Goldfish Entertainment’s “Vaudeville Bizarre!”
I don’t know about you, but I cherish surprises that seem to emerge from something bigger and more significant. Though it may all just be happenstance, I often feel struck by what plays out before my eyes in life. My fortunes often seem to be leaning in a particular direction that matches how I feel, almost as if circumstances outside my control are guided by my internal state. Is it merely coincidence to find exactly what I need at just the moment I need it? I don’t know what I’m a believer in exactly – but I believe.
This is how I felt attending the very first “Vaudeville Bizarre!” event this past weekend, thrown by Goldfish Entertainment and the one and only Natalia Kvalem. Like most socialiting decisions I make, I prefer not to worry about what I’m getting into once I decide I’m going to get into it. I didn’t know the venue, I didn’t know Natalia, and I didn’t know what level of production I was walking into Saturday night. All I knew is I was going to something, somewhere, and I was going to bring me. After wasting much of my life suffering in shyness, I’ve challenged myself the last few years to be everything I am and everything I want to be. If I do my part, I’ll realize joy. Anything more, and I feel I’ve stumbled face first into the proverbial Maraschino cherry on top . “Bring it, life!”
I arrived a little late, missing the first act, and I had to wedge myself and my hoops through a small crowd by the door after entering the detached garage behind what I later learned was the home of Josue Flores’ (of Goldfish Entertainment). The space itself, only about 700 square feet, contained an L-shaped design of chairs placed in rows that hugged a well-lit stage in the far corner of the room. I made my way behind the seating, said hello to a friend, and focused on the stage area where the second act was already in play. The moment I started paying attention to the local comedian, Evan Johnson, I felt breathless. This guy is funny. Shit. What did I walk into? I love, love, love stand-up. And house parties. And surprises that seem to be downloaded straight from my dreams.
Across the room, an attractive guy checks me out then takes the stage for the third act. I’m basically on the floor with his jokes. He leaves no stone unturned, mixing self-effacing humor with bombastic confidence. In his leather jacket, Sammy Anzer remarks on his douchebag hipster style while simultaneously embracing sexism to a crowd that gets that…it’s a joke. What are the boundaries in the room?, I wondered. I’ve been in Colorado for over 1.5 years now, and I’ve struggled to find my place. After moving to the Denver area, I gravitated toward my preferred group of circus freaks, artists, and modern hippies; within which, a culture of open-mindedness and free-loving usually flourishes. Unfortunately, I never quite settled in to the more conservative, easily-offended, sex-tempered culture woven into the fabric of Colorado life.
But, this party is different. And it’s clear that offense gets checked at the door, as Sammy cracks some original af “white power” jokes about celebrating his white privilege when opening a jar at home in his kitchen. He even invites his comedian friend, “Becky” Taha’Blu, who’s sitting in the front row and happens to be black, to also enjoy using “white power” to celebrate arbitrary accomplishments that have nothing to do with race. Let’s take back the phrase, he encourages.
As I’m standing in this little corner of the room enjoying the fuck out of myself, a beautiful woman moves around me to grab things here and there. She apologizes a few times for “getting in my way” and eventually looks me directly in the eye while thanking me for attending the event as though she recognized my importance before I had a chance to prove it. This is Natalia Kvalem. I didn’t know her until this moment and I immediately knew I couldn’t go forward in my life without collaborating with her in the future. She’s unabashed, drama-centric, and a passionate host. She invited each performer to pop a balloon on a board covered in little balloons, each filled with a note. Then, she feasted her eyes on the the guest reading aloud the note describing what they’ve won. A prize from the box? A lip sync battle? A lap dance from your sexy host Natalia or the chance to read aloud from her teenage diary?
Another local comedian who also helped co-host, Michael Isaacs took the stage for his incredible act, and he nearly killed me with every line. Later I taught him how to spin plates and he kept throwing jokes at me the whole night. Why didn’t I ever think before to hang out with comedians? “Becky” Taha’Blu and Meghan DePonceau performed as well, offering a safe space for not only sex-positivity but sex-work positivity, tossing around sex-work jokes in a room of people who respect it as actual work. Women rarely get to be as funny as men in daily life; we are socialized early to be some unrealistic version of well-behaved that holds us back from embracing the lewd and degenerate content that makes for good humor. Women like Becky and Meghan are not only successful comedians, they are glass-ceiling smashers.
Natalia and another gal, Quill Frank – i.e – “Quill the Clown” provided a few character-based burlesque shows. Natalia performed once in a onesie-style Grinch costume, once in a more traditional burlesque outfit in which she tossed her glove into the audience and asked the guy who caught it to “smell it”, and one in which she performed an on-demand lap dance for Meghan, who had received the aforementioned lap dance prize from a popped balloon. Quill the Clown came into the garage for her performance with her face covered by a doll mask and every inch of her body adorned in dress made of woven-together balloons that spanned beyond her body with multiple balloon arms. She popped them one by one as she danced, revealing her real human body underneath. Eventually, she revealed a balloon vulva atop her chest, which she caressed with her fingers prior to revealing her almost-bare breasts.
I looked around at the room, filled mostly with men. It was surprisingly quiet during the performances of the women unclothing themselves for the room. When Natalia did a beautiful pirouette-like spin, she received more leers than when she executed a half-naked split in the air – as it seemed the men were entranced and tantalized more than anything. One male audience member joked with one of the dancers about the clit. After she pointed to her nose, the audience member turned to his friend to share that he discovered the location of the clit and they could now go home because he had accomplished what mattered. He then high-fived a few of his friends.
Not everyone at the party performed, but everyone at the party had a certain energy about them. I wanted to be friends with the entire party – and felt that I met a handful of future great friends. These are my people. And this is the kind of space I need made for me to grow even further than I have grown in my life. To challenge myself to keep bringing me forward even with a shyness that seems to stick with me no matter how little regard I give it. I felt all of my senses bombarded with surprises I’ve been needing, one after another; but, in the end, you can say that none of these surprises surprised me at all.