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Tales from the Edwardian Ball – By Shakti Bliss

Tales From The Edwardian Ball

The 14th Annual Edwardian Ball in San Francisco was like walking out of a time machine into Moulin Rouge in 2020.

Ed Ball SF 2014 Marco Sanchez

Preparing for The Edwardian Ball is half the fun, not only as a participant, but even more so as an entertainer (there really is no difference between the two at this event, for EVERYONE is a star!). This is the second year that SHAKTI BLISS has been on the line up, and I was beyond ecstatic for the show!

Half my closet was on the floor of my bedroom in San Diego before I finally decided on the perfect, simple costume that would represent my character for the weekend, inspired by the artwork and stories of Edward Gorey.

My flight to San Francisco was smooth, dragging along a HUGE roller bag full of costumes for the weekend and my ridiculously heavy vintage suitcase loaded with my DJ gear for my big performance in the main ballroom on Saturday night. (See PHOTOS of the event HERE!)

We arrived at our hotel after quite an exciting adventure through the city taking trains, trolly’s and walking a mile in circles with my luggage. It was an unfathomable 70 degrees and sunny in San Francisco in mid-January, so there were few complaints about the extended journey. The weather felt surreal, delicious and out of this world.

Shakti Bliss Edwardian Ball 2014

I decided to take it easy and stay in my hotel room for the afternoon, surrounded by my handmade hats, vintage dresses and lace bustles, while I worked on the final touches of my DJ set for the evening. Last minute doubts ran through my head: Are these tracks too dirty? Too vintage? To avant-garde?

Honestly I was a bit nervous, for in a few hours I would be playing in a huge ballroom to thousands of people!

Our Uber taxi, a luxury black sedan who’s driver was begging for a ticket to the SOLD OUT show once I explained what it was all about it, dropped us off in front of a line wrapping around the Recency Ballroom. A steampunk whistle blew in the street and pierced the air with excitement, steam rising from a huge contraption parked along side the theater. The buzz of anticipation was tangible, dapper queens and kings in every direction looking absolutely FABULOUS.

This event is completely redunklous! And I haven’t even gone inside yet.

Luckily I slipped through the back stage door, elbowed my way through the crowd past Shovelman playing his handmade instrument in the packed entrance hall, and into the grand ballroom to find my dressing room upstairs behind the main stage.

As I climb that ancient staircase I could only wonder what other timeless vaudeville performers and musicians once played a big show in this same theater.Ghosts whisper memories in my ears and I take the last narrow metal walkway up to my private waiting room shared with my fellow DJ’s extraordinaire and bohemian brother’s from another time and space,Delachaux and The Klown.

The cats from The John’s Brothers Piano Company were in the room next to me preparing for their stage performance. One poured me a glass of fine Scotch to calm my nerves, which now that I had finally set down my heavy gig bag and found my temporary home for the evening, I gladly accepted. This loosened me up for a few fun backstage photo opportunities:

Shakti Bliss Edwardian Ball 2014

Having a few hours to spare before stage call, I retreated to the basement and mingled around the mind blowing artists, fashion designers and vendors while listening to the upbeat electroswing sounds of The Speakeasy Syndicate. Not wanting to miss the rest of the show, I wiggled my way back upstairs and spent the rest of my time sitting in the VIP balcony taking in the shenanigans from above. The ballroom was packed, the live music with Rosin Coven was off the hook fantabulous, the theater itself a timeless relic of history. Then my timer beeped: IT’S SHOW TIME, SHAKTI!

Waiting in the DJ booth for my cue, I was able to have the best seat in the house for the headlining performance of “The Curious Sofa” by Vau de Vire Society, a must see at this event! The stage manager prompted me to play a few filler tracks while the production staff was looking for a lost clown backstage, then Fou Fou Ha came on and bedazzled us with their antics, concluding with a pie in the face for Mama Fou’s Birthday. I was still in the middle of laughing at the chaos on stage when I heard the announcer say my name: “SHAKTI BLISS!!!!”

I cued my first track, a vintage blues tune from the early 1930′s, and rocked it out until 2:30am. BEST. SHOW. EVER! xox ~ Shakti Bliss

P.S. See you at the Edwardian Ball in Los Angeles on February 8th, 2014!

Shakti Bliss Music:

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Click here to get your tickets for the 2014 Edwardian Ball in LA Feb 8th!

Tales From The Edwardian Ball ~ A Waltz To Make Wishes Come True

by Jill Tracy

Tales From The Edwardian Ball

I’ve had the honor of being the “Belle of the Edwardian Ball” almost since its inception, 13 years ago.

At that time, none of us had any idea of the magic that was in store. We had no clue that a tiny club night honoring the eccentric scribe, Edward Gorey, decorated with a few meagre puppets and painted backdrops, could transform into the event it is today: an opulent spectacle attended by thousands each year from around the globe.

Humble Beginnings

When Rosin Coven and I first arrived in the Bay Area in the mid-1990s, it was nearly impossible to get bookings. Club owners complained that our work was “too dark, too strange, too elegant, too theatrical.” Industry experts told us “No one will ever pay to see this!”

So we began to create our own events, off the radar, and often together. It was the only way any of us could hold true to our vision: the only way we could prove our naysayers wrong.

Jill Tracy - ©2010 Samuel Coniglio

I was running “Jill Tracy’s MYSTERIA”, the award-winning performance series that I had created, when Rosin Coven approached me with an idea for an event based upon a book by Edward Gorey. They wanted to throw a formal ball, in a nightclub not much bigger than my apartment, themed around the work of a little-known (and decidedly macabre) illustrator. Once again, the so-called experts scoffed.

But experts be damned—We had art to make!

A Testament to Authenticity

We weren’t looking for anyone’s approval. We were merely outliers, and we were just being ourselves.

Neither did we have any interest in applying labels to what we were doing. (Annoying marketing descriptors like “steampunk” and “dark cabaret” were all but unheard of at the time.) I believe that once you begin to classify and commodify, you are no different from the industry. You are experiencing art through a filter, and the essence is no longer genuine. In the words of Søren Kierkegaard, “Once you label me you negate me.”

Justin Katz at an early Edwardian Ball, c. 2005

Justin Katz at an early Edwardian Ball

13 years later, the Edwardian Ball remains a testament to authenticity. A tribute to being anything you wish to be, to escaping the cage of convention, to honoring your passions brazenly and unapologetically, and holding on to your dreams at all costs.

This is what we did when they told us it “could not be done.” We did it anyway.

A Waltz To Make Wishes Come True

One of my all-time favorite moments occurred at the 2010 Edwardian Ball. I typically perform early in the evening—my dark, cinematic sound forming a perfect bridge between the classical music and waltzes with which the Ball opens and the more intense Gorey-esque theatrics yet to come.

Edwardian Ball dancers - ©2010 Neil Girling / The Blight

As a result, when my band takes the stage there are frequently still several couples waltzing. I don’t normally get to see audiences waltzing at my concerts, so this is especially enchanting to me. I love it when people dance to my songs. Sometimes I’ll even change the arrangements slightly in response, tailoring them to what the dancers are doing. As a composer, it’s thrilling to tap into the synergy between performer and audience; I never know what to expect.

That year I had created a special waltz which I planned to debut at the Ball. Titled “Under the Fate of the Blue Moon” this dreamy piece had been composed on the extremely rare Blue Moon New Year, and recorded on the night of the Solstice during a total lunar eclipse. There was great power for me surrounding the creation of this song, a power that I was eager to share with my audience.

Jill Tracy - Photo © Eric Gillet

When it came time to introduce “Under the Fate of The Blue Moon”, I said “This is a waltz to make wishes come true. I can think of nothing more magical than an entire room of people making their most intimate wish together, all concentrating on the same piece of music. There’s wondrous power in that. If you don’t care to waltz, just focus on a wish or a goal, hold a special token in your hand, allow it to transport you.”

I was looking down at my piano as we began to play. Secretly, I hoped that perhaps 10 or 20 couples in the front might choose to dance.

But “Under the Fate of the Blue Moon” cast quite a spell. When the lighting tech raised the house lights, I suddenly saw that the entire Grand Ballroom—over 2,000 Ball-goers—was dancing! My wish had come true.

Waltzing to “Under the Fate of the Blue Moon”

The entire ballroom waltzing to “Under the Fate of the Blue Moon”

I looked over at my band members, drummer Randy Odell and bassist Kenny Annis. As we caught one another’s gaze, delighted smiles illuminated each of our faces. Years ago, when we first began performing together, we could never have imagined a moment like this, so magical and so grand.

It was one of the most magnificently powerful moments I’ve ever experienced onstage, and it could not have happened without all of you—the beautiful people who return every year to make the Edwardian Ball the glorious night that it is.

We may just perform “Under the Fate of the Blue Moon” again this year. If you’d like to practice your waltz, here’s a recording of the song that you can listen to online.

And of course, get a wish ready. They sometimes do come true.

Jill Tracy

Jill Tracy

Hailed by LA Weekly as “the cult darling of the underworld,” Jill Tracy—the Belle of The Edwardian Ball—has been proclaimed by National Public Radio as “a Bay Area treasure… like Grafeo coffee, Scharffen Berger chocolates, and fine Napa Cabernets.” She has cast her spell onstage at the Edwardian Ball nearly since its inception 13 years ago, and is thrilled at the continuous growth and popularity of the event.

Her signature concoction of dark parlour and post classical piano, haunting lyrics and seductive style creates a sound that conjures up glamorous shades of early cinema, and film noir— but with a distinctively modern flair. She calls this devastatingly beautiful place she inhabits “The Elegant Side of the Netherworld,” She has collaborated with legendaries including David J (Bauhaus,) Steven Severin (Siouxsie and the Banshees,) Jello Biafra, and even famed author Lemony Snicket.

Recently, Jill made history as the first musician to be awarded a grant to compose music inside the famed Mutter Museum in Philadelphia, the nation’s foremost collection of medical oddities. Her recent spontaneous “channeling” of music in peculiar locales have featured haunted castles, decrepit gardens, abandoned asylums, and forgotten mansions. Her Musical Seance project with Atlanta cult violinist Paul Mercer (which incorporates cherished objects brought in by the audience) has garnered a collection of ardent fans from around the globe.

At the 2013 Edwardian Ball, Jill Tracy will be appearing on Saturday night (SF), and in Los Angeles.

Photos by Chronicle / Christina Koci Hernandez, Eric Gillet, Neil Girling / The Blight, and Samuel Coniglio




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Three Easy Pieces ~ Makeup And The Modern Edwardian

by Amanda Storey

Tales From The Edwardian Ball

I can hardly contain my excitement. The Edwardian Ball is here again!

The Edwardian is something that everyone should experience at least once. It’s a spectacle of old-timey fashion, Edward Gorey inspired theatre, electro-swing music and dancing, coupled with an incredible abundance of performance, costumes, and art. It is truly a feast for all of your senses.

And what costumes! If you’re a professional people-watcher like me, this is your event of the year. Everyone looks amazing.

But costuming for the Ball needn’t be difficult. You can achieve a great deal through makeup alone.

This will be my 4th consecutive year attending the Ball. Each year, I’ve taken the inspiration for my outfit from a different era or personal hero—or more often, both. In every case, makeup has played as important a role in my overall look as the garment I wore. Here are my three previous Edwardian Ball looks, along with tips on how you can create them for yourself.

The author with Aaron Delachaux - Photo by Merkley???

Amanda with Aaron Delachaux. Photo by Merkley???

Marlene Dietrich

It was Aaron Delachaux, a very dear friend of mine, who first suggested I attend the Edwardian Ball. An acclaimed DJ, Delachaux has provided music for this event for years. He does an amazing job keeping everyone bouncing, kicking and Charleston-ing the night away. Knowing my affinity for all things old-timey-riffic, he was certain this party would tickle my fancy bone. How right he was!

Sadly, there seems to be no photographic evidence of my costume that first year. But I remember precisely what I wore, and how I styled myself. How could I forget, when I drew my inspiration from that timeless icon of androgyny, Marlene Dietrich?

Marlene Dietrich, my androgyny icon.

Marlene Dietrich, my androgyny icon.

Hot damn, I love a woman in a tuxedo. There is something so sexy, so powerful and utterly decadent about it. I had been wanting to rock this look for years, and the Edwardian Ball was my chance!

1920’s women in male drag. LOVE. Want to be them.

1920′s women in male drag. LOVE. Want to be them.

I wore a men’s tuxedo shirt tailored to fit me (in a pinch, you can fake this with safety pins), basic black fitted trousers and a tuxedo jacket with tails that I picked up for dirt cheap from Forever 21. I fancified my tuxedo jacket with re-purposed vintage buttons that I rescued from a hideous jacket that ended up at Goodwill.

My Steven oxfords. I love these so much that I bought a back-up pair.

My Steven oxfords. I love these so much that I bought a back-up pair.

I slicked my long hair back into a chignon and wrapped a black ribbon around the base. My makeup was stark white with EXTREME matte black smokey eyes. My cheekbones were contoured and I finished the look with a matte nude lip. I really looked and felt amazing, plus I could move and dance the night away like a real gentleman.

The Ziegfeld Girl

Ziegfeld Girls are an obsession of mine. They represent a group of chorus girls who performed in the Ziegfeld Follies. Tossing out Victorian principles of lady-likeness, the Ziegfeld Girls embraced the controversial art, fashion, music and theatre of the early 1900′s.

Ann Lee Patterson, Ziegfeld Follies chorus girl

Ann Lee Patterson, Ziegfeld Follies chorus girl

While many snubbed these women as Harlots, they gained popularity as the most beautiful women in the world and had many admirers. A Ziegfeld Girl was the absolute height of glamour. Many of them went on to marry rich men and live lavish lives. The last surviving Ziegfeld Girl was Doris Eaton Travis, who died at 106 in May 2010.

Doris Eaton Travis during her Ziegfeld Follies days. Umm… Gorgeous much?

Doris Eaton Travis during her Ziegfeld Follies days. Umm… Gorgeous much?

The romance, the decadence, the controversy… I knew I had to recreate myself as a Ziegfeld Girl for The Edwardian Ball!

When my Grandmother Sunny passed away she left me everything she owned including some amazing wardrobe. Lucky for me we were the same size. The dress I wore was an amazingly sheer, hand-painted and beaded nude chiffon. Warm brown painted feathers, leaves and rhinestones flow across the hem and up towards the bodice.

To be honest, it’s less of a dress, and more like a fancy, transparent poncho. As such, it originally came with a nude slip to wear underneath. For the Ball, I wore it with a nude leotard, nude dancer’s fishnets, and nude ballroom dancing heels.

If only I was born in 1910! Photo by Anne-Laure Alexander

Amanda, ready for her Ziegfeld audition. Photo by Anne-Laure Alexander

My makeup inspiration was drawn heavily from Doris Eaton Travis. Darkly mysterious matte smokey eyes coupled with the deepest black cherry lip. I used MAC Embark matte eyeshadow all over the lid. The cat-eye was not yet in fashion, so the shape of this eye makeup is very important. ROUNDED! The goal is to achieve a haunting, exaggerated doe-eye.

The face makeup must be flawless and lightly contoured in the hollows of the cheeks. I contour my cheekbones with MAC Harmony matte blush. I finished my makeup look with the gorgeous matte MAC Media lipstick, the deepest of deep almost black reds.

The Ziegfeld look

The Ziegfeld Girl look

I have waist length hair, and that did not fit into the Ziegfeld aesthetic. I curled my hair, rolled it and pinned it into a pseudo-bob. After I secured my coif with plenty of bobby pins, I topped off my look with a vintage bronze beaded necklace that I wore as a headband. I was so comfortable all night, basically naked! My ballroom dancing shoes were awesome, a teeny heel, lots of traction and zero foot pain!

I had a blast, and I even got to introduce my then boyfriend—now fiancé—to The Edwardian Ball.

Don't judge me. This was the end of a very long night of drinking, dancing and decadent debauchery.

Don’t judge—this was taken at the end of a VERY long night of drinking, dancing, and fabulously decadent debauchery.

The Great Gatsby

I was and am still in crazy love with the dress I wore to last year’s Edwardian Ball. I was very inspired by the breezy looks of the 1970s film adaptation of The Great Gatsby. This dress was a lucky find. A vintage Geoffrey Beene yellow/black polka dot chiffon gown. The tag read $300 and the sale sign said 70%. I prayed that it would fit, and to my delight it slipped on as if it had been made for me.

Gatsby dress

I paired this gown with nude fishnets and black Mary Jane heels. Super-duper simple! I once again twisted my hair into a pseudo-bob, this time purposefully leaving pieces out to seem effortless and ethereal.

The makeup was insanely easy. I flawless-ified my skin with MAC Studio Fix Fluid in NC15, defined my cheeks with the (now sadly discontinued) Benefit Georgia Peach blush, darkened my brows with Benefit Browzing Dark and popped on one of my all-time favorite red lipsticks: Lime Crime’s “Retrofuturist”. That’s it.

Oppan Gatsby Style
This year is even more exciting than ever. My fiance, Ben Walker, was asked to design a really cool souvenir shot glass for this year’s Ball featuring his new character “The Graven Twins”. His shot glass will be for sale at the Ball—be sure to check it out!

I also surprised both of my sisters and their boyfriends by purchasing tickets for them. They’ve never seen anything like this before, and I know they will fall in love like I have. And of course I’ve been plotting my character, makeup and wardrobe for months, as well as helping my sisters do the same. I simply cannot wait to see what they—and everyone else—comes up with!

What look will you create for the Ball?

Amanda Storey

Amanda Storey

Amanda Storey is a makeup artist, model, artist and prankster with a vocabulary comparable to Oscar Wilde, if he were a sailor on shore leave. Amanda spends her days prettifying women at the Fillmore Street Benefit Cosmetics Boutique and blogging about the newest addition to her 100-plus lipstick collection. Amanda’s passion for style and fancy things is in her DNA, it’s been there since she cat-walked out of her mother’s birth canal. She uses makeup and clothes to create characters and express her ideas the same way Chuck Jones would use a pencil and paper.

An earlier version of this post originally appeared on Amanda’s blog, Fancy Face.
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Want more tips on dressing for The Edwardian Ball? Do peruse our ongoing Fashion Guide series!

Tales From The Edwardian Ball ~ Of Flipbooks And Fisticuffs

by Katy Simola

Tales From The Edwardian Ball

The Edwardian Ball is an event I look forward to all year. I’m costume designer whose favorite time period is the Edwardian era, so I happily plan my outfits months in advance.

This will be my fifth year attending the Ball. Over those years, I’ve watched as this fantastical party has grown, adding additional nights, and moving to a larger venue. I attended Sunday, Gorey, Sunday. I remember when the Edwardian World’s Faire debuted, and I was thrilled when the wonderful carnival rides were added to the Faire.

Cyclecide Bicycle Carousel

Last year, the Museum of Oddities was added to a secret upstairs room. I recall marveling at it’s ambiance, wandering around the elaborate sets, and generally acting out my fantasies of life in another era. It was as if I had stepped into an early 20th Century European salon, rubbing elbows with internationally-acclaimed thinkers, creators and artists.

Edwardian Ball still life - ©2012 Marco Sanchez

I love watching Gorey’s stories acted out in marvelous detail; the costumes, props, background and actors make me feel like as if I’m a character in a giant storybook. How appropriate then, that one of last year’s attractions was a photo booth in which you could act out a brief scenario, the result of which was a small, animated flipbook—A lovely souvenir of the Ball!

I had already made one flipbook on Friday night, and now that I was wearing my fancier outfit I was excited to make another. As I waited in line, holding a place for my wandering date, I made friends with a woman behind me. Soon afterwards, two very well dressed, handsome gentlemen joined the line. We all began to converse as the line progressed toward the flipbook booth.

As we drew near, one of the booth’s assistants recognized me from the night before, when she had suggested a marvelous scenario for my date and I to act out. She tried to come up with a new scenario, but was finding it difficult to top her previous idea. Suddenly struck with a notion, I suggested that perhaps the two handsome gentlemen might act out a fight over a lovely lady. The men loved the idea, and invited my new friend and I to join them.

Fisticuffs - ©2011 Alexander Nels Elofson

I must say, the gents did an admirable job, giving it their all on the very first try. Hats went flying and canes were menacingly wielded, while we ladies were shocked—shocked!—by the impropriety of it all. I ended up with several flipbooks from last year’s events, but my favorite by far was the one that I created on a whim with my three new friends.

Although I have attended the Edwardian events many times, there are always new wonders to behold, and exciting surprises waiting around every corner. I’ve found my community at these events, and every year, I look forward to “going home”.

Katy Simola

Katy Simola and Friend

Photos by Alexander Nels Elofson and Marco Sanchez

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Tales From The Edwardian Ball ~ The Returning Guests

Tales From The Edwardian Ball
[In the post a letter we lately were sent / Containing a Tale of our Edwardian event / It told of four friends from a far away state / We hope you enjoy it — we think it’s quite great. -Ed.]
The Letter (click to enlarge)

On wet-drizzled streets – dark, damp, and droll,
a motley form took shape, a spectre formed whole.

Four tropical birds, who bask in the heat,
feathers now ruffled, blown in from the East.

Can Can Dancers at The Edwardian Ball - ©2012 Marco Sanchez

With tickets in hand, and costumes for all,
they entered the world of the Edwardian Ball.

Rain could not stop them nor cold nor sleet,
they strode lightly in to their velvet-lined seats.

Vau de Vire Society at the Edwardian Ball 2011 - ©2011 Neil Girling / The Blight

Breathless! Speechless! Fearless! – they gazed:
The finery, the millinery, creativity ablaze!

Quickening their steps, but go which way?
Split up in pairs, or together to stay?

Card Games at The Edwardian Ball - ©2012 Marco Sanchez

The games of the Midway got their first look,
then on to the green stage, a funny flipbook.

Hopped on the old bikes, a merry-go-ride,
for ten spins, now head-spins, they stumbled astride.

Cyclecide Bicycle Carousel - ©2012 Audrey Penven

Rush to the cellar, a fine market downstairs,
selling corsets and top hats, and hand-crafted wares.

“Upstairs! Upstairs! Close the cage lift door!”
Malvoye! Tall Paul! Steamworks and more!

Malvoye The Mentalist - ©2010 Josh Reiss

Inspired by the hard work and ideas of the Ball,
they flew back to Florida, sunshine and sprawl.

A circus they created, a trash carnival,
called “Circus Basura”, they opened last fall.

Circus Basura

Fierce winds grow stronger, four birds soon alight,
soaring to wet hills and fog-shrouded heights.

“To follow a dream, just dress in your best,
soon you will be there, a Returning Guest…”

The Returning Guests
As Midwesterners who now live in the tropics of South Florida, Misselaineous (Elaine Scantlen) and Jack Trash (John McNulty) like to remind themselves what it was like to wear wool and coats as much as possible. Misselaineous is a  milliner who loves the creativity and ideas of the Edwardian Ball, and Jack Trash likes the work and organization people put into the event.

After the inspiration of their first attendance last year, Elaine and Jack, along with their Edwardian Ball partners Brian and Amy Weiner, created Circus Basura, a full-on circus completely made out of junk and recycled materials. They just wrapped up a two-month long Day of the Dead-themed circus in Fort Lauderdale, and all four are very excited to return for another great Edwardian Ball.

Photos by Audrey PenvenBruce AlmbergCurious Josh, Marco Sanchez, and Neil Girling / The Blight


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Share Your Tales - Win Tickets to the Edwardian Worlds Faire

This post is part of a series showcasing the fabulous diversity of The Edwardian Ball. Have an Edwardian Tale of your own? Share it with us, and you could win tickets to the Edwardian!