Remember how a portion of Oak Cliff began as a short-lived Utopian society settled by some French who weren't crazy about Napoleon III in 1855? No? It doesn't ring a big bell for most, but it probably should since we've got a tower and a reborn artists' community named after La Reunion.
It's easier to learn history by way of fun, though, which is exactly how Bastille on Bishop makes its impact. Oh, you think you'll just be tasting wines, scarfing crepes, eating mussels prepared in a competition by local chefs, playing petanque, watching the can-can, maybe getting tipsy and can-canning some yourself on Bishop Avenue in Oak Cliff Monday evening. In fact, you'll be taking in the French culture that helped to settle our grand city. Stratagème!
That's our story, anyway. Feel free to use it to explain those can-can videos on YouTube.
Whatever the game, there'll be a helluva lot of people in stripes, and we're not really sure what to make of that -- or petanque, among other things. So we asked four people in charge of Bastille on Bishop, three of whom happen to be Go Oak Cliff board members, to give us the skinny on BOB.
We learned quickly the short of it, which is: Bastille on Bishop takes place from 6-10 p.m. Monday, tickets are $25 and include a free wine glass and your first two tokens redeemable for food or wine. Also, it happens rain or shine, so just come prepared.
But again, it is a French thing, so of course there's more to it than just the obvious details. What follows is a slightly loufoque email Q&A with Bastille on Bishop's Amy Cowan, French horn; Stacey Spillers, French maid; Becca Holt, French toast; and Jason Roberts, french fry. (If you're wondering about the titles, or what the hell a french fry does for an event, Holt said: "None of us have defined roles in this endeavor. We all work together to get it done. Amy and Jason are the ideas people. Stacey and I work out the details."):
How many attendees did you have last year and how many do you expect this year? Cowan: Last year it rained until five minutes before the event started, leaving us with low attendance, but with a great party for our neighbors! We are hoping to land around the 2,000 mark this year.
How many do you anticipate will be wearing stripes? Cowan: 60.4 percent. Spillers: 71.4 percent. Holt: Probably about 75 percent, but our goal is 100 percent percent.
Do you feel the stereotypical stripey French look is more sea-faring or more mime? Cowan: Neither. I think it's the Gap. Spillers: They confuse predators. Roberts: I feel it's more Hamburgler.
The mussels competition: How intense is it? Cowan: Oh it's intense ... mostly because you're cooking over a hot burner in 95-degree weather. The chefs have a sense of camaraderie with each other and make it fun. Spillers: Level Jacques Pepin v. Julia Child in a tickle fight.
Can we expect mussels tees? Cowan: Oui. Spillers: Mussels are better to eat than wear.
We're told we get two tokens upon admission. As insiders, what do you recommend we spend those on? Cowan: Champagne, as it'll run out first. And Champagne again if we haven't run out yet. Spillers: That was a very Marie Antoinette response.
Is the game of petanque one that will cause public sweating, or is it more like one of those casual, hanging-out-looking-cool games? (Any details are appreciated as World Cup fever has clouded Dallas' game brains.) Cowan: Petanque is French bocce, and since bocce is overrunning every bar in town, we're going to classify it as the ultimate chic party pastime. Spillers: Relaxed like Lawn Darts. Holt: Any game you play in Oak Cliff requires that one hand still be free for holding a beverage, so it's pretty casual. If you want to see public sweating (or swearing as I initially read your question), head over to the giant chess set that will also be on hand.
And dancing too! For those who've never been to this event, are the dance performances roving or on a stage? Cowan: Roving, busking-style is the majority, with a little entertainment on a small-scale stage.
What of the Vespa rally: Is it limited to only the French models? Or will the scooters simply feature French models? Cowan: It's not LIMITED to French models, but we'll be doing our best to make sure those are the only ones you photograph.
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We've seen some French movies, and well, there's the kissing. How family friendly is this thing? Cowan: As long as you only make it to first base, you're street legal. Spillers: "Ze corned beef does not run away from ze cabbage!"
Clearly not the Vespas, but which other part of Bastille on Bishop do you think our 1855 French settlers would be most excited about were they here today? Cowan: Considering the reason our French colony disbanded was they were all artist souls with no ability to build a sustainable community, we're confident they would be most impressed with running water. Roberts: That 150 years later, their outfits would be considered "hipster."
What is your absolute favorite part of Bastille on Bishop? Cowan: The photographs after. It truly is a beautiful, beautiful event, partly because of the spirit of the people in costumed-style attire, but also because of the setting. Bishop Arts is architecturally beautiful, and I love that she has been given new life.
Bonus question: Who do you favor in le Tour de France? Cowan: The Tour is on? I was watching the World Cup. Holt: The guy in yellow. Spillers: Marcel Kittel.