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Women Stand by Men in Uniform

November 16, 1995

A pack of F-18 fighter pilots appeared at the Embassy Suites Hotel in Brea on Thursday. But instead of slipping into jets, it was designer clothes. The pilots served as models at a holiday fashion show sponsored by the St. Jude Heritage Health Foundation, a nonprofit medical foundation. The event was held to promote women's health issues.

Seven men stationed at the El Toro Marine Corps Air Station and seven firefighters from the base and the city of Fullerton escorted 10 women in holiday attire from the Broadway on stage at the hotel's ballroom.

Wearing suits and carrying their helmets, the firemen were introduced to the tune of "Disco Inferno" from the movie "Saturday Night Fever," and the pilots followed with "Danger Zone" from "Top Gun."

"The music set the mood and relaxed the guys," said Maureen Haney of St. Jude, who has organized the fashion show for five years using male Fire Foxes, college students and sheriff's and California Highway Patrol officers as models.

"We didn't have time to rehearse, and when I was telling them what we needed when we were backstage, there was so much confusion I didn't think they understood. Then one guy said, 'We're military men. You said it once; we got it. Don't worry.' "

How did Haney persuade the Marines to parade in front of 425 people?

"I called Capt. Tom Teers at the base, and he said he couldn't model but he would post a flyer, and about two weeks later Capt. David Layne called to get information and to ask how many men I needed.

"I said five, and he said, 'I can't get you five, and I don't even know if I can do it.' And I said, 'You called, so you're on my stage now.' He good-naturedly accepted and then got other pilots to participate."

Being aggressive has helped Haney corral models in the past. Two days before the 1992 fashion show, the highway patrol officers she had lined up backed out, and she was desperate. She looked up from her desk and saw a group of firemen inspecting her building. One asked her, "Do you have a fire extinguisher, Ma'am?"

She said, " 'I don't, but will you guys model in a fashion show?' I gave them a flyer, and Capt. Mike Fill of the Fullerton Fire Department made it happen.

"I've had trouble getting men to model in the past, but this year we had enough men so that the ladies who modeled were escorted by two guys. The women are not professional models--some were patients at the foundation--and they were nervous, but the guys made them feel comfortable," Haney said.

For the finale, the women appeared in gowns, while the firemen wore yellow turnout gear and the pilots full dress uniforms. One pilot threw his hat to the audience, and another threw out his gloves, "just to liven things up," Haney said.

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