For its frequent live performances that range from dance to folk singers to freaky and unclassifiable acts (like the Great Matthew Silver) as well as the old movies projected on the wall, Bizarre is a great destination any night of the week. The bar really shines on weeknights, when the crowd is quieter, there is no line for the bar (or bathroom), and there is generally something fun to see. The entertainment accompanies a long list of absinthe cocktails (try the one with cucumber), and don’t miss the disco ball in the clean(ish) bathroom, which also has a bumpin’ soundsystem.
Jefferson Airplane’s psychedelic 1967 hit, “White Rabbit,” was making its incision into my psyche. The lyrics were parading past my eardrums and down the tunnel of freedom and calamity. And irony stood tall against the bitter winds that taunted the city because, like the iconic White Rabbit in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland—the inspiration behind Grace Slick’s magnum opus—I found myself in a rush.
“Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be too late,” I said, hysterically quoting the White Rabbit on the M train, provoking the homeless man asking for change to slowly back away.
I sought out the enigmatic rabbit hole that would swallow me, unapologetically exposing me to madness…but it was nowhere to be found. Instead there was a love portal. Yes, a love portal leading me to Bizarre.
Bizarre’s not just a mind state, it’s an actual place, in Brooklyn. A place the Village Voice deemed as 2013’s Best Bar for a Weeknight. Every other Wednesday a Circus of Dreams overtakes this already uninhibited bar in Bushwick.
Circus of Dreams is produced by House of Screwball’s Darcey Leonard & Kevin Pelrine and hosted by street performance artist and creator, Matthew Silver. The beautiful Nia Nottage also lends a helping hand as the production assistant.
This combination is deadly when you consider that Darcey is also a performance artist who has spent time on stage as a burlesque dancer, singer, and general screwball. She even sells vintage clothing under the moniker Screwball Diva. Not to be outdone, Kevin is the tech guru and designer for House of Screwball and DJs under the name Sex Libris.
Donning a sombrero and bulging, cushioned muscles from what was once an adult-size Batman costume, host Matthew Silver stood awkwardly on stage as the symbol of love, with his customary fanny pack hugging his waist as his tiny fairy wings seemed to keep him afloat. And so, the mad tea party began.
“Today, we have the girl who lost her head, the African-American penis, the alligator, and half a heart,” said Matthew as he introduced us to his shy, inanimate friends sitting on stage.
Image courtesy of Bizarre
Soon, Matthew would introduce us the audience to someone many of us had long abandoned. A part of ourselves we ignore once we reach adulthood. And it came in the form of a Cabbage Patch Kid.
“Say hello to the inner child,” he sung.
“Hello!” replied the audience in unison.
This went on for about a minute before the doll fell to its death, resulting in a powerful yelp from Matthew signaling that our inner child has died.
As the circus continued, burlesque dancer Foxy Squire timidly entered the spectacle like a lost, little girl parlaying her box of crayons, a stuffed panda, and a drawing board, into a sad dream.
For a child, these can be the perfect tools for surreal mayhem. And yet, Foxy was noticeably unhappy. Smeared makeup running down her face and her melancholic expression were accompanied by the perfect soundtrack, Lisa Germano’s “From a Shell.” Which soon transitioned into Garbage’s 1998 alternative rock hit, “I Think I’m Paranoid.” And as soon as Garbage came on, Foxy’s clothes came off.
Free from society’s oppressive standards of beauty and acknowledgement, Foxy embraced what all girls should—the splendor of womanhood. But only to be run off by the authoritarian voice which commanded her to report back to her room for a timeout.
Later, street puppeteer and performance artist, Kalan Sherrard, would introduce the Bizarre audience to the very definition of the word. A few Williamsburg residents might recognize this gangly white kid from his frequent performances on the L train’s Bedford Avenue stop. Others might recognize him from his brief appearances on The Colbert Report, America’s Got Talent, and The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
Let’s get one thing clear; you don’t ever really get over an eccentric performance by Kalan. Whether it’s a puppet show, oddball improvisation, or just plain ol’ avant-garde noises, it’s like you’re being psychologically sodomized in order to balance out your abhorrent soul. Just ask the panel of judges who booted him and a friend off stage on America’s Got Talent. (When you simultaneously weird out and anger Howard Stern, you’re doing something right, right?)
What got to me was the amalgamated toys. Witnessing a decapitated Barbie with a cylinder-shaped object hanging from between her legs must have regaled my boyhood hatred of the iconic doll. Then Kalan held up the double-sided sign that said it all: No reality. Nothing matters.
Nothing did matter when Josh Berkowitz exposed the giant nipple on his stomach to the crowd. Nothing mattered when Mary Kerrigan, better known as The Face, stripped down to a thong as she ferociously danced on stage. Even less mattered when Crimson Kitty played out Aileen Carol Wuornos’ murder spree, arrest and death, in a burlesque-style performance. And I know nothing mattered (or made sense) when Loren Halman poured hot sauce on his genitals and inside his anus, in an attempt to talk about sex.
After the show, as I embraced Matthew for a hug, he pulled me in closer to dance around the Bizarre and I thought to myself, if there truly isn’t a reality, was I really late? And if nothing matters, why did I care if I was late?
As the Mad Hatter retorted when questioned about what the Dormouse said, that I can’t remember.
Featured image courtesy of Bizarre