Roadsters and Beauty Queens

A couple months ago I attended the Portland Roadster Show. Yeah. I’m only just now posting this. The show was held at the Expo Center, which on that day was conveniently hosting a Gun and Knife Show. We limited our visit to the cars.

I’ve never understood why people attend these events. The Expo Center specializes in shows devoted to selling. Home shows. Bridal shows. Boat shows. The Roadster show is a variant of these. It features lots of flashy hot rods. But every hot rod is on display through the sponsorship of an auto body, paint, auto upholstery, or specialty auto parts business.

So why, I wonder, do attendees pay to be admitted? Especially when everyone who is there to sell something has also paid to be there? Sounds like a gimic to me.

Auto shows are special, however, because they feature beauty queens. In the lobby two women in high heels and jeans handed out programs. Both also were wearing little crowns on their heads. I didn’t pause to ask why. Inside I discovered a booth at which four Miss America State Pageant Queens were seated. They looked bored. I spoke to two: Miss Montana and Miss Oregon. Miss Montana was snacking on something from a bag.

I asked, “How do you keep your crowns on your heads?”

Miss Oregon, who was quite friendly, bent her head forward to reveal an anchor of hair pins and straps.

I said, “I expect you wouldn’t want to be photographed from above.”

She replied, “You’re right, but given that I’m six feet tall it’s not much of a problem.

I moved on, watching the people and the cars. At one point I came to a booth featuring two cars from the film American Graffiti. One was the yellow coupe and the other was the black BelAir.

I appreciated that two actresses from the film — Candy Clark and Cindy Williams — were there signing autographs, presumably for a fee. They both looked to have aged quite a bit, as one would expect given that the film was made forty years ago. Miss Williams wore a hat whose brim was hiding her face. I wondered if she were embarrassed or hoped that no one would recognize her. Miss Clark was more visible and seemed to be enjoying herself. She was wearing lots of rhinestones. Spangled jewelry. Spangled jacket. Spangled jeans.

I observed a lot of people drinking beer before noon. Kinda weird. Pay nine dollars to be admitted, then pay for beer, pay for autographs, pay for souvenirs. No surcharge for looking. Isn’t it great?


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