by James Hudson
King of the Internet and former Star Trek Enterprise commanding officer George Takei has cast his magical meme wand over Tucson for the second time this year with his Facebook and Twitter posts of a crudely Photoshopped headline page of the Arizona Daily Star on Sunday. The image of the fake story touted an erroneous, sexually charged acronym that a local artist created as a parody of the city's Sun Link Streetcar.
As of 4:00 p.m. today, Takei's Facebook post of the "Tucson Loves the C.L.I.T.T." hoax story image had more than 24,000 shares, 62,000 likes and almost 5000 comments from his page, which boasts more than 7.3 million followers. A Twitter share of the article's screenshot, which featured sexual imagery envisioning the streetcar as "going down south on 4th Ave until sliding underneath the 4th Ave Underpants," had been retweeted more than 700 times and garnered 900-plus "favorites" among his 1.7 million fans.
Tucson had previously popped up on Takei's radar in February of this year during a heated national debate surrounding anti-gay legislation, of which Arizona's SB 1062 was particularly extreme. After Takei reposted an image of a sign in Tucson's Rocco Little Chicago Pizzeria's window protesting the bill, owner Rocco DiGrazia was propelled into the international spotlight. DiGrazia found himself being interviewed by media outlets of all sizes—from the UK's Guardian, the New York Times and Al Jazeera, right on down to an obscure LGBT blog based in Germany.
Since the one-note joke parody Facebook page was created on July 11, Ride the CLITT and its fictional acronym C.L.I.T.T. (Community Link Integrated Transit of Tucson) had many Facebook users wondering if the page was an official, awkwardly titled Sun Link-sponsored page or an Onion-like parody. To further add to the confusion, official Sun Link press release posts were mixed with Ride the CLITT's own photoshopped maps and promotions, all of which were dripping with innuendos and double entendres.
The page was actually the brainchild of longtime local art activist and Food Truck Roundup creator David Aguirre. In a statement sent to the Tucson Weekly on July 14, Aguirre explained his motivation: "Ride the C.L.I.T.T. has a $100 budget for advertising on Facebook. [...] I hope the page will inspire others to get out there and make stuff up informing us who we are as a community." Aguirre had also cited Seattle's similar "Ride The S.L.U.T" web prank as inspiration.
And while some at City Hall were initially considering legal action when the Ride the CLITT Facebook page was first published, most affiliated with the launch of the streetcar are unfazed by this second round of interest in the parody. One city worker who wished not to be named for this article quipped, "Its name is Sun Link. Next time Mr. Takei is in Tucson, we'd love for him to take a ride."
The City had good reason to feel confident after a hugely successful weekend, as it was estimated that from the time it launched on Friday, July 25, the Sun Link Modern Streetcar had already shuttled 60,000 passengers by Sunday night. The "Ride the CLITT" slogan was still on the lips of many who flooded Downtown Tucson to take a free ride on the streetcars while enjoying the multiple three-day Sunrise on Sun Link parties celebrating the Grand Opening. "Is that really what they call it?" was a question that could be heard by riders over the weekend, though it wasn't frequently addressed to many of the volunteers who lined the route, handing out free water and assistance as needed.
Ronnie Spece, owner of local insurance company InsureTucson.com, volunteered on Friday from 9:00 a.m. to noon, greeting some of the very first members of the public to ride the streetcar. Spece said of the mostly older early-boarders he encountered, "I actually didn't hear any mention of the CLITT stuff. Everyone I encountered was pretty positive and excited about the streetcar." Of the parody, Spece said "I find the CLITT page funny, but on balance I believe it's meant to have a negative connotation."
Local artist Dirk Arnold volunteered on Saturday, noting "The CLITT was almost totally overshadowed by the real thing as far as I could tell. I overheard maybe three or four people call it that all weekend, all in the spirit in which it was intended. It didn't come up at all during my volunteer shift—and it wasn't covered in the training!"
Sun Link started its first official day with fares this Monday morning at 6am, with one-way rides at $1.50, $4.00 for a day pass, and monthly passes starting at $42.00 with additional discounts available. Only the day passes can be purchased at any of the 23 designated stops along the route with exact cash, debit or credit; find more details at Sun Link.