Six Minutes of Pure Horror

by Whatsblem the Pro


You goddamn kids, dancing on my lawn in your underpants! Why, in my day. . .

We didn’t always have the Internet, you know, and the world was a lot less openly, deliciously freakish before you could go online and discover millions of people happily indulging in every fetish you’ve ever even thought of. . . like it’s normal! Because it is normal.

People didn’t necessarily know it was normal then, especially teenagers. As recently as the ’70s, the ho-hum trivialities of 21st Century non-vanilla sexuality – like mere transvestitism – were considered way beyond the pale; even something as ordinary and normal to us today as flamboyantly gay culture was seen as completely outrageous, in every sense of the word. . . unimaginable, even: there’s a scene in the film Behind the Candelabra in which one character points out to another that the audience in a Vegas nightclub watching Liberace perform in all his decadent sartorial excess on a stage dripping with gay pride weren’t being accepting of the star’s homosexuality; they were simply unaware of it, completely and totally. The Stonewall Riots didn’t take place until 1969, after all, and that shot heard ’round the world was still in the process of being heard.

If you were young then, you probably witnessed a lot of social horrors among your mates at school; kids seem to be significantly less vicious with each other now than they were in those days. The Internet, decades of integration, and the greying of the ’60s generation seem to have done a good job of getting kids to be nicer to and more comfortable with each other. In the ’70s, the peer pressure was intense. If you were a little unsure of yourself back then, possibly a little nerdy, maybe not too confident in your own sexuality or in expressing it, you didn’t have many avenues or outlets available to you for empowerment and camaraderie, or even for more information; you mostly had to wonder and fret about what kind of freak you really were.

There were touchstones of culture that helped, that allowed kids to identify each other as friendlies on the same fringe. Some of them were as simple as quotes from Monty Python skits. If you joined in on the first round of “spam, spam, spam, spam, lovely spam, wonderful spam” then you had communicated that yes, you too got bullied and beaten up and mockingly called Professor Einstein for your smartitude, and now were among your own people. If you were a punk rocker in 1978 and you saw another punk rocker, your clothes and hair told the tale and you were instant friends, because there were so few of you and you had so much in common. Being gay or lesbian or bi or what have you? That was mostly some kind of super-secret club that did a lot of hiding out. The unlucky kids never twigged to the signal, or lived in places where they really were truly alone.

Some touchstones were deeper than others; some were real lifesavers for a lot of kids.

In the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s, midnight showings of the Rocky Horror Picture Show around the country gave a wide variety of people with certain unusual inclinations in common a way to meet each other and do a little acting out in a way that was terribly nerdy and terribly sexy. . . and tremendously liberating and empowering, often to a life-changing degree. Not just a film; a powerful message: don’t dream it, be it. Sound familiar? It should, ’cause in 1975, the Rocky Horror Picture Show was a lot like Burning Man.

If you haven’t seen the movie, don’t watch it at home until you’ve seen it in the theater with a good crowd. It’s a theatrical experience, an audience participation experience, not a sit-on-your-ass piece of passive entertainment. Hit the nearest city and find a theater that shows it, dress in your most outlandish duds, and go. . . or, you could get your very first Rocky on (and maybe your rocks off) with the 2013 lineup of the Six-Minute Players at Camp Videogasm, a Burning Man theme camp located in Snowflake Village.

I got in touch with El Smith, the Six-Minute Players’ Coordinator/Director, and she was kind enough to write up the following brief history of Rocky Horror on the Playa for me in answer to my questions:

“RHPS on the playa was started by Tiki Bob in 2005 at Videogasm in Snowflake Village. I played Columbia that year and accidentally started an orgy onstage during the pool scene. . . but that’s another story. Someone at Videogasm called us “the Six Minute Players” because we had no rehearsal and didn’t meet up until six minutes before the show. We liked the name so we kept it. We put on a shadow show complete with a devirginizing ceremony, which changes every year.

Tiki Bob retired from RHPS at the end of the 2007 season and I took it over. At that time, and up until 2011, we had pretty much a new cast every year. With a new annual cast and no rehearsals, we were pretty much just a trannie free-for-all. Some people knew their roles well but for most people it was just an excuse to show off onstage while fucked up. . . which I didn’t have a problem with.

The Six Minute Players had a one-year hiatus in 2010 while I was recovering from a neurological disease that had paralyzed me twice, and I dropped the ball on temporarily handing over the reins. Videogasm still put on a shadow show that year but it wasn’t my cast and I didn’t have a hand in it so in my selfishness I don’t consider it one of the Six Minute Player shows.

I picked the show back up in 2011 and we’ve steadily taken it more and more seriously. I have a core cast now that will be returning for their third year with me, the costumes have gotten better, we have actual props now and there’s even a rehearsal! Of course we drink pretty much the entire rehearsal but we still do manage to get things done.

The show has just gotten better and better since 2011. We did experience a setback with our audience attendance last year due to our placement in Bumfuck, Egypt. We usually have an audience of at least two hundred people, and last year it looks like we only had about a hundred at most. I don’t care so much about attendance for myself; I don’t really do anything besides coordinate/direct the show and manage props, but I care for my actors. They put in a lot of work every year to make sure we only get better and being pissed on like that by placement is not cool. I don’t know, maybe one of the placement people used to be in the show and I told them they sucked and I didn’t want them back. Sounds like a reasonable explanation to me. Complete speculation of course.

Once again in their infinite wisdom, placement has decided for 2013 to once again marginalize the hard-working cast and crew of the Six Minute Players (not to mention the incredible audience-driven Videogasm) and has put us even further into Bumfuck, Egypt. We’ll be at 8:30 and E this year, and the ‘E’ does NOT stand for Esplanade. We were back in the middle of nowhere last year, too, but before that we were on the Esplanade for nearly fifteen years. . . which explains how we went from an audience of at least two hundred to less than a hundred last year.

The future of the Six Minute Players could very possibly be in jeopardy due to the increasingly poor decisions of the placement team. While there will always be a Rocky Horror Picture Show showing at Videogasm, regardless of the camp location, the Six Minute Players could very likely decide that the show is far too much work for so small an audience. We love and appreciate our audience and do it all for them, and would hate to have to close the curtain on our troupe. . . that would mean the terrorists, aka BMOrg, win.

I would like to do an actual live stage production of the Rocky Horror Show but until I can afford the equipment for that to be possible it will remain a pipe dream. I’m not interested in doing a Kickstarter, Indiegogo, or other crowdfunding thing.

I have no plans to hand over the reins or end the show unless I’m paralyzed and stuck in the hospital again. Otherwise, we’ll keep on dancing in our fishnets and stilettos.”

This is the Six-Minute Players’ cast and crew list for 2013; core cast members are marked with an asterisk:


Frank. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Alyssa Smith*

Janet. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Kristen Craig*

Brad. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Michael Charles Douglas Reed

Riff. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Sam Fish

Magenta. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . MarZ Attack

Columbia. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Heather Bewsee

Dr. Scott. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Hal Wrigley

Rocky. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . Geordie Van Der Bosch*

Eddie. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .Ranger Genius*

Crim. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .. . . . . . . . . . . .AntiM*

Trixie. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . . Heather Tyler Harrell

Emcee. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .  . . . . . . . . . . . Nick Fedoroff


Backstage/Prop/Lighting. . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Heather Tyler Harrell, Howard Clayton, Nick Fedoroff, Nathan Goulette

Photography. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Wendi Corbin Goulette

Hosting Camp. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .Videogasm @ Snowflake Village

Coordinator/Direction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .El Smith

(Jan Dirk Roggenkamp is also a core member who plays Brad, but is not able to make it to the playa this year due to the birth of his sons last week)

Behind the scenes on the film’s set, with interviews

THE TEMPLE: Life and Death with Peter Gordon

by Whatsblem the Pro

The Temple of Transition, Burning Man 2011 -- Photo by Peter Gordon

The Temple of Transition, Burning Man 2011 — Photo by Peter Gordon

Peter Gordon is an award-winning photographer based in Ireland, where he’s been working full-time as an art photographer for the last seven years. Gordon studied history and politics, but said goodbye to all that so that he could indulge the avid interest in photography he acquired from working with his father, photographer Ed Gordon. “I got hooked,” says Peter, “and there was no turning back.”

Inside the Temple -- Photo: Peter Gordon

Inside the Temple — Photo: Peter Gordon

Gordon has not just won awards for his Burning Man images, he has won the most prestigious photography awards in Europe for them, including European Photographer of the Year, and a European Reportage Golden Camera from the Federation of European Photographers. In 2013, Peter Gordon was named Irish Professional Photographer of the Year, Landscape Photographer of the Year, and Pictorial and Travel Photographer of the Year by the Irish Professional Photographers Association, while his work took Best Single Image in both the Landscape, and the Travel and Pictorial categories.

Peter Gordon’s latest project focuses on the Temple of Transition at Burning Man 2011, which has been widely regarded as the best Burning Man Temple to date. Mr. Gordon kindly agreed to tell me all about it.

Whatsblem the Pro: Peter, I understand you’ve got a book project in the works. Can you tell me about it, please?

Peter Gordon: That’s right. ‘Life and Death – The Temple‘ will be an exhibition and book of fine art photography of the Temple of Transition. It’s not just about the Temple of Transition as a structure; it’s about the Temple experience. It’s about capturing the essence of a poignant spiritual experience in the incredibly beautiful surroundings of the Black Rock Desert. The imagery shows that we’re all human beings; we all celebrate life, we all mourn death. We do it in different ways, but the project is saying: Look, here’s a way that people are dealing with very deep problems: loss and separation, death, and celebrating the most important elements of their lives as well, like marriage. And WOW is it working for them! When the project is released fully in late September, you will see these themes of Life and Death in people’s expressions and experiences at the Temple, in the building itself, and of course on the canvas of the Temple walls.

Photo: Peter Gordon

Photo: Peter Gordon

Whatsblem the Pro: Is this a solo project, or are there other people involved?

Peter Gordon: The IAM crew, especially James Diarmaid Horkan – aka ‘Irish’ — are the only other people directly involved with the project. They built the Temple that I’m telling the story through. I was an IAM crew member on the Temple build, so we’re bound together by friendship, common experience, and a set of (hopefully) iconic images.

Whatsblem the Pro: How did you find out about Burning Man?

Peter Gordon: In 2011 I was part of the fundraising drive to build the Temple of Transition. ‘Irish’ is an old friend of mine from the motherland here in Ireland, and when the IAM crew got the go-ahead to build the 2011 Temple, Irish asked me to get involved. I jumped at the chance to get back to the desert!

The idea was to give crowdfunding supporters of the Temple a chance to own a limited-edition fine art print of a photograph of the structure. The reward seemed to go down well with donators, so I got myself on a plane across the Atlantic from Ireland and hit Burning Man.

Whatsblem the Pro: What do you hope to achieve with ‘Life and Death – the Temple?’

Peter Gordon: Initially, my goal was simply to fulfill the fine art print reward through a series of drop-dead beautiful images of the Temple. As I spent more time at the Temple, the project began to evolve in my mind. I could see the real – and very positive – impact the Temple experience was having on the people taking part, and I was struck by the very serious process that so many people were going through. I had never seen the Temple story told fully through a documentary photography project, and just felt compelled to tell it. The process involved a fair amount of deep sadness, but also incredible joy and ultimately catharsis.

Photo: Peter Gordon

Photo: Peter Gordon

Whatsblem the Pro: I know what you mean. I’m not a person who cries easily or often, but the Temple of Transition at dawn, and all the things people had written on those walls, had me weeping openly.
What kind of support are you looking for to bring this project home?

Peter Gordon: I’m trying to get people involved with the project through the Kickstarter campaign, which I’m hoping will raise enough money to print a 112-page coffee table book, and pay for design services and a launch space in Dublin. I’m planning to bring the project to the US as well, so I’m actively seeking spaces where that can happen.

Whatsblem the Pro: Where can we get more information?

Peter Gordon: If people want a bit more info about the project and me, they should check out my website or my Facebook page.

Whatsblem the Pro: How can we donate or otherwise get involved?

Peter Gordon: People can get involved through my Kickstarter campaignWe have some really cool swag on offer as rewards, including Temple screen savers, the coffee table book, and fine art prints.

Whatsblem the Pro: Thanks, Peter, and good luck. I’m looking forward to showing that book off on my own coffee table!

Peter Gordon: Thank you.