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Pittsburgh's Amoebas to take elephant case to TV court show

Friday, January 31, 2003

By Scott Mervis, Post-Gazette Weekend Editor

The national TV audience will get its first look at newlyweds Phat Man Dee and Tommy Amoeba next Friday when the couple appears on the syndicated court show "Judge Joe Brown."

Phat Man Dee and Tommy Amoeba are transported down Carson Street on a pink elephant float on their wedding day last July. (Franka Bruns, Post-Gazette)

Don't worry, the marriage is still bliss.

The problem is with the wedding float, the celebrated Pink Elephant, seen parading down East Carson Street last July 11. The Amoebas had asked a pair of friends, Craig Spahr and Matt Petronko, to transport the disassembled fabric elephant, created by artist Elizabeth Keating, to the Burning Man Festival in the Black Rock Desert in Nevada last August.

According to Phat Man Dee, a local cabaret singer with a sideshow bent, she and her new hubby were to meet them there, so they could revive the elephant and parade it around the festival on a rented van.

Unfortunately, Burning Man -- which bills itself as "an annual experiment in temporary community dedicated to radical self-expression and radical self-reliance" -- takes place in a large desert area, and they were never able to connect. After several days, according to Phat Man Dee, Spahr and Petronko, local mung bean farmers, tossed Big Pink on one of the festival fires.

She didn't learn of the elephant's fate until she returned to Pittsburgh, at which point the broken-hearted singer considered clobbering her elephant-movers but instead went to the Web site for the "Judge Judy" show, looking for retribution. The people there turned it down but passed it over to "Judge Joe Brown," who shares a production company.

He took up the case, appropriately, on Halloween.

You can learn the outcome next Friday at 3 p.m. on WPGH.

In the meantime, Phat Man Dee -- who sports a shaved head and pigtails -- informs us that Judge Joe Brown "didn't like me much. He told me I wasn't a jazz singer."

Had he ever heard her sing?

"No."

So, why didn't she just break out into song right in the court room?

"I didn't want to get kicked out of court," she says. "I had an elephant to attend to."


Scott Mervis can be reached at smervis@post-gazette.com or 412-263-2576.

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