Miss Jacqueline

What comes to mind in the arts, fashion, style, music, et al…


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My Angel

Written by Jacqueline Ryan

“At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.”

– Albert Schweitzer

The night before, I hadn’t slept because I had been up fighting with the boy I desperately loved. I’d found ‘Suzanne’s’ phone number in the pocket of my boyfriend’s jeans after he had not come the previous the night from our favorite nightclub, “Luv-A-Fair.” How ironic. Not only was he was completely unapologetic, but he was angry at me for discovering his indiscretion! When I dragged my tired, sorry ass into work that blustery morning, my smarmy boss, a married movie producer who treated me like garbage, informed me that I had been replaced by a younger, blonder version of myself – one who hadn’t shunned his sexual advances as I had for the past year. I tolerated his cruel misogyny only because I was young and naive and I wanted to work in the film industry so badly that I thought if I didn’t endure his disgusting abuse, I would lose my future altogether. As I locked up the office at the end of the day, I felt sadder than I had for a very long time. Hollow. I wanted to go home, curl up into a ball, and disappear.

The deluge outside was coming down so fast I couldn’t believe it was actually possible for it to rain that hard. It was fitting that I didn’t have an umbrella that dark day. “That’s about right,” I thought. In that frame of mind, I accepted my bleak fate. I figured it was just how my life was going to be from now on – that somehow it was appropriate that I was being rained on, and that I was getting exactly as I deserved. My shoulders dropped and hunched in as I was completely exposed to the torrential downpour. The massive drops splashed across my melancholy face, and the tears streaming down my cheeks were picked up and carried down rivers of rain on my skin, hanging precariously off my trembling chin until they slammed down onto the cobblestone streets of Gastown. I was grateful for the monsoon so I could weep profoundly, and my tears would be concealed from the dismal world at large.

Soggy, cold, dejected and lonely, I shuffled along the puddled streets, asking myself over and over again: “A fire used to burn so brightly inside… Where did it go? Why has my fire burned out? Where is the spark I once had that made me fearless to live life fully? To challenge myself and overcome diversity? To conquer anything?” These were very real and serious questions to me. I had lost the old me. At 27, I just felt like a loser with squishy shoes, heels worn down to the nail, who was almost out of a job and wouldn’t be able to feed my cat – my only friend. All the way to the bus stop I ran it over and over in my mind… Where is my fire? Where did I go?”

When the city bus finally pulled up, I saw that it was packed like sardines. Wet, sweaty sardines with oversized backpacks, too much perfume and stinking armpits. My long blonde hair was drenched and heavy, dripping and pressing flat against my skin… my mascara running like big black spiders on my vacant face. I shuffled in to take my place amidst the jostling downtown commuters. I had a long way to go.

Aware that I would have to stand at the front of the crowded bus, squeezed between damp bodies and briefcases, I glanced around, searching the faces of everyone who I thought must have a better life than me. That’s when I saw it – far in the back of the bus – an empty seat. Surprised, my eyes traveled to the occupant beside it and I understood immediately why no one else was sitting there. He was fat and unwashed, probably in his forties but looked like seventy, his hands blackened and calloused, clothing stenching and torn. His beard was a product of zero hygiene and his bulbous nose gave away his lifelong relationship with alcohol. He looked disgusting. “Perfect,” I thought. “Next to him is exactly where I belong.” I pushed my way to the back and sat down, overwhelmed by the reek of stale booze. I settled in.

It was an eternity on that bus, and I had the feeling of being in suspended animation as the buildings rushed by, blurring my stinging, swollen eyes. Each stop, door opening, closing, I stared into the nothingness, continuing to wonder where the fire was that had once burned within.

When we finally reached my destination, I reached for my bag and began to rise out of my seat. That’s when the old bum turned and looked right through me with his soft, kind blue eyes. The icy cold blood in my veins warmed instantly, as an electric current poured from him into me. I gave him a faint smile – all that I could muster – and I swear what happened next is completely true…

He began to speak, uttering twelve words that forever changed me. In his deep, gravely voice, he whispered, “You have a fire inside of you. Don’t you ever forget that.” I shivered.

Paralyzed, I had no words to speak, and there was no need to. He knew I knew. I knew he knew. It was like that. In that moment on the idling bus, time stood still… and I was transformed. I understood that it was all bigger than me. That I was connected to everything – to The Universe, to the drunk on the bus. Everything. He was not sitting there next to that empty seat by accident. No way. I thanked him and his blue eyes smiled gently at me.

I stepped off the bus and deeply inhaled the fresh ocean air after the rain had subsided. The clouds lifted… and so did my heavy heart. There was clearing of blue in the sky, and as I stood there watching as the bus pulled away, my bus mate stared straight ahead to ride out his own journey. My spark was reignited that day, and the fire within me blazes brightly still… and I will never, ever forget my angel.

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Brent Ray Fraser and Why Art is Sexy!

Written by Jacqueline Ryan

Brent Ray Fraser, Artist, GrindDown, painter, Nude

If Porn Art were a university degree, painter and performance artist Brent Ray Fraser would graduate magna cum laude. The textbook definition of sexy – look it up – is this drop-dead gorgeous, perfectly chiseled, blonde-haired, blue-eyed, thirty-four year-old super stud. He’s hung like one too, much to the delight of the thousands of adoring ladies who have breathlessly watched him grind and peel away his cop and cowboy costumes, revealing his ample treasure beneath. A crowd pleasing male stripper by design – one of only a handful of a dying breed – Brent Ray Fraser passionately loves what he does, and makes no apologies for it. And, he shouldn’t. He’s glorious!

Brent Ray Fraser, Artist, GrindDown, painter, Nude

His evolution is understandable. As a child growing up in Surrey, BC, Fraser was painfully shy and introverted, and as an artist with an innate talent for drawing, he found it difficult, if not impossible, to connect his art with other people. By his sixth year at The Emily Carr University of Art and Design, when his father’s idea of picturing the audience naked still didn’t help him overcome his plight of shyness, he thought it might work in the reverse: What if he was the one who was naked instead? During that same time he also wanted to find a way to intertwine his art with eroticism… Eureka!  With that, a life-altering concept was born and has evolved into what it is today. Creating paintings with his body before a live audience has carved out a unique niche for Fraser. He’s made a name for himself as “The Artist Stripper,” and he hasn’t looked back.

Brent Ray Fraser, Artist, GrindDown, painter, Nude

BRF: “It’s ironic considering where I was in grade one to what I’m doing now. I used to hate having people watch me draw, and now I’m painting naked in front of thousands of people, with my penis! It’s totally topsy-turvy! It’s meant to be. The only downside to doing it – not that there is much of a downside – is just the controversy that surrounds it and the assumptions people make based on it. I didn’t tell my parents for years because I thought that they would be ashamed of me, but really when you think about it, what’s to be ashamed about expressing yourself with your body? The body is a beautiful thing, right? And if you can entertain with it… *laughs*… people will think that you take money for sex, or that you do weird things sexually with people. It’s shunned. But it’s like pornography; damn near everybody watches pornography, and if you say you don’t you’re probably lying. It’s one of those things that’s not quite mainstream, and my goal is to bring it out! Share and share alike!”

The last time I saw him in action, Fraser, who I shall now refer to as per his usual moniker, BRF, was performing at The Taboo Naughty But Nice Sex Show. In a scant red wrestler’s singlet, he attracted a massive crowd pressed shoulder-to-shoulder forty feet across, to drink in a live show where he proceeded to punch-paint  with boxing gloves on huge canvases, and stamp out innumerable prints of his painted member. Those happy spectators went home more than satisfied.

Brent Ray Fraser, Artist, GrindDown, painter, Nude

Jacqueline: “Give me a feeling of what art means to you when you’re in the midst of it.”

BRF: “The midst starts right from the idea. I consider myself a process-based artist, the journey is the actual art. The act of creating – THAT is the art. The painting is just a by-product of the act. It’s the nerves and all of that – it’s the whole shebang! It’s pure happiness! It’s hard to put into words… It’s what I was born to do, it’s who I am. When I have the energy of the crowd, it just passes through my body and then my body becomes the tool creating it and it’s more like becoming the art… I AM the art… The audience is the art. The smile on my face and the smiles that I get, is the payment for all the hard work. It’s just fucking awesome!”

For the past ten years, BRF has spent the majority of his time in his grain silo-turned-studio; a dot in the middle of the country farmland outside Vancouver. Inside, it is filled with riches, and everywhere you turn your wandering eyes fall upon color and form, the playful and the curious – including a delicious candy collection, a disturbing set of antique children’s gas masks, muffin tins applied as wall coverings, the groovy wall of lava lamps, and sex, oh yes, sex in the context of art, is everywhere…

Brent Ray Fraser, Artist, GrindDown, painter, Nude

Brent Ray Fraser, Artist, GrindDown, painter, Nude

During my visit to his two-story silo, I was privileged to sit with the artist while he hand-painted his signature skulls onto black tee shirts soon to be coming up for sale on his website. Vials of his pheromone infused sweat will also be available for your olfactory pleasure, and next up for grabs, you too can adorn your mantle with a self-portrait sculpture of his replicated, monolithic penis. I’ve thought long and hard about getting one myself.

Brent Ray Fraser, Artist, GrindDown, painter, Nude

BRF: “I want an army of them,” he laughs, “It’s immortalizing my manhood and it’s a comment on my sexuality and my life. I wanted to make an art piece and document it.”

His recent appearance on The Real Housewives of Vancouver has afforded him even more celebrity, but he doesn’t let any of that go to his head. He simply enjoys the experience and looks forward to his next adventure. BRF has recently added a few Reality TV-esque cameras to his own studio experience, allowing his voyeuristic fans an intimate peek inside while he creates his art in a provocative and interactive setting. He is now gaining global online exposure, thereby taking his performance art to a gargantuan new level. Is there anything he won’t do? If it doesn’t hurt anybody and he feels comfortable with it, BRF is pretty much game for anything.

BRF: “A painting on the wall is me. So why don’t you literally put yourself up on the wall and call yourself art? I’ve done it all… If you can think of something I haven’t done, let me know and I’ll do it! I’m open to anything… within reason… it has to be artistically based.”

Brent Ray Fraser, Artist, GrindDown, painter, Nude

Here is someone whose mind is as wide open as the Montana Sky, and you just have to appreciate that it’s all about perception. We can accept it, we can deem it vulgar, or we can simply try to understand that people think differently. BRF finds what he does rather poetic and beautiful. He is comfortable with his choices, and genuinely happy with his life. I admire his devotion to his art form, and this boy gets a hall pass from me because he lives his one life the way he wants to. Not too many people can truly say that.

When I think of Brent Ray Fraser, my experiences with him bring one surprising word to mind: Wholesome. He has been the consummate gentleman during every moment I have spent with him. Obviously, the casual observer may think that incongruent considering his subculture lifestyle, but nothing could be further from the truth. He loves his mother, has dinner with his dad every Friday, cares about animals, the environment, and enjoys spending time with his nephews. Fraser very much lives an artist’s lifestyle, which can often mean hour upon hour in solitude working tirelessly on his paintings or conjuring up art performances for charity, as he did with his bra installation with proceeds going to fund Breast Cancer Research.

Jacqueline: “Could you tell me a few details about your bra installation?”

BRF: “I donate artwork to charities year round. I love helping others, especially with my art. Breast Cancer is a charity I’ve donated to for almost 6 years. My mom battled and beat breast cancer twice. Eternally grateful, I decided to create a massive project as a tribute to her, and many other battles, with hopes to raise money and awareness. What started off as a small 2ft by 3ft bra painting, turned into a 7ft by 14ft sculptural work of art. I didn’t anticipate the enormous support I gained over the span of the project. I started asking every single women I knew for their old bras to create the small painting. The media caught wind and I began getting bras from all over the world. I’m currently working with an events company in Montreal to do a similar project to help raise funds for Cancer there.”

Brent Ray Fraser, Artist, GrindDown, painter, Nude

What BRF would like for people to see is who he really is as a person behind the appearances and judgements. BRF is a bona-fide talent who lives and breathes his art. Every moment of his existence and ounce of his magnificent being is consumed by it, and it’s impossible not to feel inspired by the way he lives his passion. His truth is undeniable: ART IS ALL.

BRF feeds off of pushing all the boundaries, or painting over them altogether. “I love color, I love movement, I love gesture, I love texture…  I love everything else under the sun.”  A nonconformist, of art school he says, “I feel art school doesn’t really teach you too much, it just helps you embellish what you already have, but earning my degree, it made my dad happy.” 

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Jacqueline: “What do you want people to know about you?”

BRF: “Well, people have an idea of what a person is based on what they see, and I just want people to know that there is more to me than just painting skulls… There’s more than meets the eye, and you can’t really judge a book by it’s cover. It sounds cliche, but it’s true. I really wish everybody could get to know me for who I really am aside from the public persona that I portray. Art is like a diary. You only get to see who I am if you look at my art over the years. You will never truly find out until the end of my life. There is so much in my head that I would like to do, so be patient with me, and you will find out who I am. Come along and enjoy the ride… There’s a seat beside me.”

Brent Ray Fraser, Artist, GrindDown, painter, Nude

Brent Ray Fraser, Artist, GrindDown, painter, Nude

Let’s touch on his art, shall we? (Oh yes, the innuendo is limitless). His art is revered and prolific, especially his landscapes and abstracts, erotic paintings, and notably his toy gun series and signature skulls. BRF has never held a real gun, but he likes the idea of using toy guns as art – photographing firearms like AK47’s with flowers bursting out of the barrels, and transferring them onto canvases using a secret process. These works are wildly popular with collectors and represent the yin and the yang, war and peace, as it were, and are highly thought-provoking. “With all of the garbage that’s going on in the world with killings and guns, I’m just trying to counteract it a little bit.”

The also highly popular skulls have tremendous meaning for the artist; For personal reasons, BRF has had to look death square on, and by painting his skulls he literally faces his fears. He feels that because skulls hold the brain and represent life, it is a direct contradiction to how they are usually depicted as a symbol of death. He says of them, “These are happy skulls because they’re all smiling.”

Brent Ray Fraser, Artist, GrindDown, painter, Nude

Lately, as photos began surfacing of BRF traveling around the world posing naked on toilets and public places prohibitive of such dirty deeds, I had to wonder what his motives were behind this naughty behavior.

BRF: “When I was 10 years old I saw a photo of my father studying naked at the dinner table taken before I was born. His pose reminded me of Rodin’s “The Thinker.” My dad is a brilliant man and my mom always told me he was a bit of a wild child in his university years. The apple doesn’t fall too far from the tree. I love my father very much, so this project pays homage to his life, while putting a personal BRF spin on it.”

” I came up with the idea to pose like “The Thinker” on select toilets in and around Vancouver… to start. The toilet is a place for thought and reflection on life. Well, for me it is. This makes it a perfect atmosphere for art. Plus toilets are all over the world and each have a unique look. Hotels, restaurants, public restrooms, churches, alleys, parks, planes, trains and automobiles…and palaces. So many toilets, so little time. These risky gorilla style shots were done at unauthorized locations, often with a tripod. Fast and furious you could say. I almost got arrested in Times Square and ran from the Bobbies at Buckingham Palace. The original idea of sitting on toilets manifested into standing urination shots. The same pose at different locations around the world. The human figure is beautiful no matter what its doing. The purpose is to create a series of figurative books showcasing my nude toilet adventures. ‘The art of urination.’”

Brent Ray Fraser, Artist, GrindDown, painter, Nude

Brent Ray Fraser, Artist, GrindDown, painter, Nude

Most recently he has been photographed crucifixion style, hanging like Jesus on a cross he built with his own hands. I asked the artist what it meant for him to do this.

BRF: “Yeah my cross. I bear it daily. It’s a metaphor for sacrifice, love, strength, commitment and of course martyrdom. My life is devoted to my art and with that comes many challenges and rewards. I’ve always wanted to build my own cross. Two reasons: First because you can’t buy them at Home Depot. Second because I love building things with my own hands. I chiseled that thing and actually felt like Christ the carpenter. It was a rewarding experience to say the least. Especially when I was hanging in the field. No words to describe. Just wait till you see my Jesus work out video. I decided to do a naked workout video prior to being crucified. Again, something I’ve always wanted to do.”

Brent Ray Fraser, Artist, GrindDown, painter, Nude

I had to ask myself how he could possibly upstage himself. The answer came quickly when I noticed a collection of wedding dresses hanging in his silo. Fraser explained that one day he’s going to marry his art. Full on. His plans include painting and framing the actual wedding gowns in an epic installation, and inviting the entire city to come out and attend a ceremony joining him in holy matrimony to his one and only. He’s doing it because his mom always wanted to see him marry. Therefore, to his beloved art, he will say, “I do.” *sigh* True love. There is no greater art than that!

Brent Ray Fraser, Artist, GrindDown, painter, Nude

Photo Credits:
Hamish Hamilton: Clown on Ferris Wheel
Clown on Roller Coaster
Stephen Sadowski: BRF Dripping in White Liquid
BRF in Gas Mask and Fishnet with Gun and Flowers
Anna Tsagari:  BRF Painting with his Penis
Throwing Paint in the Forest
BRF Holding Gold Penis Sculpture
Crucifixion
Tomoko Robertson
Fire Performance at Taboo Sex Show
Siobhan Harlow: Buckingham Palace
Anonymous Flight Attendant: Air Canada Flight
Jacqueline Ryan: BRF on Church Porch
Standing beside Masturbation Painting
The Red Door at the Silo
BRF with Rainbow Skull at Pride Parade
Hand Painting Skull onto Tee Shirt


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Written by Jacqueline Ryan

“Live people tend to ignore the strange and unusual. I myself am strange and unusual.

–  Winona Ryder as ‘Lydia’ in Beetlejuice.

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NEIL E. DEE’S BIZARRIETY SHOW at LANALOU’S was, without a doubt, a foray into the strange and unusual. For Dee, the freakishly outlandish is simply the norm. For me, it’s nothing short of jarring, jaw-dropping amazement!

Special props to Lana (drummer “The Furniture) and Lou (keyboardist, vocals “Men Without Hats”), the two owners of LanaLou’s – a cozy, funky haven, garnished with curiosities, in the heart of Downtown Vancouver’s East Side. Each week, LanaLou’s showcases offbeat local artists, and serves a nice little menu containing an assortment of healthy and comfort food options. Thank you for the Bordertown Burger and spinach salad, Ladies! With a hot vodka Caeser to spice things up, I was deliciously primed for entertainment of the utmost peculiar sort!

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Way in the back and through the kitchen, in a teeny broom-closet-like space, Neil E. Dee reflected in the mirror while he applied his stage makeup and explained to me what tonight’s show, and Neil E. Dee, were all about…

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“I’m Neil E. Dee, and I run the Neil E. Dee’s Bizarriety Show, which is basically a fucked-up variety show. Normally, I host and do sword-swallowing, beds of nails, fire-eating – a lot of the classic ‘sideshow stunts’ – and I kinda do my own twist on them. I don’t like to do them too traditional because that was a long time ago, and things have changed… so we do it our way. We normally have a burlesque dancer and a belly dancer – or one of the two – plus another kind of novelty or variety act. Tonight we have The World’s Fattest Contortionist, Matt Alaeddinne, who’s been all over the world doing rad performance stuff; Amber Eastman from Luciterra – which is one of the best belly dancing troops in town – so we’re really excited to have her; and little Yuki Ueda from The Sideshow Studios. We’re really, really, really stoked to have these guys here because they all do really rad shit with all their different talents… so it’s a good lineup. And, plus me, acting like an idiot and shoving swords down my throat and sticking my face in grinder sparks and lots of silly stuff, so yeah…”

And with that (and the mandatory Jägermeister warm-up shot at the bar) it was on with the show!

Ya ta dada dada da da da da… Ya ta dada dada da da da da…

Twisted circus music pumped out of the hanging speakers at the secret little hole-in-the-wall, and the crowd at Lanalou’s – small but mighty – cheered wildly as the carnival sideshow “Bizarriety” kicked off with Master of Ceremonies, Neil E. Dee, grinding millions of dazzling white sparks all over his face and body – shocking us by lighting a cigarette gripped between his lips in a blazing shower of cinders! As if that wasn’t enough, from his tabletop covered with everything sharp and dangerous, Dee collected up his tools of torture and encouraged a hesitant volunteer to hammer a 4” inch spike straight through the inside of his nose and into his sinus cavity (close enough for me to wince at the possibility of one tap too many pushing said spike directly into his brainstem) and pull it back out again. As he instructed her, Rule #1: Don’t Kill Me.” “Rule #2: Don’t fucking kill me.” and Rule #3, Don’t let go!” Dee warned the crowd, “Focus here,” (he smiled wryly as he teased us with naughty pelvic thrusts) “cause we’re going to do some fucked up shit!” Oh, yeah… He wasn’t kidding. Neil E. Dee, with his boyish grin, a sparkle in his eyes and a twist of his jasmine-scented waxed handlebar moustache, proceeded to transform himself into The Human Everything!

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In what is usually a game played with rainbow coloured balloons at traveling midways, Dee’s blindfolded assistant, (tatted up, rockabilly burlesque cutie, Rianne) cheerfully hurtled pub darts into Neil E. Dee’s torso, utilizing him as a human dartboard, puncturing his body, and burying each pointy missile deeply into his flesh! He was stuck with four in the back, and we collectively cringed in horror as one projectile lodged itself a hair’s breadth away from his deep “innie” – we thought for sure it went in all the way! OUCHIEEEE!

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Dee never missed a beat, continuing to charm up a storm while he introduced the other featured performers, and taking the stage between acts to offer up even more of his fantastical shenanigans!

Yuki Ueda, a juggler and “object manipulator” with a charming smile and great connection with the audience, delighted us by rolling a crystal ball in his hands like a magical floating orb. Yuki moved on to balance a chair on his forehead, coming back to retake the stage in a kimono and red and white face paint. Speaking Japanese, he firmly instructed us to respond with an exhuberant “HAI!” (YES!) to each command, as he entertained with a paper parasol, tossed three balls behind his back, and enthusiastically juggled five balls as high as the ceiling would allow!

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But wait, there’s more! A human cutting board? Why not? Dee, wielding a finely sharpened meat cleaver, Ginsu-Knife-chopped a celery stalk on his skin (exactly where you would slice your inner arm to ensure a certain suicide)… Then, to up the freakiness level of the whole thing, Dee pressed the blade up to his neck/jugular vein and chopped some more! “In high school we called this tragic,” he mused, “now we call it entertainment!”

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I have absolutely no doubt that if he had a Sabertooth Tiger there onstage with him, Dee would have thrust his head between its jaws and pressed down onto its gleaming fangs. The human toothpick, perhaps? But I digress…

Forging ahead with the show (as the ancients began practicing over 4,000 years ago) Neil E. Dee swallowed two, 2 ft. sharply honed swords – all the way down his throat and into his stomach – making our eyes water almost as much as his. This is for real, kids – every bit of it! Dee next hung a 1970’s macrame hanger, weighted with both a lawn-bowling ball and an audience member’s fully stuffed leather handbag, by two sharp metal hooks lodged in in his eye sockets. As they dragged the flesh away from his eyeballs, Dee joked, “Well folks, that’s a real eye opener isn’t it?” Yikes!

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Amber Eastman’s big, intense eyes, almost took our attention away from her coin embellished hips – almost – as she shimmied in impossible ways – popping and locking her body to an “Enigma” sounding vibe, while belly dancing and channelling “I Dream of Genie” with style and precision. She went on to balance a sword (straight from Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves) on her head, dancing to a middle eastern sounding dubstep, and completing the seduction with the splits and a smile… still perfectly balancing the blade across the top of her pretty cranium.

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Amber: “The technique is basic belly dancing, but it’s fusion in that it’s a modern style of belly dance originating in The San Francisco Bay Area, starting about in the 1960’s and taking off and developing through the 90’s. The first one is a dark, moody fusion to a  modern, electronic song with sort of, R & B Vocals, and the second piece I’m doing is sword balance which has been done since the Sixties – it’s arguable whether it was actually done traditionally or based on Orientalist Fantasy, but it’s something that’s been done all over the world for quite a while… We use non-arabic, modern music, and we don’t limit ourselves, so we’ll use music from anywhere. You saw us at The Burlseque Fest” (yes, I did) “and it was definitely more like Vaudville Fusion – we had a juggling artist that we worked with, (Chris Murdoch), so we mix juggling, and a bit of acrobatics and belly dance, but also a bit of hip hop dance and definitely with a jazz and ballet influence…”

Just when you thought he had done more batshit crazy things in one night than is humanly possible, Dee set up the “Neil E. Dee Death Bed,” consisting of two razor-sharp swords serving as his support system – one for his back, one for his legs – with their lacerating edges digging deeper as gravity pulled his weight onto the blades. Just in case the swords actually were to slice through his body, his soft place to fall was a bed of dozens of long, hard, steel nails – jutting straight up – like soldiers at the ready to pierce through his skin. But it just wouldn’t be any fun if there wasn’t a cinderblock and a sledgehammer involved now, would it? Fat Matt was all over it, wielding a sledgehammer and slamming it down onto Dee’s abdomen, smashing the concrete to chunks on the belly of the sideshow stunt man. Dee got a much needed hand up, and revealed that the blades had dug sharply into his skin – leaving long, deep impressions on his back and legs! Holy sheep shit, Neil E. Dee!

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Fat Matt Alaeddinne, the aforementioned “Fattest Contortionist in the World,” and the self-proclaimed “Cockiest fat guy you’re ever going to meet… Ladies!” is 450 pounds of pure comedy, great timing and ‘I-can’t-believe-I-am-I-seeing-with-my-own-two-eyes!’ entertainment! Fatt Matt is Edmonton Boy, and has traveled all over the globe – notably, making appearances on Canada’s Got Talent, and The Late Show with David Letterman.

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Alaeddinne sat on the stage in a sparkly gold lycra ensemble, and invited us to “Drink it in!”  Criss-crossing his legs into what is called the “Bread Basket,” or as the French call it, “A Basket of Fruit,” (think about it), he pulled his feet up to his ears in a yogi-style stretch, a triumph that was as astonishing as it was impressive. The next trick involved Matt slipping his body through a small, duct tape reinforced hula hoop, creating an unrivaled camel toe that can never be unseen. Matt dislocated his shoulder in a determined and ultimately successful attempt, that was particularly gripping – if you know what I mean. I had the pleasure of joining Matt and a girl named “Flashy” onstage to “try on” a straightjacket to ensure that, yep, it’s a straightjacket alright! “Flashy” strapped him in and pull, nice and snug. Once again tapping into his shoulder dislocation talents, Matt threw himself urgently around the stage, struggling, wriggling, jumping and rolling around like a man on fire… until at last *WHEW!* he pulled it over his head and began unbuckling his way to freedom! It honestly still makes me freak out a little – in a claustrophobic kind of a way – just to think about it!

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Me: “Can I ask you a few questions?”

Matt: “So, shoot, ask anything you like.”

Me: “Why do you do what you do?”

Matt: “That’s off limits.” 

Smart Ass.

Matt: “Why do I do what I do? I mean, It’s a shortcut, but it’s really hard! You say, ‘OH! And you see the road over there? It beats working, and I’m going to take a shortcut!’ And, it’s a lot harder going through that bush where no one else has been or where few people are. I’m an entertainer, I’m the World’s Fattest Contortionist, I’m a strongman and an escape artist, I’m a comedian – one of the kind of people you find in the brush in the shortcut. I was street performing doing tightrope/slackrope walking on the streets before I could drink or vote or go to war… so I was out there on the street busking, street performing, stand-up comedy, contortion… You just get your tail wind and you just pull in… I mean, everybody starts at something, you know… magicians, jugglers… everybody’s multi-disciplined, right?” 

Matt ends with a grin and looks at my iPhone recording on ‘Voice Memo’ and jokes, “Oh, we’re not on film, so nobody can tell that I’m exposing myself… Oh, but if I say that, then that’s just as admissible.” With a smile he was off to the bar for his Jäger shot. 

Meanwhile, back to the bizarre… Dee jumped back onstage and began (starting with one end in a tall glass of Rye and Coke) to slide several feet of clear, 1/4” tubing, up through his nostril, winding it back out of his mouth, and into the thirsty mouth of his feather-lashed, corseted, fishnetted pick-up girl, “Flashy,” (Erica Leduc), thereby transforming himself into the Human Twisty Straw. The Gross Factor on that one was off the charts! We loved it, but, EEEWWW!

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The evening culminated with one hand over my eyes, and my other hand staple-gunning a five dollar bill onto Neil E. Dee’s armpit… because at Bizarriety, that’s how you roll…

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Neil E. Dee: “I like to do things that are real, I don’t like to be fooled, so I don’t wanna do things that fool people – so it’s no illusions, no magic – what you see is real. I like to see what your body can do – ‘cause we’re not just stuck doing routine things – you can make your body adapt and become used to doing all sorts of things that you shouldn’t do. *laughs* So I like to do those, and I like to make people laugh, and show them something that they don’t see every day. We try and bring lots of talent from different disciplines of the body and put it on one stage and make people go “Holy fuck!” and have a good night – hopefully. That’s what I want to do.”  –  Neil E. Dee

And do it you did, Neil E. Dee! Wow, the crazy-ass stuff people do! And hey… yay for me! Today it was purely for my entertainment purposes, to satisfy my inquisitive nature, and, of course, to pleasure the intimate but raucously salacious crowd at LanaLou’s! Thank you Neil E. Dee, for stapling, darting, and meat cleavering yourself to the point of blood letting! You are spectaculous!

To that end, I found myself standing on Powell Street, tripped out, and clutching a t-shirt that reads, “Neil E. Dee’s Bizarriety, The Most Dangerous Show on Earth.” I jumped into a passing Saturday night cab that whisked me away home, feeling like Alice… having survived the most dangerous and twisted of Rabbit Holes!

Ya ta dada dada da da da da…

Photographs: 

Patrick Rooney: Staplegun Photos, Neil E. Dee Swordswallowing, Hooks in Eyes, Meat Cleaver, Darts, Amber Eastman Photos, Set of Bed of Nails, Yuki Ueda Balancing Chair

Jacqueline Ryan: Neil E. Dee Smile, Reflection, Sparks Photos, Yuki Ueda with Parasol, Bed of Nails Horizontal, LanaLou’s, Matt Alaeddinne, Erica Leduc


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My Gardenia

I’ve had a gardenia plant for a couple of years now, keeping it in a terra cotta pot that I was certain was the adequate size without it becoming root bound. I’ve carefully brought it inside to keep it safe from the Canadian winter, and outside in the spring, where it always turns brown and drops its leaves until it re-acclimates to it’s party sunny spot. It struggles. Never flowers. And yet I cared for it as best as I could, remembering to mix up some Miracle Gro every now and trying my best to nurse it back to health after I’d forgotten it on a hot day and the soil had dried out… again. It never seemed to grow a smidge, but I kept it in hopes that one day it would somehow finally be happy. Sadly, this never came to pass and it just sat there… Stunted.

I did this because I know what a gardenia can be. It bears glossy, dark green leaves and creamy white flowers with the most heavenly of fragrances – reminding me of the kind of sunny, humid places, with warm breezes and flower bearing trees that make me want to live there forever… *sigh* It’s the most popular flower in bridal bouquets and tucks beautifully behind the ears of pretty Hawaiian wahines. I was determined.

Then, two days ago I decided that I would transplant it into a large pot that sat vacantly on my patio, full of soil and just patiently waiting to recieve. I took it out of its pot – still with a lot of room for growing – and planted it in the big vessel. I was right that it was not root bound at all, and I felt validated that I had done all I could.

All of a sudden the most amazing thing happened! Within two days, my sad little gardenia plant perked up. Tender, bright little green leaves sprouted on the woody branches, and it is beginning to flourish. It looks so perfect with all that space, as though it was supposed to be there all along, like it will steadily grow into the beautiful shrub it was always destined to be.

Funny, I was certain that the small pot was all it ever needed, but when it was given a nice big pot, it took a giant drink and began spreading its roots. I can almost hear it let out a sigh of relief as it settles in happily into its new home. Placing it in the best possible environment, providing it with a place to grow, to breathe, to expand, to live up to its full God-given potential without constraints, was exactly the formula for success.

It needed room. Plain and simple. With fresh soil containing the moisture nutrients and space it was craving, it is flourishing. Now I know that in a few short months, I will be rewarded with and a thriving shrub that will be laden with breathtaking blooms exuding the heady fragrance I have been dreaming about.

Isn’t that what we all need? It makes me think about what a perfect metaphor this is for all of us. Who are we trying to control in an environment that does not match up to their needs? Who is not giving us room to grow and blossom into what we are meant to be? Sometimes it is others who we allow to do this to us. Sometimes we do it to ourselves, and we are so confined in our little pots that we don’t even recognize the fresh start we have right before our eyes…

Summer is almost here. Maybe it’s simply time for a bigger pot.

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“American Mary” reviewed by Jacqueline Ryan

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American Mary is grotesque and demented, telling a twisted and far-reaching, yet strangely viable tale that keeps you wanting to delve more deeply into the insanely warped subculture of extreme surgical procedures, spawning what is sure to become a cult classic horror film, written and directed by Jen and Sylvia, The Soska Sisters.

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What would you do if your teachers turned out to be the sickest f#@ks of all and you were down on your luck and money? What if the opportunity that knocks is the seedy underbelly of a twisted reality, and the usual lifestyle is a sickening deluge of plastic surgery and body modification taken to its contorted hilt where money is no object and the bizarre is the norm? In American Mary, it is the teachers who are the monsters, and the medical student who becomes the victim… becomes the master… becomes the monster.

Mary’s disposition moves from blasé, to a melancholic detachment that I found to be, most disturbingly of all… relatable. When I realized that I actually understood why she was using gruesome methods to systematically amputate and deform deserving candidates, that is what frightened me the most. As she exacted her revenge, giving the sadistic predator his comeuppance in an excruciating fashion, I cringed with revulsion and wondered with curious anticipation what nefarious deed she was going to execute next.

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When it came time to perform a complicated arm exchange surgery on a set of erotically perverse twins who seeked her out for their abomination of a dream operation, chillingly played by the twisted Soska Sisters themselves, Mary knew she would need some medical assistance. She asked Billy in her low, gravely voice… (paraphrasing) Mary: “Do you know anybody who’s good?” Billy: “I know someone who is really terrible that owes me a favor.” Enter Marius Soska, the twins’ father, producer and actor, lending yet another creepy element to the film.

Katherine Isabelle who stars as Mary Mason, gave an engaging performance. She has a profoundness to her… A penetrating, far off look in her eyes that makes you feel her cool determination, but keeps you at a mysterious distance. She had a powerful, “don’t f#@k with me” presence onscreen, while still allowing you a glimpse inside her vulnerability. Perfectly cast, she can now be elevated into scream queen royalty… No one could have captured Mary better.

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Tristan Risk was spot on as Beatrice, a weird, over processed Betty Boop character who’s delightfully freakish performance was flawless. I know the real Miss Risk up close, and you would never in a million years know it was her behind those round black cartoon eyes. She was completely absorbed in every way, disappearing into this sympathetic character… Her high pitched voice, and 1920’s Brooklyn accent were astonishing.

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Billy Barker, played to perfection by Antonio Cupo, is the man behind the The Filth, the basement bar where Beatrice dances and the heartbeat of the diabolical surgery. He hints at a Mark Ruffalo’s demented alter ego, believable and dirty yet strangely likable in a perverse way, like most of the characters.

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 I haven’t seen anything as compellingly grotesque since Dead Ringer and as original as Naked Lunch. Shot in a highly artistic and stylized way that elevates the quality of the film and belies its limited budget indie status, it still has an indie horror flick feel, and welcomes you onto a voyeuristic trip into to the fascinating world of body modification and beyond.

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For those practicing body mod in the film, and clients of Mary (who had gained star status as the “go to” body mod doctor) it was unsensationalistic, really – it was what it was – an accepted practice in the film, almost as though the body modification was itself a character.

The special effects were grizzly and spectacular! Everything about the gruesome spectacles were believable, and they took it as far as they wanted it to go. Chunks of bloody vaginal bits falling to the floor, horn implants and split tongues, and corset laced backs were de rigueur for this film. The special f/x makeup was beyond brilliant and the body prosthetics and sculptures were masterpieces worthy of their place in gore history.

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American Mary is a must see for the warped minded, and a horror film that will make the flesh crawl right off your back…

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After the screening, I chatted with two wonderful local actors, Clay St. Thomas and Nelson Wong, who played Dr. Walsh and Dr. Black, and the amazingly supportive and cool parents of Jen and Sylvia Soska, who also happen to be the producers of American Mary and fantastic actors in the film. The rest of the cast was in Los Angeles for their lavish premier at Mann’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood!

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Clay St. Thomas and Nelson Wong

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Agnes and Marius Soska

Special thanks to Corrine Lea at The Rio Theatre for a fantastic premier, and her tireless efforts to celebrate and support the Vancouver Arts and Film Community!

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The Vancouver International Burlesque Festival 2013

Written by Jacqueline Ryan

Attending The Vancouver International Burlesque Festival was like stepping under The Big Top for the deliciously naughty… right down to the cheeky monkey and the organ grinder! Candy little girl? Yes please! Sweet treats came in all flavors, shapes and sizes as the most talented gems from around the globe came together and shimmied their way into our hearts! From the poignantly moving to the my-face-hurts-because-I’m-smiling-so-hard absurdities, nothing could be more entertaining than these provocative gents in their scandalous skivvies, and alluring ladies prolonging that hotly anticipated snap of a stocking from their pointed toes. Vampy, trampy, classy, sassy and elegantly engaging, every performer was a jewel in the crown of the Little Vancouver Burlesque Festival that could. The saucy event is all grown up now, and showcased a bevy of sumptuous creatures – each bestowing upon us all they’ve got – and that’s a lot! Every costume was a confection as unique and extravagantly detailed as the one before, while the  lavish lineup came pouring out like hankies from a magician’s pocket.

Curvaceous cutie Crystal Precious, mega talented dream girl and queen of her signature “Striphop,” (whose recent video “Apple Pie” showcases her creative brilliance) radiantly emceed the first two thirds of the evening. In a red and nude trademark Misty Greer underboob cutout gown, she got on with the show by quipping, “Good evening Sasspots, I hope you’re making your way to your seat ‘cause you’re going to be sitting on the edge of it! Mmmmmmkay?”

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And darlings, she was oh, so right! She instructed us to “Pay attention!” Yes ma’am! We obeyed our Mistress of Ceremonies, slipped into our seats, sipped our cocktails and settled in for a thrill ride. It went a little something like this…

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Villainy Loveless lit the night on fire. Her sizzling act opened the show in a red-hot dress with a flame job licking up her bountiful bosom, and burning up the stage with sweet jazz. Loveless swiveled her hips to “I’m a Hot Mama,” and heated things up with fiery flowing silk fans, dancing and flickering straight up in the air… Villainy knew exactly how to fan the flames to our deepest desires.

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Ruth Ordare provided a touching performance as a pretty broken doll in a blue dress who was carried onstage by a man we believed loved her, only to drop her with a thud and leave her alone in a crumpled puddle… we were very sad for her. She pulled our spirits back up as she danced around in her striped knee socks and red ruffled bottom panties… but alas, she could not hide her true feelings as she revealed a giant sparkling red heart pastie over her left breast, and peeled away half of her broken heart.

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Calgary’s Miyuki Divine offered up a Japanese Western feeling. Her skill at unlacing and popping open her red silk corset was rivaled only by her expertise at fan flipping, spinning, and her ass shaking shimmy – coaxing the long red fringe to dance across her lovely tush. The subtle raise of her eyebrow enchanted the adoring crowd. Such a tease!

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April O’Peel and Whatshername were a scream! Comedy is alive and well in burlesque, and this is by far the funniest act I have seen so far! Suited up in a furry monkey bikini and a moustached man in a bowler hat, these two had the audience squealing in delight! Hilarity ensued when they pulled accordians out of their boobs, booties, and *ahem* there too! They played those squeeze boxes ferverently while the crowd went wild! Cheeky, cheeky, monkey!

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Sexy Olatsa Assin from Seattle carried a dramatic element to her performance, seducing us with her cloud-like white tulle boa, her body reverberating in a dubstep dance, culminating with a long shake of her superlative bottom swishing fringe like a silky car wash. That was the first time of many that the fawning man sitting directly behind me cooed in his deep, breathy voice… “Yeeeah, Baby!”

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Next up, the Vogue stage was chock-full of Dirty Vanities: an entire tribe of hot, nearly naked, cannabalistic female savages preparing boylesque favorite Tranny Zuko for dinner. Wicked choreography had these voracious headhunters dancing thriller-style in perfect sync,  parading Zuko over their wildly coiffed heads to his ultimate demise. He survived, of course, but if you have to be eaten, these are the ferocious babes you want nibbling on your flesh!

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The darling, gum-booted Cheesecake Burlesque Revue from the oft times drizzly Victoria, cast off their sparkly raincoats and twirled their hot pink umbrellas while we cheered for them to reveal their sunflower laden bikinis and bring the sunshine into the night!

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Seattle’s Glitter Goddess Persephone Illyri in figure hugging baby blue satin, had a southern style decadence that was smokier than a Memphis blues bar and as smooth as fine scotch. She is a master of the strip tease. In true vaudevillian fashion, she unlaced her corset to free her ravishing body, embraced her long white boa, and twirled and tossed her glove with style… She exuded true femininity and elegance.

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Move over Fembots! The Hot Pants bopped onto the stage with a punch of sixties sass and shiny white Go Go Boots – energetically shaking their pastel fringes, paying homage to the Go Go’s “We Got The Beat!” These sexpots put on a show that Austin Powers could only have described as “Groovy Baby!” Oh behave!

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Nicky Ninedoors and John Ninedoors eased the crowd into a sultry French salon. He on his stand up bass, plucking deep, vibrating notes… and she a sultry songbird, flawlessly belting out the aria ‘Habanera’ from Carmen, captivating us with her pretty voice and stripping down from her scintillating gown to her vixen stockings and glittering red, t-strap mary janes.  Bending all the way over to share her perfect derriere with the audience, she reached up through the centre of her luscious legs to slip off her panties in the most provocative fashion imaginable! Ooh la la Madame Ninedoors!

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Wrong Note Rusty made working with a box full of paperwork so erotic it should have been criminal. As he loosened his tie and dropped his suspenders, we had to catch our breaths! He went on to reveal a toned chest a secretary would surely want to run her slowly pencil down! He rolled up his sleeves, tossed his shoes across the stage and peeled his socks off as well as any seasoned diva. Rusty proceeded to briskly shake his bottom line… It was a hot, hot night at the office!

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“The Original Triple Mocha Latte” laid it out up front: “My Momma told me never to give it away!” Stacked in all the right places, wild child Foxy Tann took the stage in a teeny-weeny, skin-tight minidress and a sky-high afro. With a cocktail perpetually in one hand , a wickedly huge smile and a palm sized blinged-out “mary-jane” medallion necklace, she made no secret of her fondness of BC green. She was profane, unapologetic and funny as hell! With the commanding presence of a dirty evangelist, she preached to the choir and the whole damn congregation with her performance of “You ain’t getting not a goddam thing around here for free!” and Hallelujah, we ate it up! Miss Tann co-hosted the event both evenings and gave us big, beautiful, booty shaking show that fortunately for us, can never be unseen!

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Burlesque Star Shannon Doah’s version of “Pussy Cat, Pussy Cat” whipped up her worshippers! She prowled like a sexy feline, seductively licking her long leg with the tip of her tongue. With a career that spans 40 years, her body is still as stellar as it must have been when she starred in the original Crazy Horse Saloon once upon a time. Her chaise lounge, fan and boa “Never on a Sunday” routine, was both stirred and shaken. She wrapped up her performance with an awe inspiring tassel twirl!

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When you talk about original, you must be referring to outlandish Gorelesque virtuoso, Bloody Betty. A deranged girl with oversize stitches tattooed around the circumference of her right breast, she is dedicated to her twisted craft. She treated us to a frantic drug induced frenzy, freaking out in a paranoid mania to Oingo Boingo’s “Controller.” Betty slashed open her plastic bag of white powder and shook it into the toilet; panicking at what she had done, she snorted it back up! The psychosis escalated until she finally injected herself in the arm and collapsed dead to the ground! That’s just Bloody Betty on another berserk and demented jag! She’s got bats in the belfry, Baby!

“There’s someone knockin’ on my door I think they’re looking for me, I think they’re looking for me. Pretend there ain’t nobody home… Don’t make a sound, don’t even move… Don’t give them nothing to see… I think they’re looking for me. I got to run, I got to run, I got to run…”  –  Oingo Boingo

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The room transformed into a soft, lunar lit evening when incandescent Lydia DeCarlo draped herself around her sparkling crescent moon… biting off her gloves with perfect white teeth, a come hither snarl, and a beckoning wink to “My Momma Done Told Me…” her sultry, deep red lips shimmering as brightly as the stars. Stretched out on her long boa tipped with foxtails and glittering silver balls, DeCarlo was as steamy as a hot August New Orleans night.

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Burlesque photographer extraordinaire Voodoo Bill, commented before the show that he was going to switch his camera to the fast lens “Cherry On Top” setting… because she never stops moving! Clearly adored by her disciples, the audience screamed and applauded at a fever pitch when she hit the stage sporting a Fifth Element-esque astronaut costume and helmet, hip-hopping her white space suit off with unmatched intensity! Cherry was out of this world!

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That was a tough act to follow, but Minnesota’s Red Bone played it white collar cool in her silky suit and fedora, blowing on her bluesy harmonica and slipping off her tie like she meant serious business. Hostile takeover anyone?

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The reigning King of Burlesque Russell Bruner, looked every bit like a silent film scoundrel when he rolled out in his pinstriped zoot suit, top hat and Snidely Whiplash moustache. His melodramatic, black rimmed eyes and villianous expressions charmed me enough to want him to tie me to the train tracks! He flipped his topper and swayed with his coat rack, but when he jumped offstage and had the ladies on the floor use his suspenders to slingshot him out of his trousers, we were out of control! With a skillful tuck of his nether regions, he gave us a little dance, an eyeful of wishful thinking, and just like “that” he hung his stovepipe on his “you know what!”  Yes he did! The dastardly rascal was born for the stage!

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Saturday

The wonderfully witty and much adored Purrrfessor, co-producer and emcee of Vancouver’s beloved Kitty Nights, opened the show on Saturday Night with his mysteriously fetching accent and acoustic guitar. He welcomed the Board of Directors to the stage who along with himself, put the entire extravagant Burlesque Festival together. The Purrrfessor is a master host with the perfect knack for finessing the live stage, throwing us jokes like, “Do you know what a stripper does with her bum before she goes to work? She drops him off at band practice!” Badumching!

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Everything was coming up roses when Melody Mangler glided her way to centre stage, adorned in a bell jar shaped skirt enveloped in lavish red posies, with a blossoming bosom to match. As decadently lovely as it was, she soon slipped out of her flower bell and into our fantasies with her smoldering gaze, green sequins and chartreuse chiffon – twirling round and round while seductively unlacing her sparkling corset. With a ba boom, ba boom, Mangler and the giant snake tattoo wrapped around her left thigh, draped themselves onto a chair and into a spectacular upside down backbend. With a passionate tassel twirl, and a glimpse of her red paillet panties, the flaming haired vixen bid us sweet adieu.

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Enter Tarantino from Nelson, BC… His 6th burlesque performance ever began with a top hat and tails, and a purple silk hanky that with a little *abracadabra* turned into a magician’s cane. But as he reached into his hat… what? No white rabbit?  Hmmm… “Where could it have gone?” He excited our inner Brat Pack when he soft-shoed to Sinatra – pulling his shirt ruffles, up, up and up some more until… a long feather boa emerged teasingly from his trousers! Whoa! C’est magique! He hocus pocused us all the way down to his… Wait! What is that fluffy bulge? Oh! Hello, Mister Bunny!

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As the purrrfessor put it, even World War II can  be sexy – if it’s the Kabuki Guns Burlesque, that is. This wartime group of gals in their blue jumpsuits took us to a bygone era with an Andrews Sisters jitterbug-style performance, captivating with their hip-to-hip partner dancing and tight formation changes… finally blasting us with a confetti cannon! Any soldier would go AWOL for these dolls!

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Gorgeous Aussie redhead Strawberry Siren ran away and joined the Fruit Fly Circus – the world’s only child circus – at the tender age of eleven. After twenty years with that company, she was a sight to behold on our very own Vancouver stage… sashaying to a jazz trumpet in a lavishly ruffled emerald green gown, capelet and floral fascinator. But she seemed so very, very hot… poor thing… What to do? Slipping out of her skirt, unlacing her corset with a wink an a smile while a flurry of petals poured out of it, she tantalizingly peeled away the sumptuous layers – revealing an extravagantly flowered vine, wrapping itself around her  body like an adornment from the Garden of Eden. If anyone would want to sin with a forbidden fruit, it would be with The Strawberry Siren.

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Adorable Connie Cahoots was the cutest thing I have ever seen! In true Charlie Chaplin style, she captured perfectly the essence of his loveable spirit and innocent charm. That little Lady who was ‘The Tramp’ tried her very best to solve the puzzle of what those sticky things with long tassels were all about! With perfect comedic timing, she tried everything she could think of, including sticking them to her eyes to see if that would work… Nope… until at long last, she lit up like a Christmas tree when she realized they could adhere to her bosoms and twirl, twirl, twirl! A brilliant performance by Cahoots led to uproarious applause and she thanked us by dropping her drawers!

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The mirror image duo of Villainy Loveless and Ruth Ordare brought chills and misty eyes as we were drawn inside the love/hate relationship that is inner turmoil and self-love. In their glittering white gowns, these two blonde bombshells passionately explored the deepest regions of their one collective psyche. She fought herself aggressively and angrily, hating her reflection, but then… empathy, compassion and sensuality poured freely as both sides flowed together like gossamer butterflies. Gently wrapping herself up in silky bandages, then finding freedom from her own restraints and gazing deeply inside her own eyes… she surrendered to herself with a soft kiss… Breathtakingly beautiful.

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Raven Virginia, a delicate ballerina in a fluffy tutu, twirled and fluttered on her pink pointed toes to ‘The Dance of The Sugarplum Fairies,’ but when she tasted some hard driving hip hop she was overcome by surprise! It took over her like a wild possession and she become unleashed: grinding, spanking her bottom, throwing herself into the splits! She mercilessly chucked her toe shoes, pulled out her bun, and  licked her ravenous lips! Virginia leapt off the stage and gave the bump and grind to unsuspecting spectators at the VIP tables… Careful what you wish for when you get that close to a feral little ballerina!

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White smoke crawled across the stage floor as purpled haired Voracious V – adorned in blue crystal eyebrows, voluminous lips and her one silver thigh high boot, tantalized us in a jazzy haze while she straddled her silver chair. Her Elizabethan collared costume was fantastical! As if by magic, her paniers transformed into flowing purple fans which then morphed into a diaphanous cape. Her jewel encrusted bondage-style body suit and g-string sparkled as it captured the spotlight. She strutted offstage… veiled behind the sheer, flowing silk.

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Victoria BC’s “Boxers are Brief Boylesque” offered up magnificent marvels Johnny Bottomsworth and Clam Chowda – a rollicking, comedic Strongman duo. Their high energy acrobatics amazed and amused with a playful rivalry of pushups, wheelbarrows and a glittering gold bar bell schtick. Part circus act and part athletic wonders, Johnny and Clam provided delightfully powerful entertainment! Worthy of their own side show caravan, these two carnies could wrestle lions and tigers and bears! Oh my!

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Beguiling beauty August Wiled performed a sophisticated number called “Addicted.” She wore a french chignon with a veiled fascinator and a black lace bodysuit that she peeled off inch by inch, slowly unzipping the back of her long, swanky legs. Her routine in smoky blue light left us hooked as she elegantly draped herself over her chair. Addicting indeed…

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Belly dancers and multi-dimensional entertainers Luciterra and Chris Murdoch, were a highly stylized group demonstrating flawless choreography! In their black and silver pirate pants, they wowed us – performing to a deep bass rave sound  with mad skills in juggling and acrobatics… one double jointed member blew our minds by locking her arms behind her back and pulling them over her head to the front of her body! It was a wonderful show by this troupe who I earnestly recommend you see any chance you get!

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When the girls from The Cheesecake Burlesque Review traveled to do a show in Nelson, they asked BC’s own Burlesque legend Judith Stein if she would like to perform with them. Having not graced the stage for twenty five years, she agreed to fluff her feathers and slip into her fishnets. ‘Silk E Gunz’ told me, “Three years ago she rocked the Burlesque Festival where people were pounding on their seats and on the stage – loving her – and she’s been traveling, enjoying it, and doing workshops ever since.”

Stein entered the stage as she did in the 1970’s – with confidence and command. She skillfully played with the boys in the front row, effortlessly working her massive turkey feather boa and showing her devotees – all the way down to her twirling pasties – how it’s done. She still looked amazing and inspired us all to leap out of our seats into a roaring Standing O.

Judith chatted with me after the show: “What burlesque was to me, back in my day, was that I got to travel! I got to make a lot of money, I got to have sequins and fans and feathers, but most of all I got to travel… and they paid me for it! I’ll take it from The Rolling Stones: “I know, it’s only rock and roll but I liiiiike it!’” She tossed her head back and let out a long, deep, throaty laugh.

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Burgundy Brixx just makes me happy! When she takes to the stage, the fiery redhead radiates absolute joy, and her creativity and sense of humor know no bounds! A vivacious vixen from New York CIty, Brixx keeps her talents here in Vancouver, and for those of us who just can’t get enough she shares her passion by co-producing and hosting Kitty Nights West! At the Burlesque Festival, she shone as brightly as the sun with her grand, circular headdress and a startling gold costume featuring a yellow and white peacock tail… but with a flick of her artful wrist, she finessed it into a set of fluffy fans that she flaunted with panache! She took us jubilantly down to her bare necessities where a smiling happy face on her… *meow* brought lively cheers from the crowd! Exuding light and inspiring all with her prowess and command of the stage, Burgundy Brixx makes the world a happier place! 

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Razzle Dazzle Tease, a black X-nippled, braided hair trio, guided us into the taboo world of bondage: pulling, wrapping and twisting each other in perfect sync using nothing more than their wicked talent and a few strips of spandex. Their hypnotizing dance echoed the act of mutual mastery and erotic asphyxiation. Gasp!

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Stunning Lady Josephine entered the stage in her black Steampunk costume, opening her performance with eerie music setting a Hitchcockian mood. Building to a full blown symphony, the graceful time traveler revealed the sweetest little butterfly flitting gently on her finger. Enchanted, she marveled at the delicate creature, put it to her parting black lips as if to kiss its soft wings, and devoured it… chewing and swallowing it whole! We reveled in her carnivorous appetite and watched in wonder as she used her mechanical moves to slip out of her gear grinding getup into a risque little number that made us forget all about her mastication of the pretty little bug.

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VaVa Vunderbust, you wild tiger, you! When Foxy Tann promised we would see something we’ve never seen before, it was fun to imagine. What with this crowd could possibly prove that to be true? We delighted in anticipation when Vunderbust hit centre stage in her orange and black fun fur tiger dress that reminded me of my favorite ice cream, then shimmying in long black fringe to the beat of Miami Sound Machine’s “Do The Conga.”  There was a conga drum downstage… waiting… The beats got stronger and with jungle fever she stripped down to her  green tassled boobs of plenty, took them in her hands and banged on that drum! Grrr, tiger, grrr! Her percussive talents made the natives restless and completely thrilled by her… instruments!

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Lola Frost strutted onto the stage with a blue kimono, a champagne bottle, a long stemmed glass… and scorching bedroom eyes. She melted us right from the start, and it was the sort of party we all wanted to be at with this powerhouse of a burlesque diva. She was sultry and moody – her facial expressions the epitome of pleasure and pain. I bit my lip as she slid into long, slow splits and proceeded to pull off her stocking… slowly… slowly… snapping it off… spilling sparkles all over the stage! But oh no, that was not enough glamour for Miss Frost! Taking her bliss to the next level, she poured out the entire contents of her champagne bottle loaded with gold glitter, and splashed it all over her shimmering body. She shook the theatre to its core! Whatever Lola wants, Lola gets!

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Decorated in a voluminous tulle skirt that hugged her tiny, jewel encrusted waist, red haired siren Catherine D’Lish resembled an hourglass dipped in fluffy whipped cream. Oozing sex appeal, she held the room and her giant feather fans in the palm of her hand and we were glued to every nuance of her scintillating show. D’lish was Old Hollywood Glamour personified with an extra dose of Va Va Voom! Pure ambrosia!

What Russell Bruner didn’t see coming was her summoning him back to the stage where she instructed him to unlace her corset, and proceeded to straddle him on the chaise lounge – obliging him to watch closely as she unhooked her opulent underpinnings and liberated her magnificent mammaries! Bruner had a sly look on his face – like a cat with a feather sticking out of its mouth – and together they brought the evening to an exalted crescendo! D’Lish sealed it with a kiss… and the seduction was complete!

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It was a lavish weekend to be remembered and cherished. From one end of the artful spectrum to the other, the sheer level of dazzle on the historical Vogue stage was flabbergasting! With charismatic highs, laughs galore and smoking stripteases, the festival brought together magnificent burlesque stars, and the aficionados who love them! Scandalous and cheeky, fun and frothy, sexy and sublime, the spectacle was the cat’s pajamas and the most fun you can have with your clothes on!  Hats off to all of the amazing performers who took theirs off, providing us with a rip roaring good time! I will savor every bite of deliciousness  that was The Vancouver International Burlesque Festival 2013, and bide my sweet time for next year’s frolic!

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My very personal and special thanks to the amazing photographers who contributed their beautiful works of art to this article:

Voodoo Bill

https://www.facebook.com/pages/Voodoo-Bill-Kustom-Kulture-Photography/188273311193476?fref=ts

http://Voodoobill.com/

Jess Desaugniers – Lea

http://jessdesaulnierslea.artworkfolio.com/

Cameron Brown

http://www.cameronbrown.ca/

Reckless Photography

https://www.facebook.com/reckless.photo

http://www.recklessphotography.ca/

Photolenn Photography

Tiffany Ireland Photography

http://tiffanyirelandphotography.weebly.com/

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“Unique Soles for Unique Souls” – Fluevog Shoes

Vancouver Shoe God, John Fluevog, hosted a soleful soiree at his grand store in Gastown Wednesday night. My signature, flared-out heels clicked hurridly down the wet cobblestones of Water Street to get me to the party on time!

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John Fluevog

Clusters of red helium balloons stood sentry duty, and as I stepped inside this wonderland of a shoe store, my eyes lit up like sparklers as I could see (across the towering room) the man himself, dressed in a mauve sports jacket and chartreuse sweater, plaid bow tie and exuding his warm, charming smile. Surrounded by well-wishers, John greeted his fans and friends, all putting their best foot forward and celebrating with him on Fluevog Day, also Fluevog’s very own 65th Birthday!

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Eldest Son Jonathan Fluevog with TJ Note

Devotees stood stylishly well-heeled, every one of us parading around in our finest funky footwear representing every collection and era, some enthusiastically sharing that they scooped their vintage, impossible-to-find Fluevogs on ebay, others flaunting delicacies from his most recent offerings. One thing was for sure, the common denominator was our collective love for his unique shoes and adoration for the man who’s latest magazine ad slogan states to non-wearers, “No, You’re Weird!” One of the little gifties I received in my swag bag was a set of robins’ egg blue shoelaces with an accompanying sticker that reads, “Embrace Peculiarity.” You’ve gotta love this man!

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The highlight of my evening was having the opportunity to share my favorite shoe story with John Fluevog. Blushing a little, and slightly nervous (c’mon, this man designed my shoes for Heaven’s sake!) I spilled it out. On a whirlwind trip to New York Fashion week a few years ago, I picked up my black, pointy-toed “Coffee” collection cuties in his Soho shop, proceeded to a posh lunch at The Plaza Hotel, and took a leisurly horse and carriage ride around Central Park. Inspired by the quote inscribed on the bottom of my strappy slingbacks, “Take the time and do it right,” I was determined to check off a big “must” on my things-to-do-before-I-die list… So, I jumped into a taxi and drove through Wall Street and Chinatown until we arrived at my destination. The driver stopped the car and there it stood before me… I pulled in a deep breath, stepped out of my cab, and took a long, sunny stroll across the Brooklyn Bridge – Statue of Liberty to my right, The Empire State Building to my left –  and dammit, my tootsies looked fantastic doing it! Once I was in Brooklyn, I jumped on the Subway back to Manhattan, mailed a postcard to my daughter at the Main Post Office across from Madison Square Garden, hoofed it to Times Square, and back to The Flatiron Hotel where I slipped into the lounge and toasted the day with a perfect Cosmopolitan. It was a dream come true, and I did it in my brand spanking new Fluevogs! And not one blister, only the teeniest scuff on one of my pebble leather toes serving as a keepsake of my Big Apple adventure! John was gracious and seemed to delight in my wistful anecdote.

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Horse and Carriage Ride through Central Park 

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Walking across The Brooklyn Bridge

The night went on with beverages flowing and sole mates socializing, until it was time to put a lid on the shoebox. What a lovely way to spend an evening, mingling with footwear royalty and those who love his shoes. Superfan Cat Leigh was proudly laced up in her Frontier Hi Hudson boots – one of her seventeen pairs of Fluevogs. On why she has amassed such an impressive and obsessive collection, she says, “I love Fluevogs because the styles are just that little bit (or a lot) different. They don’t appeal to everyone and that appeals to me.”  While Jaik, a long-time employee at Fluevog and loving every minute of it, sincerely shared that Fluevog is an ultra supportive and encouraging employer – even more reasons to love the man behind the leather and laces.

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A couple in their matching Fluevogs

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Jaik and friend

As for me, I have my heart set on the emerald green Elizabeths with the sexy wooden heel resembling a decadently scrolled chair leg. A perfect size 7, please. The price tag is not for the faint of heart, but make no mistake, these are works of art and worth every penny. You will be mine my little lovelies… I believe in The Shoe Fairy… and I believe in Fluevogs!

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For more of John Fluevog’s amazing story, click on the above photo, and read the history that has made Fluevog into what it is today.

http://www.fluevog.com/

https://www.facebook.com/fluevog?fref=ts

Photographs by Jacqueline Ryan