• Into the Rabbit Hole

Ep 21! Birthday Pod-day!

Updated: Nov 5, 2019

1. Ball of the Burning man

On January 28, 1393, the French Queen Isabeau of Bavaria hosted a lavish banquet at Paris’s Hôtel Saint-Pol to celebrate the marriage of one of her maids-in-waiting. The highlight of the evening was supposed to be a dance involving King Charles VI and five nobles, each of whom was clad in a woodland “wild man” costume made from linen and flax and oakum fibers.

Shortly after Charles and his men began their routine, however, the King’s brother the Duke of Orleans arrived and drunkenly approached the dancers with a lit torch. When he moved too close, he accidently ignited one of their resin-covered costumes, triggering a blaze that instantly spread to the rest of the group. King Charles avoided injury only after a quick-thinking aunt covered him with her skirt. Another man saved himself by diving into a tankard of wine, but four other dancers were engulfed in flames and killed.

2. Andrew Jackson’s first inauguration almost killed him.

Presidential inaugurations are typically staid affairs, but the March 4, 1829, swearing in of Andrew Jackson nearly turned into a drunken disaster. After giving his inauguration speech, Old Hickory retired to the White House, which was hosting an open reception to allow the public to greet their new commander in chief. Before long, the executive mansion was crammed with thousands of rowdy well-wishers, some of whom climbed atop furniture and knocked over glassware in their struggle to catch a glimpse of the celebrity president.

When Jackson’s staff tried to control the rabble by serving alcoholic refreshments, the scene only grew worse. The chaos abated after the tubs of whiskey punch were moved to the White House lawn, but Jackson was forced to flee to a nearby hotel to avoid being crushed by his supporters.

3. The End of a civilization

Little is known of the Wari people of ancient Peru: they lived in the Andean mountains, they brewed “chicha” beer out of maize and saliva, and after about 500 years they just seemed to disappear. Evidence suggests they went out with a hell of a bang, however: the ruins of Cerro Baul, once an ambassadorial outpost and major chicha brewery, show evidence that the last thing the Wari did before abandoning the city was hold a massive ceremonial party. After brewing a final giant batch of chicha, the residents burned the brewery, smashed their houses, and disappeared into the forest.

4. The constitution party

Today, the Constitution Party is a fringe conservative group typically found on municipal ballots promising to return Biblical values to the position of dogcatcher. Originally, though, the Constitution Party referred to a balls-out rager paid for by the city of Philadelphia for the 55 delegates who had just finished the last drafts of the nation’s founding document. No direct accounts of the party survive, but luckily we still have the bill presented by the tavern owner to the city. Our noble founding fathers managed to consume 114 bottles of wine, fifty bottles of assorted booze, and seven “large bowls of potent punch.” Two days later, the groggy delegates managed to limp back to work and actually sign the Constitution.

5. The Stonewall riots

June 27-28, 1969

During this time, bars controlled by the local mafia were the only establishments that catered to the LGBTQ, homeless, and transient population in Ney York. In fact, it was highly illegal to be gay, and was those who were out were legally banned from most public places.

So the bars became sacred party locations, where these outcasts from society could get together, drink, have be themselves. Parties were wild and colorful and beautiful. BUT VERY SECRET!

The police hated it.

After midnight on an hot and muggy Friday night, the Stonewall was packed with dancing, laughing queer folks from all walks of life, when eight plainclothes or undercover police officers (six men and two women) entered the bar.

They came to shut the small little bar in Greenwich Village down for good. They started arresting people left and right.

In addition to the bar’s employees, they also singled out drag queens and other cross-dressing patrons for arrest. In New York City, “masquerading” as a member of the opposite sex was a crime.

Marsha P. Johnson, the queen who would later be known as the queen to have started the riots, threw a brick (some accounts say s tone) at officers. This opened the flood gates of power.

As the paddy wagon and squad cars left to drop the prisoners off at the nearby Sixth Precinct, the growing mob forced the original NYPD raiding party to retreat into the Stonewall itself and barricade themselves inside.

Some rioters used a parking meter as a battering ram to break through the door; others threw beer bottles, trash and other objects, or made impromptu firebombs with bottles, matches and lighter fluid.

Sirens announced the arrival of more police officers and the city’s riot police. As the helmeted officers marched in formation down Christopher Street, protesters outsmarted them by running away, then circling the short blocks of the Village and coming back up behind the officers.

Finally, sometime after 4 a.m., things settled down. Amazingly, no one died or was critically injured on the first night of rioting, though a few police officers reported injuries.

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