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Flaming Tits

Topless bonding at the Bowl: Lindsay Smith (left) and Colibri Evans (Courtesy Courtney Fitzgerald)

The fanatical front man rolled out in a gigantic bubble. Hordes of Santas hoofed it stage-left. Space cadets boogied stage-right. Cannons shot confetti. White balloons filled the hot sky. From the stage behind us, the sounds of “Do You Realize?” flooded like sunshine, and a hurricane of glow sticks rained from the phosphorescent sea of eyes facing us.

Eighteen thousand fans saw one performance at the Flaming Lips’ recent sold-out Hollywood Bowl debut. Ten of us saw another as we made our own debut — topless. There we were on the catwalk, shimmying our bared, purple-glittered tatas and shaking our tushes as if we had nothing to lose.

With 25 cameras immortalizing it for DVD, this was the mother of all Flaming Lips shows. Known for their balls-to-the-wall collaborations, the Okie rockers planned something even they’d never done — transforming nonprofessional friends-of-friends into fearless freaks for a Christmas-on-Mars-in-July celebration.

We were an environmental consultant, textile designer, fund-raiser, speech therapist, law student, copy editor and other “normal” chicks. No performers — just strangers, with only this in common: Each of us received peculiar calls inviting us to denude as one of 10 body-painted “alien insects.” And, somehow, none of us could say no.

“We’ve got girls from San Francisco, Austin and Seattle,” said my hometown friend and Lips videographer Brad Beesley, pitching the craziness in a voice mail, a week before the show. The “Oh-crap-should-I-do-this?” vacillation was intense. Good girls don’t strip! But having grown up near the band’s experiments in Oklahoma, I figured I’d have a good story for the kids (though not the parents — “I hear you’re losing your mind,” said my father).

Asked to arrive nine hours before the performance, we had ample time to get acquainted. With no rehearsals, our imaginations ran wild. “It’s like we’re building up to some catastrophe,” said Sarah Svobodny, from Seattle. “But there’s something about the insanity of it all that makes it okay.”

Like our busts, our reservations differed in dimension. “I don’t smoke, but it’s a good day to start,” said Austinite Lindsay Smith, tallest at 6 feet 2 inches. Colibri Evans, a fellow Texan, claimed she was “most nervous” because she was shortest.

After we met the makeup artists, our shirts were off for the day. Our breasts were cupped, doused and stroked with glitter for hours — the most anyone’s ever felt me up in my life. Video crews invaded for interviews. And there we were — shirtless and vulnerable. “This is turning into a nightmare,” said Angeleno Maureen Black. Eventually, long-legged Lindsay succumbed to her new nicotine urge.

But with nothing more to hide, we bonded with the reassuring women globbing so-called fixative to our nipples. The rest of our costume — aqua tights, fishnets, green wigs, antennae and illuminated goggles — made us equals. Although resembling mermaids more than insects, we were fish out of water no more, and the usual female competitiveness evaporated.

A strange, superhero girl power prevailed. It was now a slumber party — a march to the stripper scaffold no more. With our uniformly purple lips, we looked as if we’d all blown Barney at some cosmic love-in. As alien-mermaid Molly McLaughlin said, it was “Extreme Makeover to the extreme.”

Lips front man Wayne Coyne popped in to pump us up: “You’re a freak show of your own! It’ll be like, ‘What the fuck is this? I’ve never seen this before at the Hollywood Bowl!’ We want you to be the stars. You’ve given us your breasts, after all.”

We lined ourselves up in pairs by height, held hands with our new friends, took a few deep breaths and entered the Bowl to all those strange faces. Trekking up and down the aisles during Thievery Corporation’s opening set, we doled out glow sticks for the megaparty-to-be, hoping to Jesus we wouldn’t trip. It’s not every day people beg and cheer as you walk by, or scream, “This is the best summer ever!”

After two hikes around the entire Bowl, the Lips came onstage, and the real party began. We joined the band and surprised ourselves, unleashing our inner stripper and taking to the catwalk with abandon, whipping each other with glow sticks. Nothing and no one was too stupid. By the encore, Black Sabbath’s “War Pigs,” real sweat was everywhere, and fake blood covered Wayne’s face — and our bellies.

What a freakin’ feeling.


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