The History Of Llamafest
by Jacko Kaplan
It all began with a dream . . .
No really it did. It was the tumultuous summer of 1989. New Kids on the Block were beginning their meteoric rise to the top and a young Dan Quayle was quickly making his mark as the third most important vice president since 1976. Dave Johnson and Russell Jaffe were in New Orleans attending Tulane and living a half a block away from The Boot (aka the bar that every New Orleans teenager could get into without ID). Spending most of their free time, as well as times when they should have been in class, started to drain away available funds. So Russ and Dave decided to take a break from drinking for one week - this being an immensely long time for them. During this week Dave had a dream....
Dave dreamed that he should throw a Happy Llama's Day Party for his mom. Why? Who the hell knows? Anyway, during the dream, Dave needed to get a cake for the event but could not find one. He ended up with just one piece and each side had a different neon colored frosting.
The next day, Dave told his dream to Russell. After debating whether to call the men with the straight jacket, they decided that after their week of alcohol abstention, they would go bonkers at The Boot and call it Happy Llama's Day.
And so, the first Llamafest was born.
A llama was needed to get the theme established. Dave and Russell searched low and high in New Orleans at toy stores, the zoo, and several porno shops but all to no avail. A last ditch effort at a place in the French Quarter yielded the mother lode and a small black idol, named Dalai, was purchased and brought to the party.
The party was Dave, Russell, Eddie - the world famous bartender at The Boot, John Fishman, Keith Kornman, and a bar full of people wondering what in the hell Happy Llama's Day was. But before long, the whole bar was in the spirit and giving praise to the llama idol which Eddie had placed high above the bar.
Russell was named the first High Priest of Llamafest. The responsibilities behind this title are quite serious and include telling people that you are the high priest and when they ask what that means you have to tell them you' re not sure. Actually, I think the high priest was allowed to choose the virgin sacrifice at the start of each . Sadly, no one has volunteered for the job yet.
A girl named Peaches Hanemann asked Eddie if she could see the llama idol (which had come to be known as Dalai) and tried to make for the door. Luckily, someone stopped her and she was named the "Anti-Llama" and Eddie made her do some shots to redeem herself - which makes one wonder if the punishment fit the crime.
The fate of Dalai remained a mystery for some time. Some thought that he had been lost, stolen, or had set up shop as an antiques dealer in Guadalajara. But turns out he was in the good hands of Eddie and Beth all these years, and still residing in New Orleans. Occasionally, he even has a day out on the town.
The next summer, Llamafest was greatly anticipated by so many people that some planning was necessary. After a 2 minute discussion, The Boot was chosen as the venue. Other locations were considered including The Metro which is down the block from The Boot, but tradition dictated that it should be held where it all started.
John Fishman brought fez hats. Now you might be asking, what the hell do fez hats have to do with Llamafest? Well he bought them in Morocco which makes them Islamic hats. Whatever - it started a new tradition of party souvenirs.
Eddie set up the silent radio behind the bar announcing that Llamafest was underway and that dollar "Llama" shots were available. I think the secret ingredient in these shots is that stuff the astronauts drink. Whatever it was, it nicely covered up the vodka because everybody felt just fine!
Dave Johnson was named as the second High Priest and given all of the powers that went along with the title. His reign would be glorious and long as there would be an extended stretch of time when the world would suffer without a Llamafest. Fortunately, Dave had his new llama, Stretch, to keep him company during this period.
Llamafest III is considered by many to be the low point of the series. After a three year hiatus, there was widespread fear that the enthusiasm from previous years was fading fast. The total number of participants was 6, which included Davey J, Jacko, Eddie, Beth Larkin, and Keith "I should have had some dinner" Kornman and John Fishman. Ominously, Russell Jaffe did not attend as he had some studying to do, presaging the end of Russell's involvement with Llamafest and binge drinking in general.
The event was moved into the French Quarter atop the balcony of Tropical Isle. In keeping with past tradition, all participants were required to drink heavily and nobody failed in that task. The drink of choice for Llamafest 93 was Hand Grenades; each one contains enough alcohol to get a Kennedy drunk, but we figured 5 or 6 should do the trick.
Things started to get out of hand early. The Hand Grenade comes with a little plastic hand grenade in each drink - hence the name. Unsurprisingly, we had amassed a few dozen of these over the course of the evening, which of course led to the inevitable throwing of them at each other and off the balcony on to other drunk people not affiliated with Llamafest. The group was politely asked by management to, "Stop that."
Later on, Davey J snuck downstairs to the streets below where he shouted up to the balcony that the new Llamafest High Priest was Jacko. This came as little surprise since there were so few people available and Keith was disqualified on the controversial height requirement. The High Priest tradition faded after this Llamafest, and was replaced with the High Council Of Llamas, which is still the governing body today. But don't be surprised if the High Priest comes up as trivia question on the all-new Jeopardy!
Jacko's coronation, however, met with a shower of hand grenades, straws, a stuffed camel (aka - almost a llama), and anything else we could find to be thrown down onto Bourbon Street. This display led to Llamafesters being escorted out of Tropical Isle by the cops. Apparently, throwing things off the balcony is illegal. I guess all of the Girls Gone Wild At Mardi Gras had the "Long Beads" exemption from the law that Llamafest does not have.....YET.
The party then moved uptown to F&M Patio Bar where Eddie thought it necessary to buy Jack a drink as a token of honor for the new High Priest. Jack drank the Mind Eraser and a few days later was back in New York with only a used airline ticket and a large headache. None of the other participants have any memories of the end of the night although there were a few reports of dancing gnomes outside the Time Saver on Prytania St.
On a side note, Davey J made some brilliant baseball hats that continued the tradition of souvenirs (novelties, party tricks). In fact, only a few of these hats remain and are considered collector's items. Of course, only a handful of people would bother to collect such things so don't bother trying to break into Jack's mom's car to get one of the remaining ones.
"The Maltese Llama" movie is released. While the production value was somewhere below that of The Party Animal, one viewer declared that "it wasn't as bad as my parent's slide show from their trip to Delaware."
"My Three Llamas" movie is released. There was considerable doubt as to what to expect from the sophomore effort of Davey J and Jacko which meant expectations were low. But, Jacko and Davey J came through with a winner, creating what many experts called the "Greatest Llama Movie Of Them All!" Stop motion filming was used for the first time and Stretch established himself as a leading llama in films. The flamingo received a nod for supporting actor.
A new beginning . . .
After the small turnout at Llamafest III, the organization fell into disarray. The major players spread out across the country, careers were being started, and plain old laziness simply overwhelmed the desire for the next party. For a while, it looked like the franchise was destined to be another Karate Kid - starting off strong but coming up short at number three and fading away. Oh sure, part 3 had some good moments like when Mr. Miagi and Danielson planted that bonsai tree - but basically, it lacked the heart and excitement of part I. But Llamafest would not meet such a terrible fate and was resurrected.
The cross country move by Dave Johnson to New York helped solidify the city as Llama Central. NYC had everything a successful Llamafest required: booze and taxis. Excitement ran high as a whole generation of people that had only heard of Llamafest prepared for the event. Paul Geldbach was particularly anxious over rumors concerning initiation rituals. The usual requirement that all Llamafest attendees must have showered in the last 24 hours was waived which helped bring in more people.
February 18th @ Murphy's Irish Pub, NYC
The afternoon of the party, several people went to visit the park filled with concrete llamas on the Upper West Side to get in the mood. Excitement was running high as a whole new crop of people were expected at Llamafest. While many wondered just what the hell Llamafest was all about, most people rejoiced in finding a new reason to get tanked.
A new tradition was begun with the arrival of T-shirts. The T-shirts said it all: The Llamas Take Manhattan. Paul Geldbach put together a fantastic layout for the shirts showing llamas all over the fair city. Another piece of trivia - the number of the taxi depicted on the shirt is the one that tried to kill Randy.
June 15 @ Nani's by Washington Square Park
On paper, the party looked like it was going to be a winner. Nani Johnson offered her rooftop as the site. Everything was in place, except for one thing - she forgot to tell the superintendent about the party and his assistant for some reason seemed nervous about us bringing kegs and small animals to the rooftop. Perhaps it was the fact that several people were wearing Llamafest Narfs in the middle of summer. Narfs (short for Noodle Scarf) are hats long enough to wrap around the neck as a scarf and each had a unique design with "Llamafest '96" stitched down the side. Paul Geldbach's mom, aka Sweet Dish Tish, gets the award that year for biggest contribution to the Llama cause. She instantly became a member of the inner circle of Llama Mama's. There are still openings in the Gramma Llama group that currently includes Jack's grandmother, Mama Grande.
Anyway, it looked like Llamafest '96 was going to be a bust when Dave Kaplan and Brett Barth stupidly.. I mean generously offered up their apartment and rooftop for the event. The party hailed several cabs and within minutes the event was underway at a new location. Just like the llama, the party is adaptable to many kinds of environments and conditions.
Despite makings some sweet business cards for the party, "Don't you just hate" Perry was named the new Anti-Llama for intentionally trying to piss off every female that turned down his advances (this being all of them), and he was banned from future events. Actually, I think he was banned from the tri-state area.
June 21 @ McSwiggans
By now, the legend of Llamafest had grown far and wide. Guests were coming in from as far away as New Jersey. Actually, California always sends a large contingent and folks have come in from Boston, Washington D.C. and others have even traveled from England and Australia. The llama is a magnet for party people everywhere!
The location moved to McSwiggans officially in 1997 where it remained for quite sometime. It had everything a party site needed - a bar and working bathrooms. Ilmar came to the party bearing some kick ass refrigerator magnets , while Davey J brought sunglasses with Llamafest written on the side. The party was a little raucous so some of the glasses met with an embarrassing fate like in the McSwiggans urinal. But a few remain as reminders of the evening.
Nevertheless, it was a good party. One partygoer declared that she had not laughed so hard since Loverboy hit the big screen.
"llamas" Movie Released - critics largely panned the latest Jacko/Davey J production, expecting more from the directors of My Three Llamas. "Self Indulgent Tripe" and "Lame - is too kind of a word" were some of the comments. Scared and lazy, Jack and Dave have not been behind the camera ever since.
July 18 @ Mc Swiggans
There are many ways to judge how far along an organization has come. One way is to count the number of members. Another less useful way is to see if they have their own banner. Llamafest had reached a new level of achievement in 1998 with the arrival of a 10' x 2' banner. It was very useful to have it in case you entered the bar, saw a bunch of people wearing llama crap, and wondered what the hell was going on.
If the banner didn't give it away, then certainly the tattoo did. Dave Johnson once again came up big with 1000, yes 1000 temporary tattoos. Paul and Didi Schmeling designed this colorful puppy, and thanks to the seemingly inexhaustible supply, llama tats were everywhere. Legend has it that a few people put the tattoos on body parts that aren' t normally exposed which created a small amount of pain.
Another tradition was started in 1998 and oddly enough it included the intake of booze. Several people started the afternoon at Down the Hatch for all you can drink beer and all you can eat wings. While many folks headed home for a little nap, several "Iron Men" simply kept the festivities going right up to Llamafest. While this kind of skill is not as challenging perhaps as the athletic version of the Iron Man competition, it takes a uniquely depraved kind of person to keep up that kind of pace for 12 hours.
One of the guests, Ilmar, apparently decided that the Anti-Llama distinction should include two members of his family by joining his brother Perry in the despicable fraternity. After generally making an ass of himself all evening, Ilmar sealed the deal by slamming his beer mug on the bar so hard that it shattered into millions of pieces putting other Llamafesters in danger.
Another good story worth mentioning concerns Paul Geldbach. Although unaware of the power of the llama for several years, Paul has certainly thrown himself into the fray with reckless abandon. He has helped design several T-shirts and is usually the one who reminds everybody else to start planning Llamafest sometime before August. At this particular event, Paul had a few beers. If by a few you mean a large keg. He purchased and ate a hot dog from behind the bar that had been there since the last Llamafest. At one point, Paul realized he was the last reveler at Llamafest and should probably head up to Jack's where he was staying. Being the generous type, Paul left the remains of his wallet on the bar as a tip, and walked out. Realizing he now had no money for a cab, Paul began the search for an ATM. Normally, this would not be too hard, but Paul's equilibrium was a bit off so he just bounced off various buildings and people until he had walked the 60 blocks home. The good news; Paul saved $6 on a cab and had several unexplained bruises to brag about.
August 28 @ McSwiggans
Just when you thought you'd seen everything Llamafest has to offer, somebody steps up to make the scene. The arrival of Randy Pruitt aka Luscious Pimp Daddy caused quite a stir. Several women left the bar, presumably to return to their corners before Luscious gave them the deuce for not trickin'.
A few guests kept the Iron Man tradition alive hitting the all-you-can-drink beer and all-you-can-eat wings at Down The Hatch from noon til 6pm. By 9 o'clock, their stomachs were in peak condition for alcohol consumption. Perennial Ironmen Paul Geldbach and Jeff "Cartman" Becker were sporting some lovely muumuus for the event, and, as Benjamin Franklin once said, "There's nothing like a muumuu to get a party going...now, where's the bar?"
The theme of Llamafest 99 was "10 Years and Still Hoofing" as seen on that year's T-shirt. As mentioned before, this has been going on since the 80's!!!
How many more Llamafests will there be?
Nobody knows for sure but one thing is certain: in 2012, Llamafest will be 23 years old.
And who can forget Johnny D's Odyssey into Northern Manhattan. Not really Llama related, but still a damn fine yarn.
August 26th @ McSwiggans
The whole sha-bang started off at Down The Hatch, like all good Llamafests. There was a large showing of Californians at the pre-party, demonstrating that Llamafest had indeed become a national institution. Then again, they could have been in town for the USC/Penn St. game the following day, and had nothing better to do on a Saturday.
During the festivities, Paul's protégé and rookie to the Fest, J.B., was ordered to get more hot wings for the group. As a change of pace, he selected wings of the honey mustard and BBQ variety, which had never been done in the history of Llamafest pre-game. Needless to say, this was tantamount to taking a dump in the punchbowl, and he was severly beaten with plastic cutlery and little pieces of celery.
During the few hours of downtime between the pre-party and the main event, Llamafesters occupy themselves with different things. Some people go home and rest up. Some folks go get some solid food without hot sauce on it. Some sidle over to the hospital for a good, old-fashioned stomach pump. In 2000, the Ironman team of Becker, Paul, and Randy wanted to find some funky glasses to match their wacky outfits. With no luck, they decided to take a cab back to Jersey City to get changed for the Fest. When the cab driver said he did not want to go to New Jersey, words were exchanged. The cab driver's words were, "I am taking you to jail." While Randy's words were, "Take us to Jersey, you freakin whore!" (Note: this quote has been cleaned up a tad as this is a family website.) Anyhoo, Paul, Jeff, and Randy jumped out of the cab at low speed, and as they got to the sidewalk they saw the kooky glasses that they were in search of all day. So, the old saying was right - "Yell at cabbies, and your dreams will come true."
At the main event, the costume idea popularized the previous year by Randy was more widespread. Paul and Jeff Becker went with the pimp look - although none of their bitches seemed to be there. Walter chose a lovely orange dress from the thrift shop which provided easy access to his llama nipple ring. And Randy. . .well Randy couldn't resist the multicolored house coat that just screamed "classy." Rumor is he sold it back to the same thrift shop when he moved out of New Jersey.
Davey J arrived with a great party favor in the form of Llamafest stickers. He expressed some concern that people would put them all over the bar and make it difficult for the friendly bartenders to clean up, but he decided it was a risk worth taking. So what happens about 2 hours into the event? Jack goes into the bathroom to find Davey J sticking dozens of them all over every inch of the bathroom. So, he was right to be worried about some jackass doing something dumb. Funny enough, Jack got a call about 6 months after Llamafest from an irate friend who he forgot to invite to the event. Jack asked him how he knew it took place and he said that he saw a sticker on the back of a taxicab partition. I wonder who put that one there.
October 6th @ Bull McCabes Tavern
Never let it be said that Llamafest is inflexible. After several years at McSwiggans, the party decided to change bars. It wasn't that we weren't welcome there anymore - in fact, some of the McSwiggans bartenders still wanted to come for the party. But, it seemed a change of venue was in order to shake things up, as a lot of the parties were starting to run together. Of course, part of that problem stems from the alcohol consumed at each event. I hear it interferes with your, what's that word? Oh yeah - memory.
Prior to the event was the annual preparty at Down the Hatch, where generous portions of wings and beer were distributed to all participants. Lick the Band arrived and caused a stir as the first "celebrity" sighting at a Llamafest event. It also helped explain why many of us were getting e-mails from them for months and not knowing why.
Jerome Pulliam, a long time Llama supporter, went above and beyond the call of duty, by supplying the Fest with hundreds of laser color copies of the flyer. By handing them out over the course of a few days, half of Manhattan was invited to the fiesta.
Once the party got started, the craziness was on. Randy, Paul, and Walter were dressed so well, no one knew it was them for a good ten minutes. The sticker idea had gone over the previous year without too much tagging, so Davey J ordered 500 new stickers. Not as many ended up on the walls of the bathroom, but Jorgé the llama got pelted.
The overall turnout was as good as any previous Llamafest - a nice surprise given some concern over the closeness to 9/11. But not coming to Llamafest would let the terrorists win so we all did our part for American pride! If by American pride you mean getting drunk, eating wings, starting fights, fondling members of the opposite sex, eating pizza at 2 A.M., putting on women's clothing, or sniffing the glue on the stickers. God Bless America!