I'm heading to the west coast to visit some old friends, and I thought I'd take a moment to talk about three individuals who've had a huge impact on my life. Beginning with the first friend I made in Chicago, Deja Sue.
I met Deja Sue at some point in the year 2000. We were both taking improv classes at the Annoyance theater and we were both in the same level 1 class. I had recently dropped out of both high school and college and was honing my chops as an actor. Deja Sue rode 2 stops on the Brown line train with me after our first class. Little did I know we'd be great friends for the next 16 years.
We took several more classes together and worked the improv circuit for awhile. I did tech for her critically acclaimed sketch show with Tony Mendoza called "The Sniffs". That show was later accepted to the San Fransisco Sketch Festival and we flew out together to do the show. Serendipitously, we are meeting out there again. This time for two burlesque shows Deja Sue is performing in.
At some point we started talking less and less. We had a good 2 year period where I don't think we really heard from one another. We were still in each others top 8 on MySpace, so we'll always have that. But it was harder to stay in touch back then.
Deja Sue made me two mix tapes which I still listen to frequently. One featured a performer everyone should become familiar with, Mrs. Miller. A high school? Elementary school? music teacher who sings the classics, including Downtown, which is the track Deja used to introduce me to Miller.
Deja's husband gave me my first tattoo. A tree frog on my right calf. I treasure that thing. I'm going to eventually get another frog on my opposite calf so that I have "frog legs". Alex is hooking me up with another tattoo on this trip, but it's going to be something a little more intensive. The frog will have to wait.
Deja's favorite movie is Showgirls, and we used to watch it together. Long before the special edition DVD came out with the awesome commentary track. We used to sit in her garden studio and laugh. "Where are you from?" "Different places!"
I was thrilled when 5 years ago, Deja Sue joined the cast of the Kiss Kiss Cabaret, which I was working for as a stage manager and sound engineer. Deja was a natural. I remember her first act, which I believe utilized some custom garbage cans that Alex made for her. That was just the start. Deja Sue's costumes have become somewhat legendary in Chicago. I know several performers who have confessed being heavily influenced by them.
At the time, Deja was living way south west in Chicago. So we didn't get to see each other much. So selfishly, her getting cast in KKC was one of the best things that could have happened. We'd get to hang out at Chipotle before shows and gossip. It was a great way to spend the couple years before she and her husband moved to California.
It's not often that you find people like Deja Sue. She's been a friend when I was a teenager (albeit late teen), when I was an improvisor, when I was scared, when I was cocky, when I was sad, when I was a jerk, and when I became a photographer. Which is to say she's been a friend to me, the real me that maybe I didn't even know yet.
So thank you Deja Sue. I love you and I treasure our friendship.
Here are a few more photos just for funzies. Click on any image to view in a lightbox.