Sunday, June 24, 2012

1966: The Ugly Man Contest

Our fraternity, Delta Upsilon, was one of the newer fraternities on the Austin campus of the University of Texas, but with the oldest history.  It was founded in 1826 at Williams College back East.  It was the first and is one of only a handful of non-secret fraternities still in existence today.  Until my freshman class arrived, DU at Texas was known as the “geek” frat.  We had more National Merit Scholars and Dean’s List candidates than any other fraternity on campus.  Unfortunately, the fraternity was dying a slow, painful death.  True, they ranked at the top of the Greek order in academics and never went on scholastic probation, like the Kappa Upsilon’s, the Delta Kappa Epsilon’s and the Sigma Nu’s but they also placed no higher than 5th in the intramural football playoffs and had never won the intramural athletic championship.  That achievement is what got you lunches, dinners and parties with the cream of the sorority crop, like Delta Delta Delta, better known as the “Tri-Delts”, and dates with the best looking women on campus. 

The junior class of DU in 1964 decided to change all that and set a course to pledge the best crop of freshman jocks in the history of the fraternity at Texas.  Many of my pledge brothers were gifted athletes and most of them were hard drinking, hard partying lovers of women who changed the image of Delta Upsilon, almost overnight.  We also won the intramural football playoffs and placed second in the intramural athletic championship our first year out, in 1965, which didn’t hurt.  There was only one problem.  We had never one the “Ugly Man Contest”.

It was the middle of March and, to celebrate the Ides, the fraternities and sororities on the Texas campus held a curious event called the “Ugly Man Contest”.  Each fraternity selected their candidate for the contest, dressed them up in really wild costumes to highlight their worst features and paraded them around campus for a week.  The more outrageous their antics, the more votes they garnered from the sorority girls.  This year, we had our man, Jack Slayton.

At 6’4” and over 270 pounds, Jack was a towering figure.  He had a huge, flabby belly garnered from years of hoisting his favorite brew going back to junior high school.  “Sit up” was not a phrase in his vocabulary.  Jack had a baby face but when he had about four day’s growth on it, with his wild dark brown hair, he looked pretty ugly.  Another personal feature was that Jack was covered with hair from head to toe.  He had thick, curly hair on his chest, his back, and his upper arms.  His thighs were hairy, his butt was hairy.  He looked like something a giant cat would cough up.  Then there was the costume.

Jack wore red tights from head to toe…with patches of the material strategically cut out.  There were cut outs that exposed his belly, this upper back, his chubby inner thighs, his pimply left buttocks.  There were no sleeves and he wore an open leather vest over the top and two sizes too small, tight, short black elastic swimming trunks, the forerunner of Speedos.  Before the event he would let his hair grow wild for about two months and his beard get to the four-day stage.  He neither shaved nor bathed all week.  By Friday of the contest no one would sit next to him in class.  To make himself look taller, he wore really old lace up hiking boots with built-up soles and heels which added 3” to his height.  He wore a Robin Hood hat with a huge feather.  To complete the look, all week long he carried a huge long-handled axe with its blade buried in a split log about 18” long slung over his shoulder. The overall effect was Jack looked like a 7’ tall, filthy, dirty, smelly, fat, hairy, ugly, menacing ogre.  He was perfect!

Roaming campus all week and grossing out women was not the only redeeming activity of the Ugly Man Contest.  The fraternity, whose candidate received the most overall votes, got to have a catered luncheon, sponsored by the Interfraternity Council, with the sorority who cast the largest number of votes for the winner.  Jack won by a huge margin, putting himself and Delta Upsilon on the map, as it were.  That Saturday we had none other than Delta Delta Delta sorority over for lunch.  It was an “Ugly” victory.

So there we were, all dressed in our suits and ties and all these beautiful women, dressed in their party dresses and smelling so sweet, just sitting down to our Saturday luncheon.  We had planned to just start the salad course and then have Jack burst into the room, in costume, to add a little class to the affair.  The only thing we didn’t count on was Linda Baines Johnson.

Linda “Bird”, as she was known, was the daughter of President Lyndon Johnson and a tri-Delt.  She was there that afternoon with her normal accompaniment of two Secret Service agents.  The SS agents, dressed in their dark gray suits and mirror polished shoes, were trying to look inconspicuous as usual, sitting in the corner, drinking coffee and ignoring all of the chit chat that filled the large dinning hall.

As the sliding pocket doors were flung open, the girls all screamed and Jack charged into the room, looking like some crazed, axe wielding monster and roaring at the top of his lungs. The agents were on their feet in less than a heartbeat, drawing their concealed service revolvers from their shoulder holsters.  “FREEZE!”, they screamed in unison at Jack.  “DROP THE AXE!” one of them shouted as he advanced on Jack, who stopped dead in his tracks and looked like someone just kicked him in the crotch.   The axe fell to the floor, dislodging the blade from the wood, and Jack threw his hands in the air. 

The room was deathly quiet.  Jack was trembling so much his fat was giggling out of every opening in his costume.  I looked around and saw several people notice and smile but then Jack lost it and wet himself, the tight red fabric darkening as the contents of his bladder emptied into a puddle on the dinning room tiles.

At this point, several of the brothers and I jumped up and started to explain but the agents told us to keep out seats.  The president of our fraternity, who had developed an earlier report of sorts, then told the agents what was happening and reassured them we meant no one any harm.  Jack was allowed to sit down (before he fell down) and order was restored within a few moments time.  Linda Bird apologized to everyone but was assured by all it was “cool”. 

Jack went upstairs, showered and shaved for the first time in a week and put on a suit and tie.  When he came down, the mess was cleaned up and he joined us all for dessert.  The girls all made it easy on him, coming over and kissing him and telling him how great he was.  Over coffee in the living room after the dessert, The Ugly Man even managed to line himself up with a date for the upcoming weekend.  It was not with Linda Baines Johnson.

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