|in which I review Party Crasher
||[Jun. 7th, 2006|12:49 am]
Party Crasher is a regular feature in The Stranger where a staff writer (currently Paul Constant) is invited as an outsider to a private party, which he then reviews. Unlike The Stranger's often vicious theatre coverage, Party Crasher is more of an entertaining, slightly voyeuristic feature than an informed, critical review, as there is little point to turning a critical eye to a one-time, non-recurring event with a closed guest list that the reader has no way of joining.
So in the tradition of The Stranger asking visiting authors to review the audiences at their readings, I will attempt to review Party Crasher at our event that he just attended. At the time I am writing this, his review has not yet appeared in The Stranger.
The event is Brides of Satan- basically the annual "Brides of March" event moved to the 6-06-06 date for the novelty and the warmer weather. Admittedly, reframing Brides of March event ( which people only "get" if they remember the Ides of March from Shakespeare, and that you're supposed to beware of them) doesn't make a lot of sense upon close scrutiny, but fuck it, when else do you get to wear a wedding dress and devil horns at the same time? Instead of the usual BoM pub crawl and marrying of a large phallic Seattle monument, Brides of Satan is a potluck picnic in Volunteer Park, with silly games, no alcohol, and off leash dogs coming to investigate the food. We will have a wedding ceremony at the Noguchi sculpture at dusk, even though Satan isn't corporeally present like former BoM grooms.
As odd timing would have it, Party Crasher and his guest are the second to arrive after the two organizers have set up shop and wiggled into their well-worn wedding dresses. Because neither of them are in costume, it would be fairly easy to identify them even if they didn't introduce themselves, which of course, they do. Thus is the PC paradox- many of the interesting parties that are worth writing about have some kind of theme or activity that requires at least some preparation and participation from the guests; PC in the role of reporter/observer arrives in civilian dress, thus reinforcing the outsider role. It makes sense when you figure he's attending several parties a week and The Stranger apparently won't let you expense costume pieces from Value Village, but it makes it evident to the party guests that don't read the column that they are being observed/reviewed. No one seems to mind, and PC and his guest are polite, engaging, and interacting with the event, though obviously not as fully as the other guests.
Knowing that you are being observed and written about steps up the pressure for the party to "succeed", especially when 50% of the guests arrive at least 1 hour and a half after the stated start time for the party. Normally party start times are fluid things, but when you're having an event at a public park with the idea that the climax happens at sunset/dusk (9:15) and you set the start time at the iconic 6:06pm, you do start to wonder why there are so few people there as the clock approaches 7pm. Are your guests too late, is Party Crasher too early, or is your party going to be a dud and not interesting enough to write about? But then reason takes over- if Party Crasher does this for a living (or at least, as a regular beat assignment), he must be well-versed with the risks one takes when arriving at a party when it officially starts. We assume ours is not the first event to start slow and then pick up later, and resist the urge to try to artificially get the party "going" when there are only 10 people present. Also, there's the fear that an alcohol free event will just suck on principle, since booze usually helps to relieve the self-awareness that you're a straight man in a size 22 wedding gown having a picnic and allow you to take advantage of the opportunities for chaos that present themselves when you're a straight man in a size 22 wedding gown in a public park.
But then, as we stop waiting around for people to show up and just start doing what we've planned, things pick up. Playing Twister in bridal gowns yields some fun photo ops, and then the game is suddenly abandoned when the ice cream truck music is heard. As we run for the truck, a Drag King troupe, in the park doing a photo shoot, spies us and asks to take photos with us. This happens, and we even talk them into posing for a few pics on the Twister mat.
PC refrains from participating in Twister, but takes pictures and hands out photo release forms as we resume the game. PC and his guest do play Bridal Bingo, and when she wins a prize of a T-shirt from a tacky restaurant chain, Party Crasher breaks the forth wall and relates a personal story about something amusing that happened to him at said restaurant. He's an able raconteur, but the outsider/participant line is still hard to navigate. Is Party Crasher having a good time, or does he even particularly care if he isn't? How much of his interaction with the guests are for the story, and how much are genuine social interest in that person or his tale? It's not that he's aloof, impolite or otherwise unpleasant, but I keep getting back to the essential absurdity of reviewing something like a party and wondering if he'd have chosen to attend this event if not for the column. Like I've often wondered about another critic I enjoy reading- do Roger Ebert and his wife rent movies on a Saturday night? Imagine the absurdity of trying to choose a movie to entertain you if you were married to Roger Ebert, who has to watch "The Core" with a critical eye, while the rest of us can just wait for the special effects, assuming we're the kind of people who'd watch The Core voluntarily in the first place.
PC has mentioned another 6-6-06 party he must attend after ours, but by the time he is ready to take his leave, our event is hopping with enough participants, potluck dishes and men with live snakes that we believe it's actually time for him to go and not just an excuse to exit gracefully. He and his guest gracefully agree to take group photos with our multiple cameras, thus assuring that there are at least a few photos with the entire group in one frame- well, the entire group, minus two.