Steampunk: Vaudeville Villains

Tallest villain of them all, Lalo Porto. Photo by Bruce M. Walker

Cos players look for any and all opportunities to don our various outfits. This past weekend, we were offered a chance to get decked out in our finery for an event called “Villains of Vaudeville”, held at Benares House, in Mississauga, Ontario.

A bit of Background on Benares

Historic Benares House in Clarkson, was built in 1857 (restored in 1995) and inhabited by four generations of the Harris and Sayers families. Rumored to be the inspiration for Canadian author Mazo de la Roche’s famous “Whiteoak Chronicles” (or “Jalna series”) novels, the Benares estate and most of its contents were donated to the Ontario Heritage Foundation in 1968 by the great-grandchildren of Captain Harris.

This beautiful historic house — on a rambling lot with lawns, flowerbeds and its own tiny woodland — is host to a wide variety of events each month, including live music and film screenings, and this weekend a special Steampunk oriented Villains of Vaudeville day.

A Promising Day
We decided we should go. This would give us a chance to shake the dust out of some of our costumes, visit some of our Steampunk vendor friends at the event, and also the opportunity to go for lunch at a nearby cafe called Cravings. The weather was supposed to be on-again off-again showers, and was spitting when we left.

We went dressed Steampunk-goes-somewhat-Vaudeville.

Bruce opted for black pants, black and dark red striped shirt, red bow tie, black vest, top hat and goggles. His moustache added a somewhat evil villain touch.

I chose a short sleeved, military-look top, with a flouncy short black shirt and black button over shoes. Hair — 1920’s look and Clara Bow style makeup. Villainess? Not sure, but I tried and people seemed to like it.

There were a small number of vendors present, but what they lacked in numbers, they made up for in enthusiasm. We saw our friends the Penny’s — not in costume but manning their booth full of tempting trinkets. Below they are seen at the booth wearing their Fez hats, and clowning with Louise.

Next to them — the lovely Nerissa Hutchinson (you can check her out in my “Older Ladies are Lovely Too” article) showing off all her beautiful hand made jewellery pieces and interesting artifacts.

We were pleased and surprised to find Eva Mocek (a talented clothes designer and maker) minding her booth full of sweet outfits.

A photographer from a local newspaper, Snap, was running around trying to get people to pose, A bunch of us were pleased to comply. The spot he picked for the photos was in the woodland area of the property, and the Mosquitos were also pleased to attend!

Another photographer, Don Kittle, was there with his uber old fashioned camera, taking photos of anyone in interesting outfits.

A muscular young man, Eric Laurin, was riding around on a Penny Farthing, amusing the people. That thing certainly looks tricky to ride!!

There was also the World’s Tallest Man on stilts. His name is Lalo Porto. He says he is a time traveller — who are we to argue?

We were pleased to meet our good friends Lord MacRaven and his lovely bride Lady MacRaven. These two are well known in the local Steampunk scene and are always gracious about being photographed. We had them join us for a special photo shoot project last year, called Steam Punk Angels.

The originator of the Toronto Steampunk Society, Todd Clark was all dressed up as a Scottish Villain and responded to my umbrella challenge with an evil leer and his shooting stick.

The highlight of the event was a performance by the Mental Floss Side Show folks. With Professor Archibald Floss, all-wise and tricky and the lovely Doctor Charlotte Tann, wiley seller of snake oil and other amazing remedies.

This performance was entertaining, well done and a big laugh. Kudos to these two for their energy, good nature and performance ability. The audience was made up of adults and children and a Hyena. (We did not get a picture of the Hyena.) They all responded with enthusiasm.

We watched as an audience member buttoned the Professor into a scary looking Straight Jacket, then watched him wriggle his way out of it with a lot of histrionics and some Snake Oil remedies to help him gain strength. As his next feat of derring-do, he proceeded to first hammer a large nail into his nostril, then remove it, both with the assistance of another unsuspecting audience member.

Mental Floss Sideshow provides live performance, storytelling & installation based exhibitions. Founded in the UK in 2005 by Karl & Lesley Thurston-Brown, the company is presently on an extended engagement in southern Ontario, Canada.
Dr. Charlotte Tann
Professor Archibald Floss

A very fun morning, in spite of the dreary weather. (Lunch at Cravings was great.) Below a few extra photos at the event.

Louise Peacock is a writer, garden designer, Reiki practitioner, singer-songwriter & animal activist. Favorite insult “Eat cake & choke” On Medium since 2016.