What a Devil

Evil triumphs at one church's Easter festival

The devil, as Hollywood and the Bible tell us, is one clever dude. In his endless fight with the Almighty, the Prince of Darkness thinks rules are for suckers.

And you never know where he'll pop up to do his satanic work. Recently, it was at an ultraconservative church in the not-so-ultraconservative Heights.

The Vineyard Church on 11th Street decided to hold a large Easter fair, with moonwalks, a rock-climbing wall, egg hunts and free food. All good fun, until a brief skit that caused the little tykes in attendance to run screaming in abject terror.

"A guy portraying the devil was going to say untruthful things about Easter," pastor Michael Palandro says, "and then a group of dancers were coming in, singing and declaring 'God Is Risen' and the devil would run away."

Dancers? Sounds fabulous! Especially for a church that has chased away members who wouldn't "convert" from their homosexuality (see "God Only Knows," May 2, 2002).

The Father of Lies saw fit to sabotage the whole thing, though.

For one thing, it turns out the devil -- in his temporal form of a UH drama student -- doesn't rehearse.

"They had a rehearsal, but he wasn't able to come because he had to work," says Palandro, who didn't want to name the church member who portrayed Beelzebub.

Sadly, no rehearsal meant no opportunity for the director to say, "Ummm, Satan? Take it down a notch, maybe."

So instead, Palandro says, the actor "made it too realistic and scared some of the kids who were there…and he kind of personalized it to the audience rather than talking about Easter in the abstract."

"Kind of personalized it"? The devil going all Don Rickles at an Easter fest -- that's some churchin', right there. "Hey, kid, I don't want to say your mom's going to hell, but if she keeps wearing outfits like that, I'm saving a space. Come on, I joke because I love."

Also not helping matters was the fact that Satan was a master of stage technology. He was miked, the dancing angels weren't. "He ended up being big, they ended up being small," Palandro says. (Apparently there are plenty of former roadies to consult in hell.)

Some families left immediately; others complained after the event. Palandro e-mailed everyone he could, apologizing profusely and offering free tickets to a production of Peter Pan. A production of Peter Pan where Peter gets disemboweled and sodomized by Lucifer's minions. (Not really.)

Everyone is truly sorry, he says. "It was a symbolic acting out of Jesus defeating the evil powers," he says. "The Evil One wasn't supposed to come across that evil, in the context of the children there."

That'll teach him to trust Satan.

Bush League

A couple of years ago the Houston Chronicle was refusing to use in quotes such terms as "suck" as a synonym for "stink." Now it's printing cunnilingus jokes.

The April 4 edition of the comic strip Get Fuzzy was based on a discussion of traditional holiday meals. "Rabbit? For Easter? What are you, crazy?" one character asked. To which another replied, "Christmas turkey. Thanksgiving turkey. Valentine's Day beaver. Easter bunny. It's tradition."

Talk turns to eating leprechauns for St. Patrick's Day, and the first character goes, "No, no n…Hold on -- Valentine's Day what?"

The syndicator of the strip, United Media, sent out two versions, one using beaver and one using (for some reason) marmot. Papers like The Washington Post -- and the United Media Web site -- used the marmot version; a spokeswoman for the syndicate said, however, that there's no tally for how many papers went beaver.

Chron features editor Kyrie O'Connor made the decision to be bold, although she says she didn't find the strip in question too funny. "Darby Conley [the strip's author] has, alas, made beaver jokes before," she says. "Frankly, I hate it. He's too good to get away with this."

So far, no reader has complained. The "people who get it won't be offended, and the people who don't get it won't be offended," she says.

Take note, writers of Blondie. Writers of Hagar the Horrible, please ignore.

Art in a Can

The Beer Can House, that semi-legendary folk-art home sheathed by empty beer cans, is now the property of the folks at the Orange Show. And that means they have to deal with the pressing problem of how to replace cans that have become rusty eyesores or have fallen off.

Since this is Art, the process involves a lot of complicated discussion. You don't just go down to the 7-11 and pick up a couple of cases of Natty Lights.

The original owner, retired railroader John Milkovisch, lined his house with beer cans and pop-tops, smashing some cans, hanging others, doing whatever came to mind as he downed a six-pack a day. About 39,000 cans surround the house.

So to replace them, do you try to find old ones or do you desecrate the name of beer-inspired art by using modern cans?

"You could have specially fabricated new beer cans made out of some extremely durable material, but that is not what Mr. Milkovisch did, so it is a challenge," says Rice University's Stephen Fox, an expert in architectural preservation.

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