by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Staff Writer
When Seattle resident Shaun Farmer heard pop sensation Pink was coming to town, he bought his sister, Michelle Wiitanen, a pair of tickets for her birthday. On the afternoon of the September 15 show, originally booked at the WAMU Theater but moved to the larger Key Arena due to good ticket sales, the two fans got ready for the show - Michelle would go dressed as a gothic baby doll, and Shaun as his drag queen alter-ego, Eva Androgyny. Nothing out of the ordinary, they thought. People go to concerts all the time dressed in makeup.
"Earlier that day, Pink's tour security people had us make signs that read 'No Clown Makeup or Masks Allowed,'" said Key Arena Building Manager Eddie Burke.
According to Burke, she was told to post the signs because Pink "is weirded-out by clowns."
When Shaun and Michelle arrived at Key Arena, the two quickly made friends with fellow concertgoers, many of whom wanted to take pictures with the duo. Nothing was said to them by security, they did not report having seen any signs warning against clown makeup. The pair was granted admittance into the venue without any problem.
WITH PINK'S SECURITY
Shaun said two security personnel, one from Key Arena and one from Pink's tour, approached him 30 minutes after he and Michelle were let into the building. "I was told, 'You need to take off your white makeup.' They said if I didn't, I would be asked to leave," Shaun told SGN. "I told them I didn't have white makeup on; it was pale foundation with highlight on the top of my cheeks."
Security insisted he wipe the so-called white makeup off or he'd have to leave, saying they couldn't have anyone looking like a clown. When asked if he could leave the rest of the eye and lip makeup on, tour security agreed. Not wanting to miss the concert, Shaun walked to the bathroom and removed the pale makeup he used to highlight his cheeks, doing exactly as security had requested. Shaun says he blended some regular foundation on his face, so as to mask the missing makeup. He then made his way back to the front of the audience, where his sister was waiting for him.
Ten minutes later, he was told yet again to wipe off his makeup. This time, security told him to remove all his foundation.
Shaun began to feel that something very wrong was going on. He knows the difference between white makeup and foundation; he is a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence. Additionally, while calling a drag queen a clown is mean-spirited, making a drag queen wash off makeup or "get out" is plain wrong. Still, Shaun maintains he kept his calm and didn't want to get kicked out of the concert. He once more made his way to the bathroom and began to remove the makeup - only this time, he had company.
"I removed all of the foundation on my head and face," he told SGN. "A security guard came in, laughed, and said, 'Yeah, you're doing all right, man,' and left."
Determined to have a good time with his sister, Shaun made his way through the crowd and returned once more to where Michelle was. Pink's opening act, the Ting Tings, finished their set and within minutes, tour security was again demanding Shaun remove even more makeup.
"This time, they said my sister and I had to remove all makeup, including lashes and my colored contacts," Shaun said.
He reminded security that they had told him he'd already taken off the so-called clown makeup, and nobody had ever mentioned his sister before. Plus, he said, they wanted to know why. What was this all about?
Tour security told them that Pink has a problem with clowns and they'd been instructed to not allow anyone around the stage who is dressed in makeup and costume. They were given the ultimatum once more: comply or leave.
"I'D NEVER HEARD
OF ANYTHING SO RIDICULOUS"
This time, both brother and sister went to the bathroom and spent 15 minutes scrubbing their faces to remove all makeup. He said his eyes began to burn and his face felt raw because he had to use hand soap and paper towels in order to do what security demanded. Michelle emerged from the bathroom in the same condition and said she would refuse to remove any more makeup. Shaun said he asked a security guard to get the head of security so they could be inspected, so as to avoid being kicked out or told to take more makeup off. That's when the building manager, Eddie Burke, saw them.
"I asked them why they were in the hallway," Burke told SGN. "They told me security was making them take off their makeup. I could understand why they were angry. I'd never heard of anything so ridiculous. I can understand asking someone to remove a mask, but not makeup. People go to concerts dressed up all the time."
Burke said she would never tell anyone to take off his or her makeup. "I didn't get this, and I didn't like it," she said. "I personally went to the tour and told them they would have to explain themselves, because this was not the policy of Key Arena."
Fearing this may be happening to others in the audience, Burke says she put out a mandate to Key Arena security that if the tour asks them to do anything, to send that person directly to her.
Shaun says that he and Michelle remained respectful during the whole ordeal, and overheard Burke telling security, "We can't ask people to take off their makeup." At that point, Shaun said he began to cry. He said he couldn't believe they went through all of that for no reason.
Burke said she believes that Shaun and Michelle had every right to be angry. She summoned Pink's head of security and had him explain the tour's policy to them.
"I told them that making us go back and forth, approving and disapproving over and over was not right," Michelle told SGN. "We were being humiliated in front of the crowd surrounding us, and we were obviously victims of discrimination."
Shaun said he was in shock. They were told they couldn't be led back to their place in the crowd. Michelle told management that she was going to file a complaint and managed to get back to their original spot. Shaun said the crowd was forgiving because many people saw what was happening and let them pass. Pink began to perform five minutes later.
"The show was really good, but throughout it, I kept worrying about being thrown out, how I looked, and my eyes and skin burning," Shaun said. "It was hard to fully enjoy the show."
Afterward, Shaun waited until most of the crowd was gone because he didn't want to walk out in full drag without any makeup on. He said he was "embarrassed to be seen" and that Michelle gave him a pair of sunglasses to wear as they left the venue.
KEY ARENA SYMPATHETIC,
ISSUES VAGUE STATEMENT
Burke told SGN she wanted to make it clear that Key Arena does not condone discrimination. "The building does not support this," she said. "I, [representing] the building, do not have a problem with drag queen makeup. I certainly don't think drag queens are clowns."
"So many times during tours, people speak for the artists out of turn," said Burke. "I really don't think Pink knew anything about this, her security people went overboard."
Still, Shaun does not understand how something like this could happen in Seattle, a city known for its progressive values. What is even more perplexing is that Pink has droves of LGBT fans - surely Shaun isn't the first man to show up to one of her concerts dressed in drag.
Pink's management released the following statement to SGN: "For security reasons, we have had a long-standing tour policy of not permitting concertgoers to wear masks or full face paint inside a venue. Many venues also have the same policy. We work with venues to post signs advising everyone of the policy and we and the venues apply this policy on a non-discriminatory basis. Pink is and has always been a very strong supporter of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender community, and has great respect for all of her fans."
"We never got an apology that night for how we were treated," Shaun said. "We were just given excuses and sent on our way."
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