by Jessica Carreras
Few things personify Motor City Pride better than a big, hairy, gay bear in a teeny, fire-engine red swimsuit. At a festival that celebrates being oneself without fear of being judged, what better way to express that freedom than to bare it all, regardless of age, weight or (gasp) body hair?
Of course, it helps that it’s for a good cause.
As part of Ferndale’s Pride weekend, the Motor City Bears will be holding several events, the proceeds of which will all go to the organization Wonderful Animals Giving Support. A part of the Midwest Aids Prevention Project, WAGS helps to care for the pets of people suffering from HIV or AIDS. To the bears, it was a natural choice to help a group that benefited man’s furry friends. “They thought WAGS was unique and chose them as something different,” Vice President Scott Ward explains of the then-leaders’ decision.
“A lot of people give to MAPP and regular AIDS charities and they forget about the pets,” adds member Paul Torres. “This group is the forgotten group.”
But this weekend, the bears are making sure no one forgets WAGS – or them.
Friday night kicks off with a party at leather and fetish bar Detroit Eagle with free food and drink specials. There will also be a “Best Bear Butt” contest where men will strut their stuff around the bar holding doggie bowls and asking for donations. The man who gets the most money – and has the hottest heinie – wins.
On Saturday night, there will be a spaghetti dinner at the Zion Lutheran Church in Ferndale where friends can catch up over a plate of noodles and unwind before Sunday’s big Pride festival, where the bears will have a booth.
But the biggest attraction (pun intended) of the weekend will not involve food – or clothes.
Last year, the car wash drew tons of visitors and even more honking horns at the barely dressed bears. This year, they’ll do it with a new endorsement by Spank Swimwear.
While some might expect the bears to be nervous, the majority of them are more than happy to do it. “Nobody objected at all,” insists Torres of the sans-clothing car wash. “(Last year) only one guy showed up not in a Speedo.”
Oddly enough, Torres, a bear admirer, is one of the more timid ones. But at 5’8″ and 145 lbs, he looks quite out of place next to most of the bears. “If you’re the lone fat guy in a room full of supermodels, you feel self-conscious,” he explains. “The reverse is also true.”
Regardless, Torres promises he won’t shy away from stripping down for Saturday’s car wash. The event, he says, is too enjoyable to worry about appearance. “These guys are a lot of fun,” he says of the group. “Last year was a blowout and I predict this year will be even bigger.”