Doo Dah Moves On
Iconic parade to leave Old Town for East Pasadena
After more than three decades in Old Pasadena, organizers of the eccentric, eclectic Doo Dah Parade have seen many changes, the latest among them rescheduling the anarchic event from November to January and then to May 1.
And this year comes the biggest change of all: moving the parade out of its ancestral Old Town home and relocating it to East Pasadena.
“There was no bad reason to leave Old Pasadena, but we don’t want the parade to be cookie-cutter,” explained Tom Coston.
Coston heads up the Light Bringer Project, a nonprofit group that promotes arts and cultural programs and produces this offbeat annual event, which takes pride in having nothing “official” — except for perhaps its queen — associated with it, right down to its age, which is listed as being in its 33rd “occasional” year.
Doo Dah, said Coston, “has been the alternative entertainment of Old Pasadena for a long time, but this is our event that we can shake, rattle and roll however we want it. Taking it to East Pasadena brings us to a lot of local businesses and artists that people are calling ‘The New Old Town.’”
The announcement to the Pasadena Weekly about the change of location comes as Coston and event organizers prepare for the selection of the parade’s queen. That annual event is set for Sunday at the American Legion Hall on North Vinedo Avenue in East Pasadena.
Dozens of the area’s most offbeat characters and their friends are expected to show up to vie for the coveted Doo Dah Queen crown or cheer for the contenders. Alcohol will definitely be part of the festivities, and turning things up a notch or two will be performances by local music legends Snotty Scottie and the Hankies — a group that’s been around long enough to qualify as Doo Dah’s house band — and Horses on Astroturf.
Also expected to attend are past queens, including last year’s monarch, Julie “Skittles” Klima, a graduate of Art Center College of Design in Pasadena.
“Essentially, we’re going back to our roots,” said Coston.
While some longtime denizens of Old Pasadena and parade aficionados said they had no trouble with the parade moving out of the neighborhood and wished them luck, others predicted the event’s ultimate demise when that happens.
Local artist Debbie Blanco Flores, a bartender at Freddy’s 35er bar near Fair Oaks Avenue and Colorado Boulevard, acknowledged that such a move “isn’t going to be good for us, but good for them.” But, she said, “If it’s going to be cooler and mellower for them, I’m happy for them. Good for them.”
The move did not come as happy news to Ed Charles, another old-timer who frequents the Old Town Pub, which for decades and under a number of owners has been the traditional gathering place and watering hole before and after
“It’s finished,” said Charles. “If it’s not in Old Town, it’s finished. What’s so magical about East Pasadena? Nothing. … It stinks if it goes down there.”
Lou Haro, another area native and lifelong parade fan who well knows that many of the thousands who flock to Old Pasadena the morning of the parade stick around to eat, drink and party well into the afternoon and evening, asked, “How are the shops here going to make any money if they move out of Old Town?”
Steve Mulheim, CEO of the Old Pasadena Management Association, was sorry to see the parade leave his part of town. “I hadn’t heard specifics from them,” Mulheim said Monday. “We’re sorry to see it not in Old Pasadena. As producers of many events, we know it’s difficult to establish a following,” he added.
He isn’t sure why Coston would make a comparison between Old Town and East Pasadena. “We don’t proclaim to corner the market in Old Pasadena. We certainly have artistically driven people here, and a great deal more than artists, that make the area and the parade work. We have 100-plus years of history as the cornerstone of the city’s economic hub, as opposed to just having an arts scene,” he said.
If the parade does move, Light Bringer may run into problems attracting an audience, mainly because “people get used to a certain time and place each year,” Mulheim continued. “If you move a hit TV show, eventually viewers don’t know where to look for it. I’m sorry for the event, to see it move — it was November, January, now May. … All this could hurt it, though I wish them the best.”
Since its inception during some creative drinking sessions in 1978 that included founder Peter Apanel, friends Ted Wright, Charles “Skip” Finnell (brother of Scott “Snotty Scottie” Finnell) and a handful of others, the wacky extravaganza has been a perpetual work in progress.
First intended as a send-up of the staid and stuffy never-on-Sunday Rose Parade, Doo Dah was always staged on Sunday and featured groups and acts that would never pass muster with the Tournament of Roses Association.
Some of those screwball acts included Macho Dog, a guy who dresses up in a giant dog suit and interacts excitedly with the crowd, and Uncle Fester, a pasty white bald guy who makes light bulbs spark up after putting then in his mouth.
Then there’s the Men of Leisure Synchronized Nap Team, the Bastard Sons of Lee Marvin, the Frida Kahlo Sisters of Perpetual Misery and, of course, the Synchronized Briefcase Drill Team (a group now so well-known that it marched in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade), to name a few.
Several years back, the parade was taken over from Apanel by Coston’s Light Bringer Project. Three years ago, the event changed dates, going from November prior to the Rose Parade to mid-January. Then last year it was announced that Light Bringer Project would stage the parade on May 1.
Although few specifics of this year’s event are available, instead of coursing through parts of Old Pasadena, the parade will now run east along Colorado Boulevard from Sierra Madre Boulevard to San Gabriel Boulevard.
“I think there’s a tremendous possibility to be a new community arts enclave,” said Coston. “The other parade [he said of the Rose Parade] turns left at Sierra Madre, so we figured we’d go east of that. We promise a great party while keeping the spirit of Doo Dah fresh. Even if it’s smaller than normal, it doesn’t matter. We don’t want to retire seven times like Frank Sinatra. We’ll go out, if we have to, on top and on our terms.”
Doo Dah Parade Queen Tryouts are at 2 p.m. Sunday at the American Legion Hall, 179 N. Vinedo Ave., Pasadena. Admission is a $5 donation to the American Legion. The first 20 queen hopefuls get in free. Call (626) 590-1134 or visit pasadenadoodahparade.info.