Category Live Shows

Shiny and Oh So Bright: Smashing Pumpkins at United Center

When I was thirteen years old, I stood at the sink, washing dishes, wearing a Smashing Pumpkins t-shirt, and informed my father, who was drying, how lame it is that bands go on “we still hate each other but we ran out of money” reunion tours and how lame the middle aged people are who go to them, trying to recapture their lost youth. We had a lot of discussions like that, many centered around the center of my life, The Smashing Pumpkins. 

And I was obsessed. Obsessed in the way that an awkward, often-lonely person can be when they feel understood for the first time in their lives. I channeled that obsession into spending my time on the internet discussing the band on Listessa. I scoured the at-the-time brand new website eBay for memorabilia, rare cd singles, a print of their first album before it was slightly remastered and reissued under the parent label, fan-made merch…anything I could get my hands on and my babysitting budget would allow. I had a closet full of Smashing Pumpkins t-shirts and when I saw them live (my first concert, Summerfest ’98, opening bands were Blonde Redhead and Hum), I bought four more. I got in trouble with my parents for using too much printer ink printing photos of the band I’d found online. I bought that hundred dollar (or more?) black and white hard shelled mini suitcase of singles and b-sides. I committed to memory track names, song order, lyrics. I started taking guitar lessons and bought Smashing Pumpkins tablature books so I could know the music. I lip-synced in the mirror. I drew fan art. I waited in line for nine hours to meet the band on their Machina signing tour. I would evangelize the band to anyone who would listen. If they were willing, they could also listen to the music on the portable cd player I carried during the only years of my life when I had pants with pockets generously sized enough to accommodate a portable CD player. (They were so generous I probably could have wedged a smaller boom box in there.)

I was soundly mocked by my family for announcing that I wanted to change my name to Starla because of my love of the band, and endured another round of mockery when we watched the episode of The Simpsons where perpetual loser Kirk Van Houten introduces his new hard-living special lady friend, Starla, who almost immediately proceeds to steal his car.  I will admit now that name would probably not be my first choice; I think at the time I was just tired of being the least popular of the six Melissas in my school, and it was another way for me to be able to demonstrate my dedication to the band.  Somehow, only one of my two stupid tattoos is even incidentally Smashing Pumpkins related–how I got out of the 90’s without the SP heart tattooed on my ankle remains a mystery and a miracle.

That was the band. But only one member wrote the lyrics that spoke to my soul, the music that was the soundtrack to my teenage disenchantment: Billy Corgan. I idolized him for it. There’s no other word for it. In the early days of the internet, I even ran a fairly popular fan site* that was solely dedicated to tongue-in-cheek “worship” of Billy Corgan and definitely portrayed him as a messianic figure, and though I did not worship him as a literal god, I gave his words and thoughts and actions such power that I may as well have. When I got my first real job at a family run music shop, I bought myself an American-made Fender Stratocaster in Inca silver (the kind Billy had) and I replaced the pickups with lace sensors (the kind Billy used, in the same configuration–it turns out that the tone of my original pickups wasn’t what was holding me back, it was my lack of talent). I’d use my mouth to speak his opinions. When he sang “believe in me”, I believed him. When the band broke up and he said “There’s nothing wrong inside the band. But the way the culture is and stuff, it’s hard to keep trying to fight the good fight against the Britneys.” as though the teen pop star and her ilk were somehow responsible for the band’s decline and the lessening popularity of alternative rock, you’d best believe that for a while, I blamed Britney, too.  

This was taken in ’98 or ’99. Although there’s a lot going on here, note the Pumpkins shirt. As a side note, if you ever see someone who looks like me but aren’t certain: if the photo is flattering, it’s not me.

When I was thirty-six years old, I flew to Chicago for the express purpose of seeing the Smashing Pumpkins’ reunion tour. I hadn’t listened to the band heavily in many years, and it had even been several since I’d listened to my favorite of their albums. I downloaded them all to my phone so I could refresh myself on the plane ride over. I don’t remember the track order as viscerally as I used to, anticipating the first note of the next song, but all the lyrics, every vocal inflection, every drum fill, every feedback squeal and hopeless wail…they’re all inside me. I could hear them in my head as clearly as I could hear them through the headphones. I don’t think I could forget them even if I tried.

It’s been not quite twenty years since I abandoned that fan site, and in the intervening period, as I’ve grown up a lot and cast off the obsession and the idolization that came with it, I’ve come to see Billy Corgan as a person. A disappointing, petty, vindictive, bewildering person. From the aggressive way he reacts to a fan’s criticism, to his multiple appearances on Infowars (the unhinged, far-right American conspiracy theory program hosted by Alex Jones), to offering himself up for a charity lunch where the high bidder is also responsible for the lunch bill, to dating Jessica Simpson after indirectly blaming her for breaking up his band, to releasing five different versions of the same album to really stick it to his fans in a misguided attempt to game the Billboard charts, to kinda-sorta trying to start his own religion, to wielding his power in a petty fashion, to whatever this is.  The public beefs and self-aggrandizement lost its allure to me, especially after a “reunion” tour  ten years ago where Billy was the only original member of the band after Jimmy had enough and fucked back off to his own band, The Jimmy Chamberlain Complex. I’d reached my ridiculous behavior to life-altering music ratio lifetime limit. I couldn’t reconcile that the person who had written the songs that made my heart thrill, that gave me comfort and an outlet in a world that hurt too much, hates people like me now. It’s like preeminent Pumpkins writer Ian Cohen of Pitchfork muses on this excellent podcast if you’ve ever loved the band, “It’s just incredible that we actually got records like that out of this guy.” But I was still going to this reunion concert (now with most of the original lineup!). I was going to meet my friend, I was going for me, and I was also going to make little know-it-all thirteen year old Melissa a hypocrite. 


Dianne, Dee and I started our evening at the Revolution Brewpub, which we slipped into after being followed down the street by a man who proceeded to pace outside the front of the restaurant and peer through the windows, looking for us, and where I goddamn well should have ordered the Yukon potato, spring pea & cheese curd pierogi that I wanted instead of that bullshit salad I ordered so there were two reasons to be sad and scared. I know why I ordered that sad salad, because I’m recently middle-aged and I was afraid that eating a plate of carbs wrapped in carbs would make me fall asleep in my expensive concert seat before midnight. It was a responsible, flavorless choice. Or perhaps the sense of taste was driven from my mouth by the man still staring through the window, head scanning, which I could see from my seat on the balcony. Thankfully, he was not still waiting by the window when we finished our meal, nor was he waiting beside Dee’s car, which he had seen us exit and could reasonably expect that we’d return to at some point.


My emotions quickly took a huge swing in a different direction when we arrived at United Center. In addition to music, I also listened to some Ted talks on the flight to Chicago, one of which was a talk by Ingrid Fetell Lee about finding and embracing joy in our lives, and I realized as the bass thudded through my body from opening band Metric’s performance as we walked the hallways of the event center to our seats that I was experiencing joy, there in that moment, and in anticipation of the near future. We looked at the merch booth and it was the usual: t-shirts, hoodies, and vinyl. Dianne and I joked that they’d be more likely to appeal to our demographic if they had a nice silk scarf with the Mellon Collie art on it, or perhaps a flowy dolman-sleeve top. A line of scented candles–Appels + Oranjes seems like an obvious first choice, but I can easily imagine an entire range of song and album inspired scents and at least one band member belittling a frazzled nose that the “Kaleidyscope” blend doesn’t contain enough essence of mechanical child ghosts OR vetiver and that he’d just do the whole thing himself or burn down this candle factory trying. One guess as to which band member I’m picturing.

When we got to our seats, we were all surprised to learn that we actually skewed young for this audience, which was full of ill-fitting jeans and “I would like to speak to your manager” haircuts and no actual young people to speak of anywhere. When the band came out, the audience didn’t surge to its feet so much as shuffle, including the human bowl cut seated in front of me, and this low-energy feeling persisted throughout the show. Some of that has to do with the music–it’s not super danceable or headbangable and the songs that are usually change gears a few times so people just kind of stand around and nod their heads. It also didn’t help that the stadium seemed half full.

The Smashing Pumpkins’ set started with Mellon Collie played over a video referencing a lot of their album and liner art, and next was a solo acoustic performance of Disarm, which made it pretty clear that while the audience had paid to see The Smashing Pumpkins, they were at The Billy Corgan Show. It wasn’t until the rest of the band joined in on Rocket, Siva, Rhinoceros that I realized the video playing behind the band, cuts of music videos and new material, had been edited in such a way as to make it appear that former bassist and founding member D’arcy Wretzky never existed and that is when my joy died and I started to cry. I couldn’t stifle them, they were the kind of furious and bitterly disappointed grief tears that just punch their way out of the duct. It wasn’t enough to have invited D’arcy onto the tour and then renege. It wasn’t enough to disrespect her by playing all of her parts on two albums. It wasn’t enough to hound her so much during the recording of another album that she had a miscarriage from the stress,  nor was it enough to disparage her contributions after she quit the band. No, every bit of her contribution had to be obliterated, replaced. How could he do this to her, how could he be so cruel? She was in the band before Jimmy! This is her life’s work, too. I knew beforehand that she wasn’t going to be on this tour, but I didn’t know that it would be so hostile to her. This atop of all of the other messages Corgan has sent through the years about women musicians and their value, abilities and interchangeability proved to be too much. It took my breath away when I realized what a disservice I had done to myself by elevating this petty man’s opinions above my own for even a little while.

Who else but an utterly self-indulgent megalomaniac would have a double sided staircase wheeled onto the stage solely so he can ascend dramatically in an awful hooded silver lamé cape while performing the most tortured, overwrought cover of Space Oddity since William Shatner touched it

Who else but a rampant narcissist would see a video of himself driving a car and think, “Do you know what this needs? Another, larger me looming in the backseat!” I bet if we flipped to a side view, his spinning face would be on the hubcaps.

I don’t mean to imply that the show was bad. It wasn’t bad, but the thing about this being The Billy Corgan Show means that how I felt about The Smashing Pumpkins in that moment was intrinsically tied to how I felt about Billy Corgan, and how I felt about Billy Corgan in that moment had taken a steep dive from mere minutes earlier which was already way down from its all time peak in 1996. And that’s the problem with the band, and the problem with the concept of a reunion tour for this band, when one man has made it so clear over the course of his career that he’s done everything himself and that everyone else is replaceable. I am convinced that The Smashing Pumpkins would be Billy Corgan and three+ mini Corgans grown in a vat if he only could figure out the technology. Billy Corgan and his Corgestra.

The band played a lot of hits and a few deeper cuts, powering through three hours and fulfilling the role of a reunion tour by finally embracing their back catalog as they’ve been historically loathe to do. In the background were more videos of widely varying technical skill and artistic merit featuring Billy Corgan in religious, magical and prophetic iconography, along with more Mark McGrath of Sugar Ray notoriety in a vaudeville outfit than anyone ever asked for. Corgan dedicates a song to his mother, the one where the official music video is about a homeless pregnant couple with addiction issues and behind him on the blazing screens a glimmering starlet nods out, her eyes shimmering with tears. In the audience, Dianne and I turned to each other in that moment and exchanged a very meaningful look. Out on the arena floor, an electric virgin Mary was slowly wheeled around the audience; from where I was seated I was unable to ascertain whether or not she cradled an infant Billy but I can only assume she did. 

The setlist covered a wide segment of their career but did stick to albums released before their initial breakup, with the exception of a new song written by this lineup, Solara. If I could have made changes, I would have eliminated the covers (all of them, even Landslide) in favor of a few less likely candidates from my favorite era of the band: Set The Ray To Jerry, Obscured, Jellybelly, Bodies. I can’t complain because the last time I saw them, the only song they played from Mellon Collie that wasn’t a single happened to be my favorite, Thru The Eyes of Ruby, and it was so unexpected that I felt like the luckiest person alive on the happiest day of her life. I was glad this time to get a live Porcelina and Muzzle. The scope and the vaudeville and the iconography of this glittering stage show was exactly the right amount of bombast for this band.

There wasn’t a lot of stage banter at the Chicago show, nor at the nearly-identical Seattle show which was broadcast online, and in that latter, it felt so…typical that he’d use his short time talking with the audience, his time introducing the last song pre-encore, to get after “the people who left early to go home and do heroin”. Typical to focus on the empty seats instead of the packed ones.  Typical to be so small, to snatch an insult from a few people leaving when literally thousands of people spent the last three hours listening to what he wanted them to hear and looking at what he wanted them to see. Typical to take this opportunity to introduce himself to a whole new worldwide audience and punch himself in the face with just three songs to go. He immediately followed it with “That was a joke, come on. It’s ok. We have heroin in Chicago.” and while his lack of empathy for people outside himself (including, clearly, Jimmy and his struggles with the drug) is Billy Corgan canon, I think it’s more telling that in reviews of other dates I’ve read, he has made a point several times in several other shows of calling out people who left early in a joking-not-joking fashion, and that speaks to a larger problem of someone who still thinks he’s not getting something he deserves at the worldwide arena tour dedicated to his ego where people are screaming for him. 

I think I will always love the music that spoke to me when I needed it. It would sure be easier to call myself a fan, however, if Billy Corgan would adopt some measure of generosity of spirit, grace, forgiveness, and gratefulness in his life in addition to singing about it. But D’arcy is probably right.



*An archived version of that page still exists online, to my complete surprise. I looked at it for the first time in since I abandoned it and while it’s not a good website, and it’s very of its time, it starts off fairly sensible (entertainment only, don’t stalk him, be cool). I expected a full-body cringe so intense that my guts could produce diamonds and I didn’t get one…until I landed on the page where I attempted to define the cardinal sins in music and I expect to pop out the Koh-i-Noor sometime tomorrow. Yikes. Good thing I’m not doing anything embarrassing on the internet anymore!

Bustin’ Makes Me Feel Good: Pinata Bash 2015


I heard about the Pinata Bash about six months before the actual event date, which was plenty of time to make a killer pinata. Naturally, given six months to make it, I really only got started in earnest the week of the event, because time pressure makes me excel, or at the very least, gives me a primo excuse for not making something to the best of my abilities (“What did you expect, I put it together in ten minutes?“). I ultimately ended up making a dragon pinata primarily out of cardboard with a thin skin of paper mache, because I remembered all too well how quickly the last pinata I made was sliced in half.

The rules were as follows:

-Your pinata must contain a prize pocket

-The contents of the prize pocket can be anything so long as it’s not liquor, liquid, or potentially hazardous (but it was indicated that it would be ideal if you put in things that people would actually want)

-The pinata can’t be bigger than 5’x5′ or too heavy to lift with a rope and pulley


That was pretty much it! My dragon rolled in at just under five feet long, with jaws that snapped up and down when he moved, and was stuffed with seven pounds of atomic fireballs and chocolate coins. I was happy with my construction and my chances at snagging a prize until I got to Re-bar and realized that some people had worked way, way harder on theirs than I did and deserved the prizes way, way more than I did.

clash of the titansClash of the Titans

death starDeath Star

emoji twinsDancing Emoji Twins

ghostbuster pinataGhostbusters

kandi kidzKandi Kidz RaverBallz

romy michelle escape helicopterRomy and Michelle’s Escape Helicopter

smash the patriarchySmash the Patriarchy


The first portion of the evening was the judging portion–the judges checked out all of the pinatas, made some initial notes, and then each builder was invited onstage to answer questions about their pinata. Seattle’s Mayor of Burlesque, Jo Jo Stiletto, wanted to know my dragon’s name, backstory, and magical powers, and I was suddenly thankful for all of the bullshit I make up on a regular basis, because while I walked into the club with a generic nameless dragon, I was able to come up with something on the spot. “He’s an…uh… Icelandic dragon who goes from house to house at night, breathing in his minty fresh breath through the windows. Whenever people wake up in the morning and say “Ooooh, it’s crisp!”, that’s him. His name is, uh, Skarsgård.”

After everyone talked about their creations, the judges conferred and selected the winners.

First place: Clash of the Titans. Obviously! This thing had light up eyes and the creators spent a full six months perfecting it.

Second place: Smash the Patriarchy. This one surprised me–sure, the name and concept were funny, but I would have pegged the death star or the ghostbusters ghost for this slot.

Third place: Ghostbusters. It even came with a proton pack smashing stick!

Last place: Sadzilla, where the only prize was a hug from the judges. They were openly cruel to this girl, not just about her pinata, but about her–one said she seemed retarded, and I was appalled. It doesn’t seem like this is how you should treat someone who spent time, effort, and money creating something so you could have an event to destroy it AND paid more to enter a pinata than they would have if they’d paid cover as a smasher. That was the big bummer of the evening to me.

The other bummer was how damn stingy builders were with their prizes, which is what I found out when we got to smashing. The entire point of smashing open a pinata is to get at the goodies inside, so yes, it is a total dick move to stuff your pinata full of glitter, opened fortune cookies, and old dirty socks. Or three starburst.

glitter floor

one sad smiley face

skarsgaard strung up

emoji twins swingSkarsgård went down in one hit (the pinata curse continues), and the crowd fell on him and pocketed his guts within seconds. Someone carried around the head like a trophy, eyeless, because someone else had ripped them out as their trophy. I’ve never seen anything like it, and I’m even more convinced that I would not do well in a mob-type situation. Someone get these people some candy, stat! And take away their sticks!

It’s just reinforcing the class system of…horses…sitting on their high horses….sorry, I gotta go!


A couple of years ago, Jason and I attended Cavalia, an equestrian and acrobatic show that’s essentially Cirque du Soleil minus the clowns and with horses, and I loved every minute of it. When I saw a billboard for their new show, Odysseo, I mentioned to Jason that I’d like to attend. The next day, he sent me a message: “Do we have plans for SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 22, 2014, 8 P.M?”  There was no way he hadn’t directly copy/pasted that from a ticket purchasing site, and I couldn’t play it cool for even a second. “No…are we going to the horse show?!” “No, I, uh, signed us up for a, uh…cross-stitching class.”


I needled him about cross-stitching class constantly in the weeks that followed, asking about where it was, what we were learning, their flowing manes, but he stuck to his story, finally exhaustedly presenting me with the tickets on Valentine’s Day. Because nothing says “I love you” like the end of weeks of pestering. Little did he know that while it was the end of waking him up with a flashlight in the middle of the night to interrogate him about our supposed cross-stitching class, it was also the beginning of shaking him awake in the middle of the night to let him know exactly how many hours until horse show time. What I’m saying is, when his coworkers would see how wretchedly tired he looked, waggle their eyebrows, and say something coy about newlyweds, they really had no idea.

When the day finally came, we followed standard protocol and removed all cash and means of credit from my person, and not a moment too soon, as Cavalia has stepped up their merchandising considerably and moved it front and center, so within seconds of entering I was squeezing supersoft plush horses to test their fitness as a friend to Napoleon (verdict: ringing in at $100, they are much too fine for the ten minutes of ass-ripping they would endure in my household). They’ve also got DVDs of this show and the previous one, soundtracks, calendars, shirts, scarves, etc–the usual. What I didn’t see, and what no force on Earth could have stopped me from purchasing, were the SkyRunners, because I’ve got a number of bones in my body which have never been broken, and I’m certain they could help me remedy that particular problem.


Our seats were pretty excellent; as we were off to the side a bit and angled to see the arena, there actually were no seats in front of us so I didn’t have to worry about the Jolly Green Giant sitting in front of me and blocking my view, which is what normally happens to me at every event. When I saw RoboGeisha in the theater, I couldn’t see the subtitles at all, so I essentially invented my own reasons for why someone might gouge out another person’s eyes with shrimp tempura. When I saw That1Guy recently, the tallest man I’ve ever seen in my life came in three quarters of the way through the show and pushed his way through the crowd until he was standing directly in front of me, and this was so inevitable that I only wondered what took him so long; maybe he lost track of time while shooting himself up with human growth hormone.

The show itself was amazing and beautiful, showcasing strength, athleticism, beauty, grace, and precision. The horses themselves are extremely well-trained, but they’re not forced to do anything they don’t want to do, and that gives the overall production a sense of spontaneity and wonder that it may not have if everything were clockwork. With their enormous screens, sets, and costumes, you’re transported from an enchanted forest to the African savannah, from Easter Island to space itself; woven throughout are the strands of companionship between human and horse, the appreciation of beauty in motion, and the joy of being alive. They incorporated all of the traditional dressage of a Lipizzaner show, but made it entertaining instead of godawful like an actual Lipizzaner show.

There’s a short intermission between acts, during which Jason asked me which part was my favorite thus far. “Every part. Every part is my favorite.” During said intermission, they send someone out in a mini steamroller to pack down the dirt in the arena; you can totally see him out there steamrolling behind the curtain in careful circles, making sure each part was packed down perfectly. The only suggestion I have to the producers is that they could turn the intermission into a little steamroller ballet–put a few of them out there, set them to music, and have them perform some of the same movements as the horses.

While both Cavalia and Odysseo were excellent shows, of the two, I prefer Odysseo, as it integrated the horsemanship and acrobatics more; at some points during the show, it felt like there was so much to see that I couldn’t possibly take it all in. They’ve got four more shows in Seattle before they leave: don’t miss it!


May the best man win: the mating call of the loser!


  Just like at Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Studios Orlando has a CityWalk outside: an area full of restaurants and shops designed to part you from your money before you even make it into the park. What separates it from nearby Downtown Disney is that at Universal Studios, they charge you for parking, too.  The walkways to the park lead you directly past Hollywood Drive-In Golf, a minigolf course that appeared entirely too spectacular to miss, so we vowed to go there at least once during our trip. We actually ended up going twice: once before Halloween Horror Nights and once on the last day of the trip as we had a significant amount of time to kill after we checked out of our hotel but before we had to go to the airport (enough to play 36 holes of minigolf, see Gravity, AND have lunch), and the amount of fun we had didn’t diminish upon replay. In addition to the fun themes, it’s actually well-designed so that skill plays a larger role than luck and balls can’t just go willy-nilly all over the place and get stuck like one particularly shitty course I’ve played. They have two 18 hole courses: The Haunting of Ghostly Greens and Invaders from Planet Putt.     IMG_2401




IMG_2413This was my favorite tombstone: “So long together, I will always remember Wigglesworth, faithful tapeworm. I’m empty inside without you.”


IMG_2469 Each course was super detailed, with sound effects, moving parts, and hilarious decorative touches. For instance, they had swamp creatures all around one hole. As you walked toward the hole, they’d spit water at you.  One was additionally positioned directly above the hole and would shoot a puff of air out at you as you bent over to pick up your ball. I went first and it startled a screech out of me.



IMG_2436 Incidentally, that scream that the golf course got out of me the first time we played was the only time I screamed that night, which was pretty sad since it was immediately followed by Halloween Horror Nights, the entire reason we waited until later in September to go on our honeymoon. Halloween Horror Nights Orlando was horrible.   hhn-2013-haunted-houses-2900x2000-oi-1160x800

First of all, the scare zones were just zombies, zombies, and more zombies, which as you’ll see, contrasted with the maze’s themes of zombies, zombies, and more zombies.  Ugh. Cabin in the woods? Redneck zombies. Resident Evil? Lab zombies. Walking dead? Zombie zombies. Evil dead? Zombie zombie zombies! ENOUGH WITH THE ZOMBIES. Zombies have been played out for a long time, let’s try something new. Two of the non-zombie mazes were repeats: La llorona, and An American Werewolf in London (which essentially recycled all of the stuff from The Wolfman maze even if it wasn’t exactly the same), so the only two that brought something new to the table were Havoc and After Life: Death’s Vengeance. Havoc boiled down to army dudes yelling on a train; one literally yelled at me for not being scared. After Life: Death’s Vengeance was at least decent, as it was about the victims of a serial killer taking their vengeance on him after he was electrocuted–in 3D. The 3D effects made it visually interesting, but distracting, not scary. Every few feet, there were zombie nurses selling shots, which I don’t remember from Horror Nights Hollywood. Maybe there’s a difference between the state’s liquor laws that allow for it in one park but not the other, but the only message it sent to me was that they knew the mazes and scare zones sucked this year so you’d need to be hammered to enjoy yourself. If we go back to another Horror Nights, it will be to Hollywood, it’s not worth the trip to Florida.  

“Oh look what you did! Now I’ll have to go get my cold cream gun.”

In July, Jason and I took a trip to Vancouver for IMATS (the international Makeup Artist Trade Show). We had plans to attend the previous month’s event in Los Angeles as LA is by far the bigger show, but it unfortunately fell on the same weekend that Jason was committed to being in a wedding so it didn’t work out. However, the next LA IMATS is in January, which is right around the time that I start losing my mind in the cold, dark Seattle winter, so it will be an ideal time for a trip to a place where the sun peeks through the smog. Vancouver is essentially a cleaner, friendlier Seattle, with better candy AND Plants vs Zombies scratch off tickets!

I wasn’t interested in the push and shove aspect of the trade show floor–I love makeup, and I love discounts, but it has to be a hell of a discount or a product I cannot purchase otherwise to make me want to deal with crowds of people elbowing one another to get the last item–I’d rather pay full price AND shipping and never have to deal with a human being. What I was interested in was the student creature competition, the makeup talks, and the makeup museum. The student competition was broken up over the course of two days, with beauty on Saturday and creature on Sunday; I only attended on Sunday, and I was impressed by the quality of the work I was seeing. I wish self-taught people like myself could compete, but unfortunately it’s only open to makeup school students.

The makeup museum, though small, was also very cool, featuring mostly work by Toby Lindala (keynote speaker, creator of SFX for X-files, Supernatural, and V, among others) and Todd Masters (featured speaker, creator of MastersFX, SFX on Big Trouble In Little China, Predator, Underworld, True Blood, and more). Questionably, however, they also included submissions from various local schools, some of which were so bad that I was embarrassed for the artist and the school. Everyone has to learn somewhere and everyone works to the best of their personal abilities, and hating on someone for trying is the height of uncool…but showcasing pieces that aren’t ready to be shown do a disservice to both the student and the school. It’s why you don’t see macaroni necklaces in the Louvre.

Taking a photograph of a video camera videotaping a video feed. The only thing that could make this better is if someone behind me took a photograph of me taking a photograph of a video camera videotaping a video feed. Both Todd Masters’ group and Toby Lindala struck me as likeable, humble artists with a genuine love for their craft and fascinating stories to tell, and their speaking time went by far too quickly. If MastersFX still had a Seattle studio, I would beat down their door for an opportunity to work there, to observe, to help, to sweep their floors…but sadly, it is no more. The only thing that stuck in my craw about the event in general was that the floor was full of tons of women (and some men, but predominately women), but nearly all of the speakers were men. Where are the women, and why don’t they rise to the top of this craft? More women learn to use makeup than men, so how is it that the most notable figures in the business are men? Is it the glass escalator effect? Surely there are women who are just as talented…so where are they? Halfway through the day, we decided to take a break and head to a nearby pub for lunch rather than suffer through convention food, and there I learned two important things. One, there are vampires actively prowling Vancouver:

and two, I learned an important lesson about Canadian light and how it interacts with steak fibers. At the time, I was on a restrictive diet and could only eat carbohydrates one day a week, so I’d been eating/preparing/ordering a lot of proteins and veggies. I ordered a medium-rare steak with veggies while Jason ordered some carbtacular dish that I remember being insanely jealous of at the time. What I received was a completely well done steak, and even though I’m the sort of person who haaaaates sending anything back to the kitchen, I flagged down the waiter and told him that it was far too well done while apologizing profusely for bothering him. He disappeared with my plate and came back twenty minutes later with….another well-done steak! He disappeared before I could cut into it, and when he came back around again to ask if this one was better and I responded negatively, he said “Oh, I know what your problem is” and grabbed the fork off my plate and poked at the steak. “Yeah, that’s medium rare, I can tell. It’s just that you’re sitting by the window and the light is what makes it look brown. It’s why steakhouses are so dark inside, so you can’t see that the meat is actually brown when you expect it to be red.” HUH. It’s fascinating to learn that the Canadian visible light spectrum is missing the color red! You’d think that I would have heard about that before, read it somewhere, seen it in a documentary…SOMETHING. I didn’t think to look while I was still in Canada, but does this mean that their national flag is actually a brown leaf and they’ve been too (typically Canadian) polite to inform the rest of the full light-spectrumed world that we have it wrong? Because, and I don’t mean to boast, I have cooked and eaten many a steak within the borders of the United States in both darkness and in light, and they’ve always been a varying shade of red inside. So it must be Canadian light, right? I refuse to believe that an actual Canadian could have lied to me just to get me to shut up and eat an overcooked, shoe-leathery piece of meat.

The next time I burn the hell out of dinner, I’m going to tell Jason that we must have had a Canadian air front sweep through the kitchen, but not to worry…even though it looks and tastes burned, that’s just a factor of the air, and it’s actually the most succulent thing he’s ever had in his mouth. Thank you, Canada!

“Let’s go, HAGliacci. Or shall I say, Madam Butt-or-face?”

Jason took me to my first-ever opera on Saturday, Madama Butterfly. As is usual in Seattle, there was an interesting mix of ballgowns and sweatpants in the crowd. I’ve lived here for eight years, and the unwillingness of most Seattleites to dress up never ceases to baffle me. Flip-flops aren’t babies, people: it’s perfectly fine to leave them at home in the closet once in a while. But I suppose I’m not surprised that we have people showing up in stained t-shirts when people have to be explicitly told “Avoid kicking the back of the seat in front of you; this is very annoying, even if it is done in time to the music.” REALLY? There are people out there who believe that kicking the seat of the person in front of them in time to the music is anything OTHER than annoying?

Of course, while I rail about people’s outfit selections, I would be remiss if I didn’t say that we almost missed the entire thing due to an unexpected detour through downtown Seattle, where we got to witness hundreds of fans moving in unison towards games that were occurring simultaneously throughout the city AND we got to check out the view from every single red light between our exit and the parking lot, causing us to have to book it to the theater and arrive slightly less fresh than we might have otherwise.

As it turns out, actual theatrical opera is nothing like the Goth opera I’ve been conditioned to:


While Madama Butterfly lacked organ repossessions and Paris Hilton’s face falling off, I loved it. It’s so moving to listen to performers singing powerfully, particularly live, especially in this age of autotune and lip-syncing. We were so moved, in fact, that we spent the whole way home singing operatically about yetis, adult undergarments, and tactical missiles…and in stopped traffic with the windows down, we drew more than a few looks, whether it was our subject matter or our, ahem, non-operatic quality vocal work. But what else could we do? We were inspired and stuck in a traffic jam for more than an hour.

Coming soon: Stanley the Yeti, the world’s first sing-along, kick-along opera in an opera house near you!

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios

Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios is supposed to be one of the premier horror events in the country. Accordingly, when we packed our bags for LA, I brought an extra pair of pants, in case I had a fear-related accident. However, I should have checked to make sure the extra pair of pants actually fit me. When we went swimming earlier in the day, I’d worn my pants over my suit going to and from the pool so that no one would have to look at my see-through leg skin, but this plan backfired as my pants got quite wet on the way back to the room, creating the appearance that I’d already had a fear-related accident, and my backup hipster pants were too tight to the point of severe discomfort. So I spent the minutes before we were off to CityWalk furiously blowdrying my crotch in the hotel bathroom with the provided hair dryer.

Waiting to get into the park, Jason had his first experience with a Southern California Bro waiting behind us in line. “So, bro, get this, I was dating this chick who turned out to be lame, and she was like, I thought that The Simpsons ride was too long but that the King Kong ride could have been longer and I was like, what, the Simpsons ride is like, a perfect length, and really, how much longer can a gorilla fight a dinosaur? Man, the best part of The Simpsons ride is like, when you go down to hell, I was all like WHOOOOOOA!” …he was suitably impressed with the guy’s bro-itude.

Immediately upon entering the park, it’s clear this event isn’t intended for children, with made up girls in short shorts grinding and writhing in cages to rock music. Once you’ve passed them, you’re into the Klownz area, overflowing with chainsaw-wielding clowns and geysers of flame shooting into the sky. There were so many clowns, in fact, that it was very easy for one to sneak up behind you while you’re distracted by another. One clown was very, very determined to try and get a squeak, a squeal, a screech, something out of me as he followed me through the area, blowing into my hair and dangling some sort of furry mass of something in my face. Really, the one he should have been going for was Jason–there were only a couple of times I was genuinely startled all night. Overall, the actors were very good at finding people who were totally engrossed and scaring them back into the moment.

Terror Tram: Scream 4 Your Life Our first stop was the Terror Tram, as it stops running a few hours before the park closes. We had purchased front-of-the-line passes, which meant that the most we had to wait for anything was a few minutes (compared to the 100+ minutes everyone without a pass had to wait for damn near everything), so we weren’t concerned about having to pick and choose the things we wanted to do most out of fear of not being able to see and do everything–but we didn’t want to get caught up elsewhere in the park and accidentally miss the two things that closed early. The Terror Tram bills itself as a behind-the-scenes look on the Universal Studios backlot of four horror movies currently in production; it’s essentially Universal Studios’ unbranded horror maze. I’m glad we chose to do it first, as it set the scene for the rest of the night. I’m not necessarily certain what I expected Halloween Horror Nights to be, but the Terror Tram absolutely blew all of my expectations away. The only word I can possibly think to use to describe it is “elaborate”. One of the movies was “Zombiez on a Plane”–and we walked past an entire plane ripped up, with bodies dangling out of the seats. I was so impressed by the work and money pumped into this event that I would forget that I was supposed to be scared. One girl was having her face ripped off, and as I was gawking at her makeup, she squirted water “gore” into my face and my reaction was not “ewww”, but “Wow! Awesome!”

The Simpsons Ride Our next stop was The Simpsons ride. It was hard enough for Jason to drag me away from Krustyland the first time to go to the Terror Tram: there was no way he had the strength to resist me again, especially since I’d been wanting to ride this ride ever since I’d first heard it existed. Everything about the area was spot-on perfect, from the references to the “Tooth Chipper” to schlocky Krusty-brand merchandise to the fully-stocked Kwik E Mart. The ride was charming, funny, and had a number of unexpected surprises. Afterward, my cheeks hurt from smiling.

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure

Bill & Ted’s Excellent Halloween Adventure was an excellent (wait for it) respite for my smile muscles, because it was the only down note of the evening. It was a bunch of juvenile racist jokes with some song and dance numbers…and the main villain was Osama bin Laden. Really, Universal Studios? Wow. Pretty tacky. It did have some pretty attractive scantily clad young people, but I can get that elsewhere, without jokes about Mexicans and leaf-blowers.

House of 1000 Corpses in 3D Zombievision

I’ve always been a fan of Rob Zombie’s horror work, particularly House of 1000 Corpses, so I was definitely looking forward to this maze. Before we went through, we were handed a pair of 3D glasses to wear, which made the maze even more disorienting than it would have been otherwise. They managed to touch on nearly every area in the movie, from Captain Spaulding’s store to the Murder Ride to the house of the Firefly family to the underground tunnels where Dr. Satan resides. The colors, the tone…everything was spot-on perfect.

The Thing: Assimilation The Thing was one of our favorite mazes of the evening. Not only were the special effects amazing (they were created by Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, two people who worked on the film), but they managed to create an atmosphere in which you felt like you may have possibly stepped through a portal into Antarctica, your breath fogging from your mouths on what you know is a warm Los Angeles evening. One of the only downsides is that, unlike the film, you aren’t threatened by the menace that anyone around you at any time could turn into The Thing (which could have been fixed with some line plants…but then again would have increased wait time so I don’t know if the payoff would have been worth it).

Jurassic Park: In the Dark This is the same ride as it is during daylight hours, except in the dark, it has a little more punch. We were told that you would get drenched on this ride, and since we wanted to do everything but didn’t want to spend have the night shivering in wet clothes, we bought two of the ponchos that were available for sale. I recalled all too well the time I’d gone to Six Flags Great America’s Fright Fest (located in Gurnee, Illinois, home of chilly to downright freezing temperatures in October) and ridden the Roaring Rapids ride, certain that all of the water geysers had been turned off, and discovering far too late that I was wrong and ending up soaked to the bone and colder than the White Witch’s nether regions. So I was insistent upon poncho purchase. …we were the only people in line in ponchos. When we got off the ride, our ponchos were barely sprinkled with water.

At least we looked cute.

Alice Cooper: Welcome to my Nightmare This maze was designed with the help of Alice Cooper himself, and contained a lot of references to his music, some of which I caught, and some of which went straight over my head as I’m not the biggest Alice fan. I’m guessing I would have enjoyed the maze more were I a huge fan, but then again, the dingleberry teenagers behind us were clearly fans, and one of them kept shouting at the actors that they weren’t so-and-so, that they weren’t doing such-and-such right, so they couldn’t have been having a great time. Unless they enjoyed taking some of the fun out of it for me, in which case I guess they had a blast. I certainly had fun mocking them afterward. One of the actors in this maze got me good, as he came crawling at me on the floor and I only saw him coming out of my peripheral vision: I tripped over my feet and then Jason’s feet while scrambling away.

Revenge of the Mummy This ride was ok. I mean, I enjoyed the Mummy movies (up to a point), and I always dig rollercoaster-type rides, but it wasn’t anything special or particularly horror-themed. It’s certainly not something I would have waited an hour and a half to ride.

Hostel: Hunting Season On our way into this maze, a group of girls came screeching out of the end, running and screaming well into the night. I thought for SURE this meant that something at the end would be beyond terrifying, but it didn’t end up scaring me, though overall the maze was one of the most gruesome. However, one of the actors squirted me and caught me off guard with more water “gore”, and the guys in the next room must have heard my “EWWW” because they nailed me, too. Or maybe they all like taking shots at girls in glasses, I’m not an expert.

La Llorona: Villa De Almas Perdidas La Llorona is a widespread legend in Mexico about a woman who drowned her two children for the love of a man, who subsequently rejected her, and she now roams the afterlife in ghostly purgatory, weeping for her lost children and seeking to drown other children to join them. I was distracted by the dudebro in front of us who was masking his own fear by walking behind his girlfriend with his arms around her, penguin waddling through the entirety of the maze. For the amusement of the people walking behind us, I did the same thing to Jason, which encited some laughs from the people behind us. Though the legend doesn’t really resonate with me personally, I thought the makeup and everything was very well done–there were a lot of cemetery settings with gravestones and weeping angels, and the actors were painted to resemble stone so realistically you could not tell which were the people and which were the props. At one point during the maze, they had an extra-large Maria head devouring a child in his bed (Freddy Krueger style), and when I drew Jason’s attention to it, saying “I don’t recall that being part of the legend”, an actor crept out of a hiding place, so when Jason turned back, he was so startled he nearly jumped through the ceiling, getting brays of laughter from everyone including myself.

The Wolfman: Curse of Talbot Hall This was the perfect maze on which to end our experience. Not because the maze itself was particularly outstanding, but the people around us enhanced, rather than detracted from, our experience. I’m not easily scared, but if someone fails to scare me, I won’t fling insults at them or be a jackass, and I was surprised to see that so many people WERE jackasses about it. But this time, it was perfect. Just before entering the maze, the group of girls in front of us screeched and said “You please go first, I can’t go first, I’m so scared”. I laughed and said “No fear, ladies, I will hold your hands” and led the way through the maze. I had my fair share of people jump out at me, but there were also some people who targeted the girls at the back, one of whom ran forward into me, screaming “BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAALLS”. I turned to her, confused, and said “Excuse me, but did you just scream “balls”?” Yes, yes she had. Apparently this is a thing among the youth these days. This maze also contained my maze kryptonite: mirrors. Unless someone shows me the correct way, I will walk back and forth between two mirrors and spend the rest of my life in the maze, often walking into them face first.

Wrap up After we’d seen everything there was to see, we decided to hit the Kwik E Mart and head out early–our front of the line passes got us to the front of every line once, but if we wanted to see or do anything again, we’d have to wait the full time, and there wasn’t anything I was willing to wait in line for that long to do again. While at the Kwik E Mart, we bought some plastic glassware for the house because I can’t be trusted with real glass, a “Duff” and “Flaming Moe” energy drink to go with my Buzz cola, and a big pink Simpsons donut. How big, you ask? Big. Really big.

Delicious, too. We’re already talking about going back next year.

An evening at the PNB with Giselle

The scene is set: A couple of finely-dressed young adults have joined high society to attend the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s presentation of Giselle; one of the oldest ballets. Giselle is set in the Rhinelands during the grape harvest: it tells the story of a young woman, Giselle, her love for a nobleman who has disguised himself as a peasant*, her betrayal and death by grief when she discovers the man she loves is betrothed to another, and her life after death as one of the Wilis–young women who were jilted before their wedding days who take revenge on men by making them dance themselves to death. The artistic director of the show, instead of having the troupe perform the more well-known and recent Russian iteration, went to the oldest source he could find and directed the show to mirror the 1841 original as closely as possible. The beautiful sets and costumes were on loan from the Houston ballet. All in all, it was a powerful, moving ballet experience, save for one thing.

That damn burger rolling around in my stomach from earlier in the day. It wasn’t merely a burger, it was a burger monstrosity. A burger so fatty and dense and calorie-laden, I’d already been forced to take a nap to allow my body to process it. Now, in the middle of the seemingly interminable pantomiming portions of the first act, the burger was making an angry reappearance. The burger was officially ready to Bring the Pain, involving feverish amounts of nonsensical praying to the God of Bowels that can he just please hold off for just a little while, please, anything, an offering of nothing but healthy fibers will be forthcoming if he will just PLEASE keep me from crapping my dress at the ballet. Occasionally, these prayers will be heard, and the evening can proceed as normal. My prayers were, and a mighty offering of fruits and veggies was laid upon the altar of the God of Bowels the next day.

The second act was much more interesting and enjoyable than the first, particularly since I no longer had to focus on a brand new method of humiliating myself in public. What I DID have to focus on was a group of women chatting behind me in Russian for nearly the entirety of the second act. Chatting, giggling, and some form of giggling cry I’d never heard before. I turned and glared, not wishing to be as rude as them or draw as much attention with any vocalized admonition. Jason turned and glared. The man seated next to me in a glittery suit turned and glared. They were impervious; if anything, their volume increased, as did my loathing for them. There is at least one of these people in every crowd and they are ALWAYS seated near me, from the man who would not stop talking during a showing of The Dark Knight, to the couple who would not stop thumbwrestling and chatting while everyone around them was straining to hear the soft-spoken Adrienne King, to the drunken Stephen King lookalike who kept resting his beer-holding arm on my head while shouting to Electric Six to “Play Freebird, fuck yeah, man”–there’s always one. Why, if you want to talk through a show, do you bother attending a show in the first place? Why, in a theater so conscious of the enjoyment of all that it even stresses to patrons to wear minimal perfumes if they must wear perfume, would people assume that talking loudly during the performance is acceptable? Why, if they are always to be seated in my vicinity, am I not given some sort of electronic device to jolt and irritate them as much as they’re irritating the people around them? As much as they’re irritating me? Or if not tasering, why can’t I be authorized for sharp slap across the face when the need is dire? I almost reconsidered praying my illness away so that I might dump on them the way they crapped all over my theater experience, but ultimately decided “assault via poop” is not the sort of recommendation I need beside my name in any publication. Theater-talkers, think on THAT. You don’t know what sort of fury your conversations may bring down upon your heads, so it’s probably better to save the whole thing for coffee after the show. YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED.

*What did this nobleman hope to achieve by disguising himself as a peasant? Was he looking to live a more honest, peasant’s life? In which case, why did he keep his servant? Was he just slumming? Why did he actively pursue a peasant girl when eventually he’d have to marry the woman to whom he was betrothed? Why does Giselle, who dies of shock and grief, mind you, so readily forgive and protect this cad from the Wilis? If these questions have not been addressed in the last 170 years, why do I think someone will suddenly pop up with satisfactory answers?


Upon our arrival in Vegas, Bill picked us up and let us stash our things at his room at the Wynn, as we could not check in at Planet Hollywood for several hours. After seeing the swanky accommodations at the Wynn, we were initially concerned that our room would feel like a dank pit by comparison, but all worries were forgotten upon the discovery that our room was crammed full of Jurassic Park memorabilia, because there’s nothing like a velociraptor sweetly watching over one’s slumber.

As Saturday was our only entirely self-directed day with zero wedding obligations, we decided to spend the afternoon in a leisurely fashion at our respective pools, meet up in the evening to have dinner at the Wynn buffet and then take in a show. As it was over one hundred degrees outside, the time in the pool was especially refreshing, and I even spent a bit of time sunbathing afterward since summer had not yet arrived in Seattle and my body was starved for some vitamin D. All too soon, it was time to meet up for dinner. The Wynn buffet was reputed to be one of Vegas’ best buffets, but as, shall we say, buffet connoisseurs, we were all disappointed. What was there tasted fine, but it was underwhelming in size and variety. For the money, I think any of us would pick a rodizio meal over this starch-stravaganza. After dinner, it was time to attend Don Arden’s “Jubilee”, the 28-year old classic and supposedly last authentic showgirl revue in the city.

My expectations of the show may have been colored by seeing “Showgirls” more than a handful of times, but we all left the show not quite knowing what to think of it. The sets were elaborate and amazing, the costumes were impressive, the performers were undeniably beautiful, and yet the show never rose above the mediocre. In my opinion, the show suffered from not knowing what it wanted to be. At times, it felt as though I were watching one of those interminably boring beauty pageant song-and-dance numbers, only with boobs. A portion of the show, detailing the story of Samson and Delilah, was enthrallingly well-done, and had the entire show been at that standard of quality, I would have been entirely pleased. The show started to sink right about the time they did a segment on the Titanic, after which it could not recapture my attention after losing it so thoroughly. Lesson learned: “classic” does not always imply “good”.

Coming up on America’s Next Top Gluestick

Today, Jason took me to see the Lipizzaner show at Comcast Arena. I, like many young girls, grew up obsessed with horses. I participated in the 4-H Horseless Horse program, which is like a rent-a-horse service for preteens. “One horse, please” topped every Christmas wish list until my parents could no longer take me tearing out the front door in sub-zero temperatures every December 25th, looking desperately through snowdrifts for the horse which Santa had assuredly left for me. (They weren’t so concerned about how distraught I was, more over the heating bill that resulted from doors and windows being flung open.) However, their patience for my obsession was limited, because there’s only so long an adult can feign interest in watching twelve year olds in cowboy hats riding shaggy ponies circle a ring over and over and over. Eventually it got to the point where they pretended that all horses had died from a rapidly-spreading horse disease, and so they flipped the channel whenever they saw something with four legs on TV larger than a dog, avoided taking me to Medieval Times, and nearby Tempel Lipizzan shows were also a no-go.

Over time, I began to suspect that my parents weren’t exactly truth-tellers on the whole horse issue. When I heard on the radio this week that the dancing horses would be on display, I came home and immediately demanded that Jason take me.

…As it turns out, perhaps my parents didn’t have so much of a problem with horses as they did with mind-numbing, soul-sucking boredom. I hadn’t expected the show to be a thrill-a-minute, and I would have been sufficiently entertained if I had been busy trying to take decent photographs, but Comcast Arena has a ban on professional cameras, and I was given the option of either returning it to my car, where some nearby transient could break in and steal it, or checking it in with Comcast Arena employees, and letting one of them steal it. I decided to take my chances with the car instead of leaving it in the hands of The Worst Company in America, where lying and stealing must be in the employee training manual. Everyone else with their phone cameras and handheld cameras were allowed inside, so the message they’re sending is “Comcast: We love a shitty, blurry picture!” At least it’s in concordance with their television service. I wonder if when the wind blows moderately hard, the arena goes down, too?

So instead of being distracted with fiddling with my camera settings, I was forced to listen to the MC and observe the audience around me, focusing my hate beam. It almost read like a single mom’s convention, filled with a lot of greasy-haired, exhausted women dandling one or more very young children on their laps. The children were too young to appreciate the show, so it was clear these women were there to ogle some horses for themselves. Save for the miracle of birth control, I would probably be one of those women. Nearly everyone was decked out in Everett-level finery, because nothing says “big day out” like shorts with a hole in the rear end, t-shirts with stains, or Batman capes (I should note that said cape was on an adult, not a child).

I very nearly lack the language to describe how thoroughly I hated the MC. When he wasn’t talking about the history of the horses in excruciatingly boring detail, he was stumbling over the names of the horses and the riders, or telling jokes of the sort that cause one to want to find a flaming hot poker and jam it into their ears to avoid the risk of hearing one ever again. It’s like he built a comedy career around jokes that make audiences want to groan in despair.

Because the horses are named after their sire and dam, all of their names are quite similar, and it’s difficult to tell them apart. Jason and I solved this dilemma by giving them more memorable names: Tapey Joe, Poopy Bob, Foamy Steve, and Slobbery Mike. Tapey Joe was named as such because when he was supposed to perform a jumping trick, he pulled up some tape from the arena floor onto his hoof, and then his leg bandages came untied and he turned into a sloppy, angry mess. They kept trying to get him to perform the trick, emphasizing how natural the movements are to these horses, but Tapey Joe was having none of it and kept kicking out at his trainer. I hoped he would break his lead and put a hoof through the MC’s jokehole, but no such luck.

Aside from the incident with Tapey Joe, the rest of the show was entirely unmemorable, and word must have gotten around about it, as the arena, which is about the size of a large-ish high school gym, was less than a quarter full. I feel like they could have done a few things to make it more interesting and profitable, and I’ll list those things now for free, as I’m feeling charitable:

One: Know your audience. Sure, the show emphasizes the tradition of training these horses in this manner by accompanying the performances with classical music, but in this day and age, that doesn’t play well, particularly in places like redneck mecca Everett. If you have the horses burst through the curtains in a shower of fireworks and the strains of “Rock You Like A Hurricane”, the audience is way more likely to get pumped up.

Two: People don’t want to buy your program for an extra ten bucks. There’s this thing called the internet now, and people can look at as many pictures of horses as they want to for free, with their pants off if they would like. If you want to get extra money from your audience, institute a U-Pet-Em program where for an extra ten bucks, they can pat the horse’s neck, and for an extra twenty, have their picture taken with the horse. People are there at the show because they want to see pretty horses and imagine riding them. They aren’t going to get that feeling from a printed program.

Three: People are there at the show because they want to see pretty horses, not to listen to an MC yammer on and on with the world’s worst repertoire of jokes. More horses, less MC. Maybe have the MC lay on the ground and have the horses perform a leap maneuver over him.

Four: Less dressage, more tricks. If you’ve seen one horse perform a flying lead change, you’ve seen them all. There’s no need to have every horse in your lineup perform that same maneuver over and over and over again. Instead, have the Evel Knievel of horses jump over a flaming bus. Have a Horseasaurus robot stomp around the ring. Give your audience something to marvel over and talk about!

Five: Let people take decent pictures. Seriously. Good photos are a good, free advertisement. Not one person who sees this photo is going to think “Hot DAMN I need to see this show no matter the cost!”


Man, that light blur inside that lighter blur is, like, so inspiring.

Six: Run it like a reality show. Let audience members vote on which horse gets sent to the glue factory. Will it be the obstinate one who won’t perform tricks? The ugly one that snotted on the person in the wheelchair in the front row? The other obstinate one who performs tricks poorly? YOU DECIDE.

In conclusion, until this horse act steps up its game, you’re better off staying home and watching horse videos on youtube. Here’s one to get you started.