Tuesday, June 18, 2024

Today, Thong Man would be proud

| July 23, 2021 1:00 AM

I was waiting for friends at The Vault when two bare butts bounced by.

I was surprised to see thong bikinis in downtown Coeur d’Alene, blocks east of their City Beach habitat. But days later another young woman in a thong strolled past Sherman Park Square, where a good crowd and I were enjoying a Handshake Production concert.

And, still later, I spotted a young woman in a thong on a bike cruising North Idaho College Beach.

I wasn’t looking for thong wearers. But they were hard to ignore.

The outbreak of thongs reminds me of a controversy that unsettled the town three decades ago.

In June 1993, Tim Bowman of Coeur d’Alene, who would come to be known as “Thong Man,” ignited the uproar by wearing a skimpy bathing suit near a church group at Independence Point.

Letters to City Hall and the Coeur d’Alene Press followed. Two local women said Bowman’s attire would be more appropriate at the French Riviera or in California. Bowman responded in a letter to the editor that he’d worn a thong to City Beach for three years at that point. And that many supported him.

Eventually, Hot Potato landed in the laps of the City Council, which backed Bowman on a 4-2 vote. Councilman Dan English, who sided with the majority, told Huckleberries he would vote the same today.

“For me, it's not a matter of bad taste in clothing choices but what are we willing to spend our limited police resources on,” English said. “Do we really want to send some of our few cops down to the City Beach with a measuring tape to check out how much skin is exposed on someone?”

Oddly, Dan said, Thong Man was “a very average working guy who was quiet and otherwise not apt to make a scene.” Added Dan: “I guess he just liked his sun and personal liberty.”

Thong Man became a minor local celebrity who didn’t mind taking photos with visitors and fans.

Flying high

Ninety-one years ago, Elmo Wilcox, 13, climbed into a bull pine at 420 N. 13th St., and he didn’t come down for 1,153 hours. On July 21, 1930, the local boy scaled the tree, bent on setting a record.

As the Depression deepened, Americans were looking for inexpensive distractions, like tree sitting, according to Louise Shadduck’s local history, “At the Edge of the Ice.”

Elmo and a friend had designed a tree house for the record attempt, complete with a hammock.

“I’m here to establish a new mark in long-distance tree sitting,” Elmo told The Press. “Idaho has got to be put on the map, and little old Coeur d’Alene is going to get there, too.”

The police chief brought Elmo candy bars. Friends and family provided food and other treats. More than 100 girls performed a benefit show beneath Elmo’s perch.

Ultimately, school bells brought Elmo back to earth. He climbed down on Sunday, Sept. 7, and slid into his junior high seat the next day.

It’s unclear whether he set a record. But he had Grade A fodder for any English assignment that might begin with the title, “What I Did Last Summer.”


• Poet’s Corner: On weekends, I ride at/the head of the pack/on my big black Hog with/a chick on the back;/I’m bad to the bone so/don’t get in my way,/I’m wild as they come/for a CPA — The Bard of Sherman Avenue (“Part-time Outlaw”).

• On the third floor of the Cancer Center Northwest building, 700 W. Ironwood Drive, stands a water cooler, with a sign above that reads, “Out of order, due to coronavirus.” It was working well when a visitor doffed his mask to drink. But COVID bugs remain. So a fib can be forgiven.

• We all have walked through spider webs. So you know what the willies are. Kris Helstrom of Coeur d’Alene suffered a super-sized dose of the willies when she wandered through a web recently — and then noticed an arachnid dangling by a thread from her eyelashes.

• They take baby showers literally in Rathdrum. About 7:30 p.m. Sunday, mother-to-be Natalie Byler had finished unwrapping gifts and 25 friends were hobnobbing outdoors when the sprinklers came on. It was every woman for herself. Mary Tumminello, the hostess and grandmother, took a direct hit. It’ll be a great story to tell the baby someday.

• Mid-July was the time of year when Aryans gathered for their annual hate-fests at Richard Butler’s compound on the Rimrock. Occasionally, they marched downtown, too. In July 1996, 25 goose-steppers conducted an impromptu parade along Sherman Avenue sidewalks, followed by eight cops. The racists shouted slogans. Onlookers hooted at them. And two supremacists were arrested for (drum roll, puh-lease) — spitting on the sidewalk. Simpler times.

Parting Shot

Jeffrey Ward says we should warn away the huddled masses coveting Idaho’s natural beauty. Rather than tout our mountains, lakes and wild critters, Jeff figures we’re obligated to tell the other side of the story. Take it away, Jeff: “We have tons of angry bears, hungry wolves, swarms of yellow jackets, crazy bald eagles, cat-eating coyotes, smelly skunks, forest fires, wildfires, ice storms, blizzards, black ice, windstorms that knock over huge ponderosa pines and insane gun-toting bearded red-necked mountain men. And possibly lake monsters, Sasquatches, and forest-dwelling, human-sacrificing Aryan satanic cults.” Now, there’s a message that needs to pop up whenever an outsider Googles “Idaho.”

• • •

D.F. “Dave” Oliveria can be contacted at dfo@cdapress.com.



A 1990s photo of "Thong Man" on City Beach.


Courtesy photo

A photo from Louise Shadduck's book, "At the Edge of the Ice" about Elmo Wilcox, 13, who stayed in a tree from mid-July until school bells in September 1930. Elmo is holding a fake machine-gun in the photo (to keep marauders away from his treehouse).