STU RASMUSSEN WAS BORN in Silverton in 1948, and except for a few years in the eighties when he worked for electronics companies in Portland, he has lived in his hometown ever since. Like his father before him, he manages the single-screen Palace Theatre, where a general-admission ticket will set you back $5.95. He started dressing in women's clothes in his mid-teens, when his mother's fifties-housewife look caught his eye. "My mom was a classy dresser," he says. "I have her hair and my dad's face." In his mid-twenties, while commuting to Portland to work as a projectionist at the Fifth Avenue Cinema, he met the woman who would become his girlfriend of 35 years. "She was a popcorn girl," he says. "It was lust at first sight."
Victoria Sage now works at Silverton's Silver Creek Coffee House, where, leaning over the counter during the lunch shift, she recalls the day she found a bra in her boyfriend's apartment. They had just started dating, and he hadn't told her yet about the miniskirts and five-inch heels that seemed to suit him better than the sloppy flannel shirts and jeans he wore every day. Some five years later, she says, he announced that he had this deep, dark secret. "I thought, This is scary. But when he told me, it was like, What's more threatening? A bra that's his or someone else's?"
In 1984, his secret stowed safely in the studio apartment he shared with Sage and in the basement of the theater, Rasmussen ran for a spot on the city council and won. In 1988, he was elected mayor. And then again in 1990. But he surprised the citizens of Silverton in 2000, when he "got tits," as Sage puts it. After a year of strapping silicone breast molds under his shirts to make certain he wanted to go through with what he calls "adopting the twins," Rasmussen paid $4,000 for 425-cubic-centimeter saline implants, better known to all mankind as 36Ds. The way he sees it, they're purely cosmetic. "To go entirely female didn't appeal to me," he says. "This body is exactly where I want to be." So he remains a fully functional male. But now he fills out the thrift-store showgirl dresses he buys on his semiannual trips to Vegas. And . . . "anytime I want I can fondle the breasts of a 19-year-old girl," he says. As for Sage, her reaction to her boyfriend's cantaloupes is ho-hum. "If it makes him happy," she says, "that's fine." Little by little, Rasmussen's outfits got tighter, until they started turning heads. He wore a strapless green leather dress to the St. Patrick's Day parade and squeezed himself into a fluffy white number to collect tickets for My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Soon the citizens of Silverton started wondering, "What's going on with Stu?" Sage heard the whispers at the grocery store. Parents stopped bringing their kids to the movie theater. But over time, most of the townspeople got used to seeing their former mayor trekking to the tanning salon in a gold shift (he goes about twice a week, to mask his stubble). Every once in a while, one of the guys might tell him, "I saw this woman walking through town. She had nice legs, great cleavageand then I was like, Oh, it's Stu." A local mother told Sage that her 3-year-old son had tottered out of a closet in high heels and said, "Look, MomI'm Stu."