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The Driver's Tale

Waitin' on a Whipped-Cream Bikini
     By John E. Fleming

I went to Calico Jack's Oyster Bar and Seafood House—CJ's to the initiated—for a Monday Night Football Bikini Contest with no preconceived expectations—or at least no other expectations than the night's theme obviously suggested.

The Buffalo Bills, led by the diminutive quarterback who nobody thought could make it in the NFL, Doug Flutie, were playing the Miami Dolphins and Dan Marino in Miami—a big Monday night game by anybody's reckoning —and CJ's had a gala evening planned. In addition to the usual beer specials— $1.50 longnecks, $6.99 buckets of beer, 30 cent wings— Gainesville's CJ's had been advertising a bikini contest, their first, open to all contestants. First prize was $200, second $100 and third $50. I'd never been to a bikini contest, so I was curious. Just what kind of girl, I wondered, would subject herself to the leers and cheers of hundreds of drunk football fans at a seafood restaurant for the promise of a couple hundred dollars. Furthermore, I thought, what's the point of being a journalist if you can't use it as an excuse to talk to beautiful women. So I went on down to cover the story and maybe learn a little too.

It was a sort of homecoming for me. I had worked in the kitchen for CJ's two years before, but I hadn't set foot in the place in nearly a year. I remembered it mostly for the smell, a dank reek of oyster shells and chicken grease that would permeate every pore of my body by the end of a shift and follow me home at night.

It isn't too bad, though, when I arrive 7:30 Monday night. The smell is there, but it inspires more nostalgia than revulsion. There is a new coat of paint on the walls—a blend of blue and teal—and a TV along almost every line of sight, 25 by my count not including the 16-foot big screen. The restaurant is about half full, and there are still plenty of tables open and a few seats at the downstairs, horseshoe bar. There is an oyster bar downstairs too—a long narrow corridor with a blue-tiled bar top and a trough on the bartender's side which runs down its length — and two oyster shucker/bartenders are serving about a dozen customers beer and raw oysters.

I introduce myself to one of the assistant managers, a stocky guy with a goatee named Barrett Buie, and ask him what he's expecting for the evening.

"We usually do good on Monday's," he says, though last week's game didn't draw that many people. "We're expecting a few more people to come in to watch Miami play." I ask him who came up with the idea for the bikini contest. "That's something they do at a lot of CJ's around the state—Jacksonville, Orlando." He tells me that at one contest in Jacksonville a girl showed up in a whipped cream bikini. My reaction, slightly amazed, must be visible, because he quickly explains, "Things got kind of out of control there." Barrett is busy running the restaurant, so after a short conversation I let him go and I head to the bar.

I've got some time to kill, since kickoff isn't until 9 and the bikini contest isn't scheduled until halftime, so I order a Bud Light longneck at the bar. I introduce myself to my neighbors, who go by the names Shorty and Jim, and tell them I'm writing a story on the Monday Night Football scene. It turns out that they aren't there for the game at all and are celebrating the birth of Jim's new child, a 6 pound boy born the day before. Shorty is a middle-aged, balding, furry-mustachioed man with a T-shirt stretched over his pot-belly. Jim, a regular-looking guy with a neatly trimmed mustache, is beaming.

"I'm glad it was a boy. He's going to be my little hunting and fishing buddy," Jim says.

He tells me he's going to by his son a lifetime sportsman's license, which is only $400 if you buy it early and about $1,000 otherwise. He's thinking about it as a gift for his son's first or second birthday. I say that sounds like a neat idea.

Shorty has a wife who works at UF and he says he's worried about her finding out what he's doing tonight, but when I leave later that night Shorty and Jim are still celebrating with no sign of slowing down.

The local radio station AM 850 has a table set up downstairs from which they are broadcasting their weekly sports talk show, "The Cheap Seats." The broadcast is being aired over the restaurant's speakers and the hosts Rob Folino and Dave Bearman, both UF students, are mostly taking calls on the Gators' still-fresh loss to Alabama. The final topic of the night is Danny Wuerffel vs. Doug Johnson, and the caller, Bob, is making some unfavorable comparisons.

"He [Doug Johnson] is never going to be Danny Wuerffel … Wuerffel would have had the team wound up," Bob says. Rob and Dave do their best to defend the UF starting quarterback, "None of that was Doug Johnson's fault in the least," Dave says, but Bob is inconsolable. They wrap up the show at 8 with nothing settled.

I eventually find the master of ceremonies for the night, another radio personality, Alex James, who hosts a daily show on Rock 104. He's got that incongruous quality of a lot of radio people, in that his physical appearance doesn't quite match his voice. I'm a small guy, 5'11" and 155 pounds if I've just had a good meal, but I figure I've got about 20 pounds on Alex, who is about my height. He's got a good voice, though, and is never at a loss for words. I make myself comfortable at a table underneath a staircase with the radio people and order a Bud Light on their tab. I feel like an outsider because everybody's talking shop, but they're pretty friendly and we pass the time talking about the Gainesville music scene and there's no Alachua Music Harvest this year and nobody seems to know why.

Alex sets up a half hour before kickoff below and in front of the big screen, which dominates a small intermediary level between the first and second floors of CJ's. This small square, about 20' by 15', is actually the roof over the downstairs bar. There is a Budweiser representative there, a short-haired burly man in a blue Budweiser golf shirt, accompanied by a girl with long, dark hair wearing a skirt that looks like a skin-tight Budweiser label. There is a table on the platform and steps leading up and down at opposite ends, so it makes a decent stage for the bikini contest. A cardboard box with a slot in the top sits on the table to hold the entries for the free Coors golf bag that will be awarded at the end of the night. The judges for the bikini contest will be picked from this box.

A U-shaped railing on the second floor surrounds the middle level, and people are beginning to gather, either drinking and mingling or hanging over the rail watching the big screen. Business has picked up and waitresses weave through the standing people on their way to tables holding trays with pitchers, mugs and bottles of beer; chicken wings; burgers; trays of raw and steamed oysters—and return from the tables with empty bottles, mugs, pitchers, plates.

It's a diverse crowd and it seems like everybody I meet is from a different walk of life. Middle-aged people cut from the same cloth as Shorty and Jim are there, as well as a lot of young people in their twenties. I sit down uninvited at a table with two young women - Colleen, a sandy blond with a button nose and freckles, and her blond friend who won't tell me her name because she doesn't want to be in the paper. They are a little nonplused, but I keep asking questions and soon we are talking. I ask Colleen if she would ever enter a bikini contest. She says yes, then maybe not, but stammers a little when I ask her to explain. Her friend volunteers, "Self respect honey." Colleen eventually decides that she wouldn't ever enter a bikini contest.

But I'm really there to talk to the bikini girls , so I thank them and leave, but by kickoff nobody has entered the contest yet. I'm beginning to wonder if there is a story here at all.

Alex, microphone in hand, begins the festivities shortly after kickoff with a rousing question, "Gentlemen, are you interested in seeing bikini-clad women?!" A lone voice answers, "Whoo!" but for the moment the crowd is not paying attention to him.

Finally someone shows up to enter the contest. Kelly Catherwood is a 19-year-old UF sophomore who hails from Buffalo, New York. Appropriately she is wearing a blue Bills jersey with Jim Kelly's name and number 12. She's about 5' 6", a cute dark-haired girl with a sprinkling of freckles, and I find myself wondering if she's wearing her bikini under the jersey. It's hard to tell what she looks like under the loose-fitting jersey, which comes down to mid-thigh on her.

"You're not going to make fun of me are you?" she asks when I tell her I'd like to interview her for a story. I assure her of my honorable intentions and she seems to open up a little. She says her friends urged her to enter, but she's still not sure if she's going to do it. She has never been in a bikini contest before. She says that if she wins she'll spend the $200 tonight on drinks for her friends.

We are interrupted briefly by an eruption from the crowd as Alex incites them with a dig at the Buffalo Bills that I don't quite hear. Kelly pumps her fist in the air and yells, "Whoo! Go Buffalo!" I ask what kind of bikini she is planning on modeling.

"It's red," she says. "It's not small. There is coverage."

Alex begins firing up the crowd with giveaways. "Time for Monday night trivia, this one's going out for a Coors Light T-shirt. Just run up here and be the first person to answer when I give the question … I think y'all need to step off the steps there, just give everyone else a fair shot y'know what I mean. That is a fire hazard, thank you fire marshal. Alright. I need the name of the starting quarterback of the Miami Dolphins …" The table next to me erupts in shouts and Alex continues, "…before Dan Marino. C'mon down here and let me know!"

"Bob Griese!" someone shouts, but Alex is already mobbed with sports trivia buffs, "David Woodley is the answer. Thanks, congratulations here's your T-shirt, there you go," and there are eruptions of "Raugh! Yeeeah!" from the crowd.

Soon more bikini contest entrants begin to arrive. I meet Trisha Cytacki, a 23-year-old UF senior in animal biology. She has the air of someone who knows exactly what she is about, self-assured and businesslike as she approaches the sign-up table with a large purse slung over her shoulder. As I interview her she is quick with her answers, as if she has been through it before. Trisha is a tall woman, almost as tall as me, and her skin is a tan olive color. She has dark hair and dark eyes. Her chin is slightly tucked into her neck and her face is slightly rounded, though narrow, which obscures her cheekbones. She is very skinny though, and is wearing a tight gray button down top that shows her flat brown belly. Her pants are long, tight and black, as are her high heels. She tells me she is a former Hawaiian Tropic bikini model who has been in bikini contests in Jacksonville, West Palm Beach, Fort Lauderdale, Orlando—so many, she says, "I couldn't count the number of contests." She says she heard about the contest on the radio and is going to use the prize money to pay her rent. I manage to keep a straight face when she tells me her bikini is a thong. Like Kelly, she is a football fan. Her team is the Dallas Cowboys.

"I hate the Dolphins," she says with an acid tone. "The only way they'll go to the Super Bowl is if they buy tickets." She likes teams with UF players, though, and is of course a big Emmitt Smith fan.

After I conclude my interview I head over to the sign-up table and say, "Ex-Hawaiian Tropic girl. My money's on her."

I've taken up position at the rail on the second floor which looks down the half flight of stairs on Alex's platform. A crowd quickly floods the small level when Alex announces a free Budweiser glass for the first ten people who show up with a Budweiser bottle. I spot Colleen in the rush lining up to get her glass. The Dolphins apparently recover a fumble and the restaurant cheers, but the officials rule the play down and Buffalo keeps the ball.

I find another contest entrant, Kristen Yopp, and talk to her and her husband Solo. Solo is a personal trainer who is very proud of the fact that he runs the only fitness studio in North Florida that requires a four-year degree of its trainers. Solo is 30, a short-man with an intense stare and tight shirt showing off a chiseled torso. He tells me that he has doubled the size of his studio, Solo Pro, every year for the two years he has been in Gainesville. He asks me if I work out. I wiggle my fingers as if I were typing and say, "Only my wrists." Solo nods but doesn't smile.

Kristen is 26, slight, and only a little shorter than Solo, with very dark eyes and shoulder-length dark brown hair. She is wearing a tight black dress that shows off well-muscled, but not bulky, thighs. Kristen tells me she is a pharmacist at Albertson's who is going to use the prize money to pay off a parking ticket—improper backing. I ask her what kind of bikini she is wearing.

"It's a black string bikini—it's skimpy." I realize later that I should have asked her if it had improper backing.

I get a couple more interviews with contestants—Candice, 18, from Lake County and her roommate Christine, 18, from Live Oak. They say they are going to pay their rent with the prize money. They are both blond and Christine works at Hooters in Ocala, but she says that Candice, the taller one, has a better chance of winning. They are reticent, as if they can't quite figure out what the interview is about. Or maybe they think I'm going to make fun of them.

Alex begins picking names from the box for the bikini contest judges and calling them to the table. One of them is Jessica Lera, a 21-year-old senior in advertising from Miami. She's about 5-foot-2 with long dark hair and dark eyes, and she's had a few beers and is not afraid to speak her mind. I ask her what qualities she will be looking for as a judge. "I'm looking for a natural beauty—you know, real breasts, real body," she says.

A girl beside her volunteers enthusiastically, "The fattest and flattest one!"

Jessica echoes her friend and says, "I'm against anorexia and bulimia!"

By nearly halftime the crowd is still raucous, especially a few scattered tables (cluttered with empty beer bottles and pitchers, which the waitresses are too busy to keep clear), but I can no longer follow the game from the yells and whoops of the crowd. So far Buffalo and Miami have been trading field goals and Miami's vaunted defense is having a hard time corralling the small, elusive Flutie. Marino, never a mobile quarterback, is being harried by Buffalo's defense.

Alex is talking to the crowd, "It's 6-6 with 6 minutes left. Six minutes 'til our bikini contest. That's what you're waiting for, right?!" But there isn't any reaction that I can hear, just the even clamor of the crowd.

I look around and even the hardcore fans with Miami jerseys on are spending most of their time chatting with friends. I find one, Don Clanton, a 22-year-old Santa Fe student wearing an O.J. McDuffie jersey, and ask him what he's looking for in a bikini contest winner.

As he begins to answer we are interrupted to watch Gabe Northern return a fumble 59 yards for a Buffalo touchdown. Nobody cheers and I ask my question again.

"The obvious would be the biggest breasts," Don says, "but I'm looking for something more, a little creativity. She's got to be having fun up there. I'm looking for a girl with pretty breasts. Creative. Inventive. That's the girl that's going to stand out for me."

Steve Christie kicks an extra point and Buffalo leads 13-6.

At the upstairs bar, which is lined up with people, I find Derrick, 23, a well-built man of average height with a gray ballcap set over a short haircut. He's from High Springs and is studying to be an electrician at Santa Fe Community College. He's there with his friend Clint from Alachua, also a Santa Fe student, who looks like his brother but without the ballcap. They've both got pronounced North Florida drawls. I ask them what kind of qualities they'll be looking for in the bikini contest contestants. Derrick replies enthusiastically, "Tits and aaaass!" and Clint pipes in with "Yeah, tits and ass!" Anything special? "I'm looking for the T-back [bikini]," Derrick replies. "No fake tits, definitely real, and just a good ass and some nice legs."

There are now more than 50 people lined up two deep at the second floor rail surrounding the makeshift stage, and I decide to go downstairs and find a spot where I can watch the bikini contest. It's now 10:30 and I sometimes have to shoulder my way through the thick crowd. The tile floor downstairs has been frosted with rock salt in the heavy traffic areas to prevent slipping.

I find a spot in a small corridor between the kitchen wall and the back wall of the downstairs bar, below and to the left of the stage. I have a good view through the railing of the area where the bikini girls will soon be parading.

I am practically alone for several minutes and spend the time taking notes. Ryan Frick, one of the shuckers at CJ's, is leaning in the doorway to the kitchen. Ryan says he doesn't usually work in the kitchen, but it got so busy they called in two more people to help the three who were scheduled. More people begin to gather looking for a good view of the contest, and by 10:37 there are about a dozen people crowded into the small space. I have to tuck my arms in to write on my notepad. I hear somebody mutter, "C'mon game, get over."

Alex begins by introducing the judges. There are four or five, I can't tell from where I'm standing. The crowd breaks into wild cheers when Jessica introduces herself over the microphone, "Jessica from Miami!"

Alex starts introducing the bikini girls, launching into a non-stop smooth narration composed of names, ages, color comments, exhortations to the audience ("our first contestant is Kelly she's 21 a bartender at CJ's always tip her nicely") but it's hard to follow him because my attention is elsewhere, because Kelly is pretty and blond and clad only in a small blue bikini. The rest of the men around me, in what I have come to think of as the pit, are cheering and whooping like madmen, with only brief lulls when the stage is momentarily empty, which is not for long. Six more men come rushing into the pit, looking for a better view, joining in the yells, and now it is really becoming tight in there. A dark-haired girl, also a CJ's employee, is next, and the screams renew and redouble when Kristen, the pharmacist, walks on the stage in her small, black bikini, not an ounce of fat on her well-toned body, which is adorned with a sprinkling of body glitter.

And then …

What happens next is difficult to describe.

When I had interviewed Trisha I asked her what kind of bikini she was wearing. She told me it was a thong and that it was red. Of course I pictured it, and my mental image gave me pleasure. Forgive me, I am male and I must be honest. But what I had imagined left me ill-prepared for what she was wearing when she walked out on stage.

Trisha's suit is not really a bikini, but I doubt that anyone really cares. It's most substantial portion covers her breasts, and indeed it could almost be called modest in that section. Attached to the top are four small red strands, barely thicker than spaghetti, which connect to the bottom. The back of her suit consists of two strands that meet and join in the small of her back into a single strand which parts her browned backside perfectly. Her sides and back are naked save for these strings. Trisha walks with confidence out onto the stage. She does not shake, she does not wiggle, she just stands there and poses.

The men in the pit break into a chant of "Stand on the table! Stand on the table!"

They are in a true testosterone frenzy now. It's an absolutely visceral reaction, primal and untamable. They are fired up and the yelling is non-stop now, a long sustained howl of atavistic instinct. People are jostling for position, shoving and elbowing—it's dog eat dog in the pit. Somebody to my left has brought a stool and is climbing up on it to see over the rail.

The mood turns quickly, though, when Trisha walks off and Alex introduces Kelly from Buffalo. As he pronounces the city's name the crowd instantly boos, turning ugly. Kelly pumps both her arms in the air smiling, but I can see that she flushes red. After the spectacle of Trisha, the modesty of Kelly's suit is almost shocking. It's a red and blue Tommy Hilfiger bikini, and as she promised there is ample coverage. I don't like her chances in the contest— it's a partisan crowd and she's up against some pros. Mentally I score her 10 out of 10 for guts, with extra points for poise and modesty.

Candice and Christine, the roommates, are the next two girls. Candice is a crowd favorite, leaning over the rail to slap hands in the pit, but I already know who the winner is going to be.

After the girls have come and gone individually they are called back on stage to pose together. Kelly stands in the middle and behind the other six girls. Most of the others have their chests thrust out and are standing in the expected bikini-girl pose—one leg straight and the other bent at a provocative angle, showing off the thigh. It's hard to tell in the dim light, but I imagine that Kelly is still blushing, fighting the urge to fold her arms over her chest. The crowd is again yelling and whooping in a sustained din.

The girls leave the stage while the judges tally up the scores. In the interlude Shorty comes rushing around the corner into the pit. "Hey guys," he almost begs, "let an old guy in." But it's too late, he's missed the show.

Three finalists— Trisha, Kristen and Candice— are chosen and are called back on stage. The hooting and hollering is renewed as the girls pose and Alex begins announcing the prizes. Candice, a favorite in the pit after the hand-slapping, is announced as the winner of the $50 third place prize. The pit breaks out in a sustained chant of "Bullshit! Bullshit!" The chanting almost obscures the awarding of the $100 to Kristen. Trisha, of course, takes home most of the cash.

After the insanity has subsided I catch up with Jennifer and ask her how the judging went. She says she voted for "the most natural hair color and real breasts." She can't remember the name, but it was the girl in the Tommy bikini. "I went for the most natural looking girl, but my fellow men judges didn't agree with me."

I try to find some of the contestants afterward, but they are all either gone or off somewhere putting clothes on. But on my way out the door I spot Kelly, back in her Buffalo jersey, sitting on the front patio watching the third quarter of the game. She's sitting with her friends, who seem to be mostly men. She's watching Doug Flutie evade yet another Miami rush.

I ask her if my impression was correct and she was as nervous as she looked.

"Yeah," she admits, "I was nervous."

I ask her if she'd ever do it again. No, she says, probably not.

Kelly's Bills won the game 23-18. It wasn't as close as the score.

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