“$plat!”

The term “Paint Ball” splatters the mind with images of grown men in secondhand camouflage working off testosterone stored in areas of the brain and body not yet dissolved by beer or crushed flat under middle age spread. For others it means a fun weekend. The images regarding “Paint Balls” are somewhat different. These “adult” events were just as high-spirited and ultimately messier than war games played with the expensive equivalent of water pistols. Even without mock death, some social critics felt Paint Balls were a sign of the Apocalypse. The Apocalypse being a trendy New York nightclub open in the late 20th century. No camouflage required.

One society writer described Paint Balls as “a play on words for the rich to play in goo.” The goo was, of course, paint. Paint, or at least colorful fluids like it, sprayed over patrons from makeshift aerators or through re-appropriated fire sprinklers. Following the Rave movement, Paint Ball organizers secretly scouted out venues and tried to stay ahead of the authorities. Although the risk of fire was quite low at these saturating events. Also low was the number of smokers. There were other hazards in the opening stages of the craze. Organizers that didn’t flush sprinklers of ancient, rusty water before pumping in paint got an understandably irate crowd at their initial Ball. The remedy was offering comp cocktails and no cover for the next, hopefully cleaner attempt at creating a colorful and viscous playground.

However, alcohol was useless in taming disgruntled participants if they also forgot to put a roof over the bars and bottles and didn’t offer covered glasses. No paint mixture, real or otherwise, ever tastes good in bourbon, vodka or even tonic water. Despite ruined cocktails, Paint Balls had a positive hue. They created an unforeseen economic boom in many plastic products. The more traditional paper umbrellas proved ineffective as shields for brightly hued drips or showers. Thus, Ball veterans bought sippy cup covers for their mixed drinks. Because of the responsibility shunning crowds at such events, it’s doubtful that many children tasted a lingering mai tai through their grape juice. Another product not typical among hipsters became popular: clear plastic rain gear. Such coats and ponchos became chic after expensive apparel suffered on the uninitiated. Some organizers more than broke even by having kiosks selling this gear usually found at department stores and camping supply outlets. There was also an increase in gym memberships, as wet, clinging clothes are unforgiving to the corpulent partygoer and/or self-conscious. This is true if the togs are soaked by colorful fluid or stuck on underneath non-breathing, clear plastic. Many Paint Balls adopted a tropical theme after the majority of Ball goers arrived in swimsuits.

As public knowledge of the supposedly secret slosh-fests increased, gossip floated about what was sprayed at them. Rumors of ecstasy and other exotic concoctions were denied and most likely untrue. A person need not have legal or illicit fortification to lose footing or careen across a floor when attempting to dance in slippery surrounding, or just stand and attempt to drink a Manhattan through a sippy cup lid. This viscous fact proved the downslide for Paint Balls. Their short era dried up when Margaritte Alastair Comorrson, of the Old New Amsterdam (later New York) Comorrsons, slipped and broke her hip at one such event.

Such an injury may seem odd to occur in a nightclub and to a debutante, but perhaps not when the nightclub is a converted warehouse with a floor covered in slick paint-like fluids (mixed with other interesting or frightening donations) and the debutante is several decades into the use or abuse of that title. In the press, Comorrson portrayed as inexperienced and innocent. In reality, her own parties stretched the term Bacchanalia to the point of it snapping back with enough velocity to cause a sonic boom. Although her innocence was a façade, the expertise of her lawyers was very real. However, the shadowy organizers of the Paint Ball where she fell had shown American spirit and ingenuity not just in creating an epic Paint Ball but also in indemnifying themselves under several gloss, flat and enamel coats of incorporation and offshore business registration. That, and nobody knew who the hell was really throwing any of these sodden events, anyway.

Comorrson enjoyed her seven and a half minutes of fame. The Paint Ball era ended. Comorrson threw a big, drier party. All was forgiven. One other controversy was yet to come from this colorful, wet epoch. A large volume of green liquid intended for a Paint Ball that never occurred was sold to the city of Chicago and used to dye the Chicago River green on St. Patrick’s Day. The resulting fish mutations and eroded bridge supports are other stories.

BSL