Off Limits

Swept Under the Rugby

The doctor is in -- and on. Comic and veterinarian Kevin Fitzgerald may be the most famous veteran of the Denver Barbarians rugby team, which last week apologized for the rowdy behavior of a few members who swiped liquor and urinated in the galley of a flight heading into DIA on August 14.

Fitzgerald started playing rugby in 1968, when there were only a few teams in the state "and anybody who had an English accent was the coach -- even if you were a mutant, even if you'd never played," he remembers.

"We drink and sing songs," was how a cousin explained the game at the time. Notes Fitzgerald, "I was halfway there."

Kyan Douglas
Kyan Douglas

While rugby is "a young man's game," he adds, "I can still sing the songs."

And what songs. "It's not enough to be dirty," he points out. "To be filthy and clever -- well, there you go." Many rugby songs are freely adapted from limericks, such as this:

There was a young maiden Madass
Who had a magnificent ass
'Twas not round and pink
As you probably think
But was gray and had ears and ate grass.

Or this:

A gay fella in Khartoum
Took a lesbian up to his room
They argued all night
As to who had the right
To do what and with what to whom

Or this:

There once was a couple named Kelly
Who were forced to walk belly to belly
Because in their haste
They used library paste
Instead of petroleum jelly.

Or this:

There once was a couple named Dare
Who often made love on the stair
He doubled his stroke
When the banister broke
And he finished her off in the air.

"These guys have a code, a gentleman's code," Fitzgerald says. "They don't like rude behavior. Anybody can be loud and rude. There are rules, dammit -- you must be loud and rude and clever. It's a fine line." And it looks like some Barbarians crossed it mid-air.

But as for the peeing, Fitzgerald can explain that. He'd just graduated from vet school and was on a first date with a nurse when they walked into a rugby party. "Some of the Highlanders and Barbarians knocked me down, cut my tie off -- she'd bought it -- put my glasses in the microwave and urinated on me," he recalls fondly. "They were genuinely happy to see me. It's like a wolf pack; they pee on each other. It's a sign of bonding."

That's a croc! What's more fun than a pack of peeing rugby players? A gross of gators. At Colorado Gators, the alligator farm in Mosca, in the San Luis Valley, they've got 450 of the critters -- but last week they were down two gator wrestlers when Jay Young and Paul Wertz parachuted into Los Angeles to try to catch a seven- to nine-foot alligator that was loose in 53-acre Machado Lake. "We had him in the net," Young, who billed the county $800 a day for his rescue work, told a TV station last Thursday. "But the boats weren't able to pull the net around to close it off, to get him trapped."

"They were within a few feet of it several times," reports Lynne Young, Jay's mother, "but there was such a circus going on, with spectators and reporters and such, that the gator escaped."

Lynne was not so lucky when her husband decided to bring gators to their fish farm eighteen years ago. "He brought the gators up here," she says. "I didn't ask for that. We were a fish farm for years; no one cared about us when we were just fish." Now, though, the Gator Farm is open seven days a week, twelve months a year, and tourists flock there to see the reptiles, take gator-wrestling lessons and even get married in the gator pen, as one couple did last month.

When Young returned to Colorado this past weekend because of a prior commitment, the L.A. parks department brought in a rescue team from Gatorland, a theme park in Orlando that bills itself as the "alligator capital of the world." They're doing the job for free, but get to keep the gator if they catch it. And if they fail? "I like challenges," Young says, "and that's why I'd want to go back."

We'll drink to that! What's more fun than a pack of peeing rugby players and a gross of gators combined? A good saloon. Sadly, the 92-year-old Carioca Cafe, affectionately known as the Bar Bar because of its red neon sign that spells out only the word "bar," is losing the lease on its longtime home at 2060 Champa Street. One of the last true dives in downtown, the Carioca was dubbed Best Place to See Chicks Fight in the 2003 Best of Denver by a savvy Off Limits operative. Decades before that, it was the best place to see the likes of Jack Kerouac and Neal Cassady. And in the '70s and '80s, its proximity to movie-production facilities made it the best place to see the likes of Raymond Burr, Chuck Connors, even Mr. T. Today it remains a favorite haunt of downtown denizens and hipsters alike.

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