The victim of a vicious assault is wheeled in on a dolly. Gauze bandages are wrapped tightly, tourniquet-style, around the jagged stump that used to be a smooth shin.
But despite the serious nature of his injury, the patient sits, well, patiently—somewhat smiling, in fact—awaiting an operation to attach a prosthetic limb. He remains in stable condition.
Just another victim of D.C.’s tough streets? No, actually, it’s yet one more panda statue, brutally crippled by area vandals.
Since PandaMania began two months ago, an increasing number of the life-sized polyurethane sculptures, displayed along District streets, have been marked up or mutilated. As casualties continue to mount, the most serious injury cases are brought here: the Shops at 2000 Penn in Foggy Bottom—a secure, albeit disclosed, indoor location dubbed “Panda Hospital” by Alexandra MacMaster, project manager for the D.C. Commission on the Arts and Humanities (DCCAH).
The hospital has no designated operating room or intake unit—just a spacious mall corridor where artists can patch up their wounded.
Artist Francisco Quintanilla’s celebrated panda Booted has been convalescing on site for more than a week.
An ode to the District’s strict parking-enforcement policies, Booted was on exhibit at 12th and F Streets NW. Then vandals ripped the wooden boot off the pink-slip-patterned panda’s left leg. Quintanilla had assumed the boot would be a ripe target for vandals, he says. So he had tried to secure it to the panda as strongly as possible, running a 10-inch steel bolt through the boot and up into the leg.
“Apparently, it did its job,” he says. A little too well, in fact. Eventually succeeding in breaking off the boot, vandals also severed the bear’s foot—leaving a grisly, gaping wound. “You can see the insides of it,” MacMaster says. The hatchet job was one of nine bear assaults that have occurred since PandaMania debuted.
Shortly after the incident, pandamedics transported the pandamputee to the Foggy Bottom shopping center for treatment. The site also served as a makeshift infirmary for injured donkey and elephant statues during the city’s similar Party Animals in 2002.
The embattled bear is now checked in, resting comfortably in the lobby, alongside Anne Currie’s thrice-vandalized Cro-Magnon Panda. In the first two incidents, vandals tore bird sculptures off the head and back of the bear. More recently, Currie’s creation had its right ear ripped off.
These latest attacks come at a time when the city is trying to look tough on vandalism. Plaques recently affixed to the base of each panda include a stern warning: “DAMAGES TO ARTWORK, WILL RESULT IN PROSECUTION.”
Granted, the city hasn’t yet pressed charges against any suspected public-art spoilers. Not this year. Not during its “hugely successful,” but frequently vandalized, Party Animals exhibit, either. For now, the DCCAH is just picking up the pieces and moving on.
In order to save Booted, MacMaster says, a new foot must be constructed out of fiberglass. Once that’s attached, Quintanilla says, he’ll give it a fresh paint job and new boot. The cost of such an operation has yet to be determined. The pandas have no health insurance, though MacMaster notes that the DCCAH has about $3,000 budgeted for overall panda repairs.
Whatever the cost, Quintanilla thinks the operation is worth the expense. Booted, he says, could be “a good draw at auction.” Quintanilla’s Party Animals, Donkeyxote and Elephantom of the Opera, fetched $6,000 and $3,500, respectively.
THE STARLET DEFICIT
For the past two months, Dulles, Va.–based production outfit and local music e-zine DCSpore has been promoting its “Search for a Star” contest. The aim: to cast one lucky local woman (age 21 or older) in an upcoming music video for D.C. quintet Rockmaster General.
And if starring in a low-budget video for a local rock band doesn’t grab ya, note that the winner will also take home $500 in prize money.
An open casting call was scheduled for July 10 at the Laughing Lizard Lounge in Alexandria, where a panel of judges was supposed to hold auditions for all interested contestants—um, contestants? Anyone? Hello?
Last week, organizers called off the contest, citing “legal and logistical issues.” But the biggest reason, says event promoter Adrian Munoz, was lack of interest. “We weren’t getting the kind of response we were hoping for,” he says, “with girls signing up for the contest.”
In fact, only eight eligible ladies applied—not even enough for the proposed final round, featuring the top 10 hopeful starlets, on July 17 at Chief Ike’s Mambo Room in Adams Morgan.
Perhaps that’s because of the contest’s unladylike theme.
The video, after all, would stick to the storyline in Rockmaster’s lecherously lyrical ditty, “Two Little Virgins,” in which singer Tom Espondro croons about a pair of innocent young girls who are corrupted into prostitution: “…Two little former virgins, smoking on the corner/Waiting for their midnight ride/Oh, I don’t think they’ll be coming home today/Instead they’ll spend the night being pawed by the Big Bad Wolf/Or any other dog who has the cash to pay…”
And as if the song wasn’t racy enough, there was the actual star-search competition. Judged partially on looks, contestants were also expected to dance to a 25-second clip from the song, as well as show a little acting ability—specifically, by reading lines of dialogue from the controversial 1980 erotic drama Caligula.
“We wanted to make sure that we selected a girl without inhibitions,” says Munoz, “a girl who’s not gonna be shy…somebody who’s gonna become totally immersed in the role.”
But the “girls” of that type, it turned out, are few and far between. “I definitely think a lot of girls were staying away,” Munoz admits. “They were scared.”
Heck, even the rockers were a bit embarrassed by the contest criteria. “It seemed like a strip show or something,” says Rockmaster guitarist Barclay Saul. The group—which also includes bassist Kush el-Amin, drummer Matt Rehfuss, and guitarist J. Adam Fenster—was initially “uncomfortable” with the contest, Saul says, even though the bandmates still wanted to do the video.
“So, when they came to us and said they’d only had eight applicants, we were like, ‘Phew, let’s just do the video and forget the damn contest,’” he says.
PJS GET POOH-POOHED
Civil War re-enactments, heritage festivals, farmers’ markets: Such events are common in Spotsylvania County, Va.
But last year, county officials decided to try something new. And so began the inaugural Spotsylvania Film Festival, featuring such family favorites as Raiders of the Lost Ark, Shrek, and Some Like It Hot, projected onto an inflatable 26-foot-tall, 40-foot-wide movie screen on the former high-school football turf at Legion Field.
Even with the makeshift setup, the festival had a homey feel. After all, of the more than 3,000 spectators who turned out for the three-night event, organizers say, about 600 people came wearing pajamas.
The abundance of comfy sleeping garb, it turns out, was cost-driven. Prior to the event, organizers had announced a promotional perk: All attendees arriving in bedtime attire would receive $1 off the regular admission price of $1 for county residents, $2 for out-of-town visitors.
And the bed-heads came out in droves. “It was the funniest damn thing I’d ever seen,” says film-fest manager Shellie Ridder. “You’d walk around and see these big groups of teenage girls, all sitting around on their blankets, in their pajamas, with their fuzzy slippers and their teddy bears….Whole families, too, all of them in pajamas.”
Yet despite the pajama promotion’s overwhelming popularity, the Spotsylvania Courthouse Tourism and Special Events Commission decided to scrap the dressed-down discount for its second annual film fest, set for July 8–11.
Admission this year will cost everyone $2. But organizers are anticipating an influx of discount-seekers, anyway. “I’m figuring there’s gonna be a few hundred that will show up in pajamas,” Ridder says. “I’m not exactly sure how we’re gonna handle it.”
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