Apollonia Vanova: Striking Silhouette

I’ll admit it was my not-exactly-inner lecherous 13 year old that initially prompted me to look up Watchmen the movie’s Silhouette. I’ve always loved this character’s look and story. From the Watchmen wiki:

Ursula Vandt was a Jew who left Austria to avoid the Nazis. In 1939, the Silhouette made the headlines after exposing a crooked publisher who was trafficking child pornography, as told in Hollis Mason‘s book Under the Hood. The article stated that she gave a punitive beating to the entrepreneur and his two lead cameramen. Later that year she read the ad in the Gazette asking for other masked adventurers to step forward, and joined the Minutemen shortly after. In 1946, the press revealed that she was living with another woman in a lesbian relationship, as Mason stated. Laurence Schexnayder persuaded the group to expel her to minimize the P.R. damage.

The actress playing Silhouette was so striking with her severe hair, shiny gloves and stiletto boots that I couldn’t help myself. Of course much of the credit for her perfect appearance should go to costume designer Michael Wilkinson, but the feline grace in every second of Silhouette’s brief screen time is definitely the actress’ own.

I suspected Slavic roots – those cheekbones don’t lie! As it turns out, Apollonia Vanova is a Slovakian immigrant currently residing in Vancouver. She’s also an opera singer, sculptor and a… Fitness model? Indeed. You might recognize her as the Wraith Queen from Stargate Atlantis – just one of a string of sci-fi and fantasy roles she’s played. Vanova has a degree in sculpture from Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design and uses everything from clay to leather, I just wish she had her artwork online! Looking forward for more from this lady, no matter what the medium might be.

Here are a couple of interviews, for those of you who are intrigued: 1, 2. And Michael Wilkinson has a behind the scenes video on his website, here. From the Entertainment Examiner interview:

Silhouette is never seen without a cigarette. While that is totally time and character appropriate, it is not exactly politically correct in this day and age. Any thoughts on that?
I have a cigarette in my hand.

I guess that answers that question.

Better Than Coffee: Cabaret Voltaire

The “Sensoria/Do Right” video: a danceypants gateway drug into the complex world of Cabaret Voltaire.

Cabaret Voltaire: underrated, years ahead of their time, and punk as fuck. Not punk in a preening Vivienne Westwood way (although they were quite stylin’). Punk as fuck, like the famed Dadaist nightclub they named themselves after, like the tape-splicing experimental musicians involved in Musica Elettronica Viva in the 60s, like Brion Gysin and Stockhausen, like My Life in the Bush of Ghosts and Filth.

The Sheffield, UK-based band began as a trio (Richard H. Kirk, Stephen Mallinder and Chris Watson), mucking about with recorded sounds manipulated by reel-to-reel recorders in 1973. It started out as a very gritty, buzzy, bewildering wall-of-noise project. Later songs, while more conventional, were no less confrontational, helping to define both the sound and the anti-authoritarian attitude of the industrial music genre.

From an early Grey Area of Mute catalogue:

Difficult to imagine, perhaps, but the scratch and break elements of hip hop and rap are partly rooted in the noise terrorism of Cabaret Voltaire… Even as they’ve moved far away from their original all out assaults, their tempestuous beginnings still inform everything they do. The importance of those early years should not be denied, for their great blasts of noise were instrumental in freeing popular music from its narrow, restrictive definitions.

Control, and how to confound or defeat it, was a recurring theme in their work…. They were among the first popular musicians to seriously use “found” soundbytes, lacerating recorded speeches of politicians, pornographers and slot TV preachers, juxtaposing them in odd configurations, not only for comic effect but also to reveal their true nature.

Cabaret Voltaire, 1982.

Watson left in 1983*, right before CV’s decidedly more danceable album The Crackdown came out. The above video –innovative in its own right– was created in support of one of the most addictive songs in their catalog: “Sensoria” from the album Micro-Phonies.

They really were something special. As excited as I am to see Throbbing Gristle reforming, I’d be even more psyched to see these three reunite. Laptop music it ain’t, never was, and hopefully never will be.

More classic CV clips after the jump.

Chad Ward Explains The Lost Grind Opera

Headlining performer Victoria Vengeance. Image by Chad Ward.

This Friday the 13th, Los Angeles will see the premiere of a new dark cabaret night hosted & organized by Coilhouse favorite Chad Michael Ward. This new night is called Lost Grind Opera, and all I knew about it before writing this post is that it’s hosted by two clowns that make me extremely uncomfortable and that there are a lot of pretty ladies involved. Although I’m not a huge fan of burlesque events, I’m curious to check this one out, because I’m curious to find out what Chad in particular thinks will make for a good show. If the actual event is anything like the photography and graphic design that he’s been cranking out to promote it, I know it’ll be something unique. So I caught up with Chad and asked him a few questions about this upcoming night.

Headlining performer Shelby “Belfast” Jones. Image by Chad Ward.

Lost Grind promises to be a cabaret show unlike any other. In an era that’s oversaturated with neo-burlesque outfits, what’s in store that we’ve perhaps never seen before?
“Burlesque” has taken many shapes and forms over the last decade here in Los Angeles.  We’ve seen everything from very traditional acts that hearken back to the 50s to modern dance troupes to full-on stripteases, and everything in between.  With the Lost Grind Opera, we’ve taken some of the better bits of what makes Burlesque great: live music, comedy, beautiful women and both vintage and modern dance and combined it with the kind of dark and sultry sensibility you might find in a Prohibition-era speakeasy or 1940s Berlin with a touch of vaudeville and theater.  The end result is a new unique experience for the patrons of the L.A. underground looking to be entertained in a way that has yet to be fulfilled.

Can you describe some of the performances that we can expect to see at Lost Grind Opera?
I don’t want to give too much away, but the evening’s overall theme is “Decadence” and the girls have taken their routines in many different directions.  We’ve got a bit of cabaret, a touch of drag, a little Cajun mysticism and some Gypsy spirit all done to the live music of our house band, The Grinder Monkey Quartet.

What kind of atmosphere does the El Cid Theater have?
The El Cid was originally built as a theater for D.W. Griffith’s “Birth of a Nation” to be screened.  In the 1950s it became a well-known Cabaret Concert Theater before eventually becoming the Flamenco dance theater and restaurant it is today.  It’s got a very intimate and historic vibe to it that made it perfect for our inaugural show.

Thank you, Chad! Hope to see you there.

Nadya Does Mer

Not like that, you perverts (though, I admit, she is my type). But here’s a photo I took of my beautiful Coilhouse co-editor Meredith Yayanos, which I’ve been dying to post for quite some time. We did this shoot back in December, and it was pretty much my only big shoot of 2008. We did two looks that day, light and dark. Above is Angelic Mer, but there’s also the more sinister Rocky Horror-meets-Caligari Mer (“Mergenta Mernau”), which you may have seen before on my site, her Flickr or via Warren Ellis (drink up, bitches!). Note the necklace in this picture; Mer made it herself out of keys that she’s been collecting all her life (here it is, up close). Mer did her own makeup, the hair here was done by the inimitable Holly Jones – who also did the styling for our Issue 02 cover – and the ruffalicious garment was styled by Mildred.

Mer is a total chameleon. I’ve done a lot of shoots in my life, and it’s hard even for me to believe that these two pictures of the same person were done literally within an hour of each other:

There will probably be more from the white set on Mer’s Flickr on the days to come. Stay tuned!

“It was every man for himself at that point.”

Egads, the Butthole Surfers…

Via Laurenn McCubbin, a post at The Rumpus recounting one of the most hilariously entertaining rock n’ roll stories I’ve heard in years: An Oral History of May 3, 1987: The Day The Butthole Surfers Came to Trenton, New Jersey. Not too surprisingly, it involves Gibby Haynes setting himself (and others) on fire. A choice excerpt:

Randy Now: We had this big on/off breaker switch that fed the power to the stage. It was gigantic; it looked like something out of a Frankenstein movie from the ’20s it was so huge. He’s yelling, “Pull the plug! Pull the plug!” And that thing just cut the power to the stage and so we pulled it.

Tony Rettman: Gibby set his arm on fire and he was waving it at people. When things got crazy, I was too young to be scared, I didn’t know enough to know that things like that aren’t supposed to happen.

Tim Hinely: Everyone realized the plug got pulled and was pissed. People were yelling, “Bouncers suck!”

Mickey Ween: And that set off a whole series of events. The lights came on and the PA went out, and the whole place was filled with smoke, either from a smoke machine or his burning arm, and when the house lights go up, you could see everyone for the first time. The two drummers kept going and Gibby had the bullhorn and it turned into this tribal hell. That’s what was so great about seeing the Buttholes, it was like you were in Hell, especially if you’re on drugs.


The entire transcript is fucking golden. It’s taken from the upcoming book No Slam Dancing, No Stage Diving: How a Seedy New Jersey Club Defined an Era, “an oral history of ’80s and ’90s-era alternative/punk music told through the portal of one club-Trenton, New Jersey’s legendary City Gardens.” (Someone should really expand that Wiki stub!)

Isotope’s Watchmen-Inspired Cocktails

Do you hear that weird, wet fluttering noise? No, it’s not an intergalactic death squid. That is the sound of the buttholes of approximately 6 million nerds palpitating in dewy anticipation. Watchmen must be opening today.

Anyone else need a drink? Yes, I realize it’s only 8am here. Hey, we all cope differently. Dave Gibbons, Zack Snyder et al are very likely bathing in solid gold jacuzzis filled with dom perignon. Meanwhile, somewhere in Northampton, Alan Moore, having chugged a quart of psilocybin tea out of the gilded skull of a medieval pope who secretly worshiped Glycon the snake god, is now levitating three feet above the ground, muttering a curse of warts and incontinence upon anyone who dares to attend opening weekend.

I figure I can have a morning cocktail if I like.

Left: a “Full Frontal Manhattan” (hurr hurr!) Right: the “Black Freighter” (let’s drink ourselves direct to DVD!)

James Sime and the other kind folks over at the Isotope Comic Book Lounge understand:

The End is Nigh! Ladies and Gentlemen, the day has finally arrived! After over a decade of waiting, speculating about the cast, and debating whether it should even be attempted, Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons’ classic graphic novel, WATCHMEN, is finally a major motion picture. And whether you feel that this is cause for no end of celebration or you believe you will need to drink yourself into oblivion to make it through this bastardization of a pure artistic vision, the Isotope is here for you! Serving up a bevy of Watchmen-inspired cocktail recipes to suit all your boozing needs!

Bless you, Isotope. I’m going to fix myself a “Silk Spectre” right now… with added Rohypnol.

Folks, feel free to use this thread to rant, rave and runteldat about Watchmen Babies or whateverthefuck to your heart’s content. Please, just try to keep the spoilers to a minimum, and remember, I have to mop up the booth when you’re done. Cheers.

Applicant: What They Really Thought of You

One night, while dumpster diving on an Ivy League campus, artist Jesse Reklaw discovered confidential Ph.D. applicant files for the biology department from 1965 to 1975.  The yellowed recommendation forms contained ratings on the applicants’ strengths and weaknesses as determined by former professors and employers. Reklaw collected these photos and snippets of commentary in a 48-page little paperback in the tradition of Found Magazine, titled Applicant. It’s a zine classic that still makes an impact every time you page through it – funny, sad, and totally wrong. You can order Applicant for $3 here; it’s a lovely thing to own.

Reklaw also publishes Slow Wave, a web-comic dream diary. You send him your dreams, and he draws them! The first print collection of Slow Wave is called The Night of Your Life, and it’s available here.

Performer/Cyclist Hollis Hawthorne Needs Our Help

Performer/cyclist/activist Hollis Hawthorne. Photo by Alicia Sanguiliano.

There’s this awesome, beautiful gal I only kinda sorta barely know through our many mutual circus friends here in the bay area; her name is Hollis Hawthorne. She’s a founding member of a cycling dance troupe called The Derailleurs, a fabulous velocipede-inspired dance team active in a bunch of bay area-based critical mass stuff. Their goal:

To educate and entertain audiences with the possibilities of alternative transportation. Our performances embrace critical inquiry that reaches beyond conventional thought and action. We promote radical self reliance and mine local talents to unearth their strength.

They’re wonderful and vibrant folks leading adventurous lives who are trying to affect some sort of positive change in their community. They smile and laugh a lot; they are very shiny people. To be honest, I rather envy them, most days. But not today:

Late last month, Hollis was traveling by motor scooter in Pondicherry, Tamil Nadu, India when something terrible happened. Some sort of freak hit-and-run accident that wasn’t her fault left her bleeding out on the side of the road with her boyfriend Harrison frantically performing CPR for 20 minutes before a van of German tourists picked them up and drove them to a hospital. According to her best pal Eliza, Hollis was wearing her helmet and driving very slowly at the time of the accident. I’ll spare you the gory details, but it sounds really bad. Now she’s in a coma in a rural hospital with a serious brain stem injury. (You know, that part of the brain that controls, um, everything?)

According to Harrison, who has been with her from the moment it happened, “there are huge rats scurrying around on the [hospital] floor. I am sleeping on the ant-covered floor outside her room as I am not allowed in and the water they have used for many procedures is not even purified.” When Hollis’ mom flew in from Tennessee a couple of days ago with emergency support from the US consulate to see her own daughter, the orderlies were dismissive and curt. “They are not observing her brain pressure and have done nothing to alleviate the swelling in her brain. These are things that can make or break her early on in her recovery and healing process.”

Through a series of fortuitous connections, Hollis’s case has been reviewed and accepted by Stanford Medical; one of the best hospitals in the world. As a charity case, even. (Just like me and most other starving artsy fartsies I know, Hollis has no insurance.) All we need to do is get her there. The friends and family of Hollis are reaching out to everyone they can to raise funds to get her on an I.C.U. plane (aka air ambulance) to fly her back to California.

This is truly a matter of life and death. They need move her quickly as possible.

Before that can happen, Friends of Hollis must raise $150,000 dollars. They’ve already raised approximately $40,000. Can you spare a dollar, or five, or ten?

Yes, I know, life is risk, and life is uncertain. Life is also precious. If, in some small way, we can help someone in our community to come back from the brink, we really should. Click here to help.

EDIT, MARCH 6TH: According to The Hindu, Hollis has been moved to Apollo hopsital in Chennai, where she is receiving the best possible medical care in India. While still in a coma, she is off the ventilator. But she still need help:

“Stanford has offered us free care and Hollis has no insurance,” says [Harrison] Bartlett. Ms. Allison is currently paying for hospitalisation expenses. She hopes that the fundraising effort, which is gathering momentum in the United States, would be able to help them make the trip back home as soon as Ms. Hollis is ready to go.

Beksinski Tribute/Charity in LA March 5th

Untitled, by Zdzisław Beksiński. 1980.

A while back, Coilhouse covered the bleak, beautiful art of the late Polish painter, Zdiszlaw Beksiński. Beksiński’s star has been steadily rising over the past decade, thanks largely in part to increased exposure on the internet, and a phenomenal volume in the Masters of Fantastic Art series published by Morpheus Press.

This coming Thursday at 7:30pm, Beksiński’s long time friend and agent, Valdemar Plusa, will be joined at the Egyptian Theater in LA by several heavy-hitting horror directors: Wes Craven, Tobe Hooper, Stuart Gordon, Mick Garris, and William Malone. They’re gathering together to chat about Beksiński’s life, art and influence on film. After the talk there will be a screening of William Malone’s latest project, Parasomnia, which prominently features Beksiński’s art as CG dreamscapes (honestly, I’m not completely sold on that concept, but who knows…it could be amazing).

All proceeds from the event will go to the American Cinematheque and MOCA’s Art Education Programs for children in Los Angeles. More info here.

Teetering Bulb

Teetering Bulb [love that name] is an art blog run by NYC-based Kurt Huggins and Zelda Devon. Kurt does most of the drawing while Zelda takes on most of the color work. She adds that they each take turns wearing the Art Director’s hat and I secretly hope there is an actual hat involved.

Gathering Wool

Gathering Wool caught my eye with its dusky colors, billowing hair structure and the knitting woman’s downcast gaze. She’s self-contained and immersed in her craft, the birds remind me a bit of The Seven Swans story.

Acavallo – illustration for a mechanical carouse, published in the Burning Man newsletter

Acavallo was created for the Burning Man newsletter and is probably my favorite of all – it’s so wonderfully moody that it instantly sent me on an imaginary carousel adventure, which is all I can ask of an illustration. The rest of their stuff is like that, too. Whether it’s a tightly rendered illustration or loose sketch, everything is full of emotion, lively and dynamic . A couple more of my favorites are under the jump – pointy masks, more big hair and a smokin’ hot welder await.

See also: Stuntkid, Scar and a Cloud of Crows