By Veronique Chevalier

Veronique. Photo by Paul Zollo
Veronique. Photo by Paul Zollo

Veronique Chevalier is the eccentric, comedic Françican (Français-American) Chanteuse known as The “Weird VAL” of Dark Cabaret. She’s an unparalleled Parodist; Purveyor of Over The Top Lunacy, and Spooky Polkanista, who has been described as “a campy incarnation of Edith Piaf from a parallel universe” – the one in which her parents are Jim Morrison, and Elvira, Mistress of the Dark, and her godparents are Lucille Ball and Weird Al.

Rad Shoes For Rock Stars

           L.A.’s Andre No. 1 Shoe Design, custom cobbler, is a shoe junkie’s dream, patronized by high-falootin’ footwear fashionistas, as well as just plain folks, the world over.
           Manolo Blahnik and Jimmy Choo’s creations are all well and good, but let’s face it, when you wear their designs, you are limited by their imaginations. If you have a singular footwear vision haunting your dreams, then you need a custom shoemaker. Known throughout Southern California, as well as around the world, Andre No. 1 is shoe heaven, and Imelda Marcos would surely be their patron saint if only she wasn’t probably going to be burning in Hell someday!

           And lest you dismiss the impact that unique footwear can have upon the psyche of the masses, imagine – if only you can – KISS performing in Nikes instead of their infamous killer platforms. There is no way they could have stampeded the world of rock in anything off the shelf from Shoe Pavillion!

Kiss "Starchild" Boots
Kiss "Starchild" Boots

           Andre is THE place to get made-to-order footwear; to have a pair of your old faves resurrected and resoled, or to have botched cobbling salvaged.

           Another thing Andre’s does beautifully is to distress leather. So if you have a brand new pair of somethings that you want to appear to have been handed down from the wardrobe department of Easy Rider, then this is your place. (I now have five pairs of boots that have been “aged” to perfection by Andre, and I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had someone wanting to buy them off my feet.) is the URL to a short documentary video made about Andre’s by David George, that shows numerous pairs of custom shoes in various stages of completion, plus at the end, you get to see the most expensive boots Andre No. 1 was ever commissioned to create. Cost? Well, let’s just say, I’ve seen cars priced for less…

           Andre’s unofficial theme song? How about that old Nancy Sinatra classic, “These Boots Are Made For Walkin’?

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Cirque Berzerk
Cirque Berzerk

July 1, 2009.

There is a saying, “If you want to catch fish, use good bait.” A variation on this axiom might be, “If you want to attract the most compelling and off-beat performers, pitch a circus tent in the middle of the playa during Burning Man.”

Which is exactly what Cirque Berzerk co-founders, Suzanne Bernel and Kevin Bourque (who are husband and wife) did. Schlepping that tent to the middle of the desert on a whim has paid off handsomely for the couple, who also perform in the show. He appears as the demonic Ring Master, and, she as an aerialist; a sultry siren of the silks.

At first glance, one might be tempted to dismiss CB as a copycat of a certain Big Name in Big Tops, but perish the thought. This is not by any means a family show, and the only way to compare the two companies, would be to imagine Cirque Berzerk as something formed in a parallel universe, immersed in complete darkness, the sun all but extinguished, with only flickering flames for illumination. The flames of Hell, to be exact.

The newest CB production, “Beneath,” follows the progress of a hapless soul who chooses death, rather than continuing her dreary existence in a world peopled by corporate clones. The production, which avails itself of the traditional elements of live acts, also incorporates creative use of film and lighting.


The music ensemble, while of modest size (drums, keyboards, bass, guitar and three vocalists, I believe), can not be justly called a mere “band,” for the impact of their sonic imprint is immense. The original score and haunting vocals stand very strongly on their own merit.

The successive acts, who portray the denizens of Hades, parade their obscure, and at times almost profane, talents from this twilit nether-realm. Their faces are world-weary, and their attitudes range from jaded to, at times, ahem, Devil-may-care. It doesn’t take long for them to corrupt their new charge with their displays of contorted vulgarity, in a scene that makes an allusion to the seedy Kit Kat Klub of “Cabaret”.

cirque 1

The brazen women are not the only beauties on parade however. One is not likely to quickly forget the sexually charged aerial duet between two gorgeous hunks, who only had eyes (and hands) for each other. (If the tent had been pitched in my neighborhood of West Hollywood during Pride Weekend, I’ve no doubt those two gents would have been the toast of the parade!)

 Oh, and yes, there are clowns. Very scary clowns. One, whose makeup appeared to be designed by a 5 year old psycho-in-training, paced menacingly around the arena on stilts, wielding a rusty hatchet. (A real hatchet, not a rubber knock-off.) And the lady clown, all four feet of her (including her top hat), displayed a small heart to match – Her greatest joy was leading the other clown in discarding components of a decomposing  “corpse” (a chillingly realistic knock-off) among audience members who did not meet with her approval.

Evil, A Scary Clown, photo by Pixie.
Evil, A Scary Clown, photo by Pixie.

 Indeed, my ‘fiends,’ this is not, by any stretch, light, family fare, however that is not to say it stoops to horrific sensationalism at the expense of artistry. On the contrary, the tinge of the macabre only serves to underscore the brilliance of the performers. And rather than leaving morose, one exits exhilarated by a happy ending for the heroine, who has metamorphosed from timid newcomer, into the brave and shining new star in that ring of fire.

In addition to the 1500-seat Big Top, which is pitched in the middle of the 42 acre open space, known as The Los Angeles State Historic Park (in the proximity of Chinatown), there also is a mini-village open before, during and after the shows. The compound, accessible only to those 21 and older, is comprised of vendors- a photo booth, food, and merch. Nestled under a second, open-sided circus tent is a cash bar (serving very strong drinks) and a stage that features performances by L.A.’s only New Orleans-style parade band, the 18 piece Vaud and the Villains. (Among the Villains is Gee Rabe, L.A.’s Accordion Diva, with whom I had the pleasure of co-writing and recording last year, on the Polka Reggae track “White Witch Of Jamaica” from my Polka Haunt Us project. Oh, and she plays a mean steel drum, as well!)

The Los Angeles Times named CB one of “L.A.’s 10 Weirdest Events of 2008”, after their sold out run last year, and this year’s offering may go on to make history once again. Due to overwhelming popularity, the show has been extended for two additional weeks, until July 11th.

Even if you miss the show, it’s well worth visiting their website, (to whet your appetite for next year, if nothing else) and if you are so inclined, visit YouTube for their hilarious “Circus Accident” guerilla promo ads!

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Bonjour! It is with great pleasure that I accept the invitation of The Editor to again climb aboard the indigo expression known as Blue Railroad. I have missed riding these rails, and am very happy to dust off my steamer trunk and unpack my keyboard. Accompanied by the comfort of that old clickity-clack, I look forward, once more, to churning out new insights in the realm of under-the-radar entertainment.

Eclectic Radio:

Radio Deliro

This music stream, which originates in France, is listed in the “International” section of iTunes. It is based on the music preferences of station founder Roland Moreno (inventor of the “smart chip”, embedded in refillable credit cards and US Passports, among other things), working with his full-time programmer Sylvain Robert, who provides the technical expertise to deliver the musical goods to discerning ears everywhere.

Radio Deliro is Monsieur Moreno’s labor of love, born of his desire to share his passion for eclectic music from the world over (the station’s playlists are comprised exclusively from his personal music collection, and the selections are so varied and diverse one rarely hears the exact same song twice within the same month, much less the same day!

Programming runs the gamut from the expected, such as chansons by Jacques Brel and Edith Piaf; to social satire by Georges Brassens (France’s answer to Tom Lehrer); to the classic film soundtracks of Michele LeGrand; to the downright odd, such as cinematic ditties droned by Lee Marvin! Also randomly thrown in for good measure, are stunning Baroque choral masterworks, as well as the occasional, fully orchestrated Beatles’ instrumental, as Wolfie himself might have done it.


Although commercial-free, there is a donation button at the bottom of the station’s homepage. I find it well worthwhile to plunk a coin or two into the cyberbucket for the pleasure of partaking of this continuous musical stream of astonishing depth and breadth.

I am hard-pressed to name a genre that has not been played- Pop, rock, jazz, blues, gospel, folk, hip hop, various forms of World Music, classical, rockabilly, and more. Only hardcore metal and punk have not reached my ears via this channel.

And as a night owl, I enjoy being enveloped in a sonic curtain of old familiar refrains of such classics as “Black Coffee”, “Rock Around The Clock” and “As Time Goes By,” not to mention many less well-known but no less wonderful tunes by artists both living and deceased.

Occasionally there are days with themes, which might feature certain artists being played more frequently, and in at least one case, the theme revolves around a specific song, namely “Stagger Lee”, or “Stack O. Lee”. I never remotely imagined there were so many versions of this one song. Messers Moreno and Robert’s ability to sleuth out obscure artists and tunes is truly heroic.

Rest assured that no genre has been left behind, for there is no better place to hear “Ode To Billy Joe” sung completely in French! (Country & Western is wildly popular in France, and the country is enjoying its own version of an “Urban Cowboy” revival, with a wallop of je ne sais quoi that only those of Gallic extraction can muster. La Yee-haw!)

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4 thoughts on “VERONIQUE CHEVALIER: The Queen of Quirk

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