Most towns—like most people—try to hide their seedy underbellies, convinced that though their unpolished portions persist, they don’t really belong, and ought to be cut out of the family portrait for disrupting the clean, tidy (and boring) vision they’ve worked so hard to construct.
Missoula isn’t one of those towns—or at least those who like the color and the dirt fight the impulse, refusing to play pretend with the whitewashers.
Randy, a bum who reliably roamed Missoula until his death a couple of years ago, was one of those disruptive forces. In a family portrait, he would be the one at the edge of the frame, shirtless, cussing and clutching both his tallboy and a dirty sleeping bag around his shoulders, equally eager to engage or offend.
Those who remember Randy and appreciate Missoula’s other local characters may also appreciate the initiative of Al Pils, who’s resurrected Randy’s likeness, shown here, as the first in a series of “Missoula Street Legends” T-shirts.
“I wanted to make a shirt that was cool and that said something about this great city we live in,” says Pils, who made up three-dozen black shirts for a trial run to see whether locals like them. So far, they’re available at Ear Candy Music or through Pils, whose day gig is tending bar at the Kettlehouse, and cost $12.
Graphic designer Josh Quick, whose day gig is at the Missoulian, did the illustration and is already working on another of Reverend Red, who used to preach incoherently, bible in hand, on downtown street corners. Tommy the Leprechaun, who loved sharing his riddles, balloon animals and favorite word (“phantasmagorical”), is likely the next in line, Pils says.
“It seemed like everybody knew these guys and I thought it was great,” Pils says. “They’re such a great part of this town.”
If Pils is encouraged by the shirts’ reception, he says, he’ll continue the series and likely donate any proceeds to charities the Street Legends might have liked. He’s not in it for the cash, he says—he just wanted to honor some of the local characters he remembers with shirts for those who remember them too.
“It’s such a Missoula thing,” Pils says. “Everyone’s a part of it, I just put them together.”