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Men in Red

At annual AIDS fund-raiser, crimson dress is required, with raucous outfits ranging from frumpy and funny to fantastical.


The party countdown was on, and Robert Tise, a TWA salesman, didn't have a thing to wear. What's a burly boy to do, especially when the occasion calls for a red dress?

Improvise, big guy.

"I borrowed the skirt from a friend," Tise said about the pleated, bustled floor-length number he wore with a white shirt, red bow tie and top hat adorned with feathers. But the piece de resistance of his outfit was a delicate pearl necklace, snug like a choker around his Adam's apple.

Tise and more than 350 other revelers--men and women, gay and straight--turned many a head at Saturday night's sixth annual Red Dress Party at the Pacific Design Center. The Aid for AIDS benefit raised $12,000 for rent, utilities and medicines for clients.

While the city's social set swirled a few miles away at the Carousel of Hope Ball, this crowd caroused on a merry-go-round of its own. In its own raucous way, the Red Dress fete hosted by WeHo's drag queen supreme, Momma, is a sensational spoof of L.A.'s high society.

Partyers, mostly gay men--the majority of whom had never donned a dress nor applied anything more than Chapstick to their lips--paraded in homemade and store-bought garments from frumpy and fa-a-a-bulous to funny and fantastical. They came in Chanel knockoffs and glossy vinyl, in leather and feathers, in anything found at a thrift store, borrowed from a sister's closet or off the rack at Robinsons-May. They came as cheerleaders, cowgirls, chorines and as Cleopatra, Queen Elizabeth and Judy Jetson.

Hunky guys put their twists on gladiator glam or see-through baby-doll jammies and faux fur mules, hairy chests and legs exposed. The party has become a dress rehearsal for Halloween.

No one, not even staff or volunteers, was allowed in without a red dress, including moi--in a wraparound red silk shirt and skirt--a judge at the party that culminated with the crowning of Miss Red Dress 2000.

The winner, Brent Ries, a.k.a. Truly Scrumptious, accepted the title for his poufy red ball gown--a John Galliano replica he copied from a book--that took two weeks to sew and which practically swallowed him when he attempted a victory curtsy. The look was topped with a '60s-style lacquered and layered curly, swirly upsweep he called Fellini-esque. As the crowd cheered, Ries rebounded from his ladylike bow and raised his evening-gloved arms forming a "Y," which, he explained later, was meant to evoke Evita on her balcony, not the YMCA dance.

Kris Andersson, an NBC-TV costumer, spent six days sewing a Veronica Lake-inspired silk-faced red satin column dress with a fishtail train, matching coat and satellite dish-size plumed hat.

"This is my one chance a year to do this," he said about the ensemble. "It's all about being creative, inventive--and shameless."

Oscar Quintero, who works the fish counter at a Pavilions supermarket, wore a velvet evening-gown sheath. He came as Kay Sedia he said, "as in quesadilla," adding, "I'm a virgin red dresser, never done this before but I couldn't resist wearing this dress that my Tia Maria made for me."

Brad Loman, a television costume designer talked three friends--managers of a restaurant, a day camp and a grocery store--into coming as pushy, push-up bra-wearing waitresses. In their teensy red outfits, they smacked chewing gum while taking phony food orders from guests, then sticking their pens into their beehives.

Keith Crary, a Studio City makeup artist, and his friend, Kevin Jones, worked on Crary's dress until the last minute. "Can you smell the glue? I just finished this thing 10 minutes ago," Crary said of his glitzy Miss Disco Inferno get-up--an asymmetrical creation of body-hugging red sequined flames and a matching bat-winged cape. His efforts garnered the Miss Creativity prize.

Randy Fuhrman, owner of Creative Concept, a party-planning service, was miffed he wasn't a finalist for the Miss Mistake competition. With shoulders as wide as a refrigerator, he squeezed his John Goodman-size body into a barely there, spaghetti-strapped velvet mini with hot pink fishnets that showed off his toenails--painted red to match his fingernails and lips.

"I don't want anyone to think I'm really a

girl," he said, trying to maintain a straight face framed by a jiffy-popped black wig. "This is just for fun," he said, scratching his goatee, "but I can't hardly wait to get out of these shoes."

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