After attending this week’s Auto Show, I began recalling my other favorite cult events, including the Beauty and Hair Show and of course, the epic International Cat Show. The Beauty and Hair Show was held at the midtown Coliseum, which has since been demolished, but it was an orgy of booths and kiosks devoted to personal grooming. One of my favorite stops was the Eva Gabor Elegant Lady Wig Collection, a sizable corral staffed with ladies in matching gold mesh mini-togas, all wearing wigs with sophisticated names like Nancy Newport or Countess Mitzi. I was later told that the Eva Gabor wigs were a favorite of transgendered sexworkers, for their durability.
Many booths featured the most extreme forms of nail ornamentation, including 24K gold 3-inch press-on talons. Each of these nails was also encrusted with diamond chips and enamelled with a tiny animal print, and a hole had been drilled at the tip of each golden nail, so that a charm on a tiny chain could dangle. There were women wearing this sort of massive nail art on every finger, and I wondered how they could use a phone, or the toilet.
The B&H Show was attended by hairstylists and manicurists from all over the country, dressed to thrill. I saw a male couple from DesMoines, wearing hand-sequinned graduation robes over their Hawaiian shirts and harem pants, with little fezzes, sprouting tassels, set at an angle on their heads. The show climaxed with a ruthlessly competitive hair-off. The models were all volunteers, which meant that while these men and women weren’t especially attractive, they had a passionate desire to be models. They would allow the battling stylists to glue yards of hair extensions to their actual hair, and this combination would then be sprayed and sculpted into everything from a bobbing, woven Easter basket, filled with actual Easter eggs, to a replica of the Chrysler building, which included tiny twinkling electric lights.
The Cat Show was held at Madison Square Garden and it was packed with owners and animals so it smelled, well, like a cat show. There were cages everywhere, filled with cats, and the owners were often fairly large people wearing even larger sweatshirts with iron-on full-color photos of cats. The many breeds of cats were displayed on a small stage, where the owners would hold the cats stretched high in the air, like furry sausages. It was like a slave auction where the slaves were incredibly bored.
That year the centerpiece of the Cat Show was a hugely publicized special guest appearance by a recently cloned cat. A substantial crowd had gathered to watch the clone wandering around a chickenwire enclosure. All I kept thinking was: how does anyone know if this cat is really a clone? Everyone was happy to believe the brochure. As far as I could tell, it was just a not especially distinguished cat, waiting to pick up its check and head out for a smoke.