Shana Lutker, 26, is presently taking a paring knife to a large slab of doggie-treat dough, which she has enhanced with a couple ladles full of pork-rib drippings and molded into the shape of our president’s tight-lipped face.
“I can’t believe I think I can freehand George Bush’s face,” she says. “Maybe his ears are too high?” She stares at the garlic-powered portrait before her. “I like the idea of a dog taking a bite out of him.”
Lutker, an adorable freckled UCLA fine-arts grad student and Long Island transplant, who witnessed the World Trade Center collapse from the roof of her former N.Y. apartment, and her cohort, filmmaker Charles Herman-Wurmfeld, have been organizing monthly bake sales in Silver Lake ever since they separately responded to MoveOn.org’s nationwide call last April to “Bake Back the White House.”
“Aside from lemonade stands, bake sales are the essential all-American grassroots fund-raiser,” says Herman-Wurmfeld, director of the films Kissing Jessica Stein and Legally Blonde 2, via telephone from his mom’s house in Vermont. “I remember thinking, ‘This sounds so fucking cool.’ I was sick of being vilified for my progressive worldviews. I thought, ‘Let’s take them down with apple pie!’”
Lutker, a registered Democrat who thinks Bush is a liar and the war in Iraq is “outrageous,” had the same reaction. When she discovered that Herman-Wurmfeld had beaten her to the punch by signing up to spearhead the Silver Lake sale, she e-mailed him saying, “I don’t know you, but let’s join forces!”
“She’s my new activist friend,” Herman-Wurmfeld says of Lutker. “Brought together by MoveOn.org, so random and perfect.”
Their initial April event involved 100 bakers, raised $5,000 and was the most successful MoveOn bake sale in the state of California, and the second largest in the nation. It even featured a drop-by from MoveOn’s very own Carrie Olson, who happened to be in town that weekend and applauded the Silverbakers, as they call themselves, for their humor and organization.
Fueled by that success, Lutker and Herman-Wurmfeld made “a pledge to do one every month until November,” and they set up a Web site, www.silverbake.org, which sometimes opens with the slogan “Saving the world one brownie at a time.”
May’s profits were sent to MoveOn.org, even though the grassroots organization had moved on from the bake-sale concept. June’s were sent directly to John Kerry’s campaign, which the Silverbakers view as the best way to defeat Bush in November.
“We’ve seen a shift in the bakers. When we started, we were all so anti-Bush. In the last few months we decided we had to do [this for] Kerry,” says Lutker, who voted for Nader in 2000 (in the “non-swing state” of New York, she points out).
“We might not love Kerry, but we have to get behind him,” Lutker adds as she steps over Dora, her 6-month-old black Labrador, who is currently sprawled out at her feet awaiting doggie-treat crumbs. “It just feels like everyone who wants things to change needs to come together at one point, to do whatever it takes to get Bush out of office, and what that amounts to right now is voting for Kerry.”
To prepare for Saturday’s event — the last time the Silverbakers can bake directly for Kerry before federal campaign-finance restrictions kick in (profits from later sales will go to other groups) — Lutker will spend more hours on the phone, answering e-mails and making signs than baking.
“I think ‘Give Pies a Chance’ was my favorite,” says Lutker, calling up from her basement where she is digging through a pile of last month’s signs.
“‘Raise Dough for Kerry’ is a nice one,” she says. “There’s also some sort of raunchy ones like ‘Suck My Dick Cheney’ or ‘Lick My Bush.’ But I like the wholesome ones. Charlie is really into the rebel bakers: ‘Cupcake Revolution,’ ‘Bakers Ahead.’”
Lutker expects 200 bakers to show up Saturday in the Malo restaurant parking lot on Sunset. There’s 82-year-old Jean Koch, a former Orange County Republican, who is known for her Nucular Gum Drops (note the spelling). And 54-year-old U.S. Air Force veteran Kathy Kensinger.
“Kathy is hilarious,” Lutker says. “She goes to great lengths to come up with the funniest slogans she can think of. Like, she had these little baskets that said, ‘Bush is . . . ,’ and you opened it up and there were all these nuts in there.”
Lutker laughs so hard at this she covers her face in both hands.
“Or ‘Bush Economics Cupcakes’ — one cupcake is $3 and two cupcakes are, like, $9, and four cupcakes are, I think, $2. It’s all wacky and doesn’t make any sense — Bush Economics Cupcakes.”
“There’s also Kimberley Edwards. She started as our voter registration person but has become, I don’t want to say, our mascot . . . but she goes into the street and yells at people to come to the bake sale. She brings patriotic hats and made a cape out of an American flag someone gave us. I would say she gets 50 percent of our customers.”
Actor-writer-bartender Jason Bushman, Herman-Wurmfeld’s partner, serves as the bake sale’s “banker.”
Damien Kulash, Lutker’s boyfriend and the lead singer for the band OK Go, is organizing an impressive musical lineup for Saturday, including the Like, Ofer Moses, the Actual and his own band, to help the group meet its ambitious $10,000 fund-raising goal .
“I don’t know what it is,” says Lutker plopping mixing spoons into her sink, “if it’s something about the amount of $10,000, or the fact that Charlie and I have now done this three times and know what we are doing, but it just seems like this one is gonna be really exciting! It’s the last time normal people can give Kerry money.”
Lutker doesn’t view herself as an activist, despite the fact that she served as the Northeast student coordinator of Amnesty International during her high school years. Instead, she says she is “just an average person who listens to NPR, reads The New York Times and is upset about what is happening right now.”
Herman-Wurmfeld, on the other hand, is more comfortable with the label. In the Reagan era, while he was still in high school, he and his sister would visit local schools and speak to fellow students about the importance of nuclear disarmament. While living in the Bay Area, he worked with people dying from AIDS.
“Activism is part of my life. It’s not my profession. It’s where I find myself when I see injustice. When I see corruption. When I see soldiers and innocent people dying for profit. I’m just trying to do my part.”
“We spend so much time doing this,” says Lutker, eyeing her George and Laura Bush doggie treats. “It’s not an efficient operation for making money. But something about bake sales gets people really excited. It’s fun.”
“It has a tremendous effect on the bakers,” Herman-Wurmfeld adds. “The exciting thing is, the night before a sale, you realize there are people all over beating their batter and cracking their eggs and envisioning a new president.”