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that blustery morning, my smarmy boss, a married movie producer who treated me like garbage, informed me that I had been replaced by a younger, blonder version of myself – one who hadn’t shunned his sexual advances as I had for the past year.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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HELLOMOONROCK OOAK Fashion Show, The Pros and Cons Event @ The Fall Tattooing and Artists Gallery

THE FALL TATTOOING AND ARTISTS GALLERY

Walking into Josh Melvin’s The Fall Tattooing and Artists Gallery at 644 Seymour Street, you never know quite what to expect, but you know you will have a good time and meet some very cool people. Last Friday night was no exception. The evening was a blend of fashion, art, music and live tattooing. It was all for a good cause as designers and artists of many disciplines came out for the Pros and Cons Event (in association with Milk Productions) with proceeds going to The Save On Meat Token Program, supporting the downtown east side community.

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Mike Nassar

http://www.thefalltattooing.com/

https://www.facebook.com/pages/MILK-Productions/135618303271945

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Hand Painted Converse Shoes for Auction

From the sidewalk I was greeted by a window display of tattoo artists expertly decorating their live canvases while we watched the ink to skin process meticulously evolve. Inside was a mixed crowd of the hip and friendly, an eclectic crowd I couldn’t wait to slip into.

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HELLOMOONROCK OOAK

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HELLOMOONROCK Designer Jamie Leah Gill (third from left)

The main event was a fashion show by featured designer Jamie Leah Gill, creative director of the NEWMOONROCK denim line. Her fashion show featured leggy models in specially refurbished cut off jean shorts and tops, studded, dyed and distressed for a unique look. She told me her inspiration for her show that night was wanting to express how a good piece of denim can escape time, to represent the life cycles.

HELLOMOONROCK:  “It always seems to be in style, like, no one can escape the cutoff short, and there’s always a demand for it.”

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First up was a fifties look: high waisted, using classic washes and paisley and leopard patterns to accentuate the pockets. Red lips and victory curls set the tone for this sweet set. The second look was more of a late sixties/seventies inspired hippie, gypsy feel, incorporating a variety of colours and tie-dyes. Long flowing flower child hair and crocheted sweaters completed the bohemian feel. The last look was futuristic with gem tones, punctuated with blue lips on the models, metallics, and featuring hardware with colours like evergreen which is Jamie’s favorite color right now.

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After the show it was time for a quick interview, and Gill, having models in various stages of intoxication, had no time to waste in getting all of her stuff back together, so we got right to the point.

Gill started out making jewelry and selling vintage clothes on her website HELLOMOONROCK.com. It was when she began reworking these one of a kind pieces, particularly her cut off shorts, that she started selling so many of them. (”Someone picks a pair up and their friends are like, ‘Hey those are really sweet, where did you get them?'”). With the demand soaring, she decided she wanted to have something to offer on a larger scale. Seeing that increasing desire for distressed and studded denim and not liking the quality of the things she was seeing existing in the market, she focused on creating her pieces using designer denims which are high quality, thick, and she continues the process by adding studs and hardware and doing all of the hand-dying herself. “It’s all me, all the distressing and stuff.”

Jacqueline:  “How did you get started in fashion?”

HELLOMOONROCK:  “I’m going to fashion school now for fashion marketing, but I’ve always been creative with making my own clothes. More people were asking to buy my own clothes, so I kind of got into it that way. It all started out with vintage clothes, like thrift store mania… too much for anyone to really own, so I started to sell the vintage stuff. But then I was like, changing it and stuff, so basically it happened out of a really good response to the reworked pieces. It’s something that happened out of a passion.”

When asked about trends she said, “I’ve always really loved fashion, but not necessarily what’s in style “right now.”  I do appreciate trends but I see them as more of a medium, some people hate trend and some people glom onto it, but I just see it as a canvas. So not every trend is for you, it’s just a vehicle to express yourself. I’ve never associated clothing with identity, it’s an expression, but it’s not like “I am a better person because I have this trendy shirt.”

Jacqueline:  Do you see yourself as an alternative designer?

HELLOMOONROCK: I’m kind of on the border, I never really see myself as “I’m alternative,” but I never see myself as “I’m mainstream.” I just embrace what’s right for me, so…”

Jacqueline:  “Where do visualize yourself going from here?”

HELLOMOONROCK: “I have a couple of things coming up…”

Gill is showing in a pop up shop this week at The Chinatown Experiment, a small space for entrepreneurs.

“It’s low cost, but it’s the social initiative that they take… they don’t make money off of it. Also, I’m expanding my website to offer a broader spectrum.”

She would like to see her pieces in select stores – they’ll be for sale at The Fall building and other small boutiques. She includes in her line: jackets, vests and some pants which are all essentially reworked premium denim, sometimes applying leather elements to pieces like her super studded jackets.

Jacqueline:  What about that name? HELLOMOONROCK OOAK.

HELLOMOONROCK:  I was selling vintage stuff and I was selling reworked stuff, so I wanted to distinguish between the new pieces and the reworked stuff, the idea is that is unique, you can’t get another one so that’s just what it means, it’s one of a kind.

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Gracie Perkins and Samantha Wood of Sugar Skull Salon and Studio

SUGAR SKULL SALON AND STUDIO

Statuesque Gracie Perkins of Sugar Skull Studio, a little third floor boutique salon in Gastown, created the pretty array of hairstyles for the fashion show that evening, and I caught up with Gracie and her vivacious business partner, Registered Massage Therapist Samantha Wood, behind the scenes. They are radiant passionate, young businesswomen who love supporting the local arts community and host events of their own in their newly renovated space. Next up for them is a show featuring burlesque dancers, hair models, exclusive makeup lines from the states doing a pop up shop, as well as their rotating display of local artists’ work. “We’re all about the local love…” smiles Samantha.

Sugar Skull Salon and Massage Studio

68 Water Street #300, Vancouver

(604) 569-0111

https://twitter.com/sugarskullsalon

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TATTOOING

I chatted for while with a very interesting couple: he, tattooed, pierced, is a piercer by trade, and she, Jocelyn, with her shiny green locks, brought to me some enlightenment as to what it is they like about their tattooing experience…

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Jocelyn with Jay Fritzsche

Jocelyn: “You feel like you’re doing something for yourself. You feel like you are doing something almost lightened, I get picked up from it. You just sit there and think. You try not to think about the pain, you think about everything else and the pain is not necessarily the first thing in your head. Any time I get stressed out, the first thing I want to do is go and get a new tattoo. For me it’s just that time to chill and relax and just be one at that time and I go home feeling so much more relaxed.”

Jay:  “My goal is to Zen out and relax. You’ll get tattooed, it’s a different feeling, it’s like getting into a fight without getting into a fight. You sit for four hours under a needle, you get all the adrenaline and endorphines and after you get it you go home and you have the greatest sleep, it’s like you’ve just battled something…  It’s something different. I’m working on a hundred hour tattoo myself. I’ve had 70 plus hours in the past six months.”

Jacqueline:  “What is it about tattoos that you like? Why do you do it? Same as the piercings. Why do you do that to yourself and to other people?”

Jay: “It’s just the way I wanted to look, from a young kid I saw people with tattooes, I saw the Lizard Man when I was a kid, I saw the split tongue and I thought it was the greatest thing… An opportunity to express yourself the way that you wanted to express yourself.  It’s a way to change your appearance, a way to separate yourself sometimes, also you find people like you in an interesting way. I have fun, I can fit a pen through my nose, I don’t really have to share seats on transit. I have little laughs to myself because on a crowded train or a bus, I’ll have a seat or two next to me, all just because of the way that I look, and to me that’s hilarious.”

Jocelyn: “When you look either like him or like me, it’s either somebody’s not going to talk to you and their going to act a little weird towards you, or you’re going to be able to talk to anybody of any different type asking you different questions, you learn more about people and when you learn more about people you learn more about yourself. They are the kindest, hardest working people in this industry.”

Jay:  “There is no job like this job, and this industry. There’s really nothing like it. I always come back to this.”

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Alison Woodward
In that case, there were many relaxed patrons that night, as several were being inked during the night’s festivities. Alison Woodward was working upstairs on the calf of a very laid back customer, while downstairs in the front window, others, including resident tattoo artists Mike Massar and Emilio Hidalgo, originally from Peru, put needle to canvas on his client’s entire backside.
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Emilio Hidalgo
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Thanks to everyone at The Fall Tattooing Gallery and Artists Gallery for hosting such a culturally diverse and interesting evening, and for asking GrindDown Magazine to come and be a part of art for the greater good! It was a great time!
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