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

2014-09-18

Go See Bayside! The Musical! The Saved By the Bell Parody Show!

Did you watch Saved by the Bell when you were growing up? I loved it and my watching of it was so relentless that my mom created a nickname for it. She called it, “That ‘Stupid Show.’” She thought it was terrible.

Well, few things stand the test of time and the show doesn’t. I have tried to watch it as an adult and I cringe at the poorly strung together plot and all the problematic elements. But, you know, it was a kids’ show in the 90s. It wasn’t meant to stand the test of time.

Except now! National Lampoon’s Bayside! The Musical! is a musical parody of Saved by the Bell and it makes fun of the show for two hours. You’re in store for a lot of exaggerated aspects of the show and a ton of sexual innuendo. They take subtleties from the show and make them overtures. For example, the sexual tension between A.C. Slater and Zack, and the exploitation of the underage sexuality of the female characters.

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I’ve seen Bayside! The Musical! three times in a couple of different incarnations and it gets better and better. With the addition of Dustin Diamond to the cast—the actor who famously portrayed Screech on the show and has since made some questionable life choices—for a limited engagement, I had to see it again.

I love how the show keeps getting reworked, and the jokes keep getting funnier. The same actor who has been playing Screech kept the role, Dustin plays himself, a janitor at Bayside High. He has a great musical number. Dustin was really funny and did a great job making fun of himself but also with a humility and grace you might not expect of a child celebrity who is more well-known nowadays for his antics and not his talent.

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I had fun before, during and after the show. The theater pumps up the 90s jams while you’re being seated and during intermission. Many people sang along to Tearin’ Up My Heart. After the show there’s a meet and greet with Dustin Diamond!

Dara couldn’t resist the chance to get a photo with Dustin so we waited through the opening night crowd while I chatted with Bob and Tobly McSmith (the writers and band leaders of the show).

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It wasn’t on the record, so I won’t tell you all of the things I learned except this one tidbit—the caffeine pills Jessie Spano famously takes in the show have always been a running joke in the musical. I was shocked at the volume of the pills in this incarnation of the show—easily three times as many as the last time I saw it! The pills they use are tiny, white, freeze dried marshmallows (similar to those found in Lucky Charms). The production buys them in bulk but I’d love to figure out exactly how much goes into a truly exuberant Jessie Spano performance.

bayside-the-musicalApril Kidwell is incredible as Jessie Spano. She also played Nomi Malone in the musical version of Showgirls!

I am asked a lot by folks visiting New York City what they should do when they come to town. Obviously NYC is known for theater and I love quirky theater that pushes buttons. Plus, everyone back home who is a SBTB fan will be totally stoked to hear about the musical. And meeting Dustin Diamond!

AC_smallerJohn Duff still plays Slater and he fills out a singlet quite well!

The website for the show often has discount codes for tickets, and there are group arrangements that can be made for things like bachelorette parties. Plus, it’s right on St Mark’s Place so there are limitless delicious places for tea and food nearby. I suggest Crif Dogs, Puddin’ and Physical Graffitea. You can check out another post I wrote about hanging out around St. Mark’s Place here.

2013-09-30

Great Places to Visit as an NYC Tourist that also Make Great Dates

There are a million different things to do in NYC at any particular moment. Getting good at ignoring FOMO (fear of missing out) is crucial to sanity while living in this bustling metropolis. When planning a venture with a visiting tourist, often the same considerations come to mind for planning a good date! You want a stunning location that shows off the sexy meat and bones of this city but also is a fun thing to do that doesn’t mean you have to stare at someone the whole time. I’ve assembled ten of my favorite things to do with dates and/or friends from out of town.

1. Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory at the Fulton Ferry Dock

Okay, so the destination here really isn’t the ice cream, it’s the view. Brooklyn Bridge Park and the Fulton Ferry dock underneath the Brooklyn Bridge are gorgeous! It’s my favorite view of the city, a sweeping cityscape of downtown. You can see the South Street Seaport from there as well as all of the cute boats going by. Wait in line for the Brooklyn Ice Cream Factory if that’s a delicious addition to the outing, or just bring a picnic and sit on the benches along the pier and watch the river, the people and the lights if it’s nighttime. Skip Grimaldi’s, a wildly well-known pizza place that is pretty good but I don’t think worth a 90 minute wait for a table. Grab a pie in the middle of the workday if you must, that’s the best time to get one quickly.

If you want to take a wander nearby DUMBO has some cute shops, bookstores, chocolatiers and the second location of , a favorite cake shop of mine.

Bk ice cream factory

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The view from Brooklyn Bridge Park during movies under the stars. Image from BrooklynBridgePark.org

2. Prospect Park in the Fall

Yeah, yeah, Central Park is awesome. But for something that’s easy to get in and out of and doesn’t take a huge hike, Prospect Park is amazing. Especially in the Fall when all of the super tall gorgeous trees create a fireworks show overhead and dump a gazillion leaves that you get to walk through and swoosh with your legs like a young child! It’s a great date with a dog and it’s easy to just pop in for a fifteen minute gander or take an hour to walk around the park. There are entrances to the park in lots of Brooklyn neighborhoods that make it convenient for later dinner plans if that is where your date may end up. It’s taken me years of living in Brooklyn to really understand all the awesome Prospect Park has to offer, and I definitely think that Fall is the best time in there. Also, sometimes there are food trucks and people love food trucks.

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My roommate Damien thinks that the pond in Prospect Park is great for dates and I had an awesome hang out along the edge of it with a bunch of friends late last Spring.

3. Barcade on a Sunday
Barcade is a bar and arcade (clever, right?) in Williamsburg. They exclusively stock 80s video games, which works for me because Ms. Pacman is my jam and I will totally beat you at it. My BFF Brian just had his birthday party there and tipped me off that Sunday afternoon is the best because it isn’t crowded. They have really nice skylights and incredible beer if that’s your jam. When I was a drinker I enjoyed their selection and I felt like the prices were good Brooklyn prices for delicious pints. The games are still only a quarter each. I suggest Rampage as a good game to play with a team–especially a date!

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Photo by Nick Andriuolo.

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Photo by Nick Andriuolo.

4. The Whitney

There’s no shortage of great museums in New York City, but the one I’ve consistently enjoyed is The Whitney. There are really incredible exhibits, I am a big believer in audio tours at museums and enjoy the free with admission programs that the Whitney offers via loaner ipods. It is a lot to explore more than one floor on a visit so I suggest very comfortable shoes and a plan that involves sitting somewhere immediately following. I once went there on a date with an out of towner and we had a lovely tea afterward at a nearby Starbucks, but the cafe downstairs in the Whitney also has some snacks. It also gives you some great stuff to talk about with your date or visitor during your debrief/resting your weary legs!

5. Late night Williamsburg Pig Tour

I’ve done this date a few times so I hope my previous dates don’t find it generic that I’m laying it out here. If you’re up and partying in Williamsburg (the neighborhood in which I host Rebel Cupcake, as well as the site of three gay bars–Sugarland, Metropolitan and This N That) it’s a great idea to go get sustenance once your partying is over. And Williamsburg is that neighborhood that reminds you that NYC really doesn’t sleep. The other neighborhoods sleep, by the way.

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There’s Bagelsmith, at Bedford and N. 7th, this awesome bagel shop that has my favorite NYC bagels. I love to go get one and walk three blocks to the waterfront for the amazing view! It used to be a lot less obstructed but condos got in the way in the last five years. But you can still wiggle around them and catch the view. I also like the pizza place on Bedford and N. 7th (pay attention to whether the street says N or S or you’ll get real lost in Williamsburg). The guy who takes the orders makes the same snarky jokes all the time and it can be kind of off-putting if you’re from out of town but just go with it and eat a delicious piece of pizza piled high with awesome toppings (they sell by the slice or whole pie and it’s awesome when a by the slice place has creative choices).

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Legit late night pizza dining by Dana.

There’s also a falafel place open really late and a consistent taco truck. Neither is my favorite but you could really make it a pig tour and hit as many of the late night stops as you can if you’re famished.

6. DiFara Pizza

Now there’s pizza you get in the middle of the night and pizza you get really quick because it’s a dollar and you’re hungry. And there’s pizza you travel to the middle of Brooklyn to wait over an hour for and you’re grateful that you are able to put in the time to honor such an incredible masterpizza. DiFara’s is in Midwood, a historically Orthodox neighborhood well into Brooklyn, and it’s produced every time in the same methodical way by the same guy who snips basil on top of it. It’s completely delicious and my favorite pizza in NYC. It’s a great New York thing to do because standing in line for pizza! And also it’s so legit. Call ahead to make sure they’ll be open (I got burned once on a Monday) and bring a small group and don’t expect an easy shot at a seat, and bring your own tupperware to bring some home if you don’t want to lug a GIANT pizza box.

7. Sleep No More

I have written about Sleep No More here before. It’s a great show and I loved it–a choose your own adventure multi-floor vintage hotel where a version of MacBeth unfolds before you in a non-linear form. Through dance. I went to a haunted house in Times Square this weekend (aptly called Times Scare) and it cost $14 with a groupon and that was exactly as much as it was worth. I couldn’t help thinking that it was so much less scary than Sleep No More (SNM is deeply psychological). And when thinking about good Broadway shows in town, SNM blows them all out of the water. I saw it six months ago and I still think about it–that’s great art!

8. Brooklyn Botanic Garden

The Brooklyn Botanic Garden really shines during the Spring when the cherry blossoms peak. But even if you go at another time of year, it’s so gorgeous. There’s a koi pond, lots of places to hang out on a bench in nature, a super cute gift shop with great plants and seeds (I have some seeds that are actually working on my fire escape). It’s free on Tuesdays, so there’s no risk if you do it then, but I think it’s worth the ten bucks for entry. They won’t let you bring a picnic, though, so plan to eat ahead of time. Cheryl’s Global Soul is nearby and has good sandwiches for a weekday lunch. On weekends their brunch wait is epic, so I would steer clear.

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9. Coney Island Fireworks

Coney Island is one of my favorite places in NYC because it marries weirdness and the beach and rides and kitsch. It’s a good place to go during the summer, I’ve tried cold weather Coney and it’s not as fun. It’s a great date, I once had a date convince me to pop my Wonder Wheel cherry in spite of my aversion to ferris wheels but I’m totally into it now. Perfect Coney date/out of towner activities include: getting a corn dog at Nathan’s, the Wonder Wheel, photo booth strips (there’s a machine at the base of the Wonder Wheel), getting a beer at the Coney Island Side Show bar (Coney Island Lager is delicious), playing whackamole, sitting on a bench watching the waves. During the summer every Friday night there are fireworks that are free! Bring a sheet for the sand, a flask and get a big soft drink to drink from.

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My friend Leo snacking up before Coney Island fireworks.

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Wonder Wheel at night.

10. Staten Island Ferry (+ art on weekends)

The subway doesn’t go to Staten Island so they built the Staten Island Ferry and it’s FREE! It’s a great way to get a view of the Statue of Liberty, Ellis Island and Lower Manahattan. There’s also lots of good art around the Ferry terminal on the weekends if you want to hop out of the terminal, but you could just do the round trip. The whole adventure without a side detour can be up to 90 minutes with ferry wait times but it is very cheap and worth it. Also they serve beer on the Ferry if that’s important to you.

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When my mom and Grandmother were in town I took them on a sunset Staten Island Ferry tour!

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Even the wait in the terminal is pretty gorgeous!

For more great tourist spots in NYC check out What to do in NYC as a Tourist!

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2013-04-22

Showgirls! The Musical! NYC through May 4th

Sometimes you go to the theater and you look at your friend during intermission and you say, “This is happening in real life.”

New York City, where all dreams are possible and all artistic visions have a chance, is the birthplace for the next great musical parody, and that parody is Showgirls! The Musical!

Perhaps some of you are unaware of the cultural gem that is Showgirls (The Movie). In 1995 there was a tremendous amount of buzz and controversy over the NC-17 rating for the movie starring Elizabeth Berkeley from Saved By the Bell fame. I felt really awesome that I managed to sneak my 16 year old self into the theater to see it. That rating is due to the language, near-constant topless dancing and wild, rough pool sex. The movie is extremely terrible, with ridiculous overacting, a terrible script and is almost a parody of itself.

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Photo by Allison Michael Orenstein.

The fact that there is a musical parody of a parody makes the entire experience a bit meta.

Bob and Tobly McSmith wrote and produced Bayside! The Un-Musical! (The Saved By the Bell musical, which I enjoyed) a couple of years ago and applied that comic genius and brought along the cast member who played Jessie Spano (made famous by Showgirls’ Elizabeth Berkeley), April Kidwell. I expected this musical to be much of the same but was surprised to like it even better!

The entire production is made up of professional actors and is extremely well-performed. Though some of the choreography is intentionally cheesy, it’s actually quite good. Something as big as recreating a thirty person Las Vegas strip production in a tiny off-broadway theater with a cast of seven is difficult to do, but they managed to cut to the essence of the Goddess show (the production the film is based around) with a volcano tossed over a stripper pole, strategically spandexed gold lame’ and the show’s main attribute, entirely topless dancing.

Yes, much of the show is performed topless. I don’t think it’s redundant to say as a lesbian I enjoy boobs. And as a feminist I don’t want to be like, you should only go see the show for the tits, but they’re really good and in context and I think feminism is sometimes about boobs at the intersection of consent and context.

The comic timing and one-liners are genius. I thought The Gay (a parody character of the stage manager/choreographer of the Goddess show), played by Philip McLeod, was a stand-out character and actually more meaty than I remembered it being from the original. He is the character who touts brown rice and vegetables for the dancers in the big show and famously tells Elizabeth Berkeley to “THRUST! THRUST!” in a tight shot of his face at her pelvis.

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Photo by Allison Michael Orenstein.

Marcus Desion had the task of playing both Molly (the BFF of the main character) and James (an erstwhile love interest/dance coach for the main character). This switch was made with a wig and bad 90s women’s fashions.

The key to Showgirls realness is the extreme overacting of Nomi, the lead character. She basically has a huge temper tantrum at the end of each scene and storms out, which is so unsettling it is comical. April Kidwell was incredible and I actually hated her character far less in the musical than in the movie.

Some of the song highlights for me were the hit “Don’t Lick the Pole” during the scene at the strip club Nomi works at until she is discovered. Not only is the song really funny (and good advice) but it’s accompanied by the athletic pole dance moves by April.

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Borrowed tech rehearsal shots from the Facebook page for the musical.

Even if you didn’t like the movie Showgirls (or haven’t seen it), you’ll still really enjoy the musical. I mean, pole dancing, topless actresses (one of whom is a tall and curvy, they didn’t just cast skinny girls), and funny songs. I think it’s better than a night at Scores, and you’re supporting up and coming very talented actors and musical writers/directors/producers. I honestly think Showgirls! The Musical! should become a fixture in the erotic nightlife of New York City.

Check out the cast page for some hilarious gifs of the characters in the show.

You can get tickets (the show runs through May 4th) at the Showgirls! The Musical! website! Only twenty bucks, it’s a bargain for such great entertainment, and you can bring booze down from the KGB Bar upstairs.

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.

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