Yeah, that’s right. ACL Fest’s Golden Porta Potty.
In a year when Austin City Limits Music Festival elected their first mayor, the award for weirdest gimmick goes to the sparkling toilet itself. Organizers held a contest earlier this year giving away ten passes to avoid the rabble and use a brand new throne fit for Midas himself, one stocked with luxurious amenities and an air conditioner. Sure enough, sitting between the gates and the food trailers in the middle of Zilker Park is a glittering, golden shed topped with a crown and cordoned off with red velvet ropes.
The attendant, Johna May, allowed a peek inside the hallowed chamberpot, and the promise of a exclusive commode fit for a one-percenter held true. In so much as a Porta Potty can look like the Palace of Versailles, one feels confident Louis XIV would do his business behind this door in-between the Lana del Rey and Eminem sets. An ornate mirror and matching fixtures join a fake deer head as wall decorations. In a wall-mounted tray: bottles of Fiji water, wet wipes, Burt’s Bees chapstick, aerosol cans of sunscreen and much more. There’s also a fragrance difusser and the prized air conditioner, as well as a flat-screen TV and a stack of magazines like Nylon for a little light reading.
May is the keeper of the can, keeping vigil outside the door. On the first day of the fest, she wore a tuxedo shirt and a bowler hat, still awaiting the Porta Potty’s first patron at 2 p.m. Along with facepaint suggesting a far more whimsical version of “A Clockwork Orange,” May greeted passersby with a perpetually waving bubble wand. Also in her arsenal of props: noisemakers, a toy guitar, a microphone and, of course, glowsticks for when the night falls.
“Each day, I’ll have a theme,” May said. For Saturday, a “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” vibe, and a “Keep Austin Weird” aesthetic for Sunday, she said.
May said her hobby is costuming and makeup (but that’s not what her master’s degree is in, she points out), and her ebullient positivity is the best amenity the Golden Porta Potty has to offer. She said she got out of a bad domestic situation and came to back to Austin — homeless — after having previously left the city. Charitable organization Goodwill, who plugged her into her current gig at ACL Fest, helped her back on her feet, May said. The organization also helped May with a $1,000 car payment, gas cards and clothing, she said. She now gives back, volunteering her time with kids.
“They saved my life,” May said.
Only the privileged few can actually use the Golden Porta Potty’s services. But every single festgoer can enjoy the smiles May is giving out pro bono.