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House of Tudor 

Get Gorey with the Tiger Lillies, then get freaky with the Ancient & Mystic Order of Maskharat

Wednesday, Oct 29 2003
It shouldn't be surprising that the Tiger Lillies are the recipients of Edward Gorey's creative legacy. Their critically acclaimed staging and subsequent scoring of Shockheaded Peter: A Junk Opera, a live production based on the 1850s book Struwwelpeter, was a macabre and fanciful tour de force in keeping with Gorey's own aesthetic. In fact, if one didn't know that the author of Struwwelpeter was a disenchanted psychiatrist named Heinrich Hoffman, one might bet money that the rude, disobedient children therein did meet their gruesome ends at the tip of Gorey's pen. Perhaps this was where Gorey drew his own inspiration, or perhaps Gorey was, in fact, Hoffman returned to finish the job. It's a question worth considering given the perfect complement and cohesion of the Tiger Lillies' follow-up album, The Gorey End. We are not told whether Gorey saw the stage production of Shockheaded Peter, for which director and TL frontman Martyn Jacques employed toys, puppets, and an authentic carnival barker to bring Hoffman's text to life, or if Gorey just listened to the soundtrack record, which, between Jacques' strangled falsetto and wheezing accordion, Adrian Hughes' stampeding spatulas and punished pots and pans, and Adrian Stouts' skulking contrabass, did well enough to evoke the challenged propriety and childhood nightmares of the book. Whatever the facts, Gorey recognized the Tiger Lillies as the aural conjurers and future caretakers of his artistic argot; he sent Jacques a letter describing the band as the "cat's pyjamas" and a consequent letter accompanied by a box of unpublished work, a stone (that looked like a frog), and a saucer. The result of that shipment was The Gorey End, a collection of Gorey tales as only the Tiger Lillies could realize them, meaning they are perfectly and utterly Gorey, silly and sick, slinking out of your speakers on long spindly legs, yawning with dank and delirious delight. The Tiger Lillies are joined on this record, and hopefully onstage, by our own Kronos Quartet, who fell hopelessly in love with the trio during its last Bay Area outing. The Tiger Lillies perform on Wednesday, Oct. 29, at Bimbo's 365 Club at 9 p.m. Tickets are $25; call 474-0365 or go to

Natives of San Francisco are a rare and awkward breed because, despite the city's ever-morphing visage, this remains a frontier town, a transitory port of call for those who yearn to reinvent themselves. Here, neighborhoods, like sexual orientation and the beehive wigs crowning my Sunday brunch host, change according to the wind and whim of some unknown force, leaving the indigenous population predisposed to streaks of nostalgia, excesses of tolerance, and fits of madness come Oct. 31. Halloween, that celebration of shape-shifting, fiction, fantasy, gaiety, and horror -- all that we, as San Franciscans, hold most dear -- is, after all, S.F.'s unofficial holiday, and it's high time someone did something unofficial about it. To that end, the recently self-proclaimed Emperor and Empress of San Francisco, descendants of a long line of self-proclaimed rulers, did on Wednesday, Oct. 1, by the power invested in them by the Ancient & Mystic Order of Maskharat, declare Halloween "the official and primary holiday of all San Francisco, in this and future years." They did challenge the citizens of "Our Fair City to improve and embellish the Castro Street Halloween festivities with renewed and greater costuming efforts" and decreed that San Franciscans "of all creeds, stripes, and varieties come together to celebrate Halloween in lively, but safe and considerate, revelry." The Royal Proclamation comes at a time when the hitherto idiosyncratic, passion-filled occasion of Halloween in the Castro has been diluted and defiled by drunkenness, violence, and unseemly street clothes. However, the Ancient & Mystic Order of Maskharat is no fly-by-night, reactionary fiefdom; it is a group of dedicated and determined activists in tomfoolery. As such, it has petitioned the city of San Francisco to recognize Halloween officially as our own holiday, and has garnered a position in the "March of Light," the costumed cabal that parades up Market Street at the beginning of the celebration. To add the weight of numbers to the levity of their intention, the Emperor and Empress request all supporters of the Maskharat's mission to join in the procession of finery. The theme for this year's pageant is, appropriately enough, the birth of San Francisco. This is a call to arms for all miners, merchants, madams, missionaries, sheriffs, sailors, chimney sweeps, opium peddlers, spiritualists, and harlots! Show us what San Francisco is really made of. People interested in marching with Maskharat should gather on Friday, Oct. 31, at Market and Laguna streets at 6 p.m. Admission is free; participation is mandatory. Folks needing inspiration should go to

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Silke Tudor


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