Hide and Peek

There's a new Mr. Missouri Leather! Plus: counterfeit-proof White Castle gift certificates; talking crab rangoon with novelist Lynn Messina; and a disturbing SAT flashback.

The contestants came from all over Missouri and from many different backgrounds. There was a farmer, a machinist, a manager of information systems, a veterinary hospital worker and a student. Some were cut and greased up, others flabby and dimple-butted. Their hobbies ranged from cycling to horseback riding to dog training to leathercrafting to bondage, domination, sadism and masochism.

But the five had one thing in common -- they all wanted to serve the Show-Me State as Mr. Missouri Leather 2004.

In case you missed it on the ten o'clock news, the 23rd annual Mr. Missouri Leather pageant was held March 6 at JJ's Clubhouse on Vandeventer, and the hundreds of studs (and smattering of ladies) hooting at the five contestants in their leather thongs witnessed the pure excitement that accompanies the crowning of a new Mister.

Newly tanned Mr. Missouri Leather Ron Walters (right) 
hopes outgoing champ Mark Bozif keeps that lighted 
stogie away from the ol' rawhide.
Scott Lokitz
Newly tanned Mr. Missouri Leather Ron Walters (right) hopes outgoing champ Mark Bozif keeps that lighted stogie away from the ol' rawhide.
Washington University grad Lynn Messina
Washington University grad Lynn Messina

Like the Miss America pageant, the competition has different components: pre-pageant interviews in which contestants showcase their knowledge of the history, importance and appreciation of leather. "The second part," explains Fredric Rissover, president of the Gateway Motorcycle Club, which sponsors the competition, "is where they introduce the contestants in what they call 'cruisewear' -- what they wear casually."

Casually, the contestants apparently all wear leather thongs.

"The third section is what we call the physique section, which is -- well, we'll just leave it at that," says Rissover. "The last section is called 'Leather Image,' where they wear their best leather outfit, and the contestants each have two minutes in which to talk about what they would do if they were chosen Mr. Missouri Leather."

The winner: St. Louisan Ron Walters, who works as an administrator in a veterinary hospital. "That's an incredible feeling," Walters tells Unreal in an exclusive interview, "to stand there and have a good portion of the people there support you and root for you, which is what the community is all about to begin with. This is my home."

After he travels to Chicago to take part in Memorial Day weekend's annual International Mr. Leather competition, the world is Mr. Missouri Leather's oyster. "You have the option in this of going in several different routes," he says. "You can work the charity portion of it, you can work on judging other contests on a nationwide basis. The network's very large. It all depends on what you want to do with it. I want to do it all. For me it's not whether or not you wear leather, but it's the mindset that you come from."

What Thieves Crave

First Uncle Sam called its HQ the White House. The creators of the Belly Bomber dubbed theirs White Castle. Then America's forefathers came up with the idea of transparent government. White Castle put in transparent windowsfor burger-grilling viewing. Most recently the feds redesigned the nation's currencyto thwart counterfeiters -- and White Castle did the same thing with its gift certificates.

What gives?

Late last year White Castle rolled out gift certificates that would make Andrew Jackson dollar-green with envy. Each $1 white-and-blue note features a pair of White Castle logos near the top that are invisible to the naked eye until they're rubbed with a coin. Farther down, two pink, beribboned burgers are printed with thermochromic ink so that their image disappears when warmed by one's touch. Finally, a unique serial number assigned to each note makes these certificates the most secure currency in White Castle history.

Doubtless a good move on White Castle's part, given St. Louisans' reverence for the diminutive burgers -- and our love of counterfeiting. As evidence of the latter, Unreal cites River City resident Margretta Saffold, who last October became the federal government's first new-$20 counterfeiting catch -- only a week after the redesigned notes were introduced -- when she was indicted for trying to pass four fake bills. In January of this year, Jeremy D. Marshall of High Ridge pleaded guilty to felony mail fraud after selling somewhere between $70,000 and $120,000 worth of bogus Applebee's gift certificates on eBay; he faces up to twenty years in prison and/or a $250,000 fine (plus restitution). And earlier this month local couple Kathleen King and Brian Zolotor pleaded guilty to counterfeiting $7,500 worth of $20 bills using a computer and an ink-jet printer, then trying to pass off the fakes at the Ameristar Casino in St. Charles and a nearby hotel.

Though a local White Castle spokeswoman tells Unreal the restaurant's changes are merely "a preventative measure, just in case," it's clear it was only a matter of time.

Lit Up

Thirty-one-year-old Washington University grad Lynn Messina used to write for InStyle, an experience that fed into her critically acclaimed 2003 novel, Fashionistas. Unfortunately, the novel's parody of the fashion world hit a bit close to home for InStyle's editors, who gave her the heave-ho. Now, with a job as a freelance copy editor for Metropolitan Home and (according to her flacks at Red Dress Ink publishers) a reputation as a "chick-lit" trailblazer, the New York-born author has released Tallulahland, which skewers the industry of home design.

Unreal put in a call to Messina to find out whether she's been fired from her current job yet.

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