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What A Long, Strange Trip It’s Been: 35 Years of Doo Dah at the Pasadena Museum of History

By Terry Miller

Terry Miller Doo Dah pixs 005
Former PIO for City of Pasadena, Ann Erdman and her alter ego at a Doo Dah blast from the past. -Photo by Terry Miller

It’s about bloody time the establishment recognize the Doo Dah people for their extraordinary contributions to Pasadena’s society and well-being over the past 35 years. The Pasadena Museum of History has accepted the challenge and is about to open a new exhibit showing, shall we say, all the Doo’s and Don’ts of Doo Dah history during the past 35 years.
From people like Count Smokula who indeed is a legend in his own twisted mind to that effervescent Naughty Mickie and Uncle Fester, Doo Dah parades and parties are, without a shadow of a doubt, among the most off the wall entertainment and unscripted happenings in this fair city of Pasadena.
Then there’s the music. Snotty Scotty and his Hankies have led the Parade into oblivion for as long as the parade has been around.
This colorful, fun-filled exhibition will celebrate the wacky world of Doo Dah, named “America’s Best Parade” by none other than Reader’s Digest. The parade has garnered national and international attention, and spawned copy cat parades elsewhere, including in Columbus, Ohio, and Ocean City, New Jersey.
Beginning in 1978, the “occasional” Doo Dah parade took place sporadically: changing dates, season, and location in its characteristically casual – and some might say – disorganized way. The parade has always been controversial. Its detractors dismiss it as derivative, decry its in-your-face sexual and political humor, and are embarrassed to have it take place in a city such as Pasadena. Its supporters, who include former President Bill Clinton, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, comedian Jay Leno, and actor Tom Hanks, say, yes…, that’s the point. No theme, no rules. Just glorious creativity and raucous eccentricity.
Named after an obscure 1960s British rock band, Doo Dah is a people’s parade. Anyone can apply to be an entrant, and homemade conveyances and walking entries are encouraged. Tips for entrants include: arrive early. There is no marching order; you choose your place on a first come, first serve basis. Another tip: no throwing of marshmallows; they clog bicycle spokes.
It has even been critically reviewed. Dr. Denise Lawrence, Director of the Center for Visual Anthropology at USC, asserted that the parade demonstrated the “rite of reversal” which anthropologists have found to occur in many societies, primitive and modern. These rites provide individuals with an opportunity to step outside their normal everyday social roles and relationships to engage in alternate forms of behavior. “Ultimately,” she concluded, “the Doo Dah and similar events give a community, both audience and participants, an opportunity to unite for one day in a celebration of diversity.”
PMH’s exhibition What A Long Strange Trip It’s Been will include a photo wall of parade and crowd shots; vignettes of entries – including the Synchronized Precision Marching Briefcase Drill Team; costumes and memorabilia of various Queens and music groups. There may be more; but, to quote Ann Erdman, the Grand Marshal of the 2012 parade, “…this is Doo Dah after all, and one never knows…”
The exhibition is curated by a consortium of individuals including Tom Coston, Patricia Hurley, and Rosalind Schoen, all of Light Bringer Project, which sponsors the Parade; as well as Sue Behrens and Steve Vargas.
Hours: 12:00 Noon to 5:00 pm Wednesdays through Sundays. Admission: $7 General; $6 Students & Seniors; Members & Children under 12 Free.
Free admission every “Community Wednesday” to anyone who lives, works or is a student in any of the following local communities: Alhambra, Altadena, Arcadia, Bradbury, Duarte, Eagle Rock, El Sereno, Glendale, Highland Park, La Canada Flintridge, La Crescenta, Monrovia, Monterey Park, Pasadena, Rosemead, San Gabriel, San Marino, Sierra Madre, South Pasadena and Temple City. Please mention this offer and show some form of I.D. in the Museum Store.

August 9, 2012

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