LEX VAUGHN at Katharine Mulherin Contemporary Art Projects (1086 Queen West), to April 8, Thursday through Saturday, noon to 5 pm. 416-537-8827. Rating: NNN Rating: NNN
It's the opening night of Lex Vaughn 's new show, a performance piece. The mixture of ready-mades, original works and multiples that serve as props are for sale.
I arrive early for a quick preview. "Go on up," curator Katharine Mulherin tells me. "She's not in character yet."
By the time I get to the top of the stairs, Vaughn has completely become her alter ego, the drifter, amateur radio operator and highly likeable old man Peanut Brittle.
While we chat, polyester-clad Peanut munches on a massive burger, plays records and shows me around. In the bedroom/headquarters for Peanut's radio station, WEZY, items for sale include Peanut Brittle buttons, a fabulous collection of old QSL cards from other ham radio operators, simple drawings of jazz legends and a luxurious red quilt with a cartoon image of Peanut's head.
WEZY, Peanut's lasting love, incorporates a microphone, a CD player that he refers to with geriatric marvel-cum-suspicion as a "tilt-a-whirl," a record player and a speaker pointing out the window onto Queen Street. From here, Peanut unleashes a Rex Stewart album and occasional tirades on passersby.
More than the stuff, though, it's Peanut's character and his stories of swinging with late, great stars during the heyday of jazz that make the whole set magically real, not to mention hilarious.
Every item has an anecdote. "Django Reinhardt poked my eye out in a bar in Brussels," allegedly over an altercation over Peanut's thin little moustache. Peanut had noticed Reinhardt's stylish whiskers and copied them, a move the legendary guitarist took as an insult.
As the room fills up, Peanut tells me to flip the record, which I do promptly, as you should when an old man asks. Vaughn's effortless inclusion of each person in Peanut's make-believe world is a fine thing to see.