A little nervous before her beauty pageant debut, Patty Gill slicked on a fresh coat of hot pink lipstick and confided the secret she hoped to share with the women of Bawlmer.
What men really want, she said, is a woman not afraid to show her true femininity, a woman who will tease her hair into a beehive, wear frosted blue eye shadow and put on her stretch pants, rhinestone jewelry and animal prints.
In short, a hon.
Fortunately, Gill now has an entire year to spread the word. In her tiger-striped top and high heels, clutching a plastic purse from her mom, the 44-year-old Gill was crowned Baltimore's best hon yesterday afternoon at Hampden's Cafe Hon.
"Now I know how Miss America feels!" she said, beaming as she accepted her bouquet. She vowed to do her best to help every hon feel proud, even those like her mother, an original Hampden hon who she says is living in denial.
Her mom, she admitted, can't understand why she would want to be so honlike. Gill, a legal secretary who works in Baltimore but lives in Harford County, far from the Formstone rowhouses and painted screens of her mother's childhood, told her: "It's a gift."
None of the nine hon goddesses -- or the more than 50 spectators -- who turned out for the fifth annual Baltimorese and Big Hair contests had such qualms.
Before relinquishing her title, Pamela Foresman, 32, "born and raised on Belair Road" and living in Hamilton, sassily called for a halt to the yuppification of Baltimore.
A hon commitment
Last year's best hon demonstrated her commitment to the fading traditions of the working-class city by pulling duckpin bowling balls from her bag.
"Natty Bo," she said, referring to National Bohemian (the beer that is no longer brewed in Baltimore) tastes better on a hot day than any "raspberry wheat" microbrew.
Her successor won a $500 shopping spree in Hampden and a chance to ride in the Christmas parade.
Gill said, "Hons may be falling by the wayside, but they're going to come back stronger," especially once they recognize that "this is what men want, even if they won't admit it."
Some onlookers were so inspired that they joined in demonstrating their Bawlmer speaking style, even without wearing tall hair wigs or rhinestone-studded sunglasses.
But they were no match for a pair of 11-year-old hons, best friends who sang the "Titanic" theme song with just the right nasal twang.
Chiari Lattanzi and Leah Platek, who just graduated from fifth grade and live outside Towson, won new nicknames of "Honettes" and "Honchkins" from the crowd. They so impressed Denise Whiting, owner of Cafe Hon, that she begged them to sing again, twice.
"Hey, hon," Chiari greeted everyone she could, showing off her flowered shirt, rhinestone pin and swept-up hair, rigidly teased and sprayed in place.
Leah arrived without the proper attire but quickly outfitted herself by buying a platinum-blond wig at Cafe Hon and a pair of horn-rimmed glasses at Gallo, a discount store a few doors down on The Avenue (36th Street).
Like mother, like daughter
Chiari's mother, Karen, grew up in Northwood but got rid of her blue eye shadow and most of her Bawlmer accent at college.
"I took radio in college, and I heard myself on tape. I was horrified," she recalled.
Still, she enjoys sharing with Chiari the traditions that she learned as a girl. She planned to show her last night how to wrap her hair in toilet paper to preserve her updo.
It's never too early to become a hon.
Pub Date: 6/07/98