Inspired by last summer's Cow Parade, local do-gooders have organized this summer's March of the Teddy Bears, in which 150 six-foot-tall fiberglass beasts decorated by local "artists" descend on high-profile street corners. The first platoon, dressed like Allied soldiers, invades the Liberty Memorial rededication this weekend.
Mayor Kay Barnes has proclaimed 2002 the "year of the Teddy Bear." Crown Center, American Century, the Convention and Visitors Bureau, FAO Schwarz, Helzberg Diamonds, Highwoods Properties and other sponsors have choked out $5,000 a bear to finance this sap procession. The Star is selling an "official bear hunters guidebook." The Hall Family Foundation's Bill Hall has called the March of the Teddy Bears "a uniquely Kansas City event."
Only because we're dumb enough to think of it. The cows at least made sense in a city known for stockyards. With bears, the only local connection is that the "metro-wide Kansas City art event" is a benefit for the Toy and Miniature Museum and Children's Mercy Hospital. Usually, teddy bears are soft and cuddly; these things are hard amorphous blobs. Nobody's openly ridiculing them, though, because no one wants to badmouth a project that benefits kids, some of whom are sick.
But the bears sort of resemble those child-scaring Easter bunnies on the Plaza. And this frightened even us: On May 14, the event's producer, Overland Park marketing company MAI Sports, used its free ad in the Star to call for more sponsors with the headline: "Looking for Mr. Good Bear?"
Company VP Mark Pfefferkorn acknowledges that the ad was "a play off of the movie" title Looking for Mr. Goodbar.
Pfefferkorn seemed surprised when we reminded him what Looking for Mr. Goodbar was really about. In that 1977 gem, Diane Keaton plays a teacher of deaf children by day and a disco slut by night. As her sister, Tuesday Weld has orgies and flies off for an abortion. Keaton skids into a purgatory of red wine, pot, Richard Gere, leisure suits, cocaine and anonymous sex. When she says the wrong thing to a closet homo who can't get it up, he pulverizes her with a paring knife.
We're not responsible if the same thing happens to innocent bears this summer.