The Potlander: February 2015

It took a while. Oregon’s journey to legal weed, which culminates in a big,

smoky rally on the waterfront this July, started way back in 1973, when
we decriminalized pot at the height of Hoover-and-Nixon-fueled reefer
paranoia
. In 1998, we got medical weed, but we didn’t officially license
dispensaries until last March.

It was all so slow, until it wasn’t. But now, even our 2012 weed issue
seems quaint. None of the writers smoked for their stories, and two were
professed non-tokers. When one enterprising reporter wanted to know the
price of weed in Oregon
, he called the Portland Police Bureau and the
University of Oregon.

These days, we’d just open a phone book—that is, if anybody had a phone
book—and call a dispensary to ask what a gram of White Widow is going
for. Here’s a promise: Every person who wrote about weed in this issue
also smoked, vaped, ate or dabbed it while reporting their articles.

Not everyone is caught up yet. You may need some advice talking to your
parents
about today’s weed, and you still need an OMMP card to
get into the six new dispensaries we think best represent what
Portland’s cannabis scene will become.

The future of weed will be based in connoisseurship. If Colorado and
Washington are any guide, legal weed will look a lot like Oregon’s craft-beer industry—fueled by individual growers interested in making the best product possible for an increasingly refined group of consumers. A local company is mapping the weed genome, just like we did for apples and pears. We’re
making better, cleaner, more sciencey bongs.

With medical marijuana dispensaries becoming more and more like bars or
Apple stores, gone are the days of smoking whatever crap you can get
your hands on—although we offer some help to bargain hunters.
You can now choose your high with the specificity you’d apply
to deciding what movie you’re in the mood for. 

Indeed, yesterday’s dispensaries are probably tomorrow’s OLCC-certified weed
bars. So remember to tip your budtenders. They’re about to become your new best friends.

Happy smoking. 

Willamette Week‘s Annual Weed Issue, 2015

Vancouver Marijuana Scene Report Six New Portland Dispensary Picks

 How To Talk to Your Parents About Weed | Cannabis Shop Etiquette

Map: 10 Best Marijuana Discounts | Can a Lifelong Pot Hater Find the Perfect Strain?

The Most Advanced Bong Ever | Mapping the Weed Genome

Great Advances in the History of Oregon Weed History

Supermess

In the Portland Public Schools firmament, few stars shined as brightly as Marti Diaz.

The former teacher rose to the position of principal at Southeast Portland’s Kelly Elementary School in January 2013 and soon became one of Superintendent Carole Smith’s trusted insiders. 

She served as a member of the district’s negotiating team during last year’s contentious contract talks with teachers. And she played a key role in one of Smith’s signature programs, presenting Oct. 27 on the Latino experience at the 2014 National Summit for Courageous Conversation in New Orleans.

Three days later, her star plummeted when Portland police arrested Diaz, 52, at district headquarters on allegations of fourth-degree assault and domestic violence. 

Diaz was marched out of PPS headquarters in handcuffs before other district employees. PPS placed her on paid administrative leave, giving parents, teachers and students at Kelly no more details.

Now, three months after Diaz’s very public arrest, Clackamas County prosecutors say they will not charge her after all. The alleged victim, her partner of 17 years, never told police Diaz had hit her. Diaz tells WW the allegations were “malicious” lies that stem from professional jealousy.

“It’s been very hard for me to stay silent while my entire career has unfolded in front of me knowing that I haven’t done anything wrong,” Diaz says.

PPS now has a new problem. The district must decide what to do with Diaz, who could go back to Kelly, a school in the Lents neighborhood that serves a significant population of Russian refugees. Or PPS could send Diaz to another school.

On Dec. 22, Diaz informed PPS she plans to sue the district for invasion of privacy, malicious prosecution, false arrest, intentional infliction of emotional distress, and negligence.

“This is an ongoing confidential personnel matter, and we cannot comment further,” says Jon Isaacs, a district spokesman.

“Parents are pretty aggravated that they’ve been kept in the dark about pretty much everything,” says one Kelly parent.

Diaz’s troubles started the weekend of Oct. 11 at Milo McIver State Park near Estacada, where she went camping with her partner, Penny Domm, and several other principals for Portland schools.

Almost two weeks later, on Oct. 22, one of those principals, Carol Campbell of Grant High School, told her school’s resource officer Diaz and Domm had fought inside their RV during the camping trip. Campbell said she didn’t witness a fight but later saw that Domm’s “clothes were torn, she had blood on her shirt, and that she was holding her face” as if she’d been hit.

Pam Joyner, then-principal of Hosford Middle School, told the officer she went to the RV and heard screaming. “[Joyner] opened the door and walked in, and when she did she observed Ms. Domm crouched down on the couch….Ms. Diaz was standing over [Domm] with clenched fists.” Joyner didn’t see Diaz
strike Domm, the report says, “but believed that she had.”

According to the report, a third principal, Brenda Fox of Lane Middle School, says he heard Domm say, “She fucking hit me.”

Fox also told the officer Domm had spoken of “other incidents” with Diaz, who denies this. (Campbell, Joyner and Fox did not respond to WW‘s request for comment.)

Domm refused to discuss with police what had happened. (Domm has declined through her attorney to respond to WW‘s questions.)

An officer with the Portland Police Bureau’s domestic violence unit, Todd Christensen, followed up. According to police reports, Diaz told Christensen there was never any physical violence and that there had been a “misunderstanding” that evening.

Christensen decided there was probable cause to arrest Diaz anyway.

Edie Rogoway, Diaz’s attorney, says the initial report failed to note that the other principals had all been drinking, making them unreliable witnesses. 

Rogoway says PPS—now that Diaz will not be charged—has no basis for taking personnel action against the principal. Rogoway says the district has no reason to delay a decision, but officials appear in no hurry to resolve matters.

“€œI’€™m a great educator,”€ Diaz says. “€œI want to go back to doing what I do best.”

Perchance to Dream

SIDE BY SIDE: (From left) Amber Whitehall, Jacob Coleman and Cristi Miles.
IMAGE: Owen Carey

In Enter the Night, playwright Maria Irene Fornes takes on big issues. One character mourns the loss of his lover to AIDS. Another visits a doctor for her worsening heart palpitations. The third is a nurse who tends to the terminally ill—in fact, the play’s first lines are medical notes about green phlegm and incontinence. That hardly sounds like a formula for an invigiorating evening, but int he hands of Portland Experimental Theatre Ensemble, Enter the Night pulses with wonder, beauty and unexpected joy. Though the characters grapple with mortality, they’re motivated as much by love as by fear, and the show swings easily between serious reflection and giddy, generous comedy.

Fornes, a prolific Cuban-born playwright known mostly in avant-garde circles,  wrote Enter the Night in 1993, but it’s only been produced a handful of times. Set in a New York City loft, the play covers about 24 hours, during which its three characters come and go, dance and kiss, laugh and wail, eat croissants and drink red wine, and make toasts to ugly artists and re-enact scenes from silent movies. Fornes has little interest in exposition or backstory—she prefers goofy non  sequiturs to biographical details, and we never even learn how these three  friends know each other. Here’s what we do know: Tressa (Amber Whitehall), the nurse, lives in this loft. Paula (Cristi Miles) has moved from the city to a farm in  Vermont, and her health is failing. Jack (Jacob Coleman) is an aspiring playwright who’s convinced he’s HIV-positive, negative test results be damned.

With a barely there plot and language that can fly into abstraction, it would be  easy for Enter the Night to feel elusive or distant. Instead, New York City-based director Alice Reagan allows the show to move with little fuss from naturalism to surrealism. The surroundings help. The production takes place in a  high-ceilinged warehouse in Southeast Portland, with a few wooden platforms—some covered in fine gray sand that squeaks as the actors tread across it—serving as the set. It’s spare but dreamlike, as if this could be a world apart, a place where the normal rules of the universe no longer apply. In one of the more surreal moments, Jack and Tressa re-enact a scene from D.W. Griffith’s 1919 silent film Broken Blossoms: He dons a tattered blue dress to play the unloved waif, while she portrays the kind Chinese man who adores her. Reagan adds richness by projecting scenes from the original film (not something Fornes’ text demands). In another smart move, she’s slashed the references to Frank Capra’s Lost Horizon, which helps slim down the show to a focused,  intermissionless 90 minutes.

Occasionally, things tip into comic delirium, as when Tressa and Paula perform Jack’s newest play. A silly exchange between a man from the city and a woman from the country, it’s ostensibly about the conflict between urban and rural. But it gets great comic velocity from the exaggerated German accents—”udder” and “other” become indistinguishable—and the stylized physicality, with Whitehall’s slo-mo head tilts growing funnier with each repetition.

The scant storyline means the stakes must come from the performances, which is exactly what happens here. The three actors, all founding members of the company, bring palpable urgency to the material—you can’t fake this sort of commitment. I’ve criticized Whitehall’s babyish voice before, but here she dips into a deeper register and accesses fuller emotional resonance. Coleman brings both manic flamboyance and vulnerability to his role, sometimes galloping about the stage and sometimes crumpling into a dejected heap. Miles, meanwhile, plays Paula with courage and sorrow. Though it’s not quite a love triangle, it is an intricate, intimate web of adoration and need. By the end of the night, we feel tangled up in it, too. 

SEE IT: Enter the Night is at Shaking the Tree Warehouse, 823 SE Grant St., 971-258-2049, petensemble.org. 7:30 pm Thursdays-Sundays through Feb. 7, and 7:30 pm Wednesday, Feb. 4. $15-$50.

Kate Brown Draws Heat after Shilling for Comcast

Few companies in Portland—or elsewhere for that matter—generate as much consumer hate as Comcast, the monopolistic cable, Internet and landline provider that charges more for less service than customers get in many other countries.

But Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown is not among the haters.

Monday, the online news outlet The Verge reported that Brown wrote a glowing letter to the Federal Communications Commission in support of Comcast’s controversial merger with Time Warner Cable.

“I write this letter to voice my support for Comcast’s effort to promote positive social change, decrease the digital divide, and expand access to broadband for low income families,” Brown wrote.

That sentence turned out to be one of Brown’s few original statements. As The Verge reported, Brown’s letter mostly copied a version drafted by one of Comcast’s Oregon lobbyists. It was part of a nationwide Comcast campaign to gain FCC approval for its massive deal while appearing to have grassroots support.

Between 2006 and 2012, Comcast gave Brown, a potential Democratic candidate for governor in 2018, $10,000 in campaign contributions.

Tony Green, a spokesman for Brown, said the secretary wanted to vouch for Comcast’s “good work” in Oregon. “Merging with Time Warner would allow Comcast to do that work in other parts of the state,” he says.

Asked how the merger would help consumers, Green said that was the job of the FCC to determine. That’s an important question, however. The FCC is supposed to base its decision on the merger on whether it serves the public interest.

Critics of the proposed deal say it would actually hurt consumers. As The Verge reports:

If the FCC follows the recommendations of the letters and approves the merger, American consumers could see big changes to their broadband and cable TV services. Critics argue that the merger would give Comcast a dangerous grip on an estimated 50 percent of the United States’ high-speed broadband market, which already lacks the sort of fierce market competition that helps drive down prices and ensure quality service. The merger would hand Comcast a level of market power, according to critics, that would allow the company to jack up already-rising cable prices while making it a gatekeeper over which movies, news, and music Americans can access.

Brown’s getting a drubbing online.

“We should just vote Comcast in as the government and quit with the charade of actually having the voter in the middle,” one commenter wrote.

“What I find really surprising is that her version is actually even MORE pro-Comcast than the Comcast supplied version,” another wrote.

“I emailed her my disappointment,” a third said. “But if she cared about our opinions at all she wouldn’t have done this in the first place.”

Sidestepped

The Jan. 19 Martin Luther King, Jr. Day celebration at  Northeast Portland’s Highland Christian Center had all the trappings of a  typical commemoration for the civil rights leader.

Crowds filled the pews as Mayor Charlie Hales spoke of ending racial injustice. Church groups sang gospel songs. And dancers from Jefferson High School, Oregon’s only majority-black high school, performed an African dance.

But for many Jefferson students, parents and alumni, one thing stuck out—15 of the 19 Jefferson Dancers were white.

“€œIt’€™s confusing,”€ says Carolyn Brown, a 1963 Jefferson graduate. “You go, ‘What’€™s wrong with this picture?” 

That’s a question Jefferson’s Black Student Union is asking, too.

This school year, Portland Public Schools imposed a new policy that was supposed to make the dance troupe better reflect the makeup of Jefferson itself. It hasn’t worked—even though there are plenty of African-American students from Jefferson who want to dance.

“The dance program does not create dancers,” says Lauren Steele, a 17-year-old senior and Black Student Union member. “It takes dancers from elsewhere and shows them off.”

Give us a few years, says Steve Gonzales, the troupe’s artistic director since 1999 and a Jefferson Dancer from 1983 to ’86. “Do I want a more diverse company?” he says. “Absolutely.”

The Jefferson Dancers formed in 1979 as the Northeast Portland high school prepared to launch an arts magnet program. 

At first, only Jefferson students could join the troupe. But eventually Jefferson’s enrollment plummeted.  The school district made a switch: Starting in the mid-1990s, dancers could attend other high schools, then travel to Jefferson just for dance practice.

Under that policy, the Jefferson Dancers included students from wealthier, whiter schools. Community activists started to notice. 

At a Martin Luther King Jr. celebration in the early 2000s, Lakeitha Elliott, a 1994 Jefferson graduate, overheard an audience member say, “Jefferson Dancers? They look like the Jefferson Dalmatians—almost all white with a couple of black spots.”

In 2008, PPS toyed with reinstating the requirement that Jefferson Dancers go to Jeff full time.

But the district only recently phased it in. Another change was altering the makeup of Jefferson. In 2011, PPS launched a program with Portland Community College, allowing Jefferson students to earn college credit.

Jefferson became whiter. Its white enrollment grew from about 13 percent for most of the past decade to 19 percent today. Most of the dancers are transfer
students.

Several students likened the shift to neighborhood gentrification. To get in, dancers have to pass a rigorous audition in a range of styles, including ballet, tap and modern. 

The students who succeed often have had dance training from an early age, making it difficult for neighborhood students who lack that leg up to compete, students say.

Mary Folberg, the troupe’s founder and director until 1992, says the company looks for experience in its dancers regardless of race.

“The years that I had a large number of black kids, some school administrator would be on my case because I didn’t have enough white dancers,” she says. “And the years I had a majority of white dancers, I’d be criticized for not having enough black dancers. All that is so political.”

Jefferson has a second-tier troupe, Jefferson Dancers 2, which is supposed to give students who don’t make it into the top troupe a chance to improve. 

Students say the racial makeup of two groups perfectly illustrates the problem. The principal group is predominately white. The second group is predominately black.

“They’re not taking the existing, amazing black dancers from our school,” says Aliemah Bradley, a 15-year-old sophomore. “They’re saying ‘Oh, you’re not ready,’ but why aren’t they?”

Gonzales says that’s not the full picture. Some students elect to try out only for the second troupe because it requires a smaller time commitment. “The only divide right now is based on training,” he says. “It has nothing to do with race.”

Bradley says part of the problem is that the Jefferson Dancers place great emphasis on classical dance, such as ballet, at the expense of other forms, like
hip-hop or African dance. 

She says that’s a slap in the face.

“€œIt says to students, ‘€˜We don’€™t value what you bring to the table”€ she says. 

Movie Review: She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry

ARMS LINKED: Marching through Manhattan in August 1970.
IMAGE: Diana Davies
Think back to Beyoncé‘s performance at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards—her rock-solid command of the stage, her spangly leotard, those heart-melting cuts to Blue Ivy on Jay Z’s lap. Recall the moment Beyoncé slid out on a conveyor belt, legs akimbo, the word “FEMINIST” glowing behind her. Remember how the crowd roared with approval.

Now, travel back to 1969. That year, activist Marilyn Webb took the podium at an antiwar rally and began to speak about women defining their own issues. Men—anti-Nixon leftists—booed and catcalled her. “Take her off the stage and fuck her!” some yelled. “Fuck her down a dark alley!”

Yes, it’s an imprecise comparison. For one thing, Webb wasn’t a pop megastar in bedazzled spandex, rather a 26-year-old with a mop of curly hair. But Beyoncé’s performance is still testament to the progress women have made over the past  half-century—not just in terms of publicly proclaiming themselves feminists, of course, but also in terms of workplace equality, reproductive rights and sexual violence. This is one of many accomplishments of She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, a wise and fiercely watchable documentary about second-wave feminism: It makes plain the immense debt we owe the activists of the late ’60s and early ’70s. With its blend of archival footage and new interviews, it’s a stirring, illuminating and sometimes upsetting portrait of a movement. Most of all, the film reminds us change isn’t inexorable: People make it happen.

For those less familiar with their history, Mary Dore’s film serves as an excellent primer. It roams from the electrifying impact of The Feminine Mystique to the founding of the National Organization for Women to the massive marches for equality in August 1970. Dore tells the origin story of women’s health manual Our Bodies, Ourselves. She recounts how a scrappy abortion-referral service sprang up in a Chicago dorm room. There’s some delightful footage of the “First National Ogle-In,” when women strolled Wall Street and whistled at bankers. Prominent
activists—Ruth Rosen, Rita Mae Brown, Portlander Judith Arcana—appear in present-day interviews, and Dore cuts poignantly to footage of these women as impassioned 20-somethings. (Less successful are some of the awkward—but mercifully brief—re-enactments.) 

As Dore shows us protests, street theater and consciousness-raising meetings, the effect is to be thoroughly transported back to a heady time when “the personal is political” was a revelatory statement rather than a bumper-sticker slogan. This is another success of the film: It makes clear how new and tenuous this all was.  Racial schisms arose, often around issues of reproductive justice—for Puerto Rican women who’d faced forced sterilization or black women who feared  abortion as an instrument of genocide, the right to have children was just as vital as the right not to. There were concerns about the “Lavender Menace”—lesbians—making the movement unpalatable, as well as discord between more conservative and radical factions.

It’s a lot for a single film to contain. Yet Dore does an admirable job of not oversimplifying, even if her film could splinter off into a half-dozen other documentaries. I, for one, nominate local filmmaker/former rock star Beth Harrington to dig into the history of the Chicago Women’s Liberation Rock Band, which belted songs about lascivious bosses, rejecting marriage and wearing pants to work. Speaking of music, the generation-spanning soundtrack here is excellent and feisty: Janis Joplin, Cat Power, Nico, Bikini Kill.

For all the gains, there’s no pretending the job is done. “The bitter lesson is that no victories are permanent,” says one of the activists. As grateful as we should be that The New York Times will never again advertise for a secretary “with good figure,” Dore bookends her film with recent protests against rollbacks of  reproductive rights in Texas. It’s hard not to watch and think about areas where we still lag: comprehensive child care, or trans rights, or the widespread  mishandling of sexual assault cases on college campuses. Like the new civil rights drama Selma, She’s Beautiful is both a celebration and cautionary tale. And like Selma, She’s Beautiful gives credit where it’s due: to the radical thinkers and fearless organizers and on-the-ground activists who persisted against the odds.
“You can’t convince me you can’t change the world,” says former NOW leader Mary Jean Collins. “€œI saw it happen.”€ 

Critic’s Grade: A-

SEE IT: She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry opens Friday at Living Room Theaters.

A Dark Detroit Night

FOR DEER LIFE: Laura Dunn on Southeast Powell Boulevard.
IMAGE: Alley Pezanoski-Browne

 

A few years ago, while traveling through Detroit, musician Laura Dunn stepped into an abandoned ballroom. On the floor was a shattered chandelier—a small one, but in memory it grew to wondrous proportions, its glinting crystals strewn across the vast, dusty dance floor.

That image—and those memories of Detroit as a place of desolation but also unexpected beauty—stuck with Dunn, and helped inspire The Snow Queen, premiering as part of the annual Fertile Ground festival of new works. The show, which Dunn calls a “folk opera,” recasts Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale amid the empty warehouses and scrappy community gardens of contemporary Detroit. For Dunn, Andersen’s story—of loss and redemption, of decay and preservation, of the power of imagination—fits well in a postindustrial wasteland.

“How do you create magic out of devastation?” asks Dunn, a fine-featured 31-year-old with a day job teaching poetry to elementary-school students. “Where is there space for that in adult life?”

In Andersen’s original “Snow Queen,” Kai and Gerda are best friends who live next door to each other. When Kai gets a shard of glass in his eye—a broken fragment of a magic mirror—his heart turns cold and he mysteriously disappears. In this adaptation, which Dunn is co-directing with Alley Pezanoski-Browne, Kai and Gerda are neighbors who work at a bottling factory in Detroit—and, naturally, live across the way from an abandoned ballroom. Gerda, played by Dunn, is the dreamier and more childlike of the two. But sheer imagination isn’t enough for Kai, and he falls into a heroin addiction that pulls him away from Gerda.

That’s an autobiographical detail: Dunn’s older brother is a recovering addict. But growing up on a turkey farm outside Corvallis (Dunn confirms the birds are just as mean as you’ve heard), the siblings would spend hours playing make-believe. When her brother grew out of the games, Dunn, like Gerda, felt abandoned. “He’s three years older, so he started to turn away,” Dunn says. “He would always say to me, ‘I just gotta go meet up with some people.'”

In the fairy tale, Gerda embarks on a search for Kai, along the way encountering all variety of characters—some helpful, some unsavory. Here, much of this unfolds through song. Dunn sings and plays banjo with the Ghosts of Xmas Past, which makes eerie, whispery folk music. For The Snow Queen, she’s written 11 original songs, to be performed by an onstage band that includes glockenspiel, ukulele, oilcan drum and theremin. Dunn’s voice—high-pitched and haunting—can be singular to the point of distracting. But if you listen closely to the lyrics, you’ll pick up on references to Andersen’s tale: a flower-pot garden, a splintered mirror, arthropods melted on the stove. Dunn says the songs help establish a bridge between the wintry Scandinavia of Andersen’s original tale and the bleakness of modern-day Detroit.

“The music sets the mood,” she says, “conveying us into a cold night.”

The setting helps, too. The show is being held in a converted warehouse in the shadow of the Hawthorne Bridge. The small space, known mostly for dark-wave dance nights, experimental burlesque shows and erotic rope-bondage performances, seats only 40, and Dunn says it’ll be kept spare. “This is a postindustrial show, and this is a postindustrial warehouse,” she says. “The point is emptiness.”

Dunn knows she has a dark sensibility: “I was in a marketing meeting, and people were like, ‘Stop talking about heroin!'” she says. Even so, she’s injected The Snow Queen with some comic relief. The character of the crow—a confidant for Gerda on her quest to find Kai—has been transformed into an aging punk rocker with a crusty exterior but a soft, romantic core. The show also pokes fun at the ways disillusioned people make stabs at connection.

“Gerda ends up at a community garden and is roped into volunteering,” Dunn says. “That’s like Portland, where you’re searching for ways to engage with your community and get too caught up in one thing. And then you stop seeing your friends because you’re too busy making your own cheese.”

SEE IT: The Snow Queen is at the Steep and Thorny Way to Heaven, 1464 SE 2nd Ave. 7:30 pm Saturday-Sunday, Jan. 24-25; 9 pm Friday-Saturday, Jan. 30-31; 2 pm Sunday, Feb. 1. $15. 

The Devil’s Due

THE NEXT STAGE: Matilda Bickers (left) and Amy Pitts are taking Casa Diablo to court, alleging the strip club owes them back pay and damages for harassment. “This is my job and my income, and I’m scared to ruin it,” Bickers says, “even though I know that what is happening is a violation of our rights.”
IMAGE: Rachelle Hacmac

 

Last July, Matilda Bickers decided she’€™d had enough of Casa Diablo. She had danced at the Northwest Portland strip club for more than 2½ years and was tired of grab-ass bouncers and unchecked harassment by customers.

But the everyday financial cost of doing her job also added up. Casa Diablo—billed as the world’s first vegan strip club—charged dancers $20 for every 30 minutes they were late to work, $70 for missing a shift and $10 for not undressing quickly enough onstage.

“At the end, I don’t even know how much I owed. Probably like $500,” Bickers says. “That was why I finally quit.”

Most dancers in Portland are treated as independent contractors. They’re paid in tips, and clubs don’t have to guarantee a minimum wage or pay overtime. It also means dancers don’t qualify for sick leave, unemployment benefits or protections against harassment or retaliation.

Bickers, who’s danced in Portland as Red for more than 10 years, found a lawyer.

On Jan. 11, Bickers and another ex-Casa Diablo dancer, Amy Pitts, took what might be an unprecedented step in Oregon: They sued Casa Diablo in U.S. District Court, demanding lost pay and damages for harassment—including unwanted touching—by customers and employees.

Considering her role in Casa Diablo’s business, Bickers feels robbed.

“We are the reason the bar exists,” Bickers says. “Our labor is the cornerstone of the business.”

ZUKLE
IMAGE: rosnaps.com

In response to the lawsuit, Zukle tells WW he believes the “harassment was non existent.” He also says the club isn’t required to guarantee a minimum wage.

“These dancers were clearly independent contractors in charge of their own business,” Zukle says. “This whole lawsuit is frivolous and ridiculous.”

Dancers in Nevada and New York have sued for wage theft, and have won or settled their cases out of court. In October, the Daily Beast reported that Portland dancers and social workers are crafting legislation to clarify employee status for strippers. 

Elle Stanger, who has been dancing in Portland for more than five years, is part of the group working to set industry standards for Oregon.

“People feel entitled to mistreat women or men in the sex industry,” she says. “If you show these entertainers and sex workers that they do have rights, that they set the boundaries, you will empower them. We’re the ones in our underwear, so we should be able to make the rules.”

Bickers and Pitts allege they had to shell out more than 30 percent of their tips to DJs, bouncers and managers in the form of kickbacks and various “fees,” such as stage rentals. They’re also claiming in court Casa Diablo failed to pay them minimum wage.

In all, Bickers is seeking $111,958; Pitts, $96,318.

“When we start to look at the control the club exerts over the dancers,” says Pitts, who performed under the name Rose, “it’s really clear that we’re not actually independent contractors.”

In their suit,Bickers and Pitts allege Casa Diablo told dancers to lure female patrons onstage and encourage them to take off their clothes.

Pitts and Bickers also allege they endured mistreatment and harassment from customers and Casa Diablo bouncers.

“The bouncers would touch us constantly,” Bickers says. “I had a particular problem with one bouncer that would grab my boobs, untie my outfits and spank me. And it was just this wear and tear of not feeling like I had any personal autonomy or integrity. Nothing I did would stop him.”

Bickers says she complained to management, but nothing changed.

What’s more, Bickers says, is she could have been fined $100 if she touched a bouncer.

She says other clubs in Portland may also have similar problems, but she and Pitts are suing Casa Diablo because they say the problems are more serious there.

“It’s easy to forget that actually, what’s happening isn’t normal and would be seriously condemned in any other line of work,” Bickers says. “But it is work. It’€™s hard work. We deserve at the very least a basic level of respect.”


FACT: Casa Diablo ran into legal
trouble in 2012 for inking the edges of $2 bills in its ATM to look as
if they had been dipped in blood (“Blood Money,” WW, Oct. 24, 2012).

Diana Markosian, Inventing My Father

UNTITLED BY DIANA MARKOSIAN

Diana Markosian’s father would fit well
in an Everclear song. During her childhood, he would vanish without
explanation for months at a time, then return as if nothing had
happened. His stormy relationship with her mother ended when her mother
fled to the United States from Moscow, taking the then-7-year-old
Markosian and her brother to California. They never told her father
goodbye and didn’t see him again for 15 years. Her mother painstakingly
cut his image out of every picture in which he appeared in the family
photo album—a detail that adds poignancy to Markosian’s new photo
series, Inventing My Father. 

In
2013, Markosian flew to Armenia to reunite with her father, an event she
documented in black-and-white portraits and still lifes. Because he had
been a cipher to her during all the intervening years, the experience
of visiting him was not so much “getting to know you” as it was
inventing him from scratch: inferring the contours and features of a
phantom. From these untitled photographs, you can sense how surreal the
experience must have been for Markosian. In one image, the man gazes at
the camera through two windows, the glass panes blurry with reflections
and glare. Knowing the backstory, it’s impossible not to see these
distortions as metaphors for the time and distance that have warped the
man’s image in his daughter’s mind. Another photo shows one of the man’s
shirts on a hanger in the dying light of early evening—an empty garment
filled only with shadows. In another dramatically lit shot, the man
sits on his sofa, his white hair aglow in sunlight, his face and torso
completely obscured by shadow.

To
the artist’s credit, she allows these multiple layers of meaning to play
out gently. She doesn’t hit you over the head with treacly symbolism;
she doesn’t need to. As a subject, her father doesn’t give much. If he
has a personality, he’s keeping it very close to his vest. You get the
sense that Markosian still harbors a good deal of anger toward him but
is doing her damnedest to understand and forgive—hoping that just maybe,
all these photographs might begin to fill up the hole his absence left
inside her.

SEE IT: Blue Sky Gallery, 122 NW 8th Ave., 225-0210. Through Feb. 1.

The Haha House

CHRISTMAS IN JANUARY: Seattle comedian Emmett Montgomery at a house show in North Portland.
IMAGE: Will Corwin

House shows have been a staple of the music scene forever.
But there’s a different art form encroaching onto this turf: standup
comedy.

In a town with more comics than there are open slots at standup showcases,
comedy has expanded from clubs and bars to basements and living rooms.
Sometimes the jokes happen alongside Bob Dylan covers. Other times,
standup is the sole draw. Guests huddle on couches and smoke spliffs on
the back porch. Beer and wine are for sale in the kitchen.

We hit three house shows—here’s what we found.

 

THE PARENT TRAP

White Tiger Lounge is not a lounge. It is a refurbished
backyard mancave gone suddenly public, missing only a pool table and
beer light. This quality is made more apparent by comic Amy Miller, who
calls out cave owner Jack Miller for joshing her about blowjobs the moment
they met. The polite fabric among the mostly professional couples—Amy Miller
jokes later that they cleaned Northeast Portland out of babysitters—is
briefly ruffled.

But
it’s an oddly polished house party, and it can recover. There’s an
actual stage, sound insulation and podcast recording equipment, with
three other comics booked besides Miller: Christian Ricketts, Whitney
Streed and Jacob Christopher. It’s pretty much BYOB at White Tiger, and
because it’s cold out, everybody leaves their alcohol on the table
outside the door like an offering to Cthulhu. There’s some good stuff,
like the barrel-aged cider from a couple who drove down from Seattle.
Shanon Emerson, the host, is a real-estate broker who does capable
standup only in this very room, among friends—mostly about meth heads
and parenthood. The night is like a pressure-release valve from the
passive-aggressive politesse of Portland’s professional set. “Why did
the dog suck its own dick?” asks Ricketts, as the room goes briefly
silent. “Because I was wearing a dog costume!” MATTHEW KORFHAGE.

 

FREE PERRIER

“It’s like I went to my grandma’s house
and someone handed me a mic,” mumbles Seattle comedian Scott Losse. It’s
not the most precise description—this spic-and-span living room in
inner North Portland favors twinkly lights and framed posters of
midcentury noir films over needlepoint pillows and fragile feline
knickknacks—but it feels homey and safe, like if you took a nap someone
would toss a crocheted blanket over you. Izzy, a 15-year-old fuzzy white
dog in a bow tie—breed unknown—does just this, shuffling at comedians’
feet before falling asleep in the front row. A few attendees pop open
bombers clearly purchased with ABV in mind, while others shell out for
$1 cans of PBR or $3 glasses of boxed wine. There is also free Perrier
(ballerrr!).

As for the lineup,
it’s stacked: a few duds, sure, but also some of Portland’s better
standups, including Nathan Brannon, JoAnn Schinderle and Christian
Ricketts. Seattle’s Emmett Montgomery—clad in red footie PJs, his ginger
beard reaching halfway down his chest—does a fever-dream bit as Sugar
Plum Gary, soliciting questions about Christmas and giving existential
answers about the naughty-nice binary, Frosty the Snowman and the
fluidity of gender. There’s much made of the fact that this is a room
full of mostly young white people in what was previously a black
neighborhood: Ms. Lo Rain, who blares Beyoncé’s “Video Phone” from her
purse as she comes onstage, cracks a studded belt and riffs on
reparations. As we shuffle into the night, Toto’s “Africa” plays us out,
with Izzy the elderly dog still slumbering on his chair. REBECCA
JACOBSON.

 

PRETTY YOUNG THINGS

This Cully spot is way more of a band
house: It has a fire pit, a pot-smoking shed warmed only by a space
heater, and a basement catacomb with an actual bar. A guy in a derby hat
sings a Bob Dylan cover like Jack Johnson might, with lots of attention
paid to his own voice. Partygoers discuss where they live, and their
houses all have names, the same way somebody might name their bicycle
Shirley.

Amid the music, the house had booked comic Anthony Lopez, who bagged out, and so Amy Miller is slotted in. She seems wigged by the youth of the crowd and so she bothers them affectionately about drugs, and being jobless and vegan, and about their parents giving them money, and about how they’re really pretty. The audience moves from back chatter to laughter, and then to rapt attention. Everybody loves to be paid attention to, and Miller pretty much owns the place for the next 20 minutes.

Later, in the pot-smoking shed, someone asks me my philosophy—as if there’s only one for everybody—and listens with equal attention. MATTHEW KORFHAGE.