Most of the year, Don Coursey is a five-star citizen, the kind of guy you want for a neighbor. Married with two children, the Huntington Beach salesman spends much of his free time working with Boy Scouts.
So why is this man planning to walk down a crowded Pasadena street today toting a chain saw and dressed like a mass murderer?
"I'm a do-gooder all the time," Coursey said Saturday, "so I deserve a chance now and then to be bad and naughty."
Before you rush to call police, Coursey, 32, is not going after anything but laughs.
He lays claim to the rather dubious distinction of having founded the Texas Chainsaw Massacre Drool Team, which will make its fifth appearance in today's Pasadena Doo Dah Parade, a 1 1/2-mile-long procession of the absurd.
The event has drawn national attention because of its offbeat entrants, and Coursey boasts that his crew of masked murderers is the "most outrageous."
Unlike the Pen Clicking Band and Synchronized Briefcase Drill Team, Coursey's buddies, their motorized chain saws fully revved, strive to exhibit the poorest taste possible.
"We're not trying to make some statement," he said. "We just want to be gross. . . . People either laugh or turn away in disgust. But they never, never forget us."
To make sure the memory lingers, Coursey has expanded the act since his first Doo Dah parade in 1982.
Gang Has Helpers
His cast has grown from 14 recruits that year to 57 this year and the chain saw crew now shares the ghoulish spotlight with the Night of the Living Dead Dishonor Guard and the newest Coursey creation, the Road Killer Derangers--a team of bicyclists who run over stuffed animals.
Members of the dishonor guard juggle real cow bones. And Coursey's brother-in-law, decked out in a butcher's hat and white apron, pulls a bleeding dummy impaled on a seven-foot-long meat hook past the crowds lining the parade route in Pasadena's Old Town.
"Don't worry, it's only syrup coming out of his chest," Coursey said, laughing. "But it looks real."
Not everyone appreciates Coursey's sense of humor. One year, a woman bolted toward the group from the audience yelling about the appropriateness of their act.
"She yelled something about ruining a family event," he recalled. "Listen, this event is hardly rated PG."
It began a decade ago as an alternative to the city's more staid Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year's Day. Now it is an institution that is expected to draw 50,000 viewers and 140 entries today, including a dozen or so from Orange County.
To the participants, the attraction is the freedom to do whatever you like. There are no rules, except to keep moving forward.
"It's the only time I know that you can walk down Colorado Boulevard wearing a three-piece Brooks Brothers suit and carrying a leaf blower," said Frank Clendenen, a member of the Newport Beach Dull Men's Club and a Doo Dah participant the last four years.
When his group first joined the parade, they kept losing their leaves in the crowd. Now they attach the leaves to a nylon fishing line tied to the end of the blower.
"Ever try to blow a leaf for a mile and a half?" asked the 70-year-old Clendenen. "It's crazy. . . . "
Reason to Enter
That's the reason Coursey first entered the parade.
"I was sitting in my office one day reading about the parade," he said, "and I said to myself, 'I've got some sick friends. We ought to do it.' Now it's a Thanksgiving ritual."
But Coursey is worried about the parade's future.
It is now an institution with a high profile, and major corporations are entering to capitalize on the publicity. Coursey fears the grass-roots flavor of the parade soon may be spoiled. Said Coursey: "Maybe it's time for an anti-Do Dah Parade."