Clown or pirate?

Which side will celebs choose in the Torchlight Parade?

THIS SATURDAY, the 51st annual Seafair Torchlight Parade will feature the usual floats, vintage autos, mannequinlike wave-and-smile beauty queens—and a hate-filled historical grudge match of epic proportions. Marching with the procession, but decidedly not together, two sworn enemies will attempt to set aside their blood vendetta for the sake of amusing Seattle's tourists and children. Violence could break out at any moment. Sabers could be thrust. Gangplanks could be walked. Yardarms could be hoisted, and the streets run crimson with the blood from bulbous red honking noses. The tension is that dangerous, the situation that volatile.

Yet if the uneasy Seafair truce holds through the parade and remaining festival (which ends with the August 6 hydro races), carnage may be averted—at least for another year. On Saturday, then, spectators will have to hold their breath, transfixed by the glares of pure hatred and venom but prepared to take shelter if fighting should erupt. What sort of individual can be found in each rival faction, you wonder? Below we offer a parade-watcher's guide to local newsmakers and notables, and predict in which of the two opposing camps they will march during the continuing saga of Clown vs. Pirate.

Mayor Paul Schell: Good-natured, kind to children, sunny of disposition, and warm of heart, the benevolent leader of our metropolis has earned his parade position by virtue of his well-intentioned but ineffectual response to last winter's WTO protests. He could've made anarchists walk the plank. He could've shivered the timbers of overzealous cops. But instead, as usual, he split the difference, wanting to please all constituents—i.e., those being teargassed and kicked in the balls, and those doing the teargassing and the kicking. Hardly the actions of a decisive helmsman, and for that he will be marching as a CLOWN.

Senator Slade Gorton: Shrewd, calculating, ever mindful of the strategic advantage to be gained from disguising his positions, our senior statesman has now lowered his true colors to sail unnoticed into the fleet of environmentalists, where he lurks like a 40-gun man o' war. Suddenly he's embracing salmon recovery, prescription drug benefits, and schools. But after the election, when he's sent Cantwell to the bottom of the briny sea, look for him to again raise the Jolly Roger that marks him as a true PIRATE.

Senator Patty Murray: Siding with Republicans to end the inheritance tax will surely earn her more donations in her next campaign. However, such timid and typically feeble-minded embrace of an inequitable, budget-busting, keep-the-wealth policy shows her to be sailing out of her depth. Those with galleons full of gold and strongboxes of Spanish doubloons buried on desert islands will rejoice at her vote—making Murray, of course, a CLOWN.

Judy Nicastro: With her motley political base of Capitol Hill rogues, mutineers, and scalawags (most of whom wear earrings and own parrots), the neophyte city councilwoman has quickly established herself as the terror of Seattle landlords. Her swashbuckling, take-no-prisoners attitude indisputably makes her a PIRATE.

Tim Eyman: The author of I-695 presents himself as a populist champion of low taxes and freedom from invasive government power. Yet even while ascending from outsider to political force, he can't shake off the sawdust and greasepaint of his humble Mukilteo origins, which mark him as the barker he is. The roar of the crowd—not the voice of the people—is all that matters to this self-styled CLOWN.

Peter Bevis: The sculptor-turned- maritime preservationist has moored the ominous, battle-scarred Kalakala on the Northlake shoreline since returning it from Alaskan waters in 1998. What do he and his unruly crew of brigands want from us if not to extort still more money for the refurbishment of his 1935 vessel? And what nature of raucous supposed fundraising parties is he holding on its decks? (His floating eyesore is already known as the scourge of Lake Union.) The loud music, rowdy atmosphere, and free-flowing rum surely indicate the man is a PIRATE.

Rem Koolhaas: Selected as the world-class architect for our world-class new library, the incomprehensible theory-spouting Dutchman has hopelessly bamboozled the City Council and tastemakers. But true to this theme park-like vision of an avant garde Amsterdam (locked in time, but a different time, like Disneyland), the man is nothing but a refugee from some fleabag Continental circus, a sad European CLOWN.

Frank Gehry: Paul Allen's EMP architect secured a veritable treasure chest of booty for his design services, and his rumpled, disheveled appearance also certainly gives him the demeanor of an AIA-licensed PIRATE.

Paul Westphal: Why not just spread sawdust on the floor of Key Arena and hire a few out-of-work elephants to perform at halftime? (With luck, Squatch will be trampled to death.) Anything would be better than the Sonic coach's one-ring circus of a team. It'd be best for Gary and company if he just pulled up stakes and left town, so management could quickly replace this CLOWN.

Dale Chihuly: The grizzled, swaggering, eye-patch-wearing terror of the art world has vowed to conquer the seven seas of media, even if it means ransacking and pillaging more-deserving artworks from reputable museums that have refused his misshapen, overpriced glass blobs. Without even speculating about the amount of grog he drinks, his brash spirit of buccaneering mercantilism undoubtedly marks him as a PIRATE.

Bill Gates: Although he didn't wear baggy pants and oversized shoes to his depositions, the Microsoft CEO might just as well have arrived at the courthouse in a tiny car from which he and his legion of attorneys improbably emerged. In his testimony, deportment, and trustworthiness, we'll have to agree with Judge Thomas Penfield Jackson that the (formerly) richest man in the world is a CLOWN.

Paul Allen: The much-ridiculed patron of the EMP didn't help his ranking with the front-page photos of his awkward glass guitar shattering inauguration, but the man does own two giant seafaring yachts (one of which is significantly named Charade). His bearded pre-Hollywood makeover appearance also suggests a certain affinity for the roving nautical life, and his real estate maneuvering near King Street Station and South Lake Union—another body of water!--should earn him many, many pieces of eight. (And let's not even start with the stadium.) Raise the skull and crossbones over Vulcan HQ, Paul, because you've earned the right to call yourself a PIRATE.

 
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