Nightlife notebook: Gagarazzi aims for sizzle but fizzles
This past Friday saw the premiere of Gagarazzi at The Highball, a Lady Gaga-themed burlesque show benefiting Equality Texas. I was excited to make an appearance at the event; I’m only in my first few months of experiencing Austin nightlife and I've already found myself spoiled by the caliber of entertainment opportunities available.
I slipped into the club a few minutes before 10 pm, offering to pay several people for entry before being ushered toward a loose mill of people waiting in line. The side room was partitioned off from the rest of the venue with an immense velvet curtain, safeguarded by security staff (ostensibly to keep the racy show under wraps). While audience members streamed by—a mixture of a few Gagas, who had gotten $2 off their entrance fee for coming in full costume, and civilians—a somber guard kept an eye on crowd flow.
Through the curtain I could see the Gaga-centric rotation of avant-garde videos and art films that was babysitting the crowd before the show began. After making my way through the curtain into the Gagarazzi wonderland, the Mistress of Ceremonies emerged onstage and began to introduce the event and the performers. She was funny, keeping the absurd evening light. As for the dancers, I’ll start first with the positive, the good, the successes: they came, they were putting their all into it and they were doing this for charity, the lovely people.
It is unfortunate that sincerity and heart do not translate into an engaging routine. Once I had absorbed the bounds of these Little Monsters onstage, and the extent to which they were imbued with the spirit of Gaga and were going to channel this holy moment into dance, there was little left to do but watch them disrobe. I'm tempted to ascribe my dissatisfaction with the event to my lack of enthusiasm for the unclothed female form and also note, in the interests of full disclosure, that if Gagarazzi had been a wet boxer contest I would have been totally enraptured and declared it the fête of the season. (Perhaps I am obligated to look at an event that included Charity, Women’s Bodies Being Celebrated in Queer Spaces, A Wide Range of Different Types of Bodies Being Celebrated and just confront my own phallocentric ideas of what constitutes Queer Space. In sum, just stop being so goddamn negative about everything.) I also probably would have had a good time if I had gone drunk.
I don't want to seem overly critical of the organizers of the event. Judging from the turnout it seemed like a success and the people who stayed and the people waiting in line to get in looked into it and engaged. But for me, the central question of Gagarazzi is "why?" Why Lady Gaga? She is a perpetual star, but the time when Lady Gaga as a party theme or the focus of a parody video or as a topic of conversation would stir you to interest are gone. It is lazy. It is expected. I’d prefer something new and exciting, or even something old and prosaic. Like “Fall,” a burlesque show of sexy squash and suggestive horns o’ plenty, complete with lots of fake leaves and hay bales on the ground. If you wouldn’t do it in New York or California, don’t do it here. It makes Austin look passé, which is not the image we want to project. You know, what with our economy being built on convincing people to move here.