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Little Shiva 

Queen of the Weird Underground

All are born little, but none are born Little Shiva.

The birth of Charlotte's Shiva, and the origin of her signature Dotmobile, are the stuff of fevered speculation and urban legend -- commodities in short supply in Banktown, U.S.A.

Amid a fast-track design career in Manhattan, the future queen of the underground publication QZ (Queen 'Zine) experienced a major meltdown in 2000 and found shelter down South in Charlotte, "where the living is easy and the cotton is high." Shortly after moving in with her nonagenarian Grandma Hot Rod in Derita, Ella's granddaughter was hanging out in the Center City, finding her bearings.

"I was new in town," she recalls, "and had painted a dot on my forehead with mascara. It was like a little sperm, actually: a dot with a squiggly tail. I'd made a friend down at the Main Library, which I used as my office at the time, and that day on our way to lunch, he called me 'Little Shiva' out of the blue. I loved it immediately: It was the whole Hindu god of transformation thing with a burlesque ring to it ... perfect."

No, Shiva doesn't hang with humdrum folks. QZ, which she published for six funk-filled years, was her beacon -- so a fellowship of freaks could find her and coalesce.

Inspiration for the zine struck Shiva in the summer of 2000 as she was lounging poolside at the Harris YMCA, watching kids at play on a gigantic frog-shaped water slide. She jumped up out of her lounge chair, rushed home, and sketched out the concept.

"That evening," Shiva recalls, "I was at one of Jeffrey Ballero's house parties, where I met Samantha Gellar. She was in the midst of a culture war: Her prizewinning short drama, Life Versus the Paperbook Romance, had been denied a reading at the Children's Theatre of Charlotte because of a lesbian theme. Anyhow, I'd read about Sam's censorship incident and invited her to help me launch my zine. I needed a place where I could rant about stuff like the censorship thing, but in a creative and highly visual way. Sam helped me choose the name and was my co-editrix (code name 'Maxima') for the first couple issues. Then she split for college, and I continued on my own."

QZ put Little Shiva firmly on Charlotte's underground landscape and showed readers a side of the Queen City that the bean counters up in the Bank of America phallus had never dreamed of. It was Shiva's most forceful contribution to our meager store of weirdness, but by no means her only act of mischief or subversion.

Other acts she's proud of include "Little Shiva's Palace of Beauty," a group art show up in NoDa, where she transformed the windows of the now-defunct Wrightnow Gallery into a replica of Amsterdam's Red Light District, sitting there with fellow conspirators and luring in innocent bystanders. Shiva also founded The Visible Trash Society to raise trash awareness and has produced segments of the legendary public access TV show, Z-Axis. And in February 2006, she launched Weirdcharlotte.com, sort of a Phoenix rising from the ashes of the final issue of QZ. A must for aspiring disciples of Charlotte weirdness, the Web site houses past volumes of QZ within its holy archives.

Shiva also walks the weird walk in her private affairs.

"My lovers," she enumerates, "have included men, women and one transsexual: Jenn Jacobsen. I met her in early 2002 at a drag club in Savannah when she was just coming out of the closet and was slowly experimenting with living full-time as a woman."

The wedding between Jenn and Shiva, at the County Courthouse in matching red tutus, was as flaming as it gets in Charlotte. But the romantic idyll has derailed -- without animosity.

"One of the hazards of open marriage is that it might open up so far someone falls out," Shiva confesses. "Right now, our lives are taking separate directions: Jenn's staying in Charlotte with Hot Rod, working on electronic music and a project she initiated called Film Lab. I'm following my heart over to Belgium to be with Thierry Tillier, an artist I met last summer through the international mail art network."

Ever generous in transmitting sacred lore, Shiva disclosed the origin of the Dotmobile via e-mail from Belgium. She reclaimed the chosen BMW from a ditch in 2003 for the token sum of $1, painting it red and green with white polka dots -- every dot sporting a little glued-on glass nipple. Voila! Charlotte's first known art car. A profusion of flora was added to the rear bumper after the budding driver backed into a tree.

So what's next for the technicolor pixie as she straddles two continents?

"I just have to live in the moment," she replies.

As for her pied chariot, the Dotmobile will make its first ceremonial public appearance when Little Shiva drives it down Tryon Street in the St. Patrick's Day parade. Hopefully, spectators and passengers will come to no harm.


Urban Explorer's Handbook

Weird Charlotte


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