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Televised to 350 Million : Rose Parade Reveals a 'World of Wonders'

January 02, 1987|SCOTT HARRIS | Times Staff Writer

King Kong roared! The damsel shrieked! Tarzan swung! Nessie got nosy!

And a good time, it seemed, was had by most.

Cheered on by an estimated throng of 1 million spectators, the festive, floral phantasmagoria known as the Rose Parade made its 98th appearance on the streets of Pasadena this New Year's in a decidedly international celebration of "A World of Wonders."

Marked by passages of beauty and whimsy, triumph and poignancy, the pageant evoked the usual oohs, ahhs, smiles and laughter from spectators who lined the 5 1/2-mile route. Despite chilly weather, they clapped along with marching bands, exchanged waves and shouts of "Happy New Year!" with Grand Marshal Pele and gave a rousing, standing ovation for two float riders--Voyager pilots Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, whose nine-day, around-the-world flight without refueling seemed made to order for the parade's theme.

The event also cheered the Tournament of Roses organizers. For one thing, the parade moved smoothly, with only a few mechanical breakdowns. And the event that began in 1890 as an exercise in Pasadena civic pride reached an unprecedented international television audience. In addition to its usual 100 million-plus American TV audience, a broadcast was relayed by satellite to more than 30 foreign countries. The estimated foreign audience of 250 million was 10 times the parade's previous record.

Law enforcement officers were also pleased. As crowds of 1 million go, this proved to be a relatively peaceable bunch, said Pasadena Police Lt. Lynn Froistad. Thousands camped and partied overnight along the parade route. Although more than 500 arrests were made in the parade area, only six arrests involved violence and there were no serious injuries, Froistad said. Most of the arrests--354--were for public drunkenness.

"It's really been a pretty uneventful parade," Froistad said.

That was the police perspective. The spectators had a different point of view--or perhaps, a million points of view. Although cynics might think that a Rose Parade is a Rose Parade is a Rose Parade, they would have gotten an argument in Pasadena.

There was, for example, the 15 members of a family originally from Cuenca, Ecuador, who cheered loudly and held a sign that read "Bienvenido Rey Pele" when the charismatic Brazilian socce1914729332sports hero of his time, passed them on Colorado Boulevard.

'That's the King'

"He's the greatest," said Victor Fajardo, 26, who flew in from New Jersey for the parade. "That's the king. I used to watch him play when he was with the New York Cosmos. I came here especially to see him."

Then again, there was the grandmother from Palm Springs who primed her grandchildren with information about the event. It was going to be terrific, she assured them, and then added: "Yeah, the only problem is the grand marshal is some basketball player I've never heard of."

Several floats--decorated not merely with scores of different flowers, but with spices, seeds, nuts, vegetables and seaweed--proved to be crowd pleasers. There was the graceful "A Garden Full of Wonders" by the Carnation Co., the Sweepstakes Winner, featuring butterflies on flowers; the whimsical "Friendship Afloat" from the La Canada Flintridge Tournament of Roses Assn., a rollicking group of waterfowl paddling a boat with their webbed feet; "King Kong--the Eighth Wonder of the World," in which actress Cezanne Trimble made like Fay Wray, kicking and screaming as the big, adoring ape lifted her high in the air; Culver City's "Movie Magic," in which stunt man Dick Hancock made like Tarzan, swinging on a vine.

The City of Los Angeles provided "A Hit Around the World," a tribute to baseball and especially the Dodgers, with manager Tommy Lasorda and several players aboard. In a fitting cap to the 1986 season, the float struck out with the judges. But, hey, wait till this year.

Started to Smoke

Even the malfunctions served to entertain. One float, the City of San Bernardino's "Festival of Fantasy" featuring a bobbing Chinese dragon head, had only gone a short way when it started to smoke. It had blown a radiator. In a matter of seconds, an auto club truck was there. The truck towed it through the rest of the parade, but the dragon never missed a bob.

The Baskin-Robbins' long, cartoon-like "Loch Ness Monster" suffered a hydraulic pain in the neck. Nessie was supposed to lift his (her?) head above the crowd, but instead had to be guided carefully through some tight turns. For the spectators, Nessie's nose got bigger and bigger.

"It was a little scary for a moment. He kept coming closer and closer," said Lupe Vargas of Kingsburg, Calif., who was sitting in the front row. "But I guess I can't complain. I never thought I'd get that close of a look."

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