He will be suspended on a 7-foot-tall wooden cross in front of his live, horrified audience, his arms and legs restrained with barbed wire. He'll wear nothing but a jockstrap and BluBlockers '80s-era sunglasses with amber-tinted lenses. On his head, he'll wear a crown of barbed wire to match the curlicues of barbed wire spiraling down his pale body.
Enter the schoolgirls. Sixty tattooed, punk-rock women dressed in Catholic-school-uniform skirts and wielding Wiffle bats will take turns pummeling Dougie until the barbed wire draws blood.
"Um, that's it," Dougie says. "I think it'll be about a two-minute show, one second in between each girl."
Dougie has almost everything worked out. Securing a venue was tricky. He was going to crucify himself in a dominatrix friend's West Bottoms loft. But Mistress Maya and her roommate backed out. Nothing against performance art, they said. There's just the issue of 60 women and an audience traipsing through their living space. So Dougie checked with his friend Lori Burroughs, who owns the downtown bar Balanca's. She was all for playing host to Dougie's crucifixion, until her lawyer advised against it.
So as a last resort, Dougie plans to hold his crucifixion at midnight on the night of December 28 in Case Park downtown. It's as public as you can get.
If everything goes according to plan, Dougie imagines people protesting him in droves. Maybe the Phelpses will even come out. And if everything goes wrong meaning, if he doesn't get the attention he desperately craves well, then, it will be a disaster.
Refugees from Kansas City's rave scene might remember Dougie or his alter ego, "Nightlife Jones," as he sometimes likes to call himself as the weird little albino kid on the dance floor. But Dougie isn't albino. He's just very, very pale. He shaves his head to expose the circular tattoo on his crown, and he sometimes leaves a tiny blond fringe above his forehead and a white-blond soul patch on his chin.
Every October, people often compliment the 28-year-old on his costume (the most frequent guesses: Hunter S. Thompson, Elton John and Truman Capote). He doesn't wear a costume on Halloween, though or ever. Dougie's look is distinct. He adores patterns, especially argyle and plaids. He loves accessories ties and cravats and hats and sunglasses. A padded metallic briefcase protects his collection of multicolored aviator-frame eyeglasses and has a false bottom to hide sex toys. Sometimes he carries the briefcase handcuffed to his wrist. He wears his pants baggy, pairs them with Saucony sneakers or flip-flops, and coats himself in layers, no matter what the weather. A typical Dougie outfit is easily witnessed at the Peanut downtown on Sundays, when hip-hop DJs play the bar. Recently, he showed up in powder-blue pants; a wide-collared, powder-blue plaid shirt; a powder-blue argyle sweater vest; a blue tie peeking out from the V-neck; blue-tinted sunglasses; and a straw fedora. Top it all off with Issey Miyake cologne, and call it grandpa couture.
Dougie can also be found at work behind a sushi bar. Cooking fascinates Dougie almost as much as sex the textures, the flavors, the temperatures. His idol is Ferran Adria, the Spanish chef who's famous for controversial concoctions such as apple caviar and edible foams. Dougie is proud to say that he once made a Red Bull-and-Jolly Rancher reduction as a sauce for a seafood dish. He has worked at Kansas City's swankiest eateries, including Lidia's, Piropos, Blue Bird Bistro and 40 Sardines.
At the Peanut, Dougie always carries two beer bottles at once, clamped precariously between the fingers of one hand. He leaves the other hand free for shaking, bumping fists or slinging over women's shoulders. His behavior is often outlandish, if not downright offensive such as the time that his metal cock ring slipped off, dropped out his pants leg and rolled down the street during a game of double-dutch with some women downtown in Case Park. But Dougie is always forgiven. Perhaps it's because he always knows when to take his leave. He knows he's intense. A little Dougie goes a long way. He's courteous, witty, graceful and ... about to be crucified.
Even after learning of his quirks, strangers might still assume that he'll wuss out of the crucifixion. They must have missed Dougie's last stunt, pulled off at the Hurricane, before the dingy, smoky bar closed for remodeling. It didn't sound plausible 100 $1 bills safety-pinned to his skin and removed by a throng of strangers. The doubters? They just don't know Dougie.
Back on June 24, in the basement of the Hurricane, Dougie was naked but for a pair of gray Shuttlecocks underwear and a Goorin Brothers straw fedora. His little beer gut poked out like a baby's tummy. A piercing artist who goes by the name of Tif counted dollar bills onto the felt of a pool table.
"I bet you're feeling pretty good right now," said Tif, who declined to give her full name. She explained that the body reacts to the pain of piercing by releasing a flood of feel-good endorphins.
Tif had spent the past hour sticking Dougie with safety pins. She attached a dollar bill to each pin after it was inserted, just by the dollar's edge, to make it easy to rip off. "There are 20 bills left," Tif reported. "We've done 80, bro. We've done this in, like, under an hour."
"Yeaaaaaaaah!" he yelled as Tif shoved a pin in his back. The rows of dollar bills pinned to his arms fluttered like feathers. As Tif poked him again, he made noises like someone smelling month-old cottage cheese. "I gotta be like Yoda's Dalai Lama," he said to himself.
Bill Sundahl, also known as Roach, wandered downstairs from the bar. Sundahl organizes the Donkey Show, a collection of bands, comic acts and performance artists that he books at local bars. Dougie's dollar-bill escapade was part of the 13th Donkey Show. His act was to follow the blues-meets-hardcore band the Lucky Graves.
"This is the most fucked-up thing we've ever had at the Donkey Show," Sundahl announced.
Dougie looked up at him. "You're letting us be who we are. There's no other way to live."
When the piercing was over, Dougie gave Tif a short, ginger hug. "I just got 100 piercings in an hour," he proclaimed, standing in front of a mirror. He strutted upstairs to show off. But the person he wanted to show off for the most wasn't there. Dougie's other half, Sunshine, was missing.
Frequenters of house-music nights at the old Kabal remember her for her grand entrances. Rashawn Aiono, aka Sunshine, towered over Dougie in his usual clashing plaids. She often wore nothing but garters and underwear, sky-high platform boots and electrical-tape X's over her nipples. Sometimes she'd show up dressed as a kinky secretary: a black pencil skirt and a white blouse over her ski-jump curves, patent-leather platform sandals, a jet-black wig with bangs, black-rimmed glasses and sparkly red lipstick.
Sunshine had modeled in the 18th Street Fashion Show, strutting along an outdoor catwalk in a bra, underwear, and platform boots and covered in glued-on plastic flowers. Dougie cheered her on from the sidewalk. Sunshine's features are striking. She has mocha-toned skin, high cheekbones, silvery blue eyes and a fierce mouth that breaks into a disarming, crooked-toothed smile.
Sunshine and Dougie were known for outlandish behavior. Dougie wasn't shy about whipping it out on the dance floor or slapping his penis on the car windows of couples leaving the club. Sunshine honked women's breasts like a grocery shopper testing produce. The couple went to clubs to shop for female partners interested in following them back to their downtown apartment. Each was the other's ultimate accessory.
Dougie and Sunshine met on Kabal's dance floor on the club's final 18-and-older night. Sunshine was 19 and Dougie, 25. Sunshine was new to the party scene. She was raised in a conservative home in Independence by her mother and a community of Mormons from Samoa. In her teens, she wore the bright colors and plastic jewelry of a raver, despite never having touched club drugs or even attending a rave. Dougie, meanwhile, bragged about having spent his teenage years with an S&M fetish troupe in his hometown of Atlanta before coming here to attend the Kansas City Art Institute. (For financial reasons, he ended up at Johnson County Community College instead.)
The night they met at Kabal, Dougie and Sunshine tried to see who could dance longer. Each claims to have won.
For three years, they were inseparable, eventually moving into an apartment at 910 Pennsylvania with a view of the Kansas City skyline. They carried on a polyamorous relationship, free to pull third and even fourth parties into their bed. "Cheating" was defined only as getting it on without inviting the other. Sometimes Sunshine surprised Dougie at his job, wearing a mustache and dressed as a man. They had terminology for their jealousy-free relationship, telling people that they were "from the future" or calling themselves "riders of the underground soul train."
"That couple is the most eccentric, exhibitionist, outright out-there couple I've ever met in my life," says Joe Jackson, a party promoter who frequently ran into Sunshine and Dougie at clubs. "I don't see how any other people could tolerate what they tolerate from one another."
Dougie could, at least. But by the end of three years, Sunshine was outgrowing her sidekick role. Spending her late teens and early 20s with the same person became stifling. She felt herself becoming resentful of Dougie. It was time to discover a Sunshine without Dougie.
"I bother her," Dougie admitted before his dollar-bill performance at the Hurricane. "Most women love it if a man can't keep his hands off of her. She hates it."
He stepped up to the bar and ordered a shot of Patron. "And lime juice, bitches, lime juice!" The bartender didn't charge him but watched in amusement as Dougie took the shot, bit the lime and squeezed the remaining juice over his tiny red wounds.
"Are those pinned to your body?" a woman asked. Others pointed and took pictures with their camera phones.
"One hundred," Dougie answered.
"Does it hurt?"
Dougie paused, trying to think of a clever answer. "Yes," he said finally.
Outside, two cops stood in front of the Hurricane's doors. Dougie politely checked in with the doorman to ensure re-entry before sauntering up to the policemen, his dollars in full bloom.
"How does it feel," Dougie began in his nasal voice, "dealing with 10 percent of the population 90 percent of the time?"
"That's got to hurt like a mother," one cop answered.
"These dollars are like feathers of the American dream being plucked clean," Dougie told him. He tipped his hat to the cops and walked back inside. "Apparently I can't get arrested. I can walk around in my underwear as long as I have these going on." He swung his arms. "This is getting itchy. I can't wait till it's done."
A guy asked permission to take Dougie's picture, then checked it out on his digital camera. "Disgusting," he said when Dougie was out of earshot.
Not that Dougie would have cared. He made his way to the bar to chat up a brown-haired guy at the bar. "Whatcha working with?" he asked. "I'm a size queen. Wanna go to my office downstairs?" Just then, Roach introduced Nightlife Jones from the stage. "Oh, wait, I have to go on."
His cell phone, tucked into his underwear, rang. It was Sunshine. "I'm fully pierced. Where you at?" he asked. "I've supported you for all your shows. Please come. You're on the list. You looked great tonight. Be here or be rectangular."
Dougie snapped his phone shut and stuck it back in his briefs. He strutted to the stage and grabbed the microphone. Affecting a wisecracking gangster-meets-auctioneer voice, he said, "We're talking free money, yeah, see?" It was a little after midnight, and the 50 or so people shuffling around the stage were just drunk and curious enough to listen to the bizarre little man, covered in bills, snarl at them. "I am the carcass of the American spirit being plucked clean by consumerist vultures, y'all. That's y'all. Hey, how much did y'all pay to get in here?"
"Ten dollars," several voices called from the crowd.
"You can make it all back now and get a drink on papa, see?" he continued. "Make a way," he said, waving his arms like a feathered Moses, parting the crowd down the middle. He invited someone to give him a five-second countdown. "You ain't gonna pick a dollar before it happens, but you're gonna pick it after, 'cause you know why? If not, I'ma hit the switches," he said, thrusting his pelvis before the crowd, to cheers. Some people in the audience donned white surgical gloves from a box that Dougie had provided at the bar.
Dougie jumped from the stage. His head disappeared beneath a surge of people. For no more than six seconds, there was a flurry of hands and a ripping of dollars. Then, the crowd parted. Dougie emerged from the scrum open-mouthed, his pin-covered arms outstretched in victory. Tif ran away from Dougie with a fistful of dollars, yelling "I got eight, bitch!"
And there was Sunshine, coming forward to engulf Dougie in a hug. They twirled around like kids at a school dance. "I been screaming all night," Dougie admitted.
"I know you have," Sunshine said. She could understand his pain but was unsympathetic: two Halloweens ago, she had her back pierced eight times in order to thread a ribbon through the rings like a corset. She guided him downstairs, back into the Hurricane's dank basement, where Tif freed him from the 100 empty pins. The band It's Over had taken the stage upstairs, and the wails of guitar crackled through the basement speakers. Dougie wiggled out of his underwear and stood naked, his prized possession dangling uselessly, framed by an expanse of shaved skin. Tif continued to work with a piercer's indifference.
"I was screaming like a bitch, but I ain't a pussy," Dougie said. "You're looking at a salvationized motherfucker ... I feel refreshed, invigorated, clean. I feel like I can meticulously pick apart this planet and kiss every part that needs to be kissed and throw away every part that needs to be in the dumpster. I feel respected."
He looked down at his naked self. "I may not have the muscles that you go to the gym for," he said. "But I got the muscle women fall in love with."
Sunshine sighed and touched her temples with her hands.
On a rainy Sunday night in July, Dougie arrived at the Peanut barefoot. Tears coursed down his face as he double-fisted Coronas. "She comes home with her busted-up pussy and wants me to kiss it," he said. He pounded the beers not his first two of the night and staggered out of the bar, plopping himself in a stairwell leading to an underground parking garage outside. Rain spattered the shelter overhead as Dougie wept about the week he'd had. He explained that he had sprawled on the ground in front of seven city buses, but none would hit him. He said he ate glass.
On August 1, Sunshine and Dougie moved out of their apartment with the skyline view. Dougie moved into a lonely place several blocks away on Jefferson, overlooking Case Park. Sunshine moved in with a friend in midtown. Nightlife Jones was in shreds, recalls Sean Fay, a mutual friend of Sunshine and Dougie. "He cried on my shoulder. I drove him around. We held each other. I listened to him talk about how distraught he was that she [Sunshine] was sleeping with other people, and how genuine he sounded in that."
Dougie was losing not only his soul mate but also his favorite accessory.
"She's like the Ferrari," Fay says. Sunshine was Dougie's girl magnet, he explains. "And most people, I think, are going to want to have sex with Sunshine."
It was during this bottomed-out period that Dougie decided that he wanted to be crucified. He asked Tif to help nail his hands. She declined, citing religious reasons. Another accomplished Kansas City piercer agreed to study the anatomy of the hand and told Dougie he didn't want to be responsible for causing permanent damage. So a disappointed Dougie will be tied with barbed wire to his cross.
While working on his vision of the crucifixion, Dougie also worked on getting his groove back. And he found out something that surprised even him he didn't require Sunshine to get ass. His post-Sunshine sex life became more hectic than it had been before.
"I had three threesomes, one foursome, and four girls in one night all in one week," he brags. "That's what I'd usually get in a month's time."
When asked to explain how a guy like Dougie gets so much action, Fay shrugs. "Why does the guy who dances at the Hurricane get laid? Why do midgets get laid? Everybody wants to experience something different. He's very open about his sexuality, which I think is a turn-on to people who are open about their sexuality."
Dougie even became a teacher. When two women who knew Dougie from the Peanut needed help fulfilling a birthday wish, they asked him to teach one of them how to be a submissive to the other. So Dougie led one of them around on a leash at the club NV. Her girlfriend followed, as if taking notes. When he pulled the submissive woman's long, dark ponytail, she smiled with delight.
Dougie ran into Sunshine that night. Missing were her flashy colors, short skirts and dazzling makeup. Her once-tight jeans fit loosely on her thinner frame. "She used to want to stand out," Dougie said, disappointed. "Now she wants to blend in."
And Dougie almost got evicted from his new bachelor pad for "unlawful behavior." He says his landlord caught him in the hallway late one night with a woman from next door and a neighbor from a nearby apartment. "I had a condom on, so I wasn't naked," he says. Dougie explains that the woman next door begged the landlord to let him stay, and the eviction was overturned. The next day, Dougie proudly showed off his eviction notice at the Peanut.
The Peanut is Dougie's hangout because he can walk there from his apartment. Dougie doesn't own a car. He walks everywhere he goes, which is the setup to one of his favorite stories.
It was a rainy weeknight when a visiting businessman in a rented PT Cruiser picked Dougie up in front of Michael's Clothing Company downtown on Main. He drove Dougie to his room at the Embassy Suites in Westport.
"I have to find dope and shoot him up," Dougie says. "I end up shooting him up, and then all we do is, I took a bath. He watched me take a bath. I, like, extra specially washed my asshole, 'Ya like that, Daddy? Yeah, you like that, you nasty fucker.' He ate that shit up. Then I filled up a couple cups of piss so that, when I left, he could drink it." Dougie says he made $150 that night for taking a bath. "That wasn't even work. I didn't really hustle shit."
Satisfied with the triumphant return of Nightlife Jones, Dougie returned his focus to his crucifixion.
"I know he could use a cleansing of his soul right now," Jackson, the party promoter, says of Dougie. "Why else would you want to crucify yourself but to cleanse, to absorb sins, to try to do something with 'em?"
On a sunny Saturday morning in November, Dougie hitched a ride to the Home Depot at Linwood and Main to buy supplies for his crucifixion. Before walking in, he chugged two cans of Pabst Blue Ribbon in the parking lot.
In the lumber department, he came upon a long, sturdy plank on an orange rack. "I think I'm going to name this piece of wood Betty Sue." He leaned in and kissed it and attempted to pull it off the rack. "Heavy," he observed. "I can only imagine what Jesus went through."
Dougie looked around for a Home Depot worker. He spotted a young guy with ironed-straight hair and freckles. His orange apron read "Mike."
"I'm looking to make a cross," Dougie explained. "It has to support my weight. I'm gonna need 6, maybe 7 feet."
Mike didn't flinch. He suggested that Dougie put a notch in the vertical piece of wood so that the horizontal piece fits like a puzzle. Mike went off to consult a co-worker.
"That's what I love about Home Depot folks," Dougie said. He smiled. "So knowledgeable."
Mike came back with a Home Depot worker named Chris, who said that Dougie's going to need a joist hanger to fasten the cross to a wall for support. Dougie nodded along with Chris' technical explanation. "Now, do you want some of it to be sticking out above your head?" Chris asked. "Maybe a foot?" Dougie nodded, then added, "All I'm going to be wearing is BluBlockers and a jockstrap."
Mike continued to look unfazed. "Well, if you're going for the actual Jesus thing, he's the perfect man, so his arm span is the same as his height," Mike said, alluding to Leonardo da Vinci's drawing of Vitruvian Man. They determine that for Dougie, the vertical piece should be 7 feet, and the arm-span piece should be 6 feet. Dougie is not the perfect man.
"Let's get everything together for a proper crucifixion," Mike said, with only a hint of sarcasm.
Half an hour later, Dougie exited Home Depot with a shopping cart carrying two planks of wood, some nails and some joist hangers. His bill: $37.49.
Next stop: the sporting-goods aisle of an Overland Park Target. Dougie ripped one jockstrap from its package and pulled it on over his cream-colored plaid pants. A strap broke. He removed a new one from its package. This one held up. He shoved the cup in its little jockstrap pocket and pranced around like a 13-year-old girl in her first training bra. "I've never had a jockstrap before."
He took it off, put it back in the package and went looking for plastic Wiffle bats. But the only ones in the sporting goods aisle were thick, plastic, red and blue bats not the skinny, yellow bats Dougie had in mind. He stopped a Target employee, a man with a fluffy blond ponytail and a name tag that read "Jay," and asked him for yellow Wiffle bats.
"Whatcha looking to do?" the employee asked, falling right into Dougie's trap.
"I'm going to crucify myself while 60 schoolgirls beat barbed wire into my skin with Wiffle bats," Dougie said in one breath.
Jay paused. "Nice knowing you," he said.
In the continued search for Wiffle bats, Dougie tried the Wal-Mart on 77th Street and Frontage Road. A line of tents, lawn chairs, and people in coats and sleeping bags extended out from the entrance.
"What are you waiting for?" Dougie shouted to them. "Concert tickets?"
"Nintendo," someone shouted back, referring to the new Nintendo Wii.
Dougie looked shocked. "I can't imagine waiting outside for a video game," he said. "They're camping out. They're, like, sleeping there. Weird. That blows my mind."
There were no Wiffle bats at Wal-Mart. Defeated, Dougie headed to his mom's house to use her computer for a Google search on places to buy barbed wire.
Dougie's mom, Robin Rosenbrook, lives in Merriam. A PT Cruiser sat in the driveway. Inside the house were pretty pastoral paintings and decorative curtains, cushy furniture and a new flat-screen television. The kitchen was entirely color-coordinated, black and white, with nostalgic red Coca-Cola tins on the walls. Holiday-themed Hershey Kisses filled crystal bowls. A small wooden cross hung on the wall under some cabinets, and a decorative stone with a cross carved into it adorned the mantel.
"My mom is a Methodist, I think," Dougie explained. "She'll probably hope nobody from her church sees what I'm doing."
Dougie's stepfather, engineer Warren Rosenbrook, was home. He's a very tall man with shoulders like an ex-football player's. "I heard you need to borrow my saw," he said in a deep baritone as Dougie settled in front of the family computer with a Miller Lite from the beer refrigerator on the deck.
"I need to make a crucifix," Dougie said.
"OK," Warren said. "I got one for that." He disappeared into the backyard.
Looking for barbed wire, Dougie called a company named Tractor Supply. "Dougie Rosenbrook," he said into his cell phone. "My company? Uh, Nightlife Services." He shrugged. "Yeah."
Just then, Dougie's mom and sister came home. Robin is a short, sweet-looking woman whose job, according to Dougie, is "one of those businesswomen, product manager, blah blah blah, health-care system analyst, blah blah blah." His sister, Annie, is still in high school.
Dougie hadn't told his mom about his Christmas plans yet.
"What are you doing?" his mom asked.
His voice faltered slightly. "I'm going to crucify myself on a cross, cover myself with barbed wire, and have 60 schoolgirls beat it into me with Wiffle bats," he said, his voice level.
His mother remained silent for a moment. "Infection," she said simply.
It's no different, Dougie argued, than the hundred safety pins he had poked into himself for his last stunt. "I didn't get an infection then."
"Barbed wire is a lot different than safety pins," his mother insisted. "Why can't you go into the backyard and pull some thorny vines from my rosebushes? That would be more authentic anyway."
When she's out of earshot, Dougie explained, "My mom's seen me do some crazy shit. When I was 17, I was brought home naked, in a cop car, tripping on acid. She's seen me do everything a bad kid can do."
She also saw authorities in Atlanta peg her son as a kid with a behavior disorder.
"I rode the short bus with retarded kids and freakouts," Dougie said. "Disturbing shit." He said he "graduated" from his special school and was able to return to regular high school, where he graduated as senior class president. He pulled out his yearbook to back it up, and a picture inside showed Dougie wearing bulbous clown shoes and sporting giant, fluffy blond hair.
A friend will film the crucifixion show. His plan is to someday edit film of his shows, call it a documentary and shop it to the Sundance Film Festival. "Hopefully, that will get me enough money to direct my first film. Then I can buy a restaurant and become a designer and do all those things. I pretty much want to do everything."
At the end of November, Dougie received some good news from Sunshine: She's going to have his baby.
The first day he saw her after receiving the news, they met at a midtown McDonald's. Sunshine is carrying herself differently, walking taller, stronger. She'd gained 15 pounds and looked almost like her old self.
"You really grew up," Dougie told her.
She shrugged. "Yeah. I'm having a kid now. I'm pregnant. What am I supposed to do?"
Dougie told her about a dream he'd had, in which he saw their child's face. It put everything in perspective.
Sunshine says she's positive that the baby is Dougie's. She laughs at the question because everyone asks it. It will be Dougie's second child he has a redheaded daughter named Akyla Una Nighttime Rosenbrook-Geraci, who is 7 and lives with her mother in Texas.
For Sunshine, pregnancy happened at just the right time. Before she found out, she says, "I was in my own world. I had entered into a different world, and I was reaching rock-bottom. I seriously was. I was scraping the ground. I'd hit that point where I felt like I was going psycho. People were pushing me away, like, Girl, you got problems."
Word of her pregnancy was all she needed to ground her. She wants to work on designing a clothing line. And she's considering getting back together with Dougie.
"It's just going to be one of those things," she says. "I'll go off this way, you go off that way, but we're still going to meet back in the middle, and we always have. It was just a break, people, don't worry! The celebrity couple is still together! We were riders of the underground soul train, but now we're onto something else."
Dougie is thrilled. He has a name in mind if it's a boy: Dugo Danger so he can say "Danger is my middle name."
He also has come up with a name for his crucifixion: "The Religion Game." He has designated December 28, the day of the show, as his own Good Friday.
"I personally am not saying anything against religion," he explains. "I'm not in any way trying to say that, ooh, I'm trying to do what He [Jesus] did. I'm not. I'm not going to do the feet, you know. I'm not carrying a cross around the city with a bunch of people whipping me and screaming at me, even though I was thinking about it ... I believe that any sacrifice like that should be respected. And damn it, I'm gonna check it out."