Today we’re talking to Erick and Kiko from Bearded Lady Vintage & Oddities, a wonderful and unique shop in Burbank, CA that sells unusual items and artifacts from the past. I stumbled across it a couple of weeks ago after having a nice lunch down the street with my friend, Chris Easterly, a fellow screenwriter. Incidentally, the coffee house where we ate, Romancing The Bean, has delicious food and a very friendly staff. Ask for Ben when you visit.
But I digress. As I was saying, Chris and I stumbled into the Bearded Lady. A friendly DISEMBODIED VOICE greeted us, which was actually the perfect way to enter this particular store, as it intensified the mystery and drama that unfolded as we beheld the Bearded Lady. It took a moment for us to realize that the VOICE was coming from KIKO, who stood behind the counter on the other side of the door. We responded in kind and thus began our journey into a microcosmic wonder of antique Ouja boards, creepy shadowbox tableaus, Victorian coffins, and old posters from B-movies, all with a running soundtrack of carnival music from a bygone era. As the perfect Masters of Ceremony, I imagine that Kiko and Erick occasionally wear top hats and capes. Without further ado, I give you… THE BEARDED LADY!
GOS: Thank you for taking the time to share your story with us. First of all, tell us a little bit about yourselves and what you did before Bearded Lady Vintage came into being.
BL: My name is Kyrsten Akiko Bailey but everyone calls me Kiko. I co-own the shop with Erick Wessel. We are a couple and have been together for nearly 6 years. Before the shop, I was waitressing at Hard Rock Cafe and I was also working full time at Kat Von D’s Wonderland Gallery. I was working nearly 60 hours plus every week with no days off. It was just what I had to do and did not see an end to it. It was a constant repetition from one job to the next. I loved everyone I worked with but it was miserable. I wanted to do something for myself but clearly did not have the time. Erick was working as a chef at a restaurant in Sherman Oaks. We never saw each other even though we lived together.
BEARDED LADY VINTAGE IS BORN
GOS: How was the Bearded Lady born? Was there any special inspiration?
BL: Bearded Lady was born on absolute spontaneity. It was a time to do something for ourselves. We had to jump or we’d never know what may have been. We didn’t have a ton of money to start the business. We didn’t even have a real plan or even merchandise for the store. From the moment we had the idea to open a store we had the doors open within one month!! We pulled it together that fast! We saw so many of our friends succeed at what they enjoyed doing, that we too became inspired and knew we couldn’t fail if we were doing something we love. So we took the leap and never looked back. It was scary but felt right. Two years later I know that was the best decision we made! We have grown so much! In fact, our first year of being open, we won Best of LA people’s choice for antique shop! I just want people to know you can’t wait till you “feel ready”. You will never be. You just have to do it. Everything always falls into place.
GOS: Who sources the items that you sell and where do you find them?
BL: Honestly, somehow we just get real lucky. We do all of the work. We’re always searching, but in the end the items find us.
GOS: What are your favorite items?
BL: Dolls, corsets, books, and medical equipment. The Bearded Lady really has it all! I personally love the antique mourning jewelry that we have. To know someone carried that lock of hair or wore that necklace made from their loved one’s hair as a keepsake after they have died, it’s just so bitter sweet. It does sadden me that it has been passed down over the years and is now in a shop. Things like that hold so much meaning and memories that we will never know. I also love the antique postmortem photos that we have. Some people find it disturbing but in actuality it’s a beautiful thing! That was a persons one last chance to capture an image of their loved one. They would have rather had a photo of them in death than nothing at all. Photography was made available in the late 1830s. It was expensive and in no way near as accessible as it is today.
GOS: I agree with you 100% about the post mortem (memento mori) photographs, Kiko. You also mentioned that some of the things that have been in the shop have had some sort of spirit or energy attached with them. Can you tell us a little bit about that?
BL: We’ve had many items in the store that hold spirit attachment. I love it! We’ve once had a portrait of a woman with a pagan pendant on her collar from the 1800s here. She was given to us from a friend who became scared because they started hearing voices coming from the portrait. On the backside of this portrait are some words written in Swedish. Translated to English, they say, “Do not touch! Look from afar!” Although it’s a warning to take caution, I never felt threatened. The woman in the portrait had a great positive and protective energy about her. We actually had some mediums come in to the shop who knew nothing of the “haunted” portrait, but they instantly felt her strong presence and told us that she said to tell us she likes it in our store. We actually received that same message on a different occasion from a friend who also communicates with spirits! This item was by far was my favorite to have in the store. We had her for quite some time till one day a customer truly couldn’t leave without her. I was hesitant, for I knew I had become attached, but of course I had to let go. A few months later, I heard a woman’s voice late at night in the room she once was in, and knew that very moment it was the woman from the portrait. We’ve also had other items with a spirit attached. We had a doctor’s bag from the mid 1800s which also had a male spirit attached. We played the ouija board one night and asked, “Who is here?” The planchette moved instantly and spelled out “doctor”.
GOS: What has been the most unusual item you’ve had in the store?
BL: That’s a tough question but the first thing that comes to mind as the most unusual item we had is a vintage taxidermy piece called The Louisiana Swamp Monster. It’s a goat’s behind flipped over. The nipples posed as the horns, and your imagination can visualize the rest. The added touch was a pair of large googly eyes! It was quite the conversation piece! Funny thing is, the writer from our favorite tv show, Supernatural, just so happened to buy it. Now it’s in his office! Ha!
GOS: Since you’re so close to Hollywood and Warner Brothers Studios, I’m sure you get a lot of customers from the movie industry looking for props for their films. Do you know of anything you’ve sold making it into a movie?
BL: We get a lot of props designers in our shop. They love us! We sell to American Horror Story, Paranormal Activity 5, Faceoff, and Aquarius to name a few. We also get people from Disney here all the time! We have something for everyone! We sell a lot of books on the paranormal and urban legends. Come to find out, a writer from the TV show Supernatural has used the books he bought here as a reference when writing the episodes! Feels pretty cool that it basically all starts here! Thanks again, Brijit, for this opportunity! It was so nice meet you! Hope you stop by for a visit soon!
GOS: Absolutely! I’m planning on another visit the next time I’m in Burbank!
PS… Check out the trailer for Devil’s Hollow, an upcoming movie from my friend, Chris Easterly!
Heretic: The Life and Death of Akhenaten by Bijit Reed is available on Amazon.com. You can read the first chapter free or “look inside”. It’s available to buy in paperback and Kindle. Click on the link: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B009H6R8GC