The Philosophy Behind The Dirty Little Secrets Show
While, at first glance, this may seem like a very self serving article, insofar as I am the creator of the variety show Dirty Little Secrets and should not write about things I have a vested interest in. I am not, however, using this as a platform to promote the next show (which is on May 11th!) because that would not only be in bad taste and self aggrandizing , but might also be viewed as potentially unethical (…at 8:00pm!). No… instead, this is an article about the impetus for creating the show, the philosophy behind the show and the hopes of what the show will one day become.
The way in which the idea of the show was formed was of the same fashion in which I do everything: haphazardly. It came to me slowly and was just a jumbled collection of thoughts, most of which was borne out of boredom and irritation. I was getting bored with the desperate attempts that performers and venues alike were going to entertain the masses. It probably hit critical mass when I went to see Trans Siberian Orchestra and, along with 4,263 guitarists and more lasers than the Rebel Alliance, they made it snow inside the arena. While novel in many respects, it was not nearly as useful or needed as it would be, say, in July. The irony was not lost on me as I walked back to my car in the snow, wondering why they didn’t just open up a skylight or something and allow the real snow in for free…and reduce the cost of the tickets. I also was getting bored with the whole “scene” scene.
I was never one for going to a crowded club and having beer spilled on my boots as I witnessed a “Triple Bill Extravaganza Of Epic Proportions” which turned out to be three musical groups from the same genre belting out seemingly the same melodies at a tooth shattering decibel level. The comedy scene consisted of emcee, middle act, headliner and “don’t forget to tip the wait staff!” before being unceremoniously directed to the door. Then there was the entertainment world of the theatres and pavilions and centers, which, to be honest, I would never be able to afford. Even for how high profile their acts are, there is a stringently preformatted, preprocessed feel to them, taking away any sense of danger or wonderment from the event. Straying off topic for the moment…can we please have a moratorium on the obligatory encore? This whole standing up and sitting down thing is too reminiscent of Mass and is also very disingenuous. Like there would be anyone at a Lynyrd Skynyrd concert saying to themselves, “My God! I can’t believe they are going to leave without playing Freebird! Stand up! Stand up and applaud people! They may have forgotten it was on their set list!”
I began to look back in fondness at the entertainment of my youth as, growing up, I watched Shock Theater, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and community theater where there was always a real danger in someone forgetting their lines or the stage possibly collapsing (it happened in Hagerstown, Indiana during The Fiddler On The Roof when I was about eight). There are so many things that I like, that you would never be able to find them all in one place. Where could I find good music, comedy, unusual acts, dancing and other more theatrical arts? Nowhere.
At this point, I started using the Wiley’s Comedy Niteclub Facebook page as a litmus test, posting up videos of various things, gauging people’s reactions by comments and views. I would post up random stuff from the Carol Burnett Show, Carson, the Dean Martin Show, older Catskills comedians and various vaudevillian movie clips. The reaction from the subscribers dwarfed the reactions to more modern fare. Maybe there were others that were bored or didn’t like all the frenzied build up and hype that seems to go into modern entertainment. That is when I started talking to others about the idea that was forming…
This is not to make it seem like I discovered something new, like plutonium or the law of gravity or that pair of Oakley sunglasses that I set down three months ago, which were never to be seen again. The idea that I had was simply to bring all the elements that I find entertaining into one big variety show. To be totally honest, I actually spoke to people that I had hoped would take it upon themselves to bring the show to fruition. I mean, the whole purpose of this was to entertain me, which would be pretty hard to do if I actually had to work at it! Sadly, there were no takers and it came down to a put up or shut up proposition and so I took the plunge.
The date of the first show was set for February 16th and now all I had to do was find some performers and the rest was gravy. I made a few calls and booked a few acts and thought to myself, “Is that all there is to it?” Well, my subconscious, who has had some sort of vendetta out on me for years, remained silent, allowing me to blissfully walk into the nonstop whirlwind of promotions, preparations, press releases and scheduling that comes with each show. Had I known what was to go into each show…well, read on…
I had booked a phenomenal jazz singer, Patricia Berg, Geborah, a modern jazz and hip-hop dancer, Henrique Couto, a…um…he’s…well, he has a mustache. He is kind of hard to describe. He’s like what would happen if the spirits of Tiny Tim and Sam Kinison possessed the body of Weird Al Yankovic and then coerced him to have sex with Judy Tenuta…Henrique would be the spawn of such a union. I also had a comedy troupe from Cincinnati that was supposed to be there, but they bailed at the last minute. I called Jay Madewell, who is a local musician and who was also playing drums that night for Henrique. Madewell suggested that I call Todd the Fox, who, as luck would have it, was available that evening. One of the other essential facets of the show was the selection of the waitresses. I knew I wanted unique, friendly waitresses and I thought it would be neat for them to be able to dress in retro or pin-up clothing. I wanted the waitresses to be the very beautiful face of the show, and model Sarah Walls, dance instructor Kira LaFave and the very versatile Kristina Savage have gone way beyond my expectations. If anything, they are not only the face of the show; they are the heart of the show.
Aside from a few technical glitches (don’t trust me around a CD player) the evening went beautifully…and this is where all of the time I had invested in running around, making phone calls and the ensuing chaos was made worthwhile. When the emcee, Vincent Holiday, said, “Goodnight!” and the lights came up…no one left. No one left and there was this energy…people were excited. The performers wanted to talk to the audience and the audience wanted to talk to the artists and to each other. Some of the musicians were taken aback because they were not used to performing in front of a “listening” audience and they had to scale back the act that they were used to performing in front of a rowdy bar crowd. The audience was exposed to forms of music and dance and comedy that they may never would have experienced before because they were usually performed at venues that they may not frequent. The performers were influenced by other performers that they, in turn, may never have shared a stage with. That is when I knew that this was right.
Over the course of several shows, we have had fantastic rock, ballad, R&B, soul and jazz singers, accomplished guitarists, drummers, saxophonists and other sundry musicians. We have had belly dancing, shadowbox dancing and other various forms of dance as well as sideshow performers, comedians and poets. Each show has unintentionally taken on it’s own hue and flavor, dictating for itself what the other acts should be, how it should be promoted and any other special features. For instance, the last show featured shadow dancers, a spoken word artist, a belly dancer, an R&B singer, an improv comedy troupe and Al Holbrook, who is a phenomenal soul/R&B singer and keyboardist. In contrast, the upcoming show will have legendary musician/comedian Dow Thomas, Kaleb Kane and Reverend Tommy Gunn from Hollywood’s FreakShow Deluxe, the lucha surf band Team Void and, rounding out the weirdness, hosts and emcees, A. Ghastlee Ghoul and Baron Von Porkchop, whose Tales of the Macabre television show has marched on in the footsteps of Dr. Creep. The next show will have…hell, I have no clue what the next show will have. It could have zydeco musicians paired up with juggling baboons for all I know…and that’s really the point.
In an age of homogenized, prepackaged consumables (entertainment included) I think there should still be a danger there. I think that the audience should be should be able to come in to a theatrical setting and be surprised instead of entering with a head full of preconceived notions. I think that everyone who witnesses one of these shows should have a niggling feeling at the base of their skull telling them that, at any moment, all of this could go horribly wrong as it is all done without a net. I think that, when the show is over, the audience and the artists should be able to walk away with swirling images of the moments of unexpected brilliance that that they had witnessed, like when Todd The Fox and Lisa Bunny Foo-Foo took to the stage with a guitar, a suitcase and a washboard and tore the house down. This is all just proving that there is more out there on the desperate horizons of our everyday life that can still not only entertain and audience, but can make that audience feel as if they are part of the show as well, taking them out of the role of voyeur and allowing them to see through that fourth wall, sharing the symbiotic energy with the artists.
In essence, the overall philosophy of the show is this: to create a community. A community between the artists that grace the stage. A community of audience members that find kindred souls with similar interests and, most of all an all encompassing community of everyone involved. Of course, I would like to have a larger audience (which is slightly difficult since the shows are held on Wednesdays) and this is not so I can line my own pockets with more money. I want to be able to pay the performers what they are more than worth. I’d like to give bonuses to the waitresses and be able to create props and such for the show itself, to make it better for the audience. I would also like a larger audience because I feel that the performers I have had deserve a larger audience, and one that is there to take in the experience, not to pound back brew with background music. Maybe I’m just too naively idealistic, but all of this has opened my eyes to the creativity that exists in Dayton and I would love to draw all that creative energy into one place… then it will be a Dirty Little Secret no more…