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In Character with Marilyn Clint

A conversation with an interesting Portlander
by: CHRISTOPHER ONSTOTT Marilyn Clint,  chief operating officer for the Rose Festival, interviewed zombies before Saturday's Starlight Parade. They all got the job.

Marilyn Clint has held a variety of positions working at the Rose Festival for a third of a century, but this year she was named chief operating officer. Mostly she's the one with the big ideas, only a few of which are likely to get her in trouble.

Marilyn Clint: So, are you going to ask the questions and I give the answers?

Portland Tribune: It tends to work better that way.

Clint: One of my favorite questions is, 'Is it going to rain when Mickey's in the parade?' I once was asked that by a lady from Disneyland who was Mickey Mouse's chaperone.

Tribune: How old is Mickey? Does he really still need a chaperone?

Clint: I think Mickey is eternally young. He does need a chaperone. And he can't go out in the rain.

He was our grand marshal for the Grand Floral Parade and it was one of those rare parade mornings where there was a threat of showers. I sit in an RV that's the command post. This woman comes up and starts rapping on the window. This is between 9:30 and 10 o'clock. She says, 'Is it going to rain when Mickey's in the parade?'

And I looked at her like, 'Are you serious?' I said, 'Let me check.' I said, 'Well, Mickey is going to appear at 10:30 and, hold on.' I looked up into the sky and said, 'It might rain.'

She took me seriously and said, 'Mickey can't go out in the rain.' I said, 'What? Well then, if it's raining when it's time for the parade to start, he can't get in the car.'

Tribune: Wait a minute. Mickey's in a car?

Clint: It's a convertible.

Tribune: You could put the top up.

Clint: No. His head is too big.

Tribune: His ego too, apparently.

Clint: I say, 'If it's raining, we'll scratch Mickey.'

Tribune: Behind the ear, preferably. They like that.

Clint: So she walks off in a huff, the parade starts and the liquid sunshine is just coming down. I'm on the radio and say, 'Scratch Mickey, he can't go out in the rain.' And then I see the car go by and there's Mickey in the car. He's hunched down with a huge umbrella just totally covering him in the back of this little convertible. It must not rain at Disneyland.

Tribune: You must get a lot of odd questions.

Clint: Back in the day the biggest complaint was about the Fun Center. They'd call me and say, 'The goldfish died.' You know, you win a goldfish at a game down there? And they'd get home and the goldfish would be dead. 'My kid is crying, the goldfish died, what are you going to do about it?'

I would say, 'I'm really sorry. Do what my parents did when my goldfish died. Flush it, get a new one, pass it off as the same goldfish.'

Tribune: Do you have a favorite moment each year during the festival?

Clint: I never know when it will come. This year what's going to be a great moment for me is the zombie flash mob in the Starlight Parade.

In the early '70s the police canceled the Starlight Parade because it got too rowdy. I have a copy of the police report and the police described it as the wettest, wildest, drunkenest brawl ever on the streets of Portland.

There were these guys, the Rainmakers, who drove around with upside down umbrellas, squirting the crowd with squirt guns. It became a tradition for people who came to the parade to bring their own squirt guns. So there would be a lot of water fights and eventually a lot of other stuff going on.

This year, I'm overseeing it again. I was obsessed that we needed to have zombies in the Starlight Parade, because everybody loves zombies.

Tribune: No, not everybody. Dead people love zombies.

Clint: OK, it's mostly Marilyn loves zombies. I had read about a car accident on I-5 where the people in the car were on their way to a zombie flash mob and the cops thought they were really messed up, really hurt. That stuck with me.

Tribune: How many zombies were you expecting?

Clint: We don't really know, but this is Rose Festival so we have rules and regulations for zombies.

Tribune: You can't have rules for zombies. Give me an example of a zombie rule you have.

Clint: No chewing on body parts.

Tribune: What about a little nibble?

Clint: No, not even a nibble.

Tribune: Licking?

Clint: No. Maybe licking as long as there's no blood.