Obscenities are being belched out of the wall-sized front windows of West Town’s Five Star Tavern. Excited men and women don expired boy-scout uniforms clashed by furry imitation mustaches. They have one hand for a pint of Pabst and the other to beat into the humid air. “We’re taking it back to the beginning, to our youths,” shouts Rudiger Strohecker, as he and the crowd ironically erupt into more verbal vulgarities as their six-ounce pinewood racecars cruise twenty-four feet to their fates.
In conjunction with the Lakewood Manor Players’ Improv Comedy group, Five Star is hosting its first annual “Death Race” Pinewood Derby. “We wanted to do something fun that everyone would enjoy. At first we thought of turtle races, but didn’t like the idea of having to put them in the basement to die afterward,” says bar owner Lyle Aker.
It is a sixty-four-car, single elimination battle to claim the rights to a personalized winner’s cup trophy to be displayed in Five Star Tavern forever. Not only do they compete for fastest, but also for slowest, funniest, most rock ‘n’ roll and most x-rated.
“We want to dirty up the clean pinewood derby image. So we are dunking it in bourbon and beer,” admits organizer and founder of the Lakewood Manor Players, Alec Pinkston. And that is just what’s happening. As festivities flow in and out between the bar and the outdoor seating area and out onto the street, where Jim Beam reps sport fake mullets and offer free laps in an Indy 500 racecar (to play up the theme), alcohol flows as quickly as the mini roadsters and their overgrown proprietors. And when Ryan Walsh, creator of the prize-winning car, Dixie, is asked his secret, he confidently announces: “Beer.” (Andrea Giampoli)