There is a strange plasticity to the Thomasina of the Web page. Of the dozens of photographs of herself that she has posted, few seem to be of the same woman. She wears a variety of wigs and costumes, like a glam version of Cindy Sherman. But there is something disconcerting about the photographs. It is not simply that Thomasina has a certain facial anonymity, as does Sherman, that allows her to disappear into invented characters. Instead, two photographs of Thomasina wearing exactly the same outfit seem to be photographs of two different women altogether. It is as if, through some miracle of genetics, Thomasina can physically transform herself with just a shift of her head.
When she claims that she is, in fact, two women, Thomasina is not doing herself justice. She may be hundreds. It is possible to suspect that, like Ellery Queen, the name "Thomasina Kundalini" is simply an elaborate fabrication used by dozens of people. How else to explain her seemingly endless variety of cottage industries, all meticulously documented on her Web page. Here is the short list: self-published poet, Web designer, photographer, singer/songwriter (with a forthcoming, and eminently danceable, CD), fashion designer, editor, painter, dancer, video artist. And, as might be expected from a woman whose name comes from a type of meditation, elsewhere on the Web page Thomasina writes that she "work[s] with energies, chakra balancing, reiki, and healing, hypnosis, channeling, tarot cards, rune stones, and aura readings."
Thomasina is reluctant to give away the details that might connect her personalities. She's protective of her privacy. Her Web page gives precious few details of her life, and she refuses to reveal such basic details as her age and her real name, even in conversation. There is an element of exhibitionism on the page, as we might expect from having seen her show--but not in a typically lascivious way.
For a few months this fall, the first image on Thomasina.com has been a startling one: Thomasina's eyes, one strangely dilated, surrounded by a wicked-looking bruise, the result of an auto accident. On a rainy night this past summer, her car slid into a meridian, inflating the driver's-side airbag, which promptly knocked her unconscious. Her car then strayed into the next lane and oncoming traffic. She woke with several teeth missing, her automobile destroyed, and her left pupil twice as large as her right. Thomasina went in to work the next day, nonetheless. "Currently, I earn a living as the Editor in Chief of the Metropolitan Forum, a weekly adult publication with a circulation of about 6000," she declares proudly on her Web site. The newspaper is owned by Sexworld impresario Dennis Buchanan and is edited out of his house.
"Dennis wanted to just put out an old issue while I recovered," Thomasina explains in conversation, but she insisted on editing the paper in a 17-hour marathon session, despite losing consciousness twice during the process.
"I would wake up on the sofa," she says. "Then I'd get up and go back to work. There was one point I was kneeling next to the couch with my head in a huge metal pot, puking walnuts out my nose and crying, 'Someone take me to vote! I have to get to the polls! The election is turning out all wrong, and it's all my fault!' But my concussion was so bad I could hardly walk."
Metropolitan Forum is an odd little paper. Independently published for nearly a quarter-century, it is one of the oldest free weekly newspapers in Minnesota. Asked to label it, Thomasina frowns. "How do the girls at work describe it? They have a polite word for it," she says, thinking for a minute. Then shrugs, and gives up--the best she can come up with is an ugly pairing of words: whore rag. In other words, Metropolitan Forum is a shopper for the local adult-entertainment industry--the Minnesota equivalent of a newspaper like California's L.A. Xpress, which features hundreds of postage-stamp-sized photographs of unrobed models accompanied by suggestive phrases and telephone numbers.
Indeed, the back page of the Forum is filled with little ads reading "Young Hot Busty Babes" and "Sexy Sensuous Sara." At the entrance to Sexworld it is possible to set up such an ad at an automated computer station: Just walk in the door, type in the necessary information, and leave--no human contact necessary. But that's just the advertising end of the Forum. The editorial end, which Thomasina is responsible for, is wholly unexpected.
Tom Bartel, the former publisher of City Pages, once told me that a newspaper necessarily takes on the personality of its editor. So it follows logically that if Thomasina is actually two Thomasinas, then Metropolitan Forum must necessarily be two Metropolitan Forums. Alongside ads for strip clubs and escort services, and comical adult material culled from Internet resources (short articles with titles like "Why Cucumbers Are Better Than Men" and "How Is Sex Like Riding a Bicycle?") is an ambitious mission statement: "I hereby beseech all writers and artists to submit their materials to the Forum for publication," Thomasina wrote in a recent issue. "If you have an article you'd like to submit, an event you would like to review, a poem you'd like to release, art you would like to show, or something to say about whatever...this is the place to do it."