Special for Infobae of New York Times.
NEW YORK — At the Gothic Renaissance store near Union Square in Manhattan, a man dressed all in black, with his hair and beard dyed the same color, navigated a maze of corsets and steampunk goggles to reach a outerwear rack. From there he took a black velvet Victorian tuxedo jacket that was called “Baphomet”. From the Devil Fashion brand, he had embroidery on the lapel and cuffs, frog buttons on the chest, and tails as pointed as the devil’s horns that bear his name. The price on the tag was $220.
“People think it costs a lot of money to be a goth,” said Aurelio Voltaire, 55. “As long as you’re dressed in all black, you’re already three-quarters of the way to your goal.”
Voltaire, who has been compared to Dracula, Vincent Price, Elvis and Doctor Strange, likes to pair tight black Ezekiel pants with Nordstrom Rack shirts and the DieHard brand he buys at Kmart, which he buys in bulk, with rings. more expensive John Hardy shoes, John Fluevog shoes and Jean Paul Gaultier jackets. For special occasions, he decks himself out in Maybelline eyeliner, Big Sexy Hairspray and a small black heart that he draws precisely on the cheek.
A few blocks away, at the Evolution store on Broadway, Voltaire picked up some items he had bought a few days earlier—two replica human skulls—and stopped to admire the store’s selection of fossils. “This place is almost like a natural history museum, except here you can take the artifacts home with you,” he said.
With his phone, he recorded snippets for a future episode of “Gothic Homemaking,” the YouTube series that began in 2016. In the 108 episodes to date, which have been viewed more than 4 million times collectively, Voltaire has established herself as a Martha Stewart of the ghoulish, sharing tips on where and what to buy, decorating ideas, recipes—even from travel—for audiences who refuse to believe spooky is only appropriate for Halloween.
A star is born… dark
Much of “Gothic Homemaking” is recorded in Voltaire’s rented studio apartment in the East Village, which he calls “Voltaire’s Lair.” He pays less than $2,000 a month for this frozen rent home, where he moved 20 years ago, some two decades after coming to New York at age 17.
Born in Havana and raised in New Jersey, Voltaire’s childhood fascination with classic Universal Studios movies, Universal Monsters, and other horror films, turned into an adolescent taste for the moody music of British rock groups like Siouxsie and the Banshees, Bauhaus and The Cure. In the process, he says, “little by little I began to use fewer and fewer colors in my clothes until I unknowingly became a goth.”
Finally in New York, he began working in stop-motion animation, a career that took him to television networks such as MTV, Nickelodeon, and Syfy, then known as the Sci-Fi Channel, and to becoming a professor at the School of Visual Arts, where he taught volume animation courses from 1996 to 2019. Voltaire had developed his passion for the field in childhood, when his obsession with the original “King Kong” movie inspired him to save enough money to buy a Super 8 camera.
After 10 years in animation, he began performing as what he calls a “dark cabaret musician,” for which he adopted the stage name Voltaire and later Aurelio Voltaire; both are shortened versions of his full name, Aurelio Voltaire Hernández. A singer-songwriter and guitarist, he has released 12 albums, and his thirteenth — a David Bowie-inspired record called “Black Labyrinth” — is due out in December. Voltaire, who has said he has gigs almost every weekend of the year, has attracted nearly 190,000 monthly listeners on Spotify, where his top songs include “When You’re Evil” and “Brains!”
In 2004, he published a book, “What is Goth?”, under the pseudonym Voltaire. The following year he published the sequel, “Paint It Black: A Guide to the Gothic Home”. A decade later, the second book would serve as the blueprint for his “Gothic Homemaking” series, which began as a way to document how he was transforming his apartment into a hidden oasis. “I want people to walk into my house and think that a real vampire lives here and not a fan of vampire movies,” she explained.
The series is essentially a one-man show, with Voltaire both starring and producing his episodes. His fiancée, Mayumi Toyoda, a singer, occasionally appears on camera and assists in production. (Toyoda and Voltaire met in 2019, six years after their previous four-year marriage ended in divorce in 2013.) The segments that take place inside his apartment are shot using a Canon EOS 5D Mark III camera and tripod, with a ring light, color-changing LED lights, and a smoke machine providing ambience on set. The episodes begin with an animated sequence in which a skeleton sprays blood and bile on a typical suburban house with a white picket fence to transform it into a haunted house.
With over 138,000 views, one of the most watched episodes of “Gothic Homemaking” chronicles the renovation of Voltaire’s bathroom. In it, Voltaire recounts how he convinced his reluctant landlord’s contractors, even more reluctant them, to install a black Kohler toilet and sink and how he sought out a technician willing to paint his bathtub with black paint. “Now it’s like a gothic spa,” Voltaire said. According to his calculations, the job cost him about $4,000.
But he did not want to answer the question of how much has been spent in total to renovate and redecorate the den, in which there are few virgin square centimeters.
The decor palette is mostly black and grey, with hints of purple in the lighting, wallpaper, and amethyst crystals. A pair of black hand-carved Indonesian thrones, one of which is flanked by massive bat wings, anchor the living room, where furnishings also include an Ouija board-shaped side table and a handmade lamp. with raccoon penis bones. (Voltaire showed how he made these two in “Gothic Homemaking”). Stuffed bats hang from a chandelier, Atlas beetles and butterflies in shadow boxes hang from the walls, and no fewer than a dozen stuffed ravens or other corvids decorate the space.
“There are people who buy luxury cars,” he says. “The happiness that comes from feeling good in my own home is worth every penny.”
Voltaire claims that he has never been paid to advertise anything on “Gothic Homemaking” nor has he accepted any free product or service in exchange for promotion. The only money he makes from videos comes from monthly Google AdSense payments. But the series inspired him to launch a line of home decor, “Lair of Voltaire,” featuring “Goblin King” scented candles, tombstone-shaped soap, and other items sold online and on the Internet. spooky stores across the country,” as he puts it, including Gothic Renaissance.
Some fans say that her YouTube series has an evocative quality that has helped them forget the monotony of everyday life. Molly Bloomer, 8, who lives in Kansas City, Missouri, said it was her “go-to show for the entire pandemic,” adding that she had recently made a “graveyard dirt parfait” dessert from a 2020 episode. mother, Becky Bloomer, 41, said the series had been a form of “magical escapism” for her daughter during lockdown.
Super fans of the series will have noticed that there is one thing notably missing from its episodes: a bed. A visit to Voltaire’s apartment also revealed no trace of her.
“If you were in a vampire’s living room, the most logical thing would be for the inhabitants of his house to sleep hanging upside down in a closet,” Voltaire said. “Which I think is very good that people believe.”