History of the Red Dress Run
Tucson, Arizona, June 2004
Most hashers know that the San Diego HHH started the annual Red Dress Run tradition in 1988. Most hashers also know there actually was a “lady in a red dress” behind it all. Some time in 1987 a member of the Long Beach HHH brought a virgin to the hash. The young lady ran trail wearing high heels and a red dress, and later that night went hot tubbing with her new friends, in (or out of?) that same little red dress. The Lady in Red still hashes, and attends Red Dress Runs whenever she can. I was fortunate enough to meet her at the jHavelina Hash House Harriers’ Red Dress Run in Tucson, Arizona, where she gave me her own write-up on the events of that night in 1987, the night that started one of the great hashing traditions, the annual Red Dress Run. Here, in her own words, is the history of the Red Dress Run.
– Flying Booger
Ah, where to begin the tale of the legend of The Lady in Red and the original run? Well, way back in 1987, a friend that I had known since high school days convinced me to come to Long Beach, California for a “visit, some beers, and to meet a few friends.” I needed a break and it sounded relaxing, so I packed a toothbrush and not much more as I grabbed a flight to the Coast for the visit.
I arrived early in the afternoon. After we left the airport, we stopped for cold beers and to catch up a bit on personal events in our lives. As we were finishing the last of our beers, J. moved on to something that I could tell he was anxious to talk about. Explaining, J. said that he was leading a double life of sorts, one as an upstanding business individual named “J. T.” and the other “hashing” as “3M.” “Drugs?” I asked in surprise.
He glanced around and lowered his voice to explain that it had begun quite innocently when he had first moved to California and had not made many friends yet. A guy from work invited him to go for a run and a few beers after with some friends. J. said that he went and found a great group of guys to hang with. At first it was just once every couple of weeks, then once a week, plus special runs and road trips up and down the Coast until he was a full-fledged hasher, hare, and eventually brewmeister!
I didn’t know what to say. I was stunned. J. was my best friend. He was like my brother! He looked into my eyes and said, “Please come with me on a run tonight. You’ll see and understand. Oh, and there will be lots of beer.” I know that even though I hadn’t run since high school when I had to outrun a group of faculty after a practical joke backfired, I somehow had to go and run with him.
We left the pub and headed for the hashers’ meeting point. As I got out of his truck, I looked around. Little groups of two and three people were all smiling and talking with each other. They looked like a mismatched group out for a field trip to the zoo. J. yelled out to the group, “Listen up everyone! I’ve got a virgin here that we need to make into a new recruit, so make her feel the Hash welcome!”
I’m outgoing and trusted J. fully, but this I didn’t know about. I was far from home with no ID or means to leave but by J. and now this motley crew was descending upon me! Here I stood in nothing but a red summer dress with buttons all the way down the front, nylon stockings, red spike heels, and a red ribbon tying back my blonde curls. I felt, to say the least, like a lamb before Easter!
I was drug over to a semi-official-looking person with a clipboard, who handed me a stapled pile of papers that he quickly flipped through and told me it didn’t matter. He told me to just fill out the parts about my “mortal name” and next of kin information. My hands began to sweat, my heart pounded, and my mouth became dry. What was I getting myself into? I wondered: was this some kind of strange cult; was I to become a human sacrifice; could I still trust J.; had this group warped his mind? As I pondered the papers and the scene before me a guy with horns on his head and a bugle strung around his neck asked me if I had talked to the “hares” yet (talking rabbits?), and wanted to know what kind of beer I liked. Beer? Yes, J. had told me that there would be beer! The other guy reappeared, took my scribbled “release from harm” forms, gave me a whistle (“Here, you’ll need this when you get lost”) and a huge chunk of chalk that looked like it had been a part of someone’s wall shortly before this.
As I stood there dazed and confused, J. slipped back beside me and, smiling, told me that I was going to love this. He explained about the talking rabbits, horns, terms, “rules,” and odd hieroglyphic signs drawn on the ground with chalk and flour. He gave me a drink of water, patted my shoulder and trotted off to what he called “the pack” to talk to a bunch of guys with really strange names. I took a deep breath, reminded myself that I always believed that life was meant to be an adventure; that I would try anything once (twice if it didn’t kill me the first time). Smiling, I joined a group stretching to warm up and pretended that I knew what I was doing. I had no clue!
The “G.M.” appeared, and speaking only to 3M as if I wasn’t there, emphatically told him that women just didn’t do such a thing (hash!). I spoke up and asked, “Why? Is there a rule against it? Will a giant bolt of lightning strike us all dead? Will the Earth cease to exist?” I told him that if he had no proof that any of this was true and if there was beer, then I was running. The G.M. spoke slowly as if to a child as he explained that I was not dressed properly for the run and that I should “just wait in the truck until 3M returned.”
Several hashers volunteered to lend this damsel proper attire, but their attempts were quickly rebuffed by the G.M. and other hashers. 3M looked at me and smiled. He knew that I didn’t like to be spoken to in a condescending manner and didn’t take “no” for an answer.
I watched the start of the run from the edge of the group. There was horn blowing, yelling, whistles blowing, and in an instant they were all gone, leaving me to watch the cloud of dust settle. I stood there looking at the chalk still in my hand. I had signed the forms, had been promised beer, and I was going to run. So, in a red dress and heels, I did just that.
I won’t bore you with all the details of the run, but it was supposed to be an easy three miles and on flat ground. It ended up with a lot of people calling “hash shit.” It was a trail of six miles over brush covered steep hills, barrio areas, and the last mile was on sandy beach!
At one point I began to wish that I’d thought this through a bit more! I did get a bit lost, but a large woman with curlers in her hair, hanging out of a second story tenement building, pointed out that my “lily white ass looked like it don’t belong around here” and that I should catch up to “those crazy other folk running four blocks down.” I would have thanked her, but my dry tongue was stuck to the roof of my mouth and I was busy trying to keep my liver from moving further up into my chest where my heart was threatening to explode. I ran past a taco stand where I stole a cup of Coke off a guy’s tray as I took a short cut through the fast food parking lot. As I did this I thought, “Great, now this group has turned me into a thief! What’s next?”
I also, while on the same, very bad, side of town, upon hearing a bugle blowing and thinking that the group must be inside, burst through the door of a stranger’s house and yelled “Where the hell’s the beer?” A huge black man who seemed to fill all of the living room answered my question. He was standing next to his small son, who’d been practicing on his horn. The man told me that he didn’t allow beer, foul language, or seductively dressed women into his house. As I backed out of the door, I apologized profusely and ran out quickly, renewed by fear.
I finally crawled my way down the beach to join the entire group, which had arrived well before me (the pack included a five-year-old boy and a senior citizen recovering from triple-bypass surgery). I had hoped to make a graceful entrance but now all I could think of was that I survived and I wanted beer! I drank my first down-down in record setting speed and demanded a refill that went down just as fast! As I started my third tankard, I debated whether to hit or hug 3M.
We eventually moved the on-on-on to a bar where we were thrown out before I got the food I’d ordered. This pattern continued through three bars where I continued to drink, learn limericks and pub songs . . . and teach a few too!
As for the story about the hot tub and me, I didn’t know that it too became a part of history until one of my sons came home from a bar and told me a limerick about a lady in red in a hot tub! I smiled and told him that I knew her well!
From the last bar we moved to someone’s apartment where we spent the night hot tubbing. Everyone in the know had brought a bathing suit or at least had underwear. I was not prepared. Not one of the guys offered anything for me to use. I suspected that they wanted to test how interesting things could get since there was only one female besides myself there at the time (other females did show up soon after when word got out that there was a blonde in the hot tub with all the guys). Everyone watched how I would handle having nothing to change into for the hot tub after I was given the invitation. I looked over at 3M, who smiled back knowing that I would somehow end up putting the hashers on the spot. I told them it was not a problem, slipped off my heels, unfastened my stockings, took them off, and jumped into the hot tub wearing only the famous red dress and a smile.
I hadn’t eaten all day, since we were thrown out of all the bars before my orders arrived. During the evening, I explained that hops in beer was not food and that I was still hungry. The hashers obliged by turning a garbage can lid into a serving plate full of chips and floating it my way in the hot tub. Zulu Boy realized that I needed more than that and was kind enough to pick me up out of the hot tub, dripping wet, and take me inside to find something for me.
The rest of the details of the evening are shared by those who were there, told in limerick and song, and if we meet and you buy me a beer, perhaps I’ll tell you. Zulu Boy did say of the event, in Sports Illustrated Magazine, that he “was still in awe,” and “would never forget The Lady in Red.”
That weekend, I begged 3M to find more hash runs. I went on three more. The last on-on-on he had to drag me from under protest in order to get me to the airport on time. During that weekend, three combined hash groups deemed me “The Lady in Red.”
The following year I had moved to Houston, Texas, where the San Diego Hash House Harriers tracked me down, sent me plane tickets, and demanded that I attend the first annual Red Dress Run being held in my honor! Word had spread up and down the Coast and hashers from all over California attended. Men and women alike were required to wear red dresses. I was later told that hundreds attended. California newspapers and TV news serviced covered the event.
I was and still am overwhelmed at the notoriety and response! At the crowning ceremony for me at that very first Red Dress Run, I, in my acceptance speech, suggested the one thing that would make me most pleased for the annual event: I suggested that a portion of the proceeds go to worthwhile charities to benefit others and to help build a bit of a positive image for hashers . . . if that were ever possible! Now, every time I see a Red Dress Run on a calendar and read of the charity it is for, I can’t help but smile and wonder what fun I’ll have in the same red dress and heels when I attend!
For more information about Red Dress Runs around the world go to: http://reddress.gotothehash.net/.
On-On! The Lady in Red
- The Lady in Red Speaks ©2005 by The Lady in Red for the Half-Mind Catalog