Claims Department Issue 12

This is all about Fashion

This is the Claims Department I’d started working on about a year ago and never finished because I was so busy thinking of so many other issues of various fanzines. This one is all about fashion and it’s for the edition of Claims Department. The story behind this one is my trip to a very fun fashion show in Boston. Remember: these were the days when I wasn’t as good a guy as I am today. One Night In Bangor I’ve never been to Maine, but this was suposed to be the start of a trip up there to hang out at a lodge for the weekend. It didn’t happen because I got a call. “Chris, this is Brad Brown.” Brad was a guy I met when I was working as a runner for the paper. I didn’t even know he had my number. “You want to cover the Dangerous Beauty Ball?” “What the hell is that?” “It’s a gothic/fantasy Ball that has a fashion show beforehand. It’s a lot of fun.”

“Where is it?” “Baltimore.” I hadn’t been to Baltimore in more than five years, so I wanted to go and hang out. I was broke (as always) so I had to catch a ride from Boston to Baltimore with a friend. It was easy because my friends were always wanting to go places. In this case, it was Judith, who hadn’t been around much, but was glad to be there. She grabbed me around noon on Thursday, about five minutes after my last class for the week (I had a great sched at that point) and she powered us down there faster than I’d thought possible. She drives like I do...only with far less space between her and the car in front of her. We’d stopped a few places along the way, so we were driving late into the night, but she got us there with enough time to spare before anything good started happening. We discovered a little greasy spoon right over the Maryland border. Andy’s Andy’s was a small diner the likes of which you’ve seen a hundred times. We were there early enough

so that the sun was only starting to rise. The place was open and I was hungry. I’d slept 2/3 of the way down, which was impressive since we left in the middle of the day. “This place looks like the kind of joint where there might be a fist fight at any moment.” Judith noted. “You see Natural Born Killers? The diner with that waitress? That’s gotta be this place.” I noted. It turned out not to be the place (that one was in Arizona) but we ordered in traditional Chris and Judith manner. “One thing of wheat toast, one thing of orange juice, one order of fries and some hashbrowns.” “Who gets what?” the waitress, a young woman who must not have been more than 20. “Just lower the plates between us and we’ll sort it out.” Judith said. Since I’d slept much of the way, we hadn’t talked much. Judith and I always had a lot to talk about, especially when we were tap-dancing around the fact that we were both

crazy about each other. I was thinking of asking her if she wanted to join me at the show, but I knew she would have better places to go. In this case, she had a friend in Washington that she was screwing anytime she made it down that far. We started chatting about movies and I mentioned that I had just seen one of the best Science Fiction films of All-Time: The Day The Earth Stood Still. She said the only thing she didn’t like about it was the damn kid who kept saying ‘Geez Mr. Carpenter.” This led to a discussion of how much you can overlook of the little things before it starts to seriously effect the movie. I brought up that the best moment in Three and a Baby was the briefest of the brief cameos by Collin Quinn. She said that didn’t make the movie watchable, and I had to agree. We talked a lot. and she brought up Clerks. I loved Clerks, but she hated the little things like the discussion about the

Ewoks and the list of the porno titles. Those were two of my favourite parts and we argued as the food was put between us. “Can we get some biscuits and gravy with extra gravy?” Judith asked. The waitress was back with the biscuits and a tub of gravy in less than a minute. We smothered the hashbrowns with the gravy and dug in. Oh My Sweet Jesus Lord it was heavenly. The gravy was better than anything I’d ever eaten. It was chockfull of crumbled up sausage and big chunks of black pepper. It was whiter than snow and it just couldn’t be beat for full flavor. I was amazed and we ordered two more cups of it to use on everything. They were also kind enough to let us have some grated cheese so that we could do our version of the Montreal favourite Poutine (or however you spell it). It was delicious and fattening and we just had the best time ever eating. Oddly, the two of us spent much of the time talking about our SigOths. She had a fwe guys that she bounced between and I was single, though having a slight fling with M. The ins and outs of our relationships were often the main source for meal conversation. Either that, or ghost stories. Ghost stories and maybe a few Bigfoot tales. Maybe movie quotes. Or Simpsons. Or wrestling. OK, we didn’t always talk about relationships, but especially

when Judith and I were chatting things got into the deep nooks and crannies. Sometimes she would over-share...and usually I’d go even further. That was a fault I had back in those days. I guess I still have that issue as the Drink Tank often proves. After the meal, it was time to head out to our respective arenas. I was going to the movies. The Movie In the history of film, there are a lot of very weird titles. My personal favourite at the moment is Awesome; I Fuckin’ Shot That!. One of the more memorable ones of the 1990s was To Wong Foo; Thanks for Everything, Julie Newmar. Now, it’s not the typical movie, it’s one of those movies that takes guys who are typecast in other areas and tries to make them into something different. In this case, it takes two of the toughest sreen idols, The Swayze (Patrick Swayze) and Wesley Snipes, and turns them into Drag Queens. Now, Drag Queens were very much in vogue at the momen with the huge success of Priscella: Queen of the Desert. That movie, starring Hugo Weaving, Guy Pierce and Zod himself, Terance Stamp, was a great film

and one of the first to really introduce Australia as one of the majour film centres of the world. In fact, without P: QotD, we may never have seen Muriel’s Wedding, Strictly Ballroom or Cosi. To Wong Foo wasn’t Priscella. The story is one that makes sense: a group of drag queens, who are passing themselves off as actual women, get stuck in a small town. Now the cast is actaully pretty good, with John Leguizamo as the third drag queen and Brett Butler as the local woman who befriends them. Butler was still on the big time with a show on ABC and still doing big money on the Stand-up circuit. The weird thing is that she was also at the peak of her drug use. I have to say that this isn’t the peak of Swayze’s career. He had done his best bad ass work in the late 1980s (Roadhouse) and the best self-referential work in Donnie Darko (which I write about in Claims Department #1). He wasn’t much of a comedian at this point, even though he did one of the funnier episodes of SNL in the early 1990s. Wesley Snipes is a good comedian when he wants to be, but here he wasn’t well suited to the role. Leguizamo was perfect. He’s a genius and has comedic timing beyond anyone who has ever worked with him. Even when he’s doing drama, he’s got a timing that just blows me away. The story rolls around and sorta ends with one of those “ah, it’s so good

to see things all worked out” and it doesn’t leave you much afterwards. I can remember coming out of the theatre, sometime around 1 or so, and I wasn’t thinking about the film at that point. The last film that washed over me so quickly before just as quickly washing away was Showgirls. Nothing left behind. Now, I could have gone to The National Aquarium, to the place where Edgar Allen Poe was buried, to the Waterfront, but instead, I headed to

the part of town where the show was taking place. I wasn’t surprised that it was a section of town surrounded by industrial warehouses and other night clubs. It was also not the part of town I wanted to be in for too long. I walked away and found a small shopping mall. It wasn’t like the wonderful malls of Northern California where you can find a Hot Dog on a Stick or a Bennigans, but it was more than just a strip mall (which is also one of the wonderful things about this great state of mine). It was a walking mall that looked to be about 30 years old, with stores that were half chain stores and half local owned. There was also a wonderful lunch place that looked pretty good. I hate eating alone without a book or something to keep my eyes busy. Now, sometimes that can include simply having a lovely lady in a booth nearby that I can ogle (I know, I’m a pig). There was a small bookstore that had a mess of used books in the back. It also had one of those sorting systems that I like so much. You walked in and there was a wall of books that stretched the length of the back wall that towered over you. It was almost too impossible a task to find anything you were actually trying to find, but I did manage to locate a couple of things that looked favorable. One of them was a book that I’d never read but had heard much about. Tim Powers is probably the

greatest LA-area writer who every lived. OK, that might be a little much, but he’s one of the guys who was turing out SteamPunk and later Urban Fantasy that was just the bee’s knees. He was one of the people that SteamPunk was named for, as there was a letter to one of the SF mags at the time that said since everything was getting punk added to it, like SplatterPunk, that Tim Powers and Jim Blaylock should be called SteamPunks. It stuck. The book of Power’s that I thought was his best was The Anubis Gate, whcih is the one that I bought that day in Baltimore. The central character of the book is William Ashbless. That’s both true and misleading. The book is about a professor who is running around through 19th century London looking for William Ashbless. The story rocks and rolls through the 19th cenutry, with all sorts of strange notes and anachronisms. The lyrics of the Beatles serve as an important portion of the story. As with all time-travel stories, it’s mostly about finding ways to play with the timestream and how to properly get back home to his own time...with the girl, of course. It’s weird. Totally fantasy oriented, which usually isn’t my thing, but there’s enough of a SteamPunk element to it to make me want to read it. There’s an evil overlord-type that I love, and a great weasely helper/turncoat.

That’s another character I love, especially when they’re from that certain age of England. Reading it, Tim Powers certainly writes like a genius, but his real power isn’t in his prose but in his characters and the connected mythos that they all share. The William Ashbless character, which he co-created and fleshed out with my man Jimmy-Jam Blaylock, is a great creation. He’s a poet whose greatest work, the Twelve Hours of the Night, is a poem of extreme perfection. The other character who doesn’t so much appear but is the reason for the story, Samuel Taylor Coleridge. He’s one of my favourite poets and he was born on my birthdate. The hero was sent back because his client wanted him to attend a Coleridge lecture. That’s a nice touch. Adding in little pieces from reality with the fantasy is a great thing, making details more important and giving full fun for the reading. I had a really bad roast beef sandwich and a plate of good fries. I read for almost four hours. That’s right, four hours. They wouldn’t refill my Coke for free, so I kept on buying new ones. They didn’t mind since I had a bill that was approaching 40 bucks by the time I started to head towards the show. The Fashion Show Now, I was wearing the right

thing for covering the event: long East German Army trench coat over a black t-shirt and a pair of black pants. Only black Converse hi-tops seemed to ruin the image. I saw that there were people milling about the front door, obviously smoking cloves. I wasn’t sure what was goingon, mostly since it was still a couple of hours before the announced opening. I noticed that a woman with a gorgeous silver streak through her hair was directing traffic, sending people through the doors and yelling into the warehouse with a certain flair. I figured her for the organizer. “Move those fucking chairs!” she

had a voice that must have been smoking since birth “You can’t block the goddamned fire exit.” “Excuse me, I’m...” “Move them NOW! Fuck. You’re Chris Garcia, right?” “Yeah, Brad called. He set everything up. Since you’re here early, why don’t you go back and talk to some of the models.” Indeed, why didn’t I just go back and talk to a few of the models? That was going to be a highlight for sure, so I headed into the warehouse, ignoring

the yells from the doorway of the foulmouthed organizer. The place was being fully outfitted with everything a fashion show would need. There were rivet kids setting out chairs in neat diagonal rows. There was a stage that jutted out into the audience. This would have been completely normal for a normal fashion show if there hadn’t been the little touches. There was unwound barbed wire on the floor surrounding the stage and they’d rigged a series of small Christmas lights mingled with the wire and then they through some shiny chains in with them. From the ceiling, there were a few stalagmites of exposed chicken wire which someone had dripped candle wax all over. The lighting was from up front, but it would still get hot enough to melt the wax, and since it looked like there was at least five gallons of wax on those things, it was going to drip steady all night long. I made my way to the back area where a few of the models were sitting.

A few of them were already dressed. I discovered that they were the ones who were basically parading in the stuff they would wear on an average day. There was one girl, a tall and pale girl with Bettie Page bangs and a corset that would have made Morticia Addams ask ‘Why is she doing that to herself?’. She was drinking a bottle of water and staring out the window. I figured she’d be a good place to start. “Hi,” I said while I walked towards her. “I’m reporting on...” “You’re from California.” she said, an unmistakable Russian accent.

“Yeah, San Jose.” “That’s near San Francisco, right?” “Yeah, an hour south.” She looked at me hard and long. She wasn’t overly pretty, but she had a very angular face. “I lived in San Francisco two summers ago.” I pulled out my pad. “Who do you write for?” “I’m freelance, but I think this is going to be in the Phoenix.” “Oh.” she said. “Mind if I ask your name?” “Natasha.” Of course it was. “Where you from, I mean before San Francisco?” “I was born in Moscow, but I came to the Us when I was 10. I lived in LA until five years ago. Then I move to San Francisco and then Washington.” We chatted about Washington, La and a little about the Bay Area. She was facinating, but I soon realised that I wasn’t interviewing her, I was flirting. This would not do. “I’ve gotta try and get a few more people. I’ll catch up with you later?” I said, trying to sound both professional and suave. “I’ll be at the after-party. We can talk more.” The entire conversation, she never smiled once.

I noticed that we must have been talking for a while because there were more models and many o fthose who hadn’t been dressed when I came in were now dressed. I walked over to one girl in a mutilated ballerina dress. She and I talked about her goth name (Lucid DeRoyale) and her real name (Lucinda Reed) and how she came to Goth (via High School loners) and what she was wearing (a dress she bought at

an old Thirft Store outside the beltway that had a ton of old Prom dresses and the like).I moved on to another girl, and a couple more. The last girl I talked to was called simply The Missing. She was huge, probably 5’10 without the giant boots that she was wearing. She had done her face up with black makeup around her eyes that dripped as if she’d been crying. She also smeared the make-up down her arms. She was wearing a black tank top and a corset that was cinched as tight as possible and a skirt that was actually made from scraps sown to a belt. The look was on one level gorgeous but it also was a bit sad and a bit scary. I guess it helped that she was shapely in general. I tried to talk to her for a minute and eventually she started talking. I understood why she was reluctant to speak: she had a wicked strong Southern Accent. Seriously, I dated a girl from Pickens, South Carolina and she had nothing on this girl. I got out of her the fact that she was from Mobile, Alabama. She had a certain enchantment in silence, but was ultimately human when she opened her mouth. We chatted for a couple of minutes and then, when I figured I should go and take my seat, she gave me a kiss on the cheek. “I’ll see you later, hon.” she said as the least possible Goth way of saying goodbye.

began. The Show I’ve been to a few fashion shows and this one was a little different. It started with a recorded spoken word piece that must have been done by the Smoking Organizer. I remember thinking that it was most typically Goth and gloomy and it set the tone. The first woman came down the runway and she was dressed pretty averagely. Honestly, I expected more. She was in a long, black flowy thing, nothing you wouldn’t see at any of a hundred different Goth clubs on a Friday night. The next girl was in what I call skimpy goth: almost nothing giving any sort of non-translucence. You could clearly see her underthings whcih were only vaguely shimmering over her pretty visible underbits. She was followed by a typical club girl. Then another flowy Goth girl. Another club girl. There were about fifteen girls who had nothing too spectacular about them. I noticed the wax dripping on the girls as they walked by and there were a couple of cones forming on the floor. There was another piece fo spoken word here and I was lucky enough to be ni the front row, right where the girls make the turn. I got the concept immediately as the first model came into view. Dragon Woman.

I headed over to the area marked ‘Reserved’ and found a seat in the front row. I was sitting next to a girl who I think weighed about 90 pounds, at least 10 of which could be accounted for by her make-up. There were guys in turtlenecks, kids in black, a couple of girls in corsets in the audience. Of the couple of hundred chairs around only ninety or so were filled. The Organizer was looking worried as I understood that this was some sort of fundraiser and the attendance wasn’t nearly what she must have expected. The spotlights and stage lighting hit and the show

She was probably half-Asian and she was stacked, but most importantly, she was pale and stunning. She wore a dress that you would see on a Madame in a stereotypical film about a stereotypical Chinese den of vice. It was incredible and a bit saucy if you asked me. She played eye games on her trip up and down the catwalk. She would lock on and bring you in, then sharply turn away to do the same to the next viewer. The girl was good. The next was another somewhat ornate outfit. She was a Goth business girl with the suit, the skirt and everything. Then, when she had passed, you could see that it was all a false front and there were only two straps, rachet straps in fact, holding the outfit together. It was a weird piece. The next couple were good, one of them a sort of Prom Dress made out of newspaper headlines glued to it. It was bizarre but when I looked closer, it was all headlines about serial killers and at least one ad for Hardee’s, which I thought was a wild add. The other one was the recreation of a Southern Church-goin’ woman’s Sunday Best, complete with the hat, only done entirely in black and grey with the hat that had some sort of evil creature. The fabric was watermarked too with the same kind of grotesque monster, but it only showed when she turned. She also took a direct hit from the dripping wax.

A couple of more came by in similar vein, but then the real interesting ones started. The Southern girl in her corset and skirt, only now the ends of the skirt were smoking. I then realised that there was an extra set of candleholders on a truss system haning out the back. she also must have lit the ends of the scraps and then patted them out to keep them smoldering and smoking. It was an amazing effect and I noticed that they slightly dimmed the lights for her. She also stood directly under the wax which was dripping and stodd there staring at some random point in the crowd. A small and steady stream came down on her. It was the best of the night. There were a few others, including a pair of women in Marie Antoinette attire that started making out on the ramp, which was AWESOME!!!. These were the big showy pieces that were expected, but I wasn’t as impressed because the wearers weren’t putting it out there like The Missing. About twenty more giant, impressively difficult and basically

impossible pieces were shown and then the entire thing became the After-Party. THE AFTERPARTY! I walked around and introduced myself to a few of the models and a couple of other people. I told them about my story, about what I was going to be writing. They all seemed excited, as if having a reporter from Boston in their midst made them important. In reality, I was a college kid who basically got a call from a friend at work. After an hour or so, The Missing returned and found me. She was wearing something un-burnt, actually, it was a lovely black dress that trailed about two feet behind her. “Wadid ya think uh-my show?” she said. “It was bloody brilliant, that’s what.” I said, probably a little more excited about it than I should have been. She smiled and we chatted. I flirted with her and she flirted back. At least I think she flirted back. She was Southern, and that can be very confusing. We chatted for a long time. She really liked wrestling, it

turned out, and that led to even more conversation. Another Goth Chick, one who hadn’t been in the show but had been sitting on the other side of the runway from me, joined us and we just kept talking. We must have talked for a full five hours, because the Smoking Girl came over and said they needed to clear everyone out. “I know a little place for breakfast, if you got the time.” The Missing said. “I can always go for breakfast.” I said. We both answered and headed out of the warehouse to The Missing’s car. She wiped some of her make-up off and threw a long-sleeved shirt over the dress. We got to the coffee shop as the sun was rising. As soon as we walked in, the hostess smiled a giant Southern Smile. If you’re unfamiliar with the Southern Smile, go to a Waffle House on a Sunday morning after church and you’ll see at least one. “Hey there, Hannah. Who’s your friend?” She looked a little sheepish at having her name given

away. nia.”

“This is Chris. He’s from Califor-

“California? You surf?” I laughed a little. I seldom got that particular thing unless I was in a place like Duquette or Mobile. “Yep, there’s a law saying all twenty million of us gotta surf at least once a week.” I got a laugh out of her for that one too. We sat and chatted over pancakes. I barely noticed that we were sharing one plate. The Missing sure didn’t eat much, though she downed cup after cup of coffee. “You know, I’m heading up to Boston in a few weeks.” I looked her dead in the eyes. “Well, if you need a couch, I’ve got one free.” She looked her pancake dead in the eye before she looked back up. “I’ve got a hotel room for the weekend. I could always use a little company.” she said in a voice that made me desperate to make sure it happened. Sadly, it never did. After a while, I had to go and meet Judith. We drove back home and I told her the whole story, probably in more detail than in this issue because it was freash in my mind and I could embellish it so much better back in those golden days. Judith was smiling that knowing smile she always has for

just such occassions. “What’s so funny?” “You’re not going to do anything with her. You know it, I know it. She doesn’t. I’m betting she’s practically going to beg you to be with her and you’re not going to do anything about it.”

I thought for a moment. “I don’t think I got her number.” Judith laughed out loud and we drove the rest of the way with her being very smug. So, that’s what happened. It was a fun time and I might have been able to do something with a lovely lass, but I blew it. Story of my life. So, the next issue will be out in a few months for FAPA and then it’s another mid-term issue for and that’ll probably be the one with a lot of my TAFF stuff...if I manage to win. The next one will have a theme: Black & White. It’ll be an interesting issue.