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Buffet of Bad Taste

You haven’t really lived until you’ve heard the theme from Star Wars played as a flute sonata. Or seen Phantom of the Opera performed as a hoedown, replete with a hillbilly fiddle and gen-u-wine gee-tar. Words cannot really do justice, either, to what it’s like to see prunes suspended in lemon Jell-O. And the tone-deaf chorus singing “Bohemian Rhapsody” a cappella had a certain je ne sais quoi that is perhaps best left for the French to describe (though I will tell you this: Pointing at the lead singer, the audience joined in for the climactic “Let him go!”). As for the sculpture titled Pom-Pom Nazi Valentine, an American flag squeezed out of red, white, and blue toothpaste, and the homage to Yoko Ono called Little Bag of Urine on a Board, well, I’ll leave those to your imagination.

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Bad art can be kitschy. Bad art can be offensive. Bad art can be overly sentimental. But it’s a tribute to S.P.A.A.M.—the Society for the Preservation of Atrocious Art Materials—that virtually all forms of it were represented in abundance last weekend. S.P.A.A.M.’s fourth annual “Bad Art Party,” held at the Big Hunt near Dupont Circle, was an orgy of bad taste—its offerings ranged from the cleverly campy to the truly moronic—with something repellent for everyone.

The party began four years ago as a 30th-birthday celebration for S.P.A.A.M. member Laura Flinchbaugh. It has since become a Washington tradition. Attendance is by word of mouth, as is the judging—the amount of booing artists receive can influence which prizes they’re awarded at the end of the night. (Awards include cans of Spam and tapes of Olympic theme music.) This year’s Grand Prix went to “Star Wars Meets the Village People”—four “macho men” dressed as Darth Vader and Princess Leia, plus a woman in a green Yoda mask, singing, “You’ve got to go and see Y-O-D-A.” Liberace would have been proud.

—Susan Jane Gilman