What do you call five grown men dressed only in black bikini underwear and bow ties, who tie themselves to a shopping cart and go careening through the streets of Brooklyn in freezing temperatures with a radio blasting stripper music at full volume?
If you’d call them “idiots,” you’re not the only one. So would they.
In an only-in-Brooklyn take on Alaska’s famed Iditarod dog sled race, costumed teams gathered once again on Saturday and mounted their shopping carts for the fourth annual Idiotarod.
The race this year was organized by the Carts of Brooklyn Racing Association (COBRA), the team that won the “Best in Show” award at last year’s race.
“We had a blast,” said COBRA member Jeff Dupee.
And from the look of things, so did the other teams.
Team Lap-dance treated passers-by to bump-and-grinds on a folding chair. Team Guitar Hero, which ended up winning Best in Show, had a working generator and a Playstation on hand so they could play the Guitar Hero video game on a small television as they raced.
“They’re rocking as they roll,” said one bystander.
Those were the tame acts. There were teams dressed as pirates, Vikings, unicorns, GI Joes, a Nascar team, and even (make that of course) the Village People.
Every shiny, sequined and brightly colored piece of cloth, plastic and paper that people could get their hands on went into creating costumes that were weird, fun, or — in the case of the three men dressed as tampons, complete with red heads — a little nauseating.
The disguises are only one aspect of this spectacle. Sabotage is also the name of the game, which explains why “Best Sabotage” is the most-coveted prize.
Fooling other teams is, after all, an Idiotarod tradition. So is drinking and throwing stuff around.
It’s like a frat party on wheels.
Judging by the smell, this year’s projectile of choice was fish. One team dressed up as giant yellow chickens and threw eggs.
“What a zoo,” said one man who was watching the race and taking pictures. “These people are out of their minds.”
Well, not all of them. Someone has to keep a cool head. This year, it was Team COBRA, which was given the job of planning the (highly secret) route from Greenpoint to Queens, registering teams, manning checkpoints, throwing the after-party, and, most of all, foiling police.
The race’s starting point, McCarren Park in Greenpoint, was kept secret until hours before the green flag, and then revealed only to race insiders on the COBRA Web site.
McCarren Park was actually a decoy, meant largely to fool the police.
“Everyone thought this was a last-minute change,” said Dupee, “but we had actually planned this three months ago.”
Of course, the NYPD aren’t a bunch of Keystone Kops, and officers were smart enough to follow the people in chicken suits and papier mache tampons.
So by post time, the NYPD had shown up in force to warn racers that they would be arrested if they blocked traffic or raced in the streets.
“Stick to the sidewalk,” boomed an officer over a loudspeaker, as an NYPD helicopter buzzed overhead (yes, they actually called in the choppers). “You will not be warned again.”
Police presence aside, teams of racers showed up in a continuous stream, registering, dancing, and planning their sabotage strategies.
“It’s loosely ordered chaos,” said one organizer.
But it is ordered. COBRA members took pains to distance themselves from a recent fictional portrayal on “CSI: NY,” which showed them as a bunch of drunken, violent hooligans who push each other into oncoming traffic.
In fact, Dupee blamed the show for encouraging a few “mean-spirited teams” to join the race this year.
“Most people just want to show off their cart and be weird,” he said. “But this year, there were people who saw the show and thought that’s how we really are.”
The newcomers were not entirely welcome. For one thing, not all of them really understood that the sabotage has to be creative. One team of “Wonder Women” complained that another team tried to bump them into the road (where’s the creativity in that?)
But such truly idiotic Idiotarod behavior was limited, and most people simply enjoyed themselves.
The one wrinkle in COBRA’s plans came when the NYPD shut down the afterparty in Queens before it had even begun.
“They were looking for any excuse to close us down,” said Dupee. Luckily, another spot was found.
And in the end, Team COBRA had a begrudging respect for the men in blue: The NYPD was given the Idiotarod’s Best Sabotage award.