Something Smells

We find the funk in Branson, ride along with a stunt pilot and check out the STL Zoo's new species; plus, a local Gephardt gaffe

Branson wants the country's youth. Silver Dollar City, an 1800s-themed amusement park just outside of Branson, recently announced a new million-dollar kids' festival "creating funkiness at the Silver Dollar City theme park." Having no idea what all this means, Unreal phoned Silver Dollar City attractions publicist Crystal Boulware.

Unreal: What exactly does "creating funkiness" entail?

Crystal Boulware: Well, what we do is we always listen to our customers. We always want to be able to know what they want to do at the park. What we've created this year is the "Circus of Dreams" parade, which is a parade from a child's imagination. So the elephants that are in it aren't gray, and the tigers aren't the colors that they should be. But it's a ton of fun.

Bona fide funkiness
Bona fide funkiness
Funkiness, Branson-style
Funkiness, Branson-style
Half a dozen energy drinks + aeronautic stunts = ...well, you can guess.
Half a dozen energy drinks + aeronautic stunts = ...well, you can guess.
Poor Gephardt: Always a political bridesmaid, never a bride.
Poor Gephardt: Always a political bridesmaid, never a bride.

You say you're chasing the "Gen-X" and "Gen-Y" crowds. Which one do you think is more likely to appreciate the creation of funkiness?

I really think everybody will -- even the Baby Boomers will have a blast here. From the Xtreme Air show to Veggie Tales -- with Bob and Larry and all their friends -- it's a little bit of everything for everybody of all ages.

You have an attraction called "Ride the Ducks" where everyone who boards gets a "wacky quacker," which, apparently, is a duck bill-shape kazoo. Do you think the wacky quacker is the most efficient way to create funkiness?

The wacky quackers? That is totally a Ride the Ducks thing, and they're their own entity. You'd want to talk to [the Ride the Ducks publicist] about that.

Is it possible to create funkiness for less than $1 million, or is that how much funkiness costs?

That's what we started with. Silver Dollar City is always changing and expanding, but for this year we decided to do that, and that parade will continue to expand and grow.

After my grandpa takes his Metamucil tablets, he is said to "create funkiness." Is this the kind of funkiness you're talking about?

Um, we're just trying to make Silver Dollar City fun for the whole family. I guess I'm not really understanding that aspect of the question.

Here We Go Loop-to-Loop

Does vomit rhyme with comet? Such was the rhetorical comeback last week when Unreal was extended an offer to tag along with the stunt pilots of Fair Saint Louis.

Little did Unreal realize those words would come back to haunt. Fueled on Red Baron frozen pizza and a half-dozen Red Bull energy drinks, Unreal took to the skies with the Red Bull aircraft team. (Alas, a thunderstorm grounded our Red Baron ride.)

Note to self: Lay off the freebies prior to pulling G-force loop-to-loops in a flying pocket rocket.

As the able pilot completed aerobatic maneuvers ranked one through ten by degree of difficulty, Unreal developed an equally challenging sport: Aerobatic Retching. With apologies to the crowd assembled along the Arch grounds (that wasn't pelican poop), here's a list of some of the most challenging targets within striking distance of the St. Louis riverfront.

Busch Stadium home plate: This target is particularly vexing because one might think that points should be awarded just for landing a few chunks in the doughnut-hole hollows of Busch. Not so. After a few foul balls, Unreal was able to spray a line running from the warm-up deck through home plate and into the visiting club's bullpen. Degree of difficulty: 6.9.

Eads Bridge: Bridges have long been strategic targets of invading bombardiers. In this case the challenge is not to waste any peptic morsels on the brown swath of the Mississippi, as it can cost you points. Degree of difficulty: 4.5.

Gateway Arch: Although one might think that its sheer magnitude would make the Arch an easy target, its surface area is relatively small -- just a silver sliver among so many fatter targets. A perfect score is awarded to anyone who lands a "gateway slide," in which the barf snakes its way from the top to the bottom of the monument. Degree of difficulty: 8 to 10.

St. Louis Centre: It's white, which makes it particularly appealing to those of us who prefer a blank canvas on which to create a Jackson Pollock-style masterpiece. If you gauge the crosswinds properly, gravity will paint with puke the entire east side of the soon-to-be-foreclosed retail failure. Degree of difficulty: 5.6

Fair Saint Louis Main Stage: Unreal is a sucker for irony, so we couldn't resist the allure of heaving on a band called Saliva while they kicked out the crap rock during the fair. It ain't easy hitting a moving target, especially one banging his head so furiously, but yes, we nailed singer Josey Scott right in the noggin. He deserved it. Degree of difficulty: 9.2.

Edward Jones Dome: We were flying straight and clean, our stomachs sapped of all fluid, when we spied the monstrosity. The mere sight of the dome, which looks like a toilet bowl from way up here, caused us to pour forth with one last gush of bile. Bull's eye! Degree of difficulty: 2.9.

Grizzly Bear and Alligator Mate in Attempt to Form New "Grizzligator" Species

By Diane Toroian Keaggy

Post-Dispatch Zoo Bureau Chief

Sherman the grizzly bear mounted Annie the alligator last night in the Saint Louis Zoo's crocodile pond, which may result in what is believed to be the world's first "grizzligator" embryo.

The idea for the pairing was born from "animal attraction," says zoo manager Diane Wilson.

"We noticed that Sherm was throwing a series of fetching glances at the croc pond last week," said Wilson. "And then we got to thinking what a formidable beast the grizzligator would be and permitted Sherm to have his way with Annie."

Dr. Cheryl Asa, the zoo's director of research, said the decision to spawn the grizzligator is firmly rooted in practicality and not the "look at my rhino fucking your parrot!" sexual zoonanigans that have drawn criticism from the religious right.

"Alligators are equipped to withstand extreme heat and mugginess, whereas grizzly bears thrive in subzero conditions," said Asa. "So, you see, the grizzligator will be the ultimate fishing machine, whether he's in an Everglades swamp or the Arctic Sea."

As for the technicalities of the interspecies mount, Asa said it was rather simple. Sherman the grizzly entered Annie the alligator while the female gator was in her natural belly-down position, causing Wilson to quip, "She'll probably end up birthing a puppy."

"Some of these interspecies mounts -- for example, attempting to cross-breed a walrus and butterfly -- are highly tactical," said Asa. "But this one was easy. Sherm really likes tail, and Annie really liked Sherm."

Unfortunately, the coupling may well signal the end of the great grizzly's interspecies breeding career as, upon climax, Annie the alligator promptly snapped off Sherman's penis with a sharp molar to the pubic region. Asa said the zoo has no immediate plans to reattach the grizzly bear's wang, at least not until he starts taking foreplay a little more seriously.

Todd C. Frankel, Deb Peterson and Eli Kintisch contributed to this report.

Who Tricked Dick?

Last week was tough for Dick Gephardt as he was relegated to the role of political bridesmaid.

John Kerry was tight-lipped about his vice-presidential selection throughout the process, but some media members thought they had the dirt nonetheless. The most embarrassing gaffe occurued on July 6, when the front page of New York Post trumpeted an "exclusive" report that Kerry has chosen Gephardt.

Less notable -- but nearly as cocky -- was the posting on local Web site Blog Saint Louis (http://bsl.archpundit.com). Run by Larry Handlin, a graduate student in Washington University's political science program, Blog Saint Louis focuses on local politics. On July 4, the site boasted, "It's Gephardt."

"Just got some scuttlebutt," read Handlin's entry, "[that] top Gephardt aide Joyce Aboussie has been sent a private plane to join Dick Gephardt for...one can only assume the announcement that Dick Gephardt will be the next Vice President Nominee for the Democratic Party....If Aboussie is being flown out and ordering staff to be ready for a change, it's hard to imagine that it is anything, but gearing up for an announcement that he is the VP nominee.

"This is going to be embarrassing if I'm wrong given the firestorm it created!" the post concluded.

The posting created a flurry of rumors and calls to Gephardt's staff. Two days later Kerry's actual choice was revealed -- and red-facedness ensued.

"I've got a sense of humor about it," Handlin tells Unreal. "The strange thing about the whole thing is, I hadn't been paying attention to the vice-presidential pick at all. Maybe the first post in a couple months on it was the post about Gephardt."

As for his source, Handlin is mum.

"I don't think the person burned me," the blogger says. "I just think they had it wrong. I think they took a hypothetical and read it as actually happening, instead of what would happen if certain things happened."

In any case, this faulty prognostication has generated more press for Blog Saint Louis than any actual scoop could have. Jo Mannies of the Post-Dispatch mentioned the site in her July 6 column, and NationalJournal.com's Hotline -- a daily briefing on politics that is widely read by politicians and members of the media -- linked to the Blog Saint Louis.

"It's a rather bad way to make the Hotline," Handlin despairs. But he seems to have learned his lesson. As to other questions -- such as whether Gephardt could make the short list for a cabinet position in a Kerry administration -- Handlin's keeping his mouth shut. "At this point," he says, "I guess I'm shy to make any predictions about Gephardt."

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