Wholesomeness becomes horror

I’ve been following the Glendale float fracas because in a former life I designed/built/sculpted 45 Rose Parade floats.

All float designs seem to represent middle tastes of wholesomeness by Tournament of Roses decree and tradition, and by committee-think of the city sponsors. This is written in stone.

The changing times can shift the measure of wholesomeness a bit, and this becomes a squirrelly zone — in this case, an elephant-sized squirrel.

We find one person’s wholesomeness is another’s horror, be it religion, dress code or float design. Here in one corner of this fight we have thinking, sensitive and caring people who feel circuses and zoos are like touring a lock-down mental ward looking at broken and dysfunctional freaks.

In the other corner of this fight we have the circus coming to town being announced by the shrill steam calliope a mile away and pulled by elephants.

Presently in my profession as conceptual designer for theatrical shows, film, TV and advertising, we deal with the gist of design: the perceived meaning by a target audience, be it overt, subtle, intended, unintended and otherwise. Billions of dollars rest on this triviality every minute of every day the world over.

I have known the float builders, Chris and Michele Lofthouse, since they were knee-high to grasshoppers. All at Phoenix Productions are wonderful and creative designer/builders. Separately, I have also known Sharon Weisman for a decade, and she has been credited as being the original conscience and heartfelt good-citizen-objector to this particular design. She is one of the most thoughtful and caring people I have ever met. So here’s my announcement:

“Ladies and gentlemen! In the ring of perception we have a fight to the finish; both sides right, both sides wrong! Who will win?”

My hope is that everyone wins, and especially the public. I’d like to see both perceptions, old entertainment ways of the circus coming to town, and the growing sensitivities to animal rights, melded together.

Voila! In a grand gesture of unity of spirit suggested by builder/city/and PETA alike, unhook the elephant from the calliope, with PETA volunteers and Glendale volunteers happily together on the float waving to the public down Colorado Boulevard. And thanks to the press, a huge and responsible player, no better and cheaper publicity could be bought for such a triumph of spirit.

Let’s show a forward America, let’s go for the positive future for Glendale, the Tournament of Roses, elephants and all creatures, and all the stakeholders — also my good friends the builders, and the caring citizens such as Sharon Weisman and PETA.

More than a float, this becomes a fresh and huge triumph for the core values of inclusion, caring and good neighborliness — values Glendale was founded on, and as practically written in stone by Tournament decree.


Ted Baumgart

La Crescenta

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