Fashion at the West Bank’s Bedlam
The bartenders were standing on the bar looking past the crowd overflowing from the room with the stage. Every chair in the bar area had one or two people standing on it, as did most of the tables. The adjoining theater room holds a couple of hundred people in its present state (there is a wing closed off for renovation), an extra hundred people were squeezed into the seats, aisles, and floor, and another hundred were just outside the entrance way to the theater, necks craned for a view from nearby stairways, table tops, chairs, blocking the view of the bartenders. Who really were actually standing on the bar.
The music was interesting and a dozen or more models moved a couple at a time out onto the open stage area, walked around and sometimes did things to make the crowd laugh or scream, and then walked into the back room to change and return a few minutes later. Nine clothing designers designed about 90 accessorized sets of clothing in the Sabbath Fashion Event on Friday Night at the Bedlam.
I am something of a fashion expert myself, which is why I was there.
Well, okay, I hope you were not drinking hot coffee for that last sentence. I am nothing like a fashion expert, and I had never been to a fashion show in my life. Indeed, I made note that I was going to a fashion show earlier in the day when I was with Ana (who, as you know, is an actress and model) and mentioned my plans for the evening.
“Oh, I’m going to that fashion show tonight.”
“I’m sorry I can’t make it. I’ve got this thing at First Avenue.”
“Right. I’ve never been to a fashion show before.”
“It’s a bunch of girls in clothes,” she said, saying it as though it was an aphorism from the industry, like this is what models call the thing.
“Hmmm….. I’m totally out of my league here, aren’t I?”
I had had a long day. To bed late the night before, up before the sun in the morning, building shelving for a few hours, a lot of writing, a grueling interview, and there I was in Saint Paul, emotionally drained physically tired and with nothing to do for three and a half hours, I decided to go home before heading back into town to see the fashion show.
One of the nine women in the show is my friend, Lizzie. Without that important fact being true I would not have known about the show, and I would have had little inclination to go to it. I remember when Lizzie told me that this was going to happen, back when she first found out. She was both excited and unsure. There was not a lot of time. The designers seemed intent on setting a very high standard for themselves, artistically and in terms of number of items to produce. About ten designers would produce about one hundred items. Dark Dark Dark, the band, one of Lizzie’s favorites, would do the music. It would be at The Bedlam, a popular local place that started out as a punk venue and has evolved into a…well, a post-punk venue.
Lizzie has a full-time job and had made a lot of other commitments recently. In fact, she told me about the show with a little bit of reticence. She knew that I knew that she was already overextended, and suddenly she was adding in a major commitment like this. At first it was almost like she didn’t want to tell me, but of course she did. We have a tacit deal with each other, Lizzie and I. There is never a cost paid between us for anything either of us says, thinks, or does. In other words, no judging. Just listening and anything else the other person needs. No owing. So I listened, and figured things would work out however they worked out, but mostly, I sensed right away that this was something that she really, really, really wanted to do, and in some really important way, needed to do.
“I trust my own ability to garner enormous bursts of energy after days of procrastination,” Lizzie had once said to me. And it turns out that those are words you can take to the bank.
So weeks went by. I’d check in now and then, and there was always progress, always excitement, always some consternation that it not be done in time, always an expression of belief that it would be possible.
So on my way home on Friday, exhausted after this long day and all that, I gave Amanda a call to let her know I was coming home and what my plans were.
“So, I’m on my way home.”
“Oh, okay, I’m at Dad’s. Getting free food and avoiding the rush hour.”
“Yeah, I’ve got a few hours, so I figured I’d go home before Lizzie’s thing tonight.”
“And, to be honest, that probably means I won’t go. By ten o’clock, I’ll be ready for bed. I don’t know who I’m fooling, thinking I’m going back into town tonight,” being very realistic, almost responsibly realistic.
“Well, okay, either way is fine with me.”
And by the time I folded up the phone, one part of me was already whacking the other part of me upside the head.
“WTF, man? Are you seriously thinking about NOT going to this? ” Whack.
“Huh? Well, I’m kinda tired…”
Whack. “Tired? Do you think Lizzie would let being tired stop her from going to YOUR thing?”
“Well, no, actually, she’d go to my thing. Maybe I’ll have a cup of coffee and–”
“Maybe?” …whack… “Maybe have a cup of coffee? Seriously?????”
“No, I will. I will have a cup of coffee, and I’ll go back into town.”
“You better go back into town. Don’t make me whack you up side the head again, man.”
“Okay, okay, I get it. Leave me alone….”
And so, of course, we went, I mean, I went back into town, to The Bedlam. On my first pass there was no place to park nearby, and a line halfway around the block to get in. Holy crap, that’s a good sign. On my second pass, I failed to find a place to put the car within three blocks of the place. Finally, on my third pass, I put the car in a pay lot and walked on over to the show.
I never did see much. I could barely see the fashions themselves, but I was able to enjoy the music. I especially enjoyed the reaction of the crowd. Instead of seeing the girls in clothes displaying the ninety products of the nine designers, I watched the faces of about fifteen people who were seated across the stage area with an excellent view of the show. From their expressions I could judge what was happening, imagine the antics of the models, and overall understand that this thing was being a great success. All nine of the designers seem to have hit their mark.
During a break, I chatted with Tom, a mutual friend of Lizzie’s. Just as I was starting to assume that Lizzie was unlikely to appear in the public arena (she must have been very busy backstage) there she was. Hmm. New color hair. Dressed like one of her models in her own design. Brightly glowing. Grinning from ear to ear. Beautiful.
This is what she said:
“I’m so happy.”
She said that about a thousand times. The months, the worry, the work, the concern that it would not work out, the caring, the creativity, the trouble. It was nothing. It was just happiness.
I guess it would not have mattered if the bartenders were standing on the bar or not and if there was a line around the block or not as long as Lizzie felt this way at the end. It was obviously worth whatever it took. The fact that the show was a spectacular success was icing, because I know that Lizzie’s happiness was about what she did, not what everyone thought of what she did. Well, maybe her happiness was from that too. And her happiness is my happiness, so I was kind of grinning a lot all weekend.
This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 18th, 2009 at 8:01 am and is filed under Art, Greg Laden. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.