Johnny Damon flicked his long locks, Kevin Millar rubbed his beard, and the makeover artists who turn hairy men into neat gentlemen sized them up. The Fab 5 from the television show Queer Eye for the Straight Guy faced their challenge on Monday when they met five members of baseball's wacky World Series champions. "Look at the Green Monster," Carson Kressley said in mock horror, staring at catcher Doug Mirabelli's big toe as they sat on the roof of Boston's dugout. Kressley is the fashion adviser on the Bravo cable show featuring five gay men who also work on improving the culinary, cultural, grooming, and interior decorating skills of straight men. The Red Sox were chosen for the show after they won the World Series for the first time in 86 years. "We make our guys over in one day," Kressley said. "If we had 86 days with the Red Sox, we could really turn them out, let alone 86 years."
Jai Rodriguez, the "culture vulture" of the group, said the five players--Damon, Millar, Mirabelli, Tim Wakefield, and Jason Varitek--were better-looking than he thought after first viewing digital photographs. There still was room for improvement, however. "We want to make them look like champions," Rodriguez said. Taping began Monday at City of Palms Park in Fort Myers, Fla., for the first episode of the show's next season, which will air June 7. Four players did on-field scenes before Varitek arrived late in the afternoon by a helicopter that landed behind second base after he played against the Baltimore Orioles 120 miles away in Fort Lauderdale. More taping will be done at the Fort Myers stadium after Wednesday's game against St. Louis. The production will raise money to help rebuild a nearby Little League field damaged by hurricanes.
The Red Sox might not have been chosen had they not ended their drought last year when they swept the Cardinals in the World Series. That led to plenty of off-season developments: player appearances on Letterman and Leno, a White House visit, and a tour of the championship trophy to several states. "This is not your grandfather's spring training," Red Sox president Larry Lucchino said. "It's confined to the off-season and to spring training, and everybody's keeping it in perspective. Most of it will stop when the season begins." But on Monday it was full speed ahead, from the blond-maned Kressley's raunchy quips about bats and baseballs to the show's "grooming guru," Kyan Douglas, admiring Damon's biceps to Millar declaring, "It's been a fun day."
One potential makeover was quickly scrapped. "No chance," Damon said when asked if his long hair would be cut. A contract for his book being issued in April requires him to keep his hair long. Besides, he said, even before the massages, manicures, pedicures, back waxes, and clothing changes began, "I feel so much better about myself already."
The origin of the episode was unclear. David Metzler, the executive producer, said it was proposed by wives of the players. Lucchino said, "We didn't go out looking for them. I can assure you that." But the Red Sox were willing participants with a team of loose, long-locked players who joke around when they're not dirtying their uniforms by diving for balls. "They have a very great image," Rodriguez said. "It's very marketable, and I think people can relate to that, so we were very careful in the way we approached it. We didn't want to take away who they are, just sort of elevate them a little bit."
The Red Sox may even have helped the Fab 5. "They're teaching us how to spit," Kressley said. One player scheduled to participate, low-key third baseman Bill Mueller, decided to skip the show. "So we're going to his house afterward to surprise him," food and wine specialist Ted Allen said. The show's stars also know about baseball. Rodriguez referred to the cool relations between the Red Sox and New York Yankees third baseman Alex Rodriguez. "I came in here thinking I would call myself J-Rod, but they were like ixnay on that," he said.
Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein watched from his office as the Fab 5 and four players spoke at an informal news conference from chairs atop the Red Sox dugout. "Theo," Kressley shouted to him, "how about Pink Sox instead of red?" As his team did last season, Epstein got in the decisive shot. "Red worked last year," he said. (AP)