News Clips— Fat Tuesday redux

HERE'S A SURPRISE: Drunken revelers, cops clash at Seattle Mardi Gras. Also, this just in: Francisco Franco still dead.

Mix a thousand or so partygoers with riot-geared police at 2am, add distilled spirits, and you get the obvious answer to the dumb question "Why was there trouble again at Pioneer Square's Fat Tuesday celebrations?"

The predictable weekend head- and window-bashings are now mired in equally predictable finger-pointing: The revelers started it; the cops ignited it; or, as the mayor was quoted in The Seattle Times, "out-of-town hooligans" were responsible. It's unclear if the mayor went around checking the ID of bottle throwers, but that sounded a lot like "Eugene anarchists," the out-of-towners who helped spoil another of the city's parties.

Of course, there may have been kindred spirits of the World Trade Organization riots in the Square's Friday and Saturday night crowds. Others may have been spurred by a reactive mob mentality or stirred by breast-flashing young women who buy the music-video notion that they're life-support systems for body parts. And probably there indeed were hooligans, from wherever. (The damage was done by a minority of the crowd.)

But Fat Tuesday—its commerce and history—is about booze. Seventeen restaurants/drinking clubs participate in the weeklong par-tee sponsored in part by Heineken and featuring such decathlon events as the bartender's competition, celebrity bartender night, and the pub run. It's not a celebration, or a riot, without the medication. Control the booze and you control the crowd.

That's what they did before, anyway, after the 1970s when the revelry, rioting, and debauchery were worse. (Remember the couple having sex to the cheers of the crowd at First and Yesler?) An abridged Mardi Gras filled in the middle years, and promoters kept partying low-key. Now in its 23rd season, the festival has slowly returned to its bleary-eyed beginnings, with the clubs' goal being the daily "nut" made on liquor profits. Margaret Pageler posed the right notion this week when she told fellow Seattle City Council members, "I think we need to figure out what's the purpose of this celebration." Other than a hangover?


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