Designer for Hire

Diary of a topless gal

When this journalist decided to undress in the name of feminism, it became a story of power, love and a fair amount of Prosecco.  By Gillian Drummond


Liora K, left, and Jes Baker give each other some love at the second annual 'Expose'. Photo courtesy of Liora K Photography.

The invitation came via Facebook one evening: Would I join 100 or so other women to pose topless in black underwear?

I didn't need much persuasion - only the names attached to the event. These were Jes M Baker and Liora K, body positive blogger and photographer respectively, and together a pair that is giving feminism, sizeism and girl power an almighty kick up the backside. Their mission: the second annual 'Expose' photo shoot, one that would be shared with the world via social media. Last year they gathered a crowd of women in white undies for a shoot to celebrate all body sizes. This year the undies would be black.

Jes and Liora fascinated me, with their feminist derring-do, their creativity, their following, and their media presence. (One entry from Jes on her blog, The Militant Baker, can lead to a Huffington Post or CNN headline; a post on her Facebook page can get tens of thousands of likes.)  DSC_2622-400x266

I had been following this pair's work for some time, and reporting some of it in 3 Story. Jes's Smash The Scale project encouraged women to start off their New Year doing just that. In Lustworthy, Liora photographed a series of mock perfume ads showing the plus-sized Jes posing seductively with a hunky and regular-sized male model.

And then there was the set of photos that first gained them worldwide media attention: Attractive & Fat, a great big public poke at Abercrombie & Fitch and sizeist comments made by its CEO Mike Jeffries. They featured Jes and another regular-sized male model publicly challenging the assertion that attractive and fat are incompatible, with Liora once more behind the lens.

militant baker logo

Jes Baker's blog receives 300,000 to 600,000 hits a month.

So anyway, back to that evening. What was I thinking when I clicked 'Join' on the Facebook event? Two things: 1. that this would be a great story; and 2. my journo's appetite aside, that it was time for me to support Jes and Liora's efforts as well as writing about them.

I shared the flyer on my own Facebook page with the words, 'Tucson gal pals, I feel we must... Whaddaya think?" Then a funny thing happened: nothing. Not one like, nor comment, nor share. Certainly no commitments to get almost-naked and join me. My Facebook world went eerily quiet.

No matter. By then I was all in. I told my husband and kids. Hubby was cool with it and called me brave. The seven-year-old just giggled: "You're doing what?"  The teen got straight to the point: "Mom, you can't. Your boobs hang down to your waist." And that, right there, was incentive enough.

Still, the reality was now setting in. Here's what went through my mind: Thought #1: It's only two weeks away. Oh shit, that doesn't give me much time to lose weight. Thought #2: You silly cow, Gillian, the whole point is you don't have to look perfect. It's a love-your-body event. Thought #3: Help! I don't love my body. I really don't. Wtf have I done?

I am Scottish. I was raised Presbyterian. We liked our clothes, and our modesty. I was a chubby kid, and weight issues followed me into adulthood. So for me to get naked, do it in public, and actually celebrate it, was a big ask.

Apparently I wasn't the only one thinking that way. My Facebook post remained untouched and ignored - no likes, no comments. It was a digital tumbleweed moment. And then I was having cocktails with a business acquaintance and new pal and happened to mention my forthcoming stripping-off. "I'm in,' said C. "I'll do it with you." Cue Thought #4: I am only just becoming friendly with this woman, and yet on Sunday we will disrobe together.

I determined that alcohol would help. An hour before the shoot, C and I opened a bottle of Prosecco. We got to Tucson's Maker House feeling buzzed, and the party was starting - the bar busy, the room hot and noisy and excited. We downed another two glasses of bubbly. And then we ordered a bottle.


Liora K, the photographer behind the 'Expose' photo shoots. Photo by Purple Nickel Studio.

Liora explained that with so many people and not a lot of time, she'd be whizzing through the portraits. When it came to our turn to pose, we should tell her straight away whether we planned to remain anonymous and not show our faces, she said. C and I had already agreed to remain anonymous. We figured that showing our boobs and bodies was one thing, but we weren't ready to be identified to the world.

Jes gave us all a pep talk, reiterating that this was a positive space. We shouldn't be down on ourselves, and we should be only upbeat in our comments about our bodies. It was also a safe place. (For that reason I was banned from interviewing anyone for this article, or from publishing anyone's photos - scroll down for the links to those.) And with that, Liora and Jes whipped off their tank tops and encouraged us to do the same.


Photo courtesy of Liora K Photography,

I tell my daughter all the time: "People come in all shapes and sizes." And I wish she had been there to witness how true this statement was that summer afternoon in Tucson. There were big boobs, little boobs, hardly any boobs, pregnant boobs. Pregnant bellies, Caesarean scars, other scars. Briefs, thongs, boy shorts, high-waisted Spanx affairs, and some undies removed altogether. There was a ton of ink - to the point where my tattoo-less body felt almost rebellious.

As each woman took her turn to pose, Liora gave a few suggestions: stand sideways, turn around and show your bum, stick it in the air, ruffle your hair, make like you're a body builder with strong arms. I was in awe of the women who strode up there all ready to roll - grinning, posing, provocative, strong. It helped that the crowd cheered and whooped. Then again, that in itself was nerve-wracking. I had imagined that Liora would shoot in a corner of the room, out of sight of the others. But the photography took part on a makeshift stage front and center of the room, with everyone's eyes on the subjects. C and I looked at each other, panicked. "What do we do up there?" I kept asking her. And we drank some more, putting off our turn.

Then, at some juncture, Liora turned around and nobody was lining up to pose. The initial rush had died down. 'Who's next?" she shouted. I grabbed C's hand and led us both up there. The next 30 seconds (because that was all it took) was a blur of laughs, grins, a few hasty, silly poses and - crucially - a great wave of cheers and applause from the crowd as the two of us posed together.

It was a high all in its own category. But there was a problem: not one of our poses was anonymous. In the heat of the moment, we hadn't told Liora to obscure our faces. "You realize we didn't..." I started to say to C. She nodded and said, "It's OK." And it was. Standing up there, we'd both realized that there was no point in doing all of this and not showing our faces.


Jes Baker, body positive advocate and inspiration to millions who follow her blog, The Militant Baker. Photo courtesy of Impulse Nine Media.

The few hours I spent there were electric and empowering and funny and sincere and loving and sore and very, very emotional. One woman had brought along her infant. I held him to me, skin on skin, for the longest time. I realized how much I missed breast-feeding, smelling and loving on my babies and their nakedness against mine all these years ago.

We women admired each other's underwear and hair. We oohed over tattoos. We laughed a lot. Some wept. The cheers were deafening as Jes led one or two who were shaking with fear and tears, and posed alongside them. As Liora said afterwards: "It's really intense, like very very raw inside out type stuff."

It also felt subversive, conspiratorial. Out on the street afterwards, fully clothed again, we strangers were smiling at each other knowingly. We were bonded, like a female Fight Club. Except without the violence, only love. What Jes calls body love.


"It felt subversive, conspiratorial... We were bonded, like a female Fight Club." Photo courtesy of Twentieth Century Fox Studios.

But wait, there is a Post Script to this. As Liora emailed us our photos for a sneak peek, we returned to that same Facebook page - a closed, private group, only open to those who took part - to share our feelings. Tears surfaced again for some as they shared their picture with the rest of the group. Yes, there were tales of feeling bold, newly confident, liberated, loved. But there were many stories of anxiety and self-doubt. One woman regretted having done the shoot. A couple of them said they hated the end result, but were glad to have had the experience. Even the mighty Jes Baker, who has had images of her flesh published worldwide, admitted to a moment of pause when it came to sharing her own naked photo - one of her most candid to date.

Me? I like my photos, and force myself not to pick them apart or dwell on the cellulite. I'm proud I took part, and I feel I'm walking taller as a result. But I'm nervous about the world's media seeing my exposed body on Jes's blog and beyond. Tellingly, I haven't told my parents I did it.

And the experience took its toll. I was exhausted, emotionally spent. I also comfort-ate carbs and sugar for days afterwards. Still burying stuff. Still, truth be told, uncomfortable with baring all.

But there will be a next time. I'm already thinking about my next pose.

* To see the photos from the second annual 'Expose' photo shoot, visit Jes Baker's blog, The Militant Baker. You can also read about it on Liora K's blog.

* Read more about Jes in our award-winning article, The F Word. And check out our 3 Story profile on Liora here.

* In the mood for some more body love? Read photographer Jade Beall's Mother's Day letter to herself: "It's glorious feeling comfortable in my skin."

Dear Tucson...


Each issue we link up with Rachel Miller's Love Letters to Tucson blog for a letter from a Tucson inhabitant about why they love this fair city. This month: Victoria and Raul were skeptical of moving to Arizona, but Tucson won their hearts. Photos by Rachel Miller.


Dear Tucson,

When we heard we were moving to the old pueblo we were angry. Livid. All we knew of you was that you were located in Arizona, the most dreaded of the red states, with pink underwear clad prisoners and bigoted laws towards immigrants. But we had no choice; it's where work was sending us. So rather than wallow, we Googled you. What is there to do in Tucson, we asked. And the Internet answered: there is roller derby, a museum fashioned after a zoo, and one of the largest arrays of telescopes in the world. There is desert and mountains and 360 days of sunshine. There is climbing and hiking, go-kart racing and skydiving. There are monsoons, saguaros, and gila monsters. There is even an Air Force base, a major university, and thousands of proud local businesses. We were placated; we figured we could make it work.

And then we arrived: it was May, it was hot, and there was no one here. There were tumbleweeds blowing down Congress, stragglers on 4th avenue, and jobs were hard to find. But there was sunshine and mountains and AC. We found a small apartment in downtown Tucson and set about exploring our new home.

victoriaraul2 We found a extraordinarily cool place, filled with amazing, kind people, incredible, tasty restaurants, and weird plants. We found adventure everywhere we looked, with plenty of new things to try and new places to visit. And although we were initially skeptical, we've since built a home here. And we love it.

We love the sunshine, the haboobs, and the monsoons.
We love the mountains and the desert.
We love biking through town and hiking up Aspen Trail.
We love the mosaics, murals and street art.
We love the lizards, stray cats, and terrifyingly large spiders.
We love the carne asada, the cookouts, and the pools.
We love how close you are to the border, to wine country, to the Grand Canyon.
We love the star filled sky and the sunsets. Oh the sunsets!
We love "keep Tucson kind/shitty", "Bear Down", and "Free Baja AZ".

Thank you Tucson -- you will forever be in our hearts as our first home together, our oasis in the desert, our little slice of sunshine.

Vic & Raul

Victoria and Raul moved to Tucson two years ago when work brought them kicking and screaming to the Old Pueblo. What they found delighted them. They met Rachel down at Broadway and Stone close to Ben's Bells on Thursday evening and exchanged thoughts on downtown restaurants, pizza and cocktails. Victoria blogs at I scream for Sunshine where she writes about travel, food and life.

* Want to contribute to Love Letters to Tucson? More info here.


Ground Floor

 brought to you by

boxhill logo

Print Every issue, landscape designer Darbi Davis digs deep to bring you stories for your outdoor space. This month: how to love your bugs. Plus: cool product picks from Boxhill.

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

Darbi Davis. Photo by Jen Long Photography

For desert dwellers, the bloody hell of summer is marked by songs of the cicada and a menagerie of insects ready to devour your monsoon bloomers and arid edibles. While insects are inevitable during this time, powders and potions in the form of pesticides are often unnecessary – and rid the good with the bad from the soil to the stems.

Ignite your inner insectophile by implementing some basic integrated pest management to help battle the pesky buggers. Dr. Paul Bessey, a former professor of horticulture at the University of Arizona and host of a weekly plant clinic at Tucson Botanical Gardens, recommends that you “get to know which bugs are 'good' and which are 'bad'.  Most of the time, a couple of bad bugs aren't going to destroy your garden." Similarly, MarciBeth Phillips, director of education and sales manager at Arbico Organics, says: "Don't kill an insect until you know what it is."

Thankfully, Tucson is home to the University of Arizona’s Department of Entomology (host of the annual Arizona Insect Festival) and Arbico Organics, a natural pest control company where you can actually buy the good guys to release in your hard. Together they are an excellent resource for bad bug identification and good bug introduction.

Photo by Gillian Drummond

Get to you know your bugs, says Dr. Paul Bessey. Photo by Gillian Drummond

Below are three characters that everyone should consider before spritzing that chemical-filled sprayer:

The Chic Bohemian

Photo courtesy of ARBICO Organics

The Green Lacewing. Photo courtesy of ARBICO Organics

The Green Lacewing is a generalist and works wonders in our desert environment. It’s a lovely little winger in a psychedelic shade of lime green. Their eggs are found cantilevered off of a silken thread in an array resembling George Nelson’s Bubble Lamp or infamous Ball Clock. The eggs are stunning and tiny in their natural state, and hardly noticeable in their purchased state. Sprinkle them onto your infested plants and don’t wait for them to hatch. They will settle in your garden if there is enough food to sustain them across their lifecycle. Provide a plethora of pests and nectar (they are pollinators too) and the adults will swoon to the flicker of your patio light after sunset.

The Glutton

Praying Mantis. Photo by Christian Meyn.

Praying Mantis. Photo by Christian Meyn.

The Praying Mantis is a shady green rascal that enjoys the taste of bad garden bugs. However, if left unsatiated it eats the good bugs and tends towards cannibalism at all stages of life. Its eggs are encased in a lofty brown shell resembling a teeny tiny hardened burlap sack - not nearly as chic as the eggs of the Green Lacewing. Once hatched, their voracious appetite drives them to eat a variety of bugs that evolve with their life cycle. As nymphs they eat aphids. As adults they eat beetles. Their survival depends on a copious feast of insects. Anything less and they eat themselves!

The Snowbird

The Ladybird larve

The Ladybird larvae

The Ladybird beetle, also known as the Ladybug, is another beneficial insect. Aphids are their first choice, but they do enjoy other soft-bodied insects. Similar to their pals noted above, they too consume the most during their “infant” stage of life; however, as adults their diet doesn’t shift, they simply eat at a reduced rate. Ladybugs are most useful during their life cycle when they look like a tiny reptile and nothing like the round, spotted, red-winged gems we are accustomed to. The goal is to make them so comfy in your garden that they meticulously lay little yellow eggs in a perfectly straight pattern along a leaf. By the time they reach adulthood and our summer heat sets in, they head for the cool of Mount Lemmon and Madera Canyon, where they play in the pollen for the summer. For this reason, it’s best to release them when our temperatures are moderate.

Says MarciBeth Phillips: "Balance of pests, not eradication, is the key to maintaining healthy plants. Nature favors the breeding of pest insects because without them there would not be any beneficials."

As for Dr. Bessey, his own garden is completely 'au naturel' when it comes to bugs. He refrains from using pesticides or chemicals, and advises using a high-pressure hose if pests get to be too much. His advice? Live with it, and with the casualties. "Frankly, things are going to pretty much come to a balance. The pests are going to get some things,” he says.

* Doctor Bessey will return to Tucson Botanical Gardens in September for a weekly plant clinic on Wednesdays. Find Arbico Organics and their 'good guy' bug supply at 10831 N. Mavinee Drive, Suite 185, Oro Valley, AZ. 


Darbi's Plant of the Month: Rock Hibiscus


Rock Hibiscus. Photo by Darbi Davis

This lovely Tucson native is hardy and likes the sun. It produces tiny lavender flowers in the Spring and with the onset of the monsoons.  The leaves are fuzzy and grayish-green. Rock Hibiscus, or Hibiscus denudatus, is a must-have in any native garden.

* Find Darbi Davis at Red Bark Design.


My Space

Stephen Kimble created Tucson's Metal Arts Village as a place for him to weld, and for other artists to come together. It's the space that Spiderman built; the money came from a seven-figure settlement with Marvel over a Spiderman toy Stephen says was his invention. More on that here. In this 3 Story short, Stephen tells how the space has given more meaning to his days. Interview and photos by Gillian Drummond. Video by Ricardo Bracamonte.

* Find his studio, Art Inc, at Metal Arts Village, 3230 N. Dodge Boulevard, Tucson.3230 N. Dodge Blvd.3230 N. Dodge Blvd.


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We all scream

The owners of Cashew Cow, Tucson's first cashew ice cream parlor, hope everyone -  not just vegans - go nuts for their dairy-free product. By Gillian Drummond and Joan Calcagno. Cover photo by Danni Valdez/Shutter2ThinkPhotography.

Photo by Danni Valdez

Photo by Danni Valdez

When the temperatures are reaching 100ºC and more during Tucson's summers, those brave enough to stick around here have their choice of cooling desserts.

There's ice cream - a food category enlivened lately with the opening of Hub and its offbeat home-made flavors. There's gelato (thank you Frost, Allegro and more). There's the Mexican delicacy of raspado - shaved ice with flavored syrups. And there's the home-grown chain of Eegee's restaurants, whose frozen fruit drinks are a local summer staple.

Photo by Danni Valdez

Photo by Danni Valdez

This summer, another frozen dessert is entering the fray. Cashew Cow, a dessert parlor opening in historic Broadway Village, will sell ice cream made of cashews. And while cashew-based ice cream has been a sweet treat for vegans for some time, the two partners behind this new venture want to draw in more than the non-dairy crowd.

One of their slogans will be 'We all scream'. Make that vegans, non-vegans, those concerned with their cholesterol, and those who just like eating ice cream, however it's made.

Jennifer Newman is one of the latter. But this gourmand has high standards. She holds up brand leader Häagen-Dazs as her favorite ice cream. So when Jennifer and her picky palate were drawn in to the cashew ice cream her friend Jeremy Shockley was experimenting with, she knew he was onto something.

Jeremy had tried almond and coconut versions of ice cream. "They were OK but they never matched the traditional indulgence," he says. A visit to Pure Food and Wine, a raw food restaurant in Manhattan, changed everything. "They make a fresh young Thai coconut meat cashew coconut oil ice cream. It's very indulgent. I thought 'Even my nephew would eat that. I could get into this'." A look at their recipe - published online - proved it was a laborious dish. "You're hand cracking coconuts on a daily basis," he says.

He thought non-dairy ice creams that were being marketed as health food products or to niche consumer markets were "missing the point" - the point being that ice cream is an indulgence. Then, on a dog walk one day and daydreaming of his own future cash cow, he came up with the name Cashew Cow.

Photo by Danni Valdez

Jeremy, a recording engineer and technical supervisor whose work had taken him to Los Angeles and Connecticut, threw himself into two and a half years of intense study of dairy science and chemistry. Jennifer, meanwhile, with a background in restaurants and a Masters in nutrition, was the ideal business partner.

An obscure cultural reference brought them together at a Tucson dog park. She was wearing a T-shirt from the annual Coney Island Mermaid Parade - something Jeremy recognized from his time back east - and the two got talking. Both had lived in Tucson (Jeremy during high school, Jennifer until she was 11), both had spent time in New York City, and both had returned to what they consider their home town. Added to that, they had mutual Tucson friends.

Photo by Danni Valdez

Photo by Danni Valdez

With Jeremy's love of branding and advertising (he formerly did branding and marketing for Maya Tea Company), and Jennifer's in nutrition (from cheese department manager in New York, to nutrition counseling and non-profit work), they say they balance each other out. And each of them was at a similar point in their lives and careers, a now-or-never moment. Says Jennifer: 'The random jobs I had in New York, some of them never made sense to me. It was always like 'I need to find the career'. This is something I'd been looking for for a long time."

The Cashew Cow product uses whole cashews, a low glycemic mineral-rich sweetener (he won't say which), and a touch of coconut. There are no flavor syrups; flavoring comes naturally, from whole food ingredients. Meanwhile, the cashews bring vitamins, minerals, fiber and heart-friendly monounsaturated fat.

Photo by Danni Valdez

Photo courtesy of Cashew Cow

Photo by Jeremy Shockley

Photo courtesy of Cashew Cow

The pair have been testing their product at farmers' markets and events around Tucson, quietly wowing exactly the demographic they want - that is, everyone. "I want vegetarians standing shoulder to shoulder with the guy with barbecue sauce on his shirt," says Jeremy. Adds Jennifer: "Everyone wants ice cream." And if that ice cream happens to serve beneficial fats by way of whole cashew nuts, all the better.

"We wanted to make a nutritionally dense food rather than a reduced indulgence product," says Jeremy. "It’s ice cream. Ice cream is frozen emotion.  You come to it because you want to celebrate something or to feel good. So you have to formulate based on indulgence.

"Our dream customer is someone who knows nothing about nutrition but they can come in and grab our product and whether they know it or not they are eating healthy. They’re getting whole-food nutrition and they have no idea.” His aim for his product is that it's delicious, and fun, while at the same time doing customers some good.

The space they have taken up in the burgeoning Broadway Village was designed by Repp + McClain. This will be the architecture and construction company's fifth project here; they have outfitted Session Yoga yoga studio, Italian restaurant Falora, the new bar, Sidecar, and Sugar Sweet Bakery, which is next door to Cashew Cow.

At less than 1000 sq ft, the space  brought challenges. Repp + McClain partners Rick McLain and Page Repp say it was important to accommodate everyone, from the grab-and-go customers, to those who want to sit, to kids hanging out at the cashew-shaped kiddie table.

Photo by Danni Valdez

The parlor's cone-shaped stools and tables. Photo by Danni Valdez

Photo by Danni Valdez

Photo by Danni Valdez

Jennifer and Jeremy have had fun with the decor and the branding. There are cone-shaped bar stools and side tables, the nut-shaped kids' table and hanging pendant lights above the counter that change color via remote control. The wooden-topped benches along one wall are modular; they can be taken off the wall and arranged into different seating configurations. The walls have strips of steel so they can attach art with magnets and change it up frequently. Jeremy credits friend and furniture maker/contractor Matthew Williams of Sticks & Stones with the design and build of the furniture.

They're calling their mascot - which appears on their logo as a cow with a cashew-shaped body - Johnny Cashew Cow. The flavors - and there will only be six to start with - include names like Sacred Cacao Chocolate, Bean Me Up Coffee and Cream of the Cropsicle (orange and vanilla). At around $4 a scoop, they are choosing a price point similar to the likes of Hub.

Their years of getting the business off the ground have included a lot of hurdles and some steep learning curves. Jennifer says she had to Google 'business plan' at the beginning, only to find that heading up the business side of of the project "came naturally". Jeremy has been his own personal chemist, creating the product and its flavored varieties from scratch. Vanilla was his toughest. The synthetic version, vanillin, is a single molecule, whereas vanilla beans have several hundred flavor compounds.

Photo by Danni Valdez

Photo by Danni Valdez

There have been problems with the concrete floor, with plumbing and with the cooler. There have also been two dog deaths, with each of them having to put down their dog months apart from one another. Jeremy has slept in guest rooms and on sofas, and in seven different houses in three years. But they believe in their product, and the spin-off products they say are in the pipeline. Friends and family members - who make up the private investors backing the business - believe in it too.

And now, says Jeremy, who's hoping to open the doors within the next few weeks, it's time to have fun.

* Cashew Cow, located just south of Broadway Boulevard on S. Eastbourne Avenue, is due to open at the end of July. You can keep tabs on progress on their Facebook page and their website.

Pleased to Meet You

Curtis McCrary, executive director of the Rialto Theatre and its brand new R Bar, talks owls, '90s commercials and other "worthless shit". (His words, people, not ours...) Cover photo courtesy of the Arizona Daily Star.

13 CAL CoverCurtis MP-p1

Photo courtesy of the Arizona Daily Star

Early bird or night owl? "Night owl, naturally. First of all, owls are much cooler than other birds, not to mention wiser. Secondly, night is where it's at. That's when the interesting stuff happens. There was this crappy commercial from the early '90s that had a jingle that went "I move better in the night" and that's always stayed with me, both for its truth but also because I have the uncanny ability to forever remember the most worthless shit.

"It's pretty much a necessity to be a night owl in this realm of endeavor. There's a big part of me that craves the regularity of an early-bird schedule, but never so much that I'd trade it."

Favorite accessory? "I gotta go with a smartphone, or more specifically an iPhone. It's funny, early on in the life of the iPhone there was lots of rhetoric about how people wanted them so as to be fashionable, trendy, etcetera, which ignored the incredible usefulness of the device. It's a truly remarkable thing to have an information resource more powerful and useful than the Library of Alexandria at your fingertips at all times. We are the first generation in history with this ability, and along with the internet itself, it's a game-changer in ways we've only barely begun to understand.

iphone "With all that said, I agree that there are downsides to people living a device-mediated existence. There is much merit in being present, and not constantly distracted by the ephemeral goings-on of the virtual world. I am selective about when I give my device attention. It's how you use it and what you make of it. This is true of all things."

Favorite faux pas? "Does it make me unimaginative to say that I try to avoid faux pas wherever possible and therefore why would I have a favorite? As a person who is, to put it charitably, easily annoyed, I try to keep my own faux pas to a minimum in an attempt to be considerate of others. So I guess "innocent" ones that only impact the false-stepper and not other people are considerably more tolerable (like, say, someone putting their shirt on inside-out).

"Here's an example of one I hate, which is not what you asked, but sue me: You're in traffic, signs announce a lane closure, considerate people get over as soon as possible, but jerks commit the faux pas of thinking that it's no big deal to zoom up and cut in at the last minute, failing to realize (or care) that that's why traffic is backing up. Maybe that's more of a dick move than a faux pas. We should ask Larry David."

Who is your dream customer? "I guess I don't dream about customers! Except that nightmare that servers have, and if you've ever waited tables, you know this one -- you dream you have forgotten a table in your section for an hour, but instead of leaving or getting your attention, they're just super pissed at you. But I think good customers, patronizing an establishment that they either like or think they might like, should assume good faith on the part of the establishment until they have substantial reason to think otherwise.


Photo by Gillian Drummond

"I think the tendency of people to slag businesses on Yelp or other crowdsourced review sites is rather unfortunate. I believe in voting with your feet when you don't like a place or have a bad experience. So I guess that means that my "dream customer" is someone who is there because they have an appreciation of what the establishment is, and does, and they patronize your place with regularity, and if they have an issue or a problem, they tell you about it directly."

If I weren't executive director of the Rialto Theatre I would... "Honestly, I have no idea. I would more than likely be working in the live music biz in some fashion, but that's far from a certainty. I'm not sure what else I'm qualified to do that I would find tolerable. It's not a big list. I have a long-held fantasy about being a helicopter pilot like T.C. from Magnum P.I. (how's that for a contemporary reference?) but I think at my age that ship has sailed, so to speak."

If I could change one thing I would... "Yes, absolutely. Or more than one thing, even!"

* When he's not being cheeky and/or staying up late, Curtis McCrary heads up the historic Rialto Theatre on Congress Street in downtown Tucson, originally a 1920s vaudeville venue and now a live concert spot. This month sees the opening of the Rialto's spin-off business, R Bar. You can find it around the corner from the theatre on S. Herbert Avenue. 


The R Bar, the Rialto's spin-off pub, is scheduled to open July 4th. Photo by Gillian Drummond



True colors

Hair color is great while it lasts... except it doesn't. Enter Liora Dudar and Maegan Scarlett and a line of color maintenance products they cooked up in a kitchen. By Mari Herreras. Cover photo courtesy of

Courtesy of

Photo courtesy of

The images Liora K Dudar produces generate healthy double takes and national praise, earning the Tucson photographer - widely known as Liora K - a reputation of being feminist fierce.

Which could make Liora's latest endeavor surprising to some. That is unless, of course, you ever noticed the touch of color that often tops her brunette tresses. Today the color is red, a flame of red hair that beautifully frames Liora's face.

Sitting beside her inside Café Passe on Tucson's Fourth Avenue is Maegan Scarlett - a friend that shares Liora's feminist ideals and values. What's equally obvious is that Maegan shares her love of color too. Her hair is a gorgeous shade of orange in all-over color down to her shoulders.

Courtesy of

Liora (left) and Maegan. Photo courtesy of

Together, the friends recently launched oVertone, a line of color-depositing conditioners that can be used weekly and daily in different color intensities to keep those fantasy colors from fading as fast, and leaving hair well-conditioned at the same time.

What's referred to as "fantasy color" are colors like pink and other pastels, as well as more intense shades of blue, green, red and purple. On the café table sit some of the offerings: tubs of weekly deep conditioner in purple, red and a teal green. They're creamy and have a light, natural-smelling fragrance -  nothing like the usual ammonia smell of many hair coloring products.

Liora says they came up with the business idea over their mutual love for fantasy color - something she suggests people choose in an effort to be their more authentic selves. When Liora first met Maegan they recognized they shared many values and interests, and over coffee they'd lament that their color faded too fast, forcing them to go back to their hair stylists a little more than they desired - every two weeks rather than every six weeks. With oVertone, application can be weekly or daily, depending on a person's wants or needs. If someone has a blonded streak, according to Liora, it can take the salon out of the picture altogether.

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Katy Gierlach modeling Extreme Pink. Photo courtesy of

Once the start-up idea hatched, the women ran with it. And it feels like they have no intention of stopping. "We're the sort of people who jump head first into good ideas, I suppose," says Maegan. "'We're going to do it and we're ordering lab supplies right now' is pretty much how it started."

There was no market analysis nor 20-page business plan, just what Liora and Maegan describe as passion -  the kind of passion that fuels projects with what sometimes seems like the energy of 20 women, not just two.

"A business plan is just not our style. From my personal experience, I find that people who are successful jump face first into things and don't look back," says Maegan. "If something comes up and we need a business plan, well then we'll write it. But we don't want to waste the time. I'd rather focus on marketing and creating a brand and great product."

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Laura Dinardo shows Vibrant Teal peeking out from under her brown locks. Photo courtesy of

Liora says when they agreed on the business idea, she had to go to a friend's wedding the next day. She found herself looking at her phone, going over 20 different emails from Maegan, who in a short time set up a website URL, did research on Shopify to set up online sales, and began identifying ingredients and bottle vendors.

The line they've created - 54 different products, to be exact - formally kicked off online on June 21 at They've also been busy researching retail and wholesale markets, and they have interest in Australia. So part of their challenge now is making sure they have the labels legally required for the down-under market.

Why the interest? Liora and Maegan say it's because their research shows there are no other products like theirs out on the market - no coloring conditioner specifically for fantasy colors. Theirs allows freedom, they say - the ability for consumers to take hot showers and do heat styling without having to worry about damaging their color. "We're still looking for who else does what we do and we can't find it," says Liora.

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Rambo Reza mixing it up with Extreme Teal and Extreme Blue. Photo courtesy of

If they do find anything similar on the market, what may set oVertone apart from the rest is a specific set of values important to Liora and Maegan. For example, they are using as many organic ingredients and recyclable materials as possible. "These go-deep weekly treatments are 70 percent organic and the daily are 30 percent organic. What's great is that we created these ourselves to make sure we know what's in them," says Maegan.

On their company blog and in all of their marketing they want to have as many different ethnicities, genders and body types represented as possible - not surprising, given Liora's strong support of the body positive movement. They also created a give-back program that allows customers to round up the cost of their online purchase and designate that dollar or more to one of four non-profits: American Civil Liberties Union, Planned Parenthood, Nurse Family Partnership and Best Friends Animal Society. "This gives our customers a voice," says Liora, adding that over time the charities will change.

There's also a trust factor they are counting on, the fact that they personally came up with the formula, mixing those early batches on tarps laid out in Maegan's Los Angeles kitchen and dining room. With the lab supplies purchased, Liora took the Amtrak train from Tucson to L.A. and once she arrived they started experimenting. Liora says some of Maegan's college bio-chemistry knowledge was a help, as well as their own experience with fantasy color.

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Maegan shows off the effects of Extreme Orange. Photo courtesy of

Says Liora: "We knew a decent amount about hair color and how it works and how pigments are structured. We took a lot of time researching and navigating the Internet to find the basic raw materials of what hair dye is made of, took that and reformulated it for our hair conditioner. It was sometimes a steep learning curve with the pigments." She adds that those early mixing days included a few phone calls to Tucson friend, stylist and colorist Amber Zabaleta of Imagen Salon.

"We'd give her call and say, 'Why are these not working?,' and we'd figure out if it was x, y or z. So we had some guidance. But Maegan's background in chemistry helped and I think both of us think similarly on a business level," Liora explains.

So together that day in Maegan's L.A. home they figured out the building blocks of hair dye. It helped, says Maegan, that there was a cupcake bakery and wine store down the street from her house. They also put the final touches to their business venture: the website, setting up social media, and researching the vendors who sold the ingredients. Plus, they were all able to successfully answer the first question women asked when they called: "Are your products cruelty free?"

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Photo courtesy of

Literally home-grown, the business still operates largely from Maegan's living room, where the pair recently mixed 180 ounces of conditioners for pre-orders. They are looking into contracting out the mixing, but first they need orders.

Maegan says the work involved in creating oVertone appealed to her Jane-of-all-trades attitude. While living in Tucson she worked for a health care IT firm while going to college, and continues to work in that field from her home in L.A. The fantasy color business is a creative outlet that she needs, she says, a home for her passion to create something and be part of something she loves. And while it would seem Liora gets enough creative expression through her commercial and personal photography projects, she says the facets of business development allow her to use her creativity in different ways that are equally rewarding.

Santana Nez in Pastel Orange. Courtesy of

Santana Nez in Pastel Orange ombre. Photo courtesy of

While the partnership between Liora and Maegan is very collaborative, each brings their individual skills, which reflects the titles on their business cards: Chief Operating Officer for Maegan and Chief Design Officer for Liora. And while both say their friendship bonds over their individual entrepreneurial spirit, Maegan is the one with some specific start-up experiences that have provided her with a few lessons one might not expect.

"I've been trying to start a business since I've exited the womb," quips Maegan. "Early on I sold candy to my peers behind my teachers' backs in grade school." At 19 she was working several jobs to pay for college. She became a certified personal trainer and brought other trainers together to create an online consulting business, along with a fitness and women's empowerment blog. But it proved difficult to monetize and she moved on.

Austin Puca in Vibrant Red. Courtesy of

Austin Puca in Vibrant Red. Photo courtesy of

"There have been other tries here and there and other industries, and every time you fail you learn a lot," says Maegan. "But the favorite advice someone shared with me along the way is if you wait to start until you're ready you'll probably never start. If you're comfortable when you do start, you may have waited too long."

What's evident to those lucky enough to observe Liora's projects - her collaboration with body acceptance activist and blogger Jes 'The Militant' Baker, for example - is the partnerships she creates. "It's a good way to live and very empowering," says Liora, agreeing. "Every partnership, I've always known was going to work out."

Maegan looks back at the beginning of oVertone and the intense energy each of them initially brought to the table. "Those first 48 hours we had done so much because we're really excited about it. I've been involved in a number of start-ups and I'm involved with the executive team in my day job - but I find that when the passion is lacking, it drains you.

"With this, we can stay up at all hours of the night and work for days. That's what keeps you pumped. That's what still keeps us inspired."

* To find out more about oVertone and to place an order, visit the website.

It takes a village

The Mercado District west of Tucson's downtown is finally flourishing and the village everyone hoped for is taking shape. By Gillian Drummond. Cover photo courtesy of Tom Wuelpern.

Photo by Tom

The Mercado district: creating village life in the middle of a city. Photo by Tom Wuelpern

When Tucson's long-awaited streetcar launches late in July, the last stop will be a little west of downtown, at a district known as the Mercado.

But while it might be on the edge of the streetcar map, it's far from an outpost for the city. If anything, the Mercado district, just off West Congress Street, is becoming one of Tucson's most significant hubs. In the last year, the retail space known as Mercado San Agustin has flourished, luring MAST, Transit Cycles, celebrated bartender Ciaran Wiese and top chef Ryan Clark. Agustín Kitchen, where Ciaran and Ryan both work (Ryan is a partner) is now firmly on Tucson's gastronomic map.

Photo by

Some of PureBuild's Mercado homes. Photo by Gillian Drummond

But the buzz isn't just around the retail. A short walk away from the market, a village is being created. It's one of row houses, some single family homes, concrete arches and plazas that look like they've been airlifted and dropped from Italy or Mexico or Greece.

Tom Wuelpern, whose company PureBuild has erected 18 homes in the area and is constructing a half dozen more, says he is meeting with prospective buyers almost weekly. When the project was at its lowest ebb, he was lucky to have one such meeting a year.

Fellow builder Paolo DeLorenzo says: "I don't even think I got that." He built three houses and then, when the economy tanked, he stopped. In 2010 he bought two more lots, and another four in 2012. Now he, like Tom, is getting one or two emails or phone calls a week. Paolo, owner of Innovative Living, says he can date the uptick in interest to the laying of the first streetcar tracks.

Paolo  Photo by Susan Denis.

Paolo DeLorenzo. Photo by Susan Denis.

Tom . Photo by

Tom Wuelpern. Photo courtesy of Tom Wuelpern

Tom and Paolo are two of the original gang of six builders who were in on the project at or close to its birth in 2006, when the Mercado district, part of the Menlo Park neighborhood, was being hailed as an anchor in Tucson's downtown revitalization plans. After years of stop-start development and construction, hopes raised and dashed, a deep recession and a long, lingering question mark over whether that revitalization would ever happen, Tom and Paolo are finally seeing the fruits of both their labor and their patience.

Tom admits that were it not for his other work - custom builds and a specialty in rammed earth construction - he may have walked. Others did, namely builder James Gray, who turned to working in northwest Tucson, and Michael Keith, whose career took a different path (he is now chief executive officer of the Downtown Tucson Partnership). The other two builders involved were Barry Coleman and Dante Archangeli.

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The entry to the Mercado's walking street. Photo courtesy of Tom Wuelpern

Tom credits developer Jerry Dixon, a partner in Rio Development Company and The Gadsden Company, with the fact that the Mercado district is still here. "There were moments when I felt, 'Is this going to stagnate?'" says Tom, who runs PureBuild with co-owner Jeff Scheffman. "We were riding it out, waiting for the business to come back. But it was Jerry Dixon who continued to forge forward with the Mercado because he believed in the project, that's what ultimately carried it through." Paolo agrees: "Jerry has been completely optimistic and motivational in difficult times."

Jerry Dixon remembers well the day in August 8th, 2008 when his company closed on the property deal for the 14-acre site. A few weeks later, Lehman Brothers ceased to exist. "We were perfectly timed to get our noses punched," he says. Construction stopped, money dried up. "I remember calling one bank and they said 'My God, we wouldn't even lend money to Warren Buffet right now'."

Still, Jerry and his family (son Justin Dixon, daughter Kira Dixon-Weinstein and son-in-law Adam Weinstein all work with him) waited it out, and kept believing in their project. They also proved it, by moving in. Justin lived in the first home built there (he now lives in California), and Adam and Kira and her sister Ashlyn Dumais now also live there.

Paolo bought there too, despite the fact that he says he could practically see the tumbleweed crossing the streets outside his house. Meanwhile his business fixing up and flipping houses (he owns properties across the city and in South Tucson) kept him going while things at the Mercado were, in his words, "dire".


Paolo DeLorenzo's Mercado homes are designed with lots of light, oak floors and white walls. Photo by Liam Frederick

The builders, developers and planner involved in the Mercado all have something important in common, says Tom: they have each done a lot of traveling, through Mexico, Spain, Greece and more. Some of them lived in Europe. Paolo is from the tiny mountain village of Lorenzago di Cadore, 75 miles north of Venice. Planner and architect Stefanos Polyzoides, based in Pasadena, is from Greece.

They brought that worldliness to creating a community that is opposite to suburban America, one where the car is ditched in favor of a walk, where row, or terraced, houses encourage neighborly interaction, and where residents meet - in plazas, around the communal mailbox, and in the Mercado San Agustin market.

Stella, the local cafe located within the Mercado San Agustin. Photo by

Stella, the local cafe located within the Mercado San Agustin. Photo by Tom Wuelpern

The farmer's market at the Mercado San Agustin. Photo by

The farmer's market at the Mercado San Agustin. Photo by Tom Wuelpern

The land they built on is some of the oldest in Tucson. When they started digging, they discovered the roofs of 3000-year-old houses, and canals that ran even deeper. That set the stage for winding streets that follow the old canal route.

PureBuild has built on 18 of the 90 lots at the Mercado, and favors a look that combines Mexican colonial with southern European: row houses, with wrought iron balconies and heavy wooden doors. After all, says Tom: "If history was different this would probably be part of Mexico."

Paolo's aesthetic is centuries away from Tom's - a modern European look that's heavily influenced by his Danish wife, Anne Ranek, who has had a hand in some of his interiors. "In Denmark it's built into their DNA. They have design incorporated into their life," he says. Paolo favors grey concrete floors, walls of glass, oak floors and white walls, while his exteriors blend Mediterranean with the southwest.

Photo by Liam Fredriksen

Latticed adobe bricks bring modern-yet-traditional detail to one of Paolo's homes at the Mercado. Photo by Liam Frederick

The homes at the Mercado - all masonry construction - are being built to last, says Paolo. "I want to build homes that people will want to live in for 100 years." And while it means you won't see any frame and stucco, it also means the properties don't come cheap. One of Tom's homes is currently on the market for $579,000.

Paolo's place. Photo by Omer Kreso Photography

Paolo's own home at the Mercado. Photo by Omer Kreso Photography

Second-level pool and deck. Photo by Omer Kreso Photography

Paolo's Mercado home. Photo by Omer Kreso Photography

But to the skeptics who label Mercado as another upscale gated community - just without the gate - the developers and builders say no, that the point was always to attract not just the high spenders, but people of all income levels and life stages. There are already low-income apartments nearby, and low-income senior housing development Sentinel Plaza sits on one of The Gadsden Company's original parcels of land. Jerry Dixon plans 160 more low-income units, named West End Station, for completion next year, and the mid-priced Monier Brick Yard apartments soon after.

Also in 2015 he plans an upscale apartment building, Downtown Abbey, adjacent to the Mercado. And just this week Jerry dried the ink on a deal, under Mission District Partners LLC, to develop another 14 acres just east of the Mercado San Agustin for upscale retail and a hotel.

Mercado market 019

The Mercado San Agustin market. Photo by Tom Wuelpern

The tide has changed economically, says Jerry, but the building of the streetcar "is a game changer of magnificent proportions".

For the Mercado's newest residents, Jim and Chris Dauber, the streetcar stop sealed the deal for them buying there. These transplants from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania moved in to one of Paolo's two-story homes just two weeks ago. The retired couple are walkers, cyclists and lovers of city life and University events. "We go up to the University and riding a streetcar is a lot nicer a prospect than driving a car," says Jim.

The community hasn't just grown, says Paolo, it's grown tight. And now "my kids wouldn't want to live anywhere else." He and Tom want to milk that community spirit. Together they have plans for a cantina with beer garden on one of the Mercado's 'walking streets'. Also in the planning are a wine store, a Bed and Breakfast, and a restaurant.

Says Tom: "People are craving that interaction and human connection. I think people like to see people."

* Find the Mercado Tucson and Mercado San Agustin at South Avenida Convento at Congress Street, west of Interstate 10. 

* Find Tom Wuelpern and Jeff Scheffman at PureBuild Homes. Paolo DeLorenzo can be found at Innovative Living.



Square Feet

We're as nosy as the next person about the insides of people's homes. That's why we bring you a hot property pick each issue. This month: a mid-century lover in Tucson shares her favorite resources and finds. Story and photos by Rachel Miller.



Step inside Jennifer and Raul's 1955 midtown home and you might just expect a gimlet to appear in your hand. It's all there: the mid-century cool lines of Lane and Paul McCobb, as well as era and contemporary pieces by George Nelson. And then you catch the modern additions: the band posters, the family-created art pieces, the splash of color provided by a modern sofa and retro cushions, all keeping this home in the here and now.

Mid-century furniture is Raul's passion. He can often be found on the weekend scouring estate sales or Tucson's antique stores in hopes of scoring the perfect piece to fit in their home.

jenniferraul11 Who they are: Jennifer has lived in her midtown Tucson home since 2010. She shares it with husband Raul.

About the home: Built in 1955, 2,000 square feet

Describe your style: Mid-century modern, which is perfect for this house since it was built in that era. We try to break it up with some contemporary bits, so it doesn't end up looking too dated.

Your fave thing about your home? For me, it's definitely the backyard. I also love the open space and light of the kitchen and living room. For Raul, it's the exposed brick and vaulted wood ceiling in the living room and bedrooms.

Biggest splurge? The dual AC/heating unit in the office, which was a necessity since it had no heating and cooling.

Best Bargain: A side table by [mid-century designer] Paul McCobb, worth a lot more than the whopping $8 Raul paid for it at an estate sale.

My DIY moment: Taking out some of the dated pieces of hardware, like inside shutters that blocked the light coming in from the outside. Also, replacing the pendant lamps over the dining room table. We have yet to undertake any big projects, but have many in mind!


Favorite resources: Estate sales and garage sales. Most of our furniture, except couches and beds, is second hand. Raul collects and refurbishes mid-century pieces as a hobby. We love IKEA and Target for the other bits. And we are fans of M S Upholstery at 316 E. 1st Street, Tucson (Tel: 520 624 6753).

My Tucson treasures: The estate sale companies in town, Pop-Cycle, and Copper Country Antiques and Collectibles Mall.

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Are you digging these digs?

Here's how to get the same look:

From left to right: George Nelson cigar hanging lamp,$269 from; Gossip Armchair, $546.98 from; Eames chair and ottoman, $4,559 from Copenhagen Imports; Herman Miller Eames chair, $419 from; 'Always Arizona' poster, $30 (unframed) from Draplin Design Co.