New York World

G.O.P. Goes Pop!

Less than an hour after hundreds of red, white and blue balloons dropped on the delighted delegates and nominees of the New York Republican Party in Hempstead, Long Island, on the afternoon of June 1, Nick Yacco, dressed in a red shirt, blue shorts and white sneakers, walked around the convention floor popping each and every last one of them with a pin-tipped stick.

“People don’t realize that if you blow up a balloon, it must be popped,” said Kip Wright, Mr. Yacco’s boss and the creator of what he called “Kip’s Balloon Popper.”

The tool in Mr. Yacco’s hand was something of a jury-rigged bayonet—it was made from a white pole that had held up the sign of a county delegation (Oneida) and armed with an opened safety pin fastened to the pole’s end by electrical tape. Mr. Wright, a senior associate with e1, Ltd., a special events production company, always carries at least three rolls of tape in his pockets.

Before necessity mothered the invention of the Kip’s Balloon Popper a few minutes earlier, Mr. Yacco had been wading through a calf-high sea of balloons, laboriously popping each one individually over a garbage pail.

“They would have been here till tomorrow,” said Mr. Wright, a burly man with long, thinning blond hair and a thicker goatee. “Hey, Nick, see how many you can do in a minute.”

Mr. Yacco, a 19-year-old accounting major at Hofstra, gladly accepted the challenge and assumed an athletic crouch. As Arthur (Torch) Russo reverently folded an American flag on the bunting-strewn stage behind him, Mr. Yacco began stabbing balloons left and right, leaving rubber puddles in his wake.

“Look how much fun he is having,” said Mr. Wright to a lingering member of Governor George Pataki’s staff. She responded by asking Mr. Wright to leave the arena’s power on for the reporters tapping their laptops on deadline.

The Republican convention was a much tamer affair than some of the other events Mr. Wright has worked on in his long career. He recalled the difficult technical preparations for the Winter Olympics, Live Aid and a recent Janet Jackson concert (“Her big outdoor shows need a lot of rigging”). He pointed to his left ear, pierced with a silver hoop and damaged by years of touring with Twisted Sister, Megadeth and Bill Cosby.

Still, the Republican balloons offered some unique challenges.

“We had an issue,” said Mr. Wright. “We had smoke detectors.”

He pointed at the two opposite ends of the arena and explained how an “invisible laser beam” shot straight across the Hofstra Arena, just above the stage and in front of the two nylon nets that kept the balloons suspended above the anxious delegates. If a single balloon had broken the beam’s plane, he explained, the alarm would have gone off and mayhem would have ensued.

“We had to disengage that one part,” he said, as a man in a black T-shirt (“one of the premier rock ’n’ roll guys”) dragged a long strip of double-sided tape through the rubber litter.

Ray Ovetsky, the president of e1, Ltd. (“The Republicans wanted specifically a company that would give them a modern, fresh approach”), said that popping balloons, while a pain, was nothing compared to the arduous task of cleaning up confetti.

As Mr. Yacco chased down and poked a stray blue balloon floating around his feet, Mr. Ovetsky, a bald man wearing many fanny packs, described how the chandeliers in a New York City Hilton had been coated with “continuous streams of turbine-jet- propelled” Mylar scraps during Governor Pataki’s re-election campaign four years ago.

“Certain venues will forever have a piece of confetti hiding in some crack or cranny—doesn’t matter how long ago,” added Mr. Wright.

That is perhaps why some politicians tend to steer clear of campaign paraphernalia altogether.

“We did a John Kerry event in the Hamptons,” said Mr. Wright. “Jimmy Buffett was singing. There were all these millionaires and billionaires. There weren’t balloons there. Democrats don’t really do balloons.”

—Jason Horowitz

It’s O.K. to Punch These People in the Face

Brett Ratner

Anyone walking down the street with his or her cell phone set on the “speaker phone” option

Hillary Clinton

German tourists shopping at Old Navy

Garrison Keillor

Anyone who refers to the neighborhood below Delancey Street as “BelDel”

There Will Always Be a Texas

Texas is now planning the first prison for dogs. For many years, police have confiscated animals from felons—mostly drug dealers—and used them as police dogs. The problem is that some canines are incorrigible. “Certain dogs develop a criminal mentality,” explained Sgt. Ben Drover of the Dallas Police Force, who oversees animal crime for the state.

The other alternative, of course, is destroying the creatures, but animal-rights groups have protested.

The planned facility, in a suburb of San Antonio, will house 25 dogs. “This is a trial program,” Sergeant Drover noted. Dogs will receive obedience training plus, when appropriate, vocational counseling. After they serve their sentence, the canines will be released.

“How do you determine the length of their prison terms?” I wondered.

“We’ll just translate their owners’ sentences into dog years,” Sergeant Drover revealed.


New York World