The D.C. Gay Flag Football League enlisted some of its hottest players to create its first 24-month calendar. The theme is Shirts & Skins, with many players exposing their well-defined chests, while other models dress in snazzy attire.
“The calendar is not risqué, no nudes, no underwear shots, just a great professional product,” says William Waybourn, a volunteer photographer on the project. “Something people can send home to their family and something people can be proud of.”
At least half of the profits from the sales will go to LGBT projects, mostly scholarships for openly gay high school athletes. Brandon Waggoner, commissioner for the league and a model in the calendar, says the standards and selection process are still being determined but the league hopes to award the first scholarships in 2012.
“We really want to help students,” Waggoner says. “We are determined to make this happen.”
A launch party is planned for Tuesday from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at Longview Art Gallery (1234 9th St., N.W.) with open bar and hors d’oeuvres. Sponsors include Nellie’s Sports Bar, JR.’s Bar & Grill, Hugo Boss, Victory Fund, Washington Blade, Hollywood Tans and Blue Moon.
The league is a competitive flag football group that caters to the gay and lesbian community and its supporters. When the 2010 fall season started, there were seven teams and 102 players. Interest has increased and now there are 12 teams with nearly 200 players.
“The players are very dedicated to the sport and to their respected teams,” says Jeff Spitko, the league’s communications director and a calendar model. “Some travel long distances just to participate. We have one player, for example, that travels all the way from Richmond.”
This dedication spilled over into the development of the calendar.
“Many people allocated a lot of time, energy and talent developing this calendar,” says Tony Frye, a volunteer designer on the project. “It was a five-month project, worth every second.”
Frye says the calendar offers a stereotype-busting irony — masculine men in a masculine sport, yet most of the models shown are gay.
“It is commonly known that there is a stereotype that gay men are simply not masculine,” Frye says. “I think this stereotype hinders people from coming out, especially teenagers, and especially high school athletes.” Frye hopes when teens see the calendar, it shatters preconceived notions.
There are 36 players in the calendar and all are gay except one. Sean Bartel, a league board member and model, says, “The straight model plays in the league because he enjoys the sport and to support his gay brother, who is also a player. That shows dedication to family and dedication to matters that are important to his gay brother.”
The selection process for the models was difficult because many players tried out.
“All had talent but unfortunately, not all could have been selected.” Frye says.
“I was thrilled when I learned I was selected,” Waggoner says, but he points out that being selected came with a personal sense of responsibility and burden. Leading up to the shoots, many of the models — all of whom were amateurs at modeling — were anxious and many altered their normal routines.
“As soon as I found out I was selected, I increased my workouts and went on a strict diet,” Waggoner says. The day of the shoot, Waggoner had two glasses of wine prior to the shoot to help him relax, and after, celebrated the completion by going to one of his favorite places to eat and ordering macaroni and cheese.
“I was kind of relieved when it was all over,” he says.
Like Waggoner, Bartel was also nervous.
“After talking several deep breaths, I kept telling myself these are just pictures,” Bartel says.
Both say it was a fun experience and they were glad to be selected.
The idea to start a fundraiser came from the league’s role in helping Team D.C. raise money for scholarships last year. Team D.C. is a charitable organization established to educate the LGBT community on the benefits of individuals and team sports participation.
The inspiration to use a calendar as a marketing tool to help raise money originated with the successful launch of a D.C. Strokes Rowing Club calendar. They made it a point, though, to not produce a copycat product.
“The rowing calendar had hot pretty boys, the football calendar has hot muscular men,” Frye says. He also wanted models who actually played football.
About 11,000 photographs were taken and only a small portion was used.
“I wish we had more pages to work with because there are several other good pictures that I would like to use,” Frye says. A secondary product with some of the outtakes is being discussed but they’re waiting to see how sales go on the calendar before divulging details.
The stress of calendar sales is weighing heavily on a lot of minds.
“We have to have strong sales for the first printing of 1,500 calendars,” Waggoner says.
Although many volunteered to put the calendar together, producing it was not free.
“We have the printing costs, promotional costs, launch party costs, security for the night of the event, and we have to pay the bartenders and servers, not to mention we have to make a profit in order to fulfill the goal of helping LGBT causes, including scholarships.”
Waggoner, however, remains optimistic that sales will meet or exceed expectations and will require a second printing. Several media outlets have mentioned the project and orders are coming in from Europe and beyond. A German order for 50 copies was recently placed.
A fashion show will be held at the party with models wearing Hugo Boss fashions. Guests can meet the players/models there.
Launch party tickets are $10 in advance or $15 at the door. A calendar can be reserved for $20. Those at the party can buy one for $15. Go to dcgffl.org for details.
“What’s great about all this is it is for a great cause and it brings people closer together,” Frye says.