Page 32 - Salem Magazine Spring 2011
P. 32

 Your Salem
   “Borat” at the Salem Civic Center on January 7, 2005
There are certain dates and events that are forever ingrained in our psyches. The birth of a child, a
first date and the death of a parent all come to mind. John Saunders can relate to all of those, plus one other that he wishes he could permanently erase from his memory bank.
Saunders is a lifelong employee of the Salem Civic Center, where he has been Carey Harveycutter’s right and left hand man for 27 years. On January 7, 2005, he and the facility’s other staff members, who were on duty that night, were busy performing a menagerie of last minute tasks hoping to ensure a successful opening night for the rodeo’s annual stop in Salem.
“We had lines across the lobby and all the way out the doors that night, and all of us were tearing tickets trying to get the folks in their seats as quickly as we could,” he says.
Saunders, Salem’s Assistant Director of Civic Facilities, had ushered all but a handful of the patrons through the turnstiles
when he heard a noise coming from inside the arena that just didn’t jive with the patriotic cheers that normally accompany the national anthem.
“Our sales assistant Peggy Dickerson came running out of the arena towards me and she was completely white-faced,” he says. “She said, ‘you are not going to believe what just happened. This guy just butchered the national anthem.’”
By now you’ve probably figured out that the guy who got the rodeo off to a less than seamless start that night was none other than Sacha Baron Cohen aka “Borat.”
“It was just like something out of the Twilight Zone,” says Dickerson. “You’re hearing it, but you really don’t think it’s actually happening.”
By the time Saunders got to the far end of the arena and reached the man running the audio booth to make him kill the microphone that was propelling Borat’s toxic verbiage throughout the arena, there were about 3,500 enraged fans and a posse
of cowboys ready to string Borat up by his moustache.
“I remember Lt. Ray Clark telling me that we didn’t have nearly enough police officers in the building for what was about to happen,” says Saunders. “We had four officers on duty, hundreds of angry patrons and a bunch of real life cowboys – you do the math.”
While all of this chaos was taking place on the dirt-filled floor of the arena, Harveycutter, the Director of the facility, was 240 miles away in Williamsburg at a Virginia Association of Fairs convention. He remembers being absolutely dumbfounded when Saunders informed him about what was taking place.
“I remember that I told John he needed to call the City Attorney and call the City Manager to make sure our butts were covered, and then throw this guy out of the arena,” says Harveycutter.
Saunders had already taken care of the ejection of Borat, his production assistant
      32 Salem Magazine Spring Issue 2011

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