Hot Stuff, Blond Wigs and Cold Cash At Cumberland Womanless Beauty Pageant

Published 1:07 pm Tuesday, October 7, 2014

CUMBERLAND — They risk their lives to fight fires in the County. They sit through hundreds of hours of training. Attend meetings. All for no money. And, yes, sometimes they even put on dresses to raise money to fight fires.

Saturday night, September 27, nine men, some of them volunteer firefighters, strutted their stuff at the Cumberland Volunteer Fire Department off U.S. Route 13. Emerald sparkles, pink chiffon, purple silk adorned the hairy chests of men willing to do what it takes to help a good cause. Thankfully, they had friends and an auxiliary that made their transformation into women, if not dazzling, at least worthily.

“I think that charcoal is smoking,” exclaimed Emcee Tommy Reynolds, a retired Methodist minister, as Hot Stuff, also known as Cumberland Supervisor Kevin Ingle, District Three, minced onto the stage, to roars of laughter. Hot Stuff was known for her striking props that changed at each appearance, including a bag of charcoal slung across her shoulder and a can of kerosene. Fellow contestants were sure the props would give her an edge on the People’s Choice Award.

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Reynolds has emceed for similar events before. “It’s fun and I just have a lot of friends here in Cumberland,” says Reynolds. Besides, it’s for a good cause. Reynolds grew up in Cumberland, where his father preached for 35 years.

The Cumberland Volunteer Fire Department Auxiliary organized the event. “We only have a few people, but we work really hard and we work really well together,” Nancy Pfeiffer, auxiliary member, told The Herald.

Last year, the fire department was able to add an entire addition to their building, due to the support of the auxiliary. They donated $10,000 toward the project. There were in-kind donations and the volunteer firefighters helped build it. Toots can take the credit for that, said Nancy Pfeiffer, referring to Steve Morris. Morris actually won the People’s Choice Award as Toots. Her sparkling emerald dress and platinum blond hair created a Marilyn-Monroe-With-Mustache feel.

Every year the auxiliary does events, sells stew and barbeque chicken, offers bingo, sponsors turkey shoots, hosts an appreciation banquet for the firefighters and creates a calendar that highlights their activities and upcoming events. This year was the first year for the womanless beauty pageant.

The auxiliary started in 2007. Nancy Pfeiffer was retiring and along with her husband, Leroy Sr., wanted to do something to give back to the community, she says.

Between handing out corn dogs and scooping popcorn during the pageant intermission, the couple stopped for a moment and hugged.

“You’re looking at the heart of the auxiliary right here,” said Karen Elswick, smiling at the couple. A pharmacist at Cumberland Pharmacy, Elswick has been in the auxiliary for two years.

The auxiliary is very excited if they can donate $10,000 a year, says Nancy Pfeiffer. That’s a lot of money for a community with few businesses. It can also be hard to generate interest in the public for fundraising events, she says. They sometimes go outside the community for support.

The judges for the pageant were Amelia Baggett, Gwen Marion and Gwen Siford. They named Bubbly Benita, also known as Ben Ralston, as the 2014 Cumberland Cutie. Bubbly is a pantyhose model. “No hose is the best hose,” she said with a giggle, kicking out a hairy leg.

A lumber trader when he isn’t wearing a dress, Ralston was volunteered for the pageant by a friend. He’d never worn a dress in public before, he told The Herald, as the contestants waited for the winners to be announced, but he believed he had what it took to win.

In fact, quite a few of the contestants admitted that they had worn a dress in the past. Even Supervisor David Meinhard, District Four, who was in the audience, revealed he’d put on a dress for a fundraising event in his younger days.

Bradley Ingle, a non-contestant and deputy chief for the Cumberland Volunteer Fire Department, says the department really appreciates the support of the auxiliary.

The help of the auxiliary benefits the department a lot, says Ingle. “It’s helped us do the addition on our building this past year,” he pointed out. A donation in a previous year helped keep a rescue truck in service. “Every year, it’s a good donation,” he said, “that really contributes a lot to us.”