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Washington Press Staff Writer
MANASSAS, Nov. 23—An exclusively male crowd of tens of thousands assembled today in the storied Manassas field where LorenaBobbitt tossed her husband’s now-world-famous penis exactly five months, and countless talk shows, ago.
“We are gathered here today more in sorrow than in anger,” declared organizer Jess Grant of the National Organization to Halt the Abuse and Routine Mutilation of Males (NOHARMM), but he was drowned out byvoices of many in the assemblage who took issue with this charitablesentiment.
That was the only instance of dissent in a vigil marked by manly unanimity among groups normally at each other’s throats. Members of the AIDS activist group ACT-UP stood arm in arm with Marines fromnearby Quantico military base, although the Marines were wearing long sleeves and gloves. Suspendered and suited lawyers stoodshoulder-to-shoulder with representatives of Justice for Janitors. Gang leaders from the barrios of Los Angeles marched in lock-step with Curtis Sliwa and his Guardian Angel vigilantes.
“This is an issue which transcends racial lines, class lines, political lines, lifestyle lines,” declared former D.C. Mayor Marion Barry, who was one of the many recognizable faces, including those of boxer Mike Tyson and Dr. William Kennedy Smith, in the subdued but intense crowd.
“It’s truly the Peaceable Kingdom,” effused African-American activist and father of 10 Dick Gregory as he embraced Caucasian radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh. “I don’t usually hug,” confessed Limbaugh, “but this is special.”
Bouquets of flowers, notably protea and potentilla, were piled thigh-high on the ground near Interstate 66 where Bobbitt rolled down her car window 153 days ago and disposed of the allegedly offending organ. (Still unanswered is the question of where, and how, she heldthe penis while shifting gears.) Since then, the lost member has been miraculously recovered and reattached, John Bobbitt has been acquitted of raping his wife, and Lorena Bobbitt is scheduled to stand trial in a week for malicious wounding.
Another pile, this one of kitchen knives brought from home by concerned domestic partners, gleamed ominously in front of thespeaker’s platform. They would be donated to the vocationalmeat-butchering program at Lorton Prison following the rally, organizers said with a shudder.
“Who really needs a knife anymore, anyway? Bread is pre-sliced, and you can get chopped vegetables from the salad bar at any decent foodmarket,” observed Stedley Seymour Jr., who identified himself as “a recovering spousal batterer. I’m in therapy but my wife isn’t, so I’m a little nervous. I let her keep the vegetable parer and the strawberry huller, though. And the little thing for making melon balls, you know? In two different sizes? But not the garlicpress.”
The crowd, which swelled to at least 25,000, was serenaded by warm-up act the Uptown Rhythm Kings playing such tunes as “Sixty Minute Man” and “The Fornication Blues,” but stood in respectful silencein a cold pelting rain with heads bowed and crotches cupped gently as speaker after passionate speaker recounted his memories of exactly where he was and exactly what he was doing when the Bobbitt case first exploded on the national consciousness.
“I’ll never forget it,” recalled Larry Diaz, 25, who traveled from Fort Worth, Texas, in a Ford pickup with six of his friends to attend the commemoration. “I was in the Piggly Wiggly for some Moon Pies and a Yoo-Hoo at exactly 9:21 p.m. on Friday night, June twenty-five, when I seen [sic] this copy of USA Today on the floor. I was in shock, man. I was in pain. This is the kind of thing you can never forget and never forgive.”
Another speaker, Commerce Department statistician Steve Fahnestock, in a mixed but moving message, observed that the turnout was so large that “if you laid all the putzes, peters, and schlongs here today end to end, let’s see, that’s point five feet times, no make thatpoint four five feet…well you could lay a trail all the way to Martinsburg [in West Virginia] and back. Well, Harper’s Ferry anyway. As the crow flies.”
Organizer Grant said the vigil started as a small function for concerned local supporters of former bar “bouncer” Bobbitt, butquickly snowballed as word got out.
“When our announcement went out over the Internet, we knew this was going to be really big,” Grant said, referring to the computer network that connects millions of people all over the world. He added that NOHARMM is a group originally formed to campaign against infantcircumcision, but that “we felt our umbrella could reach out andcover John, too.”
Grant raised a prolonged cheer from the crowd when he announced that a group of investors headed by Playboy publisher Hugh Hefner, maverick feminist Camille Paglia, real-estate mogul Donald Trump, and auto-body repairman Joey Buttafuoco had bought the three-acre field and planned to build a permanent memorial on the site. A contest hasbeen announced for the design of the monument, and Grant said that artist Christo and sculptor J. Seward Johnson Jr. (known for his gigantic work, “The Awakening,” at Hains Point) had expressed interest, although Christo may be tied up with hisbrassieres-across-the-Grand Canyon project.
Sculptor Johnson was in attendance at the rally and confided that he had obtained a promise from surgeon James T. Sehn, one of two specialists who reattached the lonely member, for a copy of the plaster life-mold which was made in the emergency room prior to the nearly 10-hour operation.
“What we want here, on this dread battlefield of two Civil Wars, is something which will recall for all time the enormity of John Bobbitt’s, and mankind’s, loss. Something huge, stupendous, priapic,to reflect the true importance and dimensions of manhood,” the artist said, reading from a prepared statement as he stood on a spotwhere he claimed to have found bloodstains and an artificial fingernail in the wet grass. “Something looming, unconquerable, insatiable…something hard and smooth….”
Officer Rod Murphy of the Manassas Police Department, one of the searchers who found the abandoned article by flashlight illuminationon that dark and emotionally stormy night 17 long weeks ago, suggested that an eternal flame would be an appropriate addition to the pilgrimage site.
“Like the Olympic flame or Jack Kennedy’s grave: Something where guys could come and light a candle, throw some blanks in the fire, maybe set off a few cherry bombs. Burn Lorena in effigy. Get in touch with their feelings.” (Fireworks are legal in Virginia, Murphy pointed out.)
Many of the attendees had brought candles or cigarette lighters for the occasion, but the unrelenting downpour forced them to resort to flashlights, which they held aloft during the ceremony until the batteries ran out.
A few bedraggled but vocal women protesters wearing “What Are You Looking At, Dickhead?” T-shirts and carrying signs proclaiming “One Ted Bundy Every Six Seconds, One John Bobbitt Every 600 Years” werekept to the far side of the highway by state policemen, who also rerouted traffic and directed parking operations along the road.
“They just don’t get it,” sighed Sen. Strom Thurmond (R-S.C.), as he gazed across the macadam divide between the two genders.
A representative from the Ginsu cutlery concern carrying a placard reading “Knives Don’t Cut People, Women Cut People” was hustled off shortly after his appearance by New Yorker writer Gay Talese, who iscovering the Bobbitt saga for the magazine, and by one of Jack Kent Cooke’s bodyguards, who objected to the display on the grounds of bad taste.
“Free speech, free schmeech,” snapped the guard, who refused to give his name. An inventor who claimed to have developed a tempered-steel-proof condom was dealt with similarly.
The anniversary vigil lasted three hours, while the outpouring of rage and hurt flowed unimpeded by weather or the shrill chants of the picketing feminists, who faced down obscene taunts that compared them to gelding female dogs.
“We must never forget, and never let our sons, and our sons’ sons, even unto the nth generation, forget what happened on this blood-soaked ground,” said Grant in his climactic oration. “John Wayne Bobbitt’s suffering and sacrifice will not be in vain.”
The object of all this attention, now safely attached to Bobbitt’s 200-pound frame and apparently able to process with ease the two rum-and-Pepsis, one B-52 and two glasses of chardonnay that were tossed its way in a victory celebration 10 days ago, was unable to attend the ceremony in its honor, as it was appearing on the Howard Stern radio show to raise funds for medical expenses.
“He just wants to get on with his life,” said entertainment adviser Paul Erickson, referring to his client.