These pols morph into Mummers: Octopi, anyone?
Most days, Jeff Nash, a lawyer and Camden County freeholder, wears a suit and tie. On Sunday, he'll dress as an octopus, with eight black tentacles stretching from his hooded sweatshirt and with his face and shoes painted gold.
Most days, Jeff Nash, a lawyer and Camden County freeholder, wears a suit and tie.
On Sunday, he'll dress as an octopus, with eight black tentacles stretching from his hooded sweatshirt and with his face and shoes painted gold.
Nash, who is also vice chairman of the Delaware River Port Authority, is part of an intermittent Mummers comic brigade known as the Golden Schleppers. The group of South Jersey politicians, county, and municipal workers and their friends came together in 1990 but hasn't participated for 10 years since a key member died, Nash said.
This year, it has reformed with a clever theme and a new purpose: The adults among the 73 Schleppers, whose routine is called "Octopi Broad Street," have paid $35 each to participate, nearly all of which will go to the South Jersey Food Bank and Philabundance.
"It's exhilarating to be out there in costume, dancing down Broad Street," Nash, 53, of Cherry Hill, said. "We wanted to also have some social purpose, so that's why we're raising the money."
Jack Tarditi, 71, a former mayor of Haddonfield, will be a pink octopus.
"I like pink. I know my 'manlihood,' " he said. "I think it's perfect: We get a lot of laughs out of Octopi Broad Street, and it's good for us to laugh at ourselves."
Each participant has paid for his or her costume, and there isn't much cost associated with entering the parade, Nash said. He hopes the brigade can donate about $2,500 to charity.
The Schleppers have appeared on Broad Street in all sorts of garb. One year, they dressed as the Flintstones; another time, they wore Dr. Seuss-inspired costumes.
Perhaps their oddest routine was the year they wore flea costumes and ran out of a dog float from the only available exit: the dog's rear.
State Sen. James Beach, a Voorhees Democrat, dressed as flea repellent.
"When the fleas exited through the posterior of the dog, I was squirting them down," Beach said, laughing, in an interview Wednesday.
This year Beach, 64, who was elected to his second Senate term last month, will wear a suit with a "crazy octopus hat" to represent the high-rolling "1 percent" of Americans reviled by the Occupy Wall Street movement.
"When I was young, I actually lived on Second Street in South Philadelphia, so the Mummers have been part of our family tradition for many years," Beach said. "My dad was in the Quaker City String Band, my cousins are in the parade, and it's something that's been a lot of fun."
The crew's low point was in 1995, when it was disqualified. Its theme was "The Missing Link," with half the comics dressed as golfers and the rest as apes.
Parade organizers told them to keep it down when another Mummers group was on television, Nash said. Instead, the Schleppers turned up the volume.
"There were so many lawyers in the group they were going to file an injunction" over the disqualification, Nash joked.
This year, the group's float is very low-budget: a trailer borrowed from a friend. The Schleppers will cover it with tarps and tents to simulate the Occupy Philly encampment that was outside City Hall in the fall.
About 20 of the Schleppers met to rehearse Tuesday night at Camden County Democratic headquarters in Cherry Hill. They wriggled their arms in a wave motion and danced to the Beatles' "Octopus's Garden," the first song clip in their two-minute routine.
Suddenly, the Jaws theme came over the speaker and Rob Jakubowski, who will dress as a shark to represent another 1 percenter, approached the happy octopi.
"I'm about as far from the 1 percent as you can get," said Jakubowski, who heads Big Brothers Big Sisters of Burlington, Camden and Gloucester Counties. "But they said I was the best dancer."
Jakubowski, wearing a giant, glittering dollar sign around his neck, was encircled by the octopi as the music changed to "Uprising" by the band Muse.
"They will not force us, they will stop degrading us," the octopi sang as they closed in on Jakubowski, who pretended to throw money at them in an attempt to buy them off.
"They will not control us!" the octopi shouted before they attacked Jakubowski, who ducked and covered his head. "We will be victorious!"
It's fun to step out of their workday roles and just goof off, Jakubowski, 41, of Audubon, said as the run-through wrapped up.
"You see them in a meeting, you see them in the paper," he said of the elected officials involved. "Then you see them just having fun."