Annette Helton of Arlington ended up in the Statue of Liberty Lookalike Contest this way:
"Ron stopped me on the streets in Georgetown," said the 26-year-old hairdresser. "I was wearing my Miss Liberty hair style. I wear it like this a lot." Her punked-out diadem, fashioned of her own hair and Paul Mitchell's Freeze 'n' Shine, makes her look partly like The Lady and partly like she stuck her finger in a socket as a child.
"Ron" is Ron Smith of Los Angeles, whose Ron Smith's Celebrity Lookalikes fields doubles for properties like Burt Reynolds and Linda Evans at shopping center openings from Dayton to Dubuque.
Now he wants to clone the Statue of Liberty.
"We want to give the people across the country the chance to enjoy the rededication the way we know how at Ron Smith's," he explained.
For weeks he touted his contest on radio and TV while selflessly cruising sk,1 sw,-1 ld,10 the bars of Georgetown for likely candidates. Yesterday 28 showed up to carry the torch.
They ranged roughly in age and aura from 16-year-old Carmel Sambuco of Silver Spring, whom Smith found hanging out with her sister at Cafe' Med, to Dorothy Schulman Leventhal of Washington, a bubbly 55-year-old grandmother, who showed up in a white toga brandishing a red rose.
"When I was lying in bed dying of cancer two years ago," she said (she's now well), "I said, 'Whatever's crazy that I want to do, I'm going to do' . . . A look-alike I'm not, but a feel-alike I am."
Leventhal, Sambuco and their colleagues, in a grab-bag assortment of crown, robes and civilian dress, milled around the South America room of the Capital Hilton before the contest, checking out each other's pedestals. Then they were introduced to a judging panel of local Ron Smith look-alikes ranging from Lanita Avery of Washington (Tina Turner) to Robert Siasi of Arlington (John Belushi). They also posed with a torch.
The 11 semifinalists told why they wanted a chance to represent Miss Liberty in upcoming pageants, TV commercials and assorted ribbon-cuttings.
"Exposure," said Jane Lehr, 19, of Pasadena, Md., before the contest, portfolio in hand.
"To represent the greatest country -- America," she told the judges.
Sambuco's sister Therese, 18, a curly-haired brunet, said she wanted to win because she loves New York. "We go there all the time. And I'd love to represent freedom."
Dani Cronk, a Salisbury State College student from Waldorf, was less impassioned. "I went to a toga party a couple of weeks ago so I had the costume," she said.
Stephanie Watson, a staff sergeant with the 35th Recruiting Squadron at Andrews Air Force Base and probably the only staff sergeant anywhere yesterday flaunting a Styrofoam crown, bare midriff and Madonna-style white lace glovelets, said she had asked her commanding officer for the day off to compete because "I feel like the Statue of Liberty promotes peace and equality and esprit de corps."
And the winner? JoAnne Aaront of Greenbelt, who painted her face and hair silver and carried a shiny silver torch. Liberty is copper-green, not silver, but never mind.
She'll get a contract of unspecified worth to impersonate Liberty in the Washington area and she'll go to New York to compete for a national contract, similarly unspecified.
How does the capital area's living Lady Liberty feel? "America is a land of opportunity, a land of freedom. You can be anything you want, even the Statue of Liberty."