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LOS ANGELES – Three young women, each hovering right around the spry age of 30, all recently converged upon Los Angeles, formed a bond, assessed the lesbian scene and launched a production company that has everyone talking.
Megan Pennella, Natacha Gaymer-Jones and Morgan Hildebrand created Muskaqueers Productions in June and are already preparing for their second lesbian-infused event, aptly named Thrashed in Hollywood 2, this Sunday, August 28th, 2011, at Bar Lubitsch in West Hollywood.
Their story is somewhat serendipitous.
Natacha is a vagabond of sorts, after being a slave as a youngster to her father’s career, but as an adult, she decided to plant her feet in San Diego after arriving in 2002. About a year ago, however, change was in order and she opted to pursue her digital advertising career in L.A., where she is now a director of production.
"I make cool things happen on the web," she said.
Megan graduated from Madison High School in the Clairemont neighborhood of San Diego and met Natacha about eight years ago, after they ended up as roommates and instantly became friends.
She was not far behind Natacha in her own quest for a fresh start. In fact, while battling her own career demons, Megan spent a good six months traveling back and forth, visiting Natacha on weekends, before realizing that maybe she, too, should move north.
"I decided it would be a great idea to do something new and move to the city of broken dreams," Megan said. Just last spring she made the jump and now shares a place with Natacha in West Hollywood. She quickly enrolled in video editing and graphic design classes and found a job slinging drinks to get by, when her plate suddenly began to get very full.
Morgan’s history up to this point is something like a bullet train.
A toy-design master by trade, her true fancy is making kooky videos. Two years ago while living in Chicago, Morgan somehow was able to convince Club Skirts founder Mariah Hanson of her video prowess and Hanson gave her full access at the annual week-long Palm Springs Dinah event, with the hopes of turning the end-products into promotional material.
Morgan’s over-the-top personality not only comes across on screen, but also in her methods of editing the films; she showcases her talents into quirky, sexy and fun romps with the camera. The barrage of videos she created were an instant smash with the ladies and a promotional hit for Club Skirts, so much so, that Hanson brought her back again this year.
In between the 2010 and the 2011 Dinah events, Morgan’s reputation with a video camera landed her another gig, doing weekly "SO GAY" video blogs for CherryGrrl. Just before this year’s Dinah, Morgan decided to move back to Los Angeles (her original home of record) to ride out the momentum she had been building and see what stuck.
The Dinah also just so happened to be the first trip Megan and Natacha made together as new roommies. While enjoying their lesbian-filled weekend in Palm Springs, the BFFs couldn't help but notice Morgan -- with her boundless energy, crazy hair and video camera all in tow. The trio quickly realized they all lived within a couple blocks of each other back home in L.A. and swapped digits.
Once the lesbian blow-out of the year was over, the threesome began carousing through all the lesbian events back home in L.A., together. Subconsciously, they were taking it all in; collectively, they knew they could do better, and soon Muskaqueerdom was born.
"It’s cute and it’s gay," Natacha said of their new Muskaqueer nickname.
In July, Muskaqueer Productions launched their first event. Thrashed in Hollywood is a monthly, rotating "women’s night," with a focus on live bands. The inaugural event was so successful, that today, with only that one event under their belt, this titanic trio is already a tour-de-force to be reckoned with on the Los Angeles lesbian scene.
Despite their varied backgrounds, their acquired skill sets melded together perfectly and their roles fell into place with little effort. As a triad, they complement one another and the decision-making process became a combined effort.
"I focus on finding and booking the talent,” Megan said. "Natacha books the venues and deals with the project management side of things, and Morgan is our announcer. She also designs our flyers and does some video editing."
Their concept is simple and it is proving to be a real winner.
"The idea of Thrashed is to bring live music to our venue and change the line-up monthly," Megan said. “We want a diverse crowd -- that caters to women, but makes everybody feel welcome -- men and women of all ages and sexual orientations. There are very little, if any, [clubs] out there that bring in live bands and entertainment for their nights. It's mainly go-go dancers and a DJ. We are doing something different.”
Natacha agreed. "We want to provide another alternative to women’s events in L.A. We want the music to be fresh and the vibe. Thrashed is NOT a nightclub, it’s an experience. Most lesbian clubs have DJs. We have live music, DJ’s, comedians, photo booths and live filming of the event."
The inaugural Thrashed event had over 350 paying customers and another 100 people in attendance, listening from the connecting bar. That ain’t no small potatoes.
"It was a smash hit and we were flooded with emails asking when the next one will be," Natacha said.
Morgan was equally thrilled with the attendance. "More than we expected. Line-out-the-door fabulous. The owner was bug-eyed shocked. Oh boys. He had no idea the lesbian mob that was coming."
"Our first event in July was amazing!" Megan added. "It really hit the ground running and the evening went perfect. We had two DJ's, one from San Francisco (DJ C-Lektra) and one from San Diego (DJ dirtyKURTY). We had our resident band (Love Darling) play and we also had an acoustic soloist, Megan Ochoa."
"The L.A. night life is completely different than in San Diego,” Megan continued. "There is more going on out here and more to offer women, and there is some competition, because you have a lot of motivated and hungry individuals! After all, it is LA. But competition is not a bad thing, because it keeps the scene fresh and the ideas flowing. If all these promoters were not out here making shit happen then there would be no events for woman to enjoy.”
According to Natacha, knowing when and where to find the happening events is often a challenge for the average lesbian, because being truly in on the lesbian scene in L.A. usually requires that you "know the right people."
This will no longer be the case, because that is just one of many ways the Muskaqueers are setting themselves apart and doing things differently.
There are no cliques, their operation is not underground, information about each event will be readily available, and they just want to entertain people, whoever those people happen to be. That means despite the large lesbian following, the trio is committed to the fact that if you like female-fronted bands, these events are for you. They will not discriminate.
That is a truly fresh way of doing business in this day and age.
To get the word out, they are taking full advantage of social media, as well as all the traditional methods. Hint: There is no "secret password" needed to attend.
"I post, share, and tweet about our events all day long," Natacha said. "We also do the tried-and-true method of ‘boots on the ground’ and promote with flyers at the local hangouts."
Networking is key. Friends help when they can, and workers onsite do get paid. Things are ramping up quickly and it is a lot of work with no sign of slowing down, but these ladies are up for the challenge and welcome it.
Although both Morgan and Megan are currently happily encumbered with supportive gal pals, single Natacha prefers to spend what little spare time she has left with quality friends and her devoted dog, Abbey.
If you missed the inaugural Thrashed in Hollywood event, never fear, the August event is this weekend.
This Sunday, August 28th, the Muskaqueers will be your hostesses with the mostesses, once again, for Thrashed in Hollywood 2.
Click HERE for more details.
Their Facebook event page claims that this month's event is “All about the Love,” and to prove it, opening up Sunday's show is Love Your Face (aka L.Y.F.) and the headliner is L.A. indie favorite, Love Darling, best known for the theme song to Showtime's "The Real L Word." And there will also be DJs and other activities. Check the event page for all the details.
In addition, there will be more entertainment outside, provided by Sweet Beats, a food truck with a twist, serving ice cream while DJs spin tunes on turntables installed inside, and cake pops to match from L.A. Cake Pops.
Natacha has great expectations for their sophmore event.
"The RSVP list is already at 350 and growing, we have another week, so I’m sure it’s going to hit 500 and that’s just the people who have Facebook,” she said. "We have decided to keep it at Bar Lubitsch for now, but we plan on having a festival shortly for all the bands and DJ’s who have come played."
What? More Muskaqueer events on the horizon!?
"We can't give all of our secrets away just yet," Megan said, wanting to keep a lid on all the ideas they have in store. "I will tell you this, we just announced a new ladies’ night here in L.A., called 'Fingerbang.'"
Fingerbang kicks off on Wednesday, September 21, 2011, at Fubar and will be a weekly event. DJ Alicious, of the popular CRAVE events in Portland, Oregon, will be flying down for the kick-off. Note: Fingerbang is being presented by Ladygetters Productions, an off-shoot of Muskaqueers.
So with over 350 signed up for Thrashed and close to 50 people already signed up for Fingerbang, you wonder whether there is any event these ladies can’t put together that won’t get rocking attention.
And although they may now all forget whose original idea "Muskaqueers" was in the first place, it is a safe bet that no one in Los Angeles will forget the name itself, anytime soon. These queers are here to stay.
More about those Thrashed Muskaqueers
To find out what is going on with these ladies, or to get details or previews of the future Thrashed in Hollywood events, get on their distribution list by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org, or by joining their Thrashed in Hollywood Group page on Facebook.
You can also visit their Got Thrashed website.
Watch these teaser videos, both filmed during the inaugural Thrashed in Hollywood events: