Monday, February 22, 2016

Woman's Animal Nature Triumphs Again

If there was one thing I wasn't going to do tonight, it was go to the Elbys.

I'd made it known back when the 2016 announcement was made that this year's event was a no-go for me. My objections were twofold: primarily the sameness of the nominees (besides best new restaurant, who cares about the same old, same old?) and secondarily, the theme: Elbys en Blanc.

As the owner of a vintage shop put it succinctly, "I am not dressing this ass and these hips in white."

Nor was I. Sure, I'd attended the past four Elbys, but I was over it.

Happily for me, this opened me up to all kinds of Sunday night fun that did not involve restaurant worship.

With a light rain falling, I walked over to Quirk Hotel to hear actress/poet Amber Tamblyn read from her latest book of poetry, "Dark Sparkler." It was common knowledge that the only reason she was reading in Richmond was because her husband, comedian David Cross, is performing at CenterStage tonight.

Whatever the reason, I got myself to Quirk Gallery where arrivals were being told we could score a drink at Maple & Pine's bar and bring it into the reading.

At the bar, I ran into a dapperly dressed gentleman in a white linen suit who - wouldn't you know - informed me that he only looked that way because he was going to the Elbys because Maple & Pine was nominated for best new restaurant.

After we'd both gotten our drinks - my Ms. Genevieve of Aperol, elderflower liqueur and Prosecco was prettier than his julep, I thought - we adjourned to the gallery and took seats to chat.

I wanted nothing more than the scoop on the upcoming rooftop deck (got it), although we dipped into the subject of Amber, whom he also knew from "House" and "Two and a Half Men," while all I knew was her father, Russ Tamblyn, the outstanding dancer I'd first seen in "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" and later in "West Side Story."

Amber arrived, beer in hand, to applause, said, "I love doing readings where there's a bar attached," and dove right into the reading of poetry about the lives and deaths of young actresses.

The first, "Actress" read like a casting call with specific qualifications - "small bust preferred, not taller than 5'5", good teeth, lean but not gaunt, no brown eyes" - and finished with the clincher: "Not a speaking part."

All of her poems examined not just the women's lives and deaths but the commodification of women in Hollywood ("I suppose you're detecting a theme"). "I want to go down on your cliche," she writes in "Jane Doe, along with, "And wrestle the Ayn Rand impersonator for her flask," noting in an aside, "I did that once."

How can you not want to hear from a woman who wrestled an Ayn Rand impersonator for anything? Who writes, "I will never have the knees of Bardot?"

Midway through the reading, a white-suited man, clad exactly like the one next to me, walked past the window down Broad Street, undoubtedly on his way to the Elbys.

Wordplay was a constant - serial kisser and serial cereal eater - as in her list of fake actress names such as Ivory Sopra and Iwanna Oscar.

Toward the end, she surprised us with a love poem which included my favorite line of the evening, "Someone who needs the way you kiss, the way you graze on a lip." Lovely.

During the Q & A, someone teased her about drinking a Heineken instead of one of our local craft brews and then asked about the poem, "Marilyn Monroe," which is titled, but has no words. As Amber flipped through the book to find the poem, the woman said, "Page 27."

Amber beamed. "You know we're definitely making out after this." I liked her quick wit.

It wasn't just that I'd finished my cocktail, I was sorry when the reading ended because it had been too long since I'd had poetry read to me. But I was on to another adventure so I wished my seatmate an Elbys win and left for Strange Matter.

Because last month was the 50th anniversary, Movie Club Richmond was showing the 1966 Bond spoof, "Our Man Flint," and I hoped to eat before the action started. My Blastoff, a BLT with avocado on rye, and mountain of fries was history by the time the lights went down.

I'm happy to say it was everything I adore about a '60s movie: overly saturated colors (Cinemascope, no doubt), a girl with a blond bouffant and a giant daisy in her hair, go-go dancers, computers the size of a gymnasium with zillions of punch cards and, of course, sexism galore ("How often woman's animal nature triumphs!").

The recurring joke is that Flint's secret code is based on a mathematical progression, 40-26-36. He also excels at everything he does - judo, fencing, cooking, saving lives, saving the world. He even teaches ballet the Russians, no less.

It was a Cold War classic with everything from anti-American eagles who only attack Americans ("It's diabolical!") to bad acronyms (ZOWIE) and a red hotline phone to the commander-in-chief (who sounded a lot like LBJ).

There was so much to laugh out loud about.

Flint plays both sides of the fence, taking the time to de-program women who have been brainwashed by the bad guys to be nothing but "pleasure units," but also with a staff of four pretty women to shave him, choose his clothes, manage his finances and dance with him when they all go to the club together.

Sounds pretty pleasurable to me, sort of like tonight's choice of movie.

Conveniently for me, there was a synth-pop show following the screening, so I could have parked once and partied twice, except I'd walked over. As a friend and I discussed between sets, synthpop is hard to find in Richmond, a shame for those of us devoted to the genre.

First up was Dazeases, the one-woman project that I'd come to see. Singer London came onstage in a cream sweater and plaid skirt to do her soundcheck and then removed the skirt to do a set so mind-blowing no one could have been prepared for it.

With a big voice, incredibly personal and emotional lyrics and a way of dancing/prowling the stage that ensured no one took their eyes off her, she hit play on an unseen laptop and music she'd recorded accompanied her as she sang in the dark room with only a few spotlights on her.

It was mesmerizing.

From "Possession" to "S'mores on the Hellfire," where she sang, "I will keep you warm when no one else will," her big voice made every song sound as if her life depended on it.

And yet, it was all very dancey and the small crowd obliged, moving constantly, although maybe not as sinuously or emotively as she did. So young, so raw and yet obviously so much potential.

Given that she was singing to her own prerecorded tracks, it could have come off like karaoke, but it didn't. Between the low lights and how completely she sold herself and her music, it was like watching the birth of something that's only going to get better.

Next came Raleigh's Band and the Beat, a husband and wife duo layering her vocals over lush synths and drum machines for a dreamgaze sound that would have been at home in '80s clubs (and my heart).

I especially enjoyed how he would get things going and start dancing enthusiastically in place as she sang before going back to knob-turning. If they weren't having a good time, they were giving a terrific approximation of it onstage.

Mine was better than a good time and best of all, didn't involve wearing white. The funny part is, I got home to a message from a friend: "Elbys weren't the same without you."

Oh, I bet they were.

No comments:

Post a Comment