I was very intrigued recently to read about a lady called Suelynn Gustafson, mainly because this woman brings an entirely new slant to some of what we think we know about our beloved Goth culture. The oft-repeated 'history of Goth' tells us that whilst versions of the Goth 'worldview' and aesthetic have been around in many different incarnations for centuries, Goth as we know it today wouldn't really exist if it hadn't been for the development of post-punk and Goth rock in the 70s and 80s.
But roughly fifty years before Goth culture was 'invented', Ms. Gustafson was already, well, pretty damn Goth.
Suelynn is well-known in her hometown of Denver as the owner of Flossy McGrew's, a creepy shop stocking vintage clothing, costumes and assorted oddities (described in online reviews as 'the store to hit up if you need to wear something awful, something ugly or something awfully ugly', and unsurprisingly very popular in the month of October) and recogniseable by the entrance alone, which is adorned with skulls and spiderwebs 365 days a year.
Her fascination and delight with all things spooky and macabre began in her childhood; she began collecting funeral cards at the age of ten, and now at the age of seventy (or sixty-four, depending on your source!) sports a predominantly black wardrobe and a tumbling mass of pink curls.
She has recently been the subject of a documentary by Deborah Heistand entitled Grandma Goth, which screened on 9th April at Denver's Oriental Theater.
|Image: Christopher Lloyd|
Her starring role in the documentary led to another collaboration with Heistand, this time in a film entitled Flowers for a Funeral, in which she plays a mother figure to a suicidal young Goth girl.
Reading about this godmother of Goth culture, I was reminded of the first fictional work penned by infamous Goth writer Mick Mercer (author of such invaluable references as 21st Century Goth and Music To Die For). The Old Lady Who Invented Goth is a self-published novel about a woman named Hermione, who, 100 years ago, took it upon herself to begin diligently crafting the foundations of what, through the years, became Goth culture as we know it today.Her creativity came to fruition in the 1980s, the pinnacle of Goth, when Hermione herself was an old lady.
I was also interested in this living proof that the worldview of Goth - a taste for morbidity, darkness, and finding beauty in the odd and the macabre - would, and did, exist regardless of the music that today gives Goth culture a common thread and a name for its community. Of course, music does play a large part in our subculture, but I found it intriguing and not a little inspiring that perhaps there really is more to Goth than a shared love of a particular music genre.
What are your thoughts on this?