Patrons of the light rail got a little in-ride entertainment on Sunday afternoon, and not from some excessively loud and outrageous fellow passenger. More like a few men and women kicking it onboard in excessively loud undergarments and equally loud clothing -- with the exception of pants.
The No Pants Light Rail Ride 2014 went down this past weekend as more than 100 people from around the Valley boarded trains bound for downtown Phoenix wearing neither trousers, jeans, skirts, nor shorts.
That's the M.O. of the gonzo event: to cause a scene by parading around in full public view in their finest or flashiest unmentionables after undressing to impress, and maybe shaking things up a little by riding around sans pants, as if it's the normal thing to do. And it also happens in more than 60 cities worldwide, from Stockholm to New York (where it was founded way back when).
(Full disclosure: We chronicled the event after losing our slacks and donning a few extra pair of boxers since Improv AZ, who organizes the event each year, requests that members of the media covering the event go pants-free.)
If you happen to have a proclivity toward high jinks (and don't mind a little embarrassment), the No Pants Ride can be a blast. And here are a few reasons we dig it.
At its heart, the No Pants Ride is a prank, pure and simple. And it's been that way for a better part of three decades, since its early days in the late '80s. It's the sort of thing that appeals to counter-cultural types or even people in pursuit of something as high-minded as turning social norms on their ear.
Then again, it's also fun just for its "what the hell" kind of thrill or just to make a scene (the actual motto of Improv AZ).
The spirit of the event also is effusive. One well-dressed 20-something who boarded during our ride and inquired why some folks were rolling bare-legged decided to drop stylish trou and join the event, even though he headed elsewhere to a prior obligation.
Half the fun comes from witnessing the reactions of unsuspecting light-rail passengers or anyone else who crosses the participants' paths.
On the train, such responses included quizzical stares, curious queries, puzzled looks, and more than a few smiles. Meanwhile, there were catcalls, craned necks, hastily shot snapshots and a couple of honking horns after arriving at the Roosevelt Street and Central Avenue station and heading a couple of blocks east to Angels Trumpet Ale House. One woman walking near the bar was so amused that she started snapping cell phone photos of participants posing with her kid.
Not every interaction was as amiable, however.
A security guard working one of the eastbound trains reportedly took umbrage with all the photographers taking pictures and attempted to give anyone with a camera the boot. Jeff Moriarty of Improv AZ and a few others interceded, however, and the guard later relented after speaking with a supervisor.
Thankfully, no one resorted to wearing granny panties or tighty whities. Instead it was all about vibrant shades, ruffles, lace, and wild prints with the undergarments on display, which were just one part of people's wardrobes.
A minority of the crowd settled for just colorful drawers and socks while other designed entire outfits around a certain theme or character (one chica dressed as the female version of the Eleventh Doctor with her beau rocking a TARDIS tee and boxers, while another couple was quite unmissable in fetish wear).
Comic book characters were also in excess, with a female Ninja Turtle or a number of DC heroes like Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman.
And Jackalope Ranch contributor Negativsteve Mandel, clad in a dress shirt and tie, was also on hand and brought along a hand-written "God Hates Pants" sign satirizing the Westboro Baptist Church jerks.
We're still waiting for a No Pants participant to recreate the Boba Fett, Darth Vader, or X-Wing pilot versions of the Star Wars Underoos of our youth and accessorize with the respectively appropriate helmet and costume gear.
Organizers ask that No Pants participants "act as if nothing strange is going on" while riding and to deny all knowledge of the event when asked why they are sporting undies while in public in order to maintain the prank.
A majority tries to follow this tenet (for the most part), but a few wiseacres in previous years have been known to mess around while riding the rails, including one cat that turned handlebars into a personal jungle gym.
While our particular trainload of pantsless riders was relatively low-key, there were a few jags of spanking upon underwear, high fives, and some cheesy posing for pictures. At the various stations before and after the ride are a bit of a different story as people are more willing to joke and pull stunts, including one gentleman who mounted an electrical transformer for an epic photo op. Ditto for the activity at Angels Trumpet, which leads us to our next entry.
Arguably the most convivial aspect of a No Pants ride is what comes following the actual ride. Everyone gathers at particular bar (which has been Angels Trumpet the past couple of years) and quaffs many an adult beverage while discussing what transpired during their excursion or just conversing happily.
They also tend to clown about a bit, particularly after a few rounds have been served, including getting a bit bawdy and ribald whenever a photographer pointed a camera their way. Both males and females alike, for instance, offered up a few skin mag-worthy moves.
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In some ways the after-party is just flat-out fun. One pair of lasses seemed to be having the time of their lives the entire day, including doing booty dances at the station or climbing atop the shoulder-high cinder block outdoor fence at the bar. Good thing there were plenty of others around to act as spotters in case they tripped.
Admit it, this is one of the reasons why you read this blog. It's certainly a reason why some people take part in the No Pants Ride.