|THE LONG AND ARDUOUS SEARCH FOR THE END OF MISS RHEINGOLD'S TATTOO.|
|By Trevor Thompson||
|If I could trace Miss Rheingold's
tattoo, I'd start out on the left side of her back, at the squiggle
under her ribcage, and then follow the exotic swirling Japanese seascape
down her hip, moving towards her buttock. Then my hand would be awash in
cold, sweet Rheingold beer, where my imagination takes over.
Actually, that's where my imagination has to take over, because that's all they'll let you see on the glorious billboard stretching across Houston Street. In it Miss Rheingold sits in a bathtub full of Rheingold beer, peering over her shoulder, giving you a stare that's half-taunting, half-pissed off. It's as if she's daring you to find out where that tattoo goes, and I needed to find out where that tattoo went.
Miss Rheingold is really Kate Duyn, a 27 year-old transplanted New Yorker by way of Portland, Ore. She beat out 13 other bartenders for the prize in March 2003, becoming the first Miss Rheingold in nearly four decades.
Her coronation may have been overlooked by modern masses, but in the 1950s, the contest was a New York phenomenon, with millions of people voting each year for their favorite Rheingold girl. When Rheingold shut down its brewery in 1975, the beer and the pageant faded into history, but when the brand and beer was revived in 1998, the groundwork was laid for this year's contest.
Enter Miss Rheingold, rising like a modern-day Aphrodite from the frothy, amber vats.
Kate and I end up eating mussels and steaks and drinking margaritas at Esperanto, a little cafe on Avenue C in the Lower East Side. We are sitting outside because Miss Rheingold wants it this way. The place I originally suggested was a little bar on 10th street that sold Rheingold, but when Miss Rheingold showed up forty-five minutes late, it wasn't up to her specifications.
"Down that Rheingold and let's beat it. Let's get out of here," she said, two seconds after arriving. "It's a gorgeous day and we need to be outside."
We walk east and an hour later, Kate is seated across from me, sprawled across two chairs, basking lazily in the sun, chewing contentedly on a piece of steak, a glorious lioness devouring a fresh kill. Blonde and off-puttingly sexy, she has big-ass lips, flashing eyes, and a slightly maniacal expression that suggests she can -- and will --
kick my ass if the mood strikes her. Like many small and feisty ones, she has a voracious appetite.
"I had dinner once tonight, already," she says, mumbling through a mouthful of meat. "I love food. I can really put it away." She swallows. "By the way, thanks for the dinner. This is definitely the best interview I've had. Your questions have been great. Usually people ask me the same old shit, like 'What's your favorite beer?'" She pauses, licks some steak juice from her finger. "Hello? My favorite beer is Rheingold -- I'm Miss Rheingold, remember?"
How could I forget?
"I can't wait to read the article."
Smiling at her, I glance down. I haven't written anything in twenty minutes. The ink is smeared where I spilled some tequila on it and the last several quotations I wrote are obscured by bits of salt and cheese.
"I wouldn't get too excited about the interview," I caution. "At least, not yet. The best question of all is whether I'll be able to remember anything you said tonight."
Miss Rheingold snorts. "What, you're drunk off of two margaritas? You're going to have to do better than that if you're going to keep up. I'm a hard-core girl. Check it out --" She flexes, exposing an alarmingly jacked bicep. I whistle appreciatively. "That's right," she says. "Don't misquote me, or I'll kick your ass."
The thought of kicking my ass must be amusing, because she
suddenly breaks into raucous laughter, a very deep and very sexy laugh
that rattles huskily in her throat and crackles in her mouth. Not what
you'd expect from a cute blonde girl -- it's the kind of voice you'd expect
to hear when calling an escort service.
"Yes," I agree, utterly clueless. In my experience, partying and exercising breed nothing but pain.
Miss Rheingold's workout regimen, for those who must know, is usually yoga and ballet class, with the occasional bike ride around Central Park. "I love riding my bike. I get all hardcore about it -- I pretend like I'm a San Francisco bike messenger, jammin' through traffic, kicking cars as I go."
She's also an avid dancer, which explains the magnificently muscled arms and legs. A passion since she was a little girl, Miss Rheingold prefers ballet and modern dance, which sounds hip-hop related.
"Shit, no," she says. "Modern dance is not like that at all. It's . . . it's hard to explain." She thinks for a moment, finally deciding, "It's just really weird."
To be more specific, Miss Rheingold's explaining the dance she's currently working on, a "quirky" performance called Map of the Night Sky. It begins with an off-screen voice dryly narrating the scientific theory about the creation of the universe while Miss Rheingold stands dead center onstage, arms outstretched and her neck cocked ala Jesus and the cross. No, she is not religious.
I can't keep up with her much longer. Exhausted and buzzed after a few hours of casual conversation and constant tequila, my notes are an indecipherable mess Laughing, she says, "Like I told you, I have a lot of energy. I've been known to drain people." She finishes her margarita and waves the waitress over. "We'll take two more, please. Make sure to put lots of fresh lime in mine."
So does being Miss Rheingold ever get to be a pain in the ass?
"Only when people come up to me in bars and annoy me about it. Sometimes when I'm bartending, some young punk will order a beer from me and give me this smooth, winky attitude, as if we're sharing a secret because he recognizes me as Miss Rheingold. Like I'm going to find it charming."
"It's annoying. I also hate it when friends ask me for free cases of beer when they have barbeques or throw parties. I mean, I'm Miss Rheingold, but I'm not a damn beer distributor."
"But, hypothetically, could you get them free beer?"
Good to know. I write this down next to the black smudge.
Then we get to the meat of things: What she really wants in a man. Miss Rheingold lights an America Spirit, blows smoke towards the sky and then tells me about the last guy she dated. He was older, bald and, ironically, a recovering alcoholic. "I was pretty depressed when we broke up. It's the first time I've ever been dumped."
Why would an old, bald recovering alcoholic dump a pretty young thing like her? I state the obvious.
"No, it wasn't because I was Miss Rheingold. I was in the process of being selected, but it hadn't happened, yet. It was kind of reflective of our different places in life, though. We both recognized it and found it kind of funny."
So what type of guy does she look for now? Mostly old and bald?
"Don't be a jerk," she warns me, flexing her burly arm again. "He wasn't that much older. And he shaved his head, just so you know."
I hold up my hands defensively and explain it's a serious question. She has to understand the only reason guys read interviews about women -- whether it's Ali Landry, Angelina Jolie or Miss Rheingold, Kate Duyn -- is because they are searching for some sign that they have a chance to score with her.
She sighs. "I don't know. Somebody funny, I guess."
Aha. I am emboldened enough to try and complete my mission, to discover the undiscovered territory beneath those bubbles of beer. "Can I see your tattoo?"
But she will talk about the tattoo, which is a work in progress and something she and her artist friend, Scott, have been working on for over a year. The pattern is a Japanese seascape, mostly water and rocks, with a single cherry tree displaying thirteen blossoms. She periodically adds to it, but the higher up her side the tattoo goes, the more painful the process. "I don't have a lot of body fat, so it hurts when the needle sticks my ribs."
She looks away for a minute, not responding. Have I gone too far? Maybe she's being coy. I take a swallow of my margarita and get ready to ask her one more time if I can see it. Maybe she could unzip her dress -- just a little -- to allow me a peek. Just the stuff above her crack, I mean, honestly The words are halfway out of my mouth when she says the reason she chose the Japanese pattern was because her mother collected Japanese art. Her mother died three years ago from a brain tumor.
I'm a dick. Check please.
Thankfully, Kate is as gracious as she is pretty and
quickly launches into a narrative about how she took several months to
travel following her mother's death. "Before she died she gave me
some money and told me to go around the world. She said I didn't need
therapy. It wasn't like I needed a therapist to tell me I was sad my mom
died. Travel would be my therapy."
We walk down Avenue C, taking a right when we hit Houston St. A few steps later, I realize she is no longer walking beside me. She has stopped to talk to two girls. One girl, dressed in a funky dress and red boots, glances up at me as I approach, but she doesn't say hello.
I give the girls a friendly smile and wonder if Miss Rheingold will introduce me. She does not. Instead, Kate kicks the girl with the red boots in the shins -- who fakes a punch at Kate's face -- Kate ducks under the punch and throws an elbow at the ribs of the third girl -- who deflects the elbow with a downward thrust of her forearm.
Abruptly, it's over. "It's just how my girls and I show affection," she explains.
The billboards are next to each other, looming over Houston St. One shows Kate in her silver tierra and white Miss Rheingold robe, the other is the infamous picture of Kate bathing in beer. She turns to me and asks if I have any more questions.
Yes, yes I do. But it's not original -- I stole it from the Miss Universe Pageant. "Okay," I say. "If you could change one thing in history, what would it be?"
Her face drops. I'm right; she hates the question. "Sweet Jesus, give a girl a break!" As her face screws up with frustration, a shiver of satisfaction washes over me. I have stumped her.
"Wait," she says. "I know what I'd change. I wish Eve hadn't ever bit off that apple. Then we could all be naked and shameless. What do you think about that?"
I think that would be great. Then I could see Miss Rheingold's
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Sadly, Trevor Thompson never got anywhere near Miss Rheingold's tattoo.