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A pretty fair prank
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Eddie Rains pulled off the ultimate prank and had his picture published as Kristi Coleman as a 1980 Fairest of the Fair contestant.
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Attempt failed! Kyle Allen tried to get his picture published as Fairest contestant Suzanne Bessler in 1979, but the ruse was snuffed out.

Southern Standard subscribers looking through the Sep. 3, 1980 edition of the paper were probably puzzled when they came across the photo gallery of the Fairest of the Fair contestants. 

As they looked over the contestants, many readers probably found their eyes darting back to the picture of one girl on the top row. Third from the right. Sandwiched between Lisa Martin and Janice Bell.

Kristi Coleman. That was the girl’s name.

She looked strong, that’s for sure. Determined. Square-chinned. 

Kristi Coleman was actually Eddie Rains, a junior at WCSH known for his love of mischief and sense of humor.

Rain’s female alter ego, Kristi Coleman, was dreamed up by a group of Warren County Senior High students who formed in 1979 and dubbed themselves “The Family.” The Family’s common bond was a love of pranks and practical jokes.

Male members of The Family dressed like Jake and Elwood Blues of The Blues Brothers. Members of The Family wish to maintain their anonymity to this day.

“We came up with the idea of The Family to see how much we could get away with without causing any real damage or getting caught,” said a member recently. “Keep in mind you are asking me to recall something that happened over 40 years ago.”

The Family had tried to enter a contestant in the Fairest pageant the previous year but the model they chose didn’t pan out.

“We tried to use Kyle Allen for pictures that year,” the source said. “He looked too much like a guy! We ran out of time to meet the deadline for that fair.”

Kyle Allen laughed as he recalled the night The Family whisked him off to make him over.

“One night this group of people came and picked me up at my parents’ house,” Allen said recently. “There were three or four guys all dressed in black suits and ties wearing dark sunglasses. The looked like Secret Service agents. They were driving this black Lincoln. I mean, these guys were playing the part. There was one girl with them.”

“They took me to the girl’s house,” Allen said. “I don’t even remember who did my makeup, but they had me all made up and wearing a wig in no time. The put the senior drape on me and took my picture. My name was going to be Suzanne Bessler.”

The Family had found a loophole in the Fairest of the Fair registration process that made it possible for them to perpetuate the prank.

“Back then you didn’t have to turn in the application in person so they were just going to have a junior member of The Family turn in the application on Suzanne Bessler’s behalf,” Allen explained.

Members of the family showed the picture of Allen dressed as Bessler to a couple of people and they recognized she was actually Allen right away.

“It’s too bad, really,” Allen said laughing. “I honestly think I made a much prettier girl than Eddie. I mean, he wasn’t even smiling in his picture.”

Kyle Allen introduced Eddie Rains to members of The Family in August of 1980 and the scheme unfolded basically as it had with Kyle the previous year.

Rains conveyed the details of the prank to the Southern Standard recently.

“I had nothing to lose. I thought it was fun and it would be funny if it were successful,” Rains said.

Rains thought back to the evening the pictures of him as Kristi Coleman were made.

“I remember going to one of the side streets in downtown McMinnville,” Rains recalled. “A street or two past City Bank. We went into a portrait studio. I don’t remember who owned it but the owners definitely were not there.”

“The Family had a wig, a drape, makeup, and some other items to make me look more feminine and they took several photographs,” said Rains. “We finished up and left. I didn’t really know if the prank would be successful or not and I wasn’t really that concerned either way.”

Rains thought no more of Kristi Coleman or the prank until a few days later when he was confronted by a fellow student.

“The next thing I know I’m at school one morning and Buddy Majors runs up to me with the Standard in his hand and says this is you!” Rains laughed. “Of course I denied it. I hadn’t even seen the paper myself until that moment. As the day progressed, speculation as to whether it was me or not swirled all around the school.”

Talk of Kristi Coleman spread like wildfire and Rains continued to deny that he was her.

“It wasn’t long before Channel 4 News had picked up the story. I remember Dan Miller speaking of a prank in Warren County involving a boy entering the Fairest of the Fair as a joke,” said Rains. “Most people took it for what it was. A joke. Of course, the woman who ran the pageant thought it was awful.”

Tim Gunnels is the only member of The Family to ever come forward and claim his part in the prank. In a story that ran in the Sep. 8, 1980 issue of the Southern Standard, Gunnels said he and other family members obtained the application from the Agricultural Extension Service office, filled it out, and returned it with the picture he’d taken of Rains as Kristi Coleman.

“I think it was a crude joke. If they got some fun out of their crude little joke I think it should go no further than that,” pageant director Earline Doak said in the same article.

“Not at any time was this a slight on the actual contestants. It was really more about pulling off a prank on the paper and the pageant and seeing how far it could get,” Rains said recently. “It was just a bunch of kids trying to get away with something that would bring people a smile and a laugh.”