Owls, motorcycles and a flatbed truck
A stiff wind races through the parking lot at the Hooters of Greensboro, the owl-themed house of hot wings and salaciousness incongruously located at the foot of a high-rise Howard Johnson’s hotel. Strands of official-looking yellow tape and temporary orange mesh fences cordon a portion of the area off from the rest of the lot, bordered by a huge Budweiser truck and the side of the restaurant, where the Hooter’s owl is painted as a kind of fresco.
There are tables and chairs and Hooters girls in orange track suits running wings and pitchers of beer. A makeshift runway runs through the middle of the space, fashioned from a flatbed truck, and on its far end a corpulent DJ gives a tutorial on mid-eighties hair metal.
The sun has not yet set when the motorcycles start to roll in ‘— Harleys, crotch rockets, cruisers and choppers. The chain has always had a loose affiliation with the biker community, and nights like tonight are one of the reasons why.
They’re holding a bikini contest out here in the parking lot on this chilly spring evening, built solely around the women who work in the Greensboro and Winston-Salem restaurants: the Hooters girls.
And this is no mere jiggle show ‘— there’s real money at stake here: tonight’s winner will win a cool 600 bucks, go on to the regional final (which will be held here at the Greensboro Hooters on May 21) and get a chance to compete in the national pageant in Miami where about a million dollars in cash and prizes hangs in the balance.
These matters weigh heavily on my mind tonight, and not just because I’m something of an amateur handicapper of events like these. No, tonight I’ll be ogling in an official capacity. General Manager Kevin Mitchell has seen fit to name me as a judge for tonight’s event. Have I mentioned that yet? I thought I had told pretty much everybody by now.
Before the show, my fellow judges and I huddle around a tall gas heater ‘— if I’m not the oldest one then I’m awfully close, but I’m definitely not the only one sporting a wedding ring. I’m taking notes, though, so they all think I’m a kiss-ass. We stand there and Kevin breaks it down.
‘“It’s a big deal,’” he says, and mentions the large prize purse in Miami. He trots out the winner of the last contest, Melissa, a woman with a body so tight it looks like it hurts just to walk around in it. She’s already qualified for the regionals.
‘“This is what we’re looking for,’” Kevin says, and Melissa smiles in the propane glow. ‘“You’re gonna have a lot of good-looking girls up there tonight,’” he says. ‘“It’s gonna be tough.’”
Tough? Tough is staying up all night with an infant. Trigonometry is tough. Writing a column on deadline (like I’m doing right now), that’s tough. This, watching Hooters Girls strut and parade and smile’… this I can handle.
They come out in two groups of eight, one at a time and in two rounds, the first dedicated to evening wear with the skimpy stuff saved for the second set’… sixteen contestants in all, four of whom are named ‘Ashley,’ We rate them on a scale from 1 to 15.
The first round of competition comes and goes and my scores swing as much as three points in either direction during the swimsuit round. You can’t hide anything while wearing one of today’s bikinis and for some of the contestants this is more unfortunate than for others. My fellow judges and I settle on the final five fairly easily and to be quite frank, we were pretty sure who the winner would be as soon as we saw her in her club wear. Her swimsuit appearance sealed the deal.
During the appearance of the final five I champion the cause of Trisha, a 19-year-old waitress at the Greensboro Hooters who perhaps lacked some of the poise of her competitors but nonetheless has been blessed with a form that makes young men instinctively flex their triceps and old men shake their heads in wonder.
But it was not to be for Trisha. After a tie for third place, she is the only one of the final five who won’t be advancing to the regionals. The winner, of course, was Elizabeth the bombshell, from whom we expect great things. The woman who took second place and the two who tied for third were all named ‘Ashley.’
(Look for Trisha on YES! Weekly’s Page Three in the near future, our version of a consolation prize. And for photos of the swimsuit competition at Hooters of Greensboro, check our website, yesweekly.com. The regional round of the competition will be held in the Greensboro Hooters parking lot on May 21. Thanks to Kevin Mitchell, my fellow judges and all the women who had the courage to bring their stuff to the stage. And also thanks to my darling wife who was cool enough to let me do this.)