Mr. Prime Choice contest turns 15.
By Nancy Ford
Photo by Yvonne Feece
Pageant-like contests in the gay community are nothing new. But a contest for gay men who are at least 40 years old in a culture that notoriously worships youth and beauty is a glaring departure from the norm.
The Mr. Prime Choice contest was originally founded by the staff at The Ripcord, because they wanted to promote a contest that more accurately reflected the demographic of the club’s patrons. Participants would be a bit more mature, a bit grayer around the temples than most participants of youth-oriented contests designed for gay men, contest producer Don Gill says.
“They wanted a contest for themselves that looked like themselves,” Gill explains.
A multi-year honoree in OutSmart ‘s annual Gayest and Greatest readers’ poll, Gill took over the reins of Mr. Prime Choice 15 years ago after winning the title himself.
“In the previous years, Mr. Prime Choice Texas has been instrumental in raising thousands of needed dollars for our community,” Gill says. “We know this year will be no exception.”
The event in part benefits PWA Holiday Charities’ food drive, continuing the mission started in 1987 by Marvin Davis, aka Lady Victoria Lust, to provide funds for members of Houston’s gay community who are afflicted with HIV and AIDS. Former Mr. Prime Choicers, Laur van Valkenburg and Steve Carbone, emcee the contest.
Gill explains that contestants are not restricted to members of the leather community; men who are into the uniform and Levi lifestyles are also welcomed to compete. Men interested in becoming contestants must pay an entry fee of $35, choose a charity to raise funds for, submit an original, six-minute fantasy on DVD or videotape, and compete in the April 25 contest.
A hairdresser by profession, Gill says his Don Gill Productions, which presents Mr. Prime Choice and other fundraising shows for Houston’s gay and lesbian charities, is a labor of love.
“It is my honor to serve this community in this way,” Gill says. He stresses that the most important lesson he has learned over the years is to give credit where credit is due—in this case, back to the community he so proudly serves. “We couldn’t do it without the community.”
A Rib-Roasting Good Time
April is a big month for Houston’s biggest leather bar. In addition to the annual Mr. Prime Choice Texas contest benefiting the PWA Holiday Charities Food Drive, on April 25, 9 p.m., The Ripcord also presents Mr. Prime Choice contestant Woodja Flanigan’s “A Roast: Big Gary,” lampooning The Ripcord’s bartender/manager on April 10, 7 p.m., in Baba Yega’s Jasmine Room. The roast benefits PWA Holiday Charities Working Fund and LVL PWA Camp Outs. The Ripcord also hosts national Leather Association – Houston’s Spring Iniquity XVIII Back in Black Conference, Houston’s first major leather-oriented conference in more than 10 years. The conference, scheduled April 17 through 19, celebrates the leather lifestyle and attracts participants from around the country. 715 Fairview Avenue • Details: theripcord.com • 713/521-2792.