Saturday, October 31, 2020

Fortress Party 2011 Retrospective

Dear Friends,

The Hard Taco song for November is called, "Back to the Ocean." This song is for those of us who long for simpler times. Much, much simpler times, like before we had limbs or even multiple cells. 

And now we can finally move into the most recent decade. 


The Salem Meetinghouse. This is the only picture I can find, and it doesn't really do it justice. But justice is what this room was all about. The room had plain wooden furniture, a pulpit, and (shown above) a witch burning behind a sheet. There was also a shoebox where you could write down your accusations of witchcraft. For example, "I had a hard time falling asleep last night, and I think it is because Goody Lauren has a poppet."

The Dry Gulch Saloon was on the top floor. This is the year we started really basing rooms around a certain kind of alcohol. The drinks had wonderfully evocative names, but they were just different things to call straight cheap whiskey.

We also started the tradition of having a rotating cast of bartenders, who would take turns wearing the same ill-fitting and progressively sweaty costume. 

There were swinging saloon doors attached to the door frame, which are sort of shown above. 

Harold and Dolores's Living Room was a great place to relax and listen to this bickering old married couple from New York. As you can see, we were still trying to finding uses for the Festifools heads from 2010. Harold and Dolores each had a speaker in their heads, and they had 11 conversations that would cycle through with about 15 seconds of silence between. Here are the recordings, and a representative quote from each. 

"He doesn’t have any money at all. He spends all day counting jacks and nobody likes him. I remember when he was this tall and I saw him in my driveway, and I didn’t like him then either."

"I heard that solar panels have been linked to auto-tism. If you look at the rate of auto-tism in this country, it has been going up steadily since people started heating their houses with solar panels instead of using shingles. Awful disease."

"All you knew was, something in the milk ain't clean. You know that phrase? My father used to always say that, and we knew exactly what he meant. Something in the milk ain't clean."

"They hadn't invented tetanus shots yet, so I just had to chew on vanilla bark three times a day until the lockjaw passed. It was the worst two weeks of my life."

"I swear, it's like coals to Newcastle, they can go pound sand down a rat hole for all I care."

"She doesn't have Alzheimer’s, Dolores. She's just stupid and she never shuts up."

"I'm talking about the parade, where I got to wear the Tractor Steam Beauty crown. There was a war going on, and we had to ration candy, so they had me throwing dried corn to the kids. I had a sash and everything."

"That’s the shaky cheese, I want the squeezy cheese. You can’t shake cheese on the crackers."

"Do you need a drink? Darling, give Harold a drink. Harold? Are you choking? Harold? Are you choking now? Can you breathe okay? Darling, take your drink and give it to Harold. Darling, Take Your Drink And Give It To Harold To Drink."

"Dolores, everyone already knows you've got the thyroid. Have you looked in the mirror lately? You are blue. Your skin is blue!"

"You're starting to get a little jam in your jelly, and you're never going to get a husband if you don't watch your figure."

The Djark Side of the Moon was a mash-up between Pink Floyd and Ikea. I admit this was not exactly an intuitive marriage, but I'm also pretty sure it's not a theme party that anyone had ever done before.  Basically, we played trippy music to a laser show, and everything in the room was labelled with a quirky Swedish name. 

The room was pitch black, other than the lasers. This picture with a flash on ruins that effect but shows the basic layout of the room. You could only read the mysterious Ikea labels if you turned on your phone's flashlight. 

The Anne Geddes Room was just a bunch of dolls in a picture studio. 

There was a Photo Booth upstairs, and the pictures taken there would be displayed in a photo montage with real Anne Geddes baby pictures. 

Cock Fight was one of the most legendary rooms in Fortress Party history. Well, technically, it was two of the most legendary rooms.

Against the far wall, there was a 2'x4' cage containing two chickens... a dark brown one, and a light brown one. There was a chalkboard with the names of the competing chickens and the odds of each fight (Cluck Norris v. Peter Pecker -5, Punky Rooster v. Cocky Balboa -6.5) The ceiling was white, two of the walls were green, and two of the walls were maroon. There was a signed Michael Vick poster on the wall. (Vick had been busted for dog fighting, but we were counting on people to assume that he was a fan of all inhumane bloodsports.) 

And that was it. If you proceeded to the exit on the far side of the room, you would come to a maze, which would spin you around in a few circles, and dump you back in the same room. Except it wasn't the same room. It was a room with identical proportions, identical decor, and... identical chickens. People were confused and happy, and that's what it's all about, right? 

Finally, there was Hall of Mustaches. We had a wall of mustachioed stuffed animals (Mickey Mouse, Fever, Winnie the Pooh, Yoda, and others), and enough fake mustaches for most guests.

The hall ended in the thematically-related Village People Puppet Theater.  Sean built the theater, and it became a hub for great karaoke and puppeteering. 

All the Village People were there to sing along. There was he Army Guy and the Cop...

...The Cowboy, the Leatherman, and the Construction Worker. 

Somewhere in the maze, there was an opportunity to play Connect 4 with people who were in a part of the fort you couldn't actually reach. I'm just including this picture because it shows that the small athletic supporters were used as props, yet again. 

With warmest regards,


Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Fortress Party 2010 Appendix - Sir Nigel Barth's Hunting Expedition

One of the rooms in Fortress Party 2010 was Sir Nigel Barth's Trouphie Room. This series of photos, taken in our back yard a few weeks before the party, was displayed on a shelf to showcase the backstory of Sir Nigel, the famed hunter-explorer-gentleman. 


I was tracking the Muck Caiman. The heart of the jungle is no placed for the faint of heart. 

On the fourth day I spotted her, wretched and mighty, grotesque, yet arousing. 

I swiftly ran my bread knife through one of the beast's celebrated fontanels. 

Though for months, I had studied Buxley's writings on the odors of the Muck Caiman's spinal fluid, I was still whelmed heartily. 

As I was reminded of many previous adventures, the carcass and I shared a moment of quiet reflection. 

Too soon, it was time to return to Coventry.

My exploits were already legendary, but... did I just sense a twig snapping?

ATTACKED by borders of indigenous Thicket-people! Out comes my mink-tail whip.

Half of the Thicket-people are soon fended.

With another lash, I disarm the remainder of the natives and head quickly for my transport.

Monday, October 26, 2020

Fortress Party 2010 Retrospective

By this point, the Fortress Party Steering Committee (FoPSeC) was fully operational. Lots of creative and construction help meant the rooms were getting more sophisticated. 

Pompeii Prom was a delightful mash-up between ancient Roman cataclysm and a high school dance.

The balloon arch made for some classy prom pictures. Note the easel to the left. This was a signboard, where people wrote things like "Seniors RVLE!" and "II Good II be IV-gotten."  

This is the image on the signboard that rests on the easel shown  Note that the lack of apostrophe... this is the high school class of 79 AD.

Mount Vesuvius appears to be erupting right next to the high school gymnasium, but it didn't stop people from dancing. 

Well, at least for a while. 

The prison-themed area was called Up the River. It started with a photo station. Guests had to stand against a sheet that showed how tall they are and hold up a dry-erase sign saying their name and crime. We had a photo printer, and by the end of the night we had hundreds of mug shots pinned to a dry erase board. Here are a few samples.

My favorite if tiny Scarlett, stone faced as she's booked for "General Crime."

Inside the prison, there were a number of inmates, such as Fievel, hard at work making license plates. Note the sexy photo of Minnie Mouse on the wall. 

We had one Death Row inmate, who happened to have to have an uncanny resemblance to Lady Gaga. We had a strobe light attached to a giant switch, so anyone could turn on the electric chair. Morbid stuff. 

Lady Gaga's head was leftover from Festifools, an annual Ann Arbor parade of of papier-mâché sculptures.

We also got a Pinocchio head, and Skippy helped build a functioning marionette on the second story balcony. 

The pulley controls were on the first floor. Guests could watch a video of the marionette from below, so they could see what they were doing. 

The rest of the Festifools heads were mounted on the wall of the notorious British gentleman hunter/explorer, Nigel Barth. 

About an hour west of Ann Arbor, there are some massage parlors/truck stops of questionable legitamacy. Tokyo Health Spa was a bit of a throwaway. 

This was a lot of fun to make. A couple months before the party, we drove around Ann Arbor with a a camera phones pointing forwards and to each side. We synced the videos and projected them from the outside on the three walls of the room.  

This Beatles had a famous concert at Shea Stadium in New York in 1965. We reimagined this as The Beatles Live at Che Stadium, in which the concert actually takes place in Cuba, and all of the lyrics had to be changed to reflect Cuban culture and Communist values. Here are a few excerpts from the redacted lyric sheets we distributed:

"Eight Days a Week"

"Can't Buy Me Love"


With warmest regards,