"House It Goin'?
a Chicago Account
by Aaron Enigma

reprinted from CUT Magazine, Vol. 2 No. 2 February 1993


The Chicago ball circuit is slowly developing and growing, making a point to include a wide range of people: black, white, gay, straight, in-between and so on. It goes to show how all kinds of people can get together and have a good time, without being steered away to their own "designated places" in our commmunity, as so often is the case. For the record, here is an account of the scene to date.

The "ball" started rolling with the Legendary House of Avant-Garde, lead by Mother Chanale. She (actually a very androgenous looking "he") had experienced the then-unheard-of subculture in New York during the early 80's, when she was inducted into the Legendary House of Xtravaganza (known for producing two dancers for Madonna's Blond Ambition Tour). Eventually, she moved back to Chicago, and in the fall of '89, attended the Chicago Voguers' Ball, an event inspired by the New York fashion industry's Love Ball earlier that year. Both events had taken the idea of "houses" competing in a variety of categories to help raise money in the fight against AIDS. The Chicago affair was successful, but just didn't seem to capture what Chanale knew to be a ball. For one, why call it a Voguer's Ball, when there wasn't a single vogue category offered? This misnomer would later lead people to think vogueing is all these events are about, when in fact it is one of many different categories that can be presented.

This prompted Chanale to start the House of Avant-Garde*, the name coming from the fact that this would be "breaking ground" in the midwest. As membership increased, the group became a collection of diverse talents: aspiring dancers, designers, potographers, models, etcetera. It was to be a family, providing mutual support in oftentimes non-supportive circumstances.

In early 1990, MTV sponsored a video contest, promoting Madonna's new song, "Vogue". An entry from the Gardes placed as one of the top ten winners. The group later came in contact with Melissa Brown, a local club promoter, and began displaying its vogueing and outlandish fashion sense, opening for various benefits, including the Second Chicago Voguers' Ball. This in turn lead to other engagements in the city, as well as the suburbs.

Later, the Gardes worked with Ka-Boom Nightclub to produce The Unity Ball, December '91. It was Chicago's first look at what a real ball was all about. This was later followed by two others: The St. Valentine's Day Massacre Ball, and As The Ball Turns. Then came The Fantasy Ball of October '92, the Gardes' first attempt at sponsoring their own function. It was held in Wicker Park's popular jazz venue, Hothouse.

Since the beginning of this movement, several other houses have organized and remain stedfast, namely the House of Zandella, established in December '91. Lead by Father Jody, this group took the first Grand Prize category ever at a Chicago ball. The House of Royalty, lead by Father Reavis (now residing in DC) and Mother Sasha Valentino, is the only other house to date to sponsor its own affair, The Royalty Ball, held August of last year ['92]. This house was actually started in DC, so you see how club membership isn't bound by city or state lines. The House of Delegate made their debut at the Royalty function, and is lead by Mother Lindsey "Consuela". They have been a noted competitor at all events since.

Three houses have branched [directly] from Avant-Garde. The first is Xcel, opening early '92, and was run by Father Tommy and Mother Cassandra Gaye. It has since closed and returned with additional members to Avant-Garde. During its existence, it gave Royalty a run for its money, competing at As The Ball Turns, taking almost half the trophies awarded that night. Before closing, Xcel produced the House of AMIRO. Their name is an acronym for "A Multitude of Inspiration, Representing Oneness". Established the Summer of last year ['92], they made a smashing debut at The Fantasy Ball, and went home with most of the trophies.

The second branch-off from A-G was Élan. Lead by Father Kenny "Kavon" and Mother Yolanda "Angel", it took its name from a local fashion magazine. They made their debut at The Fantasy Ball, and are now working to host this year's first event in March. The last house to emerge from the Mother House was Enigma, lead by "Yours Truly", and established last November. It will also prove to be a force to contend with.

This is what has happened to lead up to what we know as the local ball circuit, and more steady growth can be expected, so "keep 'em open and peeled!"

*Chanale didn't actually start the House of Avant-Garde. After an initial collaboration between Tracy, Wardell and Tommy Avant-Garde, Chanale was later appointed as House Mother. -AE 2010
Copyright 1993 Aaron P. Brown. All rights reserved.
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