We thought this would be obvious by now, but apparently some folks still aren’t getting it: If you have to pee in public for whatever reason, the absolute last place to do that in Texas is the Alamo. There are a bunch of other places that are poor choices—the State Capitol, the Iron Rattler at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, an electrified fence somewhere, Jerry Jones’s shoes (actually, that one might be okay)—but the Alamo is special, and peeing on it is a bad idea.
That’s a lesson that 23-year-old El Paso resident Daniel Athens learned the hard way this week, when he pled guilty to the felony charge of “Criminal Mischief of a Public Monument or Place of Human Burial,” which could carry a sentence of up to 18 months in jail.
“The message is, ‘don’t whiz on the Alamo,'” Bexar County District Attorney Susan Reed, said in a statement that added she would oppose any request for probation.
[…] Lawyers for Athens are working on a plea bargain with prosecutors, who are seeking 18 months in prison and drawing a line in the sand for a sentence that includes jail time.
Athens was arrested in April 2012 after an Alamo Ranger, one of the police officers who guard the state’s No. 1 tourist attraction, saw him relieve himself on the 260-year-old limestone facade of the building.
As part of a plea deal, Athens will have to pay $4,000 to repair any damage he caused.
Strangely, though, peeing on the Alamo isn’t an action without historical precedent, and even if Athens goes on to become, say, a best-selling author of political thrillers, or the pitmaster at a fiercely popular BBQ trailer in East Austin, or the star of a hit NBC sitcom, he’ll still be the second-most famous person to have his name associated with taking a whiz on the monument.
That title will forever be held by Ozzy Osbourne, legendary singer for Black Sabbath and solo artist (whose late-nineties/aughts’ touring OzzFest music festival frequently visited San Antonio and nearby Selma). But, while Osbourne’s exploits have been immortalized in art ranging from Jim Mendiola and Ruben Ortiz-Torres’s installation “Fountain/Ozzy Visits the Alamo” (which featured a life-size wax statue of the singer attached to a motion detector that caused it to urinate on the wall when visitors approached) to the grunge-era comedy Airheads (in which Steve Buscemi’s aspiring rocker character justified his illegal actions with the line, “Remember when Ozzy pissed on the Alamo and was banned from San Antonio for a decade? Did his time, went back, rocked the place!”), the whole “peeing on the Alamo” thing is actually a misunderstanding. Ozzy Osbourne never actually peed on the Alamo; he peed on the cenotaph, the 60-foot structure across the street from the building.
The “did Ozzy pee on the Alamo” myth-busting was perhaps most effectively conducted in 2003 by Chris Rodell of the Boston Herald, of all places, which reported on the event during the height of The Osbournes, the MTV reality show about the singer and his family:
“What happened was he was with a bunch of band members after the show,” says the guide. “They were dawdling and he had to go. When he couldn’t get them to leave he just unzipped his trousers and went right where he was standing.”
Where he was standing happened to be across the street from The Alamo at the stately, 60-foot-high Cenotaph. Erected in 1939 by the Texas Centennial Commission, the name Cenotaph means a monument erected in honor of a dead person whose remains lie elsewhere. He was arrested and charged with public intoxication. The next morning he felt something besides hung over.
He felt regret.
“Everyone believes he urinated on the walls of the Alamo and just went on his merry way. That’s just not true. In fact, he felt terrible about it.”
Just how terrible was reported in the Sept. 10, 1992, editions of The San Antonio Express-News under a headline that reads, “Ozzy thanks city for having him back.” The article reads, “It’s official: British heavy metal singer Ozzy Osbourne is donating $10,000 to the Daughters of the Republic of Texas—caretakers of the Alamo, the Texas shrine that Osbourne is accused of defiling 10 years ago.”
The article notes the arrest and the incident on the sidewalk near the Cenotaph and includes this statement from Ozzy: “We all have done things in our lives that we regret. I am deeply honored that the people of San Antonio have found it in their hearts to have me back. I hope that this donation will show that I have grown up.”
It’s possible, then, that the young El Paso man who faces a fairly lengthy jail sentence for his crime is the Alamo’s truest urinator, but the apocryphal legend of Ozzy Osbourne’s bladder-emptying excursion will probably always take the top spot in the hearts and minds of Texans everywhere.
In the meantime, “Don’t Whiz on the Alamo” isn’t quite as catchy as “Don’t Mess With Texas,” but it’s pretty good advice.