Diary

Pack Mentality

Matt Savitsky, Don't Kiss Me. Performance view, Klowden Mann, Culver City, CA, 2018. Photo: Andy Campbell.

“I’M A LESBIAN RODEO CLOWN,” crowed Lex Vaughn. “My mom was a dick-puncher, and my dad was an ass-muncher.” Besides breaking biography as a genre, Vaughn, whose comic timing is only superseded by her charm, expertly played the part of emcee this week at Jonesy’s fashion-show-performance-cum-exhibition, titled “Jonesy’s Pack.” Like that of her Kander and Ebb cousin’s, Vaughn’s métier was utter perversity—one minute cat-calling the runway models and the next philandering with a fillet of beef jerky pinned to her vest. Gross, satisfying: tomato, tomahto.

What’s it all about? Queer lineage. For his first show with Klowden Mann (let’s hope for more), Jonesy, whose work consistently unearths the riches of queer histories, invited a slew of collaborators to each decorate and dedicate a bespoke cut—also known as a denim biker vest. Now, one by one, the artists were walking the catwalk with radiant verve. There was Clay Kerrigan, whose cut honored Paul Clayton, the young 1960s folklorist and folk singer who took his own life. Or the winky send-up of The L-Word—those bougie queens—lovingly rendered in three-dimensional crafty relief by Amy von Harrington. For what it’s worth, Vaughn’s response was to fart in that vest’s general direction. And although each cut is worthy of mention (especially Joshua Rains’s truly couture tribute to tearoom trade), the effect en masse was grander still. The pantheon of queer (ig)nobility conjured between the nearly two dozen vests established, at the very least, my new religion: Samuel R. Delany, Karen Dalton, Jean Genet, Gloria Anzaldúa, Claude Cahun, Karlheinz Weinberger, Annie Sprinkle, Clive Barker, and on and on. There were some prickly ones in there to be sure—starting with Yukio Mishima, that masculinist nationalist! Because the Mishima vest was made by “dad-to-all” Jonesy, and officially began the runway show, it’s fair to say that Jonesy’s Mishima cut staked out a position regarding the show’s queerness. Aspiring to queerness, we have been told (and now tell the youths of LA), is about living in the mess, acknowledging complexity, and staying with the trouble. If one message of Jonesy’s performance was, “Aww, we’re awesome!” another certainly was, “Y’all, we can be real dickwads.”

The last model to walk Jonesy’s runway was writer and artist Nikki Darling, who made a vest in homage to punk rocker, writer, and archivist Alice Bag. Darling fully embodied her muse by pugilistically hurling middle fingers at her audience––her rage was gnostic. Then, as though it had all been planned (I assure you, it had), Alice Bag emerged from the audience to fist-fight her fan-girl for her own cut. Soon the pair was making out.

After the show, artist and musician Elliot Reed, whose vest was a paean to the singular Delany, told me that the author’s admixture of sex and science fiction helped him to “aspire to a level of clarity in regards to revolutionary sex practices.” A worthy goal; I wished him luck. Self-described “token straight person” Lindsey Taylor (a choreographer who has worked with Jonesy previously) nodded nearby in agreement. She was the reason I was talking to Reed, anyway. Only minutes before, she had smuggled me into the “green room” (plot twist: it was the blacktop behind the gallery).

Before leaving for the night, I was able to find Jonesy and asked him the most inane question: “So, how do you think it went?” Don’t ask an artist this . . . ever. But Jonesy, full of grace, was in his own Valhalla. He looked at me and said, “So many of the people that worked with me told me, ‘Dad, I really want to do a good job for you on this.’ And they really did.” He laughed: “There have been a lot of tears this week.”

That’s the great melodrama of queer communities; we’re our own weepies.

Beth Cita and Lex Vaughn’s vest.

Lex Vaughn.

Elliot Reed.

amy von harrington.

Samara Halperin wearing a vest honoring Tom Joslin and Mark Massi’s documentary Silverlake Life: The View From Here (1993).

Lindsey Taylor.

Jonesy waving the Pack flag, commencing the show.

Enrique Castrejon’s vest.

Jonesy with the Pack flag.

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