By Amy Silverman
By Olivia LaVecchia
By Monica Alonzo and Stephen Lemons
By Chris Parker
By Michael Lacey
By Weston Phippen
I'm not quite sure of the proper name for what Katherine "Kat" Gallant is wearing. It's not a teddy, not a bustier exactly; it appears to be made from vinyl, is skin-tight and seems as revealing as a bloody fingerprint. Then there is the garter belt, and the black stockings that follow her long legs into a mighty pair of six-inch stiletto heels.
I can tell you the names for those things.
And I can tell you this: You can perform a number of activities in six-inch stiletto heels, but running is not one of them. Unless you are doing the kind of running that Citizen Kat is doing, the kind you can do sitting down. That's running for office, for the position of mayor of the fair city of Mesa.
"It is my underwear that makes me stand out," she tells me, batting mascaraed eyes. "And it is because of that that I have been able to speak out and talk about the issues that are a strong concern of mine."
It is also because of her underwear that she has worked at a place called Fantasies for the past two and a half years, rising through the ranks from part-time to full-time to general manager to franchise owner. If you want your hair cut by a woman dressed in revealing lingerie, Fantasies--with four Valley locations--is the place to go. And if you want a manicure or a pedicure or a massage administered by a woman dressed in revealing lingerie--well, you get the idea.
Kat is opining about the political process. "Everything focuses around getting elected, and what's inside of a person--what a person has to say--doesn't seem to hold water. That's my statement: The total image we've created for our politicians has led to these guys in Washington, and no one can make a decision, and no one does anything but spin their wheels there. There's no heart, there's no passion, there's nothing. There's a big nothing going on in our government today.
"I don't think that politicians should all look alike; I think politicians should be who they are. And I think if politicians were more who they were, we'd probably have a lot better government."
Kat crosses and uncrosses her legs. Then she crosses them again. I wonder what she would look like as mayor, if she would wear an outfit like this. "Oh, no, I'd wear leather."
Kat readily admits that politics has never interested her. "I'll be right up front about that. The best thing I've got going for me is I'm not a politician."
No, but in her 46 years, Ms. Gallant has been many other things: a divorced mother of seven boys, a paralegal for the County Attorney's Office, a model in commercials for the Suncraft patio furniture company, and a singing, dancing, joke-cracking Suzanne Somers impersonator.
Kat also admits that these are not the sort of serious qualifications necessary to hold public office; yet she feels her achievements will stand her in good stead.
"One thing is, I've been to 11 different universities and schools--majored in real estate, art, journalism, physical therapy, law," she explains. When I ask if she has any degrees, the answer is, umm, no.
But there are reasons for that.
"I started college as early as 16 years old, going at night when I was in high school. And I evolved through the years as a woman did in those days. I'm 46; you didn't worry about degrees, you were taking care of babies. I had seven boys, so I was that mother at home raising kids and going to night school. So did I ever get a degree? No, because it wasn't a focus of mine until just recently. So what qualifies me is I have the background, the education, the work experience. And I'm a business owner, too."
And she strikes me as a people person.
"Yeah, absolutely. You don't get to be much more of a people person than wearing your underwear in front of the world."
If the Gallant political machine has a nerve center, it is right here in the back room at Fantasies. This is where the ladies come to change clothes, eat lunch, relax; where she has met with reporters from CNN, Inside Edition, and Swedish and Norwegian dailies.
There's a microwave and a fridge, and a variety of costumes strewn and hanging about--delicate items crafted from crushed velvet, leather, faux leopard skin; things small, lacy, reinforced and fringy. A matronly, high-collared housecoat in bright pink is folded on a shelf; they must trot this out for clients with truly unique demands.
Today, business is slow but steady. If you close your eyes, you can hear the relaxing, familiar hum of the electric razor, the intermittent whoosh of the blow dryer and the low, constant soundtrack of a Seventies station on the radio. If you open your eyes, however, you see a bunch of happy, regular guys getting a wash and trim from a couple of women spilling out of their bras.
Why would Kat want to trade in the comfy security of this place for the hectic world of city politics?