In the parking lot of a Walmart in Saint Cloud, Florida, two men spray white paint on a 42-year-old 500-pound plus black man. His name is Big LA, and he's a member of the Sausage Castle, a Juggalo commune 30 miles outside Orlando known for its raunchy parties, where a drone occasionally pulls an American flag out of a drag queen's asshole.
Mike Busey (Gary Busey's alleged nephew) runs the party house with a veteran named Rowdy Robbie and a lesbian Juggalette feminist who goes by Kace Kush. They live with several other roommates. Their crew functions as an alternative family for outcasts, like Big LA and a little person who calls herself Sexy Midget. Over the years, they have decorated their house with stripper poles, placed fleshlights in walls, and painted a mural of Michael Jackson and ET. Their wifi password is "Americafuckyeah."
In the last two years, they have become viral sensations thanks to a TMZ video and a series of VICE articles. Every Christmas, the Sausage Castle proprietors and their friends give back to the community, buying toys for single moms' kids.
"I'm a scumbag, but I have a big heart," Mike explains. "I'm like fucking Florence Nightingale."
This year, they invited us to tag along. (They also made a short film documenting the day, which is viewable on YouTube.) To bring the Florida kids a white Christmas, Big LA has decided to dress as Olaf from Frozen.
In the parking lot, Mike and Nami Tsunami, a muscular man with a skull tattooed on the back of his head, spray Big LA with toxic spray paint. Mike wears a Santa suit without a shirt, revealing a skull tattoo on his belly. A Puerto Rican man wearing a genie hat watches. He tells me to call him the Puerto Rican Genie.
"Shouldn't you use a non-toxic paint?" I ask.
"Safe?" Puerto Rican Genie laughs.
"You're at the wrong house!" Nami says.
"[Don't spray] on the fat rolls under my neck!" Big LA yells.
Mike and Nami spray Big La's eyes and then toss their cans on the ground. They wrap garland and Christmas lights around Big LA's body. Big LA places the lights' cordless battery under his right man boob.
Mike and Kace, the lesbian Juggalette feminist, have been planning their charity event for months. "I'm the hood Oprah," Mike says. "I'm the real Robin Hood." This year, they chose a child whose legs had been amputated due to a birth defect with his spine and a nine-year-old with Down's Syndrome to buy presents for. Inside Walmart, they shop with an overweight comedian named Miguel. Kace and Mike purchase the kids Star Wars toys, paint supplies, and BB guns.
"The second gun is for the kid with no legs," Mike says. "I want him to know how to protect himself."
"We should teach the kid how to shoot some rounds," Miguel says.
"Doesn't he have no legs?" I ask.
"Don't be so closed minded," Miguel scolds me. "This is the south."
The Sausage Castle spends hundreds of dollars on gifts at Walmart. Throughout December, they collected donations from everyone from their pool man to Jenny Jizz, the amateur porn star who gave blowjobs to veterans on Veteran's Day in thanks for their service. The Sausage Castle's male members possess a deep emotional connection to Christmas.
"I'm gonna cry," Mike says.
"I'm from a bad neighborhood," Big LA adds.
Big LA grew up in Yonkers, New York, outside the Bronx. His father, Lorenzo Paul, worked for the Yonkers Police Department. Big LA says his father was the only black cop in the fourth precinct; while a cop, Paul founded a fraternity for black police officers called the Yonkers Guardians. He supported Big LA and his six siblings. However, Big LA was a mama's boy. He says, "She was the queen of my world." For Big LA's early years, the family lived in a majority white neighborhood
"My life was really good until I got to middle school in Mount Vernon, and I realized I was black," Big LA says. "I got my ass beat—a lot—because I kept getting into fights because of 'your momma' jokes. 'Why you talking 'bout my mama?' I didn't get the jokes."
As a teenager, he fell in love with cars. He drove a limo as a job for fun. "I loved making them go faster," he says. After high school ended, he says he became a cop in the Bronx. Then, in December 1994 he received a phone call from his mom. She had moved to Florida and developed severe alcoholism. Big LA's grandma had died, and the death worsened his mom's depression and drinking. "She is very family oriented. Because of that she was very attuned with her mother," Big LA says. "Losing her brought a grim and dark side to her." Big LA's mom asked him to move to Florida to help her get sober. He agreed. The next day, his mother died at age 42.
"It was one of the worst Christmases," Big LA says. "Losing her was losing a small piece of myself. Ever since then Christmases have been empty and not as much fun because she always gave that spunk—that fire."
Big LA still flew to Florida, in order to attend to the funeral. One night, at 3 AM, he made a deal with himself: He would get a job that evening or he would return to New York. That night, he walked into a towing truck company and asked for a job. They hired him on the spot.
Since then, Big LA has gone on to open his own towing truck company. He has stayed away from drugs, but worries he may die young like his mother.
"Everyone in my family is chemically dependent on one thing or another," Big LA says."Food is my addiction. It's a consult to my sadness, boredom, fear, social anxiety. It has a bad effect on me. It has a hold on me."
Big LA lives in Hollywood, Florida, a suburb between Miami and Fort Lauderdale, but he spends most weekends at the Sausage Castle. In December, he plays the Peanuts Christmas album throughout the house.
He met Mike and the other Sausage Castle residents several years ago in South Florida: Mike was partying at bars and spotted Big LA. They started talking and immediately felt connected, like family members from a past lives. Mike says that it was Big LA's appearance that made him realize the spiritual connection the two shared, but he insists the relationship goes deeper.
To reach the kids they're helping, Big LA and the other Sausage Castle crew ride in a short bus outfitted with cheetah print beds. Gold glitter covers the floor, and duct tape holds the emergency exit together. Piles of presents line the seats.
"The wheels on the bus come off. The wheels on the bus come off," Miguel sings as the bus bumps along the Florida Turnpike.
In the front of the bus, the men argue about who should drive. "We have no tags, no insurance, no registration," Big LA points out. Genie worries if he drives and we get pulled over, he will get a ticket. Mike promises he would jump in the driver's seat in that event.
He would love to get arrested because the Internet would cover his arrest. Genie agrees, and Miguel follows the bus in his car to obstruct cops from noticing that the bus has a paper license plate.
"[Mike's] got bail money all set!" Kace yells from the back of the bus.
In the back of the bus, Kace eats a ham and cheese Lunchable. She wears a Santa hat, a wife beater, and a flannel jacket around her waist. Miguel calls her look "the Lilith Fair Christmas Special." Kace wraps presents with three other girls: Ari, Nita, and Jamie (who sometimes goes by the stage name "Sexy Sushi"). Until a few months ago, Ari lived in the Castle's garage. Nita and Jamie party at the Castle on weekends.
In the front of the bus, Big LA takes shots straight from a Calico Jack liquor bottle. Darlene Love's "Christmas (Please Come Home)" plays, and the Sausage Castle people sing along. Wind blows through the window; the garland around Big LA flies across his chest. The wind lifts up a present and the box flies across the bus. It's like a ratchet, seasonal version of the "Tiny Dancer" scene in Almost Famous.
Around 4 PM we roll up at their first single mom's house, blasting Frank Sinatra's "Jingle Bells." She lives in a two-bedroom house and works as a delivery woman for Delivery.com. A black cat sits on a rocking chair sit on her front porch. In her backyard, a life size doll of the Halloween movie series' Jason Voorhees lies on the ground.
The Sausage people climb out of the car. Before they enter, Mike sprays more paint on Big LA's eyes. They knock on the door, and a woman with no teeth answers, clad in a Ninja Turtles shirt. On her leg is a tattoo that says "Turtle Power." It's Danielle, the mother of JB, the boy whose legs were amputated.
I'm the hood Oprah.
"I thought I heard music!" she yells.
She welcomes us inside her house, where her mother and JB's godmother Kim are waiting. Grandma has a blonde streak in her hair, and Kim wears a teal shirt. JB crawls across the floor. He's a few feet tall, but runs very fast with his arms (he has a wheelchair but says he hates using it). He wears a plaid collared shirt; one of his ears is pierced.
As he runs across the ground, he doges several cockroaches. His grandma says the house has a bad roach problem. "I worry about them because he has to crawl on the floor," she says. In the kitchen, boxes of food rise in piles. Blue Gatorade bottles line the living room cabinets. Multiple Sausage Castle people gasp.
"You know it's bad when the Sausage Castle thinks your house is dirty," Miguel says.
According to Danielle, JB suffers from kidney reflux, restricted lung disorder, and spina bifida. This year, Danielle herself says she had a kidney failure and doctors discovered a heart condition. She claims medical experts have no idea what has caused her family's medical problems.
"It was a terrible year," Danielle says. "I thought it was gonna be the shittiest Christmas."
JB sees Big LA and runs towards him. Big LA places a cloth on his back, then picks up JB and puts him on top of that. They walk outside, and JB smiles. They look like the kid and the machine in The Iron Giant.
After a brief trip, Big LA carries JB back inside and places him on the couch between his mom and grandma. JB's dad stands in a corner in grey sweatpants. Mike starts handing JB gifts, and JB unwraps a present. He screams: It's a Darth Vader mask.
"Guess what, daddy?" JB shouts. "You're my first victim!"
"You could wear a Darth Vader mask, and your daddy can wear a stormtrooper mask," Miguel says.
JB opens more presents; excited, he jumps off the chair. He does push-ups and then breakdances. He puts on the mask. He then grabs onto his father's legs and climbs up to him. He punches his dad and laughs.
Danielle, JB's mom, bursts into tears. "This is the best day of his life and he may not live till tomorrow," she tells me later.
In the living room, Mike address Danielle. He says there's another surprise: While JB opened presents, a man in a UCF hat had walked into the house. He speaks in a thick Southern accent. Mike explains he's an exterminator and he has come to kill the roaches.
Once JB finishes opening presents, Mike takes him outside, where he puts on his Darth Vader mask and runs across the porch on his arms.
"That's a magical bus," Mike says. "We go on magical trips."
JB screams. Mike tells him he's about to take JB on a magical trip as well.
JB laughs and smiles, but the adults around him are either crying or breathing very heavily. Big LA crashes on a seat on the porch next to cleaning supplies. The Sausage people say they see themselves in JB. Mike says JB should move into the commune when he turns 18.
Mike remembers the first few Christmases of his life as magical, with tons of toys, but as he grew older Christmas became traumatizing. One Christmas, his dad kicked his mom, sister, and Mike out of the house.
"I watched my mom pack her bags," Mike says. "Me and my mom and my sister drove around looking for a place to stay." His mom eventually convinced a motel to let them stay for the night. "I'm pretty sure my mom did some dirty deeds to get us [a room]," Mike says. "It wasn't only the worst Christmas. It was one of those moments where I feel like I had to do something as a boy, [I felt] a natural instinct as a man… I never wanted to be in that position again."
In the car, JB attaches himself to Mike and Big LA. The Ronettes' "Sleigh Ride" plays.
"He loves his dad," the photographer says to Danielle.
"I wish his dad loved him the same," Danielle responds.
An hour later the bus arrives at Gatorland, an alligator theme park. A giant lime green alligator's head serves as the opening to the park. "Pre-Disney [World], Gatorland was the only thing to do in Orlando," a Floridian tells me. "You'd get drunk in the parking lot then go stare at alligators on Xanax." Mike remembers going to the park as a kid when he moved to Central Florida. Now his lawn guy works as an alligator wrestler there.
"He has multiple hustles and shit," Mike explains.
The bus drives up to the back gate, where a man in a safari hat walks out and introduces himself as Donny. He has agreed to open the park up after hours.
Donny takes us on a tour of the park, showing JB snakes and tortoises. He hands me a flashlight to shine on JB as he crawls across the wooden paths. Mariah Carey's "Miss You Most (at Christmas Time)" plays.
We eventually reach a path lined with alligators; the trees above are filled with roosting white birds. Donny claims the reptiles appeared in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. "These alligators have their own IMDB page!" Mike yells. Donny gives JB a bucket of hot dogs, which he begins tossing to the gators. They jump in the air to grab the meat.
As we continue down the path, JB spots a plastic gator in from of a painted swamp mural. He runs up to the gator and places his head in it.
After two hours of touring the park, we go to a gazebo. JB still wants to play. He asks me to race him on all fours. I get down on my knees and crawl. Although I am 6'2", JB beats me. He has the upper body strength of an Olympian.
Mike asks everyone to gather. "We got one more surprise" Mike yells. A barber emerges. His name is George, and he owns Hair Genius in Orlando. He holds a large box filled with tools.
"Do you want a mohawk or fade?" he asks.
JB chooses a mohawk.
George shaves JB's head and gels it up. JB hops over to the girls and shows them his new look. Ari and Jamie kiss him on the cheeks.
"Big pimpin!" Big LA yells.
Danielle laughs, but then starts to cry again.
"It hurts that he wants to do things, and I can't [help him do them]," she says.
After the haircut, Donny leads the Juggalos, JB, and his mom out of Gatorland. JB tugs Mike's legs. Mike picks him up. They hug. "I love you," JB says. "Merry Christmas." He starts to tear up.
Mike holds onto JB like a dad. "Make me a promise," Mike says. "Whenever you see someone in need, you help them, OK?"