On Sunday, Liberty Bennett got to do what she's been dying to do for years--parade down the streets of Pasadena in green tights and a red ribbon.
Bennett was "Second-Hand Rose Queen" in the city's 11th annual Doo Dah Parade, a zippy sideshow of unconventional acts and the first of three parades during the day that touched off the holiday season in Southern California.
About 150,000 people watched Doo Dah--an offbeat event that originated as a parody of the Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year's Day--on the mile-long, zig-zag route, and were treated to a slew of comic performances by about 140 entrants.
Most of the crowd seemed to know what to expect from the infamous parade. But even those who didn't got the idea from the very first entrant--a man wearing a Sherlock Holmes hat, a Scottish kilt and bear claw slippers.
Snotty Scotty and the Hankies (the official Doo Dah band), the Synchronized Briefcase Drill Team, and Betty, the Goddess of Produce, followed closely behind.
One crowd favorite was the California Quake Patrol, a group of about 20 people carrying signs that read "quakes are not your fault." All fell to the ground when the leader signaled a fake quake, including several who crawled under a desk bearing the nameplate of "Kent Aftershocknic" in reverence to the KNBC-TV reporter who, during an aftershock, took refuge under his anchor desk with colleague Christopher Nance while covering the Oct. 1 Whittier temblor.
The parade took on a somewhat political tone, with Jim and Tammy Bakker look-alikes (advertising the "Church of the Empty Mind"), a pseudo Pope blessing the crowd with a plastic replica of a male sexual organ, a woman carrying a billboard showing Ronald Reagan sticking his tongue out, and the "Nixon in 88" Committee, bearing signs reading: "He's Tan, Rested and Ready."
Great to Be Silly
"People are too serious all year. They need to lighten up once in a while," said spectator Carl Marsch, of San Pedro. Marsch, 44, wore a Napoleon-type hat made of newspaper. "I love to see people acting silly. It's a great release."
Cara Garcia, a professor of education at Pepperdine University, called the parade a "philosophical statement."
"It's very existential," said Garcia, 44, who sported a beany topped with a propeller and held a Montana license plate that said "Doo Dah."
"That's how I relate to this (the parade)," she said, pointing to her cap.
About an hour later and several miles to the south, throngs ooohed and aaahed at the 13th annual East Los Angeles Christmas Parade.
The event had a more traditional tone and a slower pace than Doo Dah--entrants were spaced about a minute apart--but the estimated 100,000 or so who lined the three-mile route along Whittier and Atlantic boulevards didn't seem to mind.
"This is pleasant and very nice. We get to see a lot of local people we know," said Frank Soliz, 48, of East Los Angeles. "It brings a lot of pride to our nationality."
The collection of floats, drill teams and bands, featuring local officials, school children and celebrities, drew bursts of applause and cries of "Feliz Navidad" from the largely Latino crowd, most of whom sat comfortably on the curbs.
Vintage cars drove slowly down the route, showcasing celebrities such as actor Ricardo Montalban and Olympic gold medal-winning boxer Paul Gonzales, who playfully threw a few punches at an unseen target for several cheering teen-age boys.
Some entrants were more popular than others--like Mexican actor Jorge Rivero, who granted kisses to a score of young girls who ran into the street to greet him.
Patty Briseno, 19, of Boyle Heights, was lucky enough to get one.
Still a Favorite
"I couldn't resist," said Briseno. "He's older, but still really handsome. He's one of my favorite actors."
Sandra Gonzales, 3, of Rosemead, also had come to the parade to see an older man. The little girl, dolled up in a pink, frilly dress with white slippers, was at the event with her family.
"She wants to see Santa Claus," said her father, Raul Gonzales.
On Sunday night, the 56th annual Hollywood Christmas Parade stepped off as a crowd estimated by organizers at nearly 1 million lined Sunset and Hollywood boulevards.
Actor Jimmy Stewart was the grand marshal.
"This is very special because this is what Hollywood is trying to do . . . to show people that here is the genuine movie capital of the world," said Stewart at a star-studded party held on a converted television sound stage before the parade.
The event always features a host of film and television celebrities to help signal the Christmas season for the Hollywood area.