Mr. Romance and Academia

If you read the Twitteration, you probably got a micro-sense of the Mr. Romance pageant last night. Heather Osborn calls it the mangeant, and clocking in at just under an hour, it was a zippy-mangeant, too. The battery on my laptop hadn’t charged all the way yet.

The opening was funny and silly and sort of slapstick – a lady was reading a book, and the contestants come out from backstage one by one and dance with her. While they were all sculpted and earnest about it, she was hamming it up to the audience, laughing and giving about 42 variations of the “WTF!?!” face. Then, she returned to her book and her sofa, and her “husband” came home—at which time she threw the book down and dragged him backstage.

Silly, and plays on sexual stereotypes of romance that we wish weren’t the ONLY thing for which romance is mentioned, but the contrast of Uber Earnest Chiseled-Jaw Model Type and the well-dressed and attractive reader hamming her reactions for the audience was snort-funny.

Then the bump n-grind started, and the silly was gone in favor of some really klunky sexist jokes on the part of co-host Mr. Romance 1996. Beth Ciotta, however, was working it and working it well with the material she was given. How is she not reading audiobooks? I mean, damn, her voice is marvy.

For me the most interesting moment was one that was totally unscripted. In between the Mr. Romance segments, during the time at which I presume there was massive costume changes going on back stage, there were dances – three of them, if I recall. Oh – and a performance of “The Girl in 14G,” a song written for Kristin Chenoweth, performed by Cindy Hines.

The second performance featured Chyna (I hope I am spelling that right) Pozzessere and (I believe) her brother doing a dance routine and at the end, as Beth Ciotta was announcing their names again she broke from the script and said something along the lines of, “HEATHER. Can you believe…? I’ve watched her grow up! I remember when she was a little girl!” It was the sort of kvelling and pride-filled comment you’d expect from any mom, but at that moment, Chyna (And please, please forgive me if I’m spelling your name incorrectly – it’s not on the Google and I think that’s a good thing) had a few hundred moms in the audience who’d watched her grow up over the course of the last ten years of Romantic Times. 

That captured the real undertone of RT. Yes, there is a lot of mantitty and absolutely bizarre things that never happen anywhere else – as @BarryEisler said to Jane and I, “I can’t believe I’m saying this, but as I went from the vampire ball to the pajama party….” – and there’s a very much in-your-face assertion of some elements of the genre that many of us wish weren’t so constantly in-our-faces. But beneath all that is a solid network of people who form a family of sorts, one based on books, reading, writing, and a celebration of the relationships between the reader, the writer, and the books.

At the Princeton conference, at the very end we talked a tiny bit about the intimacy that is created – and often presumed upon – when a reader and writer share content that is about intimacy itself, and generates emotional, personal, even sexual response. Seeing the different ways in which that interplay in and around that reader/writer/product intimacy can reveal itself has given me a lot to ponder, from the academic analysis at Princeton to witnessing the Mr Romance pageant and the interaction of the RT attendees.

What was most telling, and most appreciated, was the crowd response to the Mr. Romance contestants who did not act on stereotype but displayed instead actual character. When the pageant had them act out or perform the plots of different Dorchester novels, two of the men did something unexpected. While most of the contestants ended their reenactments with monster kisses complete with bending the model backwards and planting one on her, one contestant (and I’m sorry I don’t recall which one) invaded the cover model’s personal space and pulled her against his chest, and then kissed her very softly on the forehead. (Cue the audience: “AWWWWWWWWW.”)

But the winner, Charles Paz, walked to the end of the stage, turned around, approached the model, and took his suit jacket off and draped it over her shoulders. He had the crowd in the palm of his hand after that, and the subtext was delicious. Watching him named as the winner made the crowd even more joyful: the good guy they liked had won.

Maybe next year any academic conference about romance could be held AT Romantic Times, as sort of an on-site workshop and study opportunity.


Romantic Times

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  1. 1
    mynfel says:

    I thought your Mr. R recap was a riot, actually.  (I was happily hanging at the pool bar instead of watching it, but watching yours and Heather Osborn’s tweets was plenty fun.)

    But now you’ve got me wondering…just *what* did Barry see?

  2. 2
    ev says:

    I missed yesterday’s and today’s tweets which sucks big time. I have been enjoying them. Maybe I will find time to go back and read them. Not.

    Where is Rt next year? I want to make that and Dragon Con. Maybe I can do them on opposite years. Hm. something to ponder.

  3. 3

    Waiting for more of your thoughts over the intersection of the parameters of the two conferences….and later, adding rwa to that mix. Three conferences with such different focus, yet all on romance novels. There’s also a fourth type: the Celebrate Romance event, a pure reader-writer event or the K-Con, a fan event. Have you attended any of those, Sarah?

  4. 4
    TracyS says:

    Charles Paz sounds like a total sweetie.  I Googled his name (gotta love Google) and found an interview where he was asked if he won what kind of cover would he want and he says something about one where he is taking care of or saving the lady.  He just sounds like a normal/nice guy.  Glad he won.

  5. 5
    tom says:

    I loved those faces she was making. They were hilarious. Although I didn’t really get what the opening was supposed to mean (unless it was there just for fun).

  6. 6

    Thanks for the Tweets! I felt like I was there with you!

  7. 7
    closetcrafter says:

    I really enjoy seeing pictures of the conference, especially the reader appreciation bokk signings and the various authors, as well as the dress up stuff, any suggestions of where to go for pics?

  8. 8
    SB Sarah says:

    There’s also a fourth type: the Celebrate Romance event, a pure reader-writer event or the K-Con, a fan event. Have you attended any of those, Sarah?

    I have not, and would love to go, if Ye Olde Budget permits. I’d also love to go to the Romance SlamJam but I don’t think it’s being held this year.

    I really enjoy seeing pictures of the conference… any suggestions of where to go for pics?

    Judi Fennell has a bunch up at her site, which I know about because she included some of me. If I find more, I shall let you know – and links from other folks to pics of RT are most welcome here. Bring it on!

  9. 9
    Terry Odell says:

    Thanks for posting this—I had to leave and couldn’t stay for the competition/ceremony, but I did enjoy watching the guys schmooze all week. I wondered who won.  Deep down, I’d hoped it was Konstantinos for the simple reason that he had no trouble admitting he was 40 years old, and I like breaking away from the ‘only the young can be beautiful’ stereotype.

    It’s quite the conference—and, as Barry Eisler said, “Where else can you say, ‘Will I see you at the Faery Ball’?”

  10. 10
    Terry Odell says:

    SB Sarah’s post sneaked in while I was writing mine—I’ve been recapping at my blog. I’ll be posting all week.

  11. 11

    Awww… I flew out right after the bookfair, so didn’t know Charles had won.  Am very happy to hear that.  I sat with him during dinner one of the nights, and came away really impressed. He could hold his own with the inevitable innuendo, but didn’t bring it unless it was invited, and came across like a genuinely nice guy.  Kudos and warm fuzzies to him :)

  12. 12
    azteclady says:

    I have nothing interesting to say, only a lil squee:

    I gotta meet SBSarah!!!!


  13. 13
    Jessa Slade says:

    took his suit jacket off and draped it over her shoulders

    Oh, the ROMANCE in romance.  I like the idea of academicians studying romance in its habitat, like Meerkat Manor but with mantitty.

  14. 14
    SB Sarah says:

    I like the idea of academicians studying romance in its habitat, like Meerkat Manor but with mantitty.

    FTW! I literally LOLd. Scared the cat, too.

  15. 15
    Monica Kaye says:

    Hey Sarah!

    I was one of the crazy fangirls that walked up to you and told you how much you rocked!  I literally stalked you.  My friends said I was crazy but that comment was nothing new so I ignored.  It was great seeing you and I bought your book.  I have to say, the first five pages had me snorting and snickering.  Funny shit! 

    As for the Mr. Romance competition, that was hilarity on display.  I especially liked the guy who grabbed the female model’s head and yanked it, giving her whiplash.  Fun stuff!  I wish that I would have seen the tweets.  I’ll have to go back and look.  I’m sure that were nothing short of brilliant.

  16. 16
    Mary Stella says:

    I mostly attended the pageant of Beth and Mark co-hosting since both are close friends and I wanted to support them.  I hadn’t paid much attention to the contestants over the week but in the show, I thought that Charles Paz was an all around nice, sweet, sincere guy.  I wanted him to win for those reasons, but thought, “They’ll never pick him because he isn’t the right type.  He isn’t tall and chiseled.  His face is a little pudgy.”  I wasn’t surprised that he won Readers’ Choice, but I actually cheered when they announced him as Mr. Romance, too.

  17. 17
    Konstantinos Lelis says:

    Hello,my name is Konstantinos Lelis and I was one of the 2009 Mr Romance contestants.
    After all it was an experience,what can I say.
    I learned a lot during these 5 days.
    I learned that it was not obligatory to stay in the Hotel during the whole convention,like the Rules were saying,and I could have stayed in my friend’s house and save my money.
    Like the fellow contestant Mr Stefan Pinto that during the whole convention he stayed in his uncle’s house.
    I learned that not always the best man wins but the one with the best connections.
    I learned that if in your resume you have chippendale experience(like some earlier Mr Romance winners) or been featured in a porno magazine is like a Romance diploma.
    Must be Romance=Sex.
    There is so much more for me to learn……………………………
    It was an experience though!

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