No doubt about it, the previous year’s prank was going to be a hard act to follow, truthfully, I didn’t think it could be done. You may remember The Name Change Party. If you’re new to The Barroom Chronicles, check out Episode 2, The Prank That Keeps On Giving.
I had serious reservations that the latest idea would fail miserably. The reactions to the previous year’s stunt were such that I thought everybody would know I was up to shenanigans. My level of resignation was such that on the day of the ‘Midget Toss’, I was going to write April Fools across the Midget Toss banner and call it good.
But thanks to the enthusiasm of an employee, the event created memories, spawned a tradition, and relegated The Name Change Party to ‘opening act’ status.
“What do you mean write April Fools across the banner? Don’t be a putz,” Wendy Rae scolded “I’ve been getting phone calls all week. We’re going to pull this off.”
The problem was, I didn’t have a clue how, and as far as I knew there wasn’t a midget cavalry coming to the rescue. The joke was on me. That afternoon, I learned that well laid plans are great, but sometimes it’s better to improvise. As the hour approached, I left home armed with the two dolls that would serve as midgets, my computer (for DJing), and a reinvigorated imagination.
Anyone who has ever organized an event will attest, the biggest fear is that it will bomb. Despite all the good intentions, planning and advertising, people will find other things to do that night. When that happens, it’s hard not to take the failure personally. Whatever I was expecting driving into town that night wasn’t what greeted me. The bar was packed. There wasn’t a parking place within blocks. The pressure was on; for me, pressure is motivation.
During the weeks leading up to the event, I spun a beautiful web of bullshit. When questioned if this was an April Fool’s joke, I swore that it wasn’t, saying that the date was the only time the midget troupe was available. Then I deflected the questions by saying not only were we going to have a contest for longest throw, but we were going to put Velcro on the courtyard’s fence and hold a contest for highest toss. I took it a step further and said that Eric the Midget from the Howard Stern show was the headliner. I later learned the greatest skeptics were won over by this info. The chief skeptic admitted buying my line after googling Eric the Midget and seeing that he was a real person.
Up to this point my only real plan was to drop the dolls off at the Fat Belly Deli and asking Guido to hold them until they were needed.
Outside the bar I took a deep breath before stepping inside. The crowd welcomed me like a conquering hero. As I set up my computer and got the music going I was swamped with questions: “When are they gonna get here? Where are they now?”
“You heard me. Tonight we’re tasing a midget.”
Now, that was an interesting sociological experiment. Some people were revolted and refused a ticket, others were fascinated, others were excited. One gentleman followed me around and asked for the tickets that others refused.
The buzz generated was as loud as the music. And then, as fate would have it, I received a phone call. Truthfully, I don’t remember who it was or what it was about, but the timing couldn’t have been better. I got off the phone, went to the DJ booth, interrupted the song and made the announcement that the midgets had just entered Montana and that they were about an hour out. A rousing cheer filled the bar.
Fate conspired in our favor that night, the Ghost Rails Inn – our local bed and breakfast – was holding a murder mystery. A costume murder mystery. The group was dressed in 1920’s attire and had come to the bar for an ‘after action review.’ Little did I know they were employees of a Missoula newspaper and our stunt got an article.
As the minutes ticked down, I organized my elves.
Number One: The ‘winner’ of the tase a midget raffle would announce April Fools over the PA.
Number two: The man who would deliver the ‘midgets.’
Number three: Two girls from the murder-mystery who would climb up on the bar and unveil the “April Fools” banner.
Finally the time had come, I made the announcement that the short bus had arrived. A cheer went up. We held the ‘tase the midget’ drawing. Our ringer was called to the DJ Booth. Guido kicks open the door and throws the two dolls across the barroom floor and yells: “Here’s your F#$#ing midgets!” Our ringer cries “April Fools” and the girls unveil the banner.
A moment of stunned silence fell over the bar. Then pandemonium broke out: Some people laughed, some clapped; others booed, some called me nasty names. A very large man from the murder-mystery group who was dressed in knickers and armed with a golf club, beat on a doll until he decapitated it.
Me: I was laughing so hard I escaped to a bench outside the front door. Soon I was greeted by a parade of the humorless. I was called many nasty names, told I would lose many customers and that they would see to that my name was drug through the mud. I laugh even harder, pointed to another banner that read ‘Free beer tomorrow’ and said: “See you tomorrow.” As you may have surmised, I subscribe to the idea that there’s no such thing as bad publicity.
Six months ago, the leader of the group stopped in for a beer. We talked about that night. He asked: “Do you know why I was so pissed?”
I shrugged. “Don’t know.”
“I can’t believe I fell for your crap two years in a row.”
To his credit, the midget toss was two years ago and he hasn’t fallen for another prank. But then again, we haven’t tried. My dream, to find a big name musician who would play our humble dive on the first weekend in April. Of course everybody would think it was a prank. When word got out that it really happened, I would have a permanent prank license. One can dream.
It may seem that the poor midgets got lost in the shuffle. Nonsense, they both have earned their place in infamy. The poor decapitated doll’s head currently rests on the bison’s left horn. The surviving doll didn’t survive much longer. The next day, Easter Sunday, we pushed the line further and created a new tradition.
A longtime regular, who was a ringleader in the wheelchair episode, stopped by the get the midget toss story. Somehow or another the idea came up to tie a noose and hang the doll from the road sign. Is it obvious we have a macabre streak? I believe it stems from a misspent youth watching too many reruns of the Aadams Family.
Imagine the scene, a beautiful Easter Sunday, a dozen or so people of all ages standing on the front deck with hands over their hearts as the noose is set and tied off. The ‘midget’ swaying to the rhythm of Jimi Hendrix’s Star Spangled Banner. I still chuckle from the looks we garnered from passing motorists, not -to-mention that poor young family, dressed in their Easter best, who just happened to be walking past.
Much like the lighting of the Olympic flame, the hanging of the midget has become tradition. Almost every special event is kicked off by a similar opening ceremony. For the midget, it’s Groundhog Day. At least she gets to hang out in front of a cool bar.