Rent Cheque Year One – an interview with Abby Normal
– by Shawn Conner
On the last Wednesday of each month, the Astoria on E. Hastings hosts Vancouver’s legion of wannabe strippers. Celebrating its first anniversary of outrageous nudity and even more outrageously placed tattoos, Rent Cheque will no doubt have its raunchiest moments this Wednesday night (July 30). We talked to co-founder Abby Normal (The Snipe’s very own Bands with Cats correspondent) about a year’s worth of Vancouver’s self proclaimed ‘flesh mayhem’.
Shawn Conner: What was the impetus behind doing this in the first place?
Abby Normal: A little over a year ago, I was approached by a friend who was looking for someone to host an amateur strip night for a bar. I was less than interested initially because I had sort of hit a “party plateau” with going out, but I was working on a project for the Dan Savage HUMP Fest with (my now smut partner) Lex, who couldn’t believe I would turn my nose up at the opportunity. Ultimately with the joining of our two smutty super powers, taking it on seemed much more feasible for me, and also way more fun.
It didn’t pan out with the initial venue and we ended up at the Astoria and chatting to the people there. I had been getting drunk at the Astoria for a good six years and they were more than open to the idea of us doing a depraved party night. They brought up a night that used to be at the Lotus called Rent Cheque which was then ran by the Quast Bros, and we sort of just adopted the name with the venue. The sound guy for the Astoria became our DJ and was super keen on the resurgence as he was one of the regular performers at the original night.
Right now what we have is Rent Cheque phase 2, or Rent Cheque next gen.
SC: What in your background has led you to this, er, point in your life?
AN: Essentially, Lex and I got involved because we both have a heart of smut. She’s an ex-stripper, I’m an ex-cam girl, and we met over a porn project. We both want to see raunchier and wilder party options in Vancouver. We also both feel like the city can be really closed off and clique-y if you don’t know “the right people,” which is unfortunate since there are so many awesome and creative and sexy people spread throughout the various scenes. I think this is part of why we got more passionate about Rent Cheque after the fact. We saw that it attracted all sorts of different people and that they all get a kick out of sharing a space and a favourite night together and even though they might not have the same regular haunts, they all like butts and boobs (big surprise there!)!
Nudity aside, we see a desperate need for places where anyone from any given “scene” can go and feel welcome and comfortable and awesome, which we think we are starting to get a reputation for. This all-inclusiveness is also part of what we’re trying to accomplish with our next sexy party, Babe Bang (sorry guys, it’s ladies only!).
SC: Is Rent Cheque open to all genders?
AN: Rent Cheque is 100 per cent open to everyone of drinking age! If you can get into the bar and want a chance to hit the stage, then Rent Cheque is for you! We are for all genders, all body types, all styles and all skill levels (aside from industry pros). Our basic feeling is that anyone who feels compelled to take their clothes off in front of 400+ yelling people damn well should! We just want to humbly offer them an arena for that.
SC: Why should people take their clothes off at Rent Cheque (besides the money)?
AN: Reasons someone might perform at Rent Cheque really vary on a person-to-person basis. Obviously the promise of prize money sure doesn’t hurt (last month we gave away $500 to 1st prize, $200 to 2nd, and $100 to 3rd, as well as $100 to the WISH Drop In Centre), but many of our participants do it for the thrill of exposure, artistic expression, empowerment, on a dare, or just as a “drunkenly let loose on stage” sort of thing. The thing is that the participants all vary so much, as does our crowd that there is basically a guarantee that no matter your reasons for doing it, SOMEONE will be hollering for you and hella into it.
Also, the whole feeling at the bar that particular night is just a ridiculous loose-y goose-y good time. There’s tonnes of people in the audience who feel compelled to bare all and we are super into it. We definitely don’t feel like Rent Cheque is only about people getting naked on stage. We love seeing people all over the bar with tits out, tops off and just enjoying themselves. Society has this way of body shaming us and the heartbeat of Rent Cheque is all about saying a big “F-You” to that sort of thing and just encouraging you to be whoever the hell you are.
SC: What are some of the raunchiest/weirdest moments?
AN: This one could really go on and on and on, but some of the more ridiculous ones I’ve been apart of include shaving a (rather hairy) man’s pubes on stage and having another performer (the winner of our first event!) go down on my strap-on as I was dressed like a wolf and she was dressed like Little Red Riding Hood. Lex is an ex stripper (also it’s good to note that as a fellow organizer, neither of us are ever eligible for the prize money), so she really ups the dirty factor in her routines.
The last couple from participants that really stick out are the guy who did a routine inspired by Silence Of The Lambs, and another fellow did a truly impressive interpretation of the Ghostbusters theme song. Still, one of my very most favourites was the Hallowe’en one where one of our regulars coated herself in fake blood and ripped up a bible and rubbed it all over her crotch. We had another regular performer who had perfect mastery of beating the stage with chains or his belt. Rent Cheque isn’t exactly for people who might have heart problems!
For more info on Rent Cheque, visit: www.facebook.com/rentcheque