Can't Afford No Shoes
On a recent trip to Manhattan to promote their new HardWired book about the Burning Man festival, event co-founder Larry Harvey turned to author Brad Weiners and mentioned that not only was he short on cash, he didn't even have any good shoes to wear. Weiners assured Harvey he would spot him some decent footwear and help bring his appearance up to snuff. Harvey then showed up at their book-signing at CBGB's sporting a flashy pair of used black Freeport-style shoes -- total cost, a whopping $11. A man of his word, Weiners promptly pulled out two fives and a single, and slapped them on the bar. In retrospect, he admits, the shoes "looked pretty good."
Just Following Orders
During a question-and-answer period following the premiere of his new documentary, Fetishes, at the Roxie, director Nick Broomfield was asked how difficult it was to capture some of the images at the exclusive Pandora's Box dungeon in New York. "We had a lot of problems convincing people they weren't going to be made fun of," replied Broomfield, but added that it was actually pretty easy to get the slaves to appear on-camera: "The mistresses simply ordered them."
Everybody Loves a Parade
As the city basks in the still-glowing embers of our 86th annual participatory smirk known as the Bay to Breakers race, one must remember that the spectacle of procession is not exclusive to San Francisco. For example, at the same moment that 75,000 yahoos stumbled up the Hayes Hill, a similarly foolish event was taking place 2,000 miles east, in my hometown in Montana.
But instead of a seven-mile path blocked out through the city, there the five busiest blocks of Main Street were set aside for the annual Bucking Horse Sale rodeo parade. No frisky Kenyans or drunken multimedia consultants dressed as Dalmatians in this carnival. There were, however, wood-burning farm tractors, a school band that dodged clumps of horse manure while playing a tone-deaf approximation of "Smoke on the Water," Shriners driving noisy Bugatti cars, and a sedan with a crudely drawn sign that was taped to the driver's door and said, "Remember the Wild Horse," an homage to the Wild Horse Pavilion, the town's closed whorehouse (which might itself have been an homage to the area's 1930s whorehouse named the Tongue River Riding Academy).
No one offered parade participants alcohol or sprayed them with water. Rather, it was a reverse type of relationship: People on the floats tossed handfuls of candy to the crowd, and sugar-crazed urchins greedily elbowed each other for the last package of Smarties.
Live music at the Bay to Breakers was provided by more than 20 bands, including Psycho Betty, Taiko Spirit, and big shots like Los Lobos. In small-town America, the music/entertainment budget allows for alarmingly less -- the aforementioned school band, a bluegrass jam on the back of a flatbed truck, and the pinnacle of the entire weekend, an authentic cavalry drum-and-bugle group direct from the cosmopolitan hub of Sheridan, Wyo.
This was not just any bunch of sweaty guys in hot cavalry uniforms banging out drum cadences in the 90-degree sun. This was supposedly Gen. George Custer's own personal orchestra. After the parade finished, Custer (in reality a Wyoming construction worker dressed in a long blond wig) charged band members into bars along Main Street, where they performed the identical routine in each.
Custer hopped onto the bar, accompanied by two girls dressed as Indian maidens. Custer danced with his sword a bit, opening beer cans with its blade. Then he blew a whistle, the drums hit an intro, and the bugles suddenly launched into "When the Caissons Go Marching Along." After the tune finished, Custer and the maidens hopped down from the bar, the band had another round of beers, and Custer and one maiden played grab-ass with each other.
As happens occasionally at the Bay to Breakers, the crowd went nuts, following the band from bar to bar with starry eyes, blinking unbelievingly at just how gosh-darn amazing it all was. Adding to the confusion, a woman dressed as an Old West harlot handed out brochures for the 121st annual Custer's Last Stand re-enactment coming up June 27-29.
So, let's get this straight. Here's Gen. Custer, a man so abrasive he was court-martialed out of the military and had to beg his way to get back in, a man who refused all advice and insisted on charging the 210 men of the 7th Cavalry into 7,000 members of the Sioux, Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho nations, a man whose massive ego was completely responsible for the slaughter of all his troops, which, one Cheyenne chief remembered, "took about as long as it takes for a hungry man to eat his dinner," a total asshole whose wife had to write a book to attempt to clear his name.
Hey, why shouldn't he have his own band?
After the chaos wound down from the Bay to Breakers, and the city was strewn with debris, tired runners drank their liquids and massaged their sore feet. After this particular parade in Montana, people were also tired and drank their liquids, i.e., Bud Light and Rainier. And one cowboy named Dale walked through the bars, betting people that although he had been drinking nonstop since yesterday, and his leg had been run over by a pickup, he could still jump from a standing position and end up, still standing, on top of a barstool. The bet was on. Dale crouched, leaped, and landed his cowboy boots on the barstool just as planned -- except the stool seat rotated, he crashed into a crowd of people, and landed on the floor in a heap. He quickly got on his feet and slunk away. The bar gave him an ovation anyway, and isn't that how a festive civic event should end? No matter if you win or lose, just thanks for playing.
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