Kevin Parker, 46, knew his appearance was going to be examined, appraised, even possibly judged.
So did he wear his Sunday best to get “Bumby’d” at P3 Studio in The Cosmopolitan of Las Vegas on Thursday?
No. He wore the most hideous pair of shoes in existence, a pair of Vibram FiveFingers. They covered each toe individually, like a glove for his foot. He swears they are the most comfortable shoes in the world but, still. They’re hard to look at.
Parker, who works for a local casino gaming company, was just tagging along with his friends and co-workers, Krista Reiner and Amanda McCurry, to provide moral support. They planned to participate in the art studio’s latest artist-in-residence exhibit: “A Fair and Honest Appraisal of Your Appearance by The Bumbys.” They were going to get Bumby’d.
Bumby fever has swept the nation over the past couple of years, enthralling celebrities, fashion designers, movers and shakers, artists and ordinary folks. The couple, Jill and Gill Bumby, are on the verge of becoming Las Vegas fixtures; their current show ends this Sunday, but The Cosmopolitan plans to invite them back soon.
The women worried; what if these anonymous, be-wigged, masked performance artists called them fat? Or worse?
Reiner and McCurry’s concerns were unfounded. The Bumbys are not about negative critiques. They want to read your aura, so to speak, get a vibe for your personality by looking at you. Then they want to empower you through their appraisals. And give you a ranking on a scale of 1 to 10.
“We’re very positive energy kind of people. We want people to leave with a smile on their face. If we ever had someone leave not having a good time, then we’re not doing what we intended,” said Viranda Tantula , the spokesman and co-producer for The Bumbys .
He’s literally the spokesman, because Gill and Jill don’t speak. It’s part of the act, as are their names. Three times, The Bumbys have broken their silence: once for a CBS interview, for a New York Times story and once for an article in the New Yorker.
Reiner, 32, stood in line in front of Gill Bumby, the male half of this unusual duo. She purposely chose to be appraised by “the boy,” she said. Reiner, who wore her work clothes of black pants, black shirt and black sandals, made small talk with the other waiting guests, obviously trying to calm her jitters.
She was visibly relieved and then amused when she read her appraisal: “You look like you’re from one of those states who sets a record for being most athletic and outdoorsy. I can see you twirling around in a sparkling dress and a glass of champagne in your hand.”
Not bad. But it’s daunting if you don’t know what to expect. There you are, standing in front of two people sitting behind a table, typing furiously on Brother typewriters. You are offering yourself up to them for who knows what: Look at me and then tell me what you see? Honestly.
And you can’t rely on the usual social cues to measure their opinions. The Bumbys wear sunglasses and bandanas that cover their faces. Jill Bumby, the woman , wears a bright red wig while Gill wears a red cap. Both cover their ears with white headphones. Their music is cranked up to serve as a buffer between them and the people they appraise.
They don’t want to hear what you sound like or what you have to say. This is supposed to be a pure process where The Bumbys appraise based on appearance alone and not voice or words. And their appearance, even their identities, are unimportant. They could just as easily be Mickey and Minnie Mouse, Tantula said.
Gill Bumby got the idea for The Bumbys at a college party where a guy was judging whether people were hot or not. In 2006, he called one of his best friends, Tantula, and told him he had just done this fun, crazy, random thing on the street. He had parked on a street in Brooklyn and offered appraisals for $2 a pop. He made $170 in a couple of hours. A few months later, Jill got Bumby’d. She called Gill and said, “I want to do this, this is awesome,” Tantula said.
The past two years have been a wild ride; they’re booking about one appearance each week.
When Reiner told her boyfriend that she wanted to get Bumby’d, he asked what most sane people would ask: Why?
The Bumbys gave a written answer to that question: “Genuine, honest, and unbiased feedback is pretty hard to come across and that’s what we specialize in, so I think people are generally pretty amenable to giving the whole thing a shot.”
Parker was unfazed by the experience. It was fun, he said, but if they had something negative to say, it probably needed to be said. On his appraisal, Jill Bumby wrote about his shoes: “Dude, those are seriously heinous to look at. I hope you’re not the inventor.”
It needed to be said.
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