Flat as a Tortilla? : Doo Dah Plays to Less Than a Full House, Gets Mixed Reviews


After years of watching entrants get pelted with stale tortillas, the organizers of Pasadena's Doo Dah Parade carried through Saturday with their plans to fence in the zany affair and charge up to $10 admission.

But judging by the size of the crowd, dough and the Doo Dah parade apparently still do not mix.

"I've been coming ever since it started, and this is ridiculous," said Pasadena resident Alfred Lopez, 27, as he stormed away from the cyclone fence surrounding City Hall Plaza with his wife and three children after being informed by beefy security guards that it would cost them a total of $50 to attend. "This is communist, that's what it is. I'm gonna write the mayor a good letter about this."

In all, about 2,500 spectators entered the grounds of the festival-style event, which began in 1977 as a lighthearted, free-form spoof of the Rose Parade. That is about half as many people as parade founder Peter Apanel had announced he would allow in. It is also a mere fraction of the size of recent parades in Old Pasadena, which drew 40,000 people, live TV coverage and, according to Apanel, too much rowdiness.

Without question, Saturday's crowd was less boisterous than in recent years. And with only half as many entries as usual, the parade was far shorter.

The spectators were treated to up-close and personal views of some 50-odd entries circling the plaza three times over the course of an hour. Included was such traditional Doo Dah fare as the Synchronized Briefcase Drill Team, the BBQ and Hibachi Grill Team and the Torment of Roses group.

The latter entry featured white people made up in whiteface, mocking the controversial all-white executive committee of the Tournament of Roses Assn. "I'm Jim White. I Slept My Way On to the Committee," read a sign carried by Claude Cazzulino.

Members of the briefcase drill team, who sat out last year's parade because of the damage the tortillas were doing to their freshly pressed business suits, seemed pleased with the new format.

"It had become just too rowdy," said Jerry Rogers, who in real life serves as deputy treasurer for the city of Riverside. "We could see it escalating each year and we got nailed pretty good two years ago."

But other entrants expressed dismay. "The crowd is just too restrained and quiet," groaned Eric Walls, who wore an empty bag of charcoal on his head while leading his hibachi squad around the parade route in a wheelchair. "It's just not as much fun."

Perhaps the largest throng of spectators Saturday were members of the Beaver Ambassador Club, an organization of motor home enthusiasts who RV-pooled from a trailer park outside Disneyland where they had gathered for the holiday weekend.

Some 40 Beavers, including Ted and Loretta Huckabone of San Diego, arrived just as the gates opened at 10 a.m.--three hours before parade time--and set up beach chairs on the sidewalk a block from City Hall.

"It's really cute this year," said Loretta Huckabone, 61, an auditor for the State Franchise Tax Board, as the West Hollywood Cheerleaders entry sashayed by. "If they keep holding it this way, I think the crowds will grow and grow."

Others, however, seemed miffed about having to pay for a parade for the first time in their lives.

"A free program at no extra charge?" asked Boyd McClaskey, 34, with more than a hint of sarcasm, after being searched at the entrance gate by yellow-jacketed security guards looking for alcohol, tortillas or other foreign objects.

Later, as the Norco resident departed with his brother-in-law who had come in from Yuma, Ariz., he complained that the parade has "lost the Doo Dah spirit."

"It's not a joyous thing anymore," said McClaskey, a parts representative. "They've lost the festive feeling."

Dozens of people who said they could not afford the entrance fee or had a few dozen tortillas but no place to throw viewed the festivities from outside the gates. Others, such as the Lopez family, split to spend the afternoon in a city park or at a movie.

Boycotters Eric Cook and Thor Davis managed to fall into the old-time Doo Dah spirit. Cook, 39, of El Sereno, and Davis, 28, of Pasadena, had been sitting just outside the entrance gate when they were approached by the condiment girls of the hibachi grill team, who said their entry was two cooks short of a full kitchen. Smearing charcoal on their faces, Cook and Davis wound up as participants in the parade they were refusing to pay to see.

At day's end, Apanel was noncommittal about the future of the Doo Dah. In some sense, the scaled-down version hearkened back to an early, simpler era of the parade, he said. And the fact that not all could afford the admission charge is "unfortunate," Apanel added, "but that's just reality."

"You can't walk into a movie without money," he said. "You can't see the Dodgers without money. It's all entertainment."

The Doo Dah czar said fewer than 650 tickets were sold for $7 each in advance and about 1,000 more were distributed free to his friends and Pasadena businesses. More than 500 were purchased at the gate for $10, according to ticket-sellers.

"Now, I have to sit down and study the financial situation," Apanel said. "And artistically . . . I want to wait and hear a lot of feedback."

As for Thanksgiving weekend 1994? "It's very much up in the air," Apanel said.

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