Arts & Culture

April fools 2010

When Avey Portner comes to tent town, the party’s on. Some homeless folks in the area say that’s a bad thing.

When Avey Portner comes to tent town, the party’s on. Some homeless folks in the area say that’s a bad thing.

Wasted youth
In search of cheaper thrills, Midtown partiers invade homeless turf

by Boogie Elmar

Avey Portner cups two dice, shakes them furiously and then splashes them onto the bike-trail asphalt. They ricochet against a shoddy cardboard slab, propped up by his girlfriend Kristin Mum, and then come to rest on the ground.

“Ha!” the tall, gangly Portner erupts, laughing. His friends Brian Giolo, Josh Deacon, Noah Baer and Carlos Perez are silent. They’ve been losing at craps to Portner for a good half-hour, and he’s secured all their Pabst Blue Ribbon beers as a prize.

“I’m hotness,” Portner proclaims, juggling the die in his palms like hot potatoes.

Later after the sun has set, the six gnaw on Twizzlers and crunch on Fritos.

“I was just so sick of the bars and the scene in Midtown,” Portner shares. So in September 2009, he and friends left to start their own party city on the banks of the American River. “I wanted something more authentic, more meaningful. And I think we’ve accomplished that. No Internet. No texting. No work. No Chili’s.

“Just good times.”

But it’s not good times for all.

“I’m fed up. It’s like a bad Lars von Trier movie,” says Burt, an actual homeless man who lives in a tent tucked amid the parkway brush. He remembers being annoyed by partying scenesters in Midtown when he had a place to live, but now is even more offended by party city.

“They’re jerks. Period,” explains Burt. “They choose to live out here. They’re not homeless. They just want to party. Get drunk. It’s ridiculous.

“I’m gonna do something.”

Hipsters seeking to party in homeless encampments are advised to wear tight stretch pants to ward off ticks and other insects.

A dark orange sun sets due west of the American River’s 20th Street Bridge as Portner scours an abandoned homeless campground. He says that after shooting craps every afternoon, he likes to go off on his own to scavenge, to think.

“I usually forage while my girlfriend goes into town for food. You know, beef jerky, chips, beers,” he says.

In party city’s early days, Portner and girlfriend Mum were alone, camping near the bike trail just off 20th Street.

“It was a free feeling. I took my car back to my dad’s in Granite Bay, jacked the family tent and came out here,” Portner remembers. “The partying was great. No cops. No cover charge.”

Mum agrees. “It was rad. I had tons of clean clothes and [Portner] would get beer in town every afternoon and charge his iPod,” she says.

It was so much fun, Giolo, Deacon, Baer and Perez hopped on the bandwagon, left their Midtown apartments and joined the couple.

“I mean, I kinda missed stuff, like going to TownHouse or checking Facebook,” says Perez, a former deejay and barista. “But then I realized that material things don’t matter. We party pure.”

Quickly, though, Portner’s “good times” went south. First, there was internal strife.

“[Portner] got, like, hammered one night—he drank all the beer, for real—then took my fixie and tried to escape party city,” Perez recalls. “But he crashed and ruined my bike.” Portner was bloodied and badly injured, too.

“I didn’t go to the hospital,” Portner says, proudly. Indeed, the de facto party-city leader says he “hates doctors.”

“I have Lyme disease, which is kinda a bummer,” he admits. “I guess that’s what happens in the bush. I still don’t think I should have to buy health care. I mean, c’mon, Barry. Find me a job first.”

Amazingly, the party city survived winter.

“It was tough,” Mum says. “We all got really sick, too. And [Portner] would get wasted and scream and threaten to leave us all and move in with his parents.”

One morning, after a particularly vocal night of drinking and cursing, homeless Burt first approached the city and asked them to leave.

“I get that most people don’t give a damn about my plight, being homeless. But these young kids, they don’t care. They just party,” he says.

Another party city camper, who wished to remain anonymous, added, “Portner’s vision of a party is beginning to suck. I miss my iPhone and flatscreen. Does anybody know what happened to Zoe in last week’s Caprica?

Burt urged the partiers to go and try to make change in the world, but says they just laughed and threw empty beer cans at him.

“I didn’t harbor a ton of hope for tomorrow’s youth, and now I have zilch,” Burt says.

Mum arches her arm back past her head, then swings it across her body, skipping a rock nearly halfway across the American River just west of Sutter’s Landing.

“I’m sick of [Portner]. I’m sick of the party,” she confesses, nearly crying. “I really just want to leave. Tomorrow. I miss real life. Twitter. I mean, I should be traveling across Europe or something.”

Burt, who’s taken to keeping a hawk’s eye on the partiers as they swill beer, toss Frisbee and shoot craps every day, says he still can’t believe the party lives on.

“It’s repugnant. I’d seen their kind living in Midtown, partying and wasting time like there’s no consequence in the world,” he says. “But these kids are flat-out disgusting.”

Last week, Burt said he’d had enough and reported the party to city of Sacramento officials.

“The alcohol. The noise. The attitude. I’m suffering—dire straits—and they’re partying like the world doesn’t exist,” he says, nearly shouting.

City of Sacramento official Janice Jones says she hasn’t yet heard of a party city along the river, but concedes that the very idea is alarming.

“I understand most people don’t think about those less fortunate, but to go out into the parkway and live and celebrate right in the faces of the homeless, it’s discouraging,” Jones says. She also notes that city officials soon will comb the parkway and evacuate party city.

“Bring them on,” Portner challenges. “I pay taxes. Well, I used to. I mean, I pay sales tax.”

And so, Portner parties on. Tonight, he’s won everyone else’s Pabst Blue Ribbon and relaxes by the campfire, cans littered at his feet, empties spilling onto his Chuck Taylor sneakers. Alone.


Plastic fantastic

by Rachel Leibrock

Heidi Montag is my new feminist hero. The star of The Hills—and one half of the universal force known as “Speidi”—understands the fundamentals when it comes to a woman’s right to choose.

My body, my choice, my right to undergo the knife.

Montag, who said she wanted to become “the best me,” recently set the bar high, undergoing 10 surgeries in one day, nipping, tucking and augmenting her flesh from head to nearly toe. The message was clear and admirable: Why worry about inner beauty if no one can see it?

Still, the bombshelled blonde fell just this short of achieving the ultimate personal transformation.

Why limit plastic surgery to just the brows, cheeks, nose, boobs, stomach, butt and thighs? Why not show the love to that one body part that makes a woman uniquely a woman?

Now’s the time to seize the vajayday. It’s time for a little vaginoplasty.

Vaginoplasty is the latest plastic surgery option to sweep the nation and, in my quest to rejoice in the feminist gospel preached by Heidi, I want in.

Never heard of it? Vaginoplasty, also known as vaginal rejuvenation, is a surgical procedure that reconstructs your Pandora’s box for “structural” or “aesthetic” purposes.

While there are plenty of reasons why your Lil’ Miss Muffet is so woefully out of shape—childbirth, too much sex, not enough Kegel exercises—now there’s only one viable solution that counts.

Got a crooked tunnel of love? Time to repair, refinish and reopen for business.

But don’t stop there.

It’s time to sign up for labiaplasty, a procedure that snips away at labias that are unsightly, long, asymmetric, droopy or discolored.

It’s kind of like replacing the drapes to spruce up the living room.

But of course, this isn’t just about pretty hot pockets.

According to leading labia surgeon, the Philadelphia-based Dr. Sherman Leis, “If a woman has [an] excessively large or drooping labia, they can sometimes cause discomfort during physical activity, sports or even while sitting.”

It’s time to Joan Rivers that honey pot.

Of course, unless you’re Heidi, this might not be the kind of news you want to broadcast to all your friends and neighbors.

Blessedly, all this self-empowerment won’t necessarily make you a candidate for because, unlike with lip augmentation, no one needs to know if that trout pout is real or cosmetically enhanced. Unless you’re a porn star or a Chatroulette addict, there won’t be any incriminating before-and-after pics on the Internet.

It’s the ultimate “does she or doesn’t she” question.

And that’s OK, Leis says.

“The fact that women are less likely to boast about their vaginal rejuvenation belies the fact that vaginoplasty is one of the fastest-growing plastic-surgical procedures in America,” he says.

Indeed, according to the American College of Plastic Surgery, there were 3,500 vaginoplasty or labiaplasty surgeries in 2008—that’s up from just 800 in 2006 and 500 in 2006.

“Today’s independent woman wants to take full control of her life and appearance, and that includes her genital area as well.”

There are other benefits, too. According to Dr. Leis, showing more love to your lady business might mean your lady business gets more lovin’.

“Vaginoplasty can generate positive results for both partners of a couple, who will enjoy heightened sexual experience resulting from the surgery.”

Now that’s what I’m talking about.

Treat your queenie like the royalty she is and reclaim the hoo-ha, tame that Rubyfruit Jungle and celebrate all things Down Under.

You’ve got the power.


Hold the balls, please.

Take a swing

by John Olympic

My friend “Amy” has a knack for joining clubs. It’s not that she’s particularly interested in these organizations; she just can’t say no.

This usually gets her in trouble, like the time she spaced out and brought an iced latte to a monthly vegan meet-up. Amy learned that despite their sickly appearance, vegans sometimes get aggressive. Malnutrition does that.

Or back in college: She managed to sign up for both the Catholics for Life and the Feminists for Choice campus groups—on the same day. She avoided conflicts all semester until both groups protested at the Capitol—on the same day. (She arrived carrying a rosary in one hand and a bag of condoms in the other.)

I thought the ensuing riot had taught her a lesson. But when she plopped down next to me in a coffee shop two weeks ago, she not only proved me wrong, she also managed to one-up herself.

“I joined a swingers club,” she huffed.

I snortled my iced latte.

Exasperated, she told me that she had been talked into joining a suburban swingers club by a swarthy couple she met at (surprise) a bar.

When the older dude asked if she had a boyfriend, she lied. “Well, bring him along!” he said.

Amy asked me to go with her. “He said we could just watch!” she promised.

Yeah, right. I owed Amy a couple of favors, so I agreed to go.

Wednesday mornings strike me as an inconvenient time to throw a swingers party. I mean, don’t these people have jobs? But when the door opened after Amy’s timid knock, the scheduling made sense: Everyone in the place was retired.

Amy and I sat down in the living room, where 10 aging boomers grooved to Earth, Wind & Fire while groping each other in between gulps of cheap wine.

“So, are you into the bondage thing?” asked Rob, a man who sat down uncomfortably close to the two of us.

Trying to hide my unease, I made a joke. “Sure, but not in the 4-year-old in the basement kind of way.”

After Rob showed me restraints called The Rusty Bear Trap and the Pamela Anderson—both disturbingly similar to lashings I had learned in Boy Scouts—I noticed that Amy had disappeared.

I made my way through the hallway, past the bedrooms and around the bald guy in assless chaps, who asked me to tighten his leather wrist cuffs.

In the master bedroom, I found Amy tangled in a nest of wrinkled arms and legs that, for some reason, reminded me of the Flying Spaghetti Monster.

Amy finally found her niche.

I headed for the front door.

(Note to self: Delete Earth, Wind & Fire from iPod.)


Nora the Piano Cat in happier days, before catnip took her down the road to ruin.


That cat can play

by Jenn Kistler

It’s Davis or bust for the famous piano-pounding gray tabby cat.

Nora the Piano Cat, who became a YouTube sensation in 2007, will begin her world tour on Saturday, April 31, at the Mondavi Center on the UC Davis campus.

Following the popularity of several YouTube videos featuring Nora performing famous classical music and improv jazz on the piano, the cat made appearances on The Today Show, The Martha Stewart Show and numerous other media outlets. In 2008, she also released her debut book, Nora the Piano Cat’s Guide to Becoming a Good Musician: Or How to Get Good at Anything Hard, and several straight-to-DVD video recordings.

According to her owners, Betsy and Burnell, the pressure to perform for millions of fans every day soon became daunting. Nora eventually became dependent on catnip to maintain her energy for numerous guest appearances and impromptu concerts.

In mid-2009, Nora’s addiction gained national attention when she tousled the characteristic news anchor coif of KCRA’s Deirdre Fitzpatrick, who was found to have traces of catnip residue in her hair. Soon after, Nora and her owners returned home to Philadelphia to focus on recovery and the tabby cat’s future in the music industry.

Nora, who has been sober for six months, will embark on a 20-city world tour through out the United States, Europe and Asia. She will perform an evening of improvisational jazz, as well as songs from her soon-to-be-released album, titled I Can Has Meowzart.

Part of the proceeds from ticket sales will go to Catnip Anonymous, a nonprofit organization that helps shelter cats overcome their dependence on nepeta cataria products.


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Get less smart
Dummies for Dummies

by Auntie Ruth

Since 2009, America’s dumbness has witnessed a sharp decline, threatening our standing as world leaders in dumbness. But the good ol’ days are here again, thanks to Dummies for Dummies: Helping Americans Get Their Stupid on Since 2009 Real Good! Packed with tips and tricks on focusing your stupid by exceeding your grasp, this book is a guide through a bewildering maze of dumbness. Chapter titles include “Nearly Dumb,” “Dumb Sometimes” and “Only Dumb Once but It Was a Real Good One.” Other pertinent topics: “Conducting armed robbery of a gun-and-ammo store when a police car is parked in front of it: dos and don’ts,” or “Should you leave your lava lamp on when you microwave it?” Then there’s “Cutting taxes, government spending and deficits (’cause three furlough days a month just ain’t enough—Republicans are leading us back to stupid),” all key for understanding the most essential elements of all things dumb.


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Hotness defined
The Betty Boop Theory
J.T. Ladd

by Sam Totters

For every trend, there’s a theory. In this case, the theory put forward by Ladd (who is no doubt best known for the rating system he established to rank women’s “hotness” in proportion to their “intelligence”) suggests that the more Betty Boop memorabilia a woman has, the less attractive she is likely to be. That’s right; the country’s first cartoon sex symbol, the remarkable Betty Boop, has an inverse correlation to the attractiveness of the woman sporting Betty Boop gear. Ladd makes this point subtly, by pointing out how often Betty Boop stuff (sweat shirts and pants, purses, hats, keychains, etc.) shows up in the possession of women who were actually alive the first time Boop appeared on the screen (in 1930). “How hot can she be?” writes Ladd. “The bitch is 80 years old, for chrissakes, and nobody is still hot when they’re 80 years old.”


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Cut it out
Buzzsaw Bailiffs
Judge McChainsaw

by Sam Yosemite

This novel takes us inside the mind of a predatory serial killer who stalks his unwitting victims in the gloaming. By day, he’s a mild-mannered court employee; in the early evening, as the sun is setting over the Delta, he carefully mixes oil and gasoline in his Stihl saw and treads lightly on the levee, looking for any tree that dare grow tall enough to block his view. Then, kkkZZZZZZZ! Down the trees go. As their sap pools beneath his black-booted feet, the killer wonders what would happen if he could break out of his staid carapace and really cut loose. Could he unleash the whipping, snarling, rattling chain saw on the clerk of court? On some whiny plaintiff? Or even better, on a defendant? Why waste time with the presumption of innocence when you can just cut ’em down. This is a gorefest that will keep you up all night.


Poets corner

The End of Poetry

by Anna Leetzow

The poem begins with an observation,
followed by an image. A New Yorker
poem has a dog (golden retriever);
rain; a homeless guy; some woman
who is obviously in need of comeuppance.
An SN&R poem has a dog (mutt);
a graffiti-covered alley; homeless guy;
tattooed chick, pierced in places you’ll
never see when you never get to fuck her.
Then come a series of metaphors:
broken glass as clear as … glass;
her skin as smooth as … skin.
And finally, a resolution:
Perhaps something overdetermined;
a realization that comes a bit too easily,
or a troubling question of the sort
that can never fully be answered.


If you want to see the full Arnie, go the show.

Take it all off!
The Full Arnie

by Kel Munger

Click for Legend

The last time we saw it all come off on a Sacramento stage was during the raving-Willie run of Hair at Artistic Differences a few years back—and those actors all had the advantage of being young and, uh, firm. It takes real guts to bare it all when one is on the downside of 60 and about to leave the governor’s office of a nearly bankrupt state—and more than a little chutzpah to sing about it—but The Full Arnie is a delightful musical biography of California’s first citizen and most famous muscle man.

It is, however, a bit ironic that the same state that elected the man can’t seem to mount a local production of the show—too risqué, we hear—and must wait for an international touring company from Europe to take it all off in the name of political commentary and musical theater.

As the young Arnold Schwarzenegger, tempted to leave competitive bodybuilding for a career in real-estate development, Tom vonFinland is a revelation. He doesn’t flinch from the homoerotic implications of the governor-to-be’s fascination with body oil—and especially with a particular towel boy’s application of said oil. “Rub, rub, rub,” sings vonFinland, in a manly baritone. “Two men in a tub.”

But the towel boy is tossed aside, along with plenty of used towels, when the eponymous multitalented Austrian meets his future wife. The real conflict in this piece—as in all musicals—is the love story: bodybuilder meets girl, bodybuilder brainwashes girl, girl loses mind and marries bodybuilder. It might have come right out of the Rodgers and Hammerstein playbook, but even so, when vonFinland gives voice to “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?” we really do believe that things are about to change.

We’re not disappointed. The section of the show that deals with the Governator’s days in Hollywood is fast-paced and riotously funny. Jeff Barker, a former press rep for the governor (and former political writer for SN&R), is a flat-out scene stealer as an oily snake of an agent who is put out of our misery by a sledgehammer-wielding Schwartzi, in full Conan regalia. The director’s decision to choreograph this scene with plenty of fake blood makes the Götterdämmerung so much more realistic. We were pleased with the slight odor of burning flesh as a bit of added realism, until we discovered at intermission that Barker had in fact stumbled too close to one of the torches and barbecued himself (subsequent performances will be handled by the understudy for this run).

It’s in the third act—which is often a waste of time for musicals, since all it does is make sure the couple reunite and all the loose ends are tied up—that The Full Arnie really shines. We discover—and the governor’s shock is played to comic perfection by vonFinland—that Maria’s brainwashing is incomplete, and (spoiler alert) she remains a Democrat! In fact, the play leaves some ambiguity as to whether or not she actually voted for the big guy.

But at last, in a final, show-stopping burst of energy, the hats are doffed, the chandelier drops, the cats all yowl and we see the full Arnie.

You’d think, after the steroid-using, pot-smoking, iron-pumping youth, that there wouldn’t be much to ogle, but you’d be wrong.

Apparently, it’s something to sing about.


Self-stim on stage

by Kel Munger

We’re thrilled that Artistic Differences is taking us down the dangerous path of toking until you’re totally insane (Reefer Madness opens this Friday, April 2, at the California Stage), but we’re even more pleased that the silliness surrounding another pastime is finally getting the musical treatment. That’s right, look for a local production of You’ll Go Blind to open next spring. We’ve heard through the grapevine (and no, we weren’t smoking it—this time) that we’ll hear such fantastic standards as “Fuzz on My Palms” and “Pass the National Geographic, Please.” There’s no business like solo business, and as soon as a venue is secured, we’ll have more info in this space.