Rob Vincent dot net

left head right head

March 23, 2008

Honking at the Pillow Fight and beyond

Rob @ 11:29 PM

The New York City Pillow Fight was insane and wonderful.

I was in-character as Harpo for the event, and most of the day afterwards. As I've said elsewhere, he's a character I absolutely love playing, and he comes really easily to me as well. Grey and Render went with me, and (as per usual) were bemusedly tolerant of my antics.

On the way into Union Square I bumped into a great guy I used to work with, which was neat. As we went further into the crowd we began t get a feel for how crowded the event was going to be, as even 45 minutes before the event there were far more people present than apparent in any of the photos and videos of the past two NYC Pillow Fights. People armed with all sorts of pillows, many in their own bizarre and wonderful costumes, milled about in the ever-growing crowd.

Harpo at the pillow fight Harpo at the pillow fight
Photos by Becca Dorstek, republished here with her kind permission. View the full-sized versions here.

The fellow on the left of those photos had a camera operator with him, and he was interviewing participants before the fight. He apparently wasn't familiar with the character, as he just seemed befuddled by the getup as well as my miming and honking answers to all his questions.

On to the pillow fight!

You can see tons of video from the event in a quick Youtube search. They can tell you more about the event itself than all the prose I could possibly muster. In a word: AWESOMECAKES.

After a mere 20 minutes or so, we decided to work our way out of the crowd and take a break. This was fairly hilarious, as I took the lead and did my best to politely excuse us in a noisy crowd of merrymakers using only whistles and horn-honks. It somehow worked, and we ended up on the street corner as the melee raged on.

Render decided to have another go, while Grey and I stayed on the corner and watched the chaos. The air was think with floating feathers and fluff, far more than you can see in any of the videos. Scare up some photographs for a great look at that.

ETA: Murd0c's post, complete with photos.

Although we didn't make the final cut, I was interviewed by this lady, who goaded me into pillow-fighting with her on-camera, and seemed to genuinely enjoy the chance to spar with a Marx Brother.

Later, covered in feathers and happy, we wandered off into the city while the battle continued. I would later learn from online reports that the fight lasted for around two and a half hours. We never would have survived the whole thing!

Grey and Render were wearing dark coats and were covered in feathers. My light trenchcoat protected me from the worst of that, but I'll be picking stuff out of that wig for the next couple of weeks. We were all still carrying our pillows, and we kept passing others going to and from the fight even as we continued farther away from the Square. We met a pair of young ladies with one pillow between them who asked us if they had missed everything. We didn't know the answer, but I gave my the unarmed one my pillow just in case.

Render and Grey took me to the Jekyll and Hyde Pub. I had never been, but Render's description of the place as "Chuck E. Cheese on crack" turned out to be quite accurate. I ditched the wig and hat and broke character while in there, not only for a short respite, but it was too dark and crowded for it anyway. Very cool place, and the food was great.

After that we wandered some more, passing through some random street fair. Grey and Render ducked into a clothing shop at one point, while I stayed outside and did yo-yo tricks for a friendly dog someone had tied to a parking meter. We also had a quick stop at the larger Jekyll and Hyde Club for drinks and dessert. This time I kept on as Harpo, much to the amusement of many staff members, and at least one "do you work here?" from a tourist. As we left there, the doorman brilliantly started improvising the mirror scene from "Duck Soup" with me.

As we wandered through the streets making our way back to Penn Station, I kept getting smiles out of people, often before I even tried to. I lost count of how many times someone shouted "Hey, Harpo!" and smiled from ear to ear when I gave them a big smile and a honk-honk in response. Even people who didn't know the character saw a guy in mismatched clothes and a wig being extraordinarily goofy, and were amused regardless. People behind store and restaurant windows waved and giggled. I've been many different flavors of clown in my time, but there's just something extra about the Harpo character, something simple and universal. I don't quite know how to explain it. He's all childlike wonder and impishness without the trappings of face paint or high art, he's just a curly wig and a honker.

Like any comic performance, Harpo's much more interesting with someone to play with and off of. Grey and Render were totally game, bless 'em. I can go out and make a fool (literally) of myself any time, but with their backup it truly becomes a performance. Grey even went so far as to play some Chico/Harpo-style charades with me niw and then. Some I improvised and she actually had to figure them out, and some we worked out really quickly together ahead of time. Her and I will have to build up a repertoire of those gags sometime.

All in all it was a great day, and we had lots of fun. I loved bringing Harpo out for another go, and now that the weather's clearing up perhaps he'll see another outing soon.

An unintended bonus was that this was one of the rare large crowd events which didn't leave me with a sore throat and scratchy voice from too much shouting. On the other hand, my lips were totally dried up and tired from all the whistling. I need a better chapstick or something next time.

5 Responses to “Honking at the Pillow Fight and beyond”

  1. kat says:

    uh.. my comment didn't show up?

  2. kat says:

    ok... your blog software has defeated me... i tried CTRL-C and pasting and it said "duplicate", but i still can't see it... i admit defeat :(

  3. kat says:

    apparently i am allowed to say anything other than what i first clicked on "comment" to say.

  4. Mara says:

    @Kat: It's done that to me before, too. I'm thinking WP has PMS.

    @Rob: Speechless. Just speechless.'s nice to see a "newsy" post from you :)

  5. c4bl3fl4m3 says:

    Fantastic post! Sometime you'll have to introduce me to the Marx Bros. And to your version of Harpo.

    (And is there something wrong with me in thinking that with a bit of tweaking and the addition of a technicolored tiemcoat, that outfit could easily be turned into Six?)

Leave a Reply