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Monday, June 2, 2008

We're With The Citizen's Band

Lee Carter goes to gem class...

The name may sound like something out of Paris Is Burning, but when the House of Lavande goes voguing, it's the real Vogue—and Harper's Bazaar, Vanity Fair et al. Not that drag queens wouldn't kill (and sometimes did) for the reworked vintage Chanel, Yves Saint Laurent, Hermès and Elsa Schiaparelli couture jewelry of the Palm Beach-based line, which made its New York debut last week at Bobo restaurant in the West Village. The dinner bash, thrown by Kate Schelter, brought out gaggles of TV-ready fashion editors, jetlagged socialites, liquored-up media hawks and those people you see all the time but have no clue who they are until you chance upon them later on PatrickMcMullan.com. And us. We'll spare you our own boozy moments and just relate a nice chat we had with Sarah Sophie Flicker, who hosted the swanky soiree with Karen Elson, both dripping in Lavande's rejuvenated jewels. If you're not familiar, Sarah co-founded the cabaret act The Citizen's Band, in which the two sprites perform...

Sarah Sophie Flicker, Sarah & Karen Elson, Erin Fetherston

Melissa Bent of Rivington Arms, Sam Hammerstein, Lucy Sykes & Euan Rellie

That's a pretty impressive headpiece you have on. Is it Lavande?
Yes, but actually it's a necklace.

Do you always wear jewelry on your head?
I think that you ought to wear jewelry in whatever manner tickles your fancy. Right in this room, there are jewels worn with T-shirts, jewels worn with evening dresses, necklaces as headdresses, era-mixing. There are many, many ways you can play with sparkles!

Are you a vintage vixen? Do you scour the shops?
It is a huge inspiration in my work and a very glamorous way to recycle. I spent some formative years in San Francisco, in what I consider the heyday of vintage shopping, with stores like Wasteland and New Government. It was a magical time, when people created outlandish but beautiful characters for themselves—Victorian fairies floating down Haight St. and such. We were so spoiled in San Francisco; now vintage is so outrageously expensive. So, I don't do much vintage store scouring anymore. Luckily I have a great collection of falling-to-pieces vintage from my San Francisco salad days!

How did you and Karen meet?
Ooohhh, my lovely Karen! We remember meeting for the first time ages and ages ago in New York, on the night she won VH1's Model of the Year. I was visiting from San Francisco, and I remember wearing some loopy vintage get-up and feeling really out of sorts with all these fancy people in expensive and beautiful outfits. Suddenly, out of the chaos, Karen grabbed me and said, "You look like a fairy." And I suppose it was love after that! You know, we are just incredibly like-minded, love the same things and both care a lot about politics and family. As I get older, I realize that the universe just sort of pushes us in the direction of people who we ought to know.

Can you explain The Citizen's Band to Hintsters?
My friend Jorjee and I had been dreaming of a political cabaret theater group for years. We both moved from California to New York and found that New York is such an incredibly supportive city for the arts. After the second Bush election (if you want to call the first one an election—I love you Al Gore!), we were so saddened and fed up that we got a great group together and had our first Citizen's Band show in November of 2004. Karen was in from the start and is one of the most gifted singers and performers I know.

How does it work?
Basically, The Citizen's Band uses history to understand where we are now. We deal with all the issues of today—the war, the economy, immigration, healthcare, the environment—but in an entertaining and unique way. There are approximately 25 of us and the shows exist in a fantastic never-never-land hovering somewhere between 1890 and 1945. We take historical songs and tell the story of today. It's amazing to find lyrics from 1913 that seem as though they could have been written yesterday. There are original songs, too, and we all have characters and a narrative. It is super-dreamy and magical and non-dogmatic. There are two of us who do aerial work, as well as a contortionist.

It sounds like a hoot. You probably have a lot of great stories.
Oh, yes. One hilarious time was when three of us were pregnant, but I insisted on not changing my character or performance. I was singing this racy song from the '20s called "I Wanna Be Bad" and we all did a striptease, but it was tame. During one performance, an older man in the audience cried out, "Half of those strippers are pregnant!"

What's next for The Citizen's Band?
We're working on our new show, called The Panic Is On. We all end up in a ballroom bomb shelter and have to find hope and meaning in this crazy world. We are super excited about the election and are gearing up for a Citizen's Band bonanza in the late summer. All our show dates are on our website.

You're also a filmmaker. What are you currently working on?
I have a production company called the Belles of the Black Diamond Field with my directing partner Maximilla Lukacs. We make very feminine films dealing with all the topics close to our hearts. The film we're working on now is about the decision to become a parent and first-time parenthood. Yelena Yemchuk, one of my favorite photographers, is shooting it and I'm very excited. Our films are very personal and dreamy and surrealistic. We love the idea of taking the parts of our lives that are the most vulnerable and scary, and exploring them in our films.

So you do all that and you're a trapeze artist? Have you ever had a scary mid-air moment?
Well, I am lucky enough to work with Chelsea Bacon, who I consider one of the greatest aerialists in the world. She is such a fantastic teacher, friend and collaborator that I haven't had any scary mid-air moments, other than my own clumsy ones! I don't go very high up either; I leave that to Chelsea. What I do is more like aerial ballet. I was very serious about ballet as a girl so I use all that I remember from my training up in the air now. I just love it, it is the most free you can feel.