Copyright ©2005 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

ALEX CHADWICK, host:

This is DAY TO DAY from NPR News. I'm Alex Chadwick.

One of the things that people complain about in summertime, at the beach or at the pool or in the locker room, is back hair, other people's back hair and too much of it. We often turn to sports brothers Randy and Jason Sklar for news of offbeat competitions, and this time they are covering The Hairiest Back in LA contest, and the days of hiding and deriding perhaps are past. The Sklars spoke earlier with our DAY TO DAY colleague Madeleine Brand.

MADELEINE BRAND reporting:

Randy and Jason Sklar, The Hairiest Back Competition. Well, was it everything you hoped it would be?

Unidentified Man #1: Madeleine, we showed up expecting to see an unbridled celebration of overgrown hair, an event celebrating the imperfections of the human body.

Unidentified Man #2: But we were left with a reluctant champion and a first prize that seemed to undermine the spirit of the competition.

BRAND: OK. Well, we'll get to that. And let's go back to the beginning. Where was this competition held?

Unidentified Man #1: Well, naturally, Madeleine, at the chimpanzee cages of the LA Zoo.

(Soundbite of chimpanzee noises)

BRAND: So men just lined up next to the monkeys and ripped off their shirts?

Unidentified Man #1: Come on, Madeleine, this is a zoo. It's a place for families. No, actually, the winner of the competition had already battled other hirsute men in an online photo submission competition. So the event at the zoo was more of an afterthought, an award ceremony.

Unidentified Woman: We'd like to present our certificate for $2,520 to Mark Lewis(ph) of Santa Monica.

(Soundbite of applause)

Unidentified Woman: Oh-ah!

Unidentified Man #1: So he stayed completely clothed the entire time.

Unidentified Man #2: And we're not gonna lie. We were a little disappointed by that.

Unidentified Man #1: Nevertheless, we caught up with Mark amidst the chaos of the presentation ceremony and asked him about his preparation for the competition.

Was there anything you did in particular to procure the situation to increase hair growth and whatnot?

Mr. MARK LEWIS (Winner, The Hairiest Back in LA Contest): I was born, brother. I was born. That's it. It's not like an eating contest.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRAND: Wow. So that was really easy money. Did you touch a nerve there, though?

Unidentified Man #2: Yeah, he seemed a bit defensive to us, which was weird because we expected Mark to be a man proud of his body hair, maybe even in a tank top showing off his back mane. But all we got was a modest man who seemed to be almost ashamed of his accomplishment.

BRAND: And what else did you learn about him?

Unidentified Man #1: That's a great question, Madeleine. Very little. We learned that he's 33 years old, married and sells insurance. And if he did have a back hair theme song, this is what it would be.

(Soundbite of "Chariots of Fire - Titles")

Mr. LEWIS: "Chariots of Fire."

Unidentified Man #1: Interesting, a running song.

Mr. LEWIS: Or I would call it "Hariots of Fire."

(Soundbite of "Chariots of Fire - Titles")

BRAND: So he won $2,500 in cash.

Unidentified Man #1: No, it wasn't cash. It was a gift certificate. And this is where the hypocrisy took center stage, in our minds. For having the hairiest back in Los Angeles, Mark won five treatments for laser hair removal to permanently remove the hair that won him the championship.

(Soundbite of vinyl record scratching)

BRAND: Well, that doesn't seem right.

Unidentified Man #2: No, it doesn't, Madeleine. And we spoke to Katie Laborne(ph), the clinic manager of The Advanced Laser Clinic of West Hills, and asked her about the prize.

Is it counterintuitive to hold a contest celebrating back hair and then as a prize give someone five laser treatments to remove it?

Ms. KATIE LABORNE (Clinic Manager, The Advanced Laser Clinic): I don't think so. I think, actually, you know, when you're doing the contest for the hairiest back in LA, you're letting them know that, `You know what? There's lots of people out there with this problem.' And it's not even a problem. I mean, it's--it could be a problem for you...

BRAND: It sounds like she's dancing around her words a little bit there.

Unidentified Man #2: Like a skilled politician. But competition organizer Lindsay Rarick(ph) did not hold back.

Is there any back hair that is good back hair?

Ms. LINDSAY RARICK (The Hairiest Back in LA Contest Organizer): In my book, no. But I don't know. There--I've heard of some ladies that have back hair. Now that's pretty sick.

Unidentified Man #2: Sick to some; superhuman to others.

BRAND: So the organizers of the event aren't of the opinion that back hair is to be celebrated.

Unidentified Man #1: No. And the sad thing is that in a few months, our champion, Mark, will have a back smoother than the top of Ben Kingsley's head. It's the runner-up who goes home, in the eyes of this competition, as a pariah, according to the organizer, Lindsay Rarick.

Unidentified Man #2: What would you give the runner-up? A pat on the back hair?

Ms. RARICK: No, not a pat on the back. I'm not touching the back. I'm not touching their back.

Unidentified Man #2: What if you had a glove? How thick would the glove have to be in order for you to touch the back hair?

Ms. RARICK: Oh, like a gardener's glove.

Unidentified Man #2: Oven mitt?

Ms. RARICK: Oven mitt might be good.

Unidentified Man #2: A Mylar oven mitt?

Ms. RARICK: A thick, padded one.

BRAND: But, you guys, I know, I'm sure, in the interests of fair competition, will always champion the runner-up.

Unidentified Man #1: Of course, we will.

BRAND: Any final thoughts, guys?

Unidentified Man #1: Yes, Madeleine. Standing in front of the monkey house, we couldn't help but think that laser hair removal may simply be the next step in human evolution.

Unidentified Man #2: But when Mark Lewis lasers off his championship back hair, won't he be removing that which makes him an individual? Won't he be, in a sense, devolving?

Unidentified Man #1: We say, yes, because, Madeleine, you cannot move forward by wanting to change what's behind you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

BRAND: Randy and Jason Sklar can be seen nightly--with their shirts on--on ESPN Classic's "Cheap Seats." They're regular contributors to DAY TO DAY.

Thanks, guys.

Unidentified Man #1 and Unidentified Man #2: (In unison) Thank you.

CHADWICK: And that interview by DAY TO DAY's Madeleine Brand.

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