Once upon a time (October 9th-13th, to be specific) in a land far far atop a mountain two hours outside of sunny Los Angeles, approximately 275 queer humans gathered for four days and four nights of revelry, carnivalia, intellectual stimulation, dance parties and deep sea bonding. They called it A-Camp 4.0, and it was beautiful! This is the third of four fantastic recaps which serve to ease our collective separation anxiety, give you a behind-the-scenes look at how your A-Camp soysage is made, enable us to wax nostalgic over times gone by and provide prospective campers with a brilliant glimpse into the A-Camp Experience.
A-Camp was the genesis of an idea Riese had at 3AM in July 2010: the concept was to take the spirit of the website into three glorious dimensions by renting a summer camp in the off-season and jam-packing a long weekend with panels, workshops, discussions, crafts, sports, entertainment, parties and so much more! We gave the idea a spin with an abbreviated, smaller edition of A-Camp in April 2012, followed by full-size full-length camps in September 2012 and May 2013, all hosted by everybody’s favorite dynamic duo, Julie Goldman and Brandy Howard. Which brings us to October 2013, the Little Camp That Could!
This fall’s camp was unforgettable and fucking awesome. Our amazing team was complemented by talented Special Guests including comedienne DeAnne Smith, new media superstar Hannah Hart, Me & My Bois collaborators Lex Kennedy and Emotions the P.O.E.T., rock star Somer Bingham and songstress and actress Haviland Stillwell. Our camp staff included Autostraddle.com team members, A-Camp Tumblr Inventress Emily Gigler and Autostraddle Calendar Girls Miss October 2014 Kai, Miss February 2014 Chloe and Miss June 2013 Dani.
A-Camp October 2013 Recamp #3: Day Three
Friday, October 11th: Day Three of A-Camp
Haviland, The Talent: I arrived Friday morning, and was surprised at how mellow and quiet it was…until I realized there was a good bit of recovering happening from the night before! I went into breakfast, and received a standing ovation from a few of the staff members. And then Riese and I hugged it out, in our usual “I love you so much I’ve missed you so much omg” way.
Riese, Runaways Counselor and Editor-in-Chief/CEO: Friday morning brought sunshine and also new humans! YouTube superstar Hannah Hart and her manager Sarah, media-makers Lex Kennedy and Megan Benton of Me & My Bois, Actress/singer Haviland Stillwell, Autostraddle Design Director Alex Vega and Animal Trainer to the Stars Mary Tully all joined us in time for Friday’s carnival. Also even though she wasn’t on staff, one of my favorite humans in the lesbian universe, Kathy Wolfe (founder of Wolfe Video) and her wife Barbara also came on Friday. This added to the already high-level excitement already simmering in our hearts.
Friday Morning Activities
Both Sides Now: A Non-Monosexuality Panel (Dani RDS, Stef & Rachel) // How To Be Alone (Grace & Vanessa) // Basic Bitches Ballet (Chloe) // Blog Anything/Read Something (Laneia, Carolyn & Riese) // Body Positivity and Self-Care (Dani, Kaylah, Mey & Kai) // Encaustic Painting (Bren)
Hoop Dreams (Brittani) // Tardy For The Party: Coming Out Later In Life (Dani, Laneia, Sarah Evan & Donna) // Writing Dirty (Ali & Riese) // Queering Academia (Rachel & Alice) // Custom Personalized Glassware (Liz C) // Slam Poetry (Emotions the P.O.E.T)
Stef, The Gossip Counselor & Music Editor: The Bisexuality/Non-Monosexuality/Sexual Fluidity Panel is a strange beast, and I can’t say enough how glad I am that it’s something we’ve started doing at every camp. Daniela, Rachel and I were all coming at this panel from different places in our lives and relationships, and this discussion focused mostly on how to queer heterosexual relationships or our identities in straight spaces.
Rachel, Girltrash! Counselor & Senior Editor: The last time we ran a panel about sexual fluidity, we got a sense of what conversations about sexual fluidity and bisexuality might be useful to have, and so it was exciting to get to see that happen with campers. We talked about some really useful stuff like how we define sexual orientation, the challenges facing the bisexual community, and how bisexuality impacts our relationships. A lot of people had really interesting and articulate things to say about identity, relationships, and resources, and I feel like I learned a lot!
Stef: Everybody brought up a lot of really wonderful points, but the best part was knowing that everyone in the room could look around at all the other attendees and know that there are lots of us bouncing around the Kinsey scale, and that they weren’t alone – at camp or otherwise.
Dani RDS, Stormtroopers Counselor & Contributing Editor: Have you been to any A-Camp panels? Then you know what it feels to realize you just surrounded yourself with about a hundred of the most thoughtful, open-minded English-speaking queers on earth. I walked out of every panel amazed at the stories both panel and audience members were willing to share, stories that sometimes challenge me and my experiences, but never cease to affirm my love for A-Camp. Where else can we have this kind of town meetings?
Chloe, Blue Crush Counselor & Calendar Girl: I was so nervous that nobody would attend my Basic Bitches Ballet class, but I had nine lovely humans prove me wrong. Ballet can be hard and intimidating, but they were all such good sports and tried everything I threw at them. It was so refreshing to teach what I love to do to a room full of wonderful queer women compared to the equally wonderful but much crazier group of 4-9 year olds I teach on a weekly basis back home. Dancing with all of you and seeing the smiles on your faces was such an amazing experience, thank you so much to all of you that came to class!
Riese: When I was putting together cabins for camp, I noticed that we had a lot of women over 28 who’d just come out, or who had just gotten divorced and come out, and most of them also mentioned feeling like they were the only ones in this situation, which was obviously not true! So I asked Laneia, Dani and Donna if they’d be interested in leading a discussion about Coming Out Later in Life, which Robin entitled “Tardy for the Party.”
Donna, The Gossip Counselor: The Tardy to the Party Panel was maybe, probably, one of the greatest moments I ever had, ever. It was definitely one of the most moving.
Laneia, Runaways Counselor & Executive Editor: I was super nervous about Tardy to the Party! I always worry that conversations geared toward older / “unconventional” (whatever that means) queers won’t be well-received or interesting, which is a dumb thing to think, I know. I was afraid we wouldn’t have anything to really talk about, but that ended up being the exact opposite of how things went down.
Donna: The amount of raw emotions and honesty in that room was crushingly beautiful. The other panelists and I shared our stories about coming out later in life, and there was, at first, a kind of stillness in the room. I think that was from everyone relating what they heard to their own experiences. Then there was just an outpouring of tears, feelings, experiences, concerns, hopes, fears, joys, and camaraderie.
Laneia: When the audience started talking, it was everything. One camper shared a story about the time they realized they could be their authentic selves and still have a family, because they’d finally found people in similar situations who’d also had kids, and I swear it was all I could do not to fly out of my seat and hug them and cry until my eyes were bleeding.
Donna: There was total acceptance and understanding in that room. People who often felt alone felt connected at that instant, and I was so happy to be a part of that moment.
Laneia: I know we talk about it to the point of ubiquity, but this panel solidified for me the importance of community, and the importance of having a space to just raise your hand and say everything you couldn’t say before and know that you’re safe, that those people will take care of your words and keep them — because they needed to hear them as much as you needed to say them. Ugh I just loved everyone in that room so much y’all.
Rachel: Alice and I had never done a panel about academia before, and especially given as we were planning it in the midst of our own classes and grading, we weren’t sure how Queering Academia would go. (I’m actually still working on the grading I was supposed to get done at camp. SORRY, KIDS.) It turned out that we got to meet and talk with a bunch of other really cool people with a variety of angles on teaching and learning, from other grad students, people who work with small children, dance instructors, and more. It’s really nice to know that I’m not the only one out there! I feel like our workshop helped facilitate the later meetup of grad students at lunch one day — I had to miss it this time, but I’ll be there next time!
Lizz, Flashdance Counselor & Style Editor: I’m not usually able to get to a lot of other people’s activities, but I snuck into Encaustic Painting with Bren. It was so cool! You can paint with a blow torch and wax! For real!
Next: Lots of fun at the carnival, so much fun at the carnival!
Games: Balloon Animals, Duck Match Game, Ring Toss, Bean-Bag Toss, Bobbing for Apples, Twister, Tug of War, Lesbian Bingo
Activities: Face-Painting, Tarot Card Reading, Caricatures w/Taylor, Advice Booth with Riese & Laneia, T-Shirt Cutting + Stenciling, High Tea, Kissing Booth w/Hannah Hart, Make a Thing: Merit Badges #2, Circus Moves, Hoola-Hooping, Haircuts w/Kip, Know Your Whiskey Tasting
Events: All-Camp Fashion Show, The Puppet Show w/Carly & Robin
Mainstage Hosted by DeAnne Smith: Lisa, Keely, Laurel, Emelina, Amanda, Kay, Lanie, Hailey, Georgina + Alaina, Lou, Joanna, Eleven and Emotions the P.O.E.T.
Robin, A-Camp Co-Director & Photographer: I was so so happy when Riese told me about her idea for a Carnival. I think the Carnival was just the change that A-Camp needed to break up a busy few days of non-stop panels and workshops. I knew right away I wanted a cotton candy machine and in my head I already knew what I wanted the Carnival to look like!
Marni, A-Camp Co-Director & Contributor: Robin took the lead and did such a good job planning all of the games and decorations.
Emily, Rockford Peaches Counselor: Robin designed a reblog worthy atmosphere and Marni built that adorable puppet show stage that was also a kissing booth. Snaps all around.
Bren, Bangles Counselor & Editorial Assistant: It was the hardest, yet most rewarding day of camp. It was exhausting. I mean we had to set up an entire carnival.
Robin: It was really fun pulling all of that together and setting everything up that morning. Stef worked at a party store for a summer when she was 17, so she has this incredible skill for making balloon arches, so of course we commissioned one from her.
Bren: Someone said “I wish we had a balloon arch for the entrance of the carnival” and Stef was like “Consider it done.”
Stef: It gave me a chance to show off my little-known balloon specialist skills. I build a mean balloon arch. I am available for weddings and bar mitzvahs.
Bren: This was no half-assed carnival. There was cotton candy, popcorn, balloons, face painting, a kissing booth, an ongoing talent show, potato sack racing, tug of war, and a million other things that I’m forgetting.
Marni: The carnival was a big departure for us this time – it was the first big, all-afternoon, all-camp event that we’ve planned and I think it was a huge success.
Carmen, Holograms Counselor & Contributing Editor: The A-Camp Carnival sounded like an idea way too ambitious to become real life the first time it got passed along to staff by Robin and Marni, but we did it!
Dani RDS, Stormtroopers Counselor & Contributing Editor: To be honest, I really had no idea how you could possibly execute a carnival, street fair like situation on a mountain, but they made it happen.
Carmen: It was quite possibly my favorite of the various changes we’ve seen since Camp 1; I got to set up an adorable little t-shirt cutting and stenciling “booth” and spent all day licking a huuuuuuge lollipop a la Miley Cyrus. And I regret nothing.
Dani: If most of A-Camp feels like a crazy crash course on feelings and politics, Carnival was the moment we remembered even the revolution has room for a little party.
Lizz: The carnival was the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen! It was like am amazing twee wedding or something!
Bren: Everyone on staff was just so excited and ready to make this seemingly impossible thing happen and then it happened and all the campers had a great time. And the smiles on their faces made all the hard work completely worth it. The campers are so worth it.
Mey, Flashdance Counselor & Contributing Editor: I had never seen so many talented hula-hoopers before.
Carly: I thought the carnival idea was a bit ambitious but then I realized that I could create programming for an outdoor stage so I was happy. Plus I could turn that into a quasi-talent show, thus freeing up some more evening time.
Robin: I was so impressed by the Main Stage talent. Campers got up to sing, read poems and do stand-up!
Lizz: This camp’s Fashion Show starred the most important people at camp: the campers! I let campers who wanted to style themselves in whatever fabulous outfits they loved. For campers who wanted some help, we sat down and went through their clothes and picked out fun looks!
Carly: Everyone who performed on the Carnival Stage or walked in the fashion show, you are all STARS!
Robin: I was impressed with the random skills of our staff! Vanessa and Cara painted faces, Sarah Evan read tarot cards, Ali hula-hooped, Lizz Rubin organized a camper fashion show and Marni was the most realistic bear dancing to Janelle Monae that I have ever seen.
Kai, Wildcats Counselor & Calendar Girl: Some awesome QUEERleaders performed at the Carnival with a routine they learned in one hour at the But I’m a Cheerleader workshop. There were pompoms and everything was perfect. It seriously made me so happy to see this group of gorgeous people dance and yell and stunt in front of a crowd. Especially when immediately after they admitted they never thought they’d be shakin’ it onstage. Also, the catchphrase of the workshop was “ASS UP, GIGLER!” because stunting is hard.
Carly: Then there was a puppet show. I don’t even know what to say about this.
Marni: Of course I had a blast building the puppet theatre. It wouldn’t be camp if I didn’t undertake an overly-complicated construction project that monopolizes a huge amount of space in the car on our way to camp.
Carly: Robin and I rehearsed once two nights before this performance and that was it. We taped the scripts to the inside of the theatre, I rigged a makeshift microphone/amp setup, and it was all over before I even realized it. Another thing I didn’t realize: just how many people were watching us! Oof. I don’t know if this is the dumbest thing I’ve ever done, or the most awesome; maybe both?
Riese: The puppet theater got a lot of action at the carnival. It began as an Advice Booth, which was a rare opportunity for Laneia and I to interact two-on-one with campers we hadn’t met before, as well as some we knew very well. We also gave The Bear good advice about winter migration.
Laneia: There really are few things I love more than telling people what to do, and sitting outside in the woods.
Riese: After the Advice Booth, the theater returned to its natural habitat of being a Puppet Theater, and finally, the Puppet Theater became the super-popular Hannah Hart Kissing Booth.
Riese: The kissing booth experience was enhanced by the loveliness of Hurraw Vegan Lip Balm, another one of the independent businesses that we know and love as a MAGICAL A-CAMP SPONSOR!
Haviland: The carnival was adorable, and I laughed SO HARD when I saw Marni in that bear suit. Marni as a brown bear is really cute. And the free hugs were really great. #bears
Mey: There was a dancing bear, so it’s pretty hard to beat that.
Marni: My afternoon at the carnival (spent giving out free bear hugs and hula hooping, mostly) was up there in my Most Fun moments of all of A-Camp so far. Dancing with Mel was a major highlight, though exhausting for both of us. We were really happy that we were able to donate the puppet theatre to Alpine’s summer program so it’s going to live on.
Emily G: Usually the only times that everyone is all together at once are for meals and nighttime activities. The carnival was so charming and creative and social and it was the best new thing.
Mey: Somehow, Kaylah and I, the two people on staff who are most afraid of balloons, ended up being at the balloon animal table. Since we couldn’t find the balloon pump at first, this activity ended up being a lot harder than it looked. For a while, this booth was pretty much just a bunch of queer ladies puckering up and then getting light-headed (which I’m sure is a pretty common occurrence at camp). After a while, though, we found some people who were really quite impressive with their balloon skills.
Stef: I ended up on Team Snax, the best team in the whole Carnival.
Sophia: I learned how to use a cotton candy machine! It was very special giving folks cotton candy, it felt so magical and lighthearted and very gay. Stef was operating the sno-cone machine to my left and Geneva was operating the popcorn machine to her left. This was strategic I think, because we didn’t have to move and got to eat our wares all day.
Stef: The Sno Cone machine was fun to use and all (I felt very butch crushing an entire cooler of ice with my tremendous strength), but there was still snow on the ground and I was a bit sad about being regularly passed up for more temperature-appropriate confections. It wasn’t until we hit upon the brilliant idea to start adding vodka to the sno cones that I started burning through an awful lot of them.
Sophia: The boozey cones were a secret menu item if you knew what to ask for.
Stef: A-Camp: a place for entrepreneurs.
Cara: Most of my time, attention, and energy was focused on the facepainting booth, but I could tell peripherally that a lot of amazing things were going on in other places (could also tell from the screams/shouts/growls of Marni the Bear). I loved all my customers, but the highlight for me was painting a purple-tinted goatee on Lex. Also Vanessa is really good at facepainting, which I didn’t know. Did you see her penguin? It was art.
Vanessa: I was so nervous about this but it turned out to be my absolute favorite thing I did at this camp! Seriously, if I could somehow land a gig as a professional queer face painter I would probably be happy for the rest of my life. Cara and I had wanted to practice on each other beforehand but we got swept up in things like pranking the entire camp and being super emotional with our campers during feelings circles (please guess which one of us was doing which activity) so we just had to wing it when the time came. And wing it we did! We flew, basically. Soared. Face painting was a MAJOR success, is what I’m saying. We painted skulls and rainbows and daggers and trees and bees and penguins and cats and unicorns and lightening bolts. We made dreams come true.
Vanessa: We were only scheduled to face paint for a portion of the carnival but we ended up painting faces from 2:30pm – 6pm and only stopped because it was time for dinner. We could’ve painted all night. It was so much fun to have a chance to chat with campers one on one and to just chill out in a really cool, fun, relaxed environment. So much of camp is a vibe of non-stop excitement, which is awesome but can be tiring, and I think both the campers and the staff were grateful to have a whole chunk of time – a whole carnival afternoon! – to just breath and enjoy going at a bit of a slower pace.
Chloe: At the Carnival I had the pleasure of running the bobbing for apples activity. I had expected it to be a hard sell, but was proven very wrong. I am still so impressed by all of you who let me persuade you into putting your face in that bucket of freezing water for a whole minute as well as the good number of you who actually came out of it with an apple, despite Kai and I unintentionally making the game nearly impossible by cutting off all the stems.
Donna: I got a chance to have quality time with Sarah Evan the next day of camp. Sarah was doing Tarot Card Readings during the carnival. I’m a bit of a skeptic, but shit got real.
Donna: I am pretty sure Sarah is a unicorn, or one of the X-Men, because she basically recounted my past and predicted my future. Then I watched her do the same for a camper. We were all spooked and flabbergasted. I’d like my own personal Sarah on call at all times.
Crystal: Once upon a time I had a dream that there was queer bingo on top of the mountain, and Marni and Robin allowed me to make a reality during the A-Camp Carnival.
Hansen: I was feeling a little rough for Queer Bingo due to too much fun at Klub Deer the previous night, so I was grateful that it was pretty low key. Basically Crystal made bingo cards with a bunch of queer words that we had written down in a google doc spreadsheet, and then we wrote them all on ping pong balls which we drew out of a Trader Joe’s bag.
Crystal: We shared a very special learning moment mid-game, the lesson being that I should not trusted with preparing bingo balls and cards.
Hansen: Never trust Crystal with writing words on ping pong balls. She forgot the Taystee ball and made a Tegan AND a Sara ball when it was definitely just one space for Tegan & Sara. The campers were outraged by this, and rightly so (“Why haven’t you called Taystee?! I bet there isn’t even a Taystee ball in there!” The purple team cried from the back and we laughed so hard when we proved them right), but I feel like our general charm won them over in the end.
Crystal: Despite this we all had a great time, except possibly the Purple team who accused us of rigging and left in protest. Coincidentally, mine and Hansen’s team, Orange, were the victors.
Hasen: Orange won the whole thing, so I was happy.
Next: The carnival continues with High Tea, Whiskey-Tasting and The Femme Friday meet-Up, and then it’s time for shit to get real funny!
Carolyn: High Tea is always a relaxing break from the whirlwind of everything else going on at camp, and a great opportunity to down three cups of genmaicha in thirty minutes while talking about tea like it’s going out of style (Which it’s not. Tea is forever.). On some level, High Tea is also an elaborate excuse to hang out with new people while still trying new things, and the results were gently caffeinated magic.
Ali: Duh. The Whiskey Tasting, Alex’s baby, is consistently wonderful. And this year we had a sponsor! Hudson Whiskey’s contributions were fabulous. I can’t get over that their Baby Bourbon listens to music as it ages. But you know me – I’m a rye girl. So the Manhattan Rye and the Whistlepig Straight Rye were my favorite selections of the day. I tasted after anyone else because last time I tasted with everyone else and making the cocktail at the end was really hard – the altitude, man. Blame it on the altitude. This time, we all tried an aged Manhattan using one of the Hudson Whiskey barrel aging kits.
Crystal: I dropped by the Whiskey Tasting which seemed like a super classy event. Alex and Ali were wearing waistcoats and looked so sharp and I wished that I liked whiskey, right then.
Megan, Program Support Coordinator: I gave Laneia all of my whiskey tastes because I secretly don’t like whiskey very much. I think she appreciated this.
Laneia: I did. Also Ali and Alex do the best whiskey tastings! I’ve never attended another one, but I’m sure nothing could top this, because vests. And smarts.
Sophia: Gosh the Carnival was fantastic, I watched people perform in the sunlight, and people smash balloons and chat and play games, it was just all so ridiculously jolly.
Femme Friday Meet-up
Mey: Last camp we had some kind-of unofficial Femme Meet-ups during lunch, but this time we decided to do it right. We all got dolled up after the carnival in our femmiest outfits and met inside Eagle. We had free drinks provided by A-Camp sponsor Strip and Go Bare and that just made it better. There were high femmes, blue jean femmes, lazy femmes, low femmes, and all of them were the best. Meeting all the other femmes and getting to spend time with them is absolutely one of my favorite parts of camp and it gives me so much strength and power to make it through the rest of the year. I love all my femmes and I can’t wait to see you at next camp!
Liz C: On Friday afternoon the cutest girl at camp asked me to prom. She brought me a carnival balloon with ‘pop me’ written on it. And inside was a tiny note that read: “Will you go to prom with me? Love, Brittani” This was my first time being asked to prom and I thought it was pretty much the best thing ever! At least until I saw one of my camper’s prom proposals. It was an amazing hand-glittered proposal complete with dangling pockets with reasons to say yes and reasons to say no, and a note that finished with: “I think that you’re the bomb so would you be my date to prom?” RHYMING! GLITTER! ACCESSORIES! So many cute prom proposals guys – anyone else have good stories?
The Evening Begins…
Riese: Haviland and Marni were practicing the Spice Girls medley for A-Camp-A-Pa-Looza in our cabin before dinner and at some point I hopped in on the “rap” portion of Wannabe, which inspired Haviland to suggest that I hop in on the performance itself, dressed as my fashion icon Sporty Spice, to do the “I’ll tell you what I want what I really really want” bit. Apparently Robin was offered this job and turned it down, clearly it was a hot position. Haviland had a puffy vest, so that was taken care of. Lizz, because she brings a magical closet foldable into a suitcase to camp, had a hot pink sports bra. All I needed were some track pants. At dinner, I asked around to no avail until I spotted a girl in track pants at dinner. I sort of stalked around like a creeper talking to people until I hit up Sophia for the details ’cause the girl, Andrea, was her camper, and I got Sophia’s blessing to ask Andrea to take off her pants and give them to me. All the Holograms thought I was insane but I promised them it would all make sense at some point.
Chloe: After dinner my girlfriend asked me to A-Camp Prom, and it was the sweetest thing anyone has ever done for me. After dinner on Friday we went back to my cabin to take a quick nap, but she was acting incredibly strange. Her cheeks were bright red and hot, she couldn’t look directly at me, she was super giddy, wasn’t able to nap, and insisted we leave early to get good seats for DeAnne Smith’s comedy night. Once we got to Eagle, she immediately disappeared off to the bathroom. Then, Grace made an announcement to keep the area in front of the projector clear and started playing a Powerpoint. It was covered in clipart cats and at the end of it, it said “Miss February (Chloe), will you go to Prom with me?” and out stepped my girlfriend holding an adorable bouquet of sticks, due to the lack of flowers on the mountain. I was so surprised, filled with butterflies, and couldn’t stop smiling. Oh, and of course I said yes!
Comedy Night Hosted by DeAnne Smith
featuring: Lane Moore, Bren Christolear and DeAnne Smith
Carly: DeAnne Smith’s Spectacular Comedy Spectacular (that’s the actual name of this event) was spectacular. Bren and Lane were also spectacular. SPECTACULAR!
Robin: What can I say about our Comedy Night? I loved it. Bren, Lane and DeAnne were all hilarious.
Liz C.: Bren had a killer stand up set. I die every time I picture her so earnestly informing Brittani that “b’s really aren’t that hilarious.”
Hansen: Deanne’s comedy show was so much fun. Comedy night might be my favorite night. I had such a blast watching Bren do comedy! She’s so quiet in person, but hilarious in our daily emails, so I was curious to see what she’d be like live and on stage. She was amazing!
Crystal: Bren and Lane killed it. Hilarious.
Laneia: I was ready for DeAnne Smith this time around — I had extra canned champagne and tissues, because the first time she did stand-up at A-Camp, I ended up sobbing/laughing so hard that I almost hyperventilated and totally ruined my mascara.
Riese: I have laughed that hard twice this year, the first time was Deanne’s set at May Camp. I also love watching other people laugh so hard? I guess I’m a comedy night voyeur.
Carmen: Before comedy night, I arranged a group of Brittani’s biggest fans (me, Liz, Alice, and Rachel, to name a few) and gave us all seats in a row so we could hold up a series of signs that read “B is hilarious.” To my extreme disappointment, B never did standup – but to my extreme pleasure, I laughed my ass off for the entire 60-minute thang and even got called out by DeAnne Smith for being too happy. (Later on, DeAnne and I went on to become friends in my most natural habitat: Klub Deer.)
Laneia: She did not disappoint, obvs. DeAnne Smith is the funniest damn spritely, quirky queer this side of the Struggle Bus.
Haviland: DeAnne’s comedy is so funny, she has a way of making the audience feel comfortable while she’s on stage, and simultaneously super uncomfortable, while telling her mortifying moments. What a rising star!
Marni: DeAnne Smith is a gifted comic and always a joy to watch. She has this amazing ability to make everyone in the room feel like her friend and can land just about any joke because she’s so self-effacing and accessible and just as much of a weirdo as a lot of us.
Stef: DeAnne Smith is a special creature. Watching her earnestly serenade Torre with a ukulele was one of the highlights of my life.
Hansen: Deanne was also amazing as ever (the vulva slap story is never not going to bring tears to my eyes) and then she busted out this little stunt where we had to slow-dance with someone for three minutes while listening to “Groovy Kind of Love” by Phil Collins. Three minutes is a long time to be that close to someone you might not know! Thankfully, Crystal claimed me as her dance partner, so I’m definitely not going to complain about how long the three minutes seemed.
Crystal: DeAnne making us slow dance to Phil Collins created a very special bonding moment for me and my co, Hansen, and probably many other people too. Thank you, DeAnne.
Next: A-Camp-alooza and Hip-Hop Night at Klub Deer!
featuring: Stef Schwartz, Marni Kellison, Haviland Stillwell, Somer Bingham, Lex Kennedy, Alex Vega, Cara Giaimo and Donna Rizham
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Well, that’s Friday for ya! Tune in next week when we wind this all down with the epic last-day-and-night recap.