On Saturday, the media couldn't get into Tehran, but they sure as hell were welcome at the Hooters 2009 International Swimsuit Pageant, staged this year at the Broward Center for the Performing Arts in downtown Fort Lauderdale.
A rather spectacular departure from the venue's typically high-brow fare, the night started with a roughly two-hour pregame party in the lobby, featuring all the Budweiser products you could drink, each served in pint-sized aluminum canisters that looked like the rockets you'd launch from an antitank gun.
These same menacing beverages were available during the pageant. I worried that the men, drunk and restless for the swimsuit round, would riot before the end of the evening gown competition.
Instead, as pageant contestants sauntered to the microphone to introduce themselves, men simply gaped or mumbled their own introduction. Example:
- Contestant No. 112: "After I graduate, I want to own my own gym."
- Man sitting next to me: "I'll give you your own Jim."
Naturally, members of the Florida delegation -- all 18 of whom can be seen here -- received the loudest cheers. The internationals, not so much. The girl from Guam seemed sweet. Because the U.S. beat Japan in the bloody Battle of Guam during World War II, she could be here, wearing a tiny sequined swimsuit with absurdly high heels in front of a thousand drunk Americans. Thanks, veterans!
With the combination of hot chicks, string bikinis, high heels, and live streaming, this pageant had major YouTube potential. But alas, no wardrobe malfunctions were detected by this vigilant observer.
I had hoped that at least one ruthlessly ambitious contestant would make an inflammatory statement that would catapult her to startdom, a la Carrie Prejean. But pageant organizers gave the contestants precious few opportunities to speak. The woman who told the audience that if she won the $50,000 top prize she was going to "buy a house on the beach" received some derisive laughs. Indeed, the South Florida housing market isn't quite that bad, but maybe she meant that it would be her down payment? (I'm trying, dear.)
Given the similarity between how the women looked and how this appeared to be the single basis for advancing to the next round, I can only guess that the judges plucked ten numbers randomly from the 133. Or considering that the judges were imbibing heavily too, maybe it's an advantage to have a triple-digit number, such that by the time you introduce yourself, the judges' beer goggles are firmly affixed.
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In any case, two Florida girls advanced to the round of ten. One was Nicole Ciglar from Clearwater, seen here in her Hooters Calendar shoot.
The other was Vanessa Ferbeyre from Miami:
Meet Vanessa Ferbeyre