It was billed as the firemen's fashion show. But on this runway, it wasn't about the clothes they wore but what they didn't that ignited the crowd.
Fourteen Chattanooga firemen from Union 820, representing several fire stations across the city, presented their first runway show at She: An Expo for Women last weekend.
The event was patterned after an annual Nashville firefighters fundraiser, according to Gilda York, the Nashville emcee who came to town to help launch this show. The local firemen chose the Chattanooga chapter of American Red Cross as their beneficiary.
Each firemen first strolled the catwalk in a tuxedo to the music of his choice. Song choices included the obvious: George Strait's "They Call Me the Fireman" and Ohio Players' "Fire"; the sexy: Tim McGraw's "Real Good Man"; and the humorous: Steve Miller Band's "Abracadabra" (because he'll make your money disappear).
"People instantly love firemen," said Ms. York. "You trust them. It's all innocent and never goes below the belt. We keep it G-rated."
Cheering, applauding women crowded the runway to stuff dollars into shirts, cummerbunds, pockets and waistbands. Little girls held up by their mothers waved bills alongside Red Hat Society seniors.
Then the firemen turned up the heat when they returned to the runway in their turnout gear. Each unbuttoned his fire coat to reveal a muscled body before tossing the coat aside and dancing down the runway.
Some slowly stripped off layers of T-shirts to tease the crowd, twirling them over their heads before throwing them out to the cheering women. Some slowly ripped apart T-shirts in displays of strength.
Dusty Rose showed off one-arm pushups. Rusty Rymer stripped off his T-shirt to reveal the firefighters' shield tattooed on his back. Brent Arnold even demonstrated the fireman's carry with one enthusiastic donor.
But Michael Davenport was the showstopper.
Dancing onto the runway to Michael Jackson music, Mr. Davenport pulled a sequined glove from his waistband and a fedora out of his helmet, then moonwalked back down the catwalk.
"I'd rather run into a burning building any day; that's less scary than that," Mr. Davenport said, laughing and pointing toward the screaming women. "I just tried to give a good tribute to Michael Jackson and get a positive reaction from the crowd."
According to Claudia Moore, marketing and public relations at the Chattanooga Area American Red Cross, the two one-hour shows raised about $4,500.
Susan Palmer Pierce is a reporter and columnist in the Life department. She began her journalism career as a summer employee 1972 for the News Free Press, typing bridal announcements and photo captions. She became a full-time employee in 1980, working her way up to feature writer, then special sections editor, then Lifestyle editor in 1995 until the merge of the NFP and Times in 1999. She was honored with the 2007 Chattanooga Woman of ...