It started as a joke.
“It was just a dumb joke on Facebook,” said Joey Liechty, a Denton resident who has worked under the name DJ Yeahdef for more than a decade. “I was trying to make up this fake show of acts that were people — characters and stuff — that are specific to Denton.”
A simple black poster listed the imagined acts in a riot of rainbow-colored ink, like a typical festival poster: “Tiger Head Keyboard Dude, Denton Spiderman, EB the Bubble Van Vendor, Bonsai Tree Selling Lady.”
Liechty took his joke to the Facebook group Denton Downtowners. Mostly to ask for anyone he might be forgetting. He’d listed inimitable Denton music acts, such as Brave Combo, Paul Slavens, the Wee-Beasties and (more recently) “beat machine dude who hangs out in front of Jupiter House.”
Liechty got plenty of additions, from landmarks (such as the Fine Farts marquee that intends to lure people to the Fine Arts Theatre on the Square and the long-dark Morrison Milling neon “Corn-Kits” sign) to the faithful street preacher who aggressively shares the Gospel with whomever happens to be shopping or slurping a Beth Marie’s ice cream cone. It wasn’t long before Liechty added Frenchy Rheault and the albino squirrel from the University of North Texas.
One person was included and then booted — Denton’s flat Earth evangelist. While he’s an indelible Denton character, accusations of antisemitism got him bumped off the poster.
One local got a lot of votes: Barbara Bomberger, who is known as “Barb from Facebook.”
“It was just me imagining this cavalcade of these characters, and then people started giving out funny ideas,” Liechty said.
It didn’t take long for Liechty to start thinking about turning the joke into an event. He reached out to Slavens, Wee-Beasties founder Richard Haskins and Brave Combo. So far, Slavens and the Beasties have agreed to play. The joke is now a show — Dentonpalooza — slated for Dec. 3 at Rubber Gloves Rehearsal Studios, 411 E. Sycamore St.
The daylong event will celebrate everything from potholes to the dancing Uncle Sam who claps, shuffles and points at motorists who have probably shirked their taxes and bought pizza at Double Dave’s.
“This has really brought people out,” Liechty said. “Remember the old Howdy Doody sign? A woman here in Denton found it in a dumpster and took it. She hit me up and says she’ll bring it.”
The sign — which can be a little disturbing in just the right light — was a fixture at the convenience store on Scripture Street for years. An overly happy puppet tipped his black top hat until it was swapped out for a more recognizable image of the ginger-haired marionette.
Liechty said he’s heard from locals who plan a bit of cosplay for the show.
“A guy told me he’s coming as the dumpster that floated away during the flood years back,” he said. “Someone else said they’re going to dress as the Morrison Milling sign.”
Rose Costumes will sponsor a costume contest at the show, and Barbara Bomberger has said she’ll come as long as there’s a comfortable chair with her name on it and alcoholic drinks “that are not wine.”
In another tradition, the show and T-shirt sales will raise money to fight pancreatic cancer and for Denton Music and Arts Collaborative, a nonprofit that connects local artists and musicians with health care.
“I love Denton,” Liechty said. “It’s treated me well. All my friends are in Denton. This is for people on two tracks. It’s for people who need eye bleach, who are tired of all the ugliness, and for people who don’t really want to go anywhere but want to have a Denton experience.”