Tag Archives: styling

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.”

Review: Dry Shampoo

August 16, 2013 by

When I had my first baby last year, I quickly realized the luxury of spending 30 minutes blow-drying and styling my hair was a thing of the past, since getting in a daily shower was proving to be a struggle. So I went on the hunt for a dry shampoo that could cut down my morning routine. I tried a few different brands from the drugstore and salon, but many left a visible white powder on my dark hair or had a strange texture.

Finally, I found Big Sexy Hair Volumizing Dry Shampoo and now swear by this. My stylist is actually hooked, too! It soaks up the grease, plus it adds tons of volume and texture. The smell is strong at first, like hairspray, but doesn’t linger.

For best results, I first spray my roots with a bit of water and then a light spray of the product. A fast blow-dry and I’m good to go. I’m able to go two to three days between washes, which has helped keep my hair healthier than when I was washing it daily. It works great on post-gym hair, too. The size of the product may seem small for the price, but it lasts about two months when used three times a week.

Next time you’re in a hurry, give ‘dry’ a try. You just might get hooked as well.

Judi Wendt

December 25, 2012 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

Lady Gaga’s elaborately decorated fingernails get their own close-up barely 20 seconds into her 2011 “Yoü and I” music video. Her adorned hands are a focal point in wider shots throughout the six-plus-minute video featuring the artist as multiple characters, including a mermaid, cyborg, nymph and bride; in one cutaway, she even spits out a nail. All 10 Lady fingers were the handiwork of nail technician Judi Wendt of Rêvé Salon & Spa in Rockbrook Village, who says this video shoot was simultaneously the most challenging, exhausting, and exhilarating project in her 20-year career.

“They [called and] said, ‘You’re going to do a shoot with Lady Gaga’ and I about wrecked my car!” Wendt said.

Because the song was inspired by the singer’s relationship with Nebraskan Lüc Carl, the video was filmed near Springfield in July of 2011. Lady Gaga called in Marian Newman, described by Wendt as “the Rachel Zoe of the nail world” who then sought a local specialist to assist her, on one condition: she must have experience in a new nail technique called Minx. Wendt not only was one of the rare nail technicians in the area with Minx expertise at the time, she had actually been in the first training class ever offered by the Minx creators. Already a fan of Lady Gaga, Wendt didn’t hesitate to accept the project, even though it meant rescheduling 43 appointments.

“It was very hush-hush…I told my clients ‘It’s really cool, and you’re going to be very excited when I can tell you what it is,’” she recalls.

“They [called and] said, ‘You’re going to do a shoot with Lady Gaga’ and I about wrecked my car!”

The action on location was fast and furious with Wendt logging 42 hours in just three days, and the nail designs were developed right on set.

“I had nails in my pockets at all times, and I wore a tool belt that had been designed by Marian for things like this. You run in and out, and you’re on the floor, searching in the hay; it’s crazy,” Wendt says. “She brought cases and cases of rivets and nails and all these metal pieces, and thousands of polishes, tips and Gelites, and all this stuff.”

Although she admits to having a few “My God, that’s Lady Gaga!” moments, Wendt says working with the superstar was overwhelmingly positive.

“She was ultra-gracious and super-professional. Intense, but not in a bitchy way, just very drawn into what she was doing,” she says.

19 November 2012- Judi Wendt is photographed at her home for Omaha Magazine.

The Marian Newman connection led Wendt to a New York Fashion Week gig this fall, styling nails for six shows by various designers. Although she may return to future Fashion Weeks and has discussed European opportunities with Newman, Wendt says her husband and two sons, ages 10 and 14, and the family’s involvement with their activities will keep her anchored to Nebraska for now.

Surprisingly, Wendt’s career stemmed from a part-time job she stumbled into during her college years.

“This all developed along the way. I don’t think I ever realized that I had an artistic niche…I never wanted to do hair or nails. I have a business degree from UNO,” she says, adding that both her education and a bit of luck helped her become successful in the increasingly competitive nail industry. Wendt says she enjoys her loyal clientele, including several families now in the second and even third generations, and the creative outlet that doing nails, “an extension of fashion,” provides.

“One of the reasons I love this business,” she says, “is that it’s never the same.”