If there is any place to start at all, it is to plainly state the year has been a series of kicks whilst falling down an endless staircase. Globally, locally, and personally things can seem bleak and hopeless. So for this moment, I’ll cherry pick some highlights to focus on.
"The only source of knowledge is experience." -Albert Einstein What have I been experiencing? Travel, literature, celebrations, art, music, dance. The connective tissue of human experience; the expressions of our species. Things I hold in highest regard; those which shout, “We are here!”
Every spring as the weather clears, I get an incurable itch to travel. I celebrate another year having adventures in the company of my partner. This time we got in the car and drove to Mackinaw City, Michigan. (Tip of the mitten, for those of you looking this up on Google maps.) We boarded a ferry, and stayed a couple of nights on Mackinac Island at the Lilac Tree Hotel. There are no cars on the island. Horses and bicycles take you where you wish to go. It was the perfect chance to unplug and get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.
We took a carriage tour, and a walk through the Butterfly House. We rented bikes and rode a little over eight miles around the isle. Highway 185 is the only state highway in the nation prohibiting motorized vehicles. We took walks and laid about in parks. I used to vacation there as a child, I took him through the cheesiest and most treasured of attractions: The Haunted Theatre! On the Haunts of Mackinac tour, we ventured out in the dark, listening to ghost stories both bittersweet and ghastly indeed. We sipped tea at the fort while overlooking boats coming and going from the docks. I splurged on fudge and frivolities at the shops on Lakeshore and Market streets. We stopped in a gift shoppe where he found a smart tam o'shanter for himself, and a Celtic eternity knot mood ring for me. Checking for deep blue became a recurring theme for the remainder of our trip.
From the straits, we took a day’s drive up to Sault Ste Marie, and fancied a boat tour through the Soo Locks. A scrumptious lunch in Canada followed, to break in our fresh passports. We hiked up the world famous Castle Rock, overlooking Lake Huron and the island we left behind. A total of three trips were taken across the Mackinac Bridge, a five mile suspension bridge connecting the upper and lower peninsulas of Michigan. We drove back to Chicago via Wisconsin, traveling the entire loop around Lake Michigan. We ended the journey with a visit to the Bronze Fonz, and a stop in at the Mars Cheese Castle. A favorite haunt for squeaky curds.
The upper peninsula is littered with tiny villages along the coast. Some roadside cabin hotels cast aside for decades, as distances closed with tech and time. These lonely structures on forested stretches of highway, still technically standing through every harsh winter they’ve weathered. I imagine a family of deer, squatters, peering through the smudged windows. An unaffiliated gas station, a greasy spoon, a church - from whence the congregation comes is still a mystery - seems to be all these tiny dots along the highway offer. The feeling of a Stephen King novel come to life at any moment.
Later on in the season, we returned to MI for a day trip, with our friends Courtney and Patrick to go blueberry picking. We ate organic berries right off the bushes, and filled our buckets as best we could before the scorching sun sent us darting for shade. We made friends with goats on the way back to the farmstand. They are the most metal of animals, after all. In the heat of the late afternoon, we pulled into Weko Beach on Lake Michigan. The four of us walked the fiery dunes and frolicked in the cool water. Courtney and I were jumping wave after wave, looking like manic pixie dreamgirls if you don’t bother to stare deeper into our playful souls. We climbed on the shoulders of our beaus, and chicken fights ensued. We splashed until sunset loomed over the watery horizon. On a clear day, you can see the towers of home standing like tiny soldiers on a tightrope. We ate ice cream on picnic benches, and drove back to our city.
For Michael’s birthday, the four of us went on a Wisconsin excursion. First to New Glarus to sample some beer (and fill the trunk with our spoils). Then to the House on the Rock, where we marveled at how sensational it would be to actually live there. If you’ve not been, it is the type of place disjointed individuals like myself would build given the resources. The rooms are fantastical, themed and constructed to become bewildering and enchanting at once. Using some mobile sleuthing, we booked a room on the fly in Milwaukee at the Iron Horse hotel, where we met up with Courtney later that night. We stepped out for dinner at Balzac - our very favorite restaurant, possibly anywhere. Meats and cheese and absinthe flowed. It was glorious.
The four of us merry revelers woke up and ventured out to the Bristol Ren Faire. Never on time for opening ceremonies, alas, but still enough daylight to burn. We scampered about in the heat, stopped in at Chainmaille Fashions to change wardrobe and greet our friend Randolph. The rest of the afternoon was a blur of mead, hookah, love, laughter, and impromptu photo ops.
Edgefield is the site of my yearly visit to utopia. Bizarro Con is a magical place where time does not seem to matter, although in the end it flies by in the blink of an eye. Within these mountains, in this distinct dimension, a plethora of art is created and shared and relished. No matter the years in between, we connect. We remember the secret to retaining youth is in exercising the unbridled joy of play. I drink in the creativity, and breathe out contentment. I soak up as much support and love as possible, to tide me over the year. I give all that I am in gratitude for being afforded this rejuvenation.
Thursday we left our reality and boarded a plane to Seattle, and finally Portland. At Sea-Tac, we were merely beginning our journey as we watched one end. I was absorbed in the monumental decision of where to grab a bite during our layover, and Michael noticed a man collapse onto the floor of the hectic terminal. Emergency personnel were on the case immediately, and from the far side of a pillar I heard the defibrillator strive to revive the man. Curtained walls were enclosing the scene as I finally emerged from the cafe. By the time we boarded our next flight, all was gone as though nothing had happened. I can be very split on my reaction to death, and in this instance was rather cavalier about this certain conclusion. We will all die, as surely as we’ve lived at all. We may do it in the peaceful privacy of our sleep, or in the most public and inopportune of places. How unfortunate this man’s passing, I do not know his story, but one thing is for sure, he went out with dozens of onlookers. A star in his fading light. I can’t help but wonder, did anyone racing for their connection feel a chill as they fled through a spot they have no idea, just an hour before, was someone’s exit?
The flight from Seattle to Portland was beautiful, mountains reaching up to greet us as we zoomed along. We touched down, retrieved our luggage, and set about meeting Eric Hendrixson and Kayla Gamin for a ride to the resort. There was a slight detour, to procure the fixings for additional contributions to the Pickle Party on that night’s agenda. After checking in, settling into our room, and picking up our name tags, we hugged all our friends at the Ad House. Lee Widener was good enough to supply everyone with a sticker to denote the number of years in attendance at the convention. Organizer, editor-in-chief of Eraserhead Press, and all around ray-of-sunshine con-mom, Rose O’Keefe kicked off the weekend proper with Opening Ceremonies. Jeff Burke won a mystery package from C.V. Hunt in the Bizarro Raffle, which included: a neon green dog poop novelty, stickers and buttons for Grindhouse Press, and a copy of the Cable Guy novelization.
We got down right away in the Inaugural Pickle Party and Thirsty Thursday Live, presented by Lisa LeStrange and Ross Lockhart. The beers were great, and paired well with both lit and pickles. Jeff and Ross each made some of my favorite pickles on offer. Jeff grew the veg and spicy peppers for his deliciousness, and Ross’ Elysian Space Dust IPA pickles took the crown. Not a bad brine in the bunch, I gotta say. Eric laid out the fixins for peanut butter and pickles wrapped in a tortilla. It sounds awful, I know, but honestly… I didn’t hate it. I ate more than one. Bonus: delectable zucchini bread, as pictured in the spread!
Friday morning started bright and early with How to Write like a Scenarist (and Adapting to Stage, Screen, and Comics) with John Skipp. I joined in on this class to read work aloud for the participants, and we discussed how their dialogue drives the scene. With all the surrounding narrative stripped from our pages, my darling partner and I did our best to show how much of the story comes alive in the conversation between characters. It was illuminating. Several of the pieces were from works in progress, and I can’t wait to see the fruits of their labor.
After class, I headed over to readings in the Ad House living room. By the fireplace, Michael performed “The Boy With An Anvil for a Face” while Josh Spicoli and I played with puppets during the reading. Michael has teamed up with Andrew Goldfarb to bring his characters to life in the form of a graphic novel. We made little cardboard puppets from character models Goldfarb supplied us with. The story and art are a perfect marriage in style. The comic itself is looking fantastic, and his reading is a ton of fun!
A professional nudist’s life is ever so busy; I popped back into our room to film video for a FetLife fan who has spoiled me rotten. He sent me a shiny new toy, and I sent him proof of enjoyment in return. While I usually try to book a local photographer, it didn’t work out this year. Just as well, I still got some time to create in - and kept myself plenty busy by devoting more time to the schedule of events. If ever I’m missing in action, look for the Do Not Disturb on my door.
When I was finished filming, it was just about time for the Bizarro Writers Association Meeting. While lovely Lisa and I aren’t authors ourselves, we were invited to the meeting as dedicated support staff. It was a delight to be included in the clandestine gathering. (Thanks, Rose!) I can’t say much, but I’m elated to see what the community is capable of in the coming year!
My evening was capped off by the Eraserhead Press Party and Beer Book Readings. The party was as epic as ever! Books put out by Eraserhead (and her imprints) over the year are highlighted with homebrew beers. Rumbullion Rum Stout, Shit Luck Porter, Puppet Skin Wit, Starr Creek Pomegranate Cider, The Terrible Imperial IPA That Happens, The Complex IPA, Drunk Driving Champions Session Pale Ale, and Bacon Fried Bastard Farmhouse Ale. A perennial favorite souvenir of the weekend is my pint glass. This year the design was the art of Jim Agpalza. Readings were delivered with grand theatricality. Words honestly fail me when it comes to describing the performances which occur there. If you don’t witness it with your own eyes, welcome the onslaught of poetic imaginings with your own ears, feel your peers trample you in a Drunk Driving Champions Footrace, practically taste the [stuffed toy] toads as they’re being licked in front of you... There is little I can do to impress upon you just how outstanding the display was.
The rest of the night included performances by The Slow Poisoner, and later Slow Flood Poison Damage when Andrew and Michael join forces. The open mic is a variety show of impromptu talent; genius leaks from every brain you come across. I hiked up to the Distillery Bar with Kirsten Alene and Cameron Pierce. Soon to be joined by other magnificent souls trickling in. I got to have an emotionally bare conversation with Rose, and listen to the bits of life you never read about on facebook.
Saturday starts an hour later, thank goodness, as the night before carries on into the early morning. A hearty brunch obliterated, I skipped over to the Mt Hood Room to help set up the Book Nook for the day. Lisa and I worked on finishing the inventory listings, and tried to get the ever growing queue of ravenous readers moving. I’d wager it was a success. Many took home stacks so large they’re quite thankful for luggage with wheels!
There were several panels I’d enjoy sitting in on, but the first I was able to scamper back to the Barley Room for was the Bizarro Music Panel. Led by moderator Nathan Carson, featuring Andrew Goldfarb, John Skipp, Michael Allen Rose, John Wayne Comunale, and Erin Jane Laroue the strangest music the world has to offer was discussed. Both in quality and extremity, it was quite an exhausting list of band name dropping, and vinyl show-and-tell. I could have listened to another three hours of that conversation, and maybe they would have scratched the surface of all they wanted to cover. I should have brought a recorder, the insights came so fast and steady, I wish I could recount them all.
With the day winding down, it was time to prepare for the Wonderland Book Awards Banquet. Michael and I put the finishing touches on the preparations for our portion of the evening. We sauntered into the ballroom to honor our friends, especially those nominated for Wonderland Awards. Upon our arrival, the honor was ours. This was, by far, the most surreal, out of body, cinematic entrance I’ve ever made in my entire life! We stood in the center of the room, surrounded by our colleagues, our kindred spirit family, and all conversation stopped. They applauded. Feverishly, they applauded Michael and I. Cinched tight into my steel boned corset, I could barely breathe. I felt my heart swell. Quickly, we were ushered to a table front and center.
Just when I thought I could not be more surprised and exalted, I found myself face to face with tiny versions of Michael and I. All the centerpieces were designed and crafted by Christine Morgan, and made to resemble Bizarro characters and personalities. On this table, dressed as we were for the prior year’s banquet, was a Sauda Namir barbie and her Michael Allen Rose ken doll. I felt the tears start to well in my eyes, and I grabbed Christine, holding her tight, thanking her profusely for the honor. She whispered they were ours to keep, and I nearly fainted. She continues to knock the wind out of me, and stuff it generously in my sails, on her blog.
A group photo taken, fajita buffet served, the ballots were in and the winners decided for Best Collection and Best Novel of the year. The former goes to Rios de la Luz for The Pulse Between Dimensions and the Desert, and the latter to Jeremy Robert Johnson for Skullcrack City. Both of which are absolutely phenomenal works, and I highly suggest you get to reading them soon. I thoroughly enjoyed both. They have earned every ounce of accolade bestowed upon them and then some!
After a short break, the Ultimate Bizarro Showdown of the Ninth Annual Bizarro Con was underway! In recent years we’ve been punishing the contestants who go over time with our violet wand. This year we left our electric shock at home, and went for something more psychological. I had a length of rope to haul them off stage, and tie them down in the caution corner. We made dunce caps with the most scathing of insults scrawled across them: “Normal,” “Conformist,” and “I write literary fiction about the difficulty of coming of age as a twenty something white male in New York.” My only get this year was Kevin L. Donihe, as he read from a vintage Weekly World News and bemoaned the fact we didn’t have anything to give him his fix this year. He craved the sweet, sweet shock of pain we usually offer. Rose O’Keefe came to his rescue with a charging cable, just to give him the will to carry on.
Robert Devereaux, John Skipp, Brian Keene, and Laura Lee Bahr are tasked with picking our winners. All the entries really make the judge’s table sweat. It is one of those things where each year we say, “This is the best year yet!” and every time it is true. The third place disguise kit went to last year’s champion, Danger Slater, for his inspired marketing-based corporate shill (who draws the line not at Human Face, but at Subway) piece. The second place piñata went to Garrett Cook for his breakthroughs in paleontology and encouraging everyone to “GET WOKE!”
Our esteemed judges created two additional categories for Honorable Mention. The Ladies Room Special prize for Michael Sean LeSueur (weed found in the bathroom), and The Best Bizarro Lullaby for Kirsten Alene Pierce (a medal that came with the purchase of our trophy). Finally, the coveted first place trophy and ceremonial muumuu was bestowed upon Gabino Iglesias for his Werner Herzog inspired erotica. It had me on edge as I stalked up behind him at the 6 minute mark to drag him off, but he very quickly finished and left us all immensely satisfied. Upon donning the spoils of his victory, the arm seams split under the pressure of his mighty biceps and broad shoulders. Gabino just might be part Hulk, so do not anger champion.
The Wonderland After Party raged on into the night. Before too long the second place piñata was broken, and all the magnificent contents spilled out into the Ad House. There was some candy, sure, but more than that we had toy bugs and snakes, various and sundry treasures. Not the chaos marbles of last year, but a solid selection of surprises. As is customary, in the presence of our High Priestess Kirsten, the Malort floweth forth. Michael read the scripture of Chicago’s peculiar communion. For once, there was a prize for succumbing to the two-fisted liquor: Sam Reeve treated us to Sortilège, a Canadian whiskey and maple syrup elixir. If there is anything that can resuscitate your tastebuds, it is this dessert liquor. If that’s not your bag, Cooper Gordon brought some Bushmills for us, too.
Sunday panels I attended were Breaking Through the Noise and Art of the Con. It was great to reflect on strategies to be heard in a world lending itself to option paralysis, and how to make the most of other conventions. One of my personal highlights - annually - is the Bizarro Film Screening hosted by John Skipp. From the schedule: “This year’s Film Block is packed to the rafters with manicorns, bionic girls, sinister tooth fairies, ungodly procedures, disco infernos, video nasties, suicidal tendencies, psychotic breakdowns, despondent monsters, funtastic Final Girls, and our old pal Sussurus, stirring.”
Closing Ceremonies quickly followed. It is a conversation that marks the end of scheduled programming, but not the end of the festivities. It can have a tinge of melancholy, a foreboding reality on the horizon. Michael and I took that opportunity to have a quiet moment together in the Tasting Room for a cider flight. After a meeting with our Shaman, Jason Rizos, we left with Kevin L. Donihe’s Art Tour. All the years I’ve been to Bizarro Con, Donihe has channeled his inner Art Critic, with the help of a haunted silver wig. He takes groups around the Edgefield, which is absolutely covered in outsider art. He interprets the murals, and has built an entire mythos around the themes in the paintings. These emphatic lessons, with delightful consistency, become gospel over time. I thoroughly believe the teachings of KLD, and subscribe to his culture cult. We often pick up non-Bizarros along our way, and he’s been asked if he may be hired for private tours. This was the perfect way to start my magical mind journey.
The very next place my body demanded to be was the saltwater soaking pool. Substances and night swimming - a winning combination! It took a while to sort out my bikini, but once I slipped into the misty lagoon, everything was floaty and wonderful. This pool has been the site of “How To Succeed Half Naked” and the “Kevin L. Donihe Water Ballet” in years past. This year, I just had to be sure to make my way there outside of events. It is the perfect way to relax. Friends splashing and soaking and chatting... Delightful. When my mind settled back into my skull, it was Oracle Jenga time in the Ad House living room.
Waking up on Monday morning, we packed our bags, checked out of our room, and headed to the Black Rabbit for Goodbye Brunch. Danger and Lisa took us with them for Bizarro Con Hangover: The Stay-Behind. First stop was to pick up a birthday dozen from Pip's Original Doughnuts & Chai. The place is too cute, and the offerings are amazing. Once we were all fueled up, it was off to the Japanese Gardens for a walk.
Drinks in Portland’s highest lounge, followed by a detour to dinner. Then back to their place for a taping of the Danger and Lisa Show Podcast! Episode 10: Birds are Dicks is centered around Bizarro Con antics and Thanksgiving goings on. We got to be their first ever guests on the podcast, and it was a really fun way to wind down the weekend. I got to play with their kitten, who followed me to the bathroom, and curled up in my underwear as though it were a hammock. Precocious as all hell, but who can be mad at such a sweet lil’ furface?
Side note: More Post Bizarro Con Podcast goodness! According to Kevin and Jeff, on Jeff Attacks, I’m a Victorian Vampire. Perspective is one of my favorite things to play with, pick apart, and soak up. Looking at the madness through a different lens can be both reliving it and squeezing more out of an experience.
Now that we’re back in our regularly scheduled reality, we prepare for next year: The Tenth Bizarro Con! Coming in 11 short months. But who’s counting?!
Once again, the Bizarro Writers Association tabled Printers Row Lit Fest. We got another stellar spot, if not perfect weather. The first day was blisteringly hot, and the very next was so cold I ran to Target for a sweater and long skirt! That’s Chicago for you. We welcomed Don Noble and Nick Day into our abode for the weekend. MP Johnson came down to table with us, as did locals John Bruni and Eric Hendrixson.
I love watching these guys sell to neophytes. The way they connect with passersby. They take delight in drawing someone in just as much as they do repulsing the unimpressible. When one is busy with a reader on their line, another will jump in and sell that author’s book. As soon as the opportunity presents itself, they’ll point out the author of the title is here and will sign it for you. They’ll listen to the ways each other will describe their work to a mark. I soak it all in. I’ve not had the time with the genre they have, and I don’t have the capacity for voracious consumption they do. I sit with books like they’re candy. I read for retention, and for me that takes a while. I immerse myself at plodding pace. I don’t tear through novels in sittings - novellas at best and only when they’re especially propulsive. I enjoy each of them as they’re to be savored. So I listen intently to the connections between authors and style, subjects and category hybrids, in each pitch. I map the table in my mind, and fill in the gaps when our table is overrun with interest. When fingers graze a book I’ve personally enjoyed, I take glee in giving my own pitch. In converting that reader to our side, spreading the gospel of the weird.
I can’t wait until next year! There seems to be a lot of interest from far and wide to invade for Printers Row. I’m scheming and dreaming of a Fest/Salon weekend...
My bookmarks are out in the wild! I'm selling these beauties here on my site. The minimal amount I make on them all goes to making new episodes of Bizarro Bedtime. I have the entire series hosted here, so if you've not yet seen it I've made it very easy to catch up! Grab yourself a bookmark, and read along!
In a sweet little storefront, Volumes Bookcafe in Wicker Park, I attended a reading called Strange Or Die. It was everything it promised. I listened to talented artists weave me an escape, as I sipped on a glass of wine. I love live readings when they are performance. When the author’s nose is not stuffed into their book, quietly murmuring in their nerves. When they give me the experience I could not have had better on my own. Don’t subject me to your literary masturbation, take me on a ride to give me a thrill. When the room is electric and the energy is looped in a give and take. When I feel like I’ve had a great romp, and I’m not left wanting to return to a familiar sure thing to satisfy me. This was, all in all, a great romp.
Speaking of a Fungasmic good time, Puppet Skin is out on Fungasm Press. When publisher John Skipp made the call for puppet voices to be used in Danger Slater’s book trailer, I signed right up. I purchased a copy while at Bizarro Con; it waits for me on the ‘to read’ shelf now. Watch this, pick up your copy, and read with me!
Serendipitously, bridging the gap between Bizarro Cons was eased this year by Bizarros descending upon Chicago by fate or design. Our flat hosted the first S+M [Sauda and Michael] Salon (of many to come, I hope). We gathered together friends from every nook and cranny of our personal and creative lives: music, dance, theater, writers, school - anyone we figured would fancy a night of Bizarro. Danger and Lisa were on a cross country trip, staying with us on their way through. The Slow Poisoner, Andrew Goldfarb, appeared for a performance and left with the daybreak. Devora Gray treated us to a reading from her novel, Human Furniture. Several local and regional Bizarros gave our crowd a taste of what Bizarro Hours look like, too. Redleg Films gave us a sample of their work with Hey Blue Eyes and Growing Darkness (which was featured in the Bizarro Film Screening at Bizarro Con later in the year, and earlier in this blog).
We spent the time surrounding the party with Danger and Lisa, taking both their meat vessels and their paper puppet selves out on the town. We walked the neighborhood, and caught a show at Cobra Lounge. Michael guested with Apocalypse Theater, and we said goodbye to sensational drummer and Now I’m Nothing brother, Kenny, as he moved west with his lovely wife. Before we could blink, it was time to send our west coast doppelgangers on their way back to Portland. The only time better than time spent with Patrick and Courtney or time spent with Danger and Lisa, is time with Danger and Patrick and Lisa and Courtney. Even all six of us piled in a Mazda is more or less a good time!
I don’t have much in this moment to say about Pride. Except that I’ve attended with girlfriends in the past, but never had as much fun as I did with this crew this year. I spotted my friends The Windy City Ghostbusters marching at the start, Daddy Sky and Titty Perkins on a L/leather float, and Tamale absolutely rockin’ as Ursula with Bikes & Mics. I grabbed some swag, made friends in the crowd, and went back to Sara + Brian’s place to get hammered. Great day!
In a grand tradition of diving headfirst into situations involving jump scares, screams, and happy hyperventilation, Michael and I went to Fright Fest at Six Flags Great America. It just so happens I have an in with the malevolent overlord, Nox. He greeted us throughout the park, including going through the haunts backwards! Just before midnight, we caught up with him for a proper photo. Thanks to a judiciously applied fastpass for the haunts, we managed to go through all but Big Top Terror. I survived the spider rooms in Infestation - and prior to that fell completely in love with their massive snake head prop. I wanted to take it home with me. Gates of Hell was by far my favorite scare, although taking Michael on “Black Widow” aka American Eagle was a close second. Guess he’s not ready for steel. Yet. However, best ride has to be the Whizzer. I love being able to cuddle while I whip around a track.
The newest addition to my gathering calendar these days is Pay-Per-View parties at PJ&C’s. I’m not much for WWE, but I admit it is fun in a soap opera sort of way. Cheering on the most charming faces and the most endearing villains is catchy. Our gracious hosts have made it a sport of its own to bet on the card, and winners take home the prestigious Chicago Prognosticators Championship Belt until the next PPV matchup. Promos have been cut, rivalries have been forged in pursuit of the cardboard glory.
Thrifty Thrills 2016 may well be my favorite to date. I was assigned hardware store for my shopping experience. I spent a lot more than the $0 I did last year on my comic book costume, but still well under my $20 budget. The obvious choice for such a store is dancing to Rihanna’s S&M. Using some pretty purple rope, clear plastic sheeting, colorful zip ties, bright blue duct tape, a staircase spindle, and a bit of hardware paid for, combined with freebies of paint swatches and the store’s reusable plastic bag… I made this:
Another highlight of the show this year, for me, was talking Michael into performing in versus mode. Usually we dance duets, so it was quite a change of pace to be going head-to-head in competition. I had fun making a big deal about burlesque espionage on Instagram. He nerded it up pretty hard with supplies from the office store. I’m proud of my partner for getting on stage in a paper clip chainmail tunic, and fighting imaginary dragons with a cardboard sword. Can’t wait to see what the challenge might be next year!
My most recent burlesque adventure was road tripping down to Louisville, Kentucky with Bim Bam Boom Burlesque. It felt great to bring my most popular acts to a brand new audience. The van ride down and back was refreshing! I got to bond with women I usually don’t have more than a few minutes of dressing room time with. I might have startled Brad French, because I don’t know what a filter is and when sex comes up… I just say what’s on my mind. Fancy a peach ring, anyone? We went vintage shopping and sampling bourbon! I got to cuddle Cyn Cat all night. We shot a slow motion badass strut on the tracks in front of some stellar graffiti. (Who has that video? I want to see it!) The camaraderie was fantastic. We were artists having fun with our lives. It didn’t feel like a grind, a rat race, or a pressure cooker. Professional Nasty Women United. Would do again!
Remember those tarot cards I posed for with Louis Fitch? I got to help out on location shooting the King of Swords. I hope I’ll get to hang out, making great life decisions in forest preserves with cameras again soon. Okay, maybe not soon. When it is warmer, for sure.
Anxiously awaiting some beautiful work done with Leslie Carroll, too. I just sent back my picks from the proofs, and am very excited to share the images from that sitting!
While I didn’t exactly model for this next bit of news, I’m flattered beyond measure to be the character basis for Nadine Banrion in Erik Wilson’s upcoming graphic novel, Violent Souls. Genius that he is, put the artwork on RedBubble. So you can get me - and various other Bizarro personality inspired artwork - on everything from duvet covers to tech cases.
On GodsGirls, “Ghosts of Edgefield” was published this year. I’ll let the set intro tell you all you need to know: “Each year I haunt the grounds of Edgefield Manor in the Pacific Northwest. Many spirits roam the halls, and I'll appear to you from the wardrobe in room 215. The resort has a long and storied history as a poor farm, nursing facility, tuberculosis hospital, and home for the emotionally disturbed. Sweet dreams!”
My very first duo set for GodsGirls, “Anything You Want” is forthcoming! I got to play Domme to the very lovely and talented Ramona-Grey. They are so genuine, and I can’t wait to shoot more content with them! More news on that front as it develops. For now, here’s a tiny taste:
Still doing my roadie/groupie/dancer gig for Now I’m Nothing. They’ve had some really fantastic shows, and are constantly upping their game. I never cease to be impressed by my band family. All their original projects are tearing it up, too. Flood Damage made a couple of guest appearances with Apocalypse Theater this year, Modiviccan’s Lather, Rinse, Reward has me shaking my groove thing, and WORM (The World Organization of the Righteous Movement) opened for PIGFACE 25 at House of Blues!
Pigface, while we’re at it, was as close to a religious experience as this lil’ agnostic could get. That’s an altar I’ll fall on - but I’m getting ahead of myself. The lead up is super important. I was down on the floor, and for the first portion of the night, in the pit. Chatted with darling friends, connected with internet pals in meatspace for the first time, and met some friendly new faces. Including a couple who was married on stage during a Pigface show! I had a good buzz going, then the curtains opened and WORM blew my mind. Again. They threw out tiny -W- tambourines! Reidy is captivating on stage, with morphing aesthetic that takes you on a narrative journey over a tight setlist. Frequency really set up the idea that this was my church, quite well. I bought the birthday girl, ultra glam bassist Karen, a drink after they played. Hung out in the merch hall and picked up some goodies.
In the blink of an eye is was time for Dead Voices on Air. I had no idea what to expect going into that one, and it was exactly the right choice. They were a little reminiscent of when I saw Lab Report at Cold Waves IV. The show is as much performance art as it is music. There was a very shiny Domme who threw her riding crop into the crowd. Hey, free crop! (Sadly, I was not the one to catch it.) One member simply sat on stage with earplugs in, reading a book, and drinking a large glass of wine. Peculiar, in a really great way.
Ruby. Ruby! It has been a great long while since I’ve seen a lone woman command such presence and power on stage. Lesley Rankine’s got a voice with such depth and soul, you can’t help but want to drown in it. There is a subtlety in her voice, she has an incredible amount of control. Her breathy verses are so carefully crafted, not calculated or unhinged. When she belts out, the rafters ring and you feel the reverb in your bones. I could have listened to her forever, and lucky for all of us, we got more of her as a key vocalist with Pigface!
The Fuck List and band messages delivered, Pigface rocked the stage into the wee hours of the morning. It was stunning. A super group of Industrial royalty. I’m glad I’ve trained for the last few years, going to Cold Waves, for the endurance required to jump and dance that long. The energy loop was there, and you could tell these were veteran performers getting high on creating that environment. In-fucking-comparable. The night ended with two inflatable rafts thrown out into the pit, and crowd surfing leveled up. I lost count of the total number of drummers on stage during the finale. I will cherish the memory of seeing them in concert, simultaneously devastated I’ll never get the chance again. Although, I won’t be mad if they take Cher’s lead, and have a million farewell tours. I’ll go to every single one.
As expected, Cold Waves V was fantastic. I get to see beautiful people, like Dash and Kristen, each time I see a show at the Metro. Seems to be the only time I get a fleeting moment of physical contact with them anymore. Busy people leading overstuffed lives! Kuma’s provided a popup burger joint outside, but finding a time to grab food is always difficult when looking at the lineup. Vampyre Anvil, Polyfuse, 16 Volt, and Dead When I Found Her are the acts that still jump out in my mind months later. I have so much adoration and respect for Mama Duffy. She’s genuinely lovely, even when she’s already blown out her voice on night one, and you’re “talking” to her in strained whisper-shouts and a game of charades.
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Melvins + Napalm Death + Melt Banana show, also at Metro. That’s such a good venue. Just the right size, that historic Chicago feel, and a great view from the balcony when I’m too wiped - or in heels definitely not suited - for the floor. It was a great show top to bottom, and rather than go on and on about how insanely good the Melvins are, I want to hype up Melt Banana. SHUT THE FUCK UP they’re cute! HOLY SHIT that energy! It was such a solid kick off for the night, and they can one-hundred percent hold their own with the big names. 2016 was a shitty year for a lot of outside factors, but shows lit it up - especially openers. HOT DAMN. Here’s to a better year ahead, ever pushing forward, fighting hard, and loving deep!
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