Mom called at a rather inopportune time. "Where are you, son?" A sports bar in Walnut Creek. "What're you doing there?" Watching two girls have a popsicle-eating contest.
Her reply was drowned out by the roar of motorcycles.
It is Pro Bowl Sunday. Rolling down 680 toward Massé's Billiards Bar and Grill in Walnut Creek -- primarily a pool-shooting establishment hosting the latest round in classic rock station 107.7 the Bone's ongoing Bone Rock Girl competition -- the on-air DJ cues up "Layla" (with the full piano coda, good sign) and promos the event, wherein nubile young ladies vying for Bone Rock Girl honors would be waiting "to meet you, to hang out with you, to entertain you." The way he says "entertain" is a bit suspicious.
Sashaying into Massé's, one encounters a veritable ocean of midriff. The contestants are decked out in tight, immodest black halter tops and various skirts and shorts that would, in many cases, get you kicked out of, say, Yoshi's. The robust mix of Dudes on Motorcycles and Dudes in Football Jerseys approve wholeheartedly. As we watch two contestants straddle and bounce around on those giant playground balls -- blue ones, incidentally -- a gentleman in the latter group is deeply moved.
"That's fuckin' hot, dude," remarks the guy, eyeing one contestant. "That's hot as balls. She's got my vote."
Our emcees and Bone Rock Girl overloads are Bone morning DJs Lamont and Tonelli -- backslapping morning-show-type guys, jovial as hell. The contest began with application hoedowns in various Bay Area malls (and one Holiday Inn), paring the pool to a 64-lass field that has been divided into March Madness-style tournament brackets. Bone viewers vote online and during events such as this, drawing on contestants' photos, videos, on-air interviews, and in-person vibe.
Really, though, the sought-after criteria are not terribly mysterious. "Obviously, we're lookin' for, for want of a better term, a Bone Babe kinda gal," Paul Tonelli explains a few days later. "She's gotta be great-lookin', but that's not the only criteria we're lookin' for. ... She's gonna be Ambassador for the Bone. There's a lot of personality issues involved, too."
The winner gets a $50,000 one-year contract and various ambassadorial promo girl duties. As of now, that includes pillow fights, the aforementioned popsicle-eating contest, and various contrivances (trampolines, jumping jacks) designed to induce jiggling. Between events, the girls mingle with the crowd of thunderstruck, gawking pool players -- plenty of posing, plenty of leering. One contestant leans salaciously over the felt tabletop as a dude whips out his camera phone. The fact that he's wearing Cleveland Browns apparel officially makes this the saddest thing I, being from Cleveland, have ever seen.
The girls are extraordinarily good-natured about this. "You know, it's to be expected," explains Rebekah, a 21-year-old San Jose gymnastics instructor. "You don't show up to this kind of thing wearing this kind of outfit, participating in these kind of games, without the expectation of that." (Note: By mere virtue of wearing pants, Rebekah is relatively wildly overdressed.) "I had to prepare myself for it, obviously. There were a couple awkward situations, but you just laugh it off."
After all, the cash -- and for some, the prestige -- is well worth it. "It's not even the money," explains Alexis, liquor merchant for a Castro Valley BevMo. "It's just, you get to work at the Bone. I'm keeping my fingers crossed, because I know a lot about the music, everything from Lynyrd Skynyrd to Cannibal Corpse. I'm a metal chick; I love metal of all kinds. Slayer, Iron Maiden, I love it all."
Unfortunately, Alexis' own competition does not involve Cannibal Corpse trivia. Instead, she is made to hike a football back into the hooting crowd, which involves much bending over and gleeful dragged-out ribbing by Lamont and Tonelli. Both Alexis and her opponent, Jamie, are wearing skirts. Oh, golly. "I've never bent over with my butt up before in front of a crowd," Jamie admits afterward. Still, as a 25-year-old SF State radio and TV student and part-time Hooters girl, she is at least partially desensitized to this kind of thing. "Eh, you know, it's a little similar," she says. "Good energy, good vibe. Meet lots of people. Fun."
Throughout the hiking adventure, Alexis' mom cheers lustily and snaps digital camera pics. She is not alone in this regard.
The Bone Rock Girl contest rages on, with more on-air morning-show banter ("How big are your hooters?"), more live events, online voting, and multimedia clips at 1077theBone.com, with capably filmed video, often in slo-mo. The winner will be christened St. Patrick's Day, hopefully metaphorically, or at least just with water.
Reflecting on the Massé's hootenanny, Tonelli is pragmatic. "We're largely a male-driven radio station, so we're just tryin' to have a good time with the event," he says. "And the gals seem to be havin' a great time with it too. None of them at all have complained about anything; they get a good laugh out of it." The DJ adds that close contact with such salaciousness doesn't much affect his own personal life, either. "I've been married eleven years. ... My wife pretty much knows what to expect," he says. "She just kinda chuckles, and shakes her head. ... Kind of a 'guys will be guys' kind of a thing."
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