Last month Philadelphia was selected to host next year’s national lesbian softball World Series, and this month the good news kept coming with the announcement that the city will be in the spotlight for the U. S. National Mr. Gay competition.
The pageant-type contest will be held Nov. 13 at Voyeur, marking its East Coast debut.
Voyeur will also host the regional competition, Mr. Gay Philadelphia, April 17 to select the city’s representative.
Over the next few months, Mr. Gay competitions will be held in cities throughout the nation, with the winners converging in Philly this fall. The winner crowned at Voyeur will hold the U.S. National Mr. Gay title throughout 2011 and compete in the International Mr. Gay contest next year.
Don Spradlin, founder of Noble Beasts Foundation, which runs the international Mr. Gay contests, said Philadelphia’s recent efforts to promote itself as an LGBT tourist destination put the city on the radar as a possible host.
“Philadel-phia has definitely established itself as one of the premiere gay-friendly cities in the U.S.,” Spradlin said. “That was one of the reasons we assigned the contest to Dallas last year — they have a vibrant gay community and it’s a very welcoming city — and I know the same is going to be true in Philadelphia, so we’re very happy about our decision.”
Bruce Yelk, founder of Nightlifegay.com and organizer of the local event, said he believes Mr. Gay Philadelphia, now in its fourth year, is noteworthy because it is more than just a social event.
“The Mr. Gay title is not so much a title as it is a statement to say that you are out and proud of it, and there’s nothing to be embarrassed about,” he said. “Our community is still striving for rights that others take for granted.
“It may not be important here, but it’s important for countries, such as Iran and Uganda, where being gay is punishable by death. We are setting an example for the rest of the world for what is OK.”
He added that, as a social event, the entertainment sets Mr. Gay apart.
“The Philadelphia event seems to stand out from the rest of the cities, not only because of the number of celebrities involved, but also because we really incorporate entertainment. Even though it’s a competition with evening and swimwear and a Q-and-A like normal pageants, the entertainment has always driven people to the competition and helped to expand it,” Yelk said.
Spradlin noted that Yelk’s efforts did not go unnoticed.
“Bruce has done a great job producing the Philadelphia contest,” Spradlin said, “so I know he’s going to do a good job with this.”
Previous host cities, such as San Francisco, Dallas and Los Angeles, have typically brought together 15-20 contestants for the national competition, but Yelk said he’s looking to bolster that.
In addition to the cities that have sent representatives in the past few years, Yelk said he’s committed to also garnering contestants from Pittsburgh; Asbury Park, N.J.; Columbus, Ohio; and several other cities, upping the contestant count to about 25.
The contestants will face off before such judges as Village Voice writer Michael Musto, Paper magazine editor Mickey Boardman and journalist Frank DeCaro. Yelk said other judges will be announced in the coming months.
Tickets for U.S. National Mr. Gay will go on sale April 18 and can be purchased at wwww.mrgaycompetition.com.