Hitchhiker's guide to Downtown Saturday Night

By Dorothy Parvaz
Arizona Daily Wildcat
October 11, 1996

Robert H. Becker
Arizona Daily Wildcat

Tino Cota, 10, goes for a spin on the Aerotrim at the bus depot at Congress Street and Sixth Avenue.


First off, what Downtown Saturday Night is: An organized event that takes place on the first and third Saturday of every month in downtown Tucson. Merchants, entertainers, and anyone wearing hipster clothes with a matching attitude hangs out on the four-b lock area that is the core of Tucson's downtown for a few hours.

If you're from a big city, the concept of Downtown Saturday Night will just seem inherently lame. "Hey everyone, it's Saturday night! Come downtown! Don't stay home!" After all, what kind of pickle does a city's night life have to be in before the city de cides to actually invite people downtown?

But after you've been here for a few months, you (sadly) start to look forward to it. Downtown Saturday Night is actually kind of fun. It's where you can find all the entertainment and propaganda you've been looking for. A nice cross section of Tucson so ciety shows up at the event, allowing you to scope the whole situation out and snack on fried bread.

Here's some of the action at he booths along Sixth Avenue:


Plaster artist

Wildcat: Can you make me look like Jimmy Hendrix?

Marilyn: Well, I could make you a plaster mask, but you'd have to do the art work.

WC: What's the strangest request you've had?

Marilyn: There are always guys who want full-body casts...

WC: Cool. Like the Plaster Casters in the '60s and '70s?

Marilyn: Yeah. But I get kids mostly.

WC: Any celebrities?

Marilyn: Just local celebrities. I've done Bud Foster and Jim Kolbe.


Massage therapist

WC: Do you ever get people who look so freaky that you don't want to touch them?

Adam: Yeah. A few times.

WC:So do you deny them?

Adam: No, I just go ahead and do it.

WC: What do you clean your chair with afterwards?

Adam: Alcohol and water.

WC: Do men ever freak out when you touch them?

Adam: When I give massages on a full table, yeah. They don't like another guy touching them. But the chair here is fine with most guys.


Aerotrim Gyro operator

WC: Has anyone ever puked on this thing?

Gyro-John: In six years of operating this, no. One girl had dry heaves. Another kid held it in. And then there's the people who are inebriated, if you know what I mean.

WC: You let drunk people on this thing? You don't turn them away?

Gyro-John: No, I let them go for a spin.

WC: What's the goofiest thing that's ever happened on the Aerotrim?

Gyro-John: I had a girl that didn't tuck her shirt in. There was also a middle age lady. I have fun with the middle age ladies.


Green Party Booth

WC: So, I see you have Ralph Nader on a television next to you saying that the Green Party is not raising or accepting any funds. He's calling this a "no money campaign."

Chris: Yes. That's what it is.

WC: So, how much are you selling the T-shirts and bumper stickers for?

Chris: The shirts are $15, the stickers go for a quarter, or whatever you can pay.

WC: Um, so what happened to the "no funds" thing?

Chris: Oh, I see what you mean. There's been some discussion about this. All the money from here goes to paying phone bills and the cost of mailing out information. We're still in the hole.

WC: What's the response been?

Chris: Pretty good. I'm just concerned that students at the university don't even know that the Green Party exists.


Candle maker

WC: Do you realize that you're sitting on the darkest corner of the street?

Alexandra: Yeah, I know.

WC: It's kinda funny, since you sell candles and all.

Alexandra: Yeah, But I'm afraid that if I light any, my dog might knock the table over. It's not very stable.

WC: Your candles look like candy. Are they edible?

Alexandra: No. Kids always ask me that though.

WC: So, how do you get those colorful swirls on them?

Alexandra: That's my trade secret. Sorry.


Chang sculptor

WC: So, what do you call these gnarled forks and spoons?

Al: Changs. Like a chime, but it's made outside to be used inside. Get it?

WC: You make jewelry too?

Al: Yeah. The whole purpose behind this is recycling silverware.

WC: Do you heat them up before you bend them?

Al: No, it's all cold bending. All I use is a leather mallet and my imagination.


Tucson Arts Brigade - Chalk artist drawing mural on Pennington Street.

WC: You do this often?

Michael: It's the third one we've done for Downtown Saturday night.

WC: Why do you do this?

Michael: It's all about putting art in a public environment. People join in drawing the mural, and in a way, they're helping to animate the downtown environment.

WC: Isn't it frustrating, working on something for hours that won't be here in a day or two?

Michael: No. It's fun. We come down here with a main design, and whoever wants to can join in. Come back in an hour and take a look at it. It won't be here tomorrow.


3rd Eye Unity Project - Goa trance party in a warehouse

WC: This is some party you've set up here.

Ruth: We try to do one once a month here. We're non-profit.

WC: How do you pay for the space you're using?

Ruth: For tonight, we offered to clean this guy's warehouse and he said we could use it. We're a community-based non-profit organization.

WC: How has the response been?

Ruth: Good. Here's our card. Give us a call. We'll hook you up.

All things seen and done, you can easily occupy yourself for a couple of hours. What you don't want to do, however is be at the bus depot at around 11 p.m., when a cop car drives through. If your central nervous system hadn't been assaulted enough by the street preachers and banjo music, the authorities shout over loud speakers, "THE BUS DEPOT IS NOW CLOSED. GET BACK ON THE SIDEWALK RIGHT NOW!"

I guess this means that, officially, you can't come downtown for another two weeks.