AMBER LOVE 15-JULY-2013 On July 13, 2013 inside the elegant halls of the DoubleTree Hotel in King of Prussia, Pennsylvania, the production company that brings the metro area steampunk, kink, and other Neo-Victorian musings delivered with a salon style gathering for all the local weirdos, freaks and watchers. Jeff Mach Events hosted a drama-free small convention, “Occultus” presented by The Goblin Market, of vendors, performers, psychics, and plenty of drinking — all of which certainly seemed more responsible and tame than anything I’ve attended before. So if there was any drama or issues, the staff did an amazing job of keeping it under control. If you’re in the mood to shop for steampunk or goth fashion, jewelry, canes, parasols, masks, fangs or baby heads in jars, then you should get on the event lists for these shows. I did hope there would be absinthe, but alas, none to be had.
This was of course much smaller than something like Steampunk World’s Fair which takes up two hotels, but many of the people who were at the Goblin Market ballrooms are regular attendees of all the steamy and weird events in the New Jersey area. I guess the legend of the Jersey Devil has given us some validation that we are in fact, allowed to be as freaky and weird as we want in safe environments.
Speaking of safety, this is a hot button issue that has been coming out of the large events like Book Expo, Dragon*Con and all the various comic cons; it has struck such a nerve that there are now cons adapting “The Scalzi Policy of Harassment” to assure the attendees that safety is taken as a serious issue. The Mach franchise of productions has a bit of an edgy reputation because they encourage sexual and gender exploration which is something mainstream conventions wrestle with executing safely. From the several Mach events I’ve attended, I can tell you I never felt “unsafe.” Yes, I have felt “bothered” which is entirely different. I have had several men that are just a bit too pushy in conversation; one of them wasn’t even a show attendee but a man in the bar at the hotel for an insurance sales workshop. There are basic rules of etiquette that are posted and blogged ad nauseum yet some people aren’t getting the messages. Knowing there are attendees who cut loose with their sexual identities translates to perception that shows with any adult themes might set people off believing they are going to be roped, gagged, and spanked against their will. That is not how this works. Consent is a big part of the exploration. A couple of us lone “vanillas” were fine mixing with the crowd even with the occasional leashed zombie clawing through. And I should mention, people do bring their children to these shows regardless of leather bondage vendors and burlesque performers; the parental judgment is yours. Before I delve into the highlights of the show, here are a few tips.
A FEW TIPS FOR NOT BEING CREEPY:
* When you ask a woman where she’s from, do not continuously ask for more and more details; if she gives her state only, you need to accept that as the answer and move on. Time and time again I was asked, “But where?” and I’d go through an Geo-Sat drill down until I really put up the conversational walls that things were getting too personal. “New Jersey. Northwest. Warren County. Next nearest town? Really that’s all I’m saying, I’m not giving you my street address and municipality.” It happens a lot and frankly, this is one of the creepy things I am most sick of. I understand the camaraderie of finding someone from a neighborhood you actually know. When I was off in Pittsburgh and someone mentioned New Jersey, I wanted to know if I had a new connection to home but you have to control the conversation like an adult and pick up on the cues that you have asked enough.
* Getting a name during an introduction is a basic step in meeting people. You do not need douchebag pick-up artist checklists to get someone’s name especially at a convention. People are trading business cards and contact information all day long. That is why they are there. It is about networking in person rather than online. That being said, when I tell you my name is Amber and give you my card, do not question it. How I introduce myself is how I wish to be addressed in that environment. Period. End of explanation. Don’t ask if it’s my “real” name (PS, I have a very long previous blog post explaining whether it is or isn’t). So if a stranger dressed in layers of stripes and plaids with nautical braids around his shoulders is chatting you up and introduces himself as Admiral Mercutio Von Peltzatdragons, that is unfortunately what you are stuck trying to remember. Hopefully you’ll get a business card to make it easier. But at that precise moment, the Admiral of the Airship S.S. Casseioplatypus does not want to be known as Marc Johnson, C.P.A.
* The simplest cue for any question about whether or not you are being perceived as creepy – and I say “perceived” because you may have the very best of intentions – is when someone takes out a cell phone or begins looking around for friends which might not even exist for someone attending alone. The cell phone is a dead giveaway that your conversation is not welcome at this time. For me, I was sitting at the top of a flight of stairs and jotting down notes in my notebook. Drunk Airship Pirate Guy would not understand that I was busy and uninterested in his level of conversation. If he merely wanted to make acquaintances and let me get back to my writing, that would have been welcome but instead he kept talking and repeating everything three times and then… the spittle. Yes, really, spittle. If you are so drunk you forget how your mouth works to chew gum and talk at the same time, you need to avoid attempts at talking to women.
Now for the great stuff about the Goblin Market which outweighed all the socially awkward pitfalls.
Before anything, shout out to Kristin Costa, the fabulous fashion designer that I would employ full time if I won the $600 million Powerball. Her booth is always filled with fabric and metal treasures that I want in my closet. If I were ever to get officially married (again) I would sink all my budget into having Kristin make me a fabulous gown.
Lee aka Lady Eleeza and Captain Ralph Van Cobert from Steampunk Works ran a magnificent booth of oddities filled with creepy doll heads in jars, old apothecary bottles, and the piece d’ resistance, the electric chair they wired themselves. They were the first people I met and so incredibly friendly that I spent a considerable amount of time being adopted into their oddball family. I may be Lily Munster in this scenario but I was so comfortable talking with Lee about fashion and photoshoots. I wanted to lowlight my hair in black hues immediately to fit in better. Oh well, still unfortunately blonde for now.
The fangmaster to the stars was vending as well. I sadly do not have need nor funds appropriated for a custom set of canines but if I did, Horror Show Jack would have gotten my business. I flipped through his portfolio to see the likes of Ray Wise, Michael Rooker and Anthony Michael Hall among his celebrity clients. I expected a fangsmith’s booth to have great portfolio books and a few wicked props but I didn’t expect an entire corner with several shelves of modified horrific toys that had once been bastions of innocence.
I caught most of the lecture about how mummies are made. This prop mummy was given a complete back story. Nesmond was possessed by demons therefore the people in charge felt it was best to mummify him while he was alive rather than after death as is tradition. Poor Nesmond. A ritual like his would take about a month. The bandages were unwrapped and each deeper layer was darker with stains. Finally, Nesmond was unwrapped down to the naked preserved flesh which was still pliable and somewhat flexible. His mandible could be moved and the skin around the teeth could be pulled back. Eww.
Musicians played at different intervals. Headlining, if you could call it that in a cabaret setting, was the fabulous Wandering Cellist, Michael Lunapiena. He shared the stages and hallways with Robare James Pruyn-Bush (guitar), Matt DeBlass (harp), Antihime Miller (cello) and Painless Parker (busker). The Wandering Cellist is known for bringing familiar soundtracks to his audience from franchises like DOCTOR WHO and GAME OF THRONES.
Nelson Lugo is a stage magician who did a human “blockhead” act where he does indeed hammer a six-inch nail into his nasal cavity. Then a sporting audience member gets to remove it for him very slowly. This was followed by some fun rope tricks.
Another of my favorite people to see is Mark Donnelly, a bartitsu instructor and a purveyor of canes, walking sticks, umbrellas and parasols through his booth Canes Enabled. I finally added a black parasol to my accessories wardrobe. I was in the market for a pagoda style which tend to be around $150+ but instead I found an Edward Gorey style with a moderate dome and beautiful scalloped edges for much less. Anything that keeps the sun off me is a good thing. Now I have a white one and black one for all occasions.
I also bought two beautiful skeleton cameos and a steampunk ring from Corvus Creations who were having a great sale at the Goblin Market. They have an etsy shop as it seems most small vendors do these days.
Walking about with a couple different puppets was Jeff Cleve of Steampunch. He’s a professional puppeteer who has a steampunk Punch & Judy act. Nice guy and easy to talk to so I highly encourage meeting him (and hiring him) if you get the chance.
For every creepy doll that you want to have in your nightmares, visit the shop of Mistress Rae. What actually drew me to her booth wasn’t anything I found creepy. She has a collection of repainted/remastered Barbie dolls in dia de los muertos themes and a stunning Kali Barbie. I managed to have restraint from purchasing all her Barbies. I told myself two things: I do NOT have the space for more stuff (hard enough to manage the books at this point) and I am NOT swimming in a sea of disposable cash. I settled for taking some photos by which I can remember the beautiful Barbies.
My night was topped off with a seance. The side room from the main ballroom had little light. The table was covered in black and on top was a very large wooden Ouija circular board. That piece of decor alone was enough to make the room enticing. I have to say, they did keep with the spirit of the Occultus show but they should have somehow made it more clear that the seances were essentially short LARPs (live action role playing). That’s what it boiled down to. Everything said was scripted. There was no illusion of belief in the afterlife or in making contact. This was disappointing, not only to me but to the woman next to me who came specifically for the seance. It should have been billed as a LARP recreation of an 1840’s seance. All the seats around the table were filled but at least half were part of the show. They were rigged with strings and who knows what else in order to thump on the table and make it jump off the floor like a washing machine. I was expecting something more like you would do at a slumber party with hopes of seeing flames flicker and objects move without wires. Nonetheless, the seance group was a bunch of friendly eccentrics in a variety of fashions from witch to vampire to normie.
I’m sure it comes as a shock to everyone that there was no fangbanging for me. Awww, maybe next time.
Get ready for the inaugural Geek Creation Show in August in New Jersey. Jeff Mach is this week’s Vodka O’Clock guest and we talk all about GCS and the Tesla Museum. If not there, perhaps I’ll get to this Parafest everyone is talking about.
Once again WordPress’s Gallery feature is not working so please visit the Facebook gallery.