That all came to a screeching halt just 24 hours after we published our interview.
An anonymous caller called the fire chief in Madrid, saying that the Engine House Theater was not up to fire code. Of course it wasn't up to code – the building dated back to Madrid's coal mining days (it really was an engine house for the 100+ year old steam locomotive that sits right outside), and had barely been touched, structurally at least, in the last 25 years, except to add a storage area and dressing room to the backstage. Sleam had managed to get the theater's house insulated for the first time ever, and put in a little heater as well. Things were on the up-and-up.
Sleam's Sexy Solstice Cabaret show on Dec. 17 managed to get off the ground after a brief and terse meeting with the fire chief, but any other operations in the theater were suspended until further notice. This included the solo vaudeville show that Sleam had been looking forward to presenting there in January.
The question on many peoples' lips is: Why this, why now? Cliff Cato, who owned the Mine Shaft Tavern and the Engine House Theater for 25 years prior to Lindsey's acquisition in Jan. 2007 [full discosure: Cato is a friend of the author's], says that he never had any run-ins with the powers that be during his tenure there.
“Never, in 25 years, did the Fire Marshall give us an occupancy load for the [Mine Shaft Tavern] or give us any grief about the theater,” Cato (pictured at left with the author - there's yer disclosure right there) says in an email. “That was even during the time that two very strict volunteer Fire Chiefs here in Madrid were in charge.” As far as who would be cranky enough to call and tattle on the Engine House Theater, Cato hypothesizes, “I don't doubt that it was one of the ex-Chiefs that called the County Fire Dept. to complain. They have been getting to be a couple of ‘old maids' in their advancing years.”
A lot changed when Cato and his co-owner, wife Ede, sold the Tavern; but many would say most of it's for the better. There are certainly a lot of grumbles from multi-decade Tavern regulars who are now asked to check in at a hostess station, but other than that, things seem pretty good. Cato also supposes that the fire chiefs “probably knew they would not get away with that as long as we were running the operation.” Indeed, if you rank high enough in the social ladder in Madrid, seems the law can pass you by. It is the Wild West, after all.
Sleam and the Tavern's owners, who declined comment on this issue, are now reportedly waiting on about $10,000 to renovate the theater. ‘Til then, Sleam has been booking venues across the Southwest for her own performance, "What Am I Doing Here?", a one-woman vaudeville show.
The show got off the ground on Saturday, Feb. 21 at the Mine Shaft Tavern, featuring Sleam in all her glory acting as Mabel the stuffy prudish lecturer, K. Suave the magician, and as herself. Juggling, mind-reading, storytelling, lip-synching, drag and all kinds of good stuff were incorporated into a show that had the audience smiling and laughing. The show will be touring the Southwest, with a performance in Santa Fe in April (details to follow).
Besides, how could you resist something like this? (This is Mabel lecturing on the finer points of burlesque, by the way.)