“Come and be weird for a night,” Billie Rae Bigsby wrote me last January. And that’s how I ended up at the House of Red Doors (or HORDs) for the first time, purring and dispensing gummi mice while dressed as a feral feline maid.
Since then, I’ve seen the Salon zur Wilden Renate transformed into a cabinet of curiosities every other month. Creep down the hallway and you might stumble into a chapel where a bodacious blonde is flogging a man tied to a cross. Or you might find a room festooned with giant pearls where a tightly corseted drag mermaid reclines in a sea of cushions. Or you could be on the dance floor and out of nowhere, two veiled women begin performing a sensuous dance with a lot of shaving cream.
All year long, it’s been a congress of freaks and anatomical wonders, so naturally the next House of Red Doors will have a circus theme. It’s this Thursday, November 24th at Salon – Zur wilden Renate, and no doubt all the kinky killer clowns in Berlin will be coming out to play.
I caught up with Billie and her Bad Bruises partner Alex J. Eccleston to find out more about the mad geniuses behind this bi-monthly cavalcade of curiosities and what surreal and perverted plans they have in mind. Especially since the last time, I ended up in a coven of naked nuns getting demonically possessed.
The House of Red Doors got its start just about a year ago and it’s already gained cult status. I think part of the success is the imagination and creativity that you both bring to the event. Can you tell me more about your artistic lives pre-Bad Bruises?
Alex: I was a writer and illustrator back home in England. When I moved to Berlin, I was writing for a couple of local magazines and luckily got some very decent illustration gigs. I then founded the Kiez Oper in 2012, which took singers and musicians from the Staatsoper, Deutsche Oper and other major opera companies, and put them in unusual environments such as Renate, Stattbad Wedding (RIP), Griessmühle, where people could experience one-off opera shows and then stay and party all night afterwards.
Billie: I worked as a Burlesque dancer and performance artist for many years, not the ’50s bumps-and-grinds, more the weird-as-fuck 1920s clown that breathes fire. I got to travel the world with my shows, working at high-end events, at fetish parties, and with travelling ‘adult’ circuses. About 5 years ago, I started directing and producing for a big circus company. I travelled with them globally and lived with the company in Shanghai and Dubai. Through this, I picked up a lot of the artists you see at the House of Red Doors. We’ve been through thick and thin together, highs and lows, and when we are all together, there’s a lot of love. I then ran away from the circus to start something of my own here in Berlin.
How did Bad Bruises get its start?
Billie: Bad Bruises is the disgusting love child of Alex and I. We met last year, drank too much red wine, and then decided to make an event, realizing it could be something really spectacular. The root of Bad Bruises has always been to create a party that melds all of our own passions: Alex’s being the opera and live events in bizarre places, and mine being the sexy weird fetish scene and art installations. Bad Bruises got its name from those good/bad bruises, like the cheeky ones on your wrists or neck. *wink wink*.
Alex: We met in a bar here only last year and instantly hit it off. We began talking about working on a project together that could utilize both of our experiences, but make it a totally new concept for us and for Berlin. The idea for The House of Red Doors was actually almost a year old before the first show. The name Bad Bruises came from a long night of drinking and writing down lots of shit ideas (and a couple of good ones) until Bad Bruises popped up. It sounds a bit like a slightly rubbish all-girl punk band from the early ’80s and we both decided we wanted to be in that band!
The House of Red Doors has gone through several incredible themes from a frolicsome Midsummer’s Night Dream to a sexy exploration of the seven sins. What’s next?
Alex: The themes are really important to us in terms of setting a mood and we’re always evolving and changing them to keep excitement as high for the guests and ourselves. “SIN” was really fun but by its nature ended up being particularly dark and fetishy. To balance things out, we have gone for “CIRCUS” this time to be a bit more fun and even silly. It was also one of the first themes we discussed before the first HORDs. We’ve both worked at and attended so many festivals all over the world and we want to keep that fun, crazy festival vibe at every show.
Billie: The themes are there to explore people’s fantasies and to create something different every time. They’re very thought through. We try to find themes that have a lot of scope. And we try and mix them up so we don’t necessarily have one aesthetic for our party. It keeps every event exciting and fresh, not only for the audience, but also for the two of us and all the artists, with new décors and new ideas for shows. The idea is to create a different world for our guests to get lost in for the night.
Part of what makes the House of Red Doors so special is that all the rooms in Salon zur Wilden Renate are done up with wild art installations. Will there be any special rooms this time around?
Alex: Yes! As with every new show we plan new themes and installations for the rooms and are in Renate every day for a week building these up. Expect a new freaky, circus experience behind every door. We don’t want to give too much away though!
Billie: We plan the rooms for a long time and spend a lot of time creating them. One of our builders actually said she feels our relationship is a bit sub dom, as she always wants to make it utterly perfect for us. So the party is filled with a lot of passion to the very core.
And there’s the immersive aspect that you never know when a performer will show up and do something weird and kinky.
Billie: We’ve tried to make it so people have no idea what will happen next and no idea where a show will be. We also have tried to have it that nobody’s experience inside the house is the same. You might see a performer hanging from a tree on your way to the bathroom or some contortionists on the bar.
Alex: It’s impossible to see everything in The House of Red Doors. We want people to excitedly tell their friends that they just saw something unbelievable and maybe even question themselves the next day what was and wasn’t real… We honestly love our crowd and as HORDs has grown they have become a gigantic part of the show too!
The night always kicks off with a wild show. Last time, there were naked nuns and a huge burning cross. This time?
Billie: Yeh, that was good fun wasn’t it? I loved it. Well, the next show will be something circus themed, but I will keep it a secret as I don’t want to ruin any surprises.
Alex: The 1am show is becoming quite an iconic part of the party as it signals the real first bang of the party beginning. It takes place on the large dance floor downstairs and from there we open up more of The House upstairs. We always recommend to make sure you see this show and get ready as more and more Red Doors open as the night goes on!
And you also have some of Berlin’s best-known DJs
Alex: Music is, of course, a huge part of a party like this and between us and the amazing team at Renate we keep everybody dancing until well into the next day.
Is there anything else we can expect?
Billie: Expect the unexpected and just jump in head first. We have faith in our guests, the artists and ourselves that we can all create an amazing night together. That’s what makes this party so much fun. We are all in this crazy house for one night and who knows what we will see/do/experience.
Alex: Expect an amazing, surreal evening with a bunch of fun, sexy freaks! Beyond that… you never know what you’ll discover behind one of those Red Doors!
The House of the Red Doors #6: CIRCUS is on Thursday 24th November at Salon – Zur wilden Renate.
DJ Line Up:
Oliver Deutschmann /// soma, vidab
Rodion /// nein, roccodisco, les disques de la mort
Curses /// throne of blood, nein
DJ RWM /// shadowcast
Sebastian Voigt /// renate
Michal Zietara /// renate, osba
Kieran Behan /// crystalmafia
Jonny Fox /// whiskey tango foxtrott, renate
Julietta La Doll
Ms. F Rank
and lots more from our wonderful family of performers to whet your appetites throughout the night…
The Chapel – Repent your sins
Freakshow Parlour – Where the freaks hide
The Circus Bordello – A sumptuous get away for dirty clowns
The Red Light area will open from 2:30am
The Fortune Tellers caravan – A dedicated room for your carnal urges
Hootchie Kootchie stage – Watch performances from the most bizarre to the most beautiful creatures we can offer…
Plus more unexpected stages and areas to discover
11PM – Doors open and the residents of the house will be there to greet and play.
1AM – Our unmissable opening performance
… as usual more rooms will open up as the night unfolds… Look out for secret shows & surprises! Every guest has a different experience.