Wednesday, March 14, 2001
DALLAS -- Everyone loves a man with a pink feather boa. Jeff Benson found that out last Friday at Dallas High School's Mr. Dallas pageant, en route to the title.
Decked in a silver top hat, tight white pants, black combat boots and vest, with the aforementioned boa, Benson strutted and sang along to a song called "Sexy Boy."
All in good fun, and all for a purpose -- to raise money for Doernbecher Children's Hospital, which treats children with cancer and other serious illnesses.
Contestants raised $1,600 themselves in addition to the $3 door price the gymnasium's capacity audience paid. A dance following the pageant raised money for two Dallas High students who have cancer.
Thirteen contestants vied for the Mr. Dallas crown, both individually and grouped by class. The freshmen staged a professional wrestling match, the sophomores a comic sketch. The junior and senior classes each staged group dances.
Some of the evening's highlights came in the individual talent competition. Mike Barham sang "Happy Birthday" to the judges a la Marilyn Monroe, but sporting Austin Powers' exaggerated chest hair. Brandon Chambers tried some amusing magic tricks. But Aaron Humphrey threatened to steal the show with his manic interpretation of the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet. Alternately jumping from stage to a chair to portray both characters, Humphrey neither missed a line nor, it seemed, took a breath.
In the swimwear competition, Tom Landry strolled out in a female gymnast's rainbow leotard to the strains of Roy Orbison's "Pretty Woman." Derek Sanderson paraded for the audience in nothing but duct tape.
A German Shepherd escorted two contestants in the formal wear round. Benson showed off his outfit walking across the stage holding a red-haired toddler's hand.
The judges, a panel of six community, school and business leaders, then picked four finalists. Event organizers and emcees Lessita Lorin and Bissie Holton asked each finalist the same question: "What is the first thing you would buy if you won the lottery?"
Andrew Engstrom stumbled with the question, responding "I would buy love," but not, well, you know. Landry suggested reviving his dear deceased Cadillac.
Benson clinched his victory and the crowd's approval by suggesting the money go to Doernbecher. Humphrey made the same suggestion but, facing less support than Benson, he moved on to talk of buying continents.
The judges deliberated again while an in-house punk band kept up the long evening's energy. Judges awarded points not only for the pageant events, but also the amount of money each contestant had raised for the charity.
In his first statement as Mr. Dallas, Benson referred to the week's fund-raising activities: "This week we helped out many kids," he said. "But tonight we party."