This is a terribly unfair recommendation as there’s no way you can experience — or even watch this — but my blog, my rules.

Chicago-based burlesque performer Red Rum is rather singular in that she marries burlesque with horror. Her acts are often creepy, often unsettling, sometimes bloody, but always enthralling. For example: she once programmed an entire night of performers around TWILIGHT ZONE episodes and it was a twisted blast.

In 2018 I attended the second SATANIC PANIC FESTIVAL, a phantasmagoric horror-centric burlesque gala, wrangled by Red Rum. It took place in Chicago’s School of the Art Institute’s ballroom which is an open two-story space and — as you can see by the photo above — they needed it.

The event was bewildering, all spectacle and darkness and it was spooky and creepy and sexy and it was amazing. The highlight — in more ways than one — was the above. Yes, your eyes do not deceive you: those folks are holding buzzsaws to their metal-ensconced crotches and yes, the sparks flew two stories to the ceiling.

Red Rum only programmed two of these momentous, over-packed events, the first of which I missed — which I regret — but at least I was able to attend this one. I treasure the card pack that was handed to me. It resides on a shelf to the right of me, and I see it every day.

Why am I posting this? Obviously, you have no hope of attending these events as the SATANIC PANIC FEST is no longer.

First and foremost, Red Rum is an amazing performer and she does show up in cities other than Chicago, so keep an eye out for her!

Second, there’s more to enjoying horror than just watching scary movies or TV.

There are so many ways to celebrate confronting the darker sides of humanity than just watching a screen. These events are communal. You intermingle with like-minded individuals and you can simply revel in the experience and know that you are in a safe space where folks want to have fun while acknowledging the terrible potential of human or supernatural or otherworldly behavior.

It’s a way to be thrilled, to be safely scared, to feel like you’re living, and there’s no better way to do so than with others while watching someone living in front of you, writhing and reveling in your reactions. Hopefully you live in an area with folks that provide such an experience and, hell, if no one else is doing it? Do it yourself. Red Rum willed this event into existence. She did it herself. You can too.

PUERTO MUERTO – Drumming for Pistols (2010)

During the cruel isolation of both the pandemic and Chicago winter, I’ve been reflecting on some of most memorable live music shows I’ve attended because goddamn I miss live events and thought for a brief moment I’d be able to return to them. I can safely say there aren’t many more memorable than PUERTO MUERTO’s final show.

PUERTO MUERTO was a Chicago-based husband and wife goth/americana band that released five albums before imploding around 2010. I discovered them via their last album, DRUMMING FOR PISTOLS, then heard about them performing a final live show at the legendary dive venue Empty Bottle, and I was all too happy to attend.

While I had suspected that there was some sort of strife between the two — rarely does a band explicitly declare a final show — their performance was extraordinarily combative. They closed with the titular track of their last album and I exited the club feeling like I’d witnessed the razing of a relationship. I’ve seen a lot of intense shows over the years, but Christa Meyer was so amazingly, brazenly, cathartically angry that her performance still resonates a decade later.


(HBO MAX/VOD) THE CHRIS GETHARD SHOW was a comedy/variety show from UCB comedian and podcaster Chris Gethard (best known for BEAUTIFUL STORIES FROM ANONYMOUS PEOPLE) that started on Manhattan public television, then leapt to Fusion TV, then truTV picked it up and, after a year, they unceremoniously canceled the show.

Gethard spearheaded this anarchic, supremely kindhearted show whose closest comparison is probably PEE-WEE’S PLAYHOUSE because of its endearing cast of wacky characters and overall earnestness.

I came to the show late and never saw any of the public TV eps, but it quickly became appointment television. The best introduction is probably -One Man’s Trash- ( ) which features Paul Scheer and Jason Mantzoukas guessing the content of the show’s dumpster. The reveal is amazing, and by far one of the best moments of TV in the past decade.

I’d be remiss to not mention that Shannon O’Neill is Gethard’s sidekick, and I believe she is legally required to play every non-leading film or TV production role in every TV show, as she’s basically played the same character on DIFFICULT PEOPLE, HIGH MAINTENANCE, UNCLE PECKERHEAD, -and- BLACK BEAR.

You can view the three Fusion/truTV seasons via HBO MAX because apparently there’s no rhyme or reason as to what streams anywhere now, but a bunch of the eps are available via Gethard’s YouTube account as well.