The Pitbull motorcade pulled up to the rear of the gazebo. Out hopped the man himself, looking like a million bucks in a white blazer and aviator shades. He was flanked by a small entourage, each member of which was more improbably stylish than the last. A few cunning fans had made their way to his arrival area, and Pitbull graciously posed for photos before heading into the press conference. He clipped on a mic and swatted the softball questions in about a minute and a half. His answers were mostly PR-friendly sound bites, but one tantalizing nugget emerged: he promised to shout out Kodiak on a record someday, elevating this whole stunt into the indelible canon of rap.
Soon he was whisked to a back hallway — due to his tight schedule, he was whisked pretty much everywhere. It's a testament to Pitbull's professionalism that he collected himself into a calm and unwhisked state between vigorous whiskings — and I was whisked along with him for a brief audience.
Pitbull, just as his manager had promised, was a great sport. Instead of punching me in the face for dragging him to fucking Alaska on his day off, which would have been well within his rights, he laughed and thanked me for getting him there. "We're worldwide news — with your bullshit," he told me. "You gotta continue to mess around. Who knows where we'll end up. We'll be on the moon together." I couldn't imagine that being much weirder.
I was a little too whisked to process the conversation. We stepped outside for a photo op with the Alaska scenery, and we only had to walk a few yards to find a workmanlike tree-and-mountain vista. I produced a tall thumbs-up and contorted my face into a goofball parody of a smile. Pitbull immediately tweeted the photo with the following caption: " 'Keep your friends close, and your enemies closer.' Sun-tzu ;)"
Pitbull was whisked to the stage. A couple hundred Kodiakians(?) had gathered on the lawn-swamp, most of them with the good sense to wear rubber boots. The escalating sponsorship hierarchy unfolded: Walmart Scott introduced Warren Struhl, the CEO of Sheets, who in turn introduced Pitbull. He spoke for a few minutes, acknowledging the weirdness of the event but brimming with affection for Kodiak: "Thanks to Walmart, thanks to Sheets, and thanks to Dave Thorpe for sending me out here. To him it was a big joke, but to be honest, it's great. It's always good to be around good people in an untouched environment, and it's very, very, very beautiful here."
After his introduction, Pitbull was fêted like a visiting head of state. Kodiak Mayor Pat Branson and Alaska State Senate President Gary Stevens, grateful for all the national attention his visit had brought, awarded him the key to the city. Scott blessed him with a goodie bag of Alaskan survival gear: "On the Internet, much to-do was made of our famous bear spray," Scott said. "Yeah, yeah, yeah," said Pit. "Those are the guys I don't want any problem with."
Next, a troupe of brilliantly dressed Alutiiq dancers regaled Pitbull with traditional song; he sat at the front of the stage, relishing the local flavor. During one song, he was handed a baby. Credit is due here, because many celebrities and most Dave Thorpes would reject such an offering — but Pitbull cradled it with masculine affection and mesmerized it with his smile.
Poor Scott — no doubt goaded by unsympathetic superiors — had to play the mean guy and cut the Alutiiq performers short right as they were teaching Pitbull some dance moves. Pit played it as gracefully as possible, and the ceremony was cordially hustled along to the presentation of giant charity checks from Walmart Foundation to some worthy local causes. Mayor Pat Branson stepped back up to make the presentations. The Senior Citizens of Kodiak, of which Mayor Pat Branson is executive director, received $25,000.
Pitbull was whisked into a van. As an Alaskan drum band prepared to play, a Walmart agent informed me that all media types were to report to the local Walmart for further Pitbull sighting. He would be meet-and-greeting the employees of the local store and taking some photos with the nine-foot stuffed Kodiak bear that acts as the imposing centerpiece of the men's-apparel department.
When we arrived at Walmart, a sizeable crowd was lined up inside. For what, I'm not quite sure. The Nemetz Gazebo affair was the public event, and the Walmart appearance was for Walmart employees — intense time constraints would make it impossible for Pitbull to sign autographs for the public. He'd already been whisked to the back of the store when I arrived, so we talked to some badass local kids who were waiting around for whatever might happen. HJ asked if they frequent this Walmart. "We play hide and seek. They get mad, we get kicked out."
I told them Sheets Energy Strips were free in the Kodiak Walmart from now on, as long as they didn't get caught.