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Irreverence Endures in 'A Decade of Doo-Dah'

November 26, 1987|MARY BARBER | Times Staff Writer

A sign from the very bar where the Doo Dah Parade was conceived, a human-sized leech with a kazoo in its mouth, a pin-striped suit once worn by a Synchronized Briefcase Drillteam member: They're all museum-quality stuff now.

Just by surviving for 10 years, Pasadena's tasteless "other" parade rates a retrospective, according to the Pasadena Historical Society, whose museum at 470 W. Walnut St. is exhibiting parade memorabilia through Jan. 31.

"A Decade of Doo Dah" premiered with a beer-and-pretzel bash last week because, museum director Brad Williams said, "for better or worse, Doo Dah is entering a phase of permanence and respectability."

Parade founder Peter Apanel--who goes by the title of czar--had his own version of the exhibit's purpose.

"We feel we're helping to legitimize the museum by having the Doo Dah show here," he said at the special preview between gulps of private-label Doo Dah Beer, which surfaces each year about this time in Pasadena.

With disrespect as the very cornerstone of its existence, Doo Dah this year finds itself under a lengthening shadow of acceptance--even admiration--as it enters a second decade with the 11th Occasional Parade on Sunday.

In addition to being enshrined in a museum, this year's parade is the occasion for the first annual Five Acres Doo Dah Run, a five-kilometer fun run that will raise funds for the Five Acres home in Altadena for neglected and abused children. Participants, many of whom will compete for a best-costume prize, will race through the streets of Pasadena beginning at 8 a.m. Sunday.

On Friday at 6:30 p.m., another celebration will mark the parade's founding when a bronze plaque will be unveiled at 120 W. Colorado Blvd., site of the now-defunct Chromo's Bar.

Apanel said he intends to present the building's owner, John Scarkino, with a can of metal polish and a rag to assure the monument's perpetuation. Apanel and his friends were drinking at the bar when they got the idea for the parade.

And, finally, Doo Dah is being analyzed as a "rite of reversal" by anthropologist Denise Lawrence, a teacher at Cal Poly Pomona, who said her analysis of the parade is soon to be published as an article in a trade magazine called Urban Resources.

The rite of reversal, she said, is a healthy way in which many societies protest against their leaders and institutions.

Lawrence, who said she has studied the Doo Dah phenomenon for 10 years, puts the Pasadena spoof in the same league with the Philadelphia Mummers Parade, Mardi Gras and some African rituals that ridicule authority.

The Doo Dah Parade started as a spoof of the highly structured Tournament of Roses, which in 1978 was held on Monday, Jan. 2, because New Year's Day fell on a Sunday. People whom Apanel refers to as "Chromo's irregulars" decided to organize their own New Year's Day parade. The official band was--and still is--Snotty Scotty and the Hankies.

The parade was held first on Colorado Boulevard in Old Pasadena, but its route changed through the years to accommodate local merchants. The date varies for the same reason.

This year the parade will begin at noon in the area of Union Street and Fair Oaks Avenue and will end about two hours later at Central Park.

Entries will include some old favorites, such as the Synchronized Briefcase Drillteam in its ninth appearance, a "Torment of Roses" float designed by Doug Hadsell, and the "Unknown Shoppers," who wear bags over their heads as they perform precision drills with shopping carts.

According to this year's program, the more than 150 entries will include "the Balletwinos, serious dance artists with a serious drinking problem," the "Yuppie Self-Flagellators" and the "Cancerettes for Precedence."

The grand marshal will be Betty Hamilton, co-founder of Pasadena's three farmer's markets. The king will be John Fischer, who, according to Apanel, filled in as singer when Snotty Scotty was away and the band had to perform as "And the Hankies."

The museum retrospective offers a photographic history of the parade, along with costumes and a poster from the Hyperion Outfall Serenaders, named for the sewage treatment plant in Manhattan Beach.

It also includes snapshots of people along the entire route of the 1983 parade. The head count that year was 31,957 parade watchers.

"The rest is history," as Apanel likes to say.

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