Boss Up with Bevin Your dream life is at the end of your comfort zone

2013-03-25

Sleep No More at the McKittrick Hotel and Upcoming Queer Party at the Manderley Bar at the McKittrick Hotel

A few weeks ago I embarked on another journey into New York City to look at possible party venues. My friend Emily (who runs Hot Rabbit and is my co-producer in the new Sweet Fox / Rebel Cupcake joint venture into First Thursday awesome) took me to a couple of places she was excited to produce at. First stop was the Manderlay bar at the McKittrick Hotel. “You know, the Sleep No More venue,” she said.

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At this point, the only thing I knew about it was that my dear friends Miriam and Victoria were planning to go and had told me their understanding of the show. Experiential theater, where you arrive at a reservation time and are unleashed into a world created to support a play loosely based on Macbeth. I knew you could walk around the sets, open drawers, read books and that it was an interesting place to roam. Every now and again you would see actors performing a scene and you follow them from room to room piecing the story together yourself. And that it is impossible to see the whole thing in one visit.

It sounded intriguing already, and going into the Manderley Bar at the hotel with Emily was an awesome way to see more of it. We were greeted on West 27th Street by a burly bouncer who radioed Emily’s friend the bar manager. Shortly later a tuxedoed gentleman opened the door and brought us up a back staircase into a bar like none I’ve ever seen in real life.

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Red velvet curtains line the doorway, small tables fill the space in front of the stage where a jazz band performed live. The bar itself was straight out of the 30s, and most of the staff was dressed in swanky formalwear. Emily and I were seated in the VIP section and served the house specialty absinthe cocktail (Emily) and a gourmet seltzer (me). It was pretty crowded and dimly lit, but felt very much like a movie from the ’30s, though most of the guests looked like regular New Yorkers.

Emily talked about her new party Dandy/ette at this very bar. I was excited! I imagined the place filled with queers. It’s perfect for meeting people–a great mingling bar, with great lighting that makes everyone look 20% more interesting than they would in the light of day. She asked me to be a “Lady of the Parlour” for the inaugural event on March 28th.

We left and went to go talk about our party mash-up, Sweet Fox / Rebel Cupcake and I put in the back of my mind to go see Sleep No More when my finances are more abundant*.

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A couple of weeks ago I was being taken out on a surprise date and my date (who’s not part of my nightlife adventures and knew nothing about my lady of the parlour gig or that I had ever been to the bar) started driving towards the far West side of Chelsea. I asked if we were going to Chelsea and she said, “Maybe…” And as the car swung towards 27th Street I sort of screamed, “Omigoddess are we going to Sleep No More!?!”

She was shocked that I had guessed so accurately what the next stop on our date was. Her friends had been raving about it for years and by the seventh person who had told her about it she knew she wanted to check it out. Neither of us had ever seen Macbeth so I read aloud from the wikipedia page (where were these extensive cliff’s notes when I was trying to get through college).

We got in line with the other folks for our reservation and were herded into a very dark line past the mandatory coat and bag check. I said making me give up my purse was Femmephobic but they still did it. My bra turned into “nature’s pocket” and I stuffed a credit card in there (the only thing they suggested we were allowed to keep).

We were given our “room keys” (playing cards with numbers on them), and walked in a line through some creepy dark hallways that switched back and forth and were downright scary. Then we were in the Manderley Bar again. They offered us absinthe shots for $10 and as our numbers were called we shuffled towards an elevator in the back. (We were in the bathroom when one of our numbers was called, so we ended up going to the elevator together, and it’s strongly encouraged that you experience the show separately.) They handed us these creepy white masks to put on and up we went. The elevator stopped on a floor, I got out, and unbeknownst to me the elevator operator stuck his hand out preventing my date or anyone else from getting off the elevator with me. So there I was alone, walking through some creepy infirmary that was straight out of American Horror Story last season.

That’s basically the best analogy I can give this theater experience. If you like American Horror Story, you’ll LOVE this stuff. It’s like being on the set!

Also if you like antiques you will also love Sleep No More. There are so many rooms to explore, chock full of delicious antiques. I went through an infirmary, some doctor’s desk, snooped in beds and drawers, I found all this taxidermy. At one point I was in a room full of bath tubs in a row (institutional realness) and then this dude in a white mask like I was wearing hopped through a window and ran to a drawer, picked something up, wrote it down (I totally snooped over his shoulder) and ran off again. The same dude came running into a different room I was snooping in and knocked over a bunch of stuff.

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I went “outside” into a giant fake garden maze that was spookily lit and foggy. There were a bunch of mask people staring into this straw hut off to the side but I couldn’t get a good look at what they were seeing. I ran into a woman actor doing a dance on a table. Then I found a staircase and decided to try a different level.

On this level I found a huge replica of the Manderley Bar, only it was abandoned. It was so creepy how much it looked like the bar we had just been in. Dusty bottles behind the bar, everything was dark. I hopped up on stage (natch) and tinkered with the piano. Suddenly an actor came in and dramatically sat at a table and poured himself a shot. A huge group of white masked folks ran in after him. There was a lot of running by the actors (and the people following them).

I had no idea how big the hotel was until I started following an actor from one scene to another and I ended up down in the basement of the hotel. It was like four or five flights down from where we came from. There was an elevator but we weren’t allowed to use it, though I have heard they make accommodations if folks pre-arrange it. I was ready to bail but I wanted to see where the hotel ended up.

We were in the basement and there was some sort of body carrying happening but I couldn’t really tell what happened because there were too many people in my way. I gave up and wandered back upstairs.

I was warned to wear comfortable shoes, so I wore flat boots and a bright dress, which looked sort of hilarious against the backdrop of the play, since everything was so muted and dark.

After exploring another floor with a big outside graveyard, an abandoned baby pram, a baby room with doll parts hanging above it, a creepy girls’ bedroom with a two way mirror showing a disheveled bed in the mirror (though the bed in the room I was in was perfectly made) I was starting to get a little frustrated. I wasn’t really understanding what was going on and was creeped out and a little annoyed that when there were actors they weren’t speaking so I couldn’t tell what was going on unless I could actually see them. But as soon as I thought that, some actor would end up right next to me acting out a scene. The acting out was all done in dance, running and dramatic gestures, and it really was easy to get the gist of it eventually.

I found myself in a parlor wondering if we were allowed to sit on the furniture. I sat down on a velvet sofa and started reading the Book of Common Prayer. Then an actress I had seen rubbing out a blood spot in a big bathtub in what had to be the Macbeth bedroom suddenly appeared above me and told me to get up. I was started and stood up and then she did a big solo performance using my couch and the one parallel.

Eventually I found a room with a bunch of old timey candy in it. I considered briefly not doing this, but I was thinking that if I got bored again I could just eat some candy, so I stuffed some lemon drops, peppermints and rootbeer barrels in my bra for later.

I found my date a couple of times, and the second time I had been feeling a little lonely and squirrely and I realized she was standing right across from me (though she was in all black I could recognize her body language). We silently (oh yeah, you’re not allowed to speak at all) agreed to hang out together for awhile and went exploring together. This was the last hour or so of the show and I think there are more scenes being played out around that time. We saw a couple have a tryst on a pool table, we saw another out damn spot enactment by someone else. There was even nudity!

Eventually we got herded to the downstairs ballroom for the finale. And then we were delivered back to the Manderley Bar where our coats had been moved for us to pick up.

The whole thing was pretty incredible and mysterious. I would recommend it to anyone visiting New York, who is nosy, who likes antiques or loves theater and can get over non-linear storytelling. I still don’t totally understand what happened. But I did enjoy that my date and I got to compare notes afterward in the bar (VIP section, thanks to my magical life). I was glad we spent a big chunk of it apart and then got to see some of it together.

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I’m really excited that my Sleep No More experience just gets to keep rolling as THIS THURSDAY is the debut of Dandy/ette, a queer party at the Manderley Bar! You can get $5 tickets at this link!

*And also, P.S. I still have a TON of vintage plus size clothes available at this photo set. If you’re interested email me at queerfatfemme at gmail. Shipping is $5 for first item and free if you buy two.

2013-03-04

Big Changes for Rebel Cupcake / March 7 Move to Lower East Side / March 16th Yes Ma’am at the Mansion

First of all, both of the Rebel Cupcakes I produced in February got some great press. Check out the Time Out New York gallery from the NO PANTS NO PROBLEM Rebel Cupcake collaboration on February 14.

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Courtney Trouble was a dream to work with and is such a dedicated and talented artist. I’m so impressed by her Femmepire! Go buy all her porn!

Check out the QueerPorn.TV write-up and gallery of photos (NSFW link) from our special Courtney Trouble / QPTV collaboration on February 28th!

I spend a fair amount of my time working on creating body positive queer nightlife. I have been doing queer production work in cities since 2001 and had sort of given up on it when I moved to NYC in 2004 because it was so rough getting venues. Getting venues is still one of the hardest things about throwing events, but, like all things, experience and connections have really helped to move it forward. So is knowing how to embrace change and knowing when to catalyze it.

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Though I may appear to be just a Plus Size Party Girl, for readers of my blog you know I put a lot more thought and intention into everything I create. I’ve been producing Rebel Cupcake for almost three years (she turns 3 on May 6th, International No Diet Day) and I really love Sugarland in Williamsburg. It’s somehow both a nightclub and a dive bar, but better than that it’s wheelchair accessible and has a lot of nooks and crannies.

I’ve been hearing for years that Thursdays are hard for people and Williamsburg is hard to get to since the only train it’s on is the L train. This is why, when I was thinking about adding a second dance party, I insisted it be on a Saturday and somewhere in Central Brooklyn. (It was for these reasons that I started my new party baby, Yes Ma’am, in Prospect Heights, though now we’re moving to a bigger venue in a mansion on the Crown Heights/Bed Stuy border–more info below.)

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From the third Rebel Cupcake, July 2010! (We’re now on the thirty seventh!)

As with a lot of monthly parties, Rebel Cupcake has been flagging in the last few months. Not so much that a lot of people noticed, and there have been some special events that have off-set the flagging, but I could definitely see a downturn in the attendance. These two fancy residential buildings went up on either side of Sugarland, closing off the amazing outdoor smoking deck. The management changed at the bar, which was fine but then all the personnel changed, too. Then our resident DJ Bryan Black, who was such a great fit for the party, moved on, and nothing gelled yet for a replacement. I knew something needed to happen to shake up the energy for Rebel Cupcake to have her sparkle shine the brightest.

I did a lot of soul searching about it. Rebel Cupcake is like church to me. Queer performance and creating body positive/flamboyant space are both very important to me. We do a lot of woo, though mostly we just have a roaring, magical time together. One of the best compliments I’ve ever gotten was that someone felt like Rebel Cupcake was the one dance party that they felt like they could be their most authentic self. That is exactly what I work to create.

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This was our first anniversary party in May, 2011. Photo by Amos Mac.

I’ve been spending some time getting to know the producer behind another queer party promoting machine, Boy Wonder Events, and we really have complimentary energy and skill sets. Emily is a genius at DJ curation and pulls a really eclectic queer crowd that is yet not that overlapping with my crowds. (I went to Hot Rabbit a couple of weeks ago and did three laps around the very packed club and found no one I recognized from my parties.) Maybe it’s because Boy Wonder is mostly in Manhattan, but it did make me think that if I got to keep the cabaret aspect of Rebel Cupcake that was so important to me and collaborate on all the other details with someone else it would breathe new life into the party.

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Me and Emily, photo by Kelsey Dickey for Rebel Cupcake.

So, Rebel Cupcake is shacking up with Sweet Fox, the Boy Wonder Events’ Thursday party. First Thursdays of the month at Lit Lounge, a performance space in a sultry basement on the Lower East Side. Accessible by three different train lines (the 6, F, and L) and it all starts on this Thursday, March 7th.

Like all great domestic merges, we bring different things to the table. Sweet Fox brings some awesome drink specials ($5 Bud/BL, $5 Foxhounds, $10 Beer + Whiskey Shot, Late Night Happy Hour 130-230am), great DJs, and Rebel Cupcake brings the flamboyant performance and cupcakes. We’re compromising on the go-gos and alternating our house photographers (from the talented Gizelle Peters to the equally talented Kelsey Dickey).

This month’s theme is UHaul (appropriate and very gay, no?) and I really hope the Rebel Cupcake regulars will welcome these changes and bring the magical energy from our island in Williamsburg out to the East Village!

REBEL CUPCAKE / SWEET FOX: UHAUL

Thursday March 7th

10PM-4AM

$5 / $7 after midnight

At the legendary LIT LOUNGE: 93 2ND AVE @ 6th Street, Manhattan, NY
(F to 2nd Ave, 6 to Astor Place, N or R to 8th St, L to 1st or 3rd Ave)

REBEL CUPCAKE: a flamboyant dance party for all shapes & flavors! WINNER of Go Magazine Awards for Best Emcee (Bevin) and Most Eclectic Crowd!

And SWEET FOX, the Lower East Side queer dance party with flamboyant go-gos and a dreamy basement performance space. We’re celebrating all things UHAUL !!

Performers:
Molly Equality Dykeman
The dykiest performer I could think of for the UHaul show! She’s so hilarious. Photo by Anya Garrett.
*Molly Equality Dykeman
Security Guard at a public school by day, Poet and Comedienne by night

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Photo by Courtney Trouble.
*Fancy Feast
Our in-house Stage Kitten brings Burlesque!

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*DJ LADYLYKE (Stiletto) & DJ MITCH FERRINO (Monster/Hot Rabbit) spin dance beats all night to keep you moving!!

Find the rest of the info on the Rebel Cupcake page. Pre-cruising on the Facebook event.

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As if one big change wasn’t enough, Yes Ma’am is moving to a bigger location! We love our art gallery in Prospect Heights and will be doing some special events in the Summer at that space, but we’re stoked to get into this historic mansion on the Bed Stuy/Crown Heights border!

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Me and Nicky (co-producer) and Hana (in the corset) who runs our door for Yes Ma’am. Photo by Courtney Trouble.

DJ Average Jo will be spinning at the landing of this amazing staircase! We’ll have a dedicated dancing room, a dedicated room for chatting and drinking and who knows what will happen with the middle room.

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Photo by Kelsey Dickey for Yes Ma’am.

Come on out Saturday, March 16th!

10PM-3AM Dancing * $7
($2 off admission if you are on our texty texty list)
CASH BAR
375 Stuyvesant Ave @ Decatur, Brooklyn, NY
Bed Stuy/Crown Heights border (2 blocks from Utica Ave A/C train)

More info on the Yes Ma’am page and on our Facebook event!

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Photo by Kelsey Dickey for Yes Ma’am.

2013-01-31

Casserole Party

My BFF Brian told me about an annual party thrown during the summer by his friends in New Jersey. A casserole party with prizes! Encouraging folks to bring casseroles to compete in competitions for expensive cooking gear. It’s a huge gay hurrah with over forty people and a theme. Brian noted that this year’s winner (chicken kiev or something) did not adhere to the theme (carnival).

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Me and Damien. Vintage Aprons, Damien Luxe Private Collection, my navy blue dress courtesy Brooklyn Boobala.

I had this nugget in the back of my mind for months when I asked my roommate if she wanted to throw a mid-Winter get together for our friends. I thought it was a great Winter theme because casseroles are typically served warm and are great comfort food. Our apartment is especially good for parties in the Winter because it gets pretty warm from the living room’s abundant heat and we can easily seat 20 folks on our glamorous couches.

As we prepared our own casserole offerings for the evening, Damien and I discussed what we would have done if we were Baller Lesbians. (Which I like to relanguage, Law of Attraction style, as “When we are Baller Lesbians.”) Like bought some party favors of cute pot holders for everyone. Had a Le Cruset casserole dish as the big prize and a few other kitschy kitchen items for the runner-up prize categories. Like best name, most compelling casserole transport saga, best vegetarian dish, etc…

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We made numbered index cards for fauxnonymous voting. There was a big discussion about whether people should know who made what because popularity might be a factor.

What we did, instead of a Baller Lesbian Prize, was a $1 buy-in, winner take all. I think the total was $13. We also told everyone who came to either bring a casserole or a beverage. Everyone who tasted the casseroles could vote.

It was sort of necessary to define casserole for some of our attendees. Since our friends consist of folks from all over the country and the world, not everyone is familiar with the concept of casserole (or “hot dish” as my friend Victoria, a Minnesota native, calls it). This is what Damien came up with and I really loved it:

Not just a combination of sticky and cooked foodstuffs, the casserole is a wintery dish that sticks to the ribs AND the heart, just like your favorite femmes who would love you to attend!

I was once engaged to marry an Iowa native and have dated my fair share of Midwesterners, so I know folks have really strong opinions about what makes a casserole legitimate (often “cream of whatever” soup is that legitimizing ingredient) and whether or not Jello can be considered salad.

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Cole and Amanda, clean plate club.

I once made up my own casserole recipe in honor of my favorite dyke stand-up comic, Kelli Dunham. She had a birthday and I encouraged folks to bring food inspired by her comedy and she tells a joke about being asked not to bring her Spotted Owl Casserole to the dyke potlucks anymore. I made up Spotted Owl Casserole based on a tater tot casserole recipe I read on a blog in 2002 but it’s actually vegetarian so there you go.

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This is Kelli Dunham, unveiling her casseroles.

Early on in the evening our friends wondered if the vegetarian dishes would have an advantage over the meat dishes, since everyone attending would be able to eat the veg dishes and not everyone would be able to try the dishes.

In that realm, I thought that perhaps Jess bringing a lamb and beef shephard’s pie might be a risky entry at a queer potluck, as both of those are controversial meats.

I made Oklahoma Baked Cheese Grits, adding a bit more Worcestershire sauce to them, using half parmesan cheese and cheddar cheese, and forgetting to put in the eggs. Thankfully, it did not suffer for the omission. I also made Chicken and Dumplings Casserole, but I used a Paula Deen chicken stock recipe and free range chicken legs for the meat instead of just commercial chicken stock and chicken cubes called for in the recipe. I think it was a wise choice, and the extra chicken stock I made has helped the leftovers. I think it made the recipe extremely flavorful.

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Damien made her famous Food Bank Casserole in three versions: vegan, gluten-free vegan, and full-meat. She describes food bank casserole as the use of typical food bank treasures. Usually you get a can of mixed vegetables, a can of “cream of whatever” soup, a can of tuna or fish, a container of biscuit mix. My understand of how the casserole comes together is to mix all canned ingredients, prepare the biscuit mix and layer it on top. Bake it at the typical casserole degrees (350) and voila! Deliciousness!

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Other casseroles brought to our home were: Asses of Fire, Kelli named this hot as hell vegetarian dish. The secret ingredient was some kind of chili. She also made Midwesterner’s Socially Awkward Meaty Surprise which was careful layers of cheese, sliced potatoes, chicken and bacon. A vegetarian casserole of black bean tostada variety. Carnivore’s Vegan Disaster which was sort of like a vegan pate’ and something was definitely off in the texture. Emily, who brought the dish, had two major items that were missing in the preparation and I can’t remember what they were.

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This one was Carnivore’s Vegan Disaster.

We had everyone vote at a certain point and then we had another round of guests arrive before we tallied. Jessica Halem even brought a salad which was certainly welcome after all of those carbs. Also, we had a latecomer casserole that was a braised beef shephards pie that was incredible but hardly anyone had room to eat it. Sam left me the leftovers so I felt like I really won a grand prize.

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This is Emily, showcasing a very Virgo-style tasting method. She ate this plate clockwise.

All of our guests sat around digesting casseroles and chatted about many things, including a long story about San Francisco performance art, food bank policy, a redux of the epic Myth party the weekend before and social justice strategies.

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When it came time to announce the winner of Best Casserole we did a couple of side categories, Toddlers and Tiaras style. We had “Best Casserole Transportation Saga” because it was snowing that night and transporting casseroles on public transit in New York is hella harder than you think. Kelli had this epic thing where everything was wrapped in towels, ace bandages and packing tape. Jess won, though, because she lives near where that dolphin was stuck in the Gowanus Canal, she found out the dolphin died, the casserole was leaking on the subway and then when it got to our place it almost set our oven on fire and set off the fire alarm in the hallway of our building.

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Creative transport via cardboard. Sam and Jessica Halem.

We also gave an award for best name and Kelli won that for Asses of Fire, though I believe Carnivore’s Vegan Disaster was a close second.

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The overall winner of the potluck was… the Lamb and Beef Shepherds Pie! Jess really took home a lot of glory on that fine Winter’s evening!

I hope some of you out there are inspired to have a warm and inviting party for your friends this Winter!

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