It turned out to be an event after all. An MTV event.
There he was, Music Television personality Pauly Shore, mugging for the camera with his "Hey, dude!" nose-to-the-glass style, poking fun at the stuffed-shirt atmosphere that prevailed Friday night at the America's Cup grand opening party.
Like a modern-day Eddie Haskell, he worked the flat-footed crowd at the Broadway Pier, choosing the most ungainly looking celebrants--overweight old women and men with Coke bottle eyeglasses--to interview for his audience of mostly disaffected teen-agers and rock 'n' roll couch potatoes.
Followed by a gaggle of sycophants, tattooed body guards, cameramen and other clipboard-toting people wearing T-shirts that read "YO," Shore taunted officers on a San Diego Harbor Patrol boat, climbing down an off-limits ladder to the water and yelling at the men in uniform:
"Hey, you guys been to the doughnut shop lately?"
Not to be outdone, one officer responded: "We know who you are, Pauly. Get back up there on the pier with the rest of your freaks."
At sundown on the waterfront Friday night, a thousand or more San Diegans--sailing fans and landlubbers alike--gathered to kick off the biggest offshore event in San Diego since the big aircraft carriers returned home victorious from war: the America's Cup races.
Billed as a gala party, the event had more of a feel of a swap meet as men in cheap flowered shirts wandered up and down the pier ogling the young girls, approaching people with a whispered offer to sell them a pair of mystery watches. "Good quality, good prices."
Of course, there were others on hand as well. People like San Diego Mayor Maureen O'Connor, the U.S. deputy postmaster general--who unveiled the America's Cup commemorative postcard--and the skippers from both yachts competing in today's finals, Paul Cayard of Il Moro di Venezia and Bill Koch of America 3.
But, as dusk fell over downtown San Diego, many in the crowd seemed a little underwhelmed at the goings-on in the often-billed glamour event of the year.
"This whole America's Cup thing seems like a pretty big bust to me," observed Harbor Patrol Officer Robert Irvins as he surveyed the crowd through his Rayban sunglasses. "It had so much potential, and it's just not living up to the billing."
Like Irvins, people in the crowd had their share of complaints over the staging of the event. Where were the big crowds that usually show for such an outdoor event? And the Cup races have gone on for so long now, who cares anymore?
"It's not like the Super Bowl, where the thing is over after the weekend," Irvins said. "This thing makes the NBA playoffs seem like a short-term event."
Irvins had a solution for another often-heard criticism in the crowd Friday night: that the Cup races had become more than just a battle of egos, but a battle of almost sinful amounts of money.
"The whole idea of the Cup races used to be each nation's way to show off its technology," he said. "Now it's just money, people buying more expensive boats. My idea is to build 10 identical boats and let them have at it. That would show who's the best captain and crew, now, wouldn't it?"
Kenneth Bush, who said he was a student of sailing, added that he thinks the compounds where each of the teams are based have been veiled in too much secrecy. They should all be well-marked and located in the same area, instead of spread out from Mission Bay to near the Mexican border, he claimed.
"Why don't they just unsheath the keels and let fans like us have a look?" he said. "Let's get touchy-feely and not this hands-off stuff."
Even some veteran San Diego-area sailors said the aura of the races this year has left a bad taste in their mouth.
"It just seems like nobody cares about the event, that's all," Bob Haas said. "I told my wife just the other day, that we don't deserve to host this event again. . . . We're just not supporting it. Nobody seems excited, including the media. The TV stations run the America's Cup news in five-second bites after the Ping-Pong news. It's terrible."
But people were having a good old time Friday night. Especially Bob Anderson.
Although many people stood around in place as though they had cement in their shoes, he popped wheelies with his wheelchair as the band played a range of music from big band to rap.
Anderson, who said he lives in a downtown hotel, admitted that he wasn't much of a sailing fanatic. He just heard the music and decided to wheel on down.
"This whole thing, this America's Cup is for the Dennis Conners of San Diego," he said. "And how many of them are there? I was on a boat once. No, I didn't get sick. I had a blast, to tell you the truth."
And then there was Pauly Shore. And the local news mini-cams. And the network news cameras. And the home video cameras. As Shore performed his mugging suburban surfer-boy routine with the crowd, the MTV cameras rolled on him. So did the local news cams.
And the home video cameras filmed everything--the fireworks, the speakers, each other.
But nobody was filming just across the street from the rich and the famous, where a tired-looking, 30ish woman was pushing a baby carriage with four children in tow and asking for a handout.