Mental Head Circus
by James Tuttle
At the risk of disappointing you, I’ve had to take some time off from watching television. Work has been insane with the Private Sale going on and there have been lots of things I’ve had to attend in the evenings, as well. For example, Scott and I went to see Kylie Minogue at the Hollywood Bowl on Friday night. It was probably the gayest night of my life.
I’d expected long before that it might be quite the gay affaire but, when I “checked in” on facebook, which I’m trying to do more frequently so that my stalkers can have the most up to date information, my friend Garrett in New York immediately commented, “The bars in WeHo must be empty because every queen in L.A. is there!” He was right, and not just L.A. It was as though the West Hollywood, New York and San Francisco Pride Festival organizers decided to cut costs and have everyone just show up at the same place, same time. That time was now. On the road leading up to the gates, Scott and I each said, “Oh, hi!” with that semi-surprised look that you have when you unexpectedly run into someone you know so many times I thought our faces might get stuck like that.
Though we often take cocktail ingredients to the Bowl concerts, there was a “no glass” policy this time. Maybe they were worried that some of those queens might become overwrought, break some bottles and go all Westside Story on each other. For us, it just meant we weren’t allowed to bring in the multitude of cute mini-wine bottles that Scott had found to accompany the picnic that he’d lovingly put together. We weren’t about to sit in the cheap seats through a long show of an aging pop star without something fermented so we found a creative solution. As we were looking for a suitable place to decant our little gems into the jumbo soft drink cups we bought at the concession stand, we happened upon some guys that Scott knows. They were clearly excited about the concert but one of them was a little glassy eyed. “I’ve never had to drink a whole bottle of wine in ten minutes,” he explained. I guess our soda cup revelation was too late for them.
“Well, be sure to take lots of pictures,” I advised. “You’ll want to remember that you came to a concert.”
The Aphrodite show itself was quite an extravaganza. A dozen or so hunky dancers were present as Ms. Minogue rose up out of the stage in a big gold seashell. After the opening few songs, the Greek mystique disappeared and was replaced with dark bondage-like theme with Kylie in a black marabou ball skirt and top hat. Later, the show morphed into a 1950s burlesque show complete with enormous feather fans. This segment was the most stylistically successful and included her hit song “Slow,” refigured as an amazing, sultry jazz ballad.
All in all, there were six Dolce and Gabbana costume changes. Some worked and some didn’t. In the latter category falls the final segment of inexplicable Brazilian Carnival action with Kylie in yet more feathers and some shorts that left her legs looking plump and stubby, even though we know they’re not.
I think it’s important to note that Kylie sang beautifully. That was a revelation and something you don’t expect from a pop star, especially when they’re dancing around the stage, keeping up with non-singing professional dancers. Obviously, she sings to a tape during the show but she wasn’t afraid to let the tape play on it’s own when she was doing other things like encouraging the audience to sing along. When she went back to singing, it was always a lovely surprise.
Even so, the show was just okay. It was thematically all over the damn place but her great voice and all the attention put into the production should have made it amazing for everyone. The enthusiasm around us was high early on but even the Fan Boys that had been dancing in the row in front of us ended up sitting and watching quietly as the show wound down. Scott and I did enjoy his lovely picnic of shrimp cocktail, prosciutto, cheese and crackers whilst a middle-aged man several seats over kept pointing at me then giving a “thumbs-up” sign. I wasn’t sure if he appreciated that we’d brought a nice picnic or that he liked my hair. This happens rather often.
The last time I went to the Bowl to see a gay icon was the very final night of Cher’s almost endless Farewell Tour. I may not have been a Cher fan at the beginning but, by the end, I felt like I could call her up for a lunch date. On the way out, I bought the damn book, the T-shirt and whatever else I could get my hands on. The problem with Kylie’s Aphrodite spectacle was that the fun and energy of the show didn’t reach out over the audience because the four huge screens mounted on both sides of the stage remained focused solely on her head and shoulders the entire time, without even a hint of her costume or the sets or the dancers. At the Hollywood Bowl, those 18,000 seats are spread far and wide on a single level with no balconies or mezzanines so very few people in the front get to see the details. If they’d pulled back and showed everyone else what was happening, we might have gotten into it but they didn’t and we didn’t.
On the other end of the Intimacy Spectrum is a fabulous show I attended two nights later at the famed King King in Hollywood. At Terry Beeman’s Mental Head Circus, the show literally surrounded the audience. There were performers on stage, in the wings, near the bar, and in many cases, dangling overhead. It’s been described as “A twisted cabaret and aerial mayhem” and, though I don’t know how grammatically correct that is, I’d say it’s pretty accurate. Terry is a genius choreographer and aerial acrobatic performer and longtime collaborator of Debbie Allen. He has also worked with Whitney Houston, Paula Abdul and, most recently, Mariah Carey among many, many others.
In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I consider Terry a dear friend. He has helped me out more than once when I’ve been stuck in a choreography bind where I have no expertise. His biggest assist was a men’s underwear runway show when I was chairing the the annual Gay and Lesbian Elder Housing (GLEH) Garden Party. I got Andrew Christian to donate undies for the show but some of the committee members thought it wasn’t really “top drawer” enough to have just an underwear show with super hot guys, even though we have shirtless hunks wandering around the party selling tickets to a Qantas raffle every year. Whatever. So Terry stepped in, rounded up the models and added his luscious girls to the mix, costumed them all so they weren’t just wearing underwear, gave us the music and choreographed that whole damned thing.
This Sunday’s show opened with a big production number as most of the troupe converged on the stage for a twisted Victorian Era circus act that was a great balance of racy modern dance and Can-Can with a healthy dose of campy humor. Mr. Beeman himself presided as the white mustachioed ringleader, ever the quintessential showman.
As Mental Head Circus progressed through the dance numbers on stage and in the air on various vehicles of cubes, ropes and suspended chairs, there was a seamless progression from one number to the next in a wonderful rhythm of sexy, whimsical, raunchy, funny and beautiful. Terry’s dancers are always wonderful and unique. Most of the girls are curvy, voluptuous Venuses with big boobs that remind one of the 1950s burlesque goddesses that Kylie’s show emulated and the guys are like a Benetton ad of hotness. A cute wiry guy with a faux-hawk kept catching my eye until the hunky blond guy came out to do his high-wire act wearing only fishnet stockings over his dance belt. Of course, Terry is a dish, too, but that would feel like ogling my hot, muscled, super talented brother. Oh, wait. I think there’s a porn movie in there somewhere but I’m not doing it unless I get my own trailer and points on the back end.
The music is a great blend of New Orleans style jazz and what we used to call Trip-Hop, though I’m not sure what they’re calling it these days. There are also some great novelty songs thrown in for good measure. Who else could do a song about “sore, hot, wet, bald pussy” and make it an inoffensive, crowd rousing experience? If you haven’t guessed by now, Mental Head Circus doesn’t exactly fall into the category of Family Entertainment.
When I chatted with Terry after the show, he was so excited to have added the newest element: a vocalist! The amazing and amazingly beautiful Candice Coke sang “You Go To My Head” like a modern Billie Holiday in a slinky gown clutching a bottle of Jack. She returned later to belt out “It’s a Man’s World” in an unbuttoned men’s shirt with nothing underneath. Her voice is effortless and wonderful, recalling Etta James in her prime.
There comes a moment in each of Terry’s shows in which the beauty or the precision or something that I can’t exactly pinpoint gets me a little choked up. This night there were a few moments like that. If I had one criticism, it would be that the performers never stood still enough for me to take a fucking decent picture but I guess that’s part of the charm.
Now let’s get down to fashion! It felt odd looking for something about the Spring/Summer trends and collections because it seems like old news and nothing is really jumping out at me. But it’s too early to dive into Fall because then we’ll hate each other in a few months, like an old married couple talking about the same thing all the time. Instead, let’s take that interim period where Spring is slowly preparing to abdicate the Fashion Throne but isn’t letting Fall get her nasty hands on that tiara yet. It’s called SALE, bitches!
Here are my top five rules on sale shopping, and I’m being brutally honest because I’m up to my neck in this shit right now:
- Shop early. In this day and age, the buyers in designer boutiques get one or, perhaps, two of an item in every size. If it’s still available when the sale comes and you don’t jump on it, someone else will.
- Go with a purpose. Analyze your wardrobe needs and decide what you’re looking for before you shop. I love my girls who walk the floor and pick and choose from there but it doesn’t work as well in sale season. I know what I have in your size so just tell me what you need and I’ll bring you what’s available.
- If you’re not paying 100%, don’t expect 100% attention. You know I’d love to hang out and chat with you but I really can’t. This shit’s on sale and I have ten other women staring daggers at me because I haven’t brought down their shoes/tops/jackets yet and they parked at a stupid 20 minute meter.
- Love it because it’s final sale. At my boutique and many others around the world, if you buy it on sale, it’s YOURS! I don’t care what Neiman’s or Nordstrom’s return policy is because we’re not dealing with Neiman’s or Nordstrom just like we’re not dealing with Old Navy or Sears. Final sale is final sale.
- If you wouldn’t buy it at full price, don’t buy it on sale. This is my most important rule! It’s great if you find the jacket or jeans of your dreams at marked down prices but you usually won’t. They’ll be sold out. I’m not trying to sink your fashion dreams of everything affordable—Zara will fucking copy it in a few weeks anyway—but it’s a great rule for managing your own wardrobe. If you wouldn’t pay $900 for that jacket, why would you wear it if you paid $550? Don’t waste space in your wardrobe for bargains.
And finally, super skinny jeans may look great but it’s so hard to get the pills out of the pocket.