The scene isn't all that unusual: some disturbingly gorgeous exotic dancers sitting around a table at the back of the Ritz Cabaret with a few lucky local musicians. It's the topic of conversation that's unexpected. The group is engaged in a thoughtful, personal discussion about breast cancer. Dara, a Nina Hartley look-alike with pierced nipples, says her mother has been a breast cancer survivor for 20 years. Another busty blond named Brianna reveals that her mother has been in remission for two years. Scott Taylor, lead singer for the College Station band Feeding Five Thousand, mentions that his lead guitarist's mother is going through breast cancer treatment. Even publicist/band manager Stephanie Granader, the woman who put this little roundtable together, has dealt with an on-again, off-again lump in her breast since college. "It is benign, but, you know, it's reality," says Granader, now 32. "And it's something I have to live with every day."
Then again, with all this serious talk about cancer, you also wouldn't think that these people have come together to promote an event titled -- hold on, folks -- Breast Fest 2002. It's a celebration of mammaries and their many euphemisms ("Breasts are good. We need them," says the press release), but it's also a reminder of how breast cancer affects women of all ages. "Women, all women, have to deal with breast cancer at some time or another," says Granader.
The idea for a breast cancer benefit came about when local concert promoters SFX called on Granader to fill up the Engine Room on a Sunday night. Granader invited several bands she's promoting to perform, including the aforementioned Feeding Five Thousand, Austin's Endochine, Westbury Squares, the Pander Band and Ashbury Keys. ("They're all supporting the breasts," says Granader.) Needless to say, the artists couldn't be happier to lend a hand -- or two. Feeding Five Thousand keyboardist/violinist Aaron Brown believes that of all the bands on the bill, his group "enjoys breasts the most." But Ashbury lead man David Keys gives him a run for his money: "I'd play anything for breasts, for free, forever We're doing the mammograms after the concert."
While the proceeds from this show will go to the Susan G. Komen foundation for breast cancer research and treatment, the event is far from somber. Granader says all exotic dancers, along with waitresses who work at gentlemen's clubs, get in free -- to lend the fest some, shall we say, buoyancy. "I come from a television background," says the Emmy-winning (seriously, she's actually won an Emmy) Granader. "Sex sells, and you know, if there are beautiful women, hopefully men will come." Unfortunately nine-to-five gals can only get half-price admission. "Like, I would have to pay!" Granader jokes.
But even with the possibility of table dances, the spectators at Breast Fest 2002 shouldn't lose sight of why they're there. Says Granader, "Breast cancer used to be your mother's disease, now it's your daughter's disease also."