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SAN GABRIEL VALLEY / COVER STORY : Much A-Doo Dah : The Zany Parade With the Un-Rosy Outlook Is Back Despite Protests by Merchants and Other Problems

November 17, 1994|RENEE TAWA | TIMES STAFF WRITER

The Doo-Dah Disaster is a pathetically unimaginative hodgepodge of thrift-shop assemblages providing a background, and excuse, for a mawkish exhibition of public cavorting by welfare beneficiaries who should be seeking employment. --Letter to the Pasadena Star-News, 1979

The Doo Dah Parade is a type of ritual activity called a "rite of reversal," which anthropologists have found to occur in many societies. . . . Through caricature and parody, standing the world on its head, participants playfully convey serious messages at which observers may not legitimately take offense."

--1982 study by Denise Lawrence, director

Center for Visual Anthropology, USC

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Not everybody loves an anti-parade.

Since 1978, Doo Dah Parade founder Peter Apanel has single-handedly put together an annual spoof of the Rose Parade that refuses to die, even though some people wished it would and thought it had (may its Lost Sock Brigade find its way to that great dryer in the sky).

Not even its Church of the Ornamental Lawn Decorations entry--dedicated to pink flamingos--was thought to have a prayer. . . .

But wait.

Hold the bugler's taps--there's a funky drum roll on the horizon. Or is it the faint heartbeat of a wounded animal, tired of being shot at and ready to strike again?

Doo Dah--by the seat of its too-loud pants--is ready to march forward, even though it makes no money, a group of Old Pasadena merchants circulated a petition against it and last year's switch to a smaller, ticketed event near City Hall was a bust.

All this led to premature speculation about its demise.

"Right now, the biggest issue we have is getting people to know we're back," said Apanel, a 43-year-old South Pasadena resident. "A lot of people thought last year was the end . . . Clearly, it didn't work (last year)."

This year's event is Doo Dah redux, part II, starting at 11:30 a.m. on Nov. 27. The parade will move in a new, faster format, free-of-charge and back in the streets of Old Pasadena, with a post-event festival from 1:30 to 4:30 p.m. in Memorial Park.

The Light-Bringer Project, a Pasadena nonprofit arts organization, is co-sponsoring the parade and festival as part of an effort to recruit more local entries and bolster Doo Dah's community spirit, Apanel said.

Old favorites will be back, such as the Torment of Roses and in-drag West Hollywood Cheerleaders. New community entries will come from several sources, including Caltech, the Art Center College of Design and King's Village housing project.

Sometimes Apanel shakes his head at the absurdity of it all--the divisiveness over an event that was conceived on a bar stool and then grew into a monstrous undertaking, with 40,000 spectators and live TV coverage in its heyday.

"It's just a parade," he says in those moments.

Whatever it is--and for whatever anthropological reasons--Doo Dah evokes a love-it-or-hate-it reaction at the drop of a rose petal.

Some merchants say it's bad for business and provokes antics such as spectators throwing tortillas at paraders, a Doo Dah tradition gone awry.

"We feel it's been pushed down our throats," said Mark Matrese, manager of Cityscapes furniture store on Colorado Boulevard. "We feel it has absolutely no redeeming value whatsoever. . . . This parade has not generated any money for local businesses. It litters. It (creates) traffic problems. It's out of hand. . . . I've seen flying tortillas slam off the (store) windows."

Other merchants say they do business like gangbusters on Doo Dah days.

At Market City Caffe on South Fair Oaks Avenue, co-owner Chipper Pastron said Doo Dah is his biggest day of the year, busier even than during the World Cup, Rose Bowl or Super Bowl.

"(Spectators) get done with the parade, and they patronize the local businesses because they know them," Pastron said. "In my opinion, the Doo Dah Parade is everything we want in this area. It's a Pasadena event. It was created here. It's a family event. . . . The most important thing about this is just the idea of a parade, something fun and funky and home grown."

Somehow, along the way, the parade--which Apanel describes as Little Rascals meets Fellini--turned political.

"This has been the worst year ever in terms of politics and financial hassles," groaned Apanel, who runs the parade as his full-time job and occasionally takes on part-time work to make ends meet.

After last year's bust at City Hall, many thought Doo Dah was done and overdone--stick a fork in it. That was fine with some merchants in Old Pasadena, who said it killed not only business but the area's tony image as well.

Reaction was swift and vehement among anti-Doo Dah forces when word got around that the parade was back.

Apanel didn't get his parade permit until last week--only two weeks before show time--as he and city officials wrangled over details such as requirements and fees for security, cleanup and street closures. City officials tried to keep the merchants' objections in mind, said Robert Baderian, recreation and parks director.

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