In the late 60’s, a “Groovy Guy” was more to the city of Portland than just another flower child. He was a well-built gay man elected at the Portland Forum’s annual All-City Picnic to represent the Gay community.
These picnics, held at various parks including Wildwood at the base of Mt. Hood, Sauvies Island outside of St. Helens, Rooster Rock in the Columbia Gorge and the Paizzano Club on the edge of Gresham, were glorious affairs attended by the who’s who of the gay community.
Silver and crystal adorned many of the tables while tunes of the times played out over the borrowed sound system. For a nominal fee, participants could enjoy an all-day feast and froth, while playing amidst some of Oregon’s finest scenery. The community bars and beer vendors supplied food, beer and wine and the bar owners themselves pitched in to cook and serve up a bountiful banquet. This party was said to have been a “labor of love” with everyone pitching in to ensure its success.
Contestants for the title of “Groovy Guy” would purchase a ticket and were allowed to walk the stage, either modeling, performing and/or posing for the crowd. Some years, winners were chosen by audience appeal, other times winners were chosen by a panel of judges. In all cases, they were chosen based on good looks and sex appeal. Simply put, this was a beefcake pageant!!!
1969 brought to bear the first Groovy Guy, Richard Calhoun. Blonde and bronzed, this magnificent beauty was the epitome of the buffed gay male in the late 60’s. Each successive pageant brought forth another “studly” specimen to represent the community as Groovy Guy. The Groovy Guy of the late 60’s and early 70’s was the forerunner to the Emperor and proved to be the predecessor to the Mr. Gay Oregon we know today. His duties included escorting the Empress to various functions over 15 years before the election of the first Rose Emperor.
At some point between 1975 and 1980 (which I have been unable to establish definitively) the title of Groovy Guy was deemed “out of date and/or unsophisticated” and the title was changed to Mr. Gay Oregon. Time marched on and Mr. Gay Oregon’s continued to be elected at the Forum Picnics.
Meanwhile, in the fall of 1972, as the Portland Forum flourished, another title was born in the grand ballroom of the Pythian Building known as Mildred’s Palace. Elected by a panel of judges, Elizabeth Ashley was crowned the first Miss Gay Oregon.
A few years past and the Oregon Pageant grew in size and stature, bouncing from Mildred’s Palace to the Side Door to the Darcelle XV Showplace. In the fall of 1975, Ursula was crowned as the fourth Miss Gay Oregon at Darcelle’s. Following Ursula’s crowning, it was decided, by the Portland Forum, that the method of selection would be changed to move in-line with that of the Monarchs and the Prince and Princess.
The next Miss Oregon Pageant would yield the winner as Miss Gay Oregon and the runner-up as Miss Gay Portland. Because the Miss Portland Pageant was being held in the spring and the Oregon Pageants were held in the fall, Miss Oregon IV Ursula, would be held over until the Spring of 1977 making it possible for her to step down at the same time as Miss Portland V Mara. Ursula’s 18-month term ended in the spring of 1977 at the Hilton Grand Ballroom, as the Portland Forum crowned Miss Oregon V Allison Grey and her runner-up Miss Portland VI Dusty Day before a crowd of more than 500.
The following year presented us with yet another selection method. Miss Gay Oregon would be chosen by popular vote of those in attendance. The title of Miss Gay Portland would be awarded to the contestant receiving the 2nd highest number of votes. This pageant brought to us the notorious Miss Gay Oregon VI Stephanie Foxx and the bejeweled Miss Gay Portland VII Eden Express. Theirs would prove to be the last pageant to crown the winner as Miss Gay Oregon and the runner-up as Miss Gay Portland.
On May 18, 1980, as Mt. St. Helens was spewing her ash over the northwest, the Portland Forum crowned Miss Gay Oregon VIII Champagne at the Hilton Grand Ballroom.
Unfortunately, few organizations are without scandal and the Portland Forum is no exception. Reportedly, irregular voting procedures forced the board of directors to re-count the ballots. To the community’s surprise, Misty Waters proved to be the winner in the second counting. To spare embarrassment to either contestant (and because it was clearly not their fault) it was decided that both Champagne and Misty would serve as Co-Miss Oregon VIII.Again, the Portland Forum decided to change the voting procedures and crown both winners in the same evening, by popular vote of those in attendance but on separate tickets. For their admission fee, spectators received two ballots, one for Miss Gay Oregon and one for Miss Gay Portland. 1979 saw the crowning of Miss Gay Oregon VII Teddy Garland and Miss Gay Portland VIII Velvet Monet.
Later that year, the Portland Forum would see it’s last annual picnic. The growing diversity of the gay community, coupled with increased regulations and liquor liability caused the demise of these legendary parties. Mr. Gay Oregon XIII Derek was the last Mr. Gay Oregon to be born from this event, effectively ending an era in Portland’s gay community.
1981 marked a new chapter in the history of the Portland Forum as Mr. Gay Oregon XIV Gary Benoit and Miss Gay Oregon IX Krystal Lynn hit their stride. Both wanting to serve and step-down together, they changed the course of history by facilitating changes in the Portland Forum bylaws thus creating the new Mr. and Miss Gay Oregon Pageant to be held in May of each year.
While Krystal was elected in May of 1981, Gary had not been elected until August. He would sacrifice three full months of his term in order to see their vision become a reality. After only nine months together, Mr. Gay Oregon XIV Gary and Miss Gay Oregon IX Krystal stepped-down at the Top of the Cosmo on Grand Avenue in May 1982.
This same pageant presented the city with the last Mr. and Miss Gay Oregon to be elected by popular vote. Mr. Gay Oregon XV Frank and Miss Gay Oregon X Rosey Waters were crowned that night and would lead the Portland Forum toward a new relationship with Portland’s lesbian community.
Seeing the growing involvement of the woman’s community in the Portland Forum functions, and the lack of opportunity for women to play active roles in the Forum’s goings-on, Frank and Rosey proposed that a new title be established for those women who wished to involve themselves. This new title would be known as Ms. Gay Oregon and would be dedicated to a biological woman thus providing opportunities for men, women and drag queens to hold the Oregon positions.
In May of 1983, the Portland Forum presented the first Mr., Miss and Ms. Gay Oregon Pageant. A panel of five judges selected the winners on this night. Judges scored on a personal interview, formal wear, talent, audience appeal, poise and personality to decide the winners. Mr. Gay Oregon XVI Phil Sparks, Miss Gay Oregon XI Wanda Kentucky Jackson and Ms. Gay Oregon I Cheryl became the first Gay Oregon trio crowned by the Portland Forum.
Few changes were made to the Mr., Miss and Ms. Gay Oregon Pageant over the next several years as the Portland Forum made its way through the 80’s. Sadly, in 1988 the Portland Forum decided to bring an end to it’s nearly 20 years of community service. At the request of the Portland Forum board of directors, the Rose Court set out to adopt the Oregon and Portland titles as their own. Under the direction of Rose Emperor XIV Karen Girl George Jar and Rose Empress XXX The Pearl, an advisory committee made up of both Rose Court and Portland Forum members was formed. The task of this newly formed committee was to pen new Rose Court constitutional amendments that would weave longstanding Forum traditions into the very fabric of the Rose Court constitution.
Having successfully completed this transition, Mr. Gay Oregon XX Dwayne Chad Nicholas, Miss Gay Oregon XVII Danielle Derriere and Ms. Gay Oregon VI Maria became the first Gay Oregon title-holders to step up with the Portland Forum and step-down with the Imperial Sovereign Rose Court.
Over the past four decades, the Mr., Miss and Ms. Gay Oregon title-holders have helped to raise awareness in and around the GLBT community through their roles as ambassadors to the Forum and the Rose Court. They have also raised countless dollars for a number of local and national charities.
Submitted By HIM Rose Emperor Kimberlee Van Patten
This article was prepared as a result of the collective memories of Frank Schreckenberger, Stephanie Foxx, Cicely, Willie Tucker, Dennis Burkhart, Eden Express, Candi Wrapper, Gary Benoit, Mr. Bill, Frank Lesick, Michael Hibbard, Darcelle XV, Roxy, Ray Snively, Jim Ploeg, Tom Geil, Steve Suss, Babalou, Maria and Kimberlee Van Patten. Thank you to all whom shared your thoughts.