A tight red skirt.
A 2-foot auburn beehive.
Enough blue eyeshadow to paint ladies from here to Hampden.
These are the marks of the perfect Hon - at least according to Danielle Lynch. She'll be wearing them when she competes in the "Bawlmer's Best Hon" contest, which takes place this afternoon at the 10th Annual Hon Fest in Hampden.
For the uninitiated, the festival, organized by Hampden's Cafe Hon, celebrates one of the city's most colorful groups of residents: the gum-chewing, stoop-sitting, fashion-challenged women of Baltimore.
In past competitions, most "Hon" contestants have simply geared up on the day of the spectacle, donning gaudy duds and molding heavily sprayed coiffures just minutes before the competition begins.
Lynch, a first-time contestant, has taken the Hon event to a new level. Over the past few weeks, she has amassed the perfect get-up. "I've just put my heart and soul into this," she says. "It has completely taken over my mind."
On an average day, nothing about the 37-year-old Northrup Grumman professional who typically sports smart button-down shirts and understated jewelry suggests that she is an authentic Hon. But her interest, piqued initially by a simple conversation, has blossomed exponentially.
After hearing her spout Bawlmerese one night, a bartender friend dared Lynch to enter the contest. She took the challenge - though it wasn't supposed to be a month-long commitment.
And what began as a lark has become somewhat of an obsession.
This week, Lynch, an Anne Arundel County native, added the final touches to Danni Girl, the Irish Hon alter ego she created for the contest. And on Thursday evening, when she practiced her local affectations one final time before today's showing, it was clear that the transformation was complete.
There was little similarity between Lynch's everyday persona and the bedecked figure who swaggered through the rooms of her tiny South Baltimore row home. From her feet, cradled by gold "strappy numbers" (picked up at Wal-Mart for $7.97), to her rosy lips, tinted by a red gloss (donated by her Uncle Pat), Lynch was a vision of polyester splendor.
Her 13-year-old dog, Reba, kept a watchful eye on her as the character came to life. "She's my biggest fan," says Lynch of the cocker spaniel. The pet's hearing impairment, she adds, may be to the pooch's advantage: A self-proclaimed terrible singer, Lynch has spent hours practicing If I Only Had a Brain, which she will perform for the talent portion of the show.
But Reba isn't the only one who has endured Lynch's journey toward Honhood. Friends and family (in addition to Uncle Pat) have helped with the contest preparations. Some have contributed Hon clothing; some have offered advice. "It's amazing what people will donate to the cause," Lynch says, laughing.
Still others regularly ask her Miss America-style questions to prepare her for the interview portion of the contest, which is to be performed in Bawlmerese, of course.
That's no problem for Lynch, who has spent months practicing the local dialect and memorizing the facts of her alter ego's life. "She has a crush, an ex, a childhood memory," says Lynch of her Danni Girl character.
A political platform and other details round out the persona, she says. "I'm very big on character depth. It's the little things, the little nuances of the character" that will make the Irish Hon a three-dimensional person.
The well-rehearsed routine will be on display today at 2:30 p.m. when Lynch strolls "downy" Avenue (36th Street). Her friends, family and co-workers will join hundreds of other spectators as they cheer on their favorite Hons, who will be vying for grand prize of $1,000 worth of merchandise and services from Hampden merchants.
Soon, though all involved have been supportive, it may be time to put Danni Girl to rest.
"They'll be glad when it's over," says Lynch.
Win or lose, today's contest means the end of the alter ego - at least for now, Lynch says. But she'll be back next year, "if not as a contestant, then as a patron."
That's because the Best Hon contest is more than just summertime fun for Lynch. Becoming Danni Girl has re-connected Lynch, who lived out of state for a number of years, to her local roots. "It feels good to be a part of the community," she says.