Flashback May 2012 – I’m installing “Defying Devastation Bushwick in the ‘80s”, my collaborative exhibit with the writer Vanessa Mártir soon to open at The Living Gallery during Bushwick Open Studios. In walks a handsome young man with tall lanky legs like Tommy Tune, eyes as large as Betty Boop’s and the sweet sincere charm of a boy raised on a pig farm in Wisconsin who had recently “come out” in Milwaukee, moved to NYC to pursue his dreams. Scott Dennis,, friend and neighbor of the Living Gallery’s owner Nyssa Frank, was excited about to begin his new job as an assistant to a renown Broadway producer. We shared Wisconsin roots (my paternal grandmother Elizabeth Suplinsky Meisler grew up in Marinette, WI and I got my Masters degree at UW Madison), love of musical theatre, connection to Nyssa and intrigue with Bushwick. We hit it off immediately and have been friends ever since. Scott went in drag to the first incarnation of Bushwig 2012 and by the fall evolved into the persona of Madame Vivien V. I was enamored witnessing her first performance at Metropolitan Club, hosted by Merrie Cherry.
June 2014, Bizarre is launching my exhibit and book A Tale of Two Cities Disco Era Bushwick. I asked Madam Vivien V if she would consider volunteering as a hostess/performer at the huge Disco Party. Madame Vivien V was so vivacious and charming, Bizarre offered her a monthly show. Madame Vivien V’s BORDELLO opened it’s monthly magical world.
Entering BORDELLO the first time, I was shocked to discover that in addition to being a sultry, funny, lip-synching and dancing performer, the Madame played with fire! Every BORDELLO incarnation introduced a new mix of drag, burlesque, comic, dance, circus and fire performers. The evenings were always fired up and unpredictable. Madame Vivien V was the charming hostess of ceremonies for the launch of Purgatory & Paradise SASSY ‘70s Suburbia & The City at Bizarre during BOS 15.
Flash forward BORDELLO: CLIMAX- March 23, 2017.
In Madame Vivien V’s invitation she writes:
The Final Experience
Two and a half years have built up to this moment. The last Bordello. It has been one wild ride so we are giving you the most satisfying, in your face bang we can conjure. You’ve earned it! Come live the cluster-fucked fantasy one last time as nearly 40 of New York’s most spectacular creatures of the night come together to give you a show to end all shows. A one night only, once in a life time experience just for you.
BORDELLO CLIMAX was dedicated to VATO (Ulysses Calixto) , a beloved member of the Bizarre and Bushwick creative community who had a fatal heart attack, at the age of 26, the night before. Between tears and laughter, the room was packed at Bizarre with those who came together to mourn and celebrate the life of VATO and participate as a patron or performer in the ultimate BORDELLO.
It was a love fest in honor of Madame Vivien Vand VATO.
PERFORMERS: Amazing Amy, Ballerina Bizet, Bobby Fishnets, Brie YOB, Clara Beaux, Crimson Kitty, Elle Emenopé, Doll Body, Erika Rosel, Iffy Roma & Disco Monk, Jellyboy The Clown & Fibi, John O’Mahoney, Kinga, Lee VaLone Drag, Matt Knife, Matt Phillips, Michael, Leu Becker. Miss Stella Fae, Miz Jade, Nina La Pêche, Reverend Arlowe Price, Roy Davis & Joy Fully, Sage Sovereign, The Human Carpet, Vic Sin, Zalika Parsons LIVE MUSIC: Felt Bottom Boys, Amber&TheWolf HOSTS:Dominic,Malestia Child Rose, Suzie Hart
FOR YOUR PLEASURE: “Maestro de la Battre” – DJ Penny Lane, “Tip Queen” – Amber Von Toxn, “Door Doll” – Yasmine Shilha Benjelloun
Photos by Dmitri Wildfong-Nishman, Videos by Cameron Cole (Brooklyn Nightlife Awards, BIZARRE BOSS: Gregory Baubeau
Madame Vivien V shared a life lesson near the end of the evening- “You can choose to be a hero”. The room was silent as Madame told the story. A few weeks ago, while in her “boy form” walking alone at night near the McKibben Lofts of Bushwick, Scott was jumped by two men. The attackers took all possessions of value, and then continued to beat and stomp on his bloodied face. Madame Vivien V /Scott gathered the strength throw their body in front of a passing car and pleading for help. The man in the car said “call 911” and drove off. The beating continued, Madame Vivien V /Scott thought they were were going to die. Madame Vivien V told the stunned crowd the beating continued until another stranger drove up, and opened her car doors, no questions asked grabbed Scott and took him to safety and a hospital. As she continued, you could hear a pin drop:
Ladies and gentleman, at some point in your life you will be given the opportunity to choose to be a hero and help a stranger. That person who drove away chose to be a coward. That woman who took a stranger, no questions asked, to safety chose to be a hero. There will come a time when you have to choose, choose to be a hero.
The assailants used Scott’s credit card to order in food to their apartment, creating a trail for the detectives. One of the suspects was arrested and is on trial; the other suspect at large. Scott/Madame V, an innocent victim suffers the PTSD pain while testifying at the court and day to day life.
Madame Vivien V’s shares a hard learned message to the friends of Vato and her fans at Bordello- Life is precious, live it. Never walk alone, even close to home. Take care of yourself and others. Choose to be a hero.
Thank you for your friendship and words of wisdom Madame Vivien V.
Go from strength to strength. Continue to ignite hearts, minds and imaginations.