Not every hostess is an icy-eyed dominatrix ࠬa that Stewart wench, dispatching servants with detached precision while fixing her frosted coif in the reflection of the tinsel. Take Canadian songbird Carolyn Mark, for instance. Butter might not melt in Martha's mouth, but it evaporates instantly on Carolyn's sassy, sizzling tongue. The self-appointed "Lucille Ball of Country" is one gal who knows how to entertain both on and off stage, as demonstrated by her all-too-infrequent Seattle appearances and her CD Party Girl (on Vancouver's Mint Records), which features smashing country- and rockabilly-infused ditties like "Don't Come Over Baby" and "Not Another Other Woman."
Looking for last-minute gift ideas? Here's a couple: The Other Women by the Corn Sisters (just out on Mint) documents a performance by Carolyn and fellow hell-raiser Neko Case, tearing it up on Nick Lowe and Louvin Brothers numbers, plus a handful by the ladies themselves at an intimate gig recorded at Hattie's Hat a few years back. Or sniff out a copy of the 7-inch It's A Team Mint Xmas, Vol. 1, which features Carolyn's dubious "Christmas Song" (definitely not the Mel Torm頣hestnut) alongside Yuletide tunes by Duotang, the Evaporators, Dave & Megan (featuring the Smugglers' David Carswell), and Thee Snowglobe-lins (Thee Goblins' elfin alias).
In a tizzy over how to weather the rigors of holiday gatherings, we rang Carolyn up to glean the entertaining secrets that have made her "never-ending house parties" the toast of Victoria, BC. She graciously took a break from whipping up a batch of potato-leek soup (while memorizing lyrics for a last-minute guest slot with Fred Eaglesmith that evening) to share her wisdom.
What do you do chez Mark to get into the holiday spirit?
Burn the furniture. [Laughter] Human sacrifice in the living room. No . . . I think we're going to have a Boxing Day party.
We don't celebrate that here. Are there any special Boxing Day traditions?
Well, last year, this girl Ingrid marinated all these plums in vodka for a month. She ate three of them and puked out of the car the next morning, and her boyfriend called her Heave Plum. That was good.
What kind of hostess are you? Do you put a lot of effort into entertaining, or do you just throw open the front door?
My mother is still a very full-on hostess. If I bring someone home, after three seconds she's like, "You haven't shown them where the towels are!" and you have to show them where the towels are. And do you know where the towels are? In the bathroom. Anyone would know that! It makes people uncomfortable, I find. So I'm a very casual hostess: "Come in, help yourself to anything. I'll be upstairs."
Do you like to get dressed up?
Yes, I do—and all my clothes got stolen in Toronto on the last tour.
So have you been replenishing your wardrobe?
I've only managed to get one [party dress] in Toronto. It's this peach-colored, quilted, Lesley Gore number. People keep coming up to me after shows and going, "Who designed that, Sealy Posturepedic?" It's kind of pathetic. I need to get some new gowns.
Do you have specialty drinks you like to serve to company?
Mint juleps in the summer. And then I like a good espresso martini; it's like cocaine for poor people. It's espresso, vodka, and cr譥 de cacao, shaken over ice and served with one bean in the bottom. They're really good. You get really impassioned, but you can't remember what you're talking about.
Do you put out snacks, or does that just interfere with alcohol absorption?
Two days ago, me and Neko had a party together, and her boyfriend made all the snacks. But our friends are kind of heathens, so [the snacks wound up] in the carpet . . . his beautiful New Orleans party snacks were everywhere the next day.
Who's the bigger party girl, you or Neko?
Speaking of Lesley Gore, do you have any favorite songs about parties?
Hmm . . . you know that song "Shrimp boats is comin'/There's dancin' tonight"? I like that one. And I rented this movie called Party Girl with Cyd Charisse, which has a good opening song called "Party Girl."
I love Cyd Charisse.
Her legs are lovely.
I was worried when you said you rented a movie called Party Girl . . .
Oh, I rented the Parker Posey movie, too, which was quite upsetting. I really like her—I'll see anything with her in it. But [that scene] when she has to stay up all night and memorize the Dewey decimal system? That was a little unrealistic. If you rent a movie called Party Girl, you don't necessarily want to see someone having to memorize the Dewey decimal system.
Please help Carolyn pay her heating bill by shopping at the Mint Records Web site, www.mintrecs.com.