Janine Avril creates a monthly event for queer innovators eager to share their talents
When 27-year old Janine Avril moved to Manhattan five years ago from Roslyn, Long Island, her initial introduction to the lesbian social scene left her feeling somewhat disillusioned.
“I had no gay friends, no girlfriend… it was lonely,” she recalled.
As a writer and a poet, Avril craved an atmosphere that included more than bad pick-up lines and over-priced alcohol, and longed for the company of smart, artsy dykes with something to say. Not being one to sit back and wait for change to happen, Avril decided to create a space for artistic women to gather and share their talents.
That space evolved into what today is known as Girlsalon, described on Avril’s website, janinesays.com, as “a forum for queer performers [which] exists to promote the talents of artists of all varieties, and features musicians, comedians, spoken word artists, drag kings and queens, performance artists, and virtually anything eccentric, funky and creative.”
Avril held the first meeting of Girlsalon at her apartment in January of 2002, and soon realized that she was far from alone in her yearning for a creative milieu. She eventually approached Bluestockings Women’s Bookstore in the East Village for help in advertising and providing space for the show, and Bluestockings delivered.
“There were lines out the door,” said Avril.
It was clear that creative lesbians all over New York had been waiting for a creative innovation to support.
The crowds soon grew too big for Bluestockings to accommodate, and Avril approached the famed girl bar Meow Mix, where, until recently, Girlsalon has been held once every month. Notable entertainers such as Marga Gomez and Murray Hill have hosted the show, which have attracted accomplished regulars such as comedienne Michelle Balan and musician Rachel Sage, as well as amateur artists of all varieties.
Thus far, Girlsalon has been entirely promoted and funded by Avril, who has also hosted periodic literary nights geared toward lesbian writers and poets, followed by a party dubbed “Brainy Sluts.” Avril posts Girlsalon flyers and sends listings to gay publications, as well as maintaining a website and sending out frequent e-mail updates about queer events throughout Brooklyn and Manhattan.
“It’s a really hard thing to manage completely on your own if you want it to be successful,” commented Avril, who was thrilled when two notable women in the community offered their help. Musician Robin Cloud will help Avril with hosting, and Grace Moon of “Velvet Park Magazine,” will provide assistance with booking and management going forward, allowing Girlsalon to be held at Starlight Bar in the East Village every third Thursday of the month beginning in March. The event will feature a free literary hour in the front bar followed by a longer performance segment in the back lounge for a $5 cover charge. The new show will also include a 20-minute “feature” performer.
“I’m trying to make it a forum for people who are going professional,” said Avril.
She has also made the decision to officially open up the previously lesbian-geared show to “all GLBT community members… girls, boys, and gender benders.”
When she is not busy with Girlsalon, Avril is an adjunct English professor at Brooklyn College and The New York City College of Technology, a published writer and poet, and a volunteer artist at The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Community Center, where she teaches writing workshops to queer youth.
Avril recently completed manuscripts for both a novel and a screenplay about her life, titled “Irrevocable Errors,” which focuses on the untimely death of her parents when she was a young woman.