What do you mean, gross? It wasn't gross. Well, there was that truckload of portable bathrooms. And the Cabin John outhouse with a guy inside. And the live pigs. And all those people wearing slips . . .
Otherwise, the fourth annual Gross National Parade yesterday was just like the good old down-home parade from when you were a kid, with the whole town sitting on the curbstones for 15 blocks. Except this one didn't have car dealers in convertibles.
It started six years ago when Bill Trumbull and Chris Core, announcers for WMAL, commentated (jockeyed?) this imaginary parade on radio that sounded so great people wanted to come out for it. So the station turned it into a benefit for the Metropolitan Boys and Girls clubs; and marching bands from Princeton, Yale, Brown and some other places showed up; and before you knew it, the GNP was a Washington tradition.
The Other Washington, that is. The side with the seams in it. The grand marshal was Ernest P. Worrell, the guy who keeps calling you "Vern" while his nose pokes clear out of your television screen at you. When he's not behind a fisheye lens he looks quite normal, and his name is Jim Varney.
"You know whut I mean, Vern?" he yelled, and the crowd cheered.
We had the Screaming Naugas drill team, composed of some draftees from Montgomery College who did in fact scream, causing everyone to scream back. And Jackie Bill, the professor of Sleazology who made the crowd shudder with a tie that didn't go with his checked jacket. And the public library team that insisted on sitting down in the middle of M Street at Wisconsin Avenue (where the reviewing stand was, by chance) to read.
And wigs. Green wigs, orange wigs, blue wigs, violet wigs and one that was green, orange, blue and violet all at the same time. And frisbees. Contestants kept flinging them at the stand.
"Oh, boy, more frisbees!" cried Trumbull. "The judges love that. Throwing frisbees at their face."
And bands. Good bands, terrible bands. The crack Cardozo High School band that blew away the Rose Bowl parade in 1981. The University of Virginia band. A bluegrass band. A steel band. A German oompah band. A kazoo band. Another kazoo band. Another kazoo band.
And drill teams. Forget about the Screaming Naugas. We had the celebrated Toro! Toro! Toro! Precision Lawnmower Drill Team, the Stationers' Write-On Drill Team with six-foot pencils, the Synchronized Precision Briefcase Drill Team, and a walking six-pack of beer cans that stopped in front of the stand ("Oh, Lord, they have an act," sighed Trumbull) and squirted water at the judges.
Then there was the line of walking building blocks that was supposed to spell out "Kennedy Center" but never could get it quite right.
Oh, and the 10 Joe Theismanns, complete with sun smears under the eyes. They wore jerseys of different NFL teams and sang "Wake Me Up Before You Go, Joe."
Prizes ranged from the Golden Slab for the rawest humor (to the Sheet Family, whose signs would never make it in this family newspaper) to the Medical Attention Award for the sickest sense of humor (the Club Dead of Rehoboth Beach). The coveted Golden Snowshark, given each year "to the entry that needs no excuse," went to the Bethany Boom Box Band, whatever that was.
Judges Arch Campbell, Pat Collins, Gil Gross and Jane Horwitz from the local mass media handed out more awards than you surely want to know about. They should have had one for the best Imelda Marcos joke, which had to be the Trivial Pursuit gang's sign, "What was Cory Aquino's happiest hour?" Answer: "When she found she had the same shoe size as Imelda."
The parade ended with a squad of D.C. trash trucks that swept M Street, all the way out from Singles Bar Gulch on 19th, cleaner than you would think it could be.
"No big deal," said Harold Bussey, on the last truck. "Same as last year."
It was nearly 5 p.m. Outside the Sign of the Whale, about 50 people sat on some bleachers cheering and laughing and having a great time. The parade had passed them an hour ago.