Valley of the Dolls: FADO's Performance Club with Keith Cole: - Raymond Helkio - MyGayToronto

Valley of the Dolls: FADO's Performance Club with Keith Cole
01 March 2018.

Fifty years ago, Jacqueline Susann wrote what would become one of the most successful books of its time (with over 31 million copies sold, and counting) making Susann a household name (even if many still read her book under the covers in secret) and bestowing her with the honour of being the first author in history to have three consecutive books in the #1 position on the New York Times bestsellers list. Some might remember the Valley of the Dolls best as the cinematic vehicle for a pill and booze soaked cautionary tale of female ambition, fame, fortune and failure. Despite this, fifty years later the story is still relevant, telling us as much about celebrity culture today and it forewarned us then.

If the Gladstone Hotel's Come Up To My Room had an affair with Oprah's Book of the Month Club their offspring might look a lot like Keith Cole's latest offering, Performance Club 2. Created in conjunction with FADO Performance Art Centre, Keith and co-conspirator Shannon Cochrane have designed this five week long week course in which participants are expected to read the 466 page Valley of the Dolls novel and show up prepared to discuss, analyze and reconsider the book's relationship to ourselves and one another. On the surface, Valley of the Dolls  is like watching a train wreck unfold before your eyes yet finding the experience exhilarating. But when viewed through a queer-feminist point of view, the book gives behind the scenes access points into the pill-popping, chauvinistic world of celebrity, fame and fortune. 

Prior to signing up for the Performance Club 2, I knew little about what to expect. As we made our way to the side entrance of Chinatown Super 8 Motel on Spadina Avenue. We take the world's slowest elevator up to the room, hang our coats and sit down on the big bed. I kick off my boots, get under the cover and wait for the games to begin. About 20 people have come for the first class; artists, thinkers, writers, painters, actors and high school drop-outs alike sat in silence as we munched on snacks, drank red wine and opened our hearts and minds to experiencing the lives of another through the world's contained within Valley of the Dolls. From Anne, Neely, and Jennifer to Harry, Lyon and Tony, they have left an indelible impression on me. Each week my journey delved further into how our choices are influenced by culture, and how we in turn influence culture. Valley of the Dolls rips back the curtain on theatre to expose a world of drugs, deceit and power-hungry-fame-seekers and is a reminder that the sometimes the very act of seeking success is the root cause of much unhappiness.

The public graduation ceremony was held on February 27th at The Commons at 401 Richmond with Toronto novelist Kristyn Dunnion whose keynote lecture was a page right out of the book. Graduates received a 'V of the D' diploma which were custom pen on paper works by Keith Cole all followed by, you guessed it, a screening of the 1967 film version directed by Mark Robson. You've got to climb to the top of Mount Everest if you want to be a real doll.


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- Valley of the Dolls: FADO's Performance Club with Keith Cole: - Mar '18
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