From bizarre to burlesque

Once up on a time, a group of design students turned a strip of vacant homes in Detroit into the dilapidated midway of a haunted carnival, opening up for festivities one night a year around Halloween. The resulting annual party was so huge, so consuming, so filled with insurrectionary spirit, that it was a point of debate how much longer the organizers could keep it up. Year after year, the question on everybody's lips was, "Is this the last year?" And, since the Theatre Bizarre fell silent a few years ago, people have asked, "When are they starting up again?" Well, the question is still up in the air, but there's a bunch of activity at the place, refueling speculation that this could be the year.

For instance, on Friday nights, audiences will find unusual movies screened every week until it just gets too cold outside. The event, held outdoors rain or shine, is dubbed Side Show Sinema. For $5, you can see a night of weird movies. There's no set program, and lovers of horror films (or just plain bizarre films) gather each week, discs and tapes in hand, to cobble together a lineup of films for the evening. Past nights have seen screenings of Suburbia, The Doll Squad, The Forbidden Zone, Freaked, Dead Alive and a rare Japanese Laserdisc transfer of Alejandro Jodorowsky's cult-experimental classic The Holy Mountain. Organizers only ask that you bring whatever you'll need to keep you comfy (lawn chairs, blankets, etc.), dry and bug-free. Bring a cooler or tap some foam from the keg, and enjoy the 10,000-watt SurroundSound system. For more information, see Theatre Bizarre's MySpace page.

If your interests run more toward live entertainment, then you'll want to visit Theatre Bizarre on Saturday, Aug. 18, when Torch with a Twist takes the stage. The monthly event celebrating old-time vaudeville, schmaltzy torch songs and over-the-top burlesque has graced downtown Detroit's Cliff Bell's since earlier this year. Expect performances from Lady Mischief, Jessica Rabbitt, DJ Evol and more. But, this rare outing to the mutated midway will be a special "Leo Birthday Bizarre." That means that, in addition to all your favorite jugglers, torch singers and fire performers, the party also celebrates those born July 23-Aug. 22. And you'll get $2 off admission if you come in Leo-themed costume — dressed as a feline or sun goddess.


Side Show Sinema Fridays at 9 p.m.; $5. Leo Birthday Bizarre on Saturday, Aug. 18; $12; doors at 8 p.m., show starts at 9 p.m. At 967 W. State Fair, Detroit.

Michael Jackman is a Metro Times copy editor and writer. Send comments to [email protected].

About The Author

Michael Jackman

Born in 1969 at Mount Carmel hospital in Detroit, Jackman grew up just 100 yards from the Detroit city line in east Dearborn. Jackman has attended New York University, the School of Visual Arts, Northwestern University and Wayne State University, though he never got a degree. He has worked as a bar back, busboy,...
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