By Joshua Winata
The Cove Herald
Half an hour before the fashion show began, the models in the dressing room were making last-minute adjustments to their wardrobe and cosmetics. Decked out in high heels, sparkling jewelry and gorgeous gowns, they were ready to take to the runway.
“How do you get it so your boobs don’t ride up?” asked Doc Maney, fidgeting with his breasts.
The question seems strange since Maney is most decidedly male, just like the rest of the evening’s models, and his “boobs” are balloons, which his buddies suggested he tape down underneath his blue sun dress.
Maney was one of 11 men who participated in the Womanless Fashion Show at the Copperas Cove Civic Center on Saturday. In the annual event, male community leaders cross dress and take on female alter egos, strutting their stuff to solicit cash from the howling crowd. The audience votes for their favorites by contributing money, which the models collect in their purses or on trays, although a few weren’t beyond having the dollar bills stuffed down their cleavage or waistband.
These strapping Texas men don’t just shed their dignity for any reason: all the money goes toward supporting the Children’s Advocacy Center of Central Texas.
Based in Belton and Gatesville, the center helps reduce the pain and trauma and promote healing for victims of child abuse and neglect through collaborative programs with law enforcement, Family Protective Services, prosecution, medical and mental health services.
“These guys don’t enjoy doing this, but they’ll do it for the kids,” said Lori Hix, fashion show coordinator and Children’s Advocacy Center board member. “If it’s important enough for a man to dress up as a woman and collect dollars and put them in purses, walk around in high heels and sweat bullets and do it for over an hour, that tells me that this community is doing everything it can do to fight child abuse.”
The male models are quick to agree, insisting that they are solely motivated by helping the children.
“Anything to do something for the kids: that’s what it’s all about,” said Ron Reynolds, autism specialist with the Copperas Cove Independent School District. “They knew I would be willing to do just about anything for the kids, so they called me up.”
Taking on the alter ego “Ronnie Tsunami” in the spirit of Disney pop star Hannah Montana, Reynolds sported a short green skirt, Mardi Gras beads and a long platinum wig with colored highlights.
This year’s event was the most successful to date, raising a total of $8,400, which doesn’t include the thousand dollar contributions traditionally offered by the Wal-Marts in Copperas Cove and Gatesville. The fashion show by itself brought in almost $5,000, plus bids from a silent auction and ticket sales for the catered dinner by Lil’ Tex Restaurant.
While the band Fifteen Minutes jammed to a record-breaking crowd of about 200 people, the scene backstage was almost as raucous as the one in front as the men prepared to make their public debut. There were, of course, plenty of off-color jokes begging to be told as men donned make up and and wigs and stuffed their shirts, hairy chests peeking out from plunging necklines.
“I think I’m about a 48C. I don’t know,” said model Doug Ingraffia, a Harley Davidson representative, as he squeezed one of his abnormally inflated balloon breasts. “Yeah, definitely. Maybe a D.”
Other hoped to make an impression with their long legs, like model Nick Nelson (nicknamed “Saucy”) of the Knuckledraggers Motorcycle Club of Bell County, who sported silver high heels and a long, red evening dress with a slit to mid-thigh. In an effort to gain more dollars from the crowd, Saucy’s signature move was hiking up his skirt and lift his unshaven leg onto the table for all to admire. The models relied on stockings to highlight those attributes, raising envy among some of the men.
“Aw, fishnets! I’m jealous,” exclaimed Knuckledragger Steve Kochevar, admiring stockings worn by Reynolds. “All I’ve got are thigh highs.”
Kochevar was wearing a floral dress he picked out himself, paired with clunky black boots and blonde pigtails. Kochevar’s wife, Carrie, could barely keep a straight face as she watched her husband, involuntarily grimacing and giggling as he struck various poses.
“How do you describe something so pure,” she said before dissolving into laughter. “He’s indescribable. That’s all I can say.”
Les Ledger, assuming the identity of an aging beauty queen, emceed the event along with Reynolds, offering running commentary in screechy falsetto voices as the models circulated through the room.
“Don’t be shy,” Ledger encouraged the crowd. “Give these ladies your money. They work hard for the money, honey.”
And work they did. The models engaged flamboyant antics, from starting catfights, climbing on tables, dancing and even sitting on the laps of several unassuming men in their quest to collect the dollars.
While making his rounds, Knuckledragger Charles Lovejoy, dressed in a blue-and-black striped dress, slipped into a seat with Cove resident Michael Zschiesche and began flirting.
“She’s the one with the money,” a visibly uncomfortable Zschiesche muttered in an effort to divert the drag queen toward his wife instead. “I need to put my lap under the table.”
The champion of the night was Paul Schindler, member of Bikers Against Child Abuse, who for the night was known as “Groovy Ginger,” with a printed red dress, afro wig and a huge string of pearls. Groovy Ginger walked away with both the title of Miss Congeniality, determined by the crowd’s cheers, and the top fundraiser, with a total of $1,651 collected.
The runners-up were Cove police officer Jeremy Alber, known as “Daisy Duke,” and Wal-Mart associate Charles Munn, going by the name “Charly Cheyenne.” Greg Loper and Kevin Morrow of Lil’ Tex Restaurant, Exchange Club President Kipp Miller and Child Protective Services Special Investigator Bill Wilson also participated in the fashion show.
“I give women all the gratitude in the world,” Schindler said. “I could never be one. It’s too much work to look that good.”
The sentiment was shared by most of the men, whose shed their dresses and heels for jeans and sneakers the moment they got backstage. By the end of the night, the least of Maney’s problems was his breasts riding too high.
“See how tired I am?” Maney said, pointing to his balloons that had fallen to mid-torso level. “My boobs sag.”
Contact Joshua Winata at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 547-6481