That staple of the California beach bar scene--the wet bikini contest “wall of fame"--has prompted a boycott by South Bay feminists against a popular Redondo Beach nightspot.
Moose McGillycuddy’s, a King Harbor bar and restaurant, became the target of a petition drive and letter-writing campaign this week after its general manager refused a female patron’s request to remove a wall-sized collage made up of snapshots of contestants in the Wednesday night bikini contest it held last summer.
“If Moose’s cannot promote its business without objectifying and exploiting women in the process, then perhaps they do not deserve to have our business,” said Nancy Jo Rettig, a 30-year-old Redondo Beach woman who frequently lunched at the bar until her request was ignored.
Rettig, a volunteer counselor for battered women, not only gathered the signatures of more than 100 South Bay men and women who have promised not to patronize the bar, she also prompted a letter-writing campaign by the Palos Verdes-South Bay Chapter of the National Organization for Women.
At issue are the snapshots--hundreds of them--of oiled young women dancing in string bikinis and spike heels for the $100 prize bestowed weekly before a mostly male crowd. Most of the photographs are no more revealing than, say, a hot day in Hermosa Beach, but a number of them have been cropped to show contestants from the neck down.
Greg Gebhart, general manager at Moose McGillycuddy’s, said the collage is a successful promotion for the bar’s current midweek lingerie contests, which bring in the beach crowd on nights that otherwise would be slow. Other beach-area bar owners buttress his claim, noting that similar collages adorn the walls of many successful South Bay watering holes.
“I’m not taking this real seriously,” Gebhart said, noting that none of the women in the photographs have complained to him and business hasn’t suffered.
But in interviews, at least one bikini contest veteran said she has had mixed feelings about snapshots of her that have ended up on barroom walls.
“I don’t think they’re really wrong,” said Lisa Anne Schleuniger of El Segundo, a 27-year-old sales representative who has competed for six years in bikini and wet T-shirt contests, and whose snapshots have been displayed in bars throughout the South Bay.
“But a lot of times, all they do is zoom in on your body parts,” she said.
Schleuniger said she has often felt uncomfortable about the way she has been photographed during such contests. Once, in fact, she demanded that an Orange County bar remove a snapshot of her from its wall because she had been bending over when the photo was taken and its focal point was her derriere.
She said that she has won thousands of dollars in the contests over the years.
Still, she said, “I think that if someone is going to take a picture of you, you know, they ought to include your head.”
Deborah Blair Porter, coordinator for the Palos Verdes-South Bay chapter of NOW, called the controversy “a real issue of education.”
“The attitude is that boys will be boys, but boys don’t have to be boys like this,” she said.
“The photos don’t portray women as people with hearts and minds. They reduce them to big breasts and bare bottoms. If they’re going to take photographs, they should do justice to these women, and picture them as whole human beings, not just body parts.”
Porter, who launched a letter-writing campaign against the bar in the most recent NOW newsletter, said that collages, such as the one at Moose McGillycuddy’s, demean and degrade women and encourage male customers to treat them as something other than equal human beings.
Rettig added that, although she objects to such collages at all bars, she targeted Moose McGillycuddy’s because “it advertises itself as a family place, and that poster is on the first floor, right outside the bathrooms at a child’s level.”
Bill Bastian, owner of the End Zone in Hermosa Beach, which also has a wall full of bikini-contest candids, defended the collages.
“I don’t think they’re degrading. In fact, I think the opposite: I admire (women’s) beauty,” he said.
And photographs of only parts of the women have never engendered complaints in his bar, he said.
In fact, he said, one of his most popular collages featured in its lower right-hand corner a snapshot of a contestant’s backside.
“I captioned it--and you’ve got to visualize this, now--I captioned it, ‘The End,’ ” he said. “I never got any feedback on that. In fact, I kind of thought it was cute.”
Bastian added, however, that Gebhart may be taking the controversy too lightly.
“I kind of think it’s silly,” Bastian said, “but who knows? A petition against meat loaf can be damaging if it gets a groundswell of support.”