Last night I went to the Dina Martina Christmas Show -- according to my calendar history, the eighth time I have seen her live since the first one with Evan back in December 2013; and the sixth time I have seen her Christmas Show. Hey let's make a list!
1. Wednesday, December 18, 2013: Christmas Show, at Re-bar [with Evan]
2. Saturday, December 20, 2014: Christmas Show, at Re-bar [with Evan]
3. Saturday, April 18, 2015: "Dina Martina: Tonight!" spring show, at Re-bar [with Evan]
4. Thursday, December 31, 2015: Christmas Show, at Re-bar [with Evan]
5. Sunday, May 15, 2016: "Sedentary Favorites" spring show at Cavern Club Celebrity Theatre in Silverlake, CA [with Shobhit]
6. Sunday, December 4, 2016: Christmas Show, at Re-bar [with Evan and Elden]
7. Saturday, December 30, 2017: Christmas Show, at Re-bar [with Evan and Elden]
8. Wednesday, December 12, 2018: Christmas Show, at ACT Theatre [with Evan and Elden]
Evan had a longstanding tradition of seeing Dina Martina's Christmas shows before I started going along with her in 2013. There's no hard evidence of exactly how many times she has seen Dina Martina; all I know for sure is she has seen her with me seven times; my journal entry about the spring show in 2015 notes that it was the first time she had seen a non-Christmas show, and prior to that she had seen Dina "something like eight times." So if we just go with eight as of that point, two of those including the first two times I went with her, then she saw Dina Martina roughly six times before I began joining her. Add the seven times we've seen her together, and you get about 13 times Evan has seen Dina Martina.
At last night's show, Dina Martina talked about this being her 20th Christmas Show, and that as of next month, she'll have been performing in the Seattle area for thirty years. This would mean, actually, that her first Christmas show, if we are to assume she's done one every single year, was in 1999 -- about a year and a half after I moved to Seattle.
Aha! I just found this archived December 1999 profile from The Stranger, which confirms three things: Grady West has been performing locally as "Dina Martina" since a debut in another show in 1989; that therefore confirms his/her thirty years of performing (apparently always as this character) here; and evidently her first Christmas show was indeed that year, 1999, called The Dina Martina Christmas Special, at On the Boards. (That also means she wasn't always at Re-bar.) Curiously, in December 1999 I was halfway through my year at the Seattle Gay News, another year at the Seattle Gay Standard ahead of me, and even though I wound up focusing on Arts & Entertainment with those jobs, and I do remember hearing Dina Martina's name, I never did see any of her shows while working there. I did not see her live at all until going with Evan in 2013. Anyway, that 1999 Stranger piece is worth a read.
With the help of my refined Google-fu, I have deduced that Dina Martina had shows at On the Boards every year between 1999 and 2002; this page at thestranger.com confirms her first time at Re-bar was 2003. So she was there for a rather long time: 2003 through 2017 -- fifteen years.
It occurred to me last night in the middle of the show that there is a sad thing that would be at least partially the reason behind Dina Martina's transfer from Re-bar to ACT Theatre: Under normal circumstances there almost certainly would have been yet another Ham for the Holidays with Peggy Platt and Lisa Koch running in that theatre. But, Ham for the Holidays is history now, thanks to Peggy Platt passed away on April 2 of this year. I saw that show even more times than I have seen Dina Martina (although it will only take four more Dina Martina shows for that to change), and in memory of Peggy Platt, how about I share just one more time all the times I saw that show?
1. 2000: Ham for the Holidays IV: Glazing Saddles at Theatre Off Jackson [with Barbara]
2. 2002: Ham for the Holidays 5: Cinco de Porko at Theatre Off Jackson [with Barbara]
3. December 2, 2004: Smorgaspork: The Best of Ham for the Holidays at Langston Hughes Cultural Arts center [with Barbara]
4. December 22, 2007: Swine, Women and Song at Theatre Off Jackson [with Shobhit and Barbara]
5. November 28, 2009: Lard Potion No. 9 at Theatre Off Jackson [with Shobhit and Barbara]
6. December 10, 2010: Wham, Bam, Thank You Ham at Theatre Off Jackson [with Susan]
7. December 4, 2011: A Lard Day's Night at Theatre Off Jackson [with Susan]
8. December 22, 2013: Close Encounters of the Pork Rind at ACT Theatre [with Shobhit]
9. December 20, 2015: Who's Afraid of Virginia Ham? at ACT Theatre [with Laney]
10. December 23, 2016: Jurassic Pork at ACT Theatre [with Laney and Jessica]
11. November 30, 2017: The Hamchurian Candidate at ACT Theatre [with Evan]
As you can see, last year was the one time Evan came with me to that show -- and I barely managed to snag her as a companion. I had bought two tickets before securing a certain person for the other one, and Shobhit got all pissy about my doing that before asking if he wanted to go, so he refused to go. Laney didn't want to go. I wound up offering the ticket to Evan for free, so that way at least the ticket didn't go to waste.
If I'm being brutally honest, if last year's Ham for the Holidays show was any indication, they were beginning to run out of steam anyway.
So, getting back to last night's Dina Martina show. I was entertained by it, but I must say I also had mixed feelings about it. Elden, who had come to Dina Martina with us twice before at Re-bar, was convinced it would not be as good in this larger, more traditional-theatre venue, and I got the strong sense afterward that he felt his prediction was right. And he wasn't entirely wrong, either; even at intermission I turned to Evan and told her there was definitely something about the intimacy -- and the jankiness -- of the Re-bar space that was missing. Now, at one point Dina asked the audience how many there had never seen one of her shows before, and I want to say about half the people there raised their hands. They had nothing to compare to and were clearly having a great time regardless.
That said, to call Dina Martina "irreverent" would be an understatement -- for me her greatest appeal is that her persona is like camp on steroids. (That her dresses are always ill-fitting, incapable of closing in the back and thus exposing her broad, hairy back is just the tip of the iceberg.) That kind of presentation had a far more comfortable home, I thought, in the far tighter, comparatively makeshift space at Re-bar. There's a comparative formality to a traditional theatre space like ACT Theatre. Then again, to be fair, had I been seeing Ham for the Holidays in some tiny theatre space for years before seeing that show at Theatre Off Jackson or at ACT Theatre, it almost certainly would have had the same effect. And their presentation was very nearly as campy as Dina Martina's.
I do kind of miss being able to get hot buttered rums at the bar at Re-bar, but whatever. I had no idea what the seating capacity was at Re-bar, but it was definitely much smaller than at ACT Theatre, and surely smaller than even the crowd last night, even though the house was maybe 75% full at best. I suppose we can just presume it's a matter of the venue transition, and if she comes back to ACT Theatre next year, the crowds will be larger. (It was a Wednesday evening, too.)
I kind of wondered who was working the lights last night. They were not always on the ball when Dina inevitably meandered into the crowd, as she always does. She has a lot further to go in this space than she did at Re-bar. I will say that past Christmas shows have been better, possibly partly due to the venue change and Dina having to experiment slightly with what works or doesn't in this space as opposed to the previous one. Nevertheless, I cracked up pretty hard several times, often at the subtlest bizarro shit that Dina Martina does. I'm not entirely convinced it was worth quite as much as what I paid for the ticket, but I'm glad I went and I will still go again next year no matter which venue it is. This is now an essential holiday tradition for me -- six years in a row and counting.
As for today, I just got back from lunch with Karen at the Six-Seven Restaurant down at the Edgewater Hotel. It's drizzly today so I took my umbrella, but for the first time in forever they actually seated us right next to the window and even on a gray day that view directly overlooking Puget Sound is truly beautiful.
There wasn't anything particularly of note discussed, besides my plans for this weekend, which is to drive to Wallace, Idaho for our annual Christmastime visit with Mom and Bill -- this will be the first December trip there in which we drive the whole way instead of flying. We took a calculated risk this year, because of flight delays in past years when there wasn't even any snow and we therefore could have gotten there faster by car, which is always annoying and stupid. We've been a little concerned about the weather suddenly turning cold though, and snow dumps on Snoqualmie Pass. I'm feeling better today, however, as the forecast has improved: no precipitation for the pass forecast on Saturday at the moment, and a high of 37°. I think the roads will be fine, actually.
Still, Shobhit did buy a set of tire chains the other day, which I encouraged him to do because, whether we need them or not, such a thing would always be good to have. He had wanted to rent a car with all-wheel drive, but it was now such short notice when I looked up pricing on Costco's website that Shobhit did not think it worth the inflated cost. The forecast turning to something more workable for us is helping with any anxiety we've had about it. And as Karen pointed out, it will be way better to have chains on hand that we don't wind up needing than to need them and not have them. I've said all along that I will not allow the weather to prevent me from making it over there.
So then I walked back, and I need to get back to work now. There's not much else to tell anyway; by the time I walked home after the show last night, Shobhit was already in bed and it was time for me to get ready for bed.
[posted 1:22 pm]