Tuesday, April 14, 2009

It’s, It’s a Ballroom Blitz: Part 6: Pastor Dave’s Vengeance: They Were “Gross” and She Did Not Like Them: “Very funny fellas. Who you workin’ for?”

Imagine how the students, faculty, and staff of Northern Illinois University must have felt on Monday morning, April 10, 1989. Imagine waking bright and early, as always, ready for another day of learnin’ and educatin’. Imagine rollin’ out of your fluffy dorm bunk bed and wipin’ the sleep from your innocent little eyes, or staggerin’ off the futon in your crappy boarding house room and kickin’ the cat shit out of the way, or joltin’ awake in your flea-bitten armchair in the clothes you were wearing last night and cursin’ the dawn in your firetrap apartment converted from substandard housing built for immigrant barbed-wire factory laborers in the late 19th century and draggin’ your dispirited carcass down to the heart of campus and bein’ greeted by ...

Penises! Tuchuses and nay-nays! Stick figure hermaphrodites! Evil, evil cartoons! Giant posters of three-titted and two-dicked freaks! Shameful, wicked, and disturbing images everywhere, all around! Why? Why?? And who and what? But especially -- Why???

There must have been hundreds, thousands of Munchian screamers running around in dazzled circles that morning in the Martin Luther King, Jr. Mall.

I can only imagine. I slept late that day, as usual. Or I tried to. I was shocked into consciousness around, I dunno, let’s say 10 a.m., by my most hated enemy, the telephone. The Stickler answered it, and I was able to tell tout de suite that it was not a happy fun call. This suspicion was confirmed within a minute or two, when The Stickler started crying.

It was Pastor Dave -- our man at the Wesley Foundation -- and he was not his usual cheerful self. Pastor Dave, in fact, was not happy at all. Pastor Dave was angry. Pastor Dave was disappointed, chagrined, and dismayed. Pastor Dave had had it with those crazy kids at The Public Address System.

The verdict came suddenly, and it was blunt. The Otis Ball & The Chains, Kissyfish, No Eraser Head, Dude, Slut Kings et al. show scheduled for Friday was off. No show. Canceled. Kiboshed. Plug pulled, with extreme prejudice.

Furthermore, there would never be another Public Address System show at the Wesley. Ever. Never, ever, never. The Public Address System and its irresponsible, untrustworthy proponents were banned from the Wesley Foundation for eternity. Excommunicated, effective immediately.

After all the other problems we’d had with our shows -- kids smuggling in booze and weed, kids fighting and stealing stuff, weird band names rankling various Christers and Christees -- the Loose Cannons’ promotional orgy from the previous night was the last straw. Pastor Dave was actually sorry to do it, he said. He said he knew The Stickler wasn’t to blame, but unfortunately she -- as The Public Address System’s main contact person with the Wesley -- had to take the heat.

Pastor Dave himself had been under the gun all morning. I’m sure he didn’t have a good day at the office at all. Not only did he have to field angry, yelly phone calls from the university administration, as well as angry, yelly phone calls from his employers, the Wesley’s board of directors, he was taking shit left and right from just about everyone.

And soon enough, so were The Stickler and Mr. Newspaper.

It wasn’t long before the phone started ringing off the hook again. I sure wasn’t going to answer it. They didn’t want to talk to me anyway -- poor The Stickler was who they were after. It was the shitheels at the official campus newspaper, and they’d gotten The Stickler’s name from Pastor Dave. So it fell on The Stickler to do some damage control with the press, which I think she did about as well as could have been done, under the circumstances. And she had the advantage of being personally blameless, or very nearly.

Here is a scan of the story that ran a few days later (click on the picture for a larger, readable version):

Actually, I don’t remember if it happened that fast. I know for sure that the posters were torn down very quickly, and not too long after that -- possibly not until the middle of the week -- the show was shitcanned. At any rate, after the student reporter’s interview, the scandal was pretty much over with, as far as The Stickler and Mr. Newspaper’s direct involvement. Other than, of course, having to attend journalism classes for the rest of the semester under the disapproving gaze of their professors, TAs, and fellow students. (Mr. Newspaper still managed to graduate from the NIU Journalism Department with high honors, and today works at an undisclosed location in a relatively secure and punk-rock-free niche of the media world, but I digress.)

For other involved parties, the trouble was just getting going.

I did field one phone call during the ongoing fracas that week. I couldn’t dodge that one; it was meant specifically for me.

It was Otis on the line. And in place of “Hello,” what Otis said was “WHAT DID YOU DO?!?!?!”

“Homina homina homina” was about all I got out before Otis started laughing, and I heard the trademark deranged giggle of Squeaky in the background. Apparently No Eraser Head was there, too, but I don’t recall any direct audible evidence.

Squeaky and NEH were, understandably, afraid of possible discipline from the university, since it had been made known that Student Judicial Officer Larry Bolles (picture Dean Vernon Wormer as played by Bernie Mac) was researching the double-secret (seriously, nobody was ever allowed to see a copy of it -- I always suspected it didn’t really exist) NIU Student Judicial Code for possible charges and punishments. And, although I’m still not convinced they were capable of any degree of what reasonable people would call true remorse, they knew, deep down, that they were Guilty.

They didn’t want to get busted, but they wanted to see if they could make things better, if not entirely well. So they paid Officer Bolles a visit, incognito, to see if they could find out what any possible terms of surrender would be, without actually admitting anything, or even divulging their names.

NEH or Squeaky could probably tell this part of the story better -- or at least they could have 20 years ago, since they were there, and I wasn’t. But, by now, my memory of their description of this meeting is probably about as lucid and complete as anything we could get out of them today.

At any rate, Bolles wasn’t having any of it. And he saw right through their “we’re just curious noninterested third parties here, not any hunks of plastic explosive shoved down a gopher hole or nothing, just a couple of friendly squirrels” ruse.

“Very funny, fellas,” Bolles said. “Very funny.”

“We’re not saying we did it,” Squeaky and NEH bravely contended. “And we don’t even know who did. We’re just curious as to what the charges might be.”

“Well,” Bolles countered, “If you didn’t do it, and you don’t know who did it, then what business is it of yours what the charges are?”

Check and mate. But Bolles wasn’t finished.

“I will say that, whoever did this -- and I ain’t saying you did it -- is in a whole lotta trouble. A whole lotta trouble.

Bolles still wasn’t finished.

“Now, are you `Otis’? No? Are you `Otis’? Well, who you workin’ for? Huh? Who you workin’ for? Are you workin’ for `Otis’?”

At this point, NEH and Squeaky had had enough of the third-degree fire-hose hot-lights treatment, so they got the hell out of there.

Eventually, it turned out that there was nothing in the Judicial Code to charge anyone with. There were no provisions covering obscene rock-show posters, or obscene anything, or anything else analogously germane to the bad acts in question. Once this became clear, one of our Loose Cannons ginned up the nerve to write to the official student paper, more or less fessing up and offering an example of his own inimical defensive style:

And by then, that was about that. The Obscene Rock-Show Poster scandal, along with the spring semester, was pretty much over and done with.

But none of this explains why this mammoth story has been titled “It’s, It’s a Ballroom Blitz.” For that, you have to tune in for Part Seven.


Spinner said...

My god, Psddlefoot! How could there possibly be more to this story?

Squeaky said...

Sophmore year....I just made it above a 2.0....

Not NEH said...

Sophomore. Root word: sophisticate.