They Bring Us Bizarre
“My first business was DV8 (Deviate). It was a clothing store where I designed all the clothes and did all the sewing. I later moved it and opened Saint Sabrina’s Parlor in Purgatory. I added tattooing and body piercing. I opened a second Saint Sabrina’s in Dinkytown before there were any tattoo shops on campus, and the city shut me down. After a few years with no creative outlet, I realized that people with tattoos and piercings—a creative expression I believed in and also felt was harmless—were having a hard time getting jobs, so I had a new motivation. I would open a restaurant (Psycho Suzi’s Motor Lounge) that not only accepted people with any sort of piercing, tattoo, pink hair, or interesting fashion choices, I would embrace it and cater to these creative types. Now it is much more acceptable to have visible excitement with your appearance and be able to land a job.
I then opened Donny Dirk’s Zombie Den. It’s a pro-human, anti-zombie, extra fancy, inexpensive cocktail lounge. We have a secret happy hour. Actually, the whole bar is kind of a secret because of its location and odd hours. I would like to open another restaurant soon. We’ll see if the city rejects my idea. They prefer ideas that have already been done before, which makes it tough.”
What does it take to turn a neighborhood around? If you’re Steven Berg, aka StevenBe, aka the Glitter Knitter, the answer is yarn, lots of yarn. Stepping inside StevenBe, his yarn workshop on 34th and Chicago, is like being invited into Willy Wonka’s magical factory. Colorful skeins are stacked floor-to-ceiling. Beautiful one-of-a-kind garments are everywhere. You touch them secretly and hope you won’t get in trouble. (You won’t.)
Then there’s the community of people buzzing about—they’ve come here to escape the outside world and be in a creative, safe, supportive environment where anything seems possible. Take Berg’s “Willie Nelson sweater” (pictured): He made it with hemp, natch, and the tape from an old Willie Nelson cassette. He calls his look “aging rock star,” and his motto is “let no continuous strand remain unknit,” meaning if it’s long—a chain, a shoelace, a cord—it will find its way into one of his creations. Berg, who grew up in rural Wisconsin, knit and designed his way out of a childhood of being picked on. He’s traveled the world and climbed his way to the top of the corporate design ladder. Now he’s settled in Minneapolis with a goal of making his little corner of the world a vibrant, welcoming, healing, giving place.
MISS RICHFIELD 1981
Try to have a serious discussion with Miss Richfield 1981 and you won’t know where the truth begins and the comedy ends.
Here’s a snippet: What’s the most unusual thing you’ve ever seen? “That dates back more than 30 years, when I first met Virginia Christine, Mrs. Olson of Folgers Coffee fame. Although I am a strict Sanka drinker myself, because caffeine makes me run like a faucet, I remain a huge fan of any woman who’s not too proud to make her man a pot of coffee. But I did think it was fabulously strange in 1971 when Virginia received the ultimate tribute, as her hometown of Stanton, Iowa, transformed their city water tower into a giant coffeepot!” What’s the weirdest thing that’s ever happened to you? “Moderating a horse semen auction in Phoenix. Next question!”
The Mrs. Olson coffeepot water tower is real. The horse semen auction, we can’t be sure. But we can tell you that when Russ King created his Miss Richfield character in 1996, he didn’t have a clue he’d eventually make a living touring the world as the wholesome, ebullient, unintentionally inappropriate aging beauty queen who, as one fan put it, “teaches tolerance through absurdity." These days King and his alter ego make it home only for the holidays to put on their annual show at the Illusion Theater. Our advice: See Miss Richfield 1981 “2012: We’ll All Be Dead by Christmas” before the impending Armageddon.
Brace yourself, ladies: this style expert wants you to lose the flip-flops. Any shoe that makes a thwacking noise is on his list of things that fall in the category of bad bizarre. Also: color charts. Grant Whittaker doesn’t care if you’re a winter, summer, spring, or fall. He wants to know what you think. What makes you tick. “Your brand comes from what’s inside,” he says. “Great style has soul and authenticity. Recognize your style icons and look at their hearts. Educate yourself on the world.”
Always dressed to impress and thinking big, the German-born glamour guru, event designer, dancer, and media personality aims to bring his clients’ inner style to the surface. These days, Whittaker, who offers style advice locally on KARE 11, WCCO, and FM 107.1, is feeling more monochromatic. But he’s quick to point out that what he’s wearing is not necessarily what you should be wearing. “My brand is not you. If it’s going to bring you joy, go for it.” Good bizarre is men in lots of color, he says. Good bizarre is being exactly who you are.