The SLUG Queen, slug queen, or S.L.U.G. Queen (an acronym for the "Society for the Legitimization of the Ubiquitous Gastropod"), is a humorous concept and popular event of the Eugene Celebration, an alternative festival, which takes place annually in Eugene, Oregon, United States. The queen is regarded as the reigning "monarch" of festivities, and the unofficial ambassador of the city of Eugene, where a new Slug Queen is crowned in September. The queen is named "slug" in order to suggest images of the Willamette Valley region's lush leafy gardens full of snails and slugs and as a humorous play on other local queens, often selected for beauty, as opposed to wit and audacity.
The annual coronation process somewhat resembles a formal beauty pageant, but with a campy spin. The slug-themed pageant started in 1983, and Eugene celebrated the SLUG Queen coronation's 25th year with a Silver Jubilee in August 2007. The Silver Jubilee Queen is (now) Old Queen Glorious Gastropause, also known as comedienne Leigh Anne Jashaway. To date there are 31 Slug Queens, the latest being "Raining" Queen Professor Doctor Mildred Slugwak Dresselhaus, aka Brandy Todd.
The Slug Queen was first conceived in 1983. Cynthia Wooten, a city councilwoman, was discussing the idea of the very first Eugene Celebration with then City Manager Mike Gleason who wanted to name the city festival simply the "Eugene Celebration." Wooten, along with Karl Eysenbach and Paul Ollswang argued for the name "Slugfest," but this was turned down by the rest of the City Council.
Alana Probst organized the first Slugfest as an alternative to (and parody of) other cities' beauty pageants in her own backyard where the first Slug Queen was elected. The rebel group then entered a parade float in the first Eugene Celebration Parade shaped like a giant Slug with the first Slug Queen, a man named Bruce Gordon, riding in drag on it. This movement was in direct opposition to the wishes of the rest of the city council but was instantly popular with the crowds.
The Slug Queen Competition and Coronation grew to be an annual event. Rather than perpetuating typical beauty queen standards, the originators chose as their emblem a life form more in keeping with the Pacific Northwest's soggy climate and Eugene's iconoclastic spirit: the humble slug. Since 1991, the Slug Queen coronation has been organized by Kim Still, who is the manager of the Eugene Saturday Market.
The new SLUG Queen is now selected annually (usually) on the first Friday evening in August (provided the Eugene Celebration is scheduled after that) in a three part competition that involves costume judging (based on campy appeal and overall sluggishness), a three-minute on-stage talent performance, and a single question designed to test the quick wit of each contestant. The SLUG Queen is chosen by a collection of past queens officially referred to as "old," not "former" queens, as one of their mottoes is "once a Queen--always a Queen." The judges base their assessments on three factors: originality, creativity, and a flamboyant outgoing personality.
One important aspect that sets the SLUG Queen pageant apart from others is that bribery is accepted and encouraged and the judging is done by a panel of Old Queens. The moment a new queen is crowned, the old queens are open to bribery. Creative bribes curry the most favor with the old queens. They annually remind budding hopefuls to "Bribe early and bribe often." Since SLUG Queens retain the title of queen for life, and the power to crown new queens, they remain a vibrant, visible and vocal part of the community in their royal character. They use this visibility to raise awareness and funds for local causes and charities and host events in character.
SLUG Queen duties
The new SLUG Queen presides over the parade at the Eugene Celebration, on a roving date in August, where the queen meets the public for her first official duty. She is also expected to open the Mayor's Art Show, and the Salon de Refuse, a pun on Salon des Refusés, deliver a benediction at the Maude Kerns Art Center Jello Art Show in April, hold a charitable ball for the charity of her choice and "rain" over the coronation for the following year's SLUG Queen. She may choose to make other appearances throughout the year including the Oregon Country Fair, DaVinci Days, ribbon cuttings and openings, fashion shows, and Art and the Vineyard, among others.
The Slug Queens pride themselves on representing the diversity of the City of Eugene. Anyone over the age of 21 is electable, provided they are able to impress the Old Queens. Of the 31 Slug Queens to date, six have been men, including one with cerebral palsy and the 2009 Queen Anislugsia, actor Mark Van Beever. One female Queen, Queen "Frank Slugnatra" 2005, takes on a male persona for her appearances. 1993 Queen "Bananita" uses a thick Russian accent for her Slug Queen character. 2006 Queen "Slugretha Latifah Uleafa Gastropodia Jackson", an Office Manager at the University of Oregon's Department of Philosophy and the only black queen so far, won by singing her version of Aretha Franklin's R-E-S-P-E-C-T. Queen Slugrethea was photographed with the reigning Miss Oregon 2006 shortly after her coronation. The 2012 Queen "Sadie Slimy Stitches" performed a 3-minute spectacular talent of knitting while hula hooping while her "slugettes" danced beside her.
Slug queens never lose their prestigious titles: they (female or male) are subsequently known forever as "Old Queens" or later on, "Very Old Queens" at their 20-year mark, and finally "Exquisitely Old Queens" at 30 year of queendom.
2008's Queen "Marie Slugtoinette," famously appeared as a hedcut drawing on the front page of the Wall Street Journal. Slugtoinette's alter ego, Designer Constance Van Flandern, is also known for her work coining the term "Alpha Mom" for the cable network of the same name.
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- Slugretha Latifah Uleafa Gastropodia Jackson!
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