Parade Backers Are Hoping to Recapture the Zip of Doo Dah : Entertainment: A family-style version of the madcap event returns Sunday to Old Pasadena in an attempt to win back alienated fans.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Oh, but for the slap-happy days of the Doo Dah Parade's old Couch Potatoes entry, Sic semper potatum reclinus ("Thus always reclines the potato").

Pasadena's bad-boy parade is in a slump, no longer able to rest on its quarrels with the Tournament of Roses Parade (via the Torment of Roses act) or with the Moral Majority (through the Immoral Minority's jackets with fringe on the left arm, symbolizing its left-wing-fringe stature).

Last year's parade bombed as a small event requiring tickets costing up to $10. Recently, a group of Old Pasadena merchants unsuccessfully tried to can the parade, and word began to float around that Doo Dah might be done for.

So this year's 19th annual Doo Dah is trying to reinvent itself in its own schizophrenic way, as a half-screwball, half-family affair. No more mock pregnant nuns, no Macho Dog exposing private parts.

Instead, an all-girl Catholic high school dance team will sashay alongside the Cal Trans-Vestites, a parody of public transportation.

"It's not wild and crazy stuff, it's not the Mardi Gras, by any means," said Thomas Coston, director of the Light-Bringer Project, a Pasadena arts group and Doo Dah's co-sponsor.

"It's like the Main Street of the '90s. It's a chance for everybody to get out and have a day of fun and meet their friends. It doesn't have to be more complicated than that."

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The parade, which moved for the first time to the front of Pasadena City Hall last year, will return to the streets of Old Pasadena on Sunday.

Starting at 11:30 a.m., the shortened one-hour parade will move in a mingled procession and end with a music festival in Memorial Park, featuring Dread Zeppelin, a reggae band fronted by an Elvis impersonator.

Parade founder Peter Apanel admits that the 1993 event was a mistake, that this year could be the Doo Dah's do-or-die time.

"People still demonize me for what I did last year," said Apanel, 43, of South Pasadena. "In the short run, we're hoping that we could quickly overrun the stigma from last year and get most of the Doo Dah people back in the fold, but clearly there's been a residual PR problem."

The Doo Dah started on a whim, cooked up by Apanel and friends in a bar. In 1978, the first parade had a handful of entries, including an accordion-playing urban cowboy, apropos of nothing. By the late 1980s, the parade had turned into a parody of itself, with live TV coverage, corporate sponsors and more than 40,000 spectators and 100 entries. In a twisted case of inmates taking over the asylum, some spectators started to pelt entries with hardened tortillas and lob marshmallows at the crowd.

In an attempt to gain control, and keep the parade out of debt, Apanel tinkered with Doo Dah's format for the first time last year. He cut back entries, charged up to $10 per ticket and put on a mini-procession around Pasadena City Hall. The event made no profit and drew a disappointing 2,500 spectators and 30 entries.

Encino resident Dante Field, a parade regular as the cosmetics-loving Lady Steve, said he would prefer tortilla-tossing hordes to last year's spectators, some of whom watched with folded arms and stony eyes that demanded their 10 bucks' worth.

"After a point, it feels that they're not laughing with you but at you," said Field, 41, a recreation therapist. "I would take (tortillas) a thousand times over the dullness of the last one."

Even the Synchronized Briefcase Drill Team hung up its suits after last year's bust. In past years, the wing-tipped team had lost steam after one-too-many spectators had fired squirt guns at them and blasted them with shaving cream, said drill team member Jerry Rogers, 38, of Palm Desert.

In addition, a group of Old Pasadena merchants recently submitted a petition with 100 signatures asking city officials to yank Doo Dah's parade permit. Merchants objected to the Doo Dah's messy aftermath, some of its campy entries and the parade's timing on a busy holiday shopping weekend, said Ray Leier, president of the Old Pasadena Business and Professional Assn.

This year's parade was revamped, partially in response to some of the concerns, Apanel said. For the first time, he is working with a co-sponsor in an attempt to recruit more community-based groups. With more local participants who care about the community, the event is less likely to get out of control, Apanel said.

Half of this year's 75 entries are community groups, including a feminist history entry from Alverno High School, a Catholic girls school in Sierra Madre.

"We're trying to get our point of view across, and we're not doing it in a silly way," art teacher Jane Jacobs said. "It's going to be straight. I think there's room for all sorts of things in the Doo Dah Parade."

The parade will move quickly through the streets, with the focus on the festival at Memorial Park.

Spectators are expected to join in, thereby leaving less of a mess behind and blocking storefronts for a shorter period of time.

Streets will close only when the entourage passes various intersections, rather than closing streets for the duration of the parade.

Pasadena police officers, who have overlooked high jinks in previous Doo Dah parades, will not hesitate to make arrests this year for common infractions such as throwing tortillas, which was banned by the City Council in 1992, Lt. Rick Law said.

Doo Dah regular Jacki Thompson knew the parade was in trouble when the Salmon-ettes entry high-tailed it back to Alaska after one particularly rowdy year. But she will be there for the ninth time this year, with her 76-year-old mother and friends, as the polyester-proud Lounge Lizards. She hopes old Doo Dah fans will be back, the ones who know the Lounge Lizards routine and run into the streets for the shoulder-to-shoulder chorus line from "New York, New York."

"I don't know if it'll ever go back to what it was," said Thompson, 36, a quality control inspector for medical products, "but all we can do is take it one Sunday at a time."

Doo Dah '94

* Time: Sunday, starting at 11:30 a.m. and ending about 12:30 p.m. After the procession, a music festival will run from 1 to 4:30 p.m. at Memorial Park.

* Where: Old Pasadena. Starts at Memorial Park, Raymond Avenue and Holly Street, goes west one block on Holly, south one block on Fair Oaks Avenue, west two blocks on Union Street, south one block on Pasadena Avenue, east three blocks on Colorado Boulevard and north two blocks on Raymond, ending up back at the park.

* Format: Doo Dah will move in a mingled procession, with spectators expected to join in, so the streets will not be blocked during the event. Afterward, performance groups and the reggae band Dread Zeppelin will perform at the park.

* Entries: 75. No entry fee, but a $10 donation is requested from each participant. Entries must register; no sign-ups on parade day.

* Parking: $3 for the day in city lots.

* Information: (818) 796-2591.

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