One of the biggest benefits of thrifting, junking, salvaging, and general fascinating-stuff hunting is meeting the humans attached to the items we eventually sell. A few months ago, we were hunting just south of New Hampshire, rambling around Salisbury and Amesbury. We happened upon Mill 77, a great antiques mall with dozens of booths selling a wide range of objects. Walking around the floor we found ourselves drawn to multiple items in one small booth - in particular: a porcelain Betty Boop doll wearing a fantastically crocheted red dress that turned the doll into a toilet paper holder (yes, really), and a PVC nuns habit costume. After picking up Betty, we took a closer look at the nun’s costume, and found not only the preacher’s matching costume but a bin full of ziploc bags, each one containing a polyester bathing suit or jumpsuit that literally screamed I’M FROM JERSEY 1989 BITCH!, all meticulously kept and in stunning condition considering they were worn, and worn well.
Now, I’m not in the habit of buying polyester, or undergarments for that matter, but I was not able to stop looking through this bin. These outfits were amazing and the fact alone that they were being displayed in what was otherwise a very quaint and quiet antiques mall warranted further inspection. Just the two American Flag pieces alone - the itsy-bitsy-teeny-weeny Jersey Shore bikini and an all-over printed bell bottomed deeeep V halter-top jumpsuit - were enough to keep me looking. Brett and I started talking about everything we were looking at, discussing the finer aspects of the small pieces of fabric, and sharing a soul-level search as to why we would be considering purchasing someone’s used (albeit amazing) stripper costumes. What was it about these little bits of neon synthetic material that was so alluring? Why in dogs name were we even handling them (exceedingly clean they were, but still)?
A few minutes into our discovery, the proprietor of the booth came over to sell us on the pieces, and mentioned off-hand that they had all belonged to her daughter; everything from the nun’s habit to the fuzzy pink bikini had been used in her performances. Intrigued, I probed more - curious as to why they were being sold, what they had been used for, and why a mother would be selling her daughter’s skivvies. The story that unfurled was the stuff of a thrifter’s dreams - the sort of provenance that explains the quiet energy that emits from strange objects we find ourselves attracted to. It was also a sobering reminder of what it means to be a steward, and how those of us who recycle objects as a part of daily life are participants in a picture bigger than our individual experience. That we truly can, and do, carry on legacies, however big or small, by simply keeping, sharing, or passing on something imbued with powerful memory.
When we first met Pat, she talked about Pink in the past tense, but with an energy that made it sound as though she was still earthly present. Pat told us story after story: about the time Pink was 16 and desperate to see Bret Michaels perform, so Pat went out and bought two lime green bandeau tops (one for Pink, one for her sister - they had to be equal), repurposed them as mini skirts, and sent her girls off to the show with dreams of meeting their idol. How Pink realized she was meant for the stage, not the office (Pink had a B.A. from Sarah Lawrence, studied at Thames University, was an avid member of the Atlas Society, and was posthumously graduated from Mass School of Law) and brainstormed with her mother to take the name of her group from PORN ROCK to Erocktica. How her daughter was a mainstay of the Mermaid Parade, how beautiful she was, and how she grew up to meet her idols - making friends with Gene Simmons, Hugh Hefner, and her original crush, Bret Michaels. Yet, despite sharing so much, Pat remained cryptic about her daughter’s passing, and left me wondering what had happened to Pink Snow. I took her silence as a boundary and respected it, and let my curiosity take a back burner.
After hearing Pat's stories and learning the reason for the bright and heavy vibes radiating off of these bits of nylon, we - of course - bought everything. Initially I had selected only a couple of plastic bags worth, but after hearing Pink’s life story we knew we had to keep the collection together. We thanked Pat for everything, hugged, and promised to come back soon with pictures of us in the costumes. Once we left the building I immediately began to google Pink Snow and Erocktica, and was taken to learn that Pat’s past tense had been correct, that the world had lost the bright light in Pink Snow only a year prior, in November 2012. She left behind a husband, a young son Sebastian, her mother, and a lot of grieving family. Before I found an obituary, though, I found link after link of blog-eulogies from friends and fans, all remembering their friendship and connection with Selena, solidifying her legacy as a kind and special person. I found picture after picture of a wild and profoundly fascinating woman - stripper-rockstar-activist-lawyer-performer-mother-friend. Google Erocktica for yourself and see (warning NSFW x 1mili) - this woman burned BRIGHT.
A few weeks later we returned to Mill 77 and stopped by Pat’s booth to say hello. We told her we had learned all about Pink after our last meeting, and gushed about what a wonderful woman she must have been. Pat told us more stories - all about how she and Pink loved to go on cruises together, and how they had made incredible friends in doing so. Pink’s son, Sebastian, who is only two, has not only his own biological family, but a family of fans and friends of his mother’s, many of whom have written letters directly to Sebastian (which he’ll read when he’s older) telling him all about his mother and the amazing life she led. We marveled at the way in which such a powerful spirit is being kept alive in so many ways, and how fortunate we are to be a part of the continuation of that legacy.
I don't know what we'll do with all of her outfits, though I would love to sell them to some fan and donate the proceeds to charity. I've pulled them out when friends have visited and I've spent a surprising amount of time admiring them and thinking about all the life that was lived while wearing them. It's emotionally ephemeral objects like these - scraps of paper, rotted old books, used bikinis, hair and bones - that are always the most intriguing for me. Mundane objects, even when they're loud and showy like Pink's costumes - are so integral so their owner's life that they become charged talismans of a life lived. While it's easy to dismiss a piece of scrap paper or someone's old fuzzy thong as trash, the truth is that sometimes that very thong can be the key into a life that you can only be blessed to have learned about. As a buyer of vintage and second hand goods, I have had the privilege (for the better half of my short life) of finding keys into doors of fascination I never knew existed. Thanks, Pat, for letting me through this one.