Most objects rain: cats and dogs, blood, men. But pillow-stuffing snows. Like many others in Pioneer Courthouse Square on Friday, March 3, 2006, I was surrounded by feathers—in the air, on the ground, in my nostrils—just seconds after Portland's first large-scale pillow fight commenced. At 7 pm sharp, more than 800 warriors whipped out their pillows and began waging feathered war. Each fighter had gotten a tip from a friend, telling them when and where to show up. But no one seemed to know where that word-of-mouth chain began. Until now, that is.
Turns out 21-year-old Lewis & Clark College art major Katie Cercone and her then-housemate, 24-year-old Patrick Dundon, launched P-town's feathered fracas—inspired by a similar fight in San Francisco. The pair chose a time and place and then created a MySpace profile to promote it. Despite reporters slavering for details at the scene of the March battle, the friends refused to make themselves known in hopes that others would perceive the pillow fight as an almost entirely community-organized event. In fact, the epic slumber-party antic avoided any advance publicity from major local media, which Dundon and Cercone hoped would help make the sudden explosion of feathers and hourlong battle that followed a complete shock.
A second pillow fight took place on Friday, July 7, but by that time the friends had handed off their roles as non-leaders. With a third fight slated for this Friday, Sept. 15, WW tracked down the pair (as well as the event's newest feather-head) for some real pillow talk.
WW: What charmed you about the idea of a giant pillow fight?
Patrick Dundon: There are a lot of things outside the social norm that people sort of wish they could do—and, given the opportunity, will do—and something as playful as pillow fighting, which is something I think everybody has fond childhood memories of, is really the perfect fit.
How did the police react?
Katie Cercone: They really kind of let us do our own thing, which is pretty awesome.
Dundon: A lot of them were sitting back, laughing their asses off.
I hear you passed off your roles in a bar after the first fight...
Cercone: Patrick and I were manning the MySpace site and there was this one dude [Michael] who kept posting comments and was just so into it. One night I went to Tube and I was like, "Oh my God, it's Michael," because I had seen his picture on MySpace.... I just had to talk to him.... He was like, "When are you gonna do it again?" And I said, "You can organize future pillow fights. I can email you the password to the MySpace account." He didn't believe that I was legitimately going to hand it over to him, but I did it that night.
Why'd you give it up?
Cercone: We were into the novelty of it and the idea of having it just be this thing that sprung up out of nowhere. But I guess there were enough people who wanted to do a sort of Pillow Fight Club. So that's sort of where it is now: The hardcore people who are purely into pillow fights. They keep doing it and that's sort of their thing.
THE PASSING OF THE FEATHER
The police didn't interfere with the July 7 pillow fight either (except for taping off a portion of the square for a previously scheduled event). But as the melee went on, a 20-year-old community project manager overheard organizer Michael telling how Cercone had found him in a bar. She sent him a MySpace message suggesting some ideas for fight improvements (including prizes for costumes), and he offered her the profile password, setting the tradition of choosing a successor after each fight. In order to preserve the tradition of anonymity, the woman revealed only her first name, "Lacy," when WW met up with her at her downtown office.
So now that a lot of the shock value is gone, what is the pillow fight about?
"Lacy": Now it's more about being secretive and being rebellious. You're having a fight in the middle of public and in the town square and you're trashing it, too. And you're being secretive about it: Nobody can take the blame for anything because everybody has a pillow. There's also a sense of responsibility to it. People really care about the city and they clean up afterward.
Why are you OK with WW publishing the date of the next fight?
It just gets to a new audience. I mean, people are going to read it, but they'll still talk to their friends. I don't feel like I'm force-feeding it to people, and that's what's important.
So, what is it, an art project?
That's not a reason why I do it, but it's totally beautiful. It's just a bunch of people laughing and hitting each other, and feathers are flying everywhere.
The next PDX Pillow Fight is at Pioneer Courthouse Square, 701 SW 6th Ave. 8 pm. Friday Sept. 15.
Visit myspace.com/pillowfightpdx for info and guidelines.