip, “ I did it for the publicity!” and within seconds withdraws it with a little breathy “ No that’s not true!”.....(Watching Mommie Dearest always cheers me up-along with Soap Dish and Death Becomes Her) Despite the varying degrees of self-esteem among this motley little group of contestants, I am pretty sure we all did it to “be somebody” I sincerely believe anyone who says they entered the contest it to help the community is full of it.  It’s kind of like a Gay couple that claims that they have been monogamous for 25 years. Right up there with the Loch Ness Monster. A lot of people have heard of it but even more have never seen one. The trick is when you enter a pageant of some sort is to display a sincere modesty and humility while letting everyone know how great you are. There was NO WAY I was going to pull this off. While I truly believe in being civil and polite, I think modesty is highly overrated and only allows other people to use you. Just another reminder that the world is full of mean people and you must be on your guard at all times. This is imperative if you choose to call attention to yourself and step into the spotlight.

When we were done that afternoon we had a few hours to ourselves before the big awards dinner. My Lando met me at the hotel and we took BART and Muni back up to my house. As we were waiting for the 36 Teresita to bring me to my door, I wrapped my arms around him.
“What if?....”  I asked
“yes?..” He prompted
“Well it is Valentine’s Day.” I explained, “and you are the first guy I have ever dated more than a I think that deserves some sort of special celebration.”
“What did you have in mind Cuddle Cub?”
“Well..” I took a deep breath...” What if I just blew off the contest?”
His eyebrows shot up for a second and then he flatly said, “ No way”
“ No way Mr.Cooley! Not after all the time and money and effort that went into this contest. I will not allow it”
The Big Puerto Rican Bear had spoken. I was round-eyed this time.
He softened, “ Just get up there and have a good time. It will all be over tonight and pretty soon you won’t think twice about those judges because you’ll be so involved with Bearlesque. So give them the best little one-armed bandit routine you can and then we will go have a strong drink to celebrate getting through it all” That’s pretty much what we did too.

I was horribly nervous when we entered the Awards dinner but I did everything to mask it. I wore a spangly t-shirt (again with the Sin Fire Gold thing). Photographer Ken Slater murmured a friendly “Diva” as I passed him. ( Damn that man is fine! ) I replied with a cool, “ Did you expect anything different?” I couldn’t eat too much due to nerves. Just because I knew I was going to lose didn’t mean I wasn’t nervous about performing. I talked to one of the contestants and let him know what had happened at the Judge’s table and he told me that he was glad I had said something... because he thought maybe he was being a tad too sensitive. I asked why. It turned out the same two judges that had given me a hard time had done the same to him. One of the other contestants said that it wasn’t his experience at all. He told me how nice they had been to him. I  should also note that this particular contestant wanted a title very badly.  You could see how pleased he was now that he knew he had interviewed without incident and that two others had a rough go of it.

I went over to the contestant table next to me and chatted briefly with two others It was casual but one of them divulged that it wasn’t Tony and Eduardo but two other judges that were hard on him. What? Really? What exactly was going on here?  He suggested that it was part of the interview process. Kind of a Good Judge bad judge thing. Now what purpose would that serve? I suppose it had a certain sadistic element that they may have enjoyed- but really? I mean it’s not like a million dollar contract was at the end of this Bear rainbow. I couldn’t accept it but hey- if Tony and Edaurdo wanted to get their jollies making me feel like crap then I was NOT going to allow that. I resolved then and there to have some fucking fun.

There were comic moments a plenty. George who is like 6 2 and weighs well...a lot, needed help adjusting the banana that covered the crack of his butt. He asked me to adjust it accordingly. It was in a gun holster riding in back while a black cowboy hat “covered” his crotch. Quite a sight! My one armed bandit went well despite it’s clumsy execution. I don’t think people knew why I was in a sling,but when the “Gold” coins spilled from my crotch it got a roar of laughter.When I had to change into the cruise wear section prior to my impromptu question session, I had some trouble attaching my massive Western Belt Buckle. There was plenty of panic  backstage as  Marcus and Jason took a stab at trying to put it on for me. Eventually I shucked off a piece of the $45 belt that was preventing the $25 buckle from attaching and made it on stage just barely. Dominick looked over at me and our love was rekindled. He obviously liked cowboys. In fact I was  feeling the love waves from Dominick so strongly that I was momentarily distracted as Jason asked me the question. I had to tear myself away from DZ’s hypnotic stare. It had to do with what attributes I had to bring to the bear community. I tried to make a vanity joke which fell flat and answered honestly that it was my ability to think on my feet. ha!

Decision time -The judges announced the big winners after we gathered on stage. First was International Cub. That went quite unexpectedly to Javier from Spain. You could almost feel the entire 13 contestants go “Huh?” after he won. We all naturally assumed he would win the big International Bear title. Then the affable charming nudist Paul Cain won Daddy Bear and the substantial and memorable George Hains won International Grizzly! He let out a triumphant roar that had us all applauding. I was completely stumped who would win International Bear-as were the rest of the contestants. Then they announced it. Jd Leggett! I jumped and screamed as if they had said my name because it was such a terrific choice. Jd and I had a lot in common and moreover- Jd wanted it. Jd was in total shock. His hand quivered and the tears spilled forth with all the joyful drama worthy of Miss America. This delighted the audience. I was particularly delighted  because Jd...the little cub -not so butch -not so classically perfect looking actor who had his own Burlesque show won the biggest title of the contest. This boded nothing but good things for future contestants. When you read his Mission and what he wants to do, you see why he won and more importantly -why he deserved to win. Orlando and I had that drink and afterwards we did what all Cubs and Bears do who love each other very much...I’ll be uncharacteristically discreet about that. Instead - why don’t I introduce you to International Bear Mr. Jd Leggett. Here he is in his own words. Care to help him?

JD (Damien-James) Leggett
Brooklyn, NY 11221
(617) 412 - 1695

Hey all, my name is JD (Damien) Leggett and I was recently titled Mr. International Bear 2010 at the IBR convention in San Francisco. I am writing thi letter to introduce myself to the world, and let you know the plans I have for my year.
I want to start by saying that this is not spam. I am one person (not a company) that found you in a bear magazine, looked up your website, found your contact info and got your email because I liked what I read about you, or your organization. I apologize now, for how long this is. I feel like I should explain who I am and where I come from, in order for you to understand my mission.
    I grew up in a very bad neighborhood, and in a family of dysfunction and chaos. I have a story that an after­-school special would love to expose. Don’t worry; I’m not detailing that junk. After getting through adolescence and becoming a man, I tried, on many occasions, to find true happiness. I constantly made drastic life changes in search of where I belong. Well, 2 years ago (at age 29) I realized that I needed to completely start over from scratch. I quit my job, quit the show I was directing and starring in, broke up with my lover and moved to NYC.
   After a month of living in NY, I discovered the Metrobears. I learned then what a bear was and that I was one of them. It was so liberating to find a place where I can be me, and be proud of me. I owe so much to the 1st night I went to what was once called “The Dugout”. I spent a year and a half visiting their bar nights, walking in the parade with them, and enjoying their events. So, I thought it would be cool to run for the Mr. Metrocub title for the year. It as such a shock when I won. After such a short time living here and discovering what a bear was….I was representing them!
    After much planning, raising money, selling raffle tickets, etc etc…. Both myself and Mr. Metrobear (George Hains, my hero), went to IBR 16. I went to represent my club, have a good time, and raise money for their charities. I thought it would be cool if I got the International Cub title, but not my reason for going. I was myself and doing what I came to do. On stage, when they called my name for the top title, I was at a loss. I never expected it, or even considered the possibility that I would be up for it. Then, right there, I knew I was somebody. I knew I had a mission on this planet. This title is going to give me the opportunity to do some good in the world.
So, here are my plans: For the year, I am going to give myself over to the bear community. I want to go anywhere that wants me, and learn about the bear community face to face from all over. I have the time and lifestyle that I can do this. I want to go to bear events, and volunteer to help. I also want to visit the local bear clubs, bars and people to get in idea of who they are and how they like/differ from the others, and maybe give ideas and help with publicity. While there I will need help finding Temp Work, and a cheap place /couch to sleep on. I would stay to check out the reg. every day bear scene, until the next event.
Along my travels, I will be keeping a log of everything I do, everywhere I go, everyone that helps me, all my sponsors, and anyone who helps me along the way. At the end, I hope to put this together as a social bear guide, and an advertisement for bear friendly organizations in each area.
I do hope that after my year. I will have some good experience to put on my resume and find good employment that will benefit the community after my reign as Mr. Int’l Bear is over.
I am going to list my interests, and dreams of how I can help the community and how you can help me as well. I do ask, please: If you know anyone out there that would be of any help, please forward this email out to them. Also, if you have access to a bear themed mailing list, please forward this there as well. I would so greatly appreciate it.

{ Bear Runs: I would like to go to as many as possible, please contact me if there is anything I can do to help at events, and if you have any clues on how I can get there for as cheap as possible.
{ Hotels: If there is any way I can work off, or do a review, or any way I can get some kind of deal. Please inform me. I would be happy to go out of my way to work my way through it.
{ Your couch: If I am in the area and have no hotel to put me up, I have no problem couch surfing my way through your town. Want to offer me couch space, maybe offer me a meal? Ill do your dishes in exchange.
{Employment: If I am in your area, I’d need help finding work. I will do office work through an agency, I will do personal work, and I have many skills and am very strong. I have worked in offices, costume designing, retail; I was a financial consultant for 7 years and am currently a trucker in junk removal.
{ Sponsors: This is going to be a huge project for the year. If there are any people or organizations that are interested in sponsoring me through this, I would love to talk to you about what we can do in exchange for each other.
{ Publicity: I love pictures. I would be more than happy to be in any photos, do any interviews, wear your swag and be part of anything like that. Please shoot me an email, call or text. I want to indulge myself into the bear world and let people know who I am.
{ Charities: This is really the base of my hopes. I want to help raise as much money for good causes, as I can. I want to help, not just discover, but do something about it. If there is something going on that I would be able to increase the success of, I would like to know ASAP as I am planning my year around things like this.
{ Movies: I am an actor, and I am very comfortable with who I am and what I look like. I would LOVE to be either in front of or behind the scenes to movies of all kinds. I hope to one day have that as my sole source of income.
{ Trainers, Dentists, fashion consultants: I want to work on my body and style over the year as well. I am bulky and strong and fuzzy. I would like to tone up more, fix my teeth, and look like a strong healthy bear. Can anyone help advise me?
{ Plane or Bus Tickets: I imagine this will be of the hardest things that I will need. If anyone has traveling secrets, please fill me in.
{ I’m open to so many subcultures of the bear community. Leather, Rubber, BDSM, and things of that like are a lot of fun. I would be more than happy to attend events of that nature as well. I also love to take off my top and dance, so if you need a go-go bear: you found one.
{ For those who believe they cannot help, you can: I need advise. People to talk me through this, and support me mentally along the way. I will answer any and all emails. I am also interested in collecting bear club swag (t-shirts, hats, stickers etc…). If you can send me anything like that, I promise it will be worn.

So, that’s my list, but I am not limited to just what’s here. There is so much out there I dream of doing and am very excited to have the opportunity to do it. My dreams for the year are very big, but I believe they are all possible. If I have to hitchhike everywhere I go, Ill do it. I will do everything in my power so make this year a success, and I look forward to meeting as many people as I can.
I anticipate your responses and completely appreciate those who took the time to read this long winded letter. I apologize if you get this email more than once.
JD Leggett
Mr. International Bear 2010

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