Sacha Baron Cohen caper?: Racy martial arts show draws ire in Arkansas
By Jon Gambrell, Associated Press
LITTLE ROCK, Arkansas — Crowds in Arkansas came for the lure of cage fighting and $1 beer, but police say what they got instead was men ripping each others’ clothes off and kissing — a stunt suspected of being orchestrated by Sacha Baron Cohen of Borat fame.
“We had a contract for cage fighting. We were deceived,” said Dwight Duncan, president and CEO of Four States Fair Grounds in Texarkana, where the first of two Arkansas fights raised suspicions last month. Matt Labov, a Los Angeles-based publicist for Baron Cohen, said he had no comment Monday about the faked fights. One of Baron Cohen’s movies is due out next year. The day after the June 5 Texarkana bout, Fort Smith’s convention center hosted “Blue Collar Brawlin.” Fort Smith police Sgt. Adam Holland said organizers told him a character named “Straight Dave” would goad a planted audience member into the ring for a fight. The two men would then wrestle, rip away some of their clothes and share a brief kiss reminiscent of one between Baron Cohen and Will Ferrell in the film Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby.
Producers said “there would be a romantic embrace,” Holland said. “They said it was kind of to essentially make fun, poke fun at wrestling — two guys rolling around on the floor, all sweaty.” An elaborate array of mounted and handheld video cameras caught the crowd of 1,600’s reaction as the two men “went right up to the line” of the city’s morality laws, Holland said. The two men stripped down to their underwear, kissed and rubbed on each other, the sergeant said. The audience, as well as local fighters drawn to take part in the show, became enraged. “It set the crowd off lobbing beers,” Holland said. “They had beers in plastic cups. Those things can get some distance on them actually.” Holland said it took officers about 45 minutes to clear the convention center, as the two actors sprinted away through a specially set-aside tunnel.
Those in attendance were told by several signs on display that they’d be filmed, Holland said, and signed waivers before the event. Convention center sales director Karin Hobbs declined to name the event’s sponsor Monday. Baron Cohen became a national celebrity after his 2006 hit movie Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan, in which he played a bumbling reporter from the Central Asia nation. News of the faked cage fights comes as Baron Cohen is in production of a movie titled Bruno, named after the gay Austrian fashion reporter he developed for Da Ali G Show. Baron Cohen, in the guise of Bruno, often interviewed hapless subjects in the South.
If the cage match visits came from Baron Cohen, it wouldn’t be the first time Arkansas fell for a practical joke. In 2000, then-Gov. Mike Huckabee fell for a prank and congratulated Canada for preserving its icebound Parliament, calling it a “national igloo.”