An ardent fan of FX’s POSE, watching Paris is Burning further cements the extent to which we are all indebted, culturally, to those who simultaneously thrive and struggle in subcultural realms. It is fair to say that the riches they magically produce from next to nothing to put on a Ball, for instance (admittedly, sometimes through criminal means), or to form a family House, both, in part, to provide structure and meaning for the younger generation but also to validate their own existence, succinctly demonstrates the wastefulness of our society, where the mainstream fails to recognise the true value of such activity – instead occupied with figuring out how best to plunder it for financial gain. At least that’s my cynical view of things.
In previous posts, on the subject of House music’s origins in Chicago, I discuss my own purposeful, carefully planned pilgrimage to The Warehouse, 206 S. Jefferson St., and the debt that I feel towards the pioneers of the genre – again, those bringing something new and vibrant into the world, and often with very little at their disposal. While there, in passing (queuing for coffee) I chat with kids busy with their preparations for Pride weekend, some of whom possibly too young and confident to have given much thought to those that came before them – although they were thoughtful enough to make me aware of the areas I shouldn’t wander into in Chicago. Kids dressed in tutus, boob tubes, and wild, colourful adornments and even wilder hairdos, far more concerned with the violence that I might experience than for their own safety, which is kind of a nice thing – that they don’t live in fear of what someone might do just because they are seen to be different by a minority of hateful people with skewed perspectives.
And so the point of this post is the deep sadness that I experienced as Paris is Burning draws to a close. Somewhat naïve, and occasionally hopeful, despite my cynicism, I wasn’t prepared for news of Venus Xtravaganza’s murder. I’d already ‘lived’ that when Candy dies in a similar manner in POSE. Sitting/laying on a bed talking about her hopes and dreams of a domesticated life with a husband out in the suburbs may sound a little bit cliché, but that was Venus’ dream, and for someone forced to move away (or to feel like they’re forced to move away to save a family the embarrassment of having to explain away the fact that Thomas Pellagatti doesn’t exist anymore – Venus Xtravaganza has taken over) in her early teens, to a life where someone ends up seeing you as literally so worthless that they’ll strangle you and leave your dead body under a bed, not to be found for around four days, is way more than sad. It is fair to say that in Venus we see (if we so choose) a Golden Lotus that endures.