Fire-spewing and topless above I-5: Stunt ties up traffic, cuts power
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Wed, 8 Sep 99 17:02:31 -0700
Subject: Fire-spewing and topless above I-5: Stunt ties up traffic, cuts power
X-Lib-of-Cong-ISSN: 1098-7649 -=[Fun_People]=-
[No doubt the copywriters at the Weekly World News are sulking all day,
because they didn't get the chance to make this item up before it really
happened, during this morning's commute. Just another day in The Emerald
City, where we take our performance art *seriously*. -jv]
Forwarded-by: "ORourke, Jim" <Jim.ORourke@METROKC.GOV>
Fire-spewing and topless above I-5: Stunt ties up traffic, cuts power to 5,000
by _Dave Birkland_ and _Christine Clarridge_
Seattle Times staff reporter
A transsexual construction worker from Olympia stopped rush-hour traffic on
Interstate 5 this morning when she bared her breasts, danced and spit fire
atop an electrical tower at the Ship Canal Bridge.
A friend said the woman, Ara Tripp, 38, was protesting the fact that women
can't go topless in public.
She feels "that's discrimination," said the friend, Robin Toye.
Tripp was arrested and jailed for trespassing and indecent exposure after
she climbed down from the 150-foot tower shortly before 9 a.m.
"I knew she was going to get arrested," Toye said. "She got naked, she
started dancing, she spit fire, she stopped traffic and she made a spectacle
Criminal trespassing and indecent exposure are both misdemeanors that carry
penalties of up to a year in jail and a fine of $5,000.
Sometime after 7:30 a.m., Tripp climbed the tower adjacent to the Ship Canal
Bridge and for about an hour danced, spit fire from her mouth and for a time
removed her upper clothing.
The stunt snarled rush-hour traffic for miles on southbound I-5 and caused
electricity to be shut off around 8 a.m. to some 5,000 City Light customers
in the Eastlake, Montlake, lower Capitol Hill and Wallingford neighborhoods.
Traffic headed south over the bridge ground to a halt as Tripp gyrated and
ignited a flammable liquid that she spit from her mouth.
Toye said Tripp used to be a man and is open about gender changes. "She
gives lectures on it," Toye said.
One onlooker, who watched the stunt from his apartment, said Tripp appeared
to be an accomplished climber.
For several minutes while on the tower, Tripp issued puffs of smoke and
streaks of flame from her mouth.
At other times she appeared to be dancing, swaying to and fro, and snapping
From the bridge deck, Seattle Fire Department negotiators tried to talk to
Tripp, but she didn't respond. After about an hour, she put her top back on
and began to descend the tower.
She did not use the ladder, but climbed most of the way down among the
angled girders that support the metal tower, jumping the last five feet to
Seattle police met her when she reached the ground at 8:53 a.m. She offered
no resistance when arrested and put in a patrol car.
Because Tripp was standing on top of a tower carrying 120,000-volt
transmission lines, Seattle City Light shut off power in the surrounding
area to protect her against injury, said Larry Vogel, a spokesman for the
City Light also was concerned about damage to the lines from explosives,
said Vogel, who described the incident as "an extremely dangerous, hazardous
Some service was restored on a piecemeal basis by routing power from other
areas. But most customers didn't get their power back until about 9 a.m.,
after Tripp was arrested.
Southbound motorists stranded on the bridge because of the stunt moved at
no more than 10 mph at times.
The incident garnered a good deal of attention on KZOK radio. Tripp later
was described by KZOK's program director, Carey Curelop, as a "station
groupie," who shows up at station events and calls often. The station denied
any role in Tripp's stunt.
Seattle Times staff reporters Arthur Santana, Steve Miletich, Eli Sanders
and Jack Broom contributed to this report.
Copyright (c) 1999 Seattle Times Company
© 1999 Peter Langston