I was innocently judging the Bruce Yelk-produced Mr. Philadelphia Gay pageant the other night when the Q&A segment brought a perfectly innocuous question to one of the finalists:
“Who’s your favorite menswear designer?”
Not exactly rocket science, but it paved the way for one of the night’s big dramas.
The contestant — a petite gymnast named Dashiell Sears — said, “I want to address this to Michael Musto.”
Why — because I don’t wear any menswear designers?
No, it turned out Dash had prepared an answer, no matter what the question, and it was going to be all about me, thank you very much.
“It’s an honor to meet you,” he said, staring into my eyes as the crowd tried to suss out the situation, “but it’s really unfortunate, too.”
Uh-oh. I hadn’t the faintest idea where this was going. I thought it might get really hostile, actually. If so, I didn’t totally blame him.
“I admire your work,” Dash said, “and so did a bisexual friend of mine, who came out because of your column.”
Eek. Was the petite backflipper going to shoot me because of something I wrote about bisexuality?
I got very zenlike all of a sudden, calmly preparing to die. I was a little bit proud of myself for this newfound resolve.
But things felt a tad too heavy for this kind of boozy event.
To puncture the mood, I recklessly grabbed the mic and said, “Please pander to all the other judges, too, with a personal story for each. And kindly wrap this one up. I’d love to get back to the hotel by 2!”
Bad move. Not cute.
Dash wrapped up, with tears in his burrowing eyes:
“She killed herself because she just couldn’t go on. There’s so much homophobia out there. She would have loved to have met you. That’s what’s so sad.”
Oh my God. This was horrifying!
I wanted to crawl under a rock until realizing I’m major and deserve to live.
Stunned, I hugged Dash and said it was such a sweet, poignant story that he didn’t even have to say who his favorite menswear designer was.
He replied anyway:
“Calvin Klein. Because I like the underwear.”
And things got silly again.
Photo by Natalie Hope McDonald of last year’s winner, Ryan Mattis; this year’s winner, Dashiell Sears; and me.