A pub crawl at the Renaissance Faire in Bristol, Wisc.: It’s hosted by improv actors who are roommates in Chicago and who are pretending to be a pirate named Thoren and an Irish guy calling himself Jameson who is travelling with his singing sister act, the Bawdy Belles .
Like Sam Cooke, (songsofsamcooke.com) I don’t know much about history, but unlike poor, dead Sam, I have access to the Internet. So I do know that you probably weren’t going to see an Irish ginger having any sort of fun in merry olde England.
Under Elizabeth I, the English were upholding one of their time-honored traditions and subjugating the “the rug-headed kerns,” as Shakespeare called the Irish. That’s to say, England was busy setting up plantations in Ireland and conquering its people and their culture, (http://www.britainexpress.com/History/Ireland-under-Elizabeth-I.htm), gangstah style.
So any sort of historically accurate visit to Renaissance English drinking establishments should probably have the Irish guy try to poison the mead (which, curiously, was kept in foil bags at the Ren Faire) then him wind up being pilloried and in an 80s rock video with someone named Frankie (www.youtube.com/watch?v=lyl5DlrsU90).
But hey, as the Bristol website (www.renfair.com/bristol) – and Frankie say – “Every Faire day recreates a time when knights were noble, maids were merry and turkey legs were titanic.”
And in addition to those turkey legs, other food options include teriyaki chicken on a stick, calzones, frozen bananas and falafel.
My friends Tristen and Vince recommend the $1.50 pickles and the $4.50 Belgian waffle ice cream cones – though I am pretty sure neither one of them is pregnant.
To keep it Ren-real, you can watch people dressed up like Tudors in really expensive reenactor outfits having a banquet while you’re eating like a tourist.
If you get too hot, there’s even a guy at a torture booth who will gladly douse you with water. He was busy last Saturday saturating a very tall man, all dressed in red who looked like he could have been the offspring of Rick James and Elizabeth I if they had time travelled to a planet where Freddy Mercury was in charge (www.rottentomatoes.com/m/1007517-flash_gordon).
“I like to get wet. Do you want to get wet?” Moulin Rouge asked me as he posed for unholy cards, showing off his assets and apparently some produce he had hidden in his pants.
I told him that my kilt was wool, so no, wet was not on the agenda.
Yes, I wore a kilt, a black one to be formal as this was opening day. I also donned a t-shirt I bought at the Ren Faire last year with a skull and bones on it and “Prepare to be mounted and surrender your booty” emblazoned on it.
My buddy Tom was all in black, too, but with a Guinness-related shirt.
And we both had on sandals, which made us look vaguely post-modern-Roman-Irish, or like undercover cops trying to fit in, or like lost Oakland Raiders fans who also like Doctor Who.
No, wait. Those would be the dudes in pelts and faux-loin cloths pretending to be visigoths.
At least we weren’t kilted pirate-wannabes – or the middle aged dad with young kids who was dressed like a Centurion. He looked so tired and confused sitting under the tree toward the end of the day, like he took a wrong turn and wound up at the wrong reenactment camp.
Such anachronisms are half the fun of heading up to Bristol, where the Faire runs Saturdays and Sundays and Labor Day, so until Sept. 2.
Where else are you going to see, all in the same place: women in chainmail bikinis or belly dancing outfits; the occasional Darth Vader enjoying a jousting match; some plushies or furbies or whatever the hell it is you call people who put on animal heads or mascot-style outfits and howl at you; sprites on smoke breaks; Prince marking three decades since doves cried; or best, of all, aerial silk artist Lauren Murray climbing up some fabric to perform an acrobatic act among the trees, like a flying wood nymph?
Murray has performed with the Picadilly Circus (www.thefuncircus.com) and said she comes from a long line of circus performers who live in Florida (insert your own joke about the Sunshine State here).
If you are a dad, you will probably like this act more than you will enjoy any number of madrigal singers roaming the grounds. Or maybe even the mud show.
You might also enjoy the $25 pub crawl, which gets you five small drinks at watering holes in the woods, including the best-named Three Sheets to the Wind.
Working there was a bartender/wench who was going by the name of Pandora. I told her she had a nice box.
Hey, that’s part of what goes on at one of these crawls, which are a bit like something you might see on Comedy Central late at night, but without Charlie Sheen or Donald Trump (thank God) and led by a pirate, which means they are rated Arrgh.
Still, Tristen said I should have referred to the Internet music site (www.pandora.com) Oh, the young and their lack of allusions about life.
I did after my quip, and I apologized to the drink server – but if you told a dirty joke or led the group in song or carried the crawl’s pole to the next spot, you got to cut in the line of 25 or so revelers.
Along with the attempts at humor, songs included a number from the Belles about swallows and numbers from somebody who apparently was in the Marines and remembered all the chants from when they would run. It was very Vincent D’Onoforio (www.rottentomatoes.com/m/full_metal_jacket/).
I asked one of the lady singers where she was from (www.youtube.com/watch?v=t4LWIP7SAjY), but she wouldn’t break character and told me she was from Bristol. So I am going with that – she was born about 25 years ago, the result of a behind-the-scenes encampment tryst between someone who was learning to be a sword swallower and a lute player. And she lives all year in one of the trailers, working off season at the Brat Stop (www.bratstop.com) just down the road in Pleasant Prairie, where she offers cheese curds and Spotted Cow (www.newglarusbrewing.com) to patrons, but has to save up the double entendres for summer.
The crawl also offered games to get free drinks. One involved the numbers 7 and 11, which one guy who looked like a Ren version of Steve Buscemi apparently wins every weekend and another which was a cross between the Soul Train dance lines and Rock, Scissors, Paper.
This coming weekend, a press release claims the “Bristol Renaissance Faire is battening down the hatches for its first-ever Swashbuckler Weekend. Boasting an incomparable booty of music, merriment, and at least a modicum of mayhem, the weekend will also mark the Bristol debut of the Iron Hill Vagabonds, an acoustic music duo that’s been attracting attention on the national Renaissance faire circuit.
The weekend also will feature “the season’s only appearances of Doktor Kaboom, with his side-splittingly funny scientific diversions and folk-madrigal singing sensations DeCantus. Other limited engagement appearances slated for the weekend include the Bristol premiere of the Jamila Lotus Bellydance Carnivale and the second in a three-weekend-only engagement of Celtic rock phenomenon Tartanic.”
Their hearts will go on, I am guessing. Or you can wait for the steampunk weekend and the inevitable audition for “Portlandia” (www.ifc.com/shows/portlandia).
Meantime, though you might be thinking I did not enjoy my visit, like Cooke, Louis Armstrong or Joey Ramone, I think the Ren Faire shows what a wonderful world it this is that we have (www.youtube.com/watch?v=sL9iuAd93B8). In fact, next year, I am wearing a leather jacket. And a ripped jeans kilt.
Speaking of, this time, I found a nice $900 “Game of Thrones” number for Tom’s Christmas present – if he won’t mind looking like the eunuch, for fashion’s sake (gameofthrones.wikia.com/wiki/Varys). Either way, a great outfit for the last day of school – or the office before taking a new job.