KOOL KAT OF THE WEEK: Blast-Off Has Their Cake and…! Dickie Van Dyke Celebrates Kissing, Shaving and a Decade of Burlesque Madness!

Posted on: Sep 7th, 2016 By:
Photo credit: Chris Buxbaum.

Photo credit: Chris Buxbaum.

Blast-Off Burlesque is back and going UNDER THE COVERS Friday Sept. 9 and Saturday Sept. 10 at Sychronicity Theatre in Midtown. Atlanta’s sci-fi punk vaudeville burlesque goofballs are celebrating their 10th year with this burlesque “performance explosion” inspired by some famous, and some not so famous album covers with emcee extraordinaire Ms. Gayle Thrower Rej and featuring with special guests P-Lo aka Patricia Lopez, Baby Doll and JuWanna Pimpmee!

With such an auspicious anniversary for some of ATLRetro’s favorite performers–all Kool Kats in our world!– we caught up with founding member Tricia Chenard, aka Dickie Van Dyke, to get the inside scoop on the creative cacophony which we know will ensue this weekend, as well as the troupe’s secret scooter origins, her own first album purchases, and an update on her other pastimes, including banjo and harmonica antics with her jugband Uncle Daddy and the Kissin’ Cousins, as well as bringing back traditional barbering at Rutabaga in Decatur.

ATLRetro: What’s the “secret origin” story of Dickie Van Dyke and how did you join the Blast-Off Burlesque? Aren’t you one of the founding members?

Dickie Van Dyke: In the beginning, Blast-Off was just me, Barbalicious, Sadie Hawkins and Ferris Hilton. We met through riding vintage scooters and meeting up for weekly beers with fellow scooter enthusiasts. Barb and Sadie were members of the burlesque troupe The Dollsquad and decided to start something new when The Dollsquad was ending its run. They approached me and said they wanted me to be their drag king. I replied, “But, I’m not a drag king.” They replied, “But you look so good in a suit.” I guess a little flattery went along way. I knew I wanted to use the name Dickie to tip my hat to my beloved, big gay, hair-dressing uncle, Richard. Barb and I started tossing around cheesy variations like Dickie Diamond or Dickie Dean etc… Eventually, Dickie Van Dyke fell out of my mouth and it fit on so many levels. The Van Dyke part was obvious because of, well, my being queer as a pink fuzzy football. I also love Dick Van Dyke. He’s one of the greatest entertainers that ever lived. Truly a classy gentleman.

underthecoversGosh-groovy-wow, it’s hard to believe Blast-Off is celebrating its 10th year. What does that feel like?

It feels shocking and great! We’ve had highs and lows like any long-term relationship. We are people. We’ve evolved; we are evolving. Blast-Off is like a favorite pair of jeans. It’s frayed around the edges, there are weird stains in strange places, and it’s worn thin in the knees, but nothing in the world feels the same. Nothing hangs off the hips in just that perfect way. People can sell overpriced, cheap versions of those distressed jeans, but they aren’t molded to your ass with the sweat and tears of hard work and hard play the way your favorite jeans are. That’s what being together for so long feels like. It’s biscuits, fried chicken and collard greens. It’s falling in love with your sweetheart all over again, despite the urge to strangle them because they are a beautiful, messy pain in the ass and you’ve been through a lot together, but you love that about them so much.

Photo credit: Regean Powell.

Photo credit: Regean Powell.

A new Blast-Off Burlesque show is a much anticipated treat. You zany kids have tackled the Wild West, TV, sci-fi, to name a few themes. How did you guys come up with the idea of bringing album covers to life, and we assume the show title “Under the Covers” is a double entendre?

Oh yeah, it’s most definitely a double entendre. It was one of those moments where we were surprised by our own cleverness. Our brainstorming process is pretty simple. We order a couple pizzas, bust open a bottle of Jameson or other lubricant of choice, and we throw ideas out. We haggle, we plead, we let go, we rationalize, we deconstruct, we get side-tracked, we analyze, we cuddle and we keep sipping whiskey until things we say to each other start sounding like good ideas. That usually doesn’t take too long because we are all nuts.

Blast-Off recently ran a contest that you judged in which people were invited to post a pic of the first album they ever bought to win a pair of free tickets to the show. What’s the first album you ever bought? And the story behind that purchase?

My first actual music-buying experience involved three albums. My family frequented a rinky dink flea market on GA-2 outside of Varnell, Ga. It was the kind of flea market where you could get some army BDUs, a live chicken, some boiled peanuts, the best handmade quilt, a fist full of Weirdo magazines and a tattoo from a biker working out of a repurposed school bus. There was a guy that sold awful bootleg copies of records. Everything was on a tape with the name of the album scribbled on the side. The insert was a one-sided Xerox of the original cover. They were bad, but three for $5. I bought horribly bootlegged copies of Motley Crüe‘s SHOUT AT THE DEVIL, Cyndi Lauper‘s SHE’S SO UNUSUAL and a random Patsy Cline BEST OF. I guess I will forever be a bargain shopper and lover of a wide variety of music.

Without giving away any surprises, can you give us a little tease as to the album cover(s) you’ll be unwrapping in the show?

Oh man, we touch on a wide variety of albums and genres! Icons, essences, obscurities, explorations of everything from The Who to The Boss to The Cramps to Vanity 6. The process of creating this show was interesting in the sense that we all got to express some sort of musical admiration for our personal favorites. It is our ultimate tribute album in some sort of burlesqued, interpretive dance movement, party-time experience.

Photo credit: Marc Turnley

Photo credit: Marc Turnley

What else has Blast-Off been up to lately and any more shows/activities planned for the near future?

In November, we are looking forward to working with Splatter Cinema again. Those guys have always been super awesome. They are letting us desecrate their stage by bringing back a horror version of our Taboo-La-La film night. We are currently working out the details, but it should be fun!

We hear Uncle Daddy and the Kissin Cousins has a super great new line up and a bunch of new songs. What’s up, where can we find you playing and are the rumors true that the band will be hitting the recording studio soon?

The jugband is creating a lot of new songs and sounds. Expanding our minds for sure. We figure after nine years of playing together, we might actually cut a record so we have something to give the folks who keep asking for it. We are going to be playing at 529 in East Atlanta on Sept. 26 with Banjaline and Glen DeMeritt, Oct. 1 for Garage 71’s Hell on Wheels in Canton, Ga. There are a lot of great folks playing and cool stuff going on with that day—classic cars, vintage bikes, sideshow acts, etc. We are also playing Oct. 8 at Ciderfest hosted by Concrete Jungle. Ciderfest is one of our favorite gigs of the year. Super laidback, lots of great people from all different walks of life, and fresh pressed cider!

Your day job is as an old school barber in downtown Decatur at Rutabaga boutique and salon. Can you tell us a bit about that and what types of styles you specialize in for the Retro gentleman? Do you think barbering is becoming a lost art?

I specialize in short cuts, tight fades, razor work, hard parts, classic, as well as modern styles. Anything from an old school pompadour, to a neat and tidy businessman’s coif, to an edgy, razor faded high and tight. As far as the face goes, I offer a classic straight razor shaves with aromatic lather and soothing hot towels, beard and mustache trims, and 15-minute facial massage for when you need a little R&R on the go.

Disco disco dick: Barb HaysAs far as barbering becoming a lost art, I could argue yes and no. At some point, having a barber seemed to have become more trendy than having a stylist. Perhaps it is meterosexual blowback from the ’90s? Perhaps it is the rise of the lumbersexual image? I don’t know. It seems the word “barber” has been simultaneously saved and diluted. There are a lot of folks calling themselves barbers these days. Pick up a pair of clippers and some Pinaud powder, and BOOM, you’re a barber. But to me, there is a difference between a barber who has studied and performs traditional tonsorial arts and a stylist who can perform men’s cuts. I know plenty of excellent stylists that can knock out awesome men’s cuts, and that’s great, but they don’t shave faces or use straight razors; they didn’t study anatomy of the face with all the muscles and arteries, as well as various skin conditions and ways to care for them. I think having that specific training and knowledge is the point of being a true barber. Having a barber pole tattoo doesn’t make you a barber. Knowing how to execute a proper shave and the importance of the 7th cranial nerve does. I’m glad that there has been a revival of barber culture and classic grooming because it is totally ok for dudes to take care of their skin and beards. It’s totally ok for women to opt for shaves as opposed to waxing. Marilyn Monroe and Elizabeth Taylor did. Now more than ever, anyone can have access to a classic barbershop experience. I’m proud to call myself a traditional barber because of my training and the respect I have for the craft.

Finally, we gotta ask but thinking back over the past 10 years, what’s the craziest caper that you’ve been involved with as a member of Blast-Off and why? And yes, you can define by what we mean by “craziest” and “caper”!

Ya see, there is this little thing we call floor cake. For some reason, we had a grocery store sheet cake after a show. We were imbibing a few celebratory beverages, and before anyone could even get a piece of cake to eat, the entire cake ended up on the floor. Shortly after, everyone ended up in the cake on the floor. My favorite crazy caper happened when we decided to recreate floor cake for a photo shoot with the Burlesque Camera Club. We didn’t tell anyone we were going to drop a cake and writhe around in it for our final shots. At first, nobody knew what to do. These kids bring a cake into a photo shoot and “accidentally” dump it in the floor and start going nuts. Then suddenly everyone just started taking photos like crazy, whipped cream was sprayed all over the studio, sprinkles were sprinkled and jimmies were jammed. It was pure confectionary chaos and everyone loved it. We all had such a great time!

MORE INFO: Limited seating. Blast-Off shows sell out so they highly encourage you to buy tickets in advance to guarantee a seat! VIP front row experience includes four front row seats, drink tickets and very special goodies.Comfy seats for your butt, beer and wine in the lobby, and mixed drinks available at Tavern Pointe, which is right across the lobby. $5 parking will be validated with ticket purchase. Purchase tickets here.

Dick at the earl: Caroline Smith

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30 Days of Plaza Theatre: Day One, The Beginning

Posted on: May 7th, 2012 By:

The Plaza Theatre is Atlanta’s oldest continually operating cinema, but this art-deco treasure is in serious danger of closing. In recent years, under the stewardship of the amazing Jonny and Gayle Rej, the Plaza has been undergoing a renaissance with edgy bookings of cult and classic movies, often accompanied by stage shows. It’s home to the Silver Scream Spookshow (CREATURE FROM THE BLACK LAGOON IN 3D June 30), Splatter Cinema (ZOMBIE HOLOCAUST this Tues May 8), Blast-Off Burlesque‘s Taboo-La-La (BEYOND THE VALLEY OF DOLLS on Sat. June 2), monthly screenings of THE ROOM (with star Tommy Wiseau and Greg Sestaro in person, May 11, 12 & 13), THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW every Friday at midnight complete with stage show led by Lips Down on Dixie, as well as all sorts of special screenings and regular first runs of art, foreign, indie and just plain cool movies. For the next 30 days, we’ll be reminding you of what’s great about The Plaza – articles, fun facts, and more – and urging you to support this amazing Atlanta institution by seeing a show or making a tax-deductible donation. It’s really come down to use it or lose it. Atlanta has lost so many great places, and we don’t want to think of an Atlanta without The Plaza.

For our first day, we asked Gayle Rej to go back to the beginning and give us a little history lesson…

[Coca-Cola tycoon family] the Candlers built the Plaza shopping center and Plaza Theatre in December 1939. It was a big deal because it was the first place in the city with off-street parking – making it the first official shopping center in Atlanta. There were giant klieg lights from the city, and Mrs. Candler-Griffith (the builder’s daughter and the mother of the current owner) was very young and was in a hotel room across the street at The Ponce de Leon Hotel looking down at all of the excitement. The first movies shown were THE WOMEN and then Frank Capra‘s MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON starring Jimmy Stewart.

Tune in tomorrow and visit ATLRetro every day for the next 30 to find out more about The Plaza!

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Going Totally ’80s to Save the Plaza: VALLEY GIRL Like Embodies Classic Romantic and Cinematic Themes, Fer Sure!

Posted on: Apr 26th, 2012 By:

Plaza Theatre Benefit Presents VALLEY GIRL (1983); Dir: Martha Coolidge; Starring Nicholas Cage, Deborah Foreman, Elizabeth Daily; Fri. April 27 at 8:30 PM; Special guests, including Blast-Off Burlesque,VALLEY GIRL costume contest, contest for the best VALLEY GIRL impression; silent auction from local Atlanta businesses, including Libertine, Adult Swim, The Euclid Avenue Yacht Club, Slopes BBQ and more; tickets $16 with a $1 discount per ticket for cash payments; All proceeds from ticket sales and the silent auction go directly to keeping The Plaza Theatre alive. Trailer here.

By Emily Jane McFarland
Contributing Writer

When I first learned that The Plaza Theatre had plans to screen the 1983 classic teen romantic comedy, VALLEY GIRL, on Friday, April 27 at 8:30 pm, I could not stop talking about how hot Nicholas Cage is as a young ’80s Hollywood punk rocker. The Plaza is not just Atlanta’s only independent, nonprofit cinema, it is also a historical landmark and an important part of our community.   Owners Jonny and Gayle Rej have always had to fight to keep the Plaza’s doors open, a difficult one that many would probably have given up long ago. But the Rejs are two very special people. Unfortunately, as of late, The Plaza’s situation has turned more dire than usual and the decision to host a fundraiser centered around a screening of VALLEY GIRL was made in an effort to raise both money and awareness that The Plaza needs help.  If it does not receive that help, this art deco gem will sadly become another ghost of Atlanta’s past.

In 1983, I was busy being born, so I never had a chance to see VALLEY GIRL in the theater when it first opened. Once in middle school, I was finally able to watch it, forming a slew of girlhood memories that made VALLEY GIRL very special to me. I sadly came to the realization that the likelihood of seeing VALLEY GIRL on the big screen, let alone on a 35 mm print, was slim to none, even when I lived in New York for seven years. My dreams of staring into the dopey eyes of a 30-foot Randy as he falls in love with Julie were crushed.

Nicholas Cage and Deborah Foreman in VALLEY GIRL (1983). MGM Home Entertainment.

When I was in the seventh grade, I had not yet seen VALLEY GIRL and those young memories were just starting to develop. Every Saturday, while my best friend’s parents would stay out all night for their weekly “date night,” we would walk to the now defunct Movies Worth Seeing video store off Highland Avenue, before ordering a pizza, to rent a movie.  Often we would ask the guys at Movies to recommend films, which would almost always turn out to be not age-appropriate for us – titles such as A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, MEET THE FEEBLES, BLUE VELVET and SHIVERS. We never hesitated to rent their picks because, like most young girls who frequented Movies at that time, we were madly in love with staff-member John Robinson.

This particular Saturday evening, however, John was off somewhere with his long-term relationship girlfriend, so instead of making an effort to impress him, we picked VALLEY GIRL, a movie neither of us knew very much about. All I knew was that I had just seen CAN’T BUY ME LOVE for the first time and I was ready to watch anything in that genre.  Although VALLEY GIRL is nothing like SHIVERS or A CLOCKWORK ORANGE, it is rated R, so that meant it had to be at least a little inappropriate or us, making it all the more fun to watch.

That night, as we popped the tape into the VCR, I was almost relieved to watch a romantic comedy instead films with bizarre rape scenes set to the tune of “Singing in the Rain.” Little did I know that VALLEY GIRL (and its intelligent and honest depiction of teens in love with an ending that as I grew up I would come to see as melancholy and thought-provoking) would affect me more deeply than the films mentioned earlier, albeit for entirely different reasons and in different ways.

As we watched, it was obvious to us that the story of VALLEY GIRL was timeless, utilizing universal literary themes, most notably ROMEO AND JULIET, which VALLEY GIRL has been cited as being very loosely based upon. It doesn’t stop there, however; lyrics from numerous Motown girl group songs floated in and out of my head as I watched, such as “He’s a Rebel” by The Crystals and The Shangri-La’s “Leader of the Pack.” We also see these themes in a number of films that were made prior to 1983, such as GREASE, MY FAIR LADY, THE PALM BEACH STORY and, my personal favorite, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT.

When all is said and done in VALLEY GIRL, the punks stay punk and the girls stay valley. Many characters become much more self-aware and some even change. These transformations, however, are all on the inside. One of the central messages of the film is very much the opposite of both GREASE and MY FAIR LADY, in which the female protagonists must change the way they dress, speak and their mannerisms and, in GREASE, her morals. This outward alteration is not only in order for their respective men to realize that they are deeply in love, but necessary for these relationships to succeed, or even happen at all. In VALLEY GIRL, as well as THE PALM BEACH STORY and IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, the lesson to be learned is not that you must change who you are and how you dress in order to be with the one you love, no matter how different the two may be from one another.  Sometimes we simply cannot help who we love, even when it makes no sense.

The closing limousine scene in VALLEY GIRL (1983). MGM Home Entertainment.

Another central message of VALLEY GIRL that goes hand in hand with the one above is that love has absolutely nothing to do with how we dress or which side of the tracks we come from. Instead, it is much more about a connection inexplicably felt between two people. In fact, during their first night together, Julie blushingly tells Randy that she is experiencing this exact feeling. By the look in his eyes at that moment, it is obvious that he feels it as well. IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT uses a similar concept – these two people, one rich and stuck-up and the other a drunk out-of-work newspaperman, should in no way be in love. In fact, throughout the entire movie, they fight it all the way. But in the end, they give in and the Walls of Jericho come tumbling down, because this lesson is the same as that of VALLEY GIRL – you cannot help who you love.

At the close of the film, Randy and Julie ride off in a limousine, slipping out of Julie’s prom as a food fight ensues. The last image of VALLEY GIRL is Julie in her prom dress and Randy in his nice-for-a-punk-rocker suit, seated side by side in a limo, looking straightforward. One is left to wonder if the film’s ending is a happy one, full of promise, or if it is meant to be reminiscent of THE GRADUATE (1967). In that film, Benjamin (Dustin Hoffman) interrupts the wedding of Elaine (Katharine Ross) and Carl (Brian Avery), causing a physical altercation. Elaine and Benjamin are able to break away from the chapel and proceed to board a bus. They sit in the very back seats, with Elaine in her wedding gown and Benjamin in his tattered clothing. For a moment, there is a feeling of triumphant possibility and an infinite future, where nothing is too late, as spoken by Elaine to Benjamin upon his arrival at the chapel.  This moment, however, is a fleeting one, quickly overshadowed by reality and the uncertainty of the future that at one time felt magical. When the director of VALLEY GIRL, Martha Coolidge, mimics this ending, she subtly brings up similar reality-based questions involving what is next for our couple.  By doing so, she is able to set VALLEY GIRL apart from many other films of its genre.

Katharine Ross and Dustin Hoffman in the closing scene of THE GRADUATE (1967). MGM Home Entertainment.

Interestingly, when I was younger I could only see that in the end the boy got the girl, despite all of the obstacles placed in front of him. Years later, when I was no longer a teenager, I still could see VALLEY GIRL as I did in the seventh grade, but also began noticing the melancholy nature of the end as well as the director’s ability to turn ridiculous ’80s teen stereotypes into characters that feel as though they are actual human beings. I cannot wait to find out what I am able to learn about VALLEY GIRL this time around.

Video Links:

VALLEY GIRL well known loooooove montage: “I Melt With You”

Break Up Scene from VALLEY GIRL: Nicolas Cage does a great impression of a Valley girl (lots of F-bombs).

Club Scene from VALLEY GIRLwhen Julie and Randy fall in love and she mentions that connection she feels for him and so on “it’s like we’re linked or something.”

THE GRADUATE End Sequence.

THE PLAZA (2010): Documentary by Matt Rasnick about The Plaza Theatre’s struggle to survive in a world of multiplexes.

If you have any additional questions or to make a donation to Save The Plaza Theatre via Pay Pal, please visit www.PlazaAtlanta.com.

Emily Jane McFarland is an Atlanta-based photographer and the Manager of The Plaza Theatre. This is her first article for ATLRetro.com. 

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If You Talk Like That, People Will Call You Crazy: A Sneak Peek at This Week’s Silver Scream Spookshow & the Wacky Wonderful World of Being Jon Waterhouse

Posted on: Jan 27th, 2011 By:

Silver Scream Spookshow Presents FRANKENSTEIN (Universal, 1931); Dir. James Whale; Starring Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Mae Clarke; Plaza Theatre, Jan. 29., 2010, 1 p.m. kids matinee & 10 p.m. adult show

You know him as the “Retch,” lovable, laughable sidekick to Professor Morte at the Silver Scream Spookshow. Or if you don’t, you’ve missed out on one of the most creative collaborations in Atlanta—an ATLRetro five-star must-see.

Like the Frankenstein monster who will haunt the Plaza’s big screen this week, Shane Morton raised the old-time live and TV spookshow from the dead, putting Atlanta on the map as having one of the nation’s most active classic horror scenes (watch for a feature on Plaza twisted sister Splatter Cinema in the next few weeks). Before the movie, audiences are tricked and treated to a manic one-of-a-kind variety show featuring magic tricks, fun-filled frights and song & dance inspired also by the zany spirit of the PEE-WEE HERMAN SHOW. But Shane couldn’t have done it without unearthing a terrifying, titillating and talented team of cast-members such as Nick Morgan (Mumbobo the witch doctor, the conspiring Dr. Wertham), Amy Dumas (Pandora the spooksmodel), Gayle Thrower Rej (Persephone, spooksmodel in training), Nick Hood (rock ‘n’ rollin’ Frankenstein “all the way from Horrorwood, Karloffornia!”), the gorgeous guys and ghouls of Blast-Off Burlesque, and Waterhouse.

ATLRetro caught up with Jon recently and asked him what it’s like to costar in one of the city’s coolest creations, as well as what the multi-talented, self-described “ADD personified” writer/actor/musician/DJ/rasslin’ manager is up to with regard to his numerous other projects.

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