Hot Rats StoryTime Theater
The Story of the Hot Rats T-Shirts Escapades
By Erica Hornung (Hot Rattus Emeritus)
It had been suggested that we needed Hot Rats T-shirts. I vaguely remember looking though Newsweek one day in the Stud Center cafeteria as we were discussing what should go on the shirts- and came across an ad for Bijan Perfume. You rember the picture… Bijan himself, in a tux, jumping up in the air and looking, well, as if he were, shall we say, “on a stick”.
Needless to say, it was an immediate hit, although I can’t remember who else was there/who approved besides me and Chris Harris.
We screened ’em and that was that for Hot Rats T-Shirts Escapades Year One.
It was a hard act to follow. The bar had been set, and quite frankly, had been set pretty high. Chris and I racked our brains for literally TWO WEEKS or so trying to figure out how to top the previous year’s shirts, to no avail. Just as we had resigned ourselves to reusing Bijan, Newsweek mysteriously came to the rescue… again. I was sitting in the Stud Center cafeteria, flipping through the magazine, and bumming out that we couldn’t come up with anything better than Bijan, when I saw it. The American Express Ad. With Sammy Davis Jr. In a Tux. Jumping in the Air. Looking like he had A GODDAMED STICK UP HIS ASS! It was magical.
It was meant to be.
It was really pretty impressive that we found it because to my recollection, we were going to make the shirts either that day or the next.
We screened ’em and that was that for Hot Rats T-Shirts Escapades Year Two.
We were going to Paris the next year, so it seemed pretty obvious that the Hot Rats shirts had to involve Jerry Lewis for our third outing. It also seemed obvious that it would be pretty easy to find a picture of Jerry Lewis in a tux – not only did we have years of Muscular Dystrophy Telethon footage, but he actually hosted the Academy Awards for years in the 50’s and 60’s. The jumping in the air thing… well, Jerry’s a goofball, so the odds seemed pretty high.
Newsweek was no help at all this time, in case anyone thought I was getting kickbacks from them for this story. Don’t think I didn’t try, though. Remember, this was before any of us had heard the word”internet”. These were the days of card catalogues and those horrible magazine indexes that never told you anything. American Heritage my ass! But I digress. Oddly, neither the Ridgefield or Stamford public libraries thought Jerry Lewis was important enough to merit his own section. I couldn’t find anything. Jack. Time was running short, and Chris was back in Georgia not finding anythng either, and we were running out of time. I think we had settled on a Plan B for the shirts, but I don’t remember what it was. I just remember we were really bummed out that it wasn’t perfect.
Then I went to the Danbury Public Library in a last-ditch effort. It was a charmed day. I went to the card catalogue, and messed around with it for about five minutes, but then in desperation, I just started flipping through books in the movie section. Desperation was really divine Hot Rats intervention in disguise. In the last book, on the last shelf in the section, way in the back, not mentioned in the index AT ALL, was The Picture.
I was jumping up and down myself by this time. The fact that Dean Martin was in the picture too didn’t ruin it for me (Chris got him out later). I rushed home, called Chris, and mailed him the Xeroxes to make the screens for our triumphant Senior Year Paris Hot Rats T-Shirts Extravaganza.
But wait, there’s more to this story.
Now, I wasn’t there for this part, although I heard all about it the next day, and maybe Chris would be better suited to tell this part of the story, but while I’m at it, here goes.
So Chris was tye-dyeing the shirts in his bathtub at his place in Home Park. The steam from the boiling water he was using kept setting off the fire alarm in the hallway, so he took the battery out and put it in his pocket so he wouldn’t forget to put it back in later. Then he remembered that these little old ladies told us at Salvation Army to use vinegar to set the dye whenever you dye stuff at home, so he grabbed some change and ran up to Kroger. In the car on the way up, he kept thinking, “did I spill bleach on me or something?”, because he felt this burning sensation on his leg. But he couldn’t remember spilling anything, so he ignored it. But finally, something was REALLY BURNING HIS LEG, so he skreetches over to the side of the road on Northside and jams his hand in his pocket where it’s burning, and yanks out the fire alarm battery – and a handful of change. The change had completed the circuit for the battery, and was heating up and burning his leg! And that’s how Chris Harris was almost permanently scarred for Hot Rats on a Stick.
He screened ’em, and that was that for Hot Rats T-Shirts Escapades Year Three.
And if I remember correctly, the French students kicked the crap out of us anyway.
The events depicted here may in fact be the deranged ramblings of an adult who simply wishes to make their college experience sound more exciting. The memories found herein are the property of the collective conciousness of the HOT RATS and may in no way be used as evidence in a court of law, since the statute of limitations for “reckless architecture” has long since run out. This article and the contents therein may not be reprinted without the express written consent of the author(s).