Aren't many performers I consider geniuses in Vancouver right now, but high up there is Betty Bathory, whose (main?) band Daddy Issues performed in New Westminster last night at Bully's (a small, cool, colourful venue down near where 6th St. joins with Columbia). It was part of a Hallowe'en "gore-lesque" event, also featuring the band Witchy Sister, so my wife and I went out in costume - her as Frida Kahlo and me in a Betsy Johnson dress she got for $13 at Torrid, done up in drag.
We didn't stay to the end of the night, with Erika and I ducking out around the PJ Harvey song (I think it was) that Betty performs in regard to MMIW (previously discussed here
). Sadly, my camera battery had died long before that, so I also missed getting pics of Betty's burning trick bible (wait, is a "trick bible" a sex worker thing? What should I call it - her burning bible prop?). I missed Betty being annoyed at us, as an audience, for missing out on singing the "Hail Satan!" chorus in the song about smoking meth. (I am hoping that was no more meth in the pipe she demo'd the act with than the poop she smeared on me at the GG Allin show was real poop. Actually, it smelled kind of similar to that poop - vaguely floral and patchouli-ish. But do I recall that smoked cocaine smells like burning roses? Hm). I also missed her flinging her devil tail around (a whip mounted on a dildo? What exactly was I seeing?), then tucking it into her crucifix-adorned panties (where does one buy those?) and admonishing the crowd that any injuries they sustained from the tip of the thing were their own fault.
But we got to see a wicked mini-Devo set - Daddy Issues' cover of "Uncontrollable Urge" is a classic - and a killer "Be My Baby," which kind of echoed off a burlesque performance earlier in the night, by Angora Phobia, involving a baby doll. Angora (initially be-snouted and cute) cuddled the doll, then, stripping and screaming, violently beheaded it (and rubbed it on her cunt a bit: nice!). It one of the various "bestiality-themed" moments in the evening that Betty quipped about in her capacity as emcee....
If I ever interview Betty again, I've gotta dig into some of her originals - there was a song about being "touched inappropriately when you're underaged" that I can't imagine was written by anyone but Betty...
I think that the other burlesque performer I snapped a pic of was called Candy Cadillac, above. Between the sets of Witchy Sister and Daddy Issues, we went out to the car to adjust my makeup, and somewhere in there took a few shots of Erika's Frida costume, against the cool, shroomy murals on the Bully's back wall. There was also an interesting trip to the washroom where I had to tuck my dress under my armpit in order to pull my leggings down to pee. Female clothing is built for display, not comfort or convenience, it seems. And I got to hold court about my tongue cancer operation with a few interested punks while waiting for Erika to emerge from the washroom, after me...
Witchy Sister had a bit of an 80's metal meets Johnny Thunders vibe. The band I mostly thought they sounded like was Australian rockers Rose Tattoo - their ample tats would make "Scarred For Life
" a fine addition to their set - but there were moments of Dolls, AC/DC, Guns'n Roses and definitely a bit of Van Halen in how the singer presented (he didn't do any cartwheels but had a bit of a Diamond Dave vibe). Enjoyed their set, but didn't make note of any songs - there was an agreeably sizeable amount of profanity in them, though, and the attitude and delivery was just right.
As for the costume prep, amazingly, Erika and I hadn't even committed to the idea until that very afternoon. But Erika had her Frida gear already ready, for the most part - it's a costume she had used before, and she'd just stumbled across her wig in the closet (she made it herself, note, adjusting ponytails into braids on a wig she bought, then glue-gunned plastic flowers on). My own issue was simply a lack of commitment to the concept; I'd suggested we do me up in drag earlier that week, because - believe it or not, never in my 54 years have I done it before; but how much was it going to cost for a wig? How much of my body would I have to shave? Could I borrow a brassiere? (It was the one Erika got married to me in, it turned out, which had an underwire like an eight-hour long, slo-mo punch to the solar plexus).
Truth is, I have always been a bit cowardly about experimenting with the codes of gender and sexuality, but when you have a cancer scare, you start thinking about stuff like bucket lists and things you've never done that you've always been curious about. When I was in hospital earlier this month, getting my recent neck abscess drained, and wondering if in fact there WAS new cancer in there - which is a perpetual possibility - I thought about death and things not experienced (and who was gonna get what of my stuff and what Erika should do with my ashes and things like that). My specialist had really put the fear into me when he said he thought the cancer had come back, and the abscess was exactly in the area of prime concern (though it now seems to be unrelated thing - we don't know, but it still scared the shit out of me). And while "dressing in drag" was not exactly an item on my bucket list, is was something that I at least considered - do I want to PUT this on my bucket list, along with seeing Greg Godovitz, the Meat Puppets, Camper van Beethoven and the Young Fresh Fellows, and maybe checking out a Japanese giant salamander?
So - this is my "I'm not gay" disclaimer, here - though it wasn't actually a bucket list item, it was an item on the list of things I might consider putting on my bucket list. Which in fact I never finished, so it wasn't even technically ruled out. But I could cross it off my POTENTIAL bucket list item, amuse Betty (who I don't think recognized me until I took my wig off to air out my sweaty head), and give my wife a fun outlet for her creativity, so... what the heck? To paraphrase Fight Club, how much can you know about yourself if you've never once crossed a gender boundary?
Happily, for either of our costumes, the only purchase required was a wig, which I got for $5 from Value Village about two hours before we arrived at Bully's. Everything else we had at home. It was way easier than I'd worried - once I made the commitment.
There were, in fact, various things worth contemplating that came about from my night of dress up. I feel a bit more sympathetic to those few gender-subverters I know whose Facebook posts are nothin' but a cavalcade of sexy selfies, for one. I would generally deem that sort of behaviour "suspiciously narcissistic" even from a cisgendered person - you can only post so many selfies, and if that's ALL you post, well... - but something about crossing the lines here really does make you want to see how you look, to play up those performative aspects of gender. Do I pass, even for a night? Am I sexy? Am I cute? I likely took the most selfies I've ever taken in one night, and this counts as posting them online... rest assured that I will go back to posting OTHER things now, though, having gotten this out of my system...
I didn't really try to fool anyone, mind you, but Erika did a pretty damn fine job, considering we weren't even sure we were going for it until we bought the damn wig earlier that evening. At the end of the night, as she drove us home, I looked over and said, "Thank you for making that possible," and explained about how the drag thing wasn't really a bucket list item for me, but something that was on the long list, say, of things I might PUT on my bucket list.
"And now you can cross it off!" she replied.
As we turned onto Imperial, Erika asked, "So what is on your bucket list?"
I thought for a second. "Wanna peg me?" (Also a long list item, not technically a bucket list item itself, but it sprang to mind, what can I say).
"Not really my thing," she said, grinning.
"But there might be poop!"
"Exactly my point."
"Jeez. Who should I get to peg me, then? I guess I could ask Betty."
Erika - who had enjoyed Daddy Issues a ton, and who I am very happy will no longer primarily associate Betty with the worst milkshake she's ever had, chuckled. "Well, she seems the type! Don't tell her I said that."
I made no promises.
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