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AofA interview: Topaz Chanteuse – Performer, Singer


6 Minute Read

In 2017, Suzanne and I were in NYC and we thought we’d do a Flamboyant Tour of the Subway there. Not many ‘flamboyants’ turned up but Topaz Chanteuse capped us all with her purple and black feather headpiece to die for and matching vividly mauve hair. 84-year-old Topaz rapidly turned into our AoA poster woman. She is so funky and so out there, she decorates her walker with tinsel. She retired when she was 62 from the 9-5 world and she’s always been a singer and performer. And she’s still performing.

This July Suzanne was visiting once more and we were determined to get Topaz on tape. Here she is in all her magnificence.

Suzanne: So you’ve had a quite a life so far.

Topaz: Yeah, I think I’ve had three lives actually so far.

Suzanne: Do you think that everybody should have three lives?

Topaz: Oh it worked for me, I highly recommended it but I don’t know if everyone can do it. You have to be very adventuresome, you have to be willing to leave a marriage if it’s not working which is what I did at 45. So many women stay married and they’re both miserable and it makes no sense.

Suzanne: Men as well. It’s funny because we just posted an article about a woman who went out with lots of married men, most of whom were long-term married. I think that 90% of what stops people from having adventurous lives or doing what they want is just fear.

Topaz: Fear of the unknown, fear of trying a different ethnic group; I had a black period (only black men) for about 15 years and I thought I’d never go back and then I met a nice white Jewish guy in Jamaica. I used to go to Jamaica every summer on my vacation to meet black men and I met a nice white Jewish guy with dreadlocks instead. We had the greatest sex. That was my turning point that started another life. I think I may have had four lives.

Suzanne: So did you always live in New York?

Topaz: I was born in the Bronx, grew up in Brooklyn (my parents moved there when I was an infant) and couldn’t wait to get out of New York…out of Brooklyn and move to New York the city so I got married and we moved to New York right away. I’ve been here ever since.

Suzanne: So you were here in the 70s when there were the leather bars. I never went to Plato’s retreat but it was one of those places you had to go. My  younger self used to think that looks really fun but scary.

Topaz:  Now I did go to Plato’s because I was divorced by then. It was very nice until I was there with my then-boyfriend and I still remember and we swam in this pool where everybody was f****** and then we stayed so late the lights went up and we saw how filthy the place was. The pool, in particular, was so scummy and disgusting so I never went back, only once and for me, it was a nightmare. I loved the whole experience until the lights went up and then it was really bad.

Suzanne: I missed all of that, the last time I was here Rose and I went and a met a photographer that goes around the meatpacking district and shows you all those clubs and tells you intimate information about what went on. That was great and again I just felt like wow there was a period in New York where there was so much going on.

Topaz: Exactly, pre-AIDS and I was single again during that period so it couldn’t have been better. I was out looking for Mr. Goodbar almost every night – going to the bars, bringing guys home.  How I didn’t get killed, murdered, raped I don’t know. I am such a survivor I can’t believe it. I got ripped off a couple of times, you take a stranger home from a bar and you’re f****** him and then in the morning, several of my rings had gone which I left on the night table stupidly.

Suzanne: So you were married to a guy and it was like a very vanilla, very traditional kind of marriage and then there was a part of you that just got really bored of all of that and just decided that you were going to go out and explore.

Can you remember your first foray into that unknown, did you ever do for instance the Village Voice Personals?

Topaz: The very first thing I did when I left my marriage was to hang out with my best friend who was gay. This gay guy whom my husband hated and was jealous of. I said I just left my husband and he said: “Oh fantastic, come on over I’ve got a bottle of bubbly on ice; come on over.” and I went over and celebrated and from then on I became a total fag hag.

It was the summer and I went out to Fire Island and spent all my weekends there whenever I could go. I was working then so it would be on the weekends I’d go to Fire Island and dance at all the gay clubs plus sniffing that stuff, amyl nitrate (poppers). We would do poppers on the dance floor and then I would always manage to find a straight guy even on Fire Island in the Pines which was like 99% gay.

I would find a straight guy and we make out and he’d be living with another guy; once the other guy joined us so they were doing each other while he was doing me and crazy stuff. That was my first step; my transition was hanging out with gay guys, going to the gay beach and going topless. I had to learn to go topless because, before that, I would get undressed in the closet even when I was married. I don’t think he ever saw me naked, I was so ashamed of my body. So I went topless and that was such a liberating thing because from there I started going to straight parts on Fire Island and I would find a nude beach and go there and go topless and I’d meet guys. I picked up guys everywhere I went. I picked up a guy on the bus once I remember.

Suzanne: How do you feel now at 84? You’re amazing.

Topaz: Much of my focus on having fun, staying active, relevant and positive as I grow older, and inspiring others to do the same. I recently appeared in a multi-generational show – What Tammy Needs to Know about Getting Old and Having Sex. The only word I would change in that title is old. I prefer to get older rather than old. Some steps I’ve taken to make that happen include – dying my hair purple, modelling Lola’s Cargo Pants and also in the nude covered in temporary tattoos in an ad for Tattly Tattoos. My motto is – Age is the New Black.

Go, Topaz, go…

Why I Wrote a One Woman Show about Ageism!


1 Minute Read

When I entered my sixth decade, I started feeling like I had entered a new universe. People began talking to me differently. “Are you retired? Are you still working?” People at a previous job were mostly in their 20s, and I was older than their parents. Weird. One day you wake up and it’s a new reality. Maybe I have more wrinkles, brown spots? I must look different! In my thinking, I don’t feel any different. I had a job that was awful, and I came home one day very exhausted, more tired than ever, and I began writing this show about ageism in America, and my experience being a ‘senior’ in our youth-driven USA culture.

It’s also harder to be an ‘older’ woman in our society. It may be better or worse in the UK. I am not saying it’s easy for men either, but there is more bias against us women. Men are ‘distinguished’ while women are judged on how young they look again and again. Hence the cosmetic surgery industry and so much more. Times are changing though. Through writing my show about ageism in America, I started meeting women who shared the aim to shift perceptions about aging and who realize we are no longer want to be in the youth club.

Advantages of Age | The Advantages of Age

I had never written a one-woman show. I had been performing a one-woman improv, interactive show for decades promoting designer hats that I created, and would sell them at the end. After a while, women’s clubs, senior homes, and charity events would book me to perform. I wore outrageous outfits and featured my hats as the art. I was previously a wardrobe stylist for print ads and billboards. I did costumes for a film, and the whole time, one of the actors said I should be in front of the camera, not behind it, and I could just get up and talk and everyone would laugh. After that summer, I took a comedy class in Manhattan. I went on to do stand-up comedy which led to studying to be a milliner.

Hat making was wonderful, but I needed to still perform, so I created a hat performance which is part of my one-woman show, Ageless Wonders.

Years later, on my dad’s deathbed, he gave me a big grin. That smile changed my life for the better. He rarely smiled, as he had experienced a tragic childhood. I was inspired to start a movement about the healing power of a genuine smile. The Smile Revolution was born. I started a blog, had a radio show with celebrity guests, like Pete Seeger, Richie Havens, Arlo Guthrie, Buffy St. Marie and more. My waistband (ex-husband), Roland Mousaa, introduced me to them and worked with them. He and I wrote a series of smile songs that we sing in my new show.

After my radio show ended, I was developing a tv show to promote The Smile Revolution. Nothing was working out. I went to Los Angeles, and saw my actor friends who said, “Why don’t you do a one-woman show, and here’s a coach?” I immediately contacted Jessica Lynn Johnson, an award-winning Best National Solo Artist, and Director of Solo Shows. I could never have written and performed this play without her direction and guidance. I started writing a show about my childhood, but after a few months, I paused as it felt really hard.

After nine months ( like giving birth!), I was working at a job that I hated, and one night when I was tired out, I started writing my new show. It’s been a tremendous amount of work and financial investment, but it’s been the most rewarding experience of my life. I feel fulfilled and happy, yet stressed at times too!

My show has a metaphysical twist to it, which gives others hope, and a new perception of ageing.

In my show, I speak directly to the audience sharing personal stories as well as inspiring stories about aging that help shift perceptions, mainly for women, since its harder for us in the U.S.A. I do an interactive ‘Hat Parade” with my designer hats, sing original smile songs with my was-band, ex-husband, Roland Mousaa, promoting the healing power of a simple smile. I interviewed in a 2-minute video, Anthony Mancinelli, who at 107 has been cutting hair for 95 years, works full time, and drives. He is a true “Ageless Wonders” and knew he would inspire my audience to realize they are not old!

Professional Reviews:

“Mindy is a wonderful, living, work of art.” Nohoartsdistrict.com

“Mindy is zippy, zesty, and full of life!” Bonnie Priever, Curtain Up

“She leaves the smiles and laughter for keeps.” Paul Smart, Woodstock Times

www.mindyfradkin.com

@agelesswonderstheshow on Instagram

twitter @ageless_wonders

facebook.com/princesswow

AofA People: Marian Matthews – Writer


1 Minute Read

WHERE DO YOU LIVE?

Blandford Forum, Dorset

AGE?

68

TELL US WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE YOUR AGE?

Exciting, free to research and write. Not having to worry about what other people think. Nothing to lose, everything to gain.

WHAT DO YOU HAVE NOW THAT YOU DIDN’T HAVE AT 25?

Wisdom, the internet, self-worth.

WHAT ABOUT SEX?

Yes, still keen. Not as important but nice.

AND RELATIONSHIPS?

Happily married to my 3rd husband. We met on the internet. I have lots of friends of both sexes. Where friendship is concerned I have always been a people personal rather than male or female being important.

HOW FREE DO YOU FEEL?

My only ties are those of love which I gladly enjoy.

WHAT ARE YOU PROUD OF?

My books, my writing, my children and grandchildren. By playing the long game I have had it all.

WHAT KEEPS YOU INSPIRED?

I am driven, at a time when I should be retired, I am seeking new knowledge and still trying to make a difference via my work.

WHEN ARE YOU HAPPIEST?

Cuddled up with my husband in bed or interacting with family.

AND WHERE DOES YOUR CREATIVITY GO?

Books, articles short stories and talking to people. I also knit and sew!

WHAT’S YOUR PHILOSOPHY OF LIVING?

Our reality is, in fact, an illusion or an interactive video game. We must play to the best of our ability. Co-operation rather than competition.”

AND DYING?

Phew…when I have finished my mission I can pass over in peace. I do not want to have to come back and do this all over again. I have past life memories, I know this is just one life of many.”

ARE YOU STILL DREAMING?

Absolutely…I would like to get my message across to a wider audience. A bit of fame and fortune would be nice.

WHAT WAS A RECENT OUTRAGEOUS ACTION OF YOURS?

Do you know, I cannot think. I always used to manage a bit of outrageous behaviour, but I have not done so lately. (I expect knitting and wearing wild jumpers does not count?) Thank you for reminding me what I have to do!

AofA People: Ella LeBlanc – Exotic Dancer


1 Minute Read

Ella LeBlanc says, “I am an exotic dancer, I just started dancing professionally a little over a year ago. Plus I am a part of the Sex Positive Portland Community which is a local community and is a part of the larger Sex-Positive World Community. In this community, we are of a like mind that believes that sex should be normalized and the stigmas and shame around it should be dropped and discussions around sexuality should be a lot less taboo. I consider myself a sexuality advocate and activist, I have been blogging and writing about sexuality, sensuality and creating intimacy since 2012 and I am a facilitator of sex-positive events and classes.”

WHERE DO YOU LIVE?

Portland, Oregon

AGE?

49

TELL US WHAT IT’S LIKE TO BE YOUR AGE?

It’s really interesting because I can’t believe that I am almost 50, I will be 50 in June! It’s funny because when you are younger you can’t seem to wait to grow up and then when you become an adult you wish you were a kid again, I know it sounds so cliche’ but it really is so true. I think it is great to be almost 50, I have girls half my age telling me, “I want to be you when I grow up!” I got to meet the SuicideGirls when they came to Portland last June for their Black Heart Burlesque Show and I was dressed very elegant and they fawned all over me and then they asked me what I did for a living I told them that I was a dancer and that I was almost 50 and they went wild over that, they told me I was such an awesome inspiration and role model to them (I was tickled pink to think that I inspired the SuicideGirls)! One of the girls was actually from Portland and got her start in dancing at the same club I started dancing at which is the Kit Kat Club which is a burlesque style strip club.

WHAT DO YOU HAVE NOW THAT YOU DIDN’T HAVE AT 25?

Confidence, a sense of direction and purpose. I have done a lot of personal growth work around finding my purpose and I wish I started out a lot sooner on this path of figuring it all out but I believe everything happens the way it does for a reason.

WHAT ABOUT SEX?

As often and as much as possible! I am sure you have gathered by now that sexuality and sensuality is a big thing in my life and it is very true it really is. I had so much shame regarding sexuality for most of my life that I decided to let go of the shame and to fully embrace being a sexual and sensual human being. I went through a sexual awakening several years ago where I full allowed myself to explore whatever I wanted without fear or shame.

AND RELATIONSHIPS?

I consider myself a relationship anarchist which is the belief that relationships should not be bound by rules aside from what the people involved mutually agree upon. If a relationship anarchist has multiple intimate partners, it might be considered as a form of polyamory, but distinguishes itself by postulating that there need not be a formal distinction between sexual, romantic, or platonic relationships.

Relationship anarchists look at each relationship (romantic or otherwise) individually, as opposed to categorizing them according to societal norms such as ‘just friends’, ‘in a relationship’, or ‘in an open relationship’.

HOW FREE DO YOU FEEL?

I feel pretty free for the most part, it also helps that I have been doing personal growth work for many years now which is very helpful with letting go of the old baggage in life and dropping the many masks that I have worn over the years and being able to truly be my authentic self more and more every day which is very freeing.

WHAT ARE YOU PROUD OF?

That even though I had been through four decades of abusive relationships and situations in my life, I was able to break through that cycle of abuse, to step away from the victim stories and turn my mess into my message and a mission, then in turn help other’s with my own personal message/mission.

WHAT KEEPS YOU INSPIRED?

Being a part of the sex-positive community keeps me inspired along with all of the spiritual leaders I have had the opportunity to connect and meet online, along with many of the women’s groups that I am a part of. I love to hang out with strong like-minded people, especially women.

WHEN ARE YOU HAPPIEST?

I am happiest when the sun is shining and it is warm out. I love the sun and being outdoors, adventures in the woods, hiking, road trips, travelling, cities, countrysides, beaches, mountains, forests, oceans, rivers, streams and seeing new places. I love all of it.

AND WHERE DOES YOUR CREATIVITY GO?

My creativity goes into my blog and writing, creating and teaching classes, creating new events, storytelling events and my dancing. I love being on stage and I love performing.

WHAT’S YOUR PHILOSOPHY OF LIVING?

Life is just a big adventure, I believe that a person should live life to the fullest each and everyday.

AND DYING?

I have no fear of dying, I never have even from a very young age, it is something that happens to all of us sooner or later and it’s better to just embrace it rather than to be afraid of it and try to run from it because there is no stopping it.

ARE YOU STILL DREAMING?

Yes, absolutely I am still dreaming! I have big huge dreams and goals, it is all so exciting.

WHAT WAS A RECENT OUTRAGEOUS ACTION OF YOURS?

Telling a personal and true story about sexuality in front of an audience of 400 people at The Mystery Box Show (this is actually the second time I had been on the show). This is a live storytelling event here in Portland Oregon, this show is a night of sexy storytelling which happens every other month in front of a live audience, there are 5 storytellers in a night and the hosts of the show work with us on helping us polish and perfect our stories to get us and our stories ready for the stage. Sometimes it takes weeks to get a story ready but it is so worth it. It is a very vulnerable yet exhilarating thing to be able to bare your soul and stand up on stage in front of hundreds of people and telling a personal story about your own sexuality, it is actually both scary and liberating at the same time (scary when you are up on stage wondering what are people going to think yet liberating when you are all done when people are congratulating you letting you know what a great job you did and how they can relate).

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