Fall’s Fashionable Felons! Plus: A Plea for Pageantry

I wonder if John Mark Karr, that strange bloke who falsely claimed to have killed JonBenet Ramsey, realizes how fashionable he is. The squeaky-clean nerd in the high-waisted pants embodies so many of this fall’s trends that I found myself wondering, “Who’s he wearing?” Ralph? Dior? Valentino?

Attention, fashion P.R. flacks! The red-carpet thing is so over. The crime/fashion photo op is an under-exploited marketing opportunity, and I don’t mean Lil’ Kim at the VMA’s. Dressing felons for extradition or for court appearances could—and should—become a top priority for you.

Part Mister Rogers, part Ross Perot, the creepily neat and tidy Karr look is everywhere for fall. Thom Browne and Raf Simons for Jil Sander are the standard-bearing designers. It’s uptight and totally Mormon, as in polygamist church leader (and recently captured fugitive) Warren Steed Jeffs.

This is not, I hasten to add, how the fashion designers themselves are characterizing the inspiration for their collections. Anxious to put a sexy/appealing spin on the whole thing, they keep talking about bass guitarist Paul Simonon and the late singer Joe Strummer, both of the Clash. I for one fail to see the punk connection, but am disinclined to make a big stink about it. It is, after all, only fashion.

Speaking of JonBenet Ramsey and child pageants, thank God for Little Miss Sunshine, the movie that alleviated the tedium of the gnarliest Labor Day weekend in New York meteorological history. The finale is one of the best comedy dénouements in recent years: The entire audience at the old theater in Greenport where I saw it were rocking with mirth and dabbing their eyes.

I am not, I must confess, entirely objective about this movie. I would probably have loved it even if it sucked. Why? Because I adore anything about child pageants. Always have. I get quite combative when people say cliché things like “How could anyone do that to a child?” or “It’s exploitation!” For years, I found myself repeatedly leaping to Patsy Ramsey’s defense whenever people accused her of exploiting JonBenet or otherwise ruining her childhood.

Having endured a rainy, lackluster postwar childhood in England, I am hugely jealous of any tot who gets to enjoy the pageant experience. They have everything—spotlights, choreography, costumes, top ’n’ bottom lashes—that was missing from my life. While I was staring out through the drizzle, I could have been learning to twirl a baton or tap-dance. I could have been getting my hair done.

Without the rigors of pageant preparation, childhood is a colossal waste of time. Left to their own devices, children will stare at the TV and pick their noses. Pageants give the brats something constructive to do. They also give participants an optimistic outlook: Kids learn early that winning a tiara is fantastic, but that losing is not the end of the world. There’s always another pageant!

In the afterglow of the final scene in Little Miss Sunshine, I couldn’t help lamenting my lost Shirley Temple years and the pageants that never were. As we headed back to Shelter Island on the ferry in the driving rain, I had an idea: Maybe it’s not too late. Maybe I could start a pageant for deprived middle-aged gay men.

Middle-aged gay men, if you think about it, are infinitely better suited to pageants than children. Kids have a hard time focusing, and they tend to flub the “charm” interviews. Homosexualists would throw their all into every moment. Imagine the electrifying, fast-paced performances!

Instead of Little Miss Sunshine, we could call it Big Mr. Rainbow. Big Mr. Rainbow could have exactly the same structure as a regular pageant: Poise, Charm, Swimsuit, Homemaking or whatever! Sponsors—avid for that gay dollar—would be lining up.

Thom Browne could whip me up a little number. We could start off with something small in a conference room on a Saturday afternoon at the Hyatt Regency. Sounds a little depressing, doesn’t it? But if things took off, we could be up in the main ballroom before we knew it.

Wheeee! Fall’s Fashionable Felons!  Plus: A Plea for Pageantry