Get your mind in the gutter

Gutter Grrls host dinner with all-time favorite dead celebs

July 5, 2007

Something mystical, and perhaps a bit disturbing, was happening the evening of June 28 at a back table at Café/Bar Lulu, 2261 and 2265 S. Howell Ave.

Artist Heide Planey could be seen sharing the table, and a few guffaws, with the late comedienne Lucille Ball.

Photographer Scott Witte was a tad worried his wife might see him indulging in a highball with the ill-fated actress Marilyn Monroe, or any number of similar blond bombshells who strut their stuff on the red carpet of the hereafter.

The shutters of two enterprising paparazzi clicked relentlessly as wide-eyed fans - donning blue satin gloves, sequined tiaras and rubber rat noses - pulled up a chair and plopped down for a cocktail with their favorite deceased celebrities.

Was this some sort of surreal séance gone incredibly well? Not really. It was Dining with the Stars, the latest madcap performance art event staged by the Bay View-based Gutter Grrls.

Instead of using an Ouija board to connect with the glitterati from ages past, the Gutter Grrl known as Gutter Trash was frantically wielding the technological tools of Photoshop software to place Dining with the Stars participants on the same plane of altered reality as their long-gone idols.

Rules of the game

1. Choose your three favorite dead celebrities from a list of about four dozen. Some folks on the list were not actually dead, but, according to the Gutter Grrls, were shaky enough to qualify. Elvis is apparently still in question.

Participants were promised a photograph of themselves with one of their three celebrity choices by the end of the night, courtesy of the Photoshop prowess of Gutter Trash.

2. Root through the Gutter Grrls' stash of props to find the perfect accessories to complement your choice of stars. In several cases, this inexplicably turned out to be a reasonable facsimile of a Roman centurion's helmet.

3. Try to look nonchalant as Gutter Sass points the lens of her camera at you and that empty chair with whom you're chatting.

4. By the end of the night, pay a few dollars for the photographic record of your brush with fame and wonder whether it will someday pop up on the Internet when a potential employer conducts an online search of your name.

Who would you dine with?

According to Gutter Thug, the point is to have a great time during the process of creating the photograph, and not to take the end product too seriously.

"It's not something you're going to hang above your sofa," she said.

Witte, who was having his first Gutter Grrl experience, said, if he had just one choice as to which of the celebrities would appear in his photo, "I hope it'll be Dr. Who, but I'll settle for Einstein or John Wayne."

At the very least, Dining with the Stars prompted participants to seriously consider which celebrities they would like to invite to dinner.

"It would have been fun to be with Barney Fife," said Paula Washow, an artist and therapist who was decked out in a Gutter Grrls' Mary Poppins hat and black feather boa. "These girls are just brilliant; they really are."

Heather and Robert Ratlieff chose Albert Einstein, Dean Martin and Mahatma Gandhi as their preferred dinner companions.

Robert Ratlieff said they came to the event "because we wanted to do something different. And this is different and fun."

More outrageous, the better

Gutter Trash said Dining with the Stars was created by the four core members of the Gutter Grrls, and, like all of their events, included guest Gutter Grrls and Gutter Guys.

"We like to try to keep it fresh," she said.

It also celebrated an exhibit of Gutter Grrl photographs hung at Café/Bar Lulu called "Retrospective." The exhibit traced some of the most outrageous examples of the troupe's first five years of collaborative performance art - think things like monk bowling.

For Gutter X, Dining with the Stars was the best Gutter Grrls production to date "because we get better and better and better and every event is even more fun. We do it for the fun."

Nan Bialek can be reached at or (262) 446-6632.

At a glance

WHO: Gutter Grrls

• Gutter Sass - Stephanie Bartz

• Gutter Thug - Laura Halfmann

• Gutter Trash - Roxanne Mayeur

• Gutter X - Darlene Hagopian

MEDIA: mixed media, digital

photography, performance art,

installation and film; emphasis on altered media. "We always have an interactive component," Halfmann said.

WHY: The women first got together in 2001 during the Bay View Arts Tour, sponsored by the Bay View Arts Guild, when they had a show at Bay View Bowl - thus the name Gutter Grrls. "We all get along so well and we're all artists in our own right," Halfmann said.


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