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Writer Spike Gillespie on founding the Kick Ass Awards & the Office of Good Deeds

"I think it was 2001 when I first came up with the idea for the Kick Ass Trophy. My friend and mentor, Molly Ivins, the hilarious political columnist, had just finished her first round of chemo. She was hosting a party to thank those of us who’d supported her through treatment. I wanted to bring her a gift, something funny and original. It popped into my head that a trophy would fill the bill.

I headed over to Longhorn Trophies, not sure exactly what I’d wind up with. As I was standing there perusing all my options, I had this crazy eureka moment. I asked the clerk if it would be possible to put together two trophy toppers— a martial arts figure with a horse’s ass, the latter of which they carried as a gag. They told me sure, and this became my prototype. I had them inscribe the trophy Chemo No Mo.

Time passed and I was on a trip to St. Louis to take my young son to visit his father, who was gravely ill. It was a trip I tried to take at least once a year, and it was always very painful for me, to bring my child to see his suffering father, who was often in the hospital. I’ve always been a big walker, it calms my mind and keeps me sane. On one of my long walks during that trip, I stopped at a bakery. The woman behind the counter didn’t know me, but she must’ve sensed something was up. She took my hand in both of hers, looked me right in the eyes, and said something so kind, I can’t even remember what now. But the gesture stayed with me.

That kindness became the catalyst for the Kick Ass Awards. I decided to start giving Kick Ass Trophies to people who deserved recognition for making efforts to better their communities, not because they had to, just because they could. At some point along the way—chronology really fails me here—I also started The Office of Good Deeds, a mostly virtual, totally whimsical outfit that exists to inspire folks to be nice.

I’m just going to fast forward to the Kick Ass Awards Ceremony at the height of its glory, when I had the pleasure of announcing that these awards were sponsored in part by OGD, the whole thing having a nice ring to it. I should also say that BookPeople was a sponsor, chipping in to cover the cost of the trophies, and offering me a space to hold the event, which I came to host annually for years, right around my birthday. I liked the idea of giving others gifts on my special day.

It grew pretty huge—we’d have maybe forty trophies to distribute at each event. We’d do our best to get the recipients there under false pretenses. So we’d assign a friend or family member to convince an unsuspecting winner to attend, and we’d also ask the helper to get the word out to family and friends. I’ve given the awards to everyone from my dentist, Steven Van Wicklen, who helped me overcome my dental phobia, to a kid whose mom wanted to present him an award for gently breaking it to her that her daughter (his sister) had died in an accident.

I retired from the big event several years ago—it’s a lot of work and it was getting too big and I like to wrap things up when I sense the time is right. But I still occasionally will give out a Kick Ass Trophy. A couple of years ago I had three made for Paul Soileau. He is the genius behind the drag queens Rebecca Havemeyer and Christeene. Each trophy featured a different name: Paul, Rebecca, Christeene. I showed up for one of RH’s events, with her blessing, and just the hint that I had a surprise.

I presented the first one to Rebecca after singing her praises to this room packed with gay men waiting to play bingo. The whole thing was cheerfully chaotic. Then explained I had two others to give, friends of Rebecca’s, and I asked her to help me present. I wish you could’ve seen the look in her eyes, when she realized that all three were for different iterations of the same person. That was truly a highlight.

Two other quick highlights—I got beat at my own game one year when my friend Kayci went out and had a HUGE version of the Kick Ass Trophy made for me. I mean it is enormous and holds a place of honor on my piano. And my St. Louis friend, Thomas Crone, started up the Kick Ass Awards in St. Louis in 2004. That year he tracked down the woman at the bakery who’d been so kind to me that she inspired the whole thing. Her name is Stella, and she got one of the first St. Louis Kick Ass Trophies."

Spike Gillespie is a writer and controversy artist in Austin, TX. She blogs at www.MeditationKicksAss.com, www.KeepingAustinAustin.com, and www.StillGotMyBalls.com where she tells the story of adopting an elderly Great Pyrenees called Justice Tweedy aka Tiny. 

Photo Credit: Todd V. Wolfson 

Thank you very much, Spike! We love your spirit!! xoxo, Team Trophyology

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