Most viewers of the show will probably remember her from the episode where she requests the surgical table for a photo shoot. If you haven’t seen Oddities, it’s essentially a reality show about an antiques shop in New York called Obscura that sells strange and bizarre antique curiosities and the clientele that patronizes it.
What folks might not know about Laura is she is actually a native of Central Pennsylvania, has a comic book about her experiences as a mortician and will actually be in town with the Oddities crew hosting Dracula’s Ball tonight.
In anticipation for that she was kind enough to give me an interview about not only her reality TV work but also her many other endeavors as well. I couldn’t think of a better individual to be our Halloween Geek of the Week, enjoy the interview.
How did you come to be on the show Oddities?
Simply put, Ryan Matthews is an old friend of mine. As I understand it, just prior to shooting the first season of Oddities, (Discovery loved the concept of the show so much, I’m told, that they didn’t even require a pilot to be filmed), Evan, Mike and Ryan were interested in involving collectors they were already friends with, before things would presumably become a tad more impersonal.
Folks that watch the show know you have a pretty impressive collection of medical curiosities. Why did you start collecting?
Compared to others, I really do not have a large collection, but I am most pleased with and hold much value in the special items I do own. It was never an intention of mine to collect anything – in quantity…of any sort…ever. In my case, I suppose my personal interests (be it music, films, books, industrial adhesives or antique surgical instruments and the like) simply progress into what I might stand back from at some point and think ‘yeah.. I guess that could be considered a collection.’ Which was exactly what happened with Oddities.
When I was first asked to partake in the show ‘as a collector’, I was really surprised to even be thought of, as I had never before thought of myself to even have a collection of oddities. Everything I own has a story attached to it. I have never deliberately set out to acquire anything in order to add to a number of similar personal effects. It’s actually pretty rare that I purchase anything for myself that I cannot actively utilize in some way or another.
I have most definitely bought and gifted away more curiosities than I have kept for myself. I suppose it’s quite fitting then, that many of the objects in my ‘collection’ have been gifted to me from others, respectfully.
What are some of your favorite pieces currently in your collection?
Ooh.. favorites, that’s tough. I have no answer for that, because it’s just not simple enough to compare everything. My late 19th Century embalming kit is definitely amongst my most treasured of items, but then I must acknowledge my collection of trocars, drain tubes, teeth, and – I am most pleased (and almost a little bit frightened at times) to be the proud owner of a vintage (yet active) full pint bottle of Chloroform.
Screwed be the fellow that tries to break into my apartment while I’m home. I’m heavily armed and not always entirely stable.
On the show they say you were, or are a practicing mortician. With all your current projects are you still doing that?
Oh, goodness no. I haven’t embalmed anyone for nearly eight years. There’s no concise way of explaining why I stopped, so please forgive me for not elaborating.
You’re also a model and you started your own clothing line. How did that come about in the scheme of things?
Was a model. (Laughs) I was more like the anti-model. A mercenary model, to be more precise. I’m actually amazed that anyone allowed me to model – let alone requested me to. This by no means implies that I was well received by everyone. Showing up to go-sees, castings and even some jobs, I managed to frighten quite a few people.
Sometimes I’d show up to a job or to meet with a magazine editor and the receptionist would ask me ‘Do you have our lunch?” or ‘Are you the stylist?’ I suppose it’s good that I do not offend so easily, when it comes to remarks about my appearance. It’s generally more amusing than insulting. Literally, the best part of any modeling job for me was when I was told I could go home.
So… I returned to funeral home and crematory work before deciding to pursue my own clothing line. I learned a lot about the business side of fashion, while modeling, which has undoubtedly helped. Suturing up dead bodies while embalming has certainly aided in my clothing construction and the DIY skills I’ve obtained along the way. Former bosses, idea-provoking books and horror-films without question supported my ability to improvise and innovate, when I come across a puzzling failure or dysfunction, where there are no pre-chartered courses of action or solution.
Is it true that you are now doing a t-shirt line in addition to the garments we see featured on the show?
T-shirt line? No. I sell a t-shirt with my logo on it, but I do not have any immediate plans to expand into other designs. What I have been working on – and am about to unleash to the public – is a line of various accessories and jewelry. Inspired by the antique prayer and sympathy cardholders that have furnished the chapels at the funeral homes I’ve worked, plus I have had this idea for suspender hardware ornamentation, for well over a year now.
Last Spring, I was finally in a position to start working on it. Having practically no experience in working with metal or jewelry, I sculpted a crude prototype out of putty and was lucky enough to be able to sit down with Allison Hourcade of Rocklove Jewelry, to ask her for some advice. Initially, she had just planned to give me some start-up tips and perhaps a referral to a bench jeweler or two – but after drafting on the spot – and signing a Non-Disclosure Agreement – and then listening to my idea she became really excited, saying it’s very unusual to have a ‘NEW’ design idea for anything.
She not only wanted to help me produce the suspender clip, but she was interested in collaborating on other jewelry – which will be available for purchase in the coming weeks, at www.rocklove.com, as well as my websites (www.lauraflook.com & .net). I regret I do not have any professional photos taken at this point of the suspenders and jewelry (which includes sterling silver cuff-links, necklaces, tie-tacks and other fancies) In addition to jewelry, I am also working on various other accessories so stay tuned.
As done with all my garments, partial proceeds from any online purchase of accessories or jewelry from my www.lauraflook.com / net, will be set aside and donated at the end of the year to ‘The Brain and Behavior Research Foundation’ – a charity that I feel very strongly about.
You’re going to be doing another reality show called Odd Folks Home? How did you come to get involved with that?
I will be in an upcoming episode of Odd Folks Home which is having it’s sneak peek on Science Channel on 11/22 at 10PM.The aforementioned spin-off is basically a closer look at the patrons of Obscura, seeing what their homes look like and pretty much condensing a random day of theirs into a seven or eight minute segment. So, essentially, I was asked to take part in Odd Folks Home, due to my appearances on Oddities.
You just unveiled a comic book at New York at New York Comic-con as well, could you tell me a bit about the comic and what inspired that?
Well, I was asked to make a surprise guest appearance on the Oddities panel for Comic-Con to introduce a clip of Odd Folks Home and I started fondly reminiscing about a comic book I penned over a decade ago, while working at a funeral home in New Jersey. I decided ‘Hell. I’m going to be at a comic convention, I should print out a bunch and sell them at the Rocklove booth (where some of my jewelry was available for purchase). Unfortunately, due to A last minute emergency, I was unable to actually attend.
My best friend, Brian Williams (an incredibly talented artist who is also responsible for my caduceus inspired logo and other graphic works) illustrated the comic, which is entitled Expiration Date. It’s loosely semi-autobiographical and it was completed at the end of 1999. We submitted it to Slave Labor Graphics, at the time, thinking, – if anyone would be suitable to publish our comic, it would be them, but SLG wrote us back, explaining that the content of our comic was ‘too disturbing’?, that it seemed ‘contrived’?.
Which is hilarious, because it is not disturbing at all. Contrived is a funny word though. Like I said, it’s loosely based on my experience as a mortician, which makes it Fiction. Correct me if I am wrong, but are not all works of fiction ‘contrived’? I believe Brian still has the rejection letter. (laughs)
Finally word is that you will be helping host Dracula’s Ball this year and doing an Oddities special, are you looking forward to coming back to Philly?
I am looking forward to getting out of Manhattan for Halloween. Come to think of it, this will be the first time I’ve been away from New York, for Halloween since I moved here in the mid-nineties. I usually end up DJing too, so this is also exciting for me to be able to do something a bit more interactive.
Just an FYI to folks attending Dracula’s Ball Laura will be running a special raffle at her table for only $1 you could win a surprise gift from her collection of wearables.