A-Camp October 2013 Recamp #3: If You Wanna Be My Lover, You Gotta Get With My Carnival


featuring: Stef Schwartz, Marni Kellison, Haviland Stillwell, Somer Bingham, Lex Kennedy, Alex Vega, Cara Giaimo and Donna Rizham

[watch the videos here]

photo by lex kennedy

photo by lex kennedy

Carly: Ok guys, real talk: I sorta was worried this was going to be a mess, maybe? But then once I saw the first rehearsal I was like OH SHIT THIS IS GOING TO BE AMAZING. And it was. It was totally major and flawless.

Marni: A-Camp-alooza was definitely our most energetic and fun night of music so far. We decided to try to create more of a music festival, dance and sing along-type vibe, and it worked out better than we could have hoped!

Stef: The minute Marni explained the concept, I knew that it had always been my life’s ambition to play “Deceptacon” to a room full of screaming queers. Thankfully, Cara and Alex were on board and they helped make my dream a reality.

Robin: It was the perfect solution to our staff driven music show. The “family band” had the entire crowd on their feet dancing and singing along to the best 90’s throw-back hits.

gi (photo by bree)

gi (photo by bree)

Haviland: It was a total blast!

Riese: The music night is always my favorite thing, because it involves: 1) my favorite people and 2) my favorite songs.

Stef: As usual, we weren’t able to rehearse very much (in fact Alex had only ever played through 3 of the 9 songs with any of us), but we practiced just enough to be able to wing it.

Haviland: On a scale from 1-10, we had rehearsed… not enough, to ease my perfectionistic mind, but my heart took over, etc. and it went really well!


(photo by ariel)

Brittani: I don’t think lesbians being musically gifted is a stereotype but if you’ve ever watched this group of knuckleheads put together an entire makeshift concert in a few hours, you’d agree it should be.

Somer: Everyone loves a sad, depressing Ani DiFranco ballad, but This. Was. Awesome. In my heart of hearts, I hope it is always this way.

(photo by tayor)

(photo by tayor)

Stef: We kicked off with “Crazy In Love” with Donna absolutely killing it on saxophone, and I knew we’d be just fine. Kai, Gigler and Kaylah were the best back-up dancers anyone could ever ask for, and everybody in the band brought it hard the entire show.

Kaylah: I’ll never forget dancing in the opening number. As much as I aspire to be the first on the dance floor a la Footloose, I forgot how nerve wrecking it would be. I convinced Kai, Gigler and myself that we would never be asked back to camp because of the hot mess we displayed… then I saw the dance floor full of moving bodies and I knew it was a success. I think Ren McCormack would be proud.


(photo by taylor)

Riese: Kai, Emily and Kaylah were fantastic Fly Girls and Brittani and Marni were a very queer Jay-Z and Beyonce.

Stef: I rarely looked up from my bass cos I was terrified of fucking up (and some of those songs are kinda hard!), but whenever I did, I noticed the dance party on the floor getting bigger and bigger.

(photo by taylor)

(photo by taylor)

Haviland: So much love! We were hoping everyone would dance and sing along, and they DID!

Brittani: The secret VIP of A-Campalooza was Donna on sax because that means THERE WAS A FUCKING SAXOPHONE.

Carly: Stef is the best band leader and holy shit Donna on sax and everyone was so incredible and talented and fun!

Somer: Donna and I met when I gave her a flier for one of my shows. Since then, she’s watched me perform approximately 3,782 songs on stage. This camp, I got to watch HER on stage, sexy sax in hand, with the rest of the staff band, and I fell in love all over again. Even when she almost threw up from stage fright.

They don't call her Saxy Donna for nothin' (via Somer)

They don’t call her Saxy Donna for nothin’ (via Somer)

Stef: I can’t sing to save my life and yet for some reason, at A-Camp I never care. A-Camp-alooza was hands down the most fun I have ever had at camp, or anywhere in my life. Where else but A-Camp do I have an opportunity to wear the Union Jack dress I bought in 2007 for the Spice Girls reunion and have kept hopefully in my closet ever since?

Marni: Stef in the Union Jack dress gave me life.

Cara: Have never had a better time onstage; have never allowed myself to feel more like Britney Spears; have never been more in friendlove with Stef Schwartz; have never seen Vanessa be in so many places at once or hold so many cameras; have never been more impressed by a group of musical weirdos.

(photo by bree)

cara singing (photo by bree)

Stef: Cara was my co-counselor last camp, and I was thrilled that we worked together so much for this show. We masterminded a cover of the Replacements’ “Androgynous,” split up the same way Joan Jett and Laura Jane Grace had covered it. Also, Cara’s version of “Hit Me Baby One More Time” came out smoky, sexy, and amazing, and I had a lot of confusing feelings for her after that.

Haviland: It was exactly the way I love to perform – with the feeling that everyone there is in on it. Also, I just love making music with Marni, Stef, Vega, and the rest of the A-Camp Family band. This was a REALLY happy, cool group of campers and staff. I am so happy to be part of this community, and to get the opportunity to introduce more and more people to it. We are so good at growing!

haviland and marni stretching to grow faster (photo by taylor)

haviland and marni stretching to grow faster (photo by taylor)

DeAnne, The Talent & Writer: OH MY GOD. Everyone was so hot and amazing. Donna on the sax, Somer sounding exactly like Belinda Carlisle, Stef being Stef, Alex holding it down cool as fuck on the drums, Brittani rapping like a superstar, Freakin’ Marni, Hat-clad Cara; it was almost too much.

Riese: Big thank you to Somer and Stef for enabling my subconscious to reclaim “Heaven is a Place On Earth” as a magical and lovely song that I enjoy listening to rather than that song they played at Delta Gamma during the only night of sorority rush I attended 13 years ago.

rock stars (photo by taylor)

rock stars (photo by taylor)

Stef: We closed out with a Spice Girls medley featuring a guest appearance by Riese/Sporty Spice, and I don’t think I’ve ever been happier.

Brittani: This performance was my favorite of the A-camp musical series because of how interactive it was. Most of the songs were anthems once upon a time so everyone knew the words and sang along. There was even a dance floor in front of the stage and during the Spice Girls Medley, a Posh pit (Get it?! I’m so sorry for that joke). Camp is always a learning experience for me because I didn’t know that lesbians love the Spice Girls. They were never a thing with my group of friends growing up. Probably because we were all black and everyone couldn’t be Scary Spice.


(photo by lex)

Yvonne: A true highlight of A-Camp was when virtually every single person in the room was singing on the top of their lungs and with all their heart to Spice Girl’s “Wannabe”.

Crystal: I’m in love with everyone who played on the A-Camp-Alooza stage. Our Heartthrobs cabin danced to TLC and the Spice Girls.

Robin: The Spice Girls medley was fantastic but I think my favorite was Marni’s mash-up of Waterfalls by TLC and She Keeps Me Warm by Mary Lambert. Incredible!

(photo by taylor)

(photo by taylor)

Riese: Everybody called for an ENCORE, you guys! This was funny because obviously it’s not like this band was a real band with a back catalog from which to choose a hit, so they quickly decided to do “Doo Wop (That Thing)” ’cause we did it at last camp, with Lex Kennedy filling in for Gabby, and then Anne Marie hopping up for the other verse.

Crystal: when the band played “Doo Wop (That Thing)” as an impromptu encore but no one knew the words, camper Anne Marie jumped on stage to fill in. She became my hero that night.

Carly: Her jumping on stage was just the best.

DeAnne: Whoever stepped in and finished that Lauryn Hill rap definitely won camp. Oh, and just so you know, from now forward, for the rest of life, whenever I hear Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby,” I’ll think of everyone at A-Camp. Time can’t erase a feeling this strong.


audience participation edition

Laneia: A-Campalooza can never be topped. How do we know so many talented attractive hilarious people? And how do we convince them to come with us to a forest on a mountain and then SING FOR US??

Vanessa: Everyone is going to say how amazing this was, so I’ll try to be brief. This was the best night of my life. It seems like I’m exaggerating but I’m actually not. I can’t pin down a best part. Marni singing a mashup that included Mary Lambert? Lex Kennedy’s entire performance? Stef and Alex killing it on literally every single song? My cute girlfriend being the best Queer Britney Spears I’ve ever seen? Having everyone tease me for holding up two iPhones for the entire performance so I could take video AND photos at the same time (for the record, one of the phones belonged to Stef, AND if I hadn’t pulled my ridiculous Stage Mom Situation we wouldn’t have amazing YouTube videos to relive the entire performance with, so you’re all WELCOME)? Watching my campers be THE CUTEST HUMANS ALIVE? I dunno. Marni had told me her goal was to make the concert feel like “one of those scenes in a TV high school drama, usually set in Southern California, where they’re at prom or something and there’s an unnecessary band and then everyone starts dancing around the stage and it would never happen in real life but it always looks totally natural.” We were both doubtful that we could achieve that dream. We were so wrong. If I had to choose one scene of my life to relive over and over and over until I die, it would be A-Camp-alooza.

(photo by taylor)

(photo by taylor)

Set List [with video links]

Crazy in Love (Beyoncè & Jay-Z): Marni Kellison (guitar/vocals), Stef (bass), Alex (drums), Lex (vocals), Donna (sax) and Brittani (Jay-Z) with Dancers Kaylah, Emily & Kai

I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Whitney Houston): Haviland Stillwell (vocals), Marni Kellison (guitar/vocals), Lex (vocals), Stef (bass), Alex (drums)

Always Be My Baby (Mariah Carey): Haviland Stillwell (vocals), Marni Kellison (guitar/vocals), Stef (bass), Alex (drums)

Decaptacon (Le Tigre): Stef (bass/vocals), Cara (bass/vocals) & Alex (drums)

Androgynous (The Replacements): Stef (bass/vocals), Cara (guitar/vocals) & Alex (drums)

Waterfalls / She Keeps Me Warm (TLC/Mary Lambert mashup): Marni Kellison (guitar/vocals), Haviland Stillwell (vocals), Stef (bass), Donna (sax), Lex Kennedy (vocals) & Alex (drums)

Heaven is a Place On Earth (Belinda Carlisle): Somer Bingham (guitar/vocals), Stef (bass/vocals) & Alex (drums)

Hit Me Baby One More Time (Britney Spears): Stef (bass/vocals), Cara (guitar/vocals) & Alex (drums)

Spice Girls Medley (Spice Girls): Haviland Stillwell (vocals), Marni Kellison (guitar/vocals), Stef (bass), Lex Kennedy (vocals), Cara (vocals)

Klub Deer Hip Hop Night

Brittani: As one of Klub Deer’s biggest theoretical financial supporters (I support Cee emotionally, it’s better than money), I was jazzed (that’s right, JAZZED) that my pleas for a hip hop night had finally been heard. Not only were they heard, I got to provide said music for part of it and ’twas a magical experience. The official A-Camp Twerk Team performed to “Get Low.” Carmen danced with her headlamp strobe light on the fireplace. Torre stood at the end of the “DJ booth” as my own personal bouncer. If you’ve never heard a room full of queers turn up screaming, “Martin had a dream!” you’re missing out.

Hansen: I have a very interesting relationship with Klub Deer. Sometimes groups of queers dance up on me while I look horrified because I’m embarrassed by that much attention. Sometimes camper Jeanie teaches me how to moonwalk. But one of my favorite things in the world is singing and dancing like an idiot to pop songs, so I’m really glad A-Camp fulfilled this dream with A-Campalooza turning into a sing-a-long, Prom AND Klub Deer.

Dani RDS: Klub Deer is the best party you’ll go to all year. Every night I planned on going to bed by 11pm, but by the second night I knew all efforts would be in vain. It’s hard to explain exactly how a lodge in the middle of the woods can feel like the VIP section of the best club in town, but every camp the Klub Deer team does it. It’s like a friend went through the trouble of renting a penthouse and flying all your friends in to party every night for a whole weekend. Also, if you’ve never been talked how to moon-walk, don’t worry, camper Jeanie has that sh*t on lock – even on rugged carpeting.

Club Hawk

A-Camp 424

Riese: This camp, somebody began a viral marketing campaign for Club Hawk to compete with the ubiquity of Klub Deer. I was canvassing for Club Bluebird, a dimly lit enclave for poets and lovers, but I really can’t say if anybody showed up for that or not.

Carly: I would also like to re-state that I am staunchly pro-Deer and would like to inform everyone that there is no Club Wolf or Club Hawk.

Cee: The Klub Hawk takeover failed. You guys, there is no Klub Hawk. Nor is there a Klub Wolf. There isn’t even a hawk lodge. Don’t listen to what you’ve heard, we all know Klub Deer is the best (only) club on the mountain.

Someone spammed Cee's piegonhole with other Klub fliers

Someone spammed Cee’s piegonhole with other Klub fliers

Cara:  I don’t know who invented Club Hawk. Probably it has always circled, somewhere in the thin mountain air, just waiting to reveal itself to a camper who was strong of heart, pure of spirit, and great at divebombing. In any case, during initiation, my brilliant cabin enabled my addiction to hawk-based signs by undertaking a massive viral marketing effort for the Club (the best club on the mountain). There were a ton of great signs but I particularly remember Kaida’s, which offered pull-tabs that directed the hapless tab-pullers to all different spots on the mountain; Em’s, which described various amenities of the club (“for when you need a good joke and some pasta”), Emily’s because woah she’s an incredible artist, and June’s, which promised LIVE NUDE HAWKS. Greatest club on the mountain.

Somer:  I wasn’t sure whether to believe all the hype surrounding Club Hawk. Was it really better than Linux? Was it cooler than Google Glass? Would I really “fly high” and “be my sexy self” there?


Situated directly above Club Deer, only accessible, it was rumored, through a secret door in the back of the middle bathroom with a special knock and the code word “Feelings,” Club Hawk was my favorite part of A-Camp. Honestly, I don’t know how there was enough electricity on the mountain to power the lasers and the pummeling bass. The aerial dancers were ok, but when Lady Gaga exploded from a hidden panel on the stage and gave everyone a lap dance, I almost passed out from the excitement. Also, Tegan & Sara took turns spanking me; at first it was super-disorienting to be surrounded by kinky identical twins, but it turns out I’m really into that.


(via Somer)

Well, that’s Friday for ya! Tune in next week when we wind this all down with the epic last-day-and-night recap.

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Riese is the 41-year-old Co-Founder of Autostraddle.com as well as an award-winning writer, video-maker, LGBTQ+ Marketing consultant and aspiring cyber-performance artist who grew up in Michigan, lost her mind in New York and now lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in nine books, magazines including Marie Claire and Curve, and all over the web including Nylon, Queerty, Nerve, Bitch, Emily Books and Jezebel. She had a very popular personal blog once upon a time, and then she recapped The L Word, and then she had the idea to make this place, and now here we all are! In 2016, she was nominated for a GLAAD Award for Outstanding Digital Journalism. She's Jewish and has a cute dog named Carol. Follow her on twitter and instagram.

Riese has written 3198 articles for us.


  1. Minor correction: the song was “Groovy Kind of Love” by Phil Collins. In Your Eyes is a fantastic song, but it’s by Peter Gabriel, and I’ve never slow danced to a near-stranger for three minutes to it.

    Note to self: find a way to slow dance to a stranger to In Your Eyes.

    And the Tardy to the Party panel, OMG. This is a memorable moment in my life. The emotional honesty that came pouring out of everyone, myself included, was shocking and magical! So many tissues needed!

  2. It was so incredible in the Tardy for the Party panel was when Laneia said we could either go to lunch or keep talking and not ONE. SINGLE. PERSON. got up from their seats.

    That panel was SO FUCKING necessary. I was so moved and touched and I have never felt more connected to a gigantic group of strangers. Thank you to everyone who spoke on that panel and contributed from the audience because you gave me the words I needed to understand my own messy, complicated feelings. You are all beautiful humans and I’m so glad we were all able to show up fashionably late together <3

  3. Words cannot express what the tardy for the party panel meant to me. I was not the same person when I left that room. It was life altering. If camp had been just that panel it would have been worth the trip.
    Thank you to all that participated and especially to Laneia for remembering to bring the box of tissues!

  4. Not pictured during The Carnival: The cotton candy machine gorgeously spewing sugar dust into the rapidly returning sunlight. It was nearly as pretty as all the queers.

    I also learned first hand that Dimitri Martin’s joke about skulls and daggers with glitter on them is actually a little obscure. But my face paint still looked adorable, even though it was not the funny T-shirt for my face I tried to make it be.

    • i did not know the joke when you requested those things BUT i really fucking loved painting them on your face, for the record

  5. This I think was my favorite day of camp. Lanie and I played at the carnival and nothing bad happened and it was wonderful.
    Sarah Hansen gave me her identity, and if anyone actually believed I was her, I’m really sorry.
    AND I got to slow dance with Sarah Evan, and you should all be really jealous of that.


  6. “…like a starfish hitting an uncooked ham.”

    That line has forever been etched into my brain space. And the carnival was just, you know, everything I ever wanted out of life.

  7. Sometimes I forget that Autostraddle as a site isn’t Tumblr or Facebook because I click every picture and try to like it.

  8. guys, i just wanted to let you know that anne marie is my best friend and i’ve never been so proud of a human before. that was the best thing on earth.

  9. Every time there was a new picture, I fell in love with whomever was in it. Does that make me shallow, or is it just that A-Camp attracts such a gorgeous group of people that that reaction is totally expected?

    • the photoshop situations in this recap are really really really impressive

      like, possibly deserve space at MoMA, just saying

  10. guys! whenever i read recamps, i wish i had written more myself. sometimes, it’s too much to get into words, you know?

    for now i’ll say:

    i love that brittani was “jazzed.” i love it so much.

    may have to make that pic of stef with the vodka snowcones (which were DELISH and refreshing, by the way!) my phone background to remind me that sometimes life delivers up exactly what you didn’t know you needed.


    long live all the klubs. even club bluebird.

    • whenever i read the recamps i notice that i always start out saying I AM GONNA BE BRIEF and then i am never ever brief. maybe this means we are meant to be, deanne. maybe it means i’m just really fucking longwinded and self-involved. WHO’S TO SAY.

  11. The recamps: where I find out about all the things I was missing while doing the other things. I really need to figure out how to drink in multiple places at the same time.

    I suspect the solution involves more whiskey, but despite my best efforts, I have yet found the solution.

    More research is required.

    • Ya’ll, DJ missed out on a chunk of the carnival because she elected to let me cry on her about missing my friend, who passed right after May Camp.

      She’s real good people.

      • this made my heart swell. i am so sorry for your loss. i am also so happy that a-camp fosters such beautiful close connections.

        • Thank you Vanessa. The last night I spent with that friend was the night before May Camp. I packed my bags while she and two other close friends drank wine and made fun of my chosen camp schedule.

          Quote my friend, “Ugh, you’re going to California to learn how to SPOON?”

          I’m so glad I have ya’ll, and I’m so glad we have each other. Hold your loved ones close.

      • DJ, I’m pretty sure you already figured it out. I thought you spent a lot of the carnival with me, but you were also off being a super friend, dancing with bears and just generally having a damn whimsical time.

        It was the Whiskey snowcones we made. Whiskey snowcones make you have the ability to do ALL the things in multiple places, but you just aren’t able to remember any of it. I’m pretty sure that’s science.

        • Holy shit. I didn’t realize. Next time I’ll wear my lab coat so we can make it official.

          I think it is important to recognize prior work, so I want to give some credit for the snow on the first night. It convinced me that it needed to be combined with whiskey. I guess when the snowcones showed up, it was easy to see what needed to be done.

      • Aww, ‘Rie, you know there’s nothing else at a-camp that takes priority over a cabinmate. And not that we’re keeping a tally, but need I remind you that you were and have been there for me tons the same way?

        I was mostly thinking about that group of us who missed A-campalooza because we were at that strip cards against humanity game.

        I have no regrets. About any of it.

        But if I can figure out how to be in multiple places at once in the future, you can bet I’ll be doing it.


          I mean, reading the recamp, A-Camp-alooza sounds like it was incredible buuuuuut…absolutely no regrets missing it to join a bunch of lovely humans in getting increasingly drunk + increasingly naked (to comfort levels, for both of these things!) + increasingly hilarious.

  12. i forgot to mention in this recap that a-camp-alooza incited an official shift in my sexual orientation. my sexual orientation is now just “butch beyonce.”

    also i’m really glad carmen made “b is hilarious” signs because even if we didn’t get to use them at the intended moment we have them ready for, you know, every other moment for the rest of our lives. no one will ever again not know that b is hilarious.

  13. now that i’m finally back in the states, and have been dying to go to a-camp for the past 2 a-camps, i SWEAR i am going to go to the next a-camp! is it going to be in april or may?

  14. you guys. i’m pretty much about to cry right now. i think all of you are the funniest, coolest humans on the planet, and i love you.


  15. THIS WAS SUCH A FUN DAY AT CAMP. and not going to lie we laughed really hard with Nicole about almost getting caught by chloe while collecting sticks and honestly stick bouquets will forever be romantic now.

    BUT SERIOUSLY–I don’t even know what to say SO MUCH AMAZING STUFF HAPPENED.
    the carnival was sooo much fun and a nice break and way to socialize and all the actvities were so much fun and that fashion show! oh man. DeAnne Smith. that is all.

    I can get soooo carried away. But it was an AMAZING AMAZING day!!!

  16. I figured the best time to comment on this was after a few venti sized glasses of wine. The only thing I regret about camp was NOT doing the thing and people that I was doing some intense eye flirting with…but you bet your little queer ass I’ll break out of my shell by 5.0. I promise I won’t spend ALL of my time having panic attacks in the DSA even though I met some of the most beautiful humans by just standing outside. In the snow. Because when you’re drunk and with a bunch of amazing queers not even the snow can stop the socialization that only happens in nature…

  17. “at first it was super-disorienting to be surrounded by kinky identical twins, but it turns out I’m really into that.”

    somer my love for you grows deeper every day

  18. Man, it’s stuff like this that’s gonna have some queer attend next years awesomest camp! Spice girls medley. Man, IDK if i ever love the spice girls more.

  19. This was the day our cabin got so into bonding time that we accidentally missed part of an event just to spend time together. It was also the day I fell in love with 15 humans simultaneously. Stormtroopers for life <3

  20. Look at Kirsten being super adorable on the swings!

    Also, appreciative head nod to all the Amazons up there in their short shorts.

  21. This was an excellent day of camp. I was super impressed by the Carnival! Seriously, there were many ways it could have been half-assed, which would be totally justified because it was being set up on top of a mountain, but I really appreciated all of the little thoughtful details (gorgeous decorations, classy signs for each activity, etc.) that went into it. Definitely not half-assed!

    Also, the talent show was great – I was feeling rather oversocialized by the time the carnival rolled around (#introvertproblems) so I didn’t participate in many of the activities/talk to many people, but I still felt very much included in the goings-on when I was able to just stand there and watch all of the super talented acts take place.

    Finally, a massive thank you to Kate for coming back to our cabin to retrieve me when the Hannah Hart kissing booth was happening!!! I would have been crushed to have missed it. Hannah was seriously SO SWEET and she made a video for my [local] girlfriend so my girlfriend wouldn’t be too jealous of me meeting Hannah :)

  22. the recamps really make me miss camp so much..
    but also i’m hanging out with some of my favourite campers this weekend so that does make it a lot better

  23. I want to know more about these three ‘sailor’ people wearing the same thing! Was it planned? Was it homosexual wardrobe coincidence? Should you have all called each other first? (Or rather, should you not have and it happened perfectly?)

  24. 1. Im pretty sure that was easily the cutest queer-prom-date proposal that ever did or will happen. EVER.

    2. My face turns red just thinking about Deanne singing to me.

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