As We See It

A barbecue at Penn Jillette’s Slammer raises funds for atheist Church of Bacon

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Heaven Bacon: Founder/prophet John Whiteside, wearing the world’s greatest smock.
Photo: Steve Marcus

On October 25, one day before the World Health Organization announced that bacon and other processed meats are carcinogenic, we were stuffing our faces with the delectable pork strips and watching Penn Jillette record his Penn’s Sunday School podcast. After getting an update about the attendance—organizers later estimated a turnout of 1,200—Jillette says, “It’s like Arlo Guthrie said at Woodstock: ‘Lotta freaks!’”

Church of Bacon Barbecue

Indeed, the lively scene at the Slammer—billed as a free barbecue hosted by Vegas-based skepticism/atheism organization the United Church of Bacon—is nearly as eccentric as the location; think First Friday meets Burning Man. Lotta funny hats, kids doing art, irreverence and, of course, bacon, the sacrament available in pork, turkey and vegan varieties. Also lotta volunteers, including a drag queen named Brandon, who says, “I’ll be around if you need me—just grab my tits.”

Not unlike a timeshare presentation, the party comes with a pitch: The church is launching a $500,000 Indiegogo crowdfunding campaign to buy the Slammer from the Penn & Teller star—now decamped at a different residence—and turn it into the world’s largest skepticism/atheism community center. The multi-colored mansion-turned-playhouse off West Wigwam Avenue is, gloriously, a homeowners association nightmare, and developers would love to build more stucco sameness in its place. Thus the campaign and the church are promoted frequently—and theatrically, during Church of Bacon founder John Whiteside’s televangelist-like sermon, a satirical complement to more straightforward chatter about destigmatizing humanism and admonishing prejudice by (and legal advantages granted to) religious groups.

During the live-entertainment segment, Jillette picks up a guitar and sings his “No Martyrs,” having his own Arlo Guthrie moment, at what might be the Vegas atheist community’s Woodstock.

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Mike started his journalism career at UCLA reviewing CDs and interviewing bands, less because he needed even more homework and ...

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