The freaks and misfits had their energy back. But few of the ideas were fresh. Most of the proposed events were staged performances, not the daring Dada to which cacophonists once aspired.
"That's something Rev. Al disliked," said Kim Cooper, Cacophony's newly appointed public relations person, invoking Ridenour as if he were Mao, Fidel or God. "The recycling of events."
Excited members called the recent meeting a renaissance.
Privately, though, some members concede Ridenour's concerns are legitimate. "As you age, you are not as daring," said Guerrero. "That's just a sign of growing up. There was a time when most of the events could get you arrested, or you would wind up running away from the police at the end."
At the height of the controversy over the fate of Belmont Learning Complex, built on an environmentally suspect site downtown, Harris tried to plan a nighttime trip to the school to see if there really was toxic waste at the site, and to plant some if there wasn't. "We were going to break in, look inside the classrooms," Guerrero recalled. "But in the end it turned out people were just too nervous."
Joe Austin, a professor in the department of popular culture at Bowling Green State University, said the cacophonists' plight is not unusual. "Almost all avant-garde groups have some charismatic leader, living on the border of a self-destructive life because of what they are involved in. Usually there are a lot of other people in their wake, sort of like lieutenants and soldiers. But that immediately sets up the problem of reproduction. There is no one to take over after they get tired."
It may be too early to tell, but maybe the society's time has passed. As Halley, the Texas sociologist, put it: "They are not a movement, but a moment."