Written by Denise Dumars
The Edwardian Ball at the Henry Fonda theatre promised a post-Victorian music-hall-with-steampunks atmosphere. Oh, the corsets, the gowns, the three or four people who were actually wearing Edwardian fashions! But I was nice. Not once did I slap anyone for praising Thomas Edison.
Instead, I focused on the many attractions: dance floor, stage, outdoor stage, VIP seating, multiple bars on every floor. I highly recommend the extra cost for VIP seating, btw, as it is the only seating available. Cosplay was at its finest and most confusing here; it was a bit Mad Hatter meets Isadora Duncan meets Oscar Wilde. Or maybe that’s the absinthe talking, and there was no shortage of it as well as other delightful drinks.
The evening began with a variety of burlesque-meets-cabaret and segued into an amazing musical performance by The John Brothers Piano Company. Holy cats, these guys can play! I’d go again just to see them do their best at jazz, blues, and crazy folk stuff. Then the Vau de Vire Society, co-hosts of the event, were the headlining band, the women dressed in amazingly gorgeous Victorian gowns and the men dressed as stand-ins for Baron Samedi. Again, the shabby-chic atmosphere was perfectly demonstrated by this wonderful group that tied together the Cirque du Eclectic atmosphere of the event.
On the outdoor mezzanine amongst the vendors I buttonholed a young dancer and poet I knew who had just returned from India. Ash Baldon said, “This is my first Edwardian Ball. I wanted to mix a vintage Indian look with a fantasy element. In an age of austerity, decadence should be indulged. The sights and sounds here are exactly that.” And she wasn’t even being arch, despite the Pan-ish ram’s horns on her brow. Brava!
So what brought everyone else here? “The stagecoach,” said one Pinkerton-ish Westerner with a dry sense of humor. “My totem animal,” said a dancer who appeared to be dressed as a moth. Someone named Morgan said, “The atmosphere in the orangerie.” Indeed. A kindred spirit.
The culmination of the evening’s events was a short skit by the late, great horror satirist, Edward Gorey. Ah, that’s what it was all about, of course! Tongue firmly in cheek, the ghost of the late writer/artist must have been laughing fee vert tears, for there was a psychic in residence as well. All in all, I highly recommend this event for all those who enjoy steampunk, cabaret, music hall, and cosplay in general. Hipsters are allowed in—this is Hollywood, after all—but people who have actually read Gorey and know who Nikola Tesla was are quite welcome too (even if they’re old enough to have known him personally.) There aren’t many steampunk-related events in Los Angeles anymore, so this one is a great introduction to the oeuvre overall. Do give it a try next year. I know I will!
–Denise Dumars is a writer, professor, and metaphysician. In 2000 she wrote an obituary for Edward Gorey for her former employer, Fandom.com.