Picture at right is GWAR about to devour a Burton employee's pooch.
When I arrived at Burton's flagship store in Burlington, the lobby was packed and three members of GWAR — Oderus Urungus, Balsac the Jaws of Death and Beefcake the Mighty — sat around a table, warming up the crowd before the contest, which served as a fundraiser for Burton's affliate Chill program. I'm not sure how to put into words the absurdity of the scene — hoodied bros and girls with neon wayfarers atop their heads crowding around these all-powerful interplanetary man-beasts who stood about 8 feet tall.
Without one shred of irony, Oderus, the band's lead singer, laid down the judging matrix: a 1 to 10 scale based on creativity, originality and overall costume awesomeness. Special bonus points would be given to owners who dressed like their dogs, or vice versa.
Once the rules were clear, the dogs took to the catwalk, which was really just the foyer of the Burton HQ. There was a chihuahua dressed as a devil, a black lab dressed as a football player and some sort of hound dressed as an angel. A mutt named Charlie was done up as a ticking time bomb, and a pug named Oprah was outfitted as, um, Oprah.Two dogs went as ubiquitous Balloon Boy.
Greyhound as Falcon (a.k.a. Balloon Boy)
The music of Lady Gaga, M.I.A. and MGMT played in the background as the 20-odd dogs each took a turn around the floor. Cyan, a golden retriever, did not seem to enjoy the fake cobwebs and enormous spider her owner piled on her back. Nor did Brody, a little black Scottie, seem to appreciate being spilled on the floor in a pile of fake ice — he was supposed to be Scotch on the rocks. Yeti, a Chow/Samoyed mix, was less than enthusiastic about her S'mores costume and kept shaking it off.
One little brindle-coated mutt named Norma Jean shrank in the corner when her owner tried to drag her out to the judging area. I would have too if I had been forced to wear a homemade chicken costume. "Holy shit! What is that monstrosity?" Oderus yelled as Norma Jean was brought in front of him, yellow rubber kitchen gloves on her paws.
GWAR took their task seriously — Oderus removed his giant spiked wrist cuff in order to take notes. None of them let their monster schlongs get in the way of their judging. Nor did they suck out any brains, gnaw on any entrails or rape any corpses.
In the end, only three dogs could go home winners. Taking third place honors was Brody, a.k.a. Scotch on the Rocks. Nabbing second was Harley, a.k.a. GWAR-ley, who dressed up as GWAR, spikes, monster mask and all. And taking home the winner's trophy — a Burton board signed by the band members — was Sequoia, who went as the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood. I'm pretty sure the prize was for Sequoia's male owner, who dressed up as naughty/sporty Little Red Riding Hood, complete with a patent bustier, short red skirt, snowboard goggles and boots.
After the contest, GWAR graciously posed for photos with Burton employees and their dogs, before Mia Troy-Vowell, Burton P.R. maven, ushered them to the cafeteria to change out of their foam and fiberglass get-ups. It is because of Troy-Vowell that GWAR came to Burton in the first place.
Troy-Vowell met the band after bailing them out of jail in Las Vegas eight years ago. Before working for Burton, Troy-Vowell worked for another snow-sports company and was in Vegas for a convention. GWAR also happened to be in town. One of Troy-Vowell's less-than-mature pro riders was cruising around the Mandalay Bay Hotel & Casino on a Rascal Scooter when he encountered GWAR in full costume.
One of the members of GWAR knocked the pro rider off the scooter, stole his ride and went sailing around the casino crashing into things. Casino security wasn't into this, since 1) you're not allowed to wear masks in casinos and 2) you're not allowed to recklessly drive Rascal Scooters in casinos. The whole lot of them ended up in the hotel drunk tank until Troy-Vowell rescued them.
Now GWAR is forever in her debt. More than that, they're buddies. When she sent Dave Brockie, or Oderus, a text message asking if the band could judge the contest, there was no hesitation. "I love to see GWAR in these odd scenarios," said Casey Orr, or Beefcake the Mighty. "We love these people. They treat us great and we love dogs in costumes." Me too, Beefcake. Especially when they're being judged by you.