It’s Sunday, April 14, and my wife Anna and I are joining three others—Young’s Market Company liquor reps Vic Vacanti and Ronnie Hester, as well as two-time Bloody Mary Contest winner James Palmese—to judge Sweet Springs Saloon’s 30th Annual Bloody Mary contest. It’s a rough job, but somebody’s got to do it.
- PHOTOS BY STEVE E. MILLER
- RJ IN THE HOUSE! : Famed porn star Ron Jeremy was emcee and sat in on harmonica with The Shival Experience.
As we’re sitting at the judges’ table, a tipsy fellow in a brown Hawaiian print shirt draped over an enormous belly saunters over and slurs, “If any of you want to take a break, I’m here for you.” Then he leans over and whispers in my wife’s ear, “You’re by far the prettiest judge.”
Well, at least he’s not blind drunk.
Judging is lonely business. We’re sequestered in a corner and not allowed to see the contestants mixing their concoctions. In fact, the rules explicitly say, “Please do not mingle with the entrants as we MUST maintain the integrity of our judging to ensure the continuing success of this event today and for years ahead.”
That’s when I hear it, the murmur sweeping through the crowd. There’s a guest of honor, a special emcee: Ron Jeremy, star of such films as 21 Hump Street, A Christmas Orgy, Tosh Porn Oh, … and—kismet!—Bloody Mary 3D.
“He’s probably had sex with more women than all the guys in this place combined,” says New Times photographer Steve E. Miller.
- MEATGASM! : Alex’s Bar-B-Q won first place for Best Bloody with this concoction topped with barbecued meats and a pulled pork slider.
Then Ron and his fellow porn actor Gary Lee walk by the judges’ table. Gary is from Atascadero and also runs a vending machine business—pool tables, videogames, that sort of thing—and after the event he tells me he and Ron will be heading to L.A., he to finish filming the porn version of Wizard of Oz while Ron wraps up Love Bug. OK, these guys aren’t what I imagine when I think “porn star.”
After I shake their hands, Anna leans over and tells me we’re going to need a tub of Purell: “You’re going to have to stick your whole hand in there!”
Soon after, the Bloody Marys start arriving, and over the course of the next 4 1/2 hours, I’ll taste nine, many with truly outlandish garnish—beef jerky, jumbo prawns, a lobster tail, stuffed olives, a giant artichoke, all manner of decorative vegetables.
Meanwhile, cocktail servers move through the packed crowd, selling small cups of the various entrants’ mixtures. This way, the crowd can determine their own favorite.
The next thing I know, Ron Jeremy is up on stage playing “The Saints Go Marching In” on the harmonica as The Shival Experience gamely plays along.
- JUDGE RED : (Left to right) Anna Starkey, Glen Starkey, Vic Vacanti, Ronnie Hester, and James Palmese drank and ate their way through nine entrants to determine the best.
“Ron’s a pretty mediocre harmonica player,” Anna confides.
“Yeah, well, that’s not exactly what he’s known for,” I counter. “You try to ejaculate on cue.”
Then Shival lays down a funky version of The Commodores’ 1977 classic “Brick House.” It’s a party up in this joint! After trying the sixth Bloody Mary, the judges are given a break to eat some of the barbecue cooking out back, but after all the garnish I’ve consumed, I’m stuffed, so instead I watch a conga line form as Shival plays a Latin-esque Santana song.
The first Bloody up after the break is, as Anna describes, a “meatgasm!” It’s got a skewer with a pulled pork slider, a chicken wing, a pork short rib, and a potato on it.
Then Anna spots Ron sitting on a chair with his hand up a woman’s skirt: “Ron’s being a super creep.”
“She seems to be OK with it,” I note.
- PRESENTATION! : Mongo’s Saloon won for Best Presentation and Crowd Favorite.
By the way, Ron is wearing black sweatpants and orange Crocs.
“You know you’ve given up when you show up to the bar in sweatpants,” Anna says.
“I don’t think he’s got to try anymore.”
Then the girl whose skirt was violated comes to the judges’ table and introduces herself as someone who works at a South County bar. And then her friend says, “I don’t work there, I just support,” while cupping her friend’s boob. You can’t make this stuff up!
Then I spot a guy dressed like a pirate out on the dance floor. Surreal. It’s hard to believe it, but I seem to be the most sober person here. Finally the judging is over, so Anna and I head to the bar, where the world’s sweetest, most fun bartender, Rayna Mena Storer, pours out three Breakfast of Champions—a shot of Jameson and float of butterscotch liquor and a slice of bacon. Mmm. Not a Bloody Mary.
In the end, there could be only one, and Alex’s Bar-B-Q wins Best Bloody Mary, with Pappy McGregor’s Pub at second place, and Mongo’s Saloon for Best Presentation. The crowd favorite also goes to Mongo’s. Now, let’s see about that tub of Purell.
Glen Starkey takes a beating and keeps on bleating. Keep up with him via twitter at twitter.com/glenstarkey, friend him at facebook.com/glenstarkey or myspace.com/glenstarkey, or contact him at email@example.com.