Unreal shops for a wedding dress for Bristol Palin, contemplates Man Junk

When the media circus rolled into town last week, most St. Louisans (Unreal included) were hoping for a glimpse of either Delaware Senator Joe Biden or Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. But Debbie Welcher had her sights set elsewhere: on Bristol Palin, the governor's seventeen-year-old daughter.

As everyone knows (or may have forgotten in the avalanche of revelations about Palin over the past month) Bristol is six months pregnant and plans to marry her baby-daddy, Levi Johnston. Welcher, as it happens, owns Chatfields Boutique, St. Louis' only bridal store that specializes in maternity wedding gowns.

Welcher opened her store last June after hearing on the radio that twenty percent of all brides are pregnant. "That was my 'aha moment,'" she says. "The dresses I sell aren't just empire-waisted. They're specially designed by Jessica Iverson for women at all stages of pregnancy.

"I don't ask if you're Democrat or Republican," Welcher adds diplomatically. "I welcome everybody."

Unreal: Do you have a specific dress in mind for Bristol?

Debbie Welcher: I do. There's a gown called the Rachel. It's on Jessica's website, maternitybride.com.

Why that one?

Well, I've seen Bristol dressed up for her mom's campaign, but to me she seems more like a jeans kind of girl. This dress is simple, with a lace overlay. It's mock strapless — it looks like it's strapless, but it really offers more support. It's very pretty, and it's got a lot of room in the front. She might also like the Jasmine. It has spaghetti straps that can tie around the neck. At three or four months, you're barely showing, but if Sarah Palin waits to have the wedding till after the election, she's going to be quite far along.

What did Bristol say?

No response yet. I did all I could to reach out to the campaign. I wrote a letter to Sarah Palin's deputy chief of staff in Alaska and an e-mail to the governor's e-mail address. I wrote to the head of the campaign in Missouri. Nobody wrote back.

That sucks!

I think they're afraid to look negative, like they'll be highlighting the pregnancy. It could be positive, like Sarah Palin is a caring mom. But they're afraid. I'm not, though. The girl needs a dress!

You Gotta Have Heart
The life of a Broadway hoofer, even at the very lowest level, ain't easy. For one thing, you gotta have talent. Also a bladder of iron. And finally, a sincere belief in Santa Claus.

Unreal learned all this last week at the St. Louis tryouts for Camp Broadway, a musical-theater workshop that'll take place in New York City in November. Camp Broadway gives kids a real Broadway experience, says its artistic director (and St. Louis native), Tony Parise: They'll perform a dance routine at the finale of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade while Kermit the Frog sings the ballad "I Believe in Santa Claus."

Alas, Unreal is ineligible for Camp Broadway. For one thing, we're too old: Max age is fourteen. For another, we don't have the $735 for tuition (not including travel and lodging).

And then there's the bathroom thing. The parade route is two and a half miles. That's a long way to march. "They'll have to hold it all the way," Parise says with a laugh that sounds borderline evil. "During the week we tell them, 'You can't go to the bathroom today.'"

Nine young St. Louisans made of sterner stuff show up at the Centene Center for the Arts for tryouts. Among them is Mia Hicks Thomas, age ten, slight and bespectacled. She has been dancing for eight years.

"More like five," interjects her father, Jeremy Thomas.

"Dad, do you know math?" Mia demands. "I started when I was three, and now I'm going on eleven." She turns back to Unreal. "I do tap, jazz, ballet and tumbling. Jazz is my favorite. This would be just a great experience. I've never traveled in my life."

"That's not true," Jeremy interrupts again. "Just not in your conscious existence."

The interview is cut short when Parise summons the nine hopefuls. It's time to dance!

Having confirmed that all the auditioners believe in Santa — "It's a requirement" — Parise guides them through a brief routine set to a jazzy rendition of "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town." "Smile!" he encourages. "Macy's can only put happy faces in the parade!" The girls paste smiles on their faces. Some look demented. As they perform, Parise makes a list and checks it twice.

After 45 minutes, it's over. Parise assures everyone they'll hear back from him by the end of the week.

"I think I did pretty well," Mia says afterward. To this her father has nothing to add.

The Funk Down Under
In our ongoing effort to leave no proffered product untested, Unreal sent away for a sample of Man Junk, a $25-per-bottle "organic body wash for men" that promises to "wage war on the funk down under." After toweling off, we rang up Joe Rowett, the California-based founder and CEO of Man Junk, to find out how he was faring in his fight against funk.

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