"Thunderdome," says the man, grim-faced, caked in dust. "How do I get in there?"
"That's easy," comes the crossbow-wielding woman's retort. "Pick a fight!"
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, the final installment of Mel Gibson's futuristic film franchise, appeared in 1985 and symbolized every prejudice and paranoia of that decade -- cutthroat capitalism, growing disparity between the rich and poor, alarm over the depletion of natural resources and, of course, the big one: the looming specter of nuclear war. In the movie, Gibson's "Mad" Max Rockatansky's battles for survival, carried out in Thunderdome, a savage, post-apocalyptic coliseum, make Gladiatorlook like ESPN's X Games.
"I totally grew up in the '80s, wondering what the future was really going to be like," says Andrew Novick, creator of Way Beyond Thunderdome, an elaborate theme party being thrown Saturday, July 30, at Andenken Gallery. "You could almost picture something like that happening, the infrastructure just falling apart and everything going haywire. But things never really did get that exciting or ridiculous."
Novick, however, plans on picking up the slack. Way Beyond Thunderdome is the fourth blowout that he and Andenken owner Hyland Mather have hosted -- and it promises to be even more outrageously fun than its predecessors. Novick is no stranger to shocking crowds: The mild-mannered atomic-clock technician once led the irreverent, massively popular local band the Warlock Pinchers, whose music and antics fell somewhere between those of the Beastie Boys and the Butthole Surfers. Scramblehead, his subsequent group, was even more confounding, and lately he's masterminded the performance-art projects Get Your Going and For Sale 1989 Toyota Corolla.
But Novick will stick to the sidelines for Way Beyond Thunderdome. After a screening of Gibson's inspirational film, the featured event will take place: a showdown between twenty of Denver's hottest underground celebrities, from the cybernetic juggernaut known as Cap'n Metal to members of the Rocky Mountain Rollergirls.
"I call them 'Tests of Will' and 'Bouts of Fury,'" Novick says. "It'll be American Gladiator-style contests where you have to knock the other people off balance beams or make them perform some weird task, like filling up a barrel full of balls while hanging from tangled-up bungee cords and scrapping with each other. But instead of a ring, we're going to build one of those geodesic domes like the ones they set up at Burning Man. It'll be more like a geodesic jungle gym. The Thunderdome idea is just taking everything to the next level."
After the combat -- with dome-side commentary provided by Denver's favorite snub-slinger, Sid Pink -- has been waged, party-goers will get to choose the final movies of the night from Novick's library of '80s cinematic Armageddon: Escape From New York, Liquid Sky, Night of the Comet and so on. Attendees are encouraged to dress up in Mad Max garb or anything that, according to Novick, is "retro-futuristic." Free pizza will be provided by Two-Fisted Mario's, and ecologically dystopian concoctions with names such as Nuclear Fallout, Heavy Water and Acid Rain will be available for purchase by those 21 and over. Still, Novick -- a teetotaler himself -- wants to stress the all-ages atmosphere of the soiree.
"There's always coffee served at our events," he states. "I like the idea of all-ages events, ones that aren't related to dance clubs or rock bands. I don't hate live music by any stretch; I've seen more live shows than I can even count. But I want there to be an alternative."
And he's the one to do it. After all, in Novick's able hands, even doomsday can be a blast. -- Jason Heller