Cue that ‘70s Saturday morning theme music, because we’re going to be getting a little weird today.
For the month of February — and perhaps longer if this is your vibe — we are doing “Weird Wednesdays.”
Each week, we are going to highlight and celebrate elements of Portland’s wonderful weirdness, in collaboration with the amazing folks at Weird Portland United.
We kicked things off with an interview with the Unipiper on the long history of Portland’s weirdness — which you can read here.
Our second week focused on all the weird things that Portlanders like you, yes YOU, love about our city’s strangeness. You can take a peep at that one here.
And today folks, we have a real treat for you — a heart-to-heart with a creature from lands lost long ago to time, and shrouded in mystery. A bipedal reptilian who lies in wait to bring both scares and joy to Portlanders.
So buckle in for a Q&A with the scaled sensation himself: Portlander Brent Marr, a.k.a. The Portland Sleestak. What follows is our interview, edited for length and clarity.
For folks not in the know, can you give us a little background on yourself and your role as the Portland Sleestak?
I grew up in a time when there were only three television networks, children’s TV shows were limited to a few hours right after school and on Saturday mornings, and the boob tube was basically our babysitter.
I was totally a latch-key kid if anyone remembers what that is.
I was 6 when a combination live action / stop motion animation show called Land of the Lost premiered, and it was everything a first grade boy loves: Dinosaurs, bad guys, wacky adventures, and a terrifying race of humanoid reptiles called the Sleestak — a primitive species only capable of making weird hissing sounds and rudimentary, ineffective weapons, whose motivations were unclear but definitely hostile.
I decided a few years back to look for a Sleestak mask as a Halloween costume idea, but there just wasn’t anything commercially available. The show ran from 1974 to 1976 and Will Ferrell’s terrible parody was released in 2009, so the Sleestak weren’t in the public eye in 2018.
I decided to try and make my own.
The birth of The Portland Sleestak suit
Mind you, I had never attempted to sculpt a serious piece. I played with modeling clay as a kid, but made kid things. However, I knew that a latex mask starts with a clay sculpture and a mold so I bought a plastic head and some clay and got started.
I didn’t realize it at the time, but this is the point that it absolutely took on a life of its own. Without even realizing it morphed from a replica mask to my own interpretation of the creature.
But that was just the beginning … Long story short, once the head was complete, the Sleestak stole my credit card and compelled me to make it a body.
Once that was done I realized something: I. Don’t. Have. A. Plan. Great. Clearly this kind of effort can’t be wasted on a single holiday.
So, inspired by the Scary Snowman on YouTube, the Portland Sleestak took to the streets. I think being scared by something silly brings out the little kid in most of us. And certainly for those old enough — there is a warm fuzzy nostalgia element to it as well.
I guess now the plan is to surprise unsuspecting Portlanders in a monster costume and share the video results on Facebook.
I discovered quickly that the suit was pretty difficult to wear. In addition to being very stiff and tight, I had used two halves of a plastic fillable Christmas ornament for the eyes. These weren’t made as lenses and the spray tint I used didn’t help — I could barely see.
Regardless of the problems with the suit, I’m still very proud of my freshman attempt and building an entire creature suit with no previous experience or hands on help (I did spend a huge amount of time on YouTube and had several Facebook friends to ask for advice).
However, when I discovered a source of custom made, already tinted eyes the decision was made to make a second suit… the one I wear now. I took what I learned from the first attempt and made a better fitting and somewhat more comfortable suit that I can actually see from.
I have to say, he looks pretty darn cool: At almost seven feet tall with an iridescent green skin. The new Portland Sleestak is definitely a sight that I completed just in time for the pandemic.
I’ve managed a few appearances but being in public requires me to have a couple of helpers so for their sake and everyone else, appearances over the last year have been limited. I will endeavor to make up for lost time once it’s safe to do so.
The original suit was completed in September of 2018 — he took around five months to complete and I began the current suit in April of 2019, but didn’t complete him until January of 2020. The original Sleestak has been mounted for display and resides now at the Secret Lair Action Figure Museum in Van Nuys California.
What is one of your favorite parts of being Portland’s resident Sleestak?
Easily the best part of being the Sleestak is getting a good scream reaction when I manage to surprise a poor unsuspecting Portlander, but my favorite part has to be the reactions of little kids. The vast majority are not frightened but rather fascinated and ask a million questions that I can’t hear from inside, or they just stare as they’re being dragged away by their parents.
Why is it important to celebrate Portland’s quirky weirdness?
I believe that laughter and fun are always an important part of life. With so many people struggling in so many ways, it’s more important than ever to lighten the mood with nonsense as much as possible.
A kiss for a Sleestak yields a hisssssss. (📸: Courtesy of Brent Marr)
What is one of your favorite quirky-weird things about Portland?
Just the fact that it’s a city that REALLY DOES celebrate weirdness! I’m overwhelmed by how well people respond to what I’m doing, even though I haven’t fully figured out what that is yet. From random tiny parks to hidden unexpected art displays, it’s a great place to live.
What’s next for the Portland Sleestak? Also, where can folks find you online?
Plans are in the works to use the existing molds from the current suit, but rethinking its construction to hopefully make a suit capable of much more dynamic movement. This time Team Portland Sleestak will video document the process and test to see if making a limited number of suits available for weirdos in other cities or even a few others here is possible. Perhaps an Atlanta Sleestak? Denver Sleestak? Who knows?
Until it’s safe again for everyone to be out among people again, the Sleestak Attacks are on the back burner, but we’ll continue to post Sleestak randomness on Portland Sleestak page and Team Portland Sleestak Group Page, which I’m hoping to be the hub of all things Portland Sleestak from fan art and stories to Sleestak discussion and future planned public nonsense.
Did you enjoy this Weird Wednesday? Have a weird Portlander or feature about our great city that deserves a turn in the spotlight? Email us at [email protected] to let us know!
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