Monster \Mon”ster\, n. [OE. monstre, F. monstre, fr. L. monstrum, orig., a divine omen, indicating misfortune; akin of monstrare to show, point out, indicate, and monere to warn. See Monition, and cf. Demonstrate, Muster.] 1. Something of unnatural size, shape, or quality; a prodigy; an enormity; a marvel. A monster or marvel. –Chaucer.
The last three blue folks I’ve seen are Nightcrawler, Mystique, and ThEnigma. Two of them, in the able bodies of Alan Cumming and Rebecca Romijn-Stamos, slither and bamf their wares in X2: X-Men United. The third, pictured here with his wife and partner Katzen, is wandering around The Coral Room in shorts between sets Tuesday night last week, waiting for the DJ to stop his incessant thumping so the Show Can Go On.
ThEnigma and Katzen are the doubled singularity Human Marvels, which is a little like saying that a cow is a large moo-ey animal: it signifies. The occasion is the weekly Leviathan sideshow, one of the stunts-meet-pasties evenings that ignite in the wake of circus-host-around-town Tyler Fyre and his cohorts. Tyler’s events are enthralling and repellent in jostling harmony. There’s juggling and leaping, swords are swallowed, nails are hammered into noses, glass or fire is eaten or walked on. Sometimes worms and bugs are gobbled up, sometimes anvils are lifted with pierced nipples, sometimes a woman squirts flames out of her … nah. That just can’t be. Can it?
Like so many DJ’s, the guy in the booth is under the impression that we’re showing our appreciation by slouching against walls, wandering away to the bar, watching the mermaids, fiddling with our ear plugs, and otherwise doing just about anything that comes to mind other than dancing on the dance floor. Hint, hint. Thumpa thumpa. Hint, hint. The incomparable Julie Atlas Muz was to be our mermaid for the evening, but instead we’ve got a slinky dark-haired girl gliding through the tank. It’s something I can live with. The mechanics of a push-up bra underwater are mesmerizing, even to this annoying music.
Pierre is elbow-to-elbow with the regular burlesque photo crew, and the gang is clicking away at Katzen, who looks like she was interrupted most of the way through the dance of the seven leather veils. The better to show off her arrowed tiger-striping tattoo work, and the frame that bears it. Katzen plays bass to ThEnigma’s electric guitar (a custom instrument, shaped like a puzzle piece). The Enigma is ambling around the room looking friendly; under the blue lights his tattoos fade mostly to flesh tones, which is fascinating. (Update: Pierre’s photos of the dynamic duo are now posted.)
I’m trying to figure out how much of the tat work is permanent and how much is manually augmented for the occasion (silly me). I’m trying to figure out how the horns work, they must be Latex, of course (silly me). I’m trying to figure out where the Latex cap starts, and whether The Enigma – I can’t bring myself to think of him as “Niggy,” which is apparently a proper term of address – is shaved clean, or whether there’s hair under the bald cap.
Silly, silly, silly me.
The horns are teflon implants; ThEnigma’s had five surgeries refining them and training the skin up along the new contours. He’s the real deal. Katzen’s whiskers are also implants. The Human Marvels are poster-kids, along with a few other extreme cases, of the body-modification community. Once upon a time back when I got my first wee tattoo from a guy named Rusty (no kidding) in a scary shack in Providence, that made me pretty cutting edge. The body-mod folks are riding waves way out ahead of the pack now, in an age when tattoos are humdrum and the odd piercing is a nodding matter and won’t even start gossip at the office.
No gross or gory links here – the deep and twisty sites are numerous, personal, and sometimes disturbing, and clearly meant for members rather than goggling spectators. Suspensions, implants, castrations, surgical scarrings, brandings, amputations (called “subtractions,” in a scary bit of jargon), and more. It’s a far cry from the Sun Dance fascination of the 80′s, which turned my head during a spate of hitchhiking fever (I never went through with it, but I did figure out how it would be done). It makes me think a bit too much of Hellraiser; some of the pictures look like outtakes. Basically, the whole body-mod thing gives me the willies. That jolting sound you hear is me being future shocked back to my generation. Happens to the best of us, I guess.
ThEnigma looks like a really sweet guy, but I’m having trouble going up to say hello; he’s blue and he has horns. I’m not sure where I’d start. When the DJ finally gets the message and the Human Marvels reclaim the stage, they unleash a storm of hardcore freak-show bravura that draws us all close and leaves us hollering. What is it that makes us peer in and shout a pull-back “Whoa!” in the same impulse? Katzen’s got a superb bit where she jolts away with an electric grinder at a flange of metal bolted to her bass, producing a spurting stagger of sparks and a throbbing volcanic roar; at the height of the hot spatter she leans into the bright chaos and lights a cigarette on it, electric plasma raining onto her face. Whoa!
She takes two long needles and bullies one through the skin of her forearm, the other through the web between her index finger and thumb. She lights fleece balls on the ends of the needles and does a fire-eating routine with the flames guttering on her skewered arm. She puts a cigarette out on her tongue. Whoa! Come near, children, come nearer. Watch closely to see there’s no trick, smell the fumes. Imagine it’s you in that stained skin. Imagine the pain as you spear your own limbs. It’s awful to watch; it’s wonderful to watch. It’s time to play.
ThEnigma has been playing with his sinus cavity all evening, sticking nails and electric drills up there, zipping a condom into his nostril and out his mouth, and vice versa. Now he snakes a thin plastic tube into his nostril, and down his throat, spooling in more and more until it reaches his stomach. He takes a big Windex bottle of blue fluid and pours it into a clear plastic drum and fastens the tube to the bottom. He fits a plunger into the top of the drum, and pumps the liquid directly into his belly. And then, with all that stuff gooing around in there, he plays a guitar solo. Whoa!
But wait. That’s not all. Now he slowly pulls the plunger up and sucks it back out, garnished with a red clotty mass of whatever he had for dinner. Whoa! Ewww!
But wait. That’s not all. He squeezes some of it back into the Windex bottle, and hands it to Katzen.
And she drinks it.