White Ghost Shivers' Naughty Vaudeville Returns to the Duck
The White Ghost Shivers at Antone's in Austin
Photos by Richard McBlane
If the recently retired Asylum Street Spankers were "God's Favorite Band," their fellow Austinites White Ghost Shivers are more like friends of the devil. Or most likely to violate some Blue Law somewhere. They're naughty, but nice.
The seven-piece Shivers can't be onstage without you looking around for some Snidely Whiplash character twirling his handlebar mustache somewhere nearby, but then a seven-foot-tall, eyelash-thin front man (Westin "Shorty" Borghese) and Kewpie-doll flapper diva (Cella Blue) in your band will do that. The other five Shivers back them up with a hard-driving blend of blues, ragtime, Dixieland and Tin Pan Alley just begging for a captain of industry in top hat and tails to shower the band with $100 bills.
In about a decade, the six-piece Shivers and their R-rated vaudeville (or "Bawdville") have won four Austin Music Awards, released four albums (most recently last year's Nobody Loves You Like We Do), and a created a Halloween Ball that is a red-letter day on the social calendar of Austin miscreants and misfits, as documented on the DVD 2006 Flim Flam Follies: Hallowe'en Ball at the Oaks.
They've also stealthily cultivated a Houston following who enjoys such saucy shenanigans, and this weekend convinced McGonigel's Mucky Duck to give them not one but two sets Saturday night (through perhaps nefarious means). Just don't look for them on a certain NBC summer talent show.
We spoke with Borghese, who takes the stage name "Shorty Borgasm," and Cella Blue separately by email earlier this week.
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Rocks Off: How was last year's Halloween Ball?
Cella Blue: Sweaty and Blue... like any true ball should be.
RO: "Sweet Banana" isn't about a potassium-rich fruit that grows in tropical climates, is it?
CB: Why Mr. Gray, what exactly do you mean? Please explain your question with visual aids.
RO: How is the lovely Miss Cella Blue these days?
CB: Thank you for asking. Doing well and staying busy with the always entertaining WGS - expanding our markets and audiences to bring our brand of infectious "feel-good" to as many as possible, my little-known teaching career and also launching a clothing/hat/accessory store on Etsy called "Beekeeper at Night" by Cella Blue... Very exciting. And you? [can't complain - ed.]
RO: Has anyone in the band ever actually drank bathtub gin?
CB: Yes... Kansas -- Lawrence, wasn't it?
Westen "Shorty" Borghesi: I don't know for sure, but just knowing everyone in the band and the places we've come from, I'm just going with yes.
RO: Is "Murder in the Big Top" from Nobody Loves You based on a true story?
WB: It is, regretfully. When I was a kid, I went to the Circus and someone had slipped some LSD into my soda. The lyrics to "Big Top" are basically a description of what had happened once it kicked in, or, at least what I thought had happened. I still can't go to the Circus without at least eating some mushrooms first - just isn't as fun otherwise.
RO: Have you ever heard of a Houston band called Sideshow Tramps? You should totally tour with them.
WB: Yes! I heard their CD about three years ago while working at Big Top Candy Shop (strange coincidence, I know). Also, I'm pretty sure we share a lot of the same friends.
RO: What are you allowed to say about the Shivers' America's Got Talent audition, if anything?
WB: Well, now that the Austin portion has come and gone, I think we can safely say that we did not advance in the show. In fact, I think it's safe to say that they hated us, which is what we expected.
Honestly, we just thought it would be a silly gag for us and our friends and fans. Basically, they thought we were good at what we did, but they didn't like us at all. Howard hated us, Sharon thought we were too "Broadway," and Howie agreed.
RO: What would it take for someone in the Shivers to grow a handlebar mustache?
WB: Not much, I just had one for quite a while up until about a month ago. I had to shave it for an Abe Lincoln gig. It will be back soon though, probably for the winter.
RO: Several songs on the new record brush up against church folk gone bad. Why is temptation such an attractive subject for the Shivers?
WB: Well, if temptation wasn't so damned purty, we wouldn't be so attracted to her!
RO: How did you convince the Duck to give you two sets this time?
WB: Firearms go a long way, my friend.
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