The woman threw a drink in the man's face. He lunged forward, grabbed her upper arms, and hip-threw her violently toward the front door. She slammed into the frame, spun out the door, and fell heavily on the sidewalk. The fall tore skin off both legs. Everything happened before anyone in Fellini really knew what was going on.
The large man followed the woman outside. At this point, the woman was sprawled on the sidewalk, crying. They were trailed by the other half-dozen people who had been seated at his table. "Keep away from me, you fucking bitch!" he screamed again.
Jason Keebler, a security guard at the adjacent Satyricon nightclub, rushed outside and stepped between the woman on the sidewalk and the man. A waitress ran out from Fellini and said she'd called the police. "Let's go," a blond man said.
When the police arrived a few minutes later, the crowd was still buzzing about the fight, but the large man, his group of friends, and the victim had already gone their separate ways. Although several employees recognized the man and his friends as regular customers, they didn't know their names. They only knew what the group calls itself--The Partridge Family Temple.
The man who attacked the woman frequently wears mirrored sunglasses and goes by the name Officer Partridge. The blond man who urged the group to leave is known as Shaun Partridge.
"It's a cult based on the Partridge Family TV show," says one worker from Fellini, who asked to remain anonymous. "They're notorious. They're always causing trouble. That's what they do."
Indeed, local club¯hoppers and employers talk about the group in disparaging terms. They are accused of starting fights at Club 1201, Embers, Ohm, and the Paris Theater.
More than that, people refer to them interchangeably as nazis, racists, and fascists. As if that wasn't enough, rumors circulate that Temple members engage in orgies, drink each other's urine, and commit incest.
What in God's name would Shirley Jones think?
Worship Your Television
"Welcome to the Temple," says Shaun Fairlee (aka Shaun Partridge), opening the door to his southeast apartment. With his straight blond hair styled in a short shag cut, Fairlee has the '60s glam look down cold, from the bright paisley shirt to black bell bottoms and ankle-high leather boots.
Standing behind Fairlee is his girlfriend, who introduces herself as "Marmalade." Her hourglass figure is practically vacuum-sealed in a red, white, and blue blouse and stretch pants, set off by her long red hair and full red lips.
Fairlee and Marmalade look more like models from a retro Obsession ad than the scourge of the downtown rock scene. Their apartment continues the time warp: Dark red walls are covered with black light posters and 30-year-old album covers; a red and gold McDonald's flag hangs above an overstuffed couch covered with a blue shag throw cloth. The TV set is a shrine to The Partridge Family, almost completely buried beneath a Lava Lamp, school lunch boxes, toys, and other artifacts related to the show.
Fairlee tells me that he's heard all the rumors swirling around him and his friends. He blames them on misunderstandings.
"The Partridge Family Temple is a religion based on fun, truth, and reality. We believe in freedom, fun, and enjoying life every day, because we all know we're going to die. Life is scary and miserable and we say, 'Come On, Get Happy!'" he exclaims, quoting the title of one of the Partridge Family's greatest hits.
Although the idea of basing a religion on a sappy 1970s sitcom sounds like a joke, Fairlee insists he's serious. As he explains it, The Partridge Family was, in fact, the living embodiment of religious archetypes which have echoed through humanity from the earliest days. Shirley Jones is the virgin mother earth goddess; she had children, but no father was ever mentioned in the show. David Cassidy was the satyr or male sex god, a fact supported by his legendarily large phallus. Danny Bonaduce, the constant trouble-maker, was the loki or devil character. And Bobby Sherman, a one-episode guest, was the grim reaper, driving a hearse in his own spin-off series, "Getting Together."
Fairlee sits on the sofa beneath the McDonald's flag. He appears to meditate between questions, closing his eyes and pressing his fingertips together. His voice is calm and measured, his words carefully chosen.
"Our religion is the perfect religion for the new millennium. The television is our god. Our symbol is the eternal CBS eye. Everyone worships TV. We're more real than Christianity. You can turn on your TV and see our religion," he says.
Fairlee's explanation rolls out like an 8-track tape, practiced but entertaining. In fact, he's been working on his rap for a long time, ever since he and a friend named Dan [last name redacted] were introduced to the concept by a mutual acquaintance while living in Denver in 1988. The acquaintance, a man they call Reverend Adam Sleek, kept playing Partridge Family music, trying to convert them. "I thought, 'I can't take any more of this,' and then all of a sudden I realized, hey, it's really good music, and wanted to listen to it, too," Fairlee says. Fairlee doesn't know how Rev. Sleek came up with the idea originally.
Over the next few years, Fairlee and Dan began recruiting "converts" and attracting media attention. The first big splash was in 1991, at a David Cassidy and Danny Bonaduce concert, where Fairlee was arrested for preaching at the show. A news photographer took a picture of the incident and a short article about the Partridge Family Temple ran the next day. From there, the event mushroomed. It was picked up by a wire service which, in turn, lead to appearances on A Current Affair, The Jon Stewart Show, and Talk Back with Bob Larson, a radio program hosted by an evangelical Christian who thought the group was possessed.
Eventually the Partridge Family Temple came to the attention of Adam Parfrey of Feral House Press. Parfrey, publisher of Apocalypse Culture, an influential book on fringe religious movements, was intrigued by the group and invited them to take part in Cult Rapture, an experimental art show he organized in Seattle in 1995.
On his way to the show, Fairlee traveled through Portland and was immediately struck by the town's "Andy of Mayberry" feel. A short time later, he moved here and promptly started a new chapter. It currently has a core group of around 10 members, including Marmalade, a local industrial musician called 7-Up, and Jason Fell, another musician who once fronted the local band Popewyrm. Officer Partridge is Morgan Tisdale, the son of noted Portland author Sally Tisdale.
"We're like McDonald's," Fairlee says. "We have franchises."
Fairlee generated a little more publicity for the group when he ran for Mayor of Portland last year. "As your delightful Mayor," he wrote in the voters pamphlet, "I will show you the magic in your TV set."
Ironically, given his reputation for bar fights, he also proclaimed that this city is not violence-ridden Gotham. He also included the proclamation: "I am a lonely little raindrop."
Even so, many Portlanders believe that the sunshine persona of the Partridge Family Temple casts a dark shadow more closely resembling that of the Manson Family. Perhaps it's because the smiley face Fairlee puts on is a facade, a carefully-manufactured persona which hides a far more complex--and darker--personality. Asked about his childhood, Fairlee readily admits he had a strange upbringing and gained a reputation for violence at an early age.
"My family was like The Addams Family. My dad was the only person I ever met who was in Vietnam and had good memories of it. Whenever anyone got a flat tire in the neighborhood, they blamed him. My mother was into new age religions. She got her nipple pierced. I don't mind people getting their nipples pierced, but this is my mom. And it was just a few years ago," he says.
"I remember my teachers were always complaining to my parents about me. They were disturbed by my drawings and the things I wrote. But they were just dinosaurs and monsters and things like that."
Fairlee also admits he used to poke classmates with pins, but insists, "All kids do things like that."
Although Fairlee had friends, he always felt different than most children his age: "I would watch kids playing baseball and think, 'Why are they doing that? How boring.' I feel blessed to be different."
When he got older, Fairlee discovered the fun of drinking and fighting. "If you're young and drink alcohol, there's chaos. It just kind of happens. As you get older you look back and say, 'What a dangerous thing,' but you have to live on that edge. If you make it through, you go to the next stage, the next level. That's what life is about," he says.
Fairlee admits some of the altercations occurred in Portland, including a brawl at the Paris Theater.
"I was really drunk on Jack Daniel's and I was just calling people nerds and this girl attacked me. Some guy got punched in the face. Stuff like that does happen. Stupid drunk chaos is a part of people's lives."
"I've always liked the kind of experimental theater where the audience is also involved. That's why I would go out and yell things, to try to involve everyone in the excitement. I want people to think and question things," Fairlee adds.
The rumors about the fight at Embers are also true. Fairlee says it was started by his sister Desiree, who also goes by the name Giddles.
"She punched some guy, and that started it. But it wasn't like it was a Partridge Family Temple fight. It was just her and a guy."
Shortly after moving to Portland, Fairlee was interviewed by Ohm Clock Magazine, a now-defunct fanzine focusing on the occult underground and political extremists, including neo-Nazi rock bands. The story features a picture of Fairlee in a storm trooper-style uniform. The introduction calls Fairlee "Mr. Hate Crimes" and refers to him as a fascist. In the interview, Fairlee says he's sick of lesbians, saying, "When I see dykes, they always have this unhappy fucking frown, and I just want to smash their ugly fucking cunt faces in. There's nothing more unpleasant than a fucking ugly damn whore dyke." He also says the mentally retarded "make me physically ill" and dismissed modern-day hippies as "horrible and unpleasant people."
Fairlee admits that such statements have helped convince people the Partridge Family Temple is full of Nazis. But he insists he is not racist.
"Basically I just think that all people are morons. The first group of people I disliked were white people in Colorado. People just want to box things in and say black people are criminals and Jews control everything. It'd be nice if things were that simple, but it's not, obviously."
Instead, Fairlee claims he makes outrageous statements to provoke a reaction. He complains about the stifling self-censorship of political correctness, where people are afraid to say anything controversial for fear of offending someone.
"I try to deal with controversial issues in a fun way, with a sense of humor. I say things just to get a response. All the things I do that are obnoxious are just trying to get a response."
Fairlee takes credit for starting the bizarre sexual rumors, too. He and his sister Desiree used to encourage such speculation, including rumors they were having sex.
"My sister and I are really close. We grew up in the same weird house and are part of the same weird world. For awhile we planned to get married as a Partridge Family stunt. We thought it would be funny to do it as a prank. We thought it was a very good prank because it seems really disturbing," he says.
But, admits Fairlee, the urine drinking rumors are true.
"I've been fascinated about urine since I was a child. Before I knew what masturbation was, I used to piss on myself. Urine to me just seems like this clean liquid. If you're in the right frame of mind, it seems raunchy and fun. Bang a gong, get it on."
Attacked by a Sitcom Character
The photographs are disturbing. The pale, thin woman's arms are covered with ugly purple bruises. The side of her face is red. Her legs are scraped and bleeding; it is the aftermath of being assaulted by Morgan Tisdale--aka Officer Partridge--at Fellini.
The woman, who asked not to be identified, first met Tisdale and the other Temple members after moving to Portland in June 1999. At first she thought the group was entertaining, and she began dating Tisdale.
"I was into it for the fun. Every night was an adventure. They're really dramatic looking, everything from the make-up to the clothes they wear to the way they look. When they walk into a place, people definitely look up."
Before too long, however, she began to worry about their violence.
"They want to make a spectacle and they don't care how they do it. They don't say, 'We want to be violent,' but everyone does too many drugs, drinks too much alcohol, and they get wild and crazy. Then, afterwards, they brush it off like a mere paper scratch. They don't sit down and analyze their actions. It's just another day. Shit happens."
When she and Tisdale broke up, the rest of the group turned on her, telling mutual friends that she was psychotic, a thief, and gave Tisdale a sexually transmitted disease.
"Hey, we only had sex twice, and we used protection both times, so don't try to hang that on me," she says.
But Tisdale did more than gossip behind her back. "Whenever I ran into him at a club or someplace, he would stand up and point at me and yell, 'Fucking bitch,' and things like that. I mean, just yell at me. Everyone would stop and look around and see what was happening. It was weird and intimidating."
In September 1999, Fairlee had a spat with his sister. Desiree decided to move to Los Angeles, where his friend Dan had moved and started a chapter. Desiree invited the woman to come with her; although they had a falling out with the Patridge Family, the two women remained on speaking terms. But the move turned out to be disastrous. Although Dan welcomed Desiree into his home, the woman ended up sleeping in an ant-infested storage room and working at Tower Records for rent and food. Within days, she realized the Temple members were even more disturbed than she previously had thought.
"They are totally obsessed with the Partridge Family. They write them letters, try to meet them, try to mingle with them whenever possible. Shirley Jones lives down there, and Giddles would drive by her house three or four times a day. She was practically stalking Shirley Jones. I think they're crazy," she said.
The woman returned to Portland two months later, occasionally running into Tisdale and the others at clubs and restaurants.
"If they're alone or you're with an equal number of people, there's no confrontation. But if they outnumber you, they prey on you," she says.
Then, on August 12 of this year, the woman was seated in a table at the back of Fellini. Kevin Brading, a Temple member who goes by the name Ariste, approached her.
"He was as friendly as could be and told me Shaun's father was up at the front and I should go and say hi to him. I've always liked Shaun's father and thought, well, I guess they've forgiven me, so I went up to see him.
"Looking back on it now, I think Ariste set me up," she says. As she approached the group, Tisdale started screaming at her again.
"I said, 'I'm not even talking to you,' and he continued yelling at me. I had half a glass of wine in my hand and I threw it at him," she says.
Tisdale is taller than the woman and outweighs her by a good 50 pounds. He grabbed her upper arms and flung her into the door frame, following her out of the restaurant. A stagehand who rushed out of Satyricon saw her lying crumpled on the sidewalk.
"She had bruises all over her body. She looked like she'd been beaten from head to foot," he said.
Two days later, the woman went to the Multnomah County Court and took out a restraining order against Tisdale. Then she called the police and said she wanted to press charges against the person known as Officer Partridge.
"To this day, I am so sorry I ever got involved with any of these people," she says.
Run-of-the-Mill Goof Balls
Morgan Tisdale doesn't deny the confrontation at Fellini. But he claims he was only defending himself.
"She threw a drink in my face and I shoved her. In my opinion, I was attacked and I defended myself and she fell down," he says.
Tisdale also insists the altercation had nothing to do with the Partridge Family Temple.
"About 60 percent of the Temple was there, but it had nothing to do with them. We used to date and she was angry at me because I shunned her."
Tisdale doesn't deny screaming obscenities at the woman, however. He says it's no big deal.
"If I'm drunk and somebody says something to me, I yell at them," he explains.
Portland Police Officer Brock Sorenson investigated the incident. He interviewed the woman, Tisdale, and various witnesses. Although Sorenson says the woman provoked the incident by throwing the drink in his face, he believes Tisdale committed a violent crime. The Multnomah County District Attorney's office agrees. On Thursday, September 28, Joe Davis, Assistant DA, announced that his office will press misdemeanor charges for Assault IV and harassment. Moreover, because Tisdale and the victim dated at one point, both charges are considered domestic violence.
"He used more violence than was necessary to defend himself. He committed a crime. Whether a jury will see it that way, I can't say," says Sorenson.
During the course of his investigation, Sorenson heard a little bit about the Partridge Family Temple--and he wasn't impressed.
"There's nothing special about these people. Their behavior is typical of thousands of people in Portland that we have to deal with every day. They're run-of-the-mill goof balls," he says.
But, for his part in the controversy over the Partridge Family Temple, Fairlee looks at such confrontations as the fight in Fellini as performance art, and he blames the controversy on envy.
"There's nothing interesting going on here (in Portland)," Fairlee says, "and we walk into a place, and we're all colorful and having fun and people get uptight."
"I personally think I am better than a lot of other people," he admits. "People who are basically drones, who are just flesh robots."