CALL AND RESPONSE: Justin Machus (left) texted that he had a special visitor in his Local35 store; hours later Dave Chappelle (inset) was mobbed by fans in Pioneer Courthouse Square. Justin Machus photo: Darryl James, Dave Chappelle Photo: Benji Bilheimer
Dave Chappelle was flabbergasted. At 10 minutes to 1 am Wednesday, July 15, the reclusive comedian appeared in Pioneer Courthouse Square to perform a surprise show. Except the surprise was on him: Thousands of people had packed the grandstands, waiting.
"I don't know how I can tell four people," Chappelle said over a barely audible 10-inch amplifier, "and 4,000 people can show up."
Here's how: One of those four people told Justin Machus.
As buzz of Chappelle's possible show spread across Twitter and local websites Tuesday afternoon, Machus gave credibility to the rumors. The owner of Local35 clothing boutique on Southeast Hawthorne Boulevard, Machus told his Facebook friends around 5 pm that Chappelle had been in his store—and added an extra Tweet: "Free Dave Chappelle standup at midnight tonight at Pioneer Square!!!"
When WW found Machus Friday, he was leaning against a table in Local35, using his iPhone—the same one he used to inform Portland—to watch security-camera footage of Chappelle sliding across the store's hardwood floor, teaching his son Sulayman how to moonwalk.
WW: What the hell happened?
Justin Machus: Seriously. It was social networking gone tremendously right or tremendously wrong. So basically Dave comes in the store, I'm at lunch, my employee that works here four hours a week was here. And I get this text from her and it's like, "Dave Chappelle is in the fucking store, get over here." So I put down everything I'm doing at the house and bolt back here as fast as I can; totally miss him. He's already down the street. Sara's like, "Yeah, he was just in here, he bought a bunch of stuff, loved the store." He was like, "We're having a free show tonight, down at Pioneer Square at 12 o'clock. Spread the word, it's all word-of-mouth." He kept telling Sara it was word of mouth, word of mouth, just get it out there. So obviously I flipped out, put that on Facebook and Twitter and was like, more than anything, "Dave Chappelle is in my store, I can't believe it, that's awesome."
You also mentioned that he might be doing a show.
Yeah, and people were like, "No way." My phone absolutely blew up with calls.
How many calls did you get?
Oh God, it was either a text or phone call every 30 seconds for a good hour probably.
What time did you get to the square?
I was there at 10. At that point I kind of felt that it was some store credibility on hand: As far as I can tell no one else has really confirmed this, except for the store. I kind of want to make sure it happens; otherwise I have to run back to the store and protect my windows from an angry mob of people. So that was like, fingers crossed, "Come on Dave." It was like 12:15, 12:30, 12:45, and nothing. I was like, "Shit." And he finally came.
And no one could hear him.
No one could hear him because he literally had what he said he was going to do to Sara: He was like, "I'm walking down the street to go buy an amp." I think at Showcase [Music Sound]. So it was literally like a $50 amp.
Should Parks Rec send you a bill for the cleanup?
No. [Nervous laugh.] This was completely social network. I mean, he told us to spread the word; there's no way anyone could have known that social networking would have taken off to the point that it did with that.
Which leads to the question that everyone in the media has been asking: What does it all mean?
What does it all mean? It means don't tell a secret. I heard a really funny joke the other day, actually on Twitter, ironically enough. "How many hipsters does it take to screw in a light bulb?" "It's some weird, obscure number you've never heard of." I thought that was really funny. That is what everyone in Portland is like. It is so cool to have the edge on something that nobody knows about that is going on, the underground story of the day, and people just jumped on it. They were like, "No way, I am going to be there, I am going to be one of the first people there."
So what did Chappelle buy?
A Property Of bag. I think he may have bought some Pendleton [wool accessories], because he was looking for some stuff made in Oregon.
You have video of him in the store?
Yeah, I have video of him moonwalking.
Really? Can I see it?
Yeah, I guess you can. [We watch video.]
That's so sweet.
I know! We play Michael [Jackson] in here all the time, so… I don't know. But two weeks after Michael dies, and there he is.