Arriving at Ruby Skye last night with 30 minutes to spare in the free hour of sponsored SKYY drinks, your humble SFist editor promptly ordered two vodka sodas. You know — to blend in. This is a clear-liquor crowd and that's how we planned to cope with year two of the Mr. Marina competition, an all-boys beauty pageant where contestants compete to raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphona Society and their name on a plaque at Bar None on Union Street. The drinks were tainted. It was raspberry vodka.
"Everyone here just looks like they're trying too hard," my redhead date said with an off-campus smirk. Which is true: entering yourself in a beauty pageant is basically trying as hard as possible. Except she was talking about the people in the crowd: a sea of blow-dried and dyed blondes gazing towards the stage.
That would set the tone for an evening of shirtless men at Ruby Skye — a venue which is not actually in the Marina, but has hosted many fist-bumping bros and Tiësto DJ sets. It's like how the Miss America pageant isn't actually held in America, but in the lawless principality of Las Vegas.
In proper pageant form, the show kicked off with a confessional reality show video: The boys are pedaling through spin class. The boys are talking to the camera. The boys are all practicing dance moves in tank tops. It was all very slick; we're ready to take this thing seriously after last year's contest, which quickly turned into a show of drinking prowess.
To the delight of the crowd, which was around 1,200 strong, the pre-show video erupted into a full-on Magic Mike "It's Raining Men" segment, complete with umbrellas and neon mantanks. Contrary to what the Weather Girls sang, this was not the first time in history that it started raining men.
After the opening number, the swim wear portion saw our panel of nine contestants (one dropped out, apparently) again stripping down to their skivvies. Except for one, who ran with the joke that it's too fucking cold to swim in the Bay, even at Crissy Field, and came out in a full wetsuit. Alex Schmitt, who is apparently allergic to shirts, came out and named each of his six abdominal muscles: Ripped, Sliced, Torn, etc. Jason wore suede loafers from Barney's and a hula-printed smoking jacket.
Ben Hartard, who ran an impressive online fundraising campaign, stuck with the Chippendale theme and hit the stage in a tuxedo speedo, complete with cuffs and bowtie. "I'm Mr. Marina because I wrote a dissertation on spray tanning," Hartard told the crowd. "Every time I enter the room, there are fireworks:" At which point confetti poppers exploded around the stage, leaving streamers hanging from the disco ball chandelier.
Ish Simpson, our favorite to win and the competition's sole non-white dude, clutched a football as he explained: "I'm the only person to ever make it to the bottom of bottomless mimosas." The crowd drank it up, erupting in cheers. The forgettable Peter O'Hara pled his case for the crown because he likes "having a good time and blacking out."
After last year's event, we fully expected to see the nine contestants binge drink their way through the Talent segment of the night. Instead, we got lip-syncing, sax playing and sex dolls. Schmitt returned to the stage with his six best friends to give the audience a rendition of "Pour Some Sugar On Me." Only in the Marina would mouthing the words to Def Leppard while shirtless count as a talent.
David Rust, a spokesman for Lyft's ridesharing service in real life, played an original piano number that reminded us of Tumbleweed Connection-era Elton John, if the king of glam rock had lived on Chestnut Street. Ish gave the crowd a live version of his "99 Marina Problems" video, much to the delight of everyone's white guilt.
John Kennelly did his very best Chris Farley impression, taking shots at the city's noted hipster district and swapping out "van down by the river" for "van down by the Mission." Johnny Affourtit, who owns several different pairs of sunglasses, played to the George Michael and Internet meme fans in the crowd blowing his sax through "Careless Whisper." Peter O'Hara made the questionable choice of doing "Ice Ice Baby" with blow-up dolls passed around as his backup dancers. Hoping to play Eminem to Ish Simpson's Jay-Z, Jason was booed offstage for a ragged version of that song from 8 Mile.
The final segment: a Marina Wear Q&A gave the boys time to put their shirts back on and show some individual flair in the form of colorful socks and pocket squares. Johnny Affourtit set the bar with fuchsia pants and David Rust brought along a 9-iron. Ben Hartard latched on to the Marina zeitgeist with yoga pants, mat, blonde wig and tiny dog, but Ish's tweed jacket and yellow statement pants were the crowd favorite as something one could actually wear in public without looking too ridiculous. How did he look so good? "I subscribe to GQ magazine."
David St. Geme, dressed in a Canadian tuxedo with cutoff jorts, tackled the toughest question of the Q&A segment: "If we were all slowly sinking in the ocean," event hostess Brianna Haag asked, addressing a common fear among folks who live on landfill, "what three things would you bring?" "These shorts," he answered, grasping for worldly possessions, "this shirt and three hot women." Which is actually five things. Hartard in drag told the also-blonde crowd that his perfect date would involve taking a girl someplace classy. "Like Mas Sake." Where proto-bro Don Johnson was once accused of getting all handsy with the waitstaff.
Although Hartard's campaign brought in the most money of the total $91,000 raised for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, it was crowd favorite Ish Simpson who claimed the hardware from last year's winner Chris Clark, the Mr. Marina title and the $300 bar tab at Hi-Fi Lounge on Lombard Street. Backstage, a celebratory bottle of Bulleit was passed around the green room while the crowd filed out, plugging coupon codes into their iPhones and saving $10 on their Uber rides home, back to the Marina or Cow Hollow or Polk Street or wherever.
A lot of hungover faces on the 41 this morning #MrMarina— michellemcgov (@michellemcgov) March 21, 2013