Bring up Big Mama's name, and black drag queens statewide still bow their heads in honor of the founder of Mr. and Miss Black Gay Ohio.
James McDowell, as his mama called him, created the contest 27 years ago out of sympathy for the black female impersonators who were consistently shut out of crowns at the Miss Gay Cleveland and Miss Gay Ohio competitions. His pageant was staged strictly for black drag queens; in 1981, he fashioned a counterpart contest for gay black men who don't do drag.
McDowell died in 2001, but his mission -- to give black gays equal opportunity to strut their superfine stuff -- lives on. "There is still a lot of undercover racial tension in the gay-pageantry community," says Anton Hamilton, organizer of this Sunday's pageants at Akron's Interbelt Nite Club.
The spotlight this year is on "glamour, grandeur, and style," and contstants will be judged on interview skills, modeling ability, and talent. "The audience will experience pure entertainment," Hamilton says. "Because there will be new fashions and cutting-edge talent." See them work it at 10 p.m. Sunday at Interbelt Nite Club, 70 North Howard Street in Akron. Tickets are $10; call 330-253-5700. -- Cris Glaser
Where the Boys Are
An Akron gay club seeks its top male specimen.
Ramon Gutierrez takes good care of his favorite pair of Joe Boxers. He knows they're his best hope for being crowned Boy of the Year Saturday at the gay bar Cocktails. Hosted by Akron porn star Samantha Styles, it's the club's second annual search for the Top Boy, awarded to the contestant whose scantily clad performance most convincingly wins over the crowd. Audience members vote for their favorites by awarding strings of Mardi Gras beads. Gutierrez arrives with plenty of confidence. "These are my lucky shorts," he says of his secret weapon -- black, gray, and white boxers adorned with happy-faced trout and salmon. "Besides, they make my ass look good." Ohio's Boy of the Year Contest starts at midnight at Cocktails, 1009 South Main Street in Akron. Admission is free. Call 330-376-2625 for more information. -- Cris Glaser
Photography and sculpture mix and mingle in Tremont.
When sculptor Brenda Stumpf saw Eric Vaughn's photographs of walls and wires, it hit her: Why not display his flat, clean photos next to her sculptures of protruding piano keys and granular paint? The concept evolved into the pair's Walls, Wires, Wells: Elements of a Relationship, opening Saturday at Pavanna Gallery. "The architecture of [the] relationship can be dissected and studied, or thought of and remembered in numerous ways," Stumpf explains. "The sculptures are my impressions of those journeys, and they are my stories." The exhibit opens Saturday and runs through March 21 at Pavanna Gallery, 2250 Professor Street. It's open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Thursday through Saturday and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday. Admission is free; call 216-771-9811. -- Cris Glaser
José Feghali has come a long way since debuting with the Brazilian Symphony Orchestra as an eight-year-old. Now 42, the former winner of the prestigious Van Cliburn International Piano Competition will perform pieces by Dvorák and Aguiar at Brazilian Carnavale with the Akron Symphony Orchestra. It takes place at 8 p.m. Saturday at E.J. Thomas Hall, 198 Hill Street in Akron. Tickets are $14 to $35; call 330-972-7570. -- Cris Glaser
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