in red dresses
The News & Advance
Wednesday, February 12, 1997
By Darrell Laurant
Even as long as I've been in
this business, I still encounter something new nearly
Until last Sunday afternoon,
for instance, I'd never interviewed a man who was
wearing a hoop skirt and running shoes.
"Running in this won't be
easy," said Frank McPhatter as he stood in the
parking lot behind Frametome. "But it looks
good, don't you think?"
McPhatter was competing in the
annual Valentine's Day Red Dress Run sponsored by the
Seven Hills Hash House Harriers, and he had borrowed
the hoop from his wife's wedding dress to do it. All
around him were others who had made their own
compromises between fashion and ease of movement.
We ran a photo of this event on
our front page last year and received a few phone
calls from people who misinterpreted the purpose (or
lack of purpose) of the Red Dress Run. If I get any
calls after this column, I'm going to refer them all
to Richard Morrison, one of the "hares" for
this year's event.
Morrison used to be a defensive
lineman for Notre Dame. One Sunday, he was wearing a
long blonde wig that made him look like a cross
between Darryl Hannah and Rick Flair.
Or, I could refer them to Ed
Howell, a Marine stationed at Quantico who met his
wife at a hash and then married her at a hash.
"We were the hares, and
the other people in the wedding reception had to
chase us," said his wife Lynda, who looked a lot
better in her red dress than Ed.
According to Paul Stark, a.k.a.
Pink Panther, hashing originated among some Brits
stationed in Malaysia during the colonial era.
"This one guy used to go
out and run off his hangovers every morning,"
Panther said. "Some of his friends were laughing
at him, and he said, 'I'll bet you can't catch
me." So he laid out this trail."
From those humble, hangover
beginnings have emerged more than 1,200 hash groups
in 150 countries.
But there's more to it than
just following a four or five mile spoor.
Experienced hares learn to lay
down false trails that tend to penalize the faster
happens," Morrison said, "is that everybody
winds up at the finish line about the same
time." Except for those that get lost.
"Usually, that's the
people who try to take a short cut," Lynda
I asked her what her "hash
name" was and she told me. I can't put that in
the newspaper ," I said. She just grinned.
A lot of hash names are like
that, because it's traditional for hashers to be
named by he other members after completing a
five-hash virgin period. Many of those names turn out
to be rude, lewd and unprintable.
Hashers also sing a lot.
"Mostly rugby songs" said Pink Panther.
In an age when people tend to
take themselves (and everything around them) so
seriously, it was refreshing to see an activity built
around frivolity, foolishness and the tearing down of
egos. You have to be pretty secure to run down Old
Forest Toad in a red dress - and I'm not even talking
about the men.
"We got a lot of
looks," said Susan Walton, one of Sunday's
hashers, "and at least one 'Faggot'!"
Meanwhile, Richard Morrison and
Pink Panther had a little mishap.
"I bent over to lay down a
marker," said Panther, "and Richard ran
over me, I guess he didn't see me. The problem was, I
lost me wig, which was really embarrassing."
After the run, the 55 hashers
gathered at Morrison's house, where they drank beer,
handed out awards and abuse each other. The title of
"Best Dressed" came down to Frank
McPhatter, in his hoop skirt, and Gopher, who drove
down from Fort Eustis in a short wine-red cocktail
dress set off with a gold necklace and matching hoop
earrings. And a mustache.
one of the bystanders. "A choice between the
traditional and the tacky."
Gopher, who got his dress off
the rack at a Salvation Army store and his size-13
women's shoes from PayLess, got the nod. But the
loser took it well.
"Can someone just help me
get out of this thing?" he asked plaintively.
Laurant is a local columnist
for The News & Advance.