The City Reliquary is a small, unassuming Williamsburg storefront with a strand of carnival lights across the awning. The museum space itself is about the size of a LES bedroom, and is overflowing with what must be an excruciatingly curated collection of pieces of the city’s past, from soil samples from each borough to a massive collection of tiny Statues of Liberties. The museum room feels so respectful and refined that you’d never expect to find a sexy, campy, subway-themed beauty pageant honoring that most loathed of lines, the G train, in the muddy backyard. But that’s exactly what’s going on there at around 8 pm last night.
The first annual Miss G Train pageant is a hot mess in the best way possible. Harkening back to the original Miss Subway pageants, the event features 11 contestants as diverse and sometimes bizarre as the neighborhoods that their beloved “short bus of the MTA” services. Several entrants are sporting the line’s signature lime green hue, one young woman wears an interpretive map of the subway on her homemade T-shirt. There’s also a drag queen with a giant black bouffant weave, a leprechaun, and a hippy fairy with some sort of baton prop. All of the contestants’ high heels are sinking into the mud, thanks to the intermittent rain showers that torment, but by no means bring down, the entire show.
The first annual anything is bound to have its share of awkward down time and Miss G Train is no exception. The contest kicks off an hour late, the “bar” is a beer cooler set up under a tree house that also functions as the DJ booth. It’s kept the small, yet eager crowd from growing restless. Tonight’s MC is City Reliquary president Dave Herman, sharply dressed in a suit and bow tie, who begins the pageant with a first round of unnecessarily lengthy introductions, in which each woman takes a turn circling the tiny stage and holding poses for minutes at a time. Though the rain is cramping his style, as well as creating the looming possibility of electrocution by microphone, Herman reads excerpts from the contestants’ entry essays, explains the themes behind their outfits, and the reasoning of their background-music choices, which range from “C’mon ‘N Ride It (The Train)” to Ozzy Osbourne’s “Crazy Train” to authentic locomotive sound effects. The last is the soundtrack for the peculiar leprechaun-themed contestant who also claims that she got her entire outfit from people she has beaten up on the G Train. But perhaps the contestant who most embodies the event’s cheeky atmosphere is Elizabeth Kuchta of Queens, whose “Morning After Trek” costume includes a sparkly dress, purposely matted hair, and a bottle of Gatorade. “She even smells like cheap gin,” Herman notes.
After two and a half hours of tributes to the G (“the green goblin, the green caterpillar, that squeaking snake, that light at the end of my tunnel”), six finalists are chosen to partake in the second and final round, which includes the talent and question-and-answer segments. The finalists include a skinny blonde dogwalker with the singing voice of Ella Fitzgerald, the drag queen Shane Thor a/k/a “Thorgie” who we learn is also a classically trained violinist, and the cheap gin girl who presents a video to illustrate why she best represents the G and narrates off-the-cuff when the audio fails. Other far-less-impressive talents include a rather pathetic hula hoop routine and the ability to do push-ups. The final contestant’s talent is making “the perfect gimlet,” which one audience volunteer deems not so perfect. Luckily, there is a second volunteer-this one of the drunk, loudmouth, backwards baseball cap variety-who promptly chugs half the drink while spilling the other half down his face and screaming “That was amazing!” very much like Billy Madison might.
As the final votes are being tallied, cheers of “Boo Manhattan!” and “G Love!” go up from the slightly more inebriated, definitely more damp, and all the more dedicated crowd. The second runner up is Marleah Martin with the custom subway-map shirt. First runner-up is Thorgie, who takes the stage beaming and patting her weave. But the star of the night is the Train Ride of Shame girl from Queens, Elizabeth Kuchta, who takes first place looking genuinely surprised and overwhelmed. A significant crown with a glittering green G is placed on her bedhead. Her speech is a much appreciated one liner about how nice the other girls all are, which is immediately followed by a rush of photographers onto the stage and autograph signing. Her 15 minutes of fame is literal. As soon as Kuchta walks back out the front door of the City Reliquary, she’s once again just a frequently hungover videographer with a goofy crown and a daily date with the pickle express.