Meet the people behind those "Sarah Palin: Putting the 'Cunt' back in our Country" T-shirts

Oct 22, 2008 at 4:00 am
You wouldn't expect a man who haunts the Delmar Loop in a T-shirt that reads "Sarah Palin: Putting the 'Cunt' back in our Country" to have many kind words for the Alaska governor.

But Andrew Wool has five: "Sarah Palin paid my rent."

Over the past three weeks, ever since Palin's arrival for the vice-presidential debate at Washington University, Wool, 40, and his friend Rebecca Widzer, 22, have sold nearly 100 silk-screened Palin T-shirts at $10 a pop. They make the shirts themselves in Widzer's University City apartment.

The enterprise, says Wool, began as an exercise in free speech. "We're selling America," he declares. "There's nothing more American than a T-shirt with words on it."

Wool, who carries the shirts in his backpack and in the trunk of his car, persuaded the managers at the Loop's Rag-O-Rama to display a shirt in the front window (photo here) until someone complained. "It lasted half a day," Wool recounts.

Reactions have been mixed. "Becca gets a whole different response from me," Wool says. "She gets: 'Power to the people!' I get: 'Dirty old man.'" "It's because I'm a small, short girl wearing it," says Widzer.

"The C-word is like the N-word for women," Wool says.

"My mom's a gynecologist and isn't comfortable saying it," says Widzer, "but I find it refreshing to say it."

During the debate Widzer and Wool both tried, and failed, to infiltrate Wash. U.'s campus. "It was our goal to get [debate moderator] Gwen Ifill to wear one while moderating the debate," Wool says regretfully.

Instead they were confined to the Free Speech Area on Forsyth Boulevard with the rest of the protesters. Wool attempted to sell the shirts to Secret Service agents, but they ignored him. "They have no sense of humor," he says.

Widzer had better luck with a group called Fire Fighters for Obama. "They stopped and bought the shirts right there. One of the firefighters asked me on a date," she says, "but he was kind of old."

Widzer works for the city and only wears her Palin shirt on the weekend. Wool is a filmmaker and local water polo coach — and he's no stranger to political provocation. As an undergraduate at the University of Montana, he organized a protest of the first Gulf War, wherein students stormed the floor during a televised basketball game and shouted "Play ball, not war!" and threw potatoes emblazoned with peace signs.

After Election Day, Wool plans to devote his time to writing a "manifesto" about his experiences with the Palin T-shirts.

"I won't wear the T-shirt after November 4," he says. "Hopefully, it will be a moot point that Wednesday. I don't want to make shirts for four more years. It might be the only job I can get."