Monday, November 12, 2018

Los Angeles Pup

This weekend was a BIG WIN for me!  And I mean literally!  (Spoilers.)

A few months ago, back in September, I signed up to be a contestant for LA Pup.  LA Pup is a title contest in its fourth year and I was asked to run the previous two years.  I declined because I was worried about being a token representative and didn't feel confident in my abilities to take on a huge role.  Being a titleholder isn't just a beauty pageant anymore.  It requires event organization, fundraising, and community outreach.  Even running in a contest requires a fair bit of work, including getting sponsorships for the travel fund.

 Here's the pack.

This year, I threw my hat into the ring.  I was aware that there was some fierce competition.  The previous titleholder, Rush, had set a high bar; last year's runner-up, Apollo, was running again with renewed vigor and was a favorite to win.  (Aside from having a lot of experience, Apollo is GORGEOUS.)

 Look at these champions!

The thing I was most worried about was sponsorships; after I got 14, I realized this was not a realistic anxiety.  The bigger thing I was worried about was the fantasy portion of the competition.

 That rubber dog hood alone is worth about $500.  Thanks, RubberDawg!

Larger title contests have multiple parts.  The night before the contest, there's a meet and greet, where the contestants are expected to interact with the judges in a casual setting.  The tradition for LA Pup is to include a roast of the outgoing contestant.  I felt rather proud of my set, a tight two, which included the zinger: "A lot of people don't know that Rush was in the Navy.  But we already know that most of the Navy has been in Rush."

I felt that the informal, inprov-y style of the meet n' greet was well-suited to my talents, which include not actually planning for anything and winging important moments of my life.  (See also: my wedding vows.)

This is the face / dog mask of a man who did not learn good study habits in college.

The day of the contest, there are several segments to the contest: the introduction of the contestants, a couple of questions (one "serious" and one "funny"), and a fantasy scene (ie, a performance).  In between, there are auctions and performances and awards and all sorts of other stuff.  It's a big thing.  And, before the contest with the whole audience watching, there's an interview with the judges, a more formal process than the meet n' greet.

Here's a group photo of the judges, producers, and winners.
Several international title holders.  
No pressure, though, these are only, like, pillars of the fuckin' community.

Now, I'm pretty good at thinking on my feet, but the fantasy is supposed to be planned out well in advance, and I slacked off in a big way, only committing it to paper about ten days prior.  There was no rehearsal.

As if my general anxiety wasn't enough, Andrew's mother was in town, which meant Andrew was not around for large portions of the contest.

"Don't worry, sweetie, I'll come to your gay leather dog show eventually."

The contestants go in the order of a random number draw, and I had drawn the last number.

I jokingly told the other contestants that my plan for going into the interview was to saunter in, shakes hands, introduce myself, spin the chair around like in Dead Poet's Society, and then throw up.  Funnily, I did do the chair-spin part.  (Protip: sitting in a chair backwards is a real crowd-pleaser.)  I didn't throw up, though, which I assume the judges were impressed by.

Although Andy wasn't present for most of the afternoon, 
some of my other very close friends / leather family were.
Including my Inland Empire family, all the way from the high desert!

Andrew showed up just as the contest was starting.  One contestant had dropped out earlier in the month, and another failed to show up due to a medical emergency, leaving only 6 of us.

 Back row: Volta (the emcee), Rush (LA Pup 2018), Dazzle (LA Pup 2017), and Zero (LA Pup 2016).
Front row: Apollo, Indyana, Flip, Rex, Faun, and me.

I started out strong.  My serious question was about mental health, which was an easy topic for me, considering all of my own personal demons and my (winning!) fight with them.  (Hey, remember this?)  I later found out that I was the only contestant to get full, perfect marks in any category, and it was in my answer.

I also scored some big points after sassing a drag queen.  Among the more nebulous categories to be judged are "personality" and "confidence."  It doesn't get much more confident than mouthing off to a queen.  (She asked me if she should read my question for me, or if I would like to read it myself.  "I mean, you can read it, if you really need more attention," I said.)

My funny question was not funny.  Fortunately, making shit funny is... sort of what I do.  The question was, "If you were stuck on a desert island, which judge would you want to be stranded with?"  As I said on stage, this is a real Sophie's Choice of a question.  I mean, you're asking me to single out a judge, for better or for worse.  Andrew said watching me answer it was like watching someone solve a Rubik's cube, because the task was not just to answer the question, but to make it amusing.

And then came the fantasy portion.  Oh, boy.  The fantasy portion.

Reader: "I had no idea that this shit was so serious, damn."

I had written out my fantasy less than two weeks before and shared it with only about six people, who unanimously agreed that they didn't quite get it.  This did not make me feel especially confident.  But 90% of a good performance is plowing on through it even if things go awry, so we barreled in with the devil-may-care attitude of an action movie hero who is supposed to be a lovable renegade but is really toeing that "douche" line in the sand.

Fortunately, the crowd devoured it.  In seeing it, it came out much better on paper.  The five-minute scene involves Tony Stark (aka Iron Man) meeting Steve Rogers (aka Captain America) and loudly and condescendingly explaining to him what puppy play is, to the tune of a musical number (aka, "Whatever It Takes," by Imagine Dragons).  At the end, it's revealed that Steve understood Tony's fetish all along, and he walks offstage with Deadpool.  A simple concept, one that showcased several of my main fantasies squashed together:
  • Steve Rogers is a leather daddy.
  • People are not only accepting of weird hobbies and interests, but actually understand and embrace them.
  • I got to have facial hair and sorta-kinda not look like the assistant manager of a Blockbuster.
My fantasy was largely designed to be funny and I was scared to do it after Apollo gave an insanely heartfelt and personal interpretive dance number that basically involved him bearing his heart and soul to the audience.  (Whereas mine was like, "haha, Marvel, you guys.")  But the Deadpool bit was really the punchline; he crept into the audience, eliciting giggles during the dance bit, which was okay as a standalone piece, but was really brought together by Deadpool arriving flagging orange.  (For those not in the know, us queers have a secret flag code.  No, really.  Orange is "I'm down for anything, baby.")

Alas, I had more still shots, 
but the person who took them deleted all of them, (or maybe Facebook did),
and I have not been able to get back into contact with them.

With my fantasy over (I had been shaking so hard onstage, I had some trouble with my wardrobe... probably the only time in the world that "wardrobe malfunction" referred to NOT poppin' out parts), I went backstage with a sigh of relief.  It was finally over.

Or so I thought.

Rush had some last-minute surprise awards and I got an award for LA Service Pup, 2019, an unexpected joy which I (very awkwardly) accepted.  It was a hefty piece and I was ready to go home, since winning awards of this nature are an indication that "you did good, kid, but didn't win."

"Thanks for the award but I gotta get back to my shift at 1989 Blockbuster,
before going home to a TV dinner and some Tom of Finland magazines."

But, to be a good sport, I joined my pack onstage for the final announcement of the winner.  Flip got second runner-up; then, Apollo got runner-up.

Apollo had been my favorite to win and I was suddenly uncertain.  I had fully intended to get runner-up.

In the audience, Jack turned to Andrew with a wide-eyed expression of "oh no..."

A moment later they were calling my name.


It felt surreal; I had been preparing to lose gracefully for weeks.  This was one of the only things I had truly prepared for.  (I'm a notoriously sore loser.)  I had not spent a lot of time thinking about winning, only so that, if it didn't happen, I wouldn't feel disappointed.

But I had won, all right.  I was-- I am-- LA Pup, 2019.

Ann rushed up on stage crying.

 Not all heroes wear capes.  
But I do.
Rush passed down his cape to me.
It is a legacy item that I will pass on to the next winner.

 Left to right: Matthew (producer), Apollo, me, Flip, Dan (producer).

 *airhorn noises*

The next day was a whirlwind of victory parties.  Well, it was really just one victory party, but I ended up going to multiple functions throughout the night.  Being a title holders means being seen and not slacking off.  I'm great the first one; the second one, uh, needs some improvement.

At the victory party, I got to mingle with the judges in a way that felt a little less formal than the meet n' greet; later, at night, I sat down with Rush to plan out my year.  As I told Andrew, my plans for the year wouldn't be vastly altered whether or not I won; there are events I throw every year, like Puppypalooza, which is basically Eukanuba but for people.  (Although arguably, Eukanuba is for people even when it's for dogs.)

The producer slapped together a palm flyer at 3 am the night before the party, 
having been awake for 72 hours.  
Now THAT is impressive!

Over the next twenty-four hours, I went through a whirlwind of emotions, settling on "overwhelmed" as the presiding one.

Actual footage of me at my victory party.

The outpouring of congratulations, love, support, and delight was more than I had fully prepared myself for, and at the end of the weekend, I could honestly say something that I rarely say: I felt humbled.

 Me n' some of my boys at the victory party.

Here's to a great year from your favorite piping hot mess of a dog/Iron Man mash-up!  I have events to produce, fundraisers to create, and conventions to attend.  My goal is to do that as any dog would: with enthusiasm and the hope that there's free food.

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