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How to Pie 

Seven steps to ephemeral pastry fame

Wednesday, Oct 21 1998
Last week, as Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman exited a conference on education at the Marriott Hotel, a man mashed a coconut cream pie into Friedman's face. Environmental activist Al Decker was later charged with misdemeanor assault and released.

But bare-bones news accounts of the incident missed one crucial point: Throwing a pie into someone's face isn't just silly and humiliating, it's -- well, it's easy as pie. So with the assistance of Al Decker himself, SF Weekly proudly presents a step-by-step guide to throwing a pie into the face of your choice.

Step 1: Pick a Worthy Target
Aim for someone who's rich and famous. From Bill Gates to G. Gordon Liddy to Anita Bryant, the list of those who have fallen prey to a pie is a veritable who's who. Decker chose Friedman because the 82-year-old is the world's pre-eminent free-market economist. "His generation is selling our future down the drain," says Decker. "They offer us pie in the sky, but being a down-to-earth guy, I brought that pie and gave it back to him."

You may plot to pie someone for months, or, like Decker, spontaneously decide to do it one morning after reading a poster advertising the potential victim's appearance.

Step 2: Obtain a Pie
According to Decker, his pastry projectile came directly from the Biotic Baking Brigade, whose ovens are located deep in the heart of the Headwaters forest. If you can't spend time tromping around Humboldt County searching for a pie, head for Bepples Pies on Union Street, where a beautiful coconut cream specimen will cost just $19.94. Bepples doesn't take orders for coconut creams, so it's advisable to call and check pie availability on the day before you actually commence the attack.

Step 3: Dress the Part
It doesn't take an economist to figure out that if you attempt to enter a fancy hotel in dreadlocks and bare feet, stinking of dope, you may not be admitted. Decker advises that you prepare your disguise: "Shave, put on a suit, keep your hair short, and you can go anywhere." Your pie can be concealed in a brown paper bag. Or do what Decker did: Place the pie inside a tin with a plastic lid and carry it in a standard-size, nondescript briefcase.

Step 4: Don't Forget to Fortify Yourself
Blend into the crowd, adopt a pleasant, civilized demeanor -- and if someone offers you a glass of nice red wine, do what Decker did and accept it graciously. Historically, booze has often been featured in pastry attacks, primarily because it helps relieve the pre-pie jitters, but also because it serves admirably as inspiration. According to Belgian pie prankster Noel Godin, who spearheaded the Bill Gates pieing in Brussels this past February, beer was instrumental in both the planning and execution stages of the attack.

Step 5: Assure Media Presence
A key element of any pie attack is a record of the act. Because it's difficult to both throw a pie and document the action, it's good to have a pair of helping hands to grab a photograph or video footage. "The deed is worthwhile on its own," says Decker, "but the impact is very heightened if other media are there." Decker should know. Last summer he scored a top-of-the-head pie assault on financier Charles Hurwitz, the executive responsible for the clear-cutting of ancient redwood groves in Humboldt County. But nobody was around to take photos, and consequently few outside the local community heard about it. Luckily, in the case of the Friedman incident, a documentary filmmaker was on hand to capture the attack as it unfolded (go to for the entire sequence).

Step 6: Launch the Attack
Some pie assassins work in teams: The Belgium attack was a masterful coordination of 30 individuals in roaming groups of three, loaded with a total of 25 pies. Decker prefers to work solo, saying, "It's more heroic and romantic."

As you hoist the creamy pastry into the face of your prey, a quick quip can highlight your action. Decker recalls, "I just walked up to him: 'Mr. Friedman, it's a good day to pie.' It was nothing personal, just business."

Step 7: The Aftermath
Expect shock and chaos. As Friedman stood there, clumps of cream pie sliding down his forehead, Decker trotted down the hallway of the Marriott, followed by the sounds of a woman screaming, "Grab him! Grab him!" After one of the conference organizers caught him, an enraged man threw his glass of wine all over Decker's sport coat. Friedman was perhaps the least upset of anyone, and murmured, "Well, these things happen sometimes."

Realize that you may be arrested or detained. But once you are able to regroup with your colleagues, it's time to celebrate. "The celebration is an important part of it," says Decker. "Drink a toast at the expense of a powerful figure. That's critical."

Final thoughts? "Anyone can do this. Anyone can change their image enough in the course of one hour to be able to get into a conference like this."

Decker's court hearing is scheduled for next month.

About The Author

Jack Boulware


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