Published: Feb. 7, 1994

IT SIMPLY didn't work.

When the music stopped Friday night at the San Jose Oasis, it was painfully apparent that the John Wayne Bobbitt nightclub show had failed to perform as expected. It shed no light whatsoever on his side of the notorious sexual mutilation case. It didn't work as theater. And it wasn't even funny.

A meager crowd of 300 people turned out at the First Street dance club to see what could probably be characterized as the lowest sideshow attraction on the road to cultural Armageddon. What they got for their $5 was a ragged spectacle that had about as much entertainment value as a freeway pileup.

In addition to signing autographs and hawking T-shirts, Bobbitt was to be the object of a dance contest. The point of the dubious "Achieve a Medical Miracle" exercise was to test the erectile capacity of his re-attached genitalia. The first woman who could get Bobbitt aroused by slow dancing would walk away with $1,000.

This was all rather anti-climactic, in light of the fact Bobbitt had bluntly told a radio audience earlier that day that the organ did not function in a sexual capacity.

If anything complimentary is to be said of the former Marine and nightclub bouncer, it's this: He is still the good soldier. Bobbitt, dressed in black jeans and a striped rugby shirt, gamely went along with the entire dog-and-pony show. He stood at the edge of the stage grinning sheepishly as comedian Doug Ferrari ran through a hastily prepared litany of penis jokes that were so bad they triggered a small bombardment of cups and napkins. He laughed when the emcee introduced a dancer in a giant hot-dog costume as "the stuff John Wayne Bobbitt's nightmares are made of." He even tried to do a little stand-up shtick of his own. (He needed two takes to get the one-liner right.)

When the time came for the main event, he shuffled around the center of the stage as a series of four women culled from the audience rubbed against his body to the tune of Sade's "Smooth Operator." As the cameras rolled and the audience roared, it soon became apparent that Bobbitt was a non-operator. The grim encounter was over in less than 10 minutes.

Bobbitt's current barnstorming tour through radio talk shows nationwide is ostensibly a chance for him to tell his side of the story and raise money to defray what he claims are $350,000 in medical and legal expenses. His visit to the Bay Area was sponsored by a San Francisco urban-contemporary station. The station said it did not pay Bobbitt an appearance fee beyond travel expenses and lodging. It's unclear how much, if any, money Bobbitt collected from his Friday engagements on the air and in the club.

The nightclub show did make one thing abundantly clear: Bobbitt is no great thinker. He has all the verbal acuity and the star presence of a Handi-Wipe. Considering his perpetual deer-in-the-headlights expression, one may wonder if it was his penis or his cerebral cortex that got lopped off. Like his wife, he wears the garb of the hapless victim well.

In a brief post-performance interview, Bobbitt said he felt the club event had worked out better than he'd expected. "It was fun. I've done this before, and I'll probably do another," he said. He claimed to have heard none of the boos coming from the small yet vocal contingent of detractors sprinkled throughout the audience.

Why would someone who's already been traumatized submit to being paraded across the country as a circus geek? And why a nightclub show, of all things? "Just to get to know people. People should see that I'm not a rapist or a violent man," he said. The disc jockey who'd been charged with monitoring Bobbitt's every utterance cut in, adding "Look -- he's a young single guy; he's got his life ahead of him, and there are many attractive women who'd like to meet him."

When asked if he felt any sense of shame about the degrading contest he'd just completed, Bobbitt appeared either not to hear or to fully comprehend the question. After it was repeated, he thought about it for a good long time and finally replied, "No. It's all a part of life. This is fun. This is not serious. There's a time, you know, to be serious, and this is fun."

When asked if he can envision a time when the public will tire of his tragic brand of celebrity, Bobbitt replied, "Yeah, I think in a few months it will all blow over. I plan to go to college and just go on. This will all end soon."

Judging from his reception at the nightclub, Bobbitt's franchise on fame may best be measured in days rather than months.

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