Carole & Mitzi go Fruit of the Loom on Varnish

I’m going to fess up here, just put it on the line. I own a TV. This is not a popular statement to make in San Francisco, particularly if you’re an author. Given that I’m an author who also teaches in an MFA Program in creative writing, admitting to owning and watching a television is akin to admitting to being a Republican (I’m not). It gets worse. I have TIVO. And worse! I don’t just use it to record Frontline. No, I tape the worst of the worst–or perhaps I should say the best of the worst–namely, Project Runway and Kathy Griffin’s Life on the D List.

I was reminded of Griffin’s show at a reading I participated in Thursday night at Varnish Fine Art Gallery. The reading was put on by San Francisco literary A-lister Michelle Tea (author, most recently, of Rose of No Man’s Land), but it had its D-list moments. Case in point: when I read my bit about sex and evangelism in Alabama in the early eighties (inappropriately titled “Putting Out: How You and All Your Friends Came to Know Jesus”), it was to a straight-faced audience. I’m talking silence. No laugh box. Which was painful. I mean, about three paragraphs into the essay I realized this wasn’t my crowd, or this wasn’t the right kind of humor for this crowd, and I was just going to have to suffer through it. So then I just started reading really, really fast so I could sit down and have a glass of wine, and it was a nice big glass, because fellow MacAdam/Cage author Craig Clevenger (The Contortionist’s Handbook, Dermaphoria), was working the bar, and he can tell when a girl needs a drink.

Next up was Chelsea Starr, who a)has a much better name than me and b)was sassily and sexily dressed in 80s finery, clearly having missed out on the actual eighties, on account of her youthfulness, and c)read a piece about having a crush on her hot high school drama teacher, which went over brilliantly. My high school drama teacher was named Mrs. Estes. She wasn’t really hot, but she kinda passed for hot in Mobile, Alabama, circa 1987.

Then Kaui Hart Hemmings (House of Thieves), whose kid is about the same age as mine, read a really funny bit about parenting in San Francisco, and after that Beth Lisick and Tara Jepsen made a guest appearance as Carole & Mitzi, stars of the beloved short indie film Diving for Pearls. This was when things got creatively D-list–although, of course, in a good way–because Carole & Mitzi were wearing these fruit costumes–think Fruit of the Loom, but more low budget–walking ads for The Fruit Guys. Which made me think that maybe I should start wearing costumes to my readings to raise a little cash, you know, to pay the babysitter, so I can do more readings. Because one of these days, I’m going to make somebody laugh with highly inappropriate tales of sex and evangelism– I just know it.

4 Comments so far

  1. Charlie Anders (unregistered) on August 27th, 2006 @ 11:29 am

    I liked your piece a lot, although I missed the first couple minutes of it. I especially liked the idea of the war exception to the virginity pledge. BTW, I’m pretty sure Chelsea Starr is old enough to remember the 80s.


  2. Victoria E (unregistered) on August 27th, 2006 @ 3:44 pm

    Sounds like a really fun night – I need to find out about more of these kinds of events.


  3. Michelle (unregistered) on August 28th, 2006 @ 11:56 am

    Thanks, Charlie. Glad you liked it.

    Oh, I suppose she was around in the 80s–but surely she was on a tricycle in those days. It’s alarming for me to realize that the fashions of my teeenage years are now back, as a retro thing. I read and loved your book after we did Kate Braverman’s “literary talk show” together at Edinburgh Castle–and meant to say hello to you when I saw you at Varnish–but, alas, domesticity called.


  4. Tara (unregistered) on August 29th, 2006 @ 8:07 pm

    Michelle I thought your story was great, I wonder if it was one of those times when people are just listening closely or annoyingly straight-faced but actually listening and enjoying. Everyone I talked to loved your story. People didn’t laugh much for Carole and Mitzi and I know we were hilarious.



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