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Cake Lady in Wonderland

posted Monday October 5th, 2009

cake lady

On Friday night, a lovely mix of artists, friends, family and total strangers crowded the small space where we had our show, Wonderland: Art from the Best of Phoenix 2009. (You’re cordially invited to the Third Friday party, where psych 101, the Phoenix Chorale and others will be performing.)

Even Cake Lady showed up.

I have to admit that I really did think the writer who pitched the idea had made her up, but I liked the entry he wrote so much that I made it the very first item in the entire Best of Phoenix issue. We don’t have enough whimsy in Phoenix, or enough eccentric characters. Here’s what the entry said:

Best Urban Legend: Cake Lady

Though nobody knows her real name, “Cake Lady,” as downtowners have affectionately dubbed her, continues to contribute to central Phoenix lore. In short, there’s a woman about town who occasionally shows up at gatherings (a music performance, an art exhibit) looking for free stuff, especially cake. The consensus is that she reads New Times (a smart woman, indeed) and then calls ahead to inquire about the possibility of free goodies. She’s been spotted only a couple of times, including years ago at a birthday party at the now-defunct Paper Heart, where she briefly showed up, then dashed out the door with a bunch of cake to go. Hey, Cake Lady, share some next time!

About halfway through the night, one of the writers (not even the one who wrote the entry) nudged me. “Hey! There’s Cake Lady!”

We got a photo from the back. Although the writer told me Cake Lady’s real name, I don’t want to blow her cover — or the mythology surrounding her, except to say that I did not see her take any cake or other snacks. She did grab a few brochures.

I watched Cake Lady for a while – she circled the gallery quickly, several times, stopping to look at a few pieces – and felt my stomach crowd my lungs. I turned to the writer who seemed to know all.

“She’s developmentally disabled, isn’t she?” I asked. It was hard to pinpoint it, but Cake Lady had a vacant look; she didn’t make contact or speak with anyone. She was an ill-kept figure in pink with tangled gray hair, older than the demo in the gallery. She looked pre-occupied. Or, if I’m going to get all depressing about it (and clearly that’s where I’m headed) she looked sad.

“No, but I think she might be bipolar,” the writer admitted, as we watched the woman grab a pile of literature, look around, and bolt.

 I thought about Cake Lady all weekend.

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3 Responses to “Cake Lady in Wonderland”

  1. :-|

  2. Yep- she sure sounds like she’s got a major mental illness, probably BiPolar. She’s found a niche, she’s smart and savvy-resourceful and possible cultured. I wonder if she knows about the Cake Lady persona? I wonder what that would mean to her? What were you thinking about?

  3. I think I will post a related item to this tomarrow)

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