Outside, blue and white searchlights played over the fac,ade of the grand Old Post Office last night, illuminating "Flo," a 30-foot inflated whale spouting the word "Please."
Inside, several hundred people swarmed like a school of frenzied, feeding sharks around giant clamshells heaped with shrimp, tomatoes stuffed with white king crab and other elaborate hors d'oeuvres donated by several local restaurants.
The event: A benefit reception to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Center for Environmental Education, featuring the unveiling of a new poster, "Noah's Ark 2000," donated by controversial Austrian artist Friedensreich Hundertwasser in support of the center's marine conservation work.
"I've never had a Cotuit oyster before," said William Kardash, CEE founder and director of the 6-year-old Whale Protection Fund, slurping one down from the Tabard Inn's table.
Surveying the lavish tables of seafood, CEE executive director Thomas Grooms said, "Of course, we're not serving anything that's on the endangered species list. We just want to show that the ocean is a good source of nutritional food."
Although Hundertwasser's presence ostensibly was to launch a major campaign by the fund to ensure that the International Whaling Commission enforces the ban on commercial whaling, the artist made no mention of whales in his speech, instead using the podium to launch a startling scatalogical diatribe on the ecological issue that currently concerns him: human waste and its disposal. "If we do not treasure our s---, we lose our life," Hundertwasser pronounced, while the crowd fidgeted and shrugged. "He's circling over Dulles right now," whispered one listener.
"I think only 1 percent here understand, the rest just talked and heard some noise," Hundertwasser said later to a circle of devotees, after Rep. Morris Udall (D-Ariz.) had cracked some James Watt jokes and Rep. Don Bonker (D-Wash.) warned that public support was necessary to keep the whaling ban in force. "People come up to me and say 'you were wonderful and your poster is beautiful, but what was all that you say?' People in America you can tell whatever you like. They don't listen, they dream."
The bearded, stern-looking Hundertwasser, who turned 54 yesterday, wore a striped velvet and linen suit and high-crowned railroad cap of his own design and construction, which he said appeared in the November number of French Vogue.
Hundertwasser, who wears only his own clothes, disrobed Monday (down to his long underwear) during a speech at the American Institute of Architects. "This is a demonstration against sterile architecture," he said by way of explanation. "Man has three skins. The first is created by God, the second, clothes is created by man, and the third skin is buildings. If your second and third skin don't fit you, you get sick. Don't adopt ready-made clothes or architecture." When asked if he would encore his impromptu striptease at tonight's speech at AIA, Hundterwasser said, "No, I do it only once. I never repeat the things that I do. Well, I did do it 10 years ago."
Said Christian Schueller, a reporter for Austrian National Television, "He's always trying to provoke people."