White Collars Run,
Drink & Make Merry
Contra Costa Times
April 27, 1997
By John Boudreau, Times Staff Writer
It's Thursday night in San
Francisco's Marina District, and the yuppies are
stirring, walking their froufrou Fifi dogs, waltzing
in and out of tres quaint restaurants, posing in the
moonlight. Suddenly, from around a corner, comes the
thudding of a many-legged runner, an octopus in
Startled, they stare at
Pinprick and Phone Sex as
well as the rest of the sweaty pack swarming down the
sidewalk, spearing in some alien monosyllabic
Are you? a sprinter
in the back hollers.
On, on! another up
front sings out.
Flashlights in hand, the
thudders thread among amazed pedestrians. Oh,
my, a stylish woman gasps. A coat-and-tie
sidesteps for cover. The wild-eyed and whooping
stompers spot strange white markings on the ground -
then veer into an alley.
No, there hasn't been an escape
from a psychiatric hospital.
It's a hash,
something of a sporting event.
By day the hashers are staid
accountants, lawyers, doctors. Responsible citizens.
But all this seriousness takes a toll. They have a
secret, silly streak. So they join this wacky club to
be around other people who are, well . . .
Deranged? I was hoping
they'd be deranged, says Johnny Moronic, aka
John Sipple, normally a mild-mannered banker. He is
the evening's hare, who laid the
five-mile concrete trail. The hare -
running the route earlier in the day or just ahead of
the herd - usually marks the trail with chalk or
flour. Afterwards comes the down, down -
a hedonistic ritual of drinking, singing
hymns, such as Sexual Life of the
Camel and Jonestown, and other
antics you'd never tell your mother about.
Based on an old game
The eccentric sport was created
in 1938 by bored English soldiers living in what is
now Malaysia. It's based on the 18th-century
British child's game of hares and hounds.
Tired of playing cricket, and
hoping to work off hangovers and lose weight, the men
ran around a Kuala Lumpur park. They took turns
setting trails with false leads. Then they retired to
refresh themselves with beer. The men - with names
like Torch Bennett and Horse
Thompson, who actually looked like one - referred to
their living quarters as the Hash House, and the
group became known as the Hash House Harriers.
Albert Stephen Ignatius
G Gispert, who died in combat in 1942
during the Japanese invasion of Singapore, is the
father of the hash. His unorthodox and whimsical
outlook on life set the profane tone from the start.
The sport spread through
diplomatic and military ranks, and finally to offbeat
civilians. Today, it is more popular than ever. At
last count, there are about 1,500 hash clubs
worldwide - on every continent except Antarctica -
but that number is probably low, says Ian Cumming,
66, a retired British executive for an international
office machine company who now lives in New York.
In 1962, he formed the world's
second continuously running hash club in Singapore.
Cumming estimates that half of today's hash clubs -
or, as the British say, kennels - are descendants of
his Singapore group.
By the late `60s, hash clubs
were popping up in Australia. They hit the United
States during the early `70s, first in Washington,
D.C. As military personnel returned from foreign
postings they frequently established their own
hashes. Cumming figures there are now about 250 in
the United States, from San Diego to New York. New
ones are popping up monthly. Hashing is growing in
popularity mostly through word of mouth. Perhaps a
quarter-million people hash around the world, he
It's rather like a
disease, says Cumming, who ran with the
original hash before taking it to Singapore. It
becomes more important than any other activity, more
important than going to church, or getting tickets to
a ball game.
We are probably the
world's greatest trespassers, he says.
It's pointless to ask anyone permission to run
across their back yards. By not asking, we are
protecting them. If they said, `Yes,' they'd become
liable. If they said, `No,' we'd run anyway. People
are always hashing where they shouldn't.
And then there's the matter of
their strange nicknames. Hashers honor each other
with outrageous monikers. usually after a momentous
act, such as passing out in a gutter or, in the case
of Laura Pay Per View, Garza, a
32-year-old member of the White House Hash, getting
caught in compromising positions. She and Rear
Buccaneer were getting undressed in an RV for a
nude run when, well, one thing led to another.
What's in their names
We got kind of
detoured, she admits. We didn't realize
the blinds were open.
One San Francisco hasher was
given a name reflecting her personality: Me, Me
John Wayne Bobbitt runs with
the Las Vegas Hash. His hash name: A Stitch in
Time Saved Mine, or just Stitch for
You can ask for a new
name, says Bert Greenspan, 50, aka
Tongueless. But you wouldn't be
very smart. You'll get a worse one.
diplomats, computer systems designers, nurses,
carpenters, judges, three-star generals - they all
hash. it's rumored that even KGB agents have joined
in. They range in age from the 20s to 70s. Sometimes
they streak by in lingerie, pajamas, red dresses - or
no clothes at all. (With careers, reputations and
marriages at stake, some insist on being identified
only by hash names.)
I like the anonymity.
It's like a twisted 12-step group, says Tracy
Allen, a nursing supervisor from Sebastopol who
recently ran with the East Bay Mount Diablo Hash,
otherwise known as Devil Hash. She has yet to receive
a hash name.
Runs vary from three to eight
miles. Hashers race down the trail, calling out
Are you? which means Are you on the
trail? and on, on! - roughly
translated as Continue this way. Then
comes the down, down, when
discipline is dished out.
Misdemeanors range from wearing
new shoes to uttering phrases deemed inane by the
religious adviser, such as, This is
just like aerobics! Devil Hash member Frank
Tuna Taco Romero, 40, was once chastised
for finishing first at a Long Beach hash. His
punishment: guzzling beer out of the business end of
a rubber chicken. The down, down is
usually followed by the on, on, on, at a
bar or restaurant.
Hashes are usually led by a
mismanagement team and receive
moral direction from a religious adviser,
responsible for various rituals. San Francisco's
Gypsies in the Palace Hash, though, has a
king instead of a religious adviser.
King Rongjon, famous among hashers the
world over, waves a sword as he administers
down, downs. In real life he's an
engineer. It's really sophomoric. There's no other
way to explain it, says Sandra
Spanky Gumpert, who runs with the Devil
Hash. For the most part, people are homeowners.
We're not renegade yahoos. Really.
Hashing is an antidote to the
pressures of life. Serious discussions - religion,
politics and, especially, careers - are verboten.
Taking yourself seriously is a heinous crime.
You don't have to drink.
You don't have to run. But if you don't have a sense
of humor, you're toast, says R.C.
Mounter, a Stanford immunologist. You've
got to be able to laugh at yourself because everybody
else is going to. I've seen shy people with dry wits
fit in with the guffawing fools.
No hash is the same. In Asia,
hashers stumble through jungles, rivers, over
waterfalls. In London, they reenact infamous murders
every Friday the 13th. Hashers have taken
on Moscow and the Great Wall of China. There
are hashes where it's inappropriate to swear,
R.C. Mounter says. That's
unhashlike. Devil hashers discourage prerun
stretching. Too competitive, they say.
You might have to go over
a cliff, get wet. I've been stung by bees, had mud up
to my neck. I think that was one of my better days in
my hashing life, says Air Force fighter pilot
Lt. Col. Paul Woodford, religious adviser of the Las
Vegas Hash. In hash circles he's known as
Flying Booger. His web site, Flying
Booger's Half-Mind Catalog, is among the best and
most read of the 120 such hash sites on the Internet.
Bottom Sucker, also
known as Sandi Bohner, owner of Pleasanton's Decadent
Desserts Cafe, was forced to run with her betrothed,
Bill Flounder Webster, on their wedding
day - handcuffed and wearing pink tutus.
You can do anything you
want and be safe because people will take care of
you, says Tongueless Greenspan.
If someone takes their
clothes off and stands in the fountain of the Palace
of the Legion of Honor, it's not a problem, he
says. It can be a real growth experience.
Members plan vacations around
other hash clubs while traveling on business. A
three- or four-day Interhash occurs every other year.
The next one is Oct. 2, 1998, in Kuala Lumpur,
expected to draw thousands.
It's not all drunken
debauchery. Many don't drink to excess. It's simply a
chance to act naughty once a week. Actually, they're
really nice people. But when they're together . . .
Hashers get misty-eyed as they
recall historic runs. They've thudded through the N
Judah Muni line tunnel in San Francisco. Record times
Gypsies have followed trails
onto BART trains and donned tuxedos and evening
dresses for a swank hotel bar run, dashing from the
Fairmont to the Mark Hopkins to the Hyatt. Then
there's the annual post-Bay to Breakers pink tutu run
through San Francisco's Financial District.
The rest of the world doesn't
In 1989, Monterey firefighters,
wearing protective masks, closed several downtown
blocks for an hour and a half before realizing the
suspicious piles of white powder were flour left over
from a run. Several years ago, Dallas residents
phoned police about two men they believed were
scrawling Satanic symbols on the ground - circles and
crosses, hash checkpoint marks.
Hashers once slipped into
Rossmoor through a hole in a fence, distressing the
Walnut Creek retirement community. The guards
were pretty upset with us, says retired
Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory plasma
physicist Ultraman, otherwise known as
Bill Newcomb, 69.
In 1993, the hare of a pajama
run raced through the Presidio, dropping flour as he
went. Military police became alarmed. Before long,
soldiers, with guns drawn, had him splayed out on the
ground. After that his hash name was
5150, the penal code for a dangerous
person with a mental disorder.
That was a good
evening, Tongueless fondly
remembers. We had martinis.
Every now and then a hasher is,
sadly, culled from the herd. Death and serious
injuries, while rare, do occur.
A hasher in Taiwan once fell
over a waterfall and went to the eternal on,
on, on. Others have drowned crossing rivers or
dropped dead of heart attacks.
In 1991, a hasher in Ashland,
Ore., suffered heart failure.
A doctor and other medical
professionals - who happened to be running in the
hash - revived him with CPR. He later underwent
He returned to hashing with a
neat name: Second Coming.
The 'Hash' Dash - Confessions
of a Hashing Debutante
By John Bodreau
Times Staff Writer
I was forced to deliver the
evening's "sermon," a reading from
"The Lonely Librarian," to a heckling crowd
(She was anything but lonely).
I got lost twice on the
five-mile run, a zigzagging "trail"
stretching from the Marina to Pacific Heights and
back to Crissy Field.
I was "down, downed,"
ordered to gulp "hot adult cider" as 25 or
so hashers, standing in a circle, sang "Zuma,
zuma, zuma, drink it down you Zulu warrior!"
And for this abuse I'm a better
"You're not a virgin
anymore!" said "Sharon II," giving me
I joined members of the Hash
House Harriers Gypsies in the Palace, a group of
offbeat runners who like to drink - or, if you
prefer, drinkers with a running problem. They are
something akin to renegade Rotarians. This hash
chapter meets Thursday nights at different San
On this cold and breezy night,
it was an "average" hash. No nudity. No
cross-dressing. No one passed out.
A hash is not the place to take
your boss. It is, though, a cheap date. For a few
bucks you can run with people with racy names. You
can sip - or gulp - beer and participate in bawdy
wordplay worthy of Falstaff.
"I'm 'Scrumbag.' Pleased
to meet you," said a lanky attorney shortly
after 6 p.m.
I was handed the "sacred
missal," "The Lonely Librarian," by
"Tiffany Diamond." I was told to pick any
page - provided it was "worth reading." My
first choice was rejected. "Nothing interesting
happens by page 7," "Tongueless"
Unfortunately, page 27 was
quite acceptable. "She whimpered and moaned and
snuffled and mewled," I read to a chorus of
groans and catcalls (I couldn't stop worrying that
there must be an edict in my company's employee
handbook prohibiting something like this).
I was reprimanded: Readers
aren't allowed to skip any words.
With a nod from the
"hare," the runner who set the trial, we
pounded down Marina Boulevard. The pack sliced across
busy streets, through tony neighborhoods, ascended
grueling Webster Street. Twice I lost the trail. But
hashers aren't hard to find. Just listen for the
universal hash holler, "On, on!"
"This is where all us
yuppies get to be bad for a night," explained
"Pinprick," huffing up one of those lumpy
hills that only feel like they are halfway to the
After five or so miles, the
group sprinted, jogged and staggered back to Crissy
Field. The obligatory "down, down" party
followed - we guzzled beer, soda or water as the
group chanted, "down, down, down, down, down,
down, down, down, down!"
By 9:30 p.m., most were
drifting back to their normal lives. A few, though,
headed to the "on, on, on" at Frankie's
Bohemian Cafe for more beer.
There were tall tales of waking
up - naked - in someone else's room, and comments
like, "I was relatively sober at the time."
Then came sharing of hash lore.
Evangelist Billy Graham, they swore, was a hasher
before he began preaching. President Clinton once
hashed by accident, they claimed, while jogging in
Arkansas. Secret Service agents supposedly became
agitated when the leader of the Free World converged
with hooting hashers.
So it went until midnight.
"Tongueless" stole my
And "Sparkle Plenty"
sat on it.
© 1997, Contra Costa Times