Tag Archives: 80s

Back to the 1980s

February 14, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Aaron Gum can tell you several movies he loves, but ask about the one—the film that he most associates with his childhood—and his eyes sparkle. The clock tower…the electricity…the burn marks from the tires of Doc Brown’s DeLorean as it travels Back to the Future.

“Nothing really sums up a decade, as far as pop culture goes, as much as a DeLorean,” says the freelance producer of commercials, music videos, and other media around Omaha.

As a kid growing up in the 1980s, Gum always wanted a DeLorean, but he never expected to fulfill the dream. The DeLorean DMC-12—the only car ever produced by the DeLorean Motor Co.—had a limited production period between 1981 and 1983. Around 10,000 vehicles were made, and less than 7,000 are still in existence.

While perusing social media in April, a photo of the vehicle on a flatbed in a Facebook post by a friend of a friend changed his mind. The car was headed for Woodhouse Auto, which had taken it on trade for an Alpha Romeo.

Gum, also the synthesist for the local new-wave synth duo Glow in the Dark, originally wanted to borrow the vehicle for a photo shoot. As soon as he saw the DeLorean on social media, he called the marketing director at Woodhouse Auto Group, with whom he worked on commercials, and asked about it. The vehicle, at that time, was not running and he was not able to use the car.

Two months later, Gum visited Woodhouse to shoot commercials and asked about the vehicle. Yes, it was still there, and yes, it was now running. Gum bought the vehicle for around $30,000. It was a whim for the normally frugal Gum, whose high-ticket purchases tend to be more career-focused, such as film cameras or synthesizer equipment.

The vehicle has become his promo car for the band, taking him to gigs around the city.

Gum goes overboard in his devotion to hobbies, and he soon began making the futuristic-looking car even more 1980s in style. The fuse was out on the lights, so he replaced the lighting with LEDs. He acquired such movie props as a flux capacitor, hoverboard, a Mr. Fusion home energy reactor, Marty McFly jacket, and a 1/6 scale DeLorean time machine.

Gum isn’t a “car guy,” but the car—and what it symbolizes—has captured his heart. In July his friend Scott called and told him to get down to Quaker Steak & Lube in Council Bluffs. A second DeLorean, one Gum knew nothing about, was participating at the Wheels of Courage auto show taking place at the restaurant’s lot. Gum quickly drove over to check out his vehicle’s twin, parking outside the show’s perimeter near the other DeLorean.

“It was kind of crazy,” Gum says. “I had no idea there was another one in the area, but there it was, right over in Council Bluffs.”

Gum’s is a 1981, the other was a 1983, so the two men compared parts. The 1983 was more authentic to the one in the movie, having no aesthetic grooves or fuel door stamped into
the hood.

But the thing about owning a DeLorean that makes Gum smile most is his encounters with movie fans.

“This kid came up wanting to sit in it,” Gum says. “Afterwards his father said, ‘you made his day,’ and I thought that was pretty cool.”

“You know,” he says, “you see a classic Lambo or something, it’s really cool, but you don’t just go sit down in it. People do that all the time with this car. They sit down and then go, ‘Oh, I’m sorry, I should have asked. But I was so excited to see it!’ ”

They are fellow movie buffs, fellow obsessors over Marty McFly and his travels back to see his parents as teenagers. The affable Gum doesn’t mind (although it would be nice if people asked before plopping themselves down).

The DeLorean appeared as a featured vehicle in January’s Midlands International Auto Show alongside brand-new, high-end vehicles such as Corvettes and Lamborghinis. It was another chance for local fans of Back to the Future to interact with, and dream about owning, the iconic vehicle.

As for Gum’s DeLorean, it is a frequent prop in Glow in the Dark’s photo shoots and was used onstage at an August concert at OutrSpaces. Gum jokingly asked about bringing the car onstage and—to his surprise—was told, “You know, if you drive it around the back, you can probably get it in the door.” He did, and the car was positioned between Gum and bandmate Lawrence Deal during
the concert.

Since then, he hasn’t worked on making the car more movie-authentic because he’s been working on restoring another piece of movie-themed nostalgia, a Back to the Future pinball machine that was manufactured for only four months in the summer of 1990.

“How many people get to have a pinball machine with their car in it?” Gum says.

Visit @glowglowdarkdark on Facebook for more information about the band, including images of the DeLorean.

This article was printed in the February/March 2018 edition of B2B.

Seven Heaven

May 2, 2017 by
Photography by Justin Barnes

Fashion blogger Hannah Almassi of whowhatwear.co.uk knows her stuff. She says spring/summer 2017’s fashion trends have “anyone who is interested in super-duper, spin-around-your-closet fashion excited.” Why? “Well, it’s an inherently upbeat season,” Almassi says. “From the many no-holds-barred interpretations on the 1980s—think lamé, jumbo frills, shoulders, bling, and legs—to the most saturated color palette we’ve seen in a decade—fuschia, scarlet, heliotrope, hazmat, more fuschia—joy is oozing from every stitch and every seam. Even stripes and florals—two trusty pillars of the summer print lineup—are back with more bite, more verve and more tempting iterations to make you think again and look twice.”

International model Tara Jean Nordbrock agrees with Almassi’s fashion forecast. Nordbrock put her own spin on seven of the blogger’s top spring/summer trends using fashions from Scout Dry Goods & Trade (5019 Underwood Ave.). “That fabulous ’80s spirit combined with this decade’s DIY culture provide inspiration for the latest trends,” Almassi says. “It’s a radical mix-up of unpredictable style. You won’t be bored.”

This article was printed in the May/June 2017 edition of Encounter.

Styling & Modeling by Tara Jean Nordbrock
Photography by Justin Barnes
Photo editing & Illustrations by Derek Joy
Intro by Eric Stoakes

The Church of Tomorrow

August 30, 2013 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann and Dillon Gitano

Nicholas Wasserberger and Mark Steffan are almost, well, In Real Life meme generators. “We really feel that immersing people in an artificial environment, in a bubble, in a world, is amazing,” Wasserberger says. “We want to immerse them in a certain genre, a theme, so that everyone can have this experience, this nostalgia.”

Together, Wasserberger and Steffan are the Church of Tomorrow, an avant-garde party-planning duo responsible for themed events in Benson galleries and Downtown Omaha nightclubs. They’ve also collaborated with local band Icky Blossoms and North Sea Films for video styling, as well as local dance-party group GOO.

The Church specializes in themes of music and fashion from the ’70s, ’80s, and ’90s. “With events at, like, [House of] Loom, we come up with the ideas and concepts and themes,” Steffan says. “We promote it. We decorate it. We set the theme, the mood. And then we discuss with the DJs what the music genre should be. We set up the environment.”

“There’s a lot of history and education that goes into it,” Wasserberger says of their event prep. For example, their inaugural David Bowie tribute party last October at House of Loom was a study in glam rock. “Other cities around the nation throw David Bowie parties,” Steffan points out, “which just brings Omaha to a greater connectivity with other cities’ night-life culture.”

“Nobody’s trying to be too cool. We can see how people find the humor in what we do. It looks completely outrageous, and we’re completely outrageous, and we can laugh about that.” – Mark Steffan

“Our New Romantic Party was based off of one club that ran in London for, like, six months,” Wasserberger says. Such ’80s London nightclubs started a trend of evenings dedicated to specific themes. “Boy George came from there,” Steffan says. “Duran Duran. Spandau Ballet. Changed music forever.”

Wasserberger and Steffan encourage party-goers to dress to the theme. “It’s Halloween all year-round,” Steffan says. Realizing that not everyone is up on the movements or music they select, they try to educate the masses ahead of time. In the weeks leading up to a party, they post links on Facebook Event pages to documentaries such as Paris Is Burning or songs like “All Tomorrow’s Parties” by The Velvet Underground.

“We want to let people in Omaha experience where the roots of music and youth movements and nightclubbing came from,” Wasserberger says.

Last January, the Sweatshop Gallery in Benson asked Church of Tomorrow to create “a full-on art installation” for their Afterbirth show during the neighborhood’s First Friday art crawl. “We went thrifting for about three or four weeks just picking up the ugliest stuff. Kids’ bed sheets, after-Christmas-sale tinsel,” Wasserberger says. “We put the sheets on the walls and spray-painted them with political symbols, grabbed every disco light we could find in Omaha.”

“They both have a very distinct style,” says Caitlin Little of Sweatshop Gallery, “and they were able in this instance to transform thought into feeling and experience. The events they put on are meant to challenge the normal, beat the boring, and provide an all-inclusive, full-force fun time.”

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“We wanted to present what our physical chapel would look like,” Steffan says. “This is basically our religion, these are things we like to do, and they’re sometimes a little more progressive.” They both are advocates of women’s and transgender rights and radical homosexuality.

To fully immerse people in their passions and ideals, the pair burned incense and filled the gallery with flashing lights, projections, and obscure disco music. “It was a sensory overload,” Wasserberger says.

Little agrees. “Afterbirth in particular was like going to a sleepover in their brains!”

About 200 people came, they estimate. “That’s probably an average crowd,” Steffan says. “We get more at Loom,” Wasserberger counters.

“Everybody that comes to our events, they’re the nicest people,” Steffan says. “Nobody’s trying to be too cool. We can see how people find the humor in what we do. It looks completely outrageous, and we’re completely outrageous, and we can laugh about that.”

If there’s money involved, the two split the profit 50-50. Their one-of-a-kind buttons help fund their parties, too. Steffan and Wasserberger wear them out on the town, and if someone admires one, “Oh, they’re $2,” Steffan says, “take one.” They also design the buttons that Icky Blossoms takes on tour. The pair splits cover charges among themselves and an event’s DJs. “We’re pretty savvy about thrifting,” Steffan says.

House of Loom co-owner Brent Crampton agrees. “Their DIY method of throwing a party is raw yet fabulously tacky,” he says. “Meaning, I’ll give them $100 for decorations, and they’ll make the place look like a thousand bucks.” He adds that, quite simply, the Church of Tomorrow is his favorite promoter to work with. “They come up with some of the off-the-wall, almost forgotten corners of culture to celebrate.”

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Crampton points out that the pair not only designs and decorates an event, they clean up after it as well. “At the end of the night when everyone just wants to get paid and go home, they’ll stick around and help the staff clean. It’s quite amazing.”

“Everything we do, we do sober,” Wasserberger says. “Which surprises a lot of people. If we were sloppy at a party, come 1:30 in the morning, we would not still be on the dance floor keeping everyone there.”

Steffan has been clean and sober for two and a half years. “And in the last two and a half years, I’ve been the most creative I’ve ever been.”

Wasserberger will occasionally have a drink. “Never when I’m working,” he clarifies, “because you don’t need it. The true freaks are always sober. Like Boy George. Sober now.”

Steffan has plans to promote Church of Tomorrow events in New York after he settles in from his move in May to be with partner Joey Koneko. “And then when he comes back for visits, we’ll do more together here,” Wasserberger says, such as the second David Bowie Tribute this Oct. 5 at House of Loom. He also hints that he already has things set up to do on his own with Sweatshop Gallery and Loom.

Party Animal Style

Style is (obviously) a huge part of life for Wasserberger and Steffan. Their inspirations include such flamboyant names as Boy George, David Bowie, Vivienne Westwood, Isabella Blow, Leigh Bowery, and Anna Biaggi. “Otherwise, our style is just wear what you want,” Wasserberger says. He points to his shirt that he bought for a dollar, but his pants are Versace, no matter that he found them at Goodwill. “As long as you feel good, you’re going to look it.”

“I think that’s what it all basically comes down to,” Steffan says. “Our bodies are the medium for our art.”

“Sometimes we look really shallow, but there’s philosophy behind this,” Wasserberger says. “We know fashion history. If you make fun of us for wearing skirts, we’ll tell you that skirts were invented by men for men.”

Steffan and Wassberger at their David Bowie tribute party

Steffan and Wassberger at their David Bowie tribute party

Fortunately, Omaha has amazing thrifting, and Steffan and Wasserberger know where to find it all: The Salvation Army, Second Chance, Shop Around the Corner. “I don’t invest in fine art or other collectibles,” Steffan says. “Purchasing clothes, that’s my collection. There’s only a few things I’d pay a lot of money for, but it has to be really special.”

“If we pay $3 for most of our wardrobe,” Wasserberger explains, “then we can afford that one special item.”

Their experiments extend to hair as well. Wasserberger’s lavender hair is a result of Steffan’s experimentation with toner and fabric dyes. “Constant evolution is key,” Steffan says. “When you get stuck in the same old routine, that’s when you start feeling trapped.”

“It blows our minds when other people are like, that’s so foreign,” Wasserberger says. “Why should it be? Everyone should be constantly changing. It’s a really positive thing.”