Early in 2008 my mother saw me on the cover of the Whitehorse Star wearing nothing but a straw skirt and a bottle of our local beer. That is how she found out I was running for Sourdough Sam. I don’t think she was shocked to see me in women’s wear, though — she knew it was just a matter of time. It was the Monday after the 2008 Sourdough Sam search event: Happy New Years, mom.

I was appropriately unprepared for our first meeting. I needed a sponsor, a Sam name, an alter-ego, costumes, props, and time off of work. Luckily I was fully employed by Raven Recycling at the time; they helped me with five of six above criteria. My name was Misbehavin’ Raven, I was sponsored by Raven Recycling, and had full access to the free store, and whatever happened to blow into our company yard. The only thing they didn’t give me was time off work.

Details of what happened aren’t 100 per cent clear to me now, due to circumstances that were completely within my control. My memory usually doesn’t stretch past my last great meal, but I’ll give re-telling my Sourdough Sam story a good shot. Theme Music is important for Sam-ing; it sets the tone. The choice was obvious. I grew up in the ‘80s; my idols were intense, bizarre, and prolific — none more so than Hulk Hogan.

If you ever hear the Hulkster’s theme music “Real American”, and the hairs on the back of your neck don’t stand at full attention, then someone involved in your life owes you an apology. No matter how I felt before getting my hide onto that stage, once those first three bars hit the amplifier, I was more than ready. Sam-hopefuls were told the pageant wasn’t some balls-out, gauntlet-rocking, boozefest where the drunkest man gets the most votes, and that nudity equals victory. Stewed-up, slobbery naked men are funny, of course. But only from a far distance, like on COPS or the Internet. The contest is to be Yukon’s primo male, and Yukon’s primo male can handle his drink. Right? Day one was Lip Sync Sam.

What else could I do but Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline”? I can sing that song in my sleep. I probably have sung it in my sleep. It was a great warm up and I got to know my Sam brothers. The great thing about Sourdough Sams is that without saying anything, we established early that we weren’t in competition with each other. We were in it together, if one Sam was hesitant or faltering in any way, we were there for him. Even after a poutine platter, a carafe of bottom shelf red wine, and a fireball kick I was still a ball of nerves up there. But once “Real American” hit the speakers, and the brothers helped me up, I was a Sourdough Sam. The minutiae is foggy, but I am sure we all did great. I wore a skin-tight, yet thick black, unitard with orange stockings and black wings as my official Sam get-up, that I’m sure of. One kind gentleman who was really in the Rendezvous spirit paid for my next half litre of wine after the show, and we were off. Here is where the sequence of events jarbles, so I’ll just throw in a few anecdotes from my Misbehavin’ Raven alter-reality. Bare’n’Boot; I learned a few important lessons here.

First, four minutes is a very long time when you are tasked with stripping and dancing in front of a bar full of eager individuals looking for some saucy entertainment. Especially when you have about 45 seconds of material. Choose your song wisely — short, loud, and funny. I had a poor recording of Bloodhound Gang’s “The Bad Touch” to go on. When my 45 seconds of tragedy were up, I had to pretend I could not only dance, but liked to dance in front of strangers in ass-less daisy-dukes, with doublesided tape all over my chest and a stomach full of wine and poutine.

Second, wine and poutine is not a dietary regimen, period.

Third, using double-sided taped to stick balloons to your chest is a fun idea, until the balloons are popped and your bored audience decides to remove the tape for you.

Fourth, covering yourself in balloons and handing out toothpicks to an audience is the best way to get stabbed while dancing with a chair that I can think of. But this is just another life lesson I am sure we all have had. Queen of the Creeks; I really enjoyed this.

I had no idea that I had always wanted to wear a dress until I put on a dress. I found a beautiful red spaghetti strap at the consignment store, and it was just gorgeous. It fit me beautifully, showed off curves I didn’t know existed, and gave my lumbering walk a real sway. When I walked out on the 202 stage that night, I killed it.

I wanted to wear that dress and the crowd knew it. Men and women bought me drinks. A lot of us crossed a few barriers, flirted with weird, and really captured the Rendezvous Spirit. My swimsuit was a cute little silver thing my friend Gaby lent me, with a Johnny Cash wig stuffed in the front waist… area… which we all appreciated. I wish I still had that body. Time gets us all.

I missed out on Karaoke night, unfortunately. By this event I had been going to work at 6:00 am everyday, staying out until past midnight, and a flu had made its way into our ranks. Coupled with my dietary regimen of poutine, wine, and fireball, I was in no shape. Talent Show.

I had zero plan going in, and I had less of a plan when I got there. I think I wound up dressing as a pregnant Britney Spears and dancing along to “Hit Me Baby One More Time”, which turned into me inviting the audience onto the floor for a five-minute dance party. Was this an attempt at topical humour? I’m not at all sure; poutine has a way of making a man do funny things for drink tickets. Dance Off.

Again, I had zero plan (many Sam veterans maintain the “no-plan” method is very much in spirit with the pageant). I have no dance moves other than the air guitar, although I advise those who think they cannot dance to plant both heels, move your feet and write your name with your butt in the air. It was very adequate showing.

Stephen McGovern, however, had the best moves I’ve seen. He won that event hands down, and it was a pleasure for all of us to see. Duct Tape Challenge; our last event.

By this point the flu was going to work on us. None of us felt it, but I found out later we showed it. I draped myself in duct tape, and invited a few friends on stage. We flew into a duct tape air-band version of “Paranoid”, by Black Sabbath. It was a lively way to finish a very beautiful week.

I won the Sourdough Sams as Eric Southwick-Walker and I was finished.

After my congratulatory trophy shot of fireball, tequila, water, beer, and wine I was in bed by 11:00 p.m.

Entering and winning the Sams is still one of the most profound events of my life. It was a release, and I understood it was a release for the crowd, too. Sure I wore a tight red dress, but those folks who flirted with me were playing the same game I was. When I danced like I never had before, the throng was with me, cheering on what was clearly a terrible excuse for dancing.

We’re told, “Once a Sam, always a Sam”, and it’s the truth. We were in it together.