Campaign stunts can take all kindsa mellifluous shapes and forms; be it Billy Hughes’ wet ankle contests of the late teens, Chiffley’s “construct-a-bucketbong-athon” of ’48, Menzies “deny-the-vote-to-blacks” bike race of ’61, or even the great little John Howard’s “Men with Penis Envy Rally” of ’97. Great stunts all that saw each man (with the exception of the mega-stoned Chiffley) comfortably slide their lubricated carapaces into office.
This year’s election is no different, so Bars And Nightclubs wasn’t particularly surprised when we were called by the campaign managers of both major parties to be told that we were gonna be a big part of a little stunt: we were to go clubbing with the candidates. I was to be the man to go clubbing with them. And with my cyanide tablet necklace dangling gently around my neck, I thought, “Sure, why not?”
FIRST UP – KEVIN RUDD aka KRUDD
I woke up in a moving van with blacked out windows surrounded by eager young pimple faced hymen smelling sweaty palmed man-children. My first thought was that I’d been kidnapped by LARPers, but the many iPads, blue-tooth headsets, and complete lack of social aptitude made me instantly realise I was indeed surrounded by KRudd’s staffers: gimps and stiffys who had climbed the shit-stick of Labor factionalism and misanthropic hackery to get near the sweaty pits of Australia’s PM. These boys were running the country: choosing the ties, running the phones, photoshopping campaign pics, fretting over minute movements on another man’s face, losing sleep over every awkward moment while artificially constructing about a thousand a day themselves; these were the men who couldn’t get out of bed without consulting a focus group – the ones who had surveyed inebriates, yuppies, and pederasts in West Sydney and decided “Oh God yes, the boats must be stopped.” These were men to pity and fear.
One spoke to me in the stilting choke of a diddled Forrest Gump from Parramatta: “You are the one to club with Kevin. Kevin will take you out and you will club. It is with Kevin that you will go clubbing.”
“Kevin and Kevin alone and ye shall party like ye have never partied before.”
While this was going on a giant computer was whirring and sputtering in the corner, shooting out punch cards at a rate of knots.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“These are Kevin’s Organic Improvised Natural Response cards. They help Kevin remain natural and responsive.”
“What if someone asks him about the cards?”
A deathly silence.
Next thing I know I’m bagged and muzzled and knocked out. I wake up at a McDonald’s counter, the waiter has his back to me.
“What will it be friend?”
“Oh I don’t really eat Maccas since my friends made me eat 21 patties and a sundae on my 21st.”
“Double quarter pounder it is!”
The waiter then turns around and lo and behold it’s the man himself, Kevin aka KRUDD.
“Surprise it’s me Kevin, aka KRUDD!” he says and in one movement he bounds over the counter and loses the apron and hat, sidles up next to me, lifts the phone from my wallet, and takes a picture of the both of us – him grinning, me looking perturbed.
“Are you ready for a night that the kids would call ‘full mad dardy-nards?’”
“We are going to ‘chill-out’ at the ‘mad-sickest’ and ‘ball-sweatiest’ place in town. We are going to get our nangs on in the only place kids like us can party. ARE YOU READY FOR THIIIIIIIISSSSS? ARE YOU READY TO FALL DOWN THE K-HOLE?!?”
We are sitting across from each other in the same McDonald’s kids party room. Y’know the ones just next to the playground that get booked out by weary parents who just want their kids and their kids friends caged in a glass bubble carpeted with astro-turf to keep anyone from seriously cutting someone else open (parenthood, etc). Rudd sits across from me grinning. The room is surrounded by mouth-breathing staffers who cling to the windows like ghost-geckos, fogging them up with their nervous exhalations. A waitress enters.
Kevin scrunches up his face for a millisecond and releases: “Well…now…” the little chubby hands are in action, moving like a jilting automaton, playing macro games of rock paper scissors with each other in their own little unconscious hand universe:
“Point 1, subsection a, clause ii – my happy meal cannot and I repeat cannot have under twelve nuggets and my burger cannot have any gurken and I want the squirrel with the nut from Ice Age 6: Ice Balls as my toy…”
“Sorry Mr Prime Minister but in a Happy Meal you can either have the nuggets or the burger, not both. You have to choose. And Ice Age 6 doesn’t exist…”
I spot a staffer outside calling Universal Studios to kickstart production of Ice Age 6.
“But I’m the Prime Minister.”
“Yes…but you have to choose. You can’t have it both ways. It’s just our policy.”
“Ok well I’ll have the burger – no gurken – and I’ll just settle with a Skylander toy.”
“Ok…and you sir?”
“I’ll have the same I guess.”
After several selfies with the PM, the waitress leaves and KRUDD and I are left staring at each other across the table.
“So dude, isn’t this a sicknards night out on the town? I am down for some bungle and a felch party.”
“I don’t think that means what you think it means.”
He just winks.
“So are we gonna go and call the lads or what? Wanna talk about…” he looks over at a mouthing staffer, “mad satch puss-“
“Actually I wanted to talk about policy.”
He sighs a bit, winces, “Wouldn’t you rather we talk about gnarly kick-flips and the latest Atari games?”
“Uh…no…I wanted to talk about some stuff with you. Important stuff.”
“LOLJKROFLDTF Ok, hit me my bro-ala”
“Ok. I’m worried about your massive shift to the right.”
“Uh oh, got another grumpy bum on my hands.”
“Yeah…no…I mean, I’ve been a Labor supporter my whole life, I was raised in the party, and y’know, call me naïve but I still believe in the whole ‘light on the hill’ shtick and helping the downtrodden and the screwed over, and y’know, I just feel like we are becoming the party that is screwing people over – namely refugees – and that’s making me…”
“We are stopping the boats.”
“See that’s just it, why? We’ve boundless plains to share etc, and just you saying ‘the boats’ is really depressing, don’t get me started on the phrase ‘boat people’ and…”
“We are turning the boats around. We are stopping people smugglers.”
“I dunno, you just aren’t sounding that…compassionate…d’yagetme?”
“People are drowning they are throwing babies over the rail we decide who comes here.”
“JESUS! Do you know who you sound like!?!”
“The Prime Minister.”
“Shit! You speak like a molested Dalek, where’s your humanity? You’re from the party of Curtin, Whitlam, Keating for fucks sake! You are alienating your base! I’m your base, and you are alienating me! Stop talking in garbled sound bites and fucking lead!”
His face goes blank: “PLEASE INSERT PUNCH CARD #458763.”
A podgy staffer runs in, bowing like a cartoon oriental from a racist Looney Toons short, he runs up to Rudd and bends him over, pulling his pants down he pulls a punch card out of his breast pocket and forcefully rams it up KRUDD’s rear.
The jerking hands reset and the face returns to its ‘neutral-smug’ default:
“We are turning the boats around.”
I sigh. “I won’t worry about it.”
“That’s the spirit!”
The waitress enters with our meals. More selfies. She leaves. Rudd takes one bite and a smile creeps on his face that looks like the smile Robert Mitchum wears in hell.
“Da fuck is this…”
“I SAID NO FUCKING GURKEN! I CLEARLY OUTLINED IT IN THE POINTS, AND I ALREADY HAVE THIS FUCKING SKYLANDER…WHAT THE FUCKING SHIT CUNT FUCK?!!”
The staffers panic. There is some great turmoil going on amongst them, there is tears, screaming, howling, prayers, and calls of “I have a family” and “I have a Starcraft LAN party this Sunday!”. A pudgy a-sexual is nudged forward, passive aggressively squeezed out of the crowd like a soft turd, he walks into the room sobbing, he lays his hand on the table next to Rudd.
KRUDD pulls a giant bowie knife out of his belt, and deftly cuts off the staffers’ index finger. The staffer bows and tweets his gratefulness, he exits. The ritual is over.
Rudd stares me down, and with android like movements draws the knife to his mouth, and licks the blade:
“It’s a new way, bitch.”