Ocean City or Bust

Doorman Justin O'Shea hands out registration forms to, from left, Tami Chicarielli, Shannon Murphy, Stephanie Cooper and Beth Kennedy.
Doorman Justin O'Shea hands out registration forms to, from left, Tami Chicarielli, Shannon Murphy, Stephanie Cooper and Beth Kennedy. (By Ylan Q. Mui -- The Washington Post)
By Ylan Q. Mui
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, August 29, 2005

OCEAN CITY, Md. -- The quest for perfect breasts has taken women many places: to the bottom of a sock drawer, the inside of a padded push-up bra, the sharp edge of a scalpel. On Saturday night, it brought 30-year-old Gena Horst to a bar best known for the giant martini glass lighting the entrance.

Gravity has taken its inevitable toll, says the single mother of two from Pennsylvania. She doesn't need bigger breasts, she says. Just a little lift to make them perkier. And maybe a tuck here and elsewhere for good measure.

"The reason why I need plastic surgery is because I have low self-esteem and because I'm on the market and I need a man," she proclaims, laughing loudly at herself.

So she is here tonight at the Party Block at 10 p.m., a little tipsy. The club, three bars in one that take up a city block at the beach town, is giving away $5,000 toward plastic surgery for one lucky winner. And Horst wants to be the one.

She does a once-over of a knockout who walks by selling shots. She's wearing a bikini top, hot pants, fishnet stockings and knee-high boots, the uniform of the club's female staff. To Horst, the Party Block girls are like walking buzz kills: "They're not helping my self-esteem over here."

There was a time when plastic surgery was an embarrassment, when a teenage girl would disappear from school with a bad case of mono, or perhaps the flu, and returned with a perfectly shaped nose. A time when unnaturally buoyant breasts were the calling cards of porn stars and strippers. But then came Pamela Anderson. And then came reality TV and "The Swan," "Dr. 90210" and "Extreme Makeover." Whatever your opinion of this surgical evolution, it's hardly surprising that bars have joined in the action.

In the case of the Party Block, it was easy to fill the bar with men during its summer-long Wednesday bikini contest, but how to attract gals so that the guys would stick around and keep drinking? The owners cooked up the plastic surgery giveaway, offering women who came to the bars on those nights the chance to register for the big drawing at the end of August.

"TONITE COSMETIC SURGERY FINALS," reads the marquee outside the Party Block. "NO COVER TIL 10."

Bar employee Justin O'Shea stands at the entrance, handing out additional registration forms. He is a tall, broad-chested guy, and when he first approaches women at the club, their eyes light up. But then he asks them if they want free cosmetic surgery, and the light dies.

What are you trying to say?

One woman pushes him in mock anger. Others just roll their eyes. One gives him a haughty no, only to return five minutes later to ask, "What do I have to do for that?" She gets two extra forms for her friends as well.

Club owner Ralph DeAngelus originally wanted to call the giveaway "Win a Boob Job," but that sounded a little "alienating," and he knew that women would still get the message.

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