Published: February 5, 2013
Male burlesque performers might polarize popular opinion, but Vile is OK with that. Such is the appeal of the Dirty Show in 2013 that Vile is happy to tell you not to come back if implied homosexuality makes you uncomfortable. “At the Dirty Show, the stage at least is getting more polysexual,” he says. “The gayer, the better. If people don’t like it, then they don’t come and the crowd’s better. We have DeAngela Show Shannon, who’s this 6-foot, 6-inch transsexual with these huge, watermelon-size knockers. She walks on stage, dresses outrageously and is almost terrifying in her aggressiveness. She’s a local too.”
That’s the spirit of the Dirty Show right there. Vile and his crew don’t pander to anyone. If you don’t like the erotically charged art, fuck off to another gallery. In this economy, with other curators desperately trying to widen their appeal and pull people in, you have to admire that mentality. “If people don’t come back, it just leaves more room for people who are more fun,” Vile says. “Tickets are going better than ever. This is the first year that we’re raising prices in years. This is the 14th year. For the 15th year, all stops will be pulled out. We’re so big now. We do sell out, and then we let people in at 7 p.m. We don’t lower our price. We don’t want a second crowd to deal with, especially later at night when people are drunk. We’re really protective of this art. We can’t let this exhibition turn into a dance. It’s not wallpaper, it’s art. We want people to do what you do at an art opening, which is just talk and mingle. I’ve heard of people who have met their spouses at the Dirty Show. We’re 53 percent female friends on Facebook, to 47 percent male.”
The Dirty Show isn’t the first celebration of erotica ever to be held in Detroit, but it’s certainly the biggest and, unlike other events, it manages to maintain dignity and not transform into a big swingers fest by the night’s end. Vile says the reason for that is simple: “We don’t have dancing. People do more with mind power and conversation. We don’t have dance DJs and a band when every other venue open that night will have that. I celebrate the sleaziness. It’s so tongue-in-cheek, people can laugh at it. People have gotten a little overexcited at the Dirty Show though. It’s like, ‘I’m sorry ma’am, you have to take that cock out of your mouth.’ The swingers have some sort of orgy Winnebago parked outside.”
As long as you keep the fucking to the car, everyone’s happy.
With life-sized horse threesomes, Playboy illustrators and the Golden Girls all blessing Dirty Show 14, this year’s event seems a million miles away from the first Dirty Show, which took place in a room above the offices of the now-defunct Orbit magazine. “Too many people showed up, for the size of it,” Vile says. “The next year we made it two nights, and then we had two nights of too many people showing up. Then we moved, and too many people showed up to that. We moved to the Museum of New Art, and that’s the show where we really sensed a big change. We weren’t prepared for it. We were just trying to get donations for the beer and wine, and we were giving the wine away. We realized we didn’t have to let people in for free and we started selling tickets. It took us the longest time to learn to prepare for what we got the year before. It was always bigger.”
Such is the success of the Dirty Show that Vile is always looking for new ways to expand it, whether that be holding an additional event halfway between the big shows, or taking it on the road to other cities. A Dirty Tour is still a possibility but, after canceling last year’s Dirty Show 13.5, the half-year show is off the table. “When we look back, the half-year show has always been way less than the Valentine’s show,” Vile says. “Everything was going wrong last year and we realized that, if people went, they would say that the Dirty Show is not so great. If we can’t do a better job, or at least equal to what we did the year before, then we shouldn’t be doing it. We’ll never do the half-year show again. We’re trying to find the right spot in L.A. to do it this year. Somebody in Chicago called me and it looks like we’ll be doing Chicago really fast. Bigger than the Orbit office shows, but starting out more like that, just with way more international connections. There are very few in the world of erotic arts that we haven’t had at the show.”
That’s the Dirty Show, then. If you haven’t been before, please treat yourself this year. Take your significant other if you have one, or fly solo. It’s unusual, bizarre and wacky fun, but there really is nothing to fear.
“People walk away with little bits and pieces that they then talk about at work,” Vile says. “That’s how we get our crowd. I also have a theory that erotica is like punk rock was. It’s kind of underground, but it’s becoming more and more accepted. There’s a buzz for it. I think in the future, every major city will have its Dirty Show.
One can dream.
The Dirty Show takes place Feb. 8-16 at Bert’s Warehouse; 2739 Russell St., Detroit; www.dirtydetroit.com; tickets are $25.
Brett Callwood writes for Metro Times. Send comments to firstname.lastname@example.org
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