The Unforgettable Serena Toxicat
by Sumiko Saulson
I was so fortunate as to have Serena in my life for twenty-five long years, but honestly, it wasn’t enough. I had always imagined that we would grow to a ripe old age, making art in the Bay Area as so many folks around here do. Serena’s multiple talents took her around the globe, however. She was a singer/songwriter in multiple projects, ranging from her personal project, the catwave band Protea, to performing with Apocalypse Theater, Stagefright, Starchasm, Manul Override, and others. A fashion designer, professional model, painter, and author, she performed burlesque with the Black Widows, and Scry of Lust. For nearly eight years, she lived in Paris, and she traveled to Egypt, where she recorded vocals in the King’s Chamber.
When I interviewed her in 2019, she said this of her writing:
“I’ve often viewed writing as my first real discipline, even though I was already painting. It is a calling, I suppose–unless what I answered was just somebody in the next room blowing their nose. It started out with a play I wrote in iambic pentameter, a 5-heartbeat/10-syllable-per-line rhythm, and staged at Bannam Place Theater in North Beach with the NOMA troupe we put together. I also won a poetry contest at my school. This is was [sic] when I was 17, and that was when saying “groovy,” “keen,” and “grass” was only barely ironic. I’m not sure why I love writing so much. Authors bring friends, rivals and all manner of events into being through the living power of thought. That’s certainly a part of it. Writing has an emotionally and energetically regulating quality, too. It tunes my mood, turns my switch, and makes me feel like a badass witch!”
Her novels included Evangeline and the Drama Wheel, a cosmic sci-fantasy about a cat-human hybrid named Evangeline in a cybergoth band, and Ghosts in Bones, a touchingly candid fictionalized account of a woman who struggled with anorexia nervosa that often mirrored Serena’s battle with the disorder. Her poetry chapbooks included, You Send Forth Constellations, Paper Wings, and Consciousness Is a Catfish: stealthily grim, subtly spiritual poems. She had short stories in Wickedly Abled, Scry of Lust 1, and Scry of Lust 2.
DeTraci Regular, a friend and colleague, speaks highly of Serena:
“What I’d like to mention is her incredible generosity. She would do all the work of setting up an event and then invite others to essentially just show up. I’d never done a poetry reading before she invited me, despite having written for literally decades. She was so gracious and beautiful at these events, serving as the ‘hostess’ and making sure others got attention while also participating. In all the times I saw her, I never saw her be mean or petty with anyone, and I also saw her be especially gentle with those who really needed it. This was in juxtaposition to her amazing sharp-edged, intensely truthful writing and her many other talents, all of which pulled no punches. And of course she was wonderful with our ocelots and other cats. They trusted her and she trusted them. She was a true original, unlike anyone else I’ve ever known, and I’m grateful for her presence in our lives.”
Serena was an adoptee, and thrilled when she reconnected with her birth family about five years before she passed away. She is survived by her adoptive mother and her brother, Marc Rovetti.
She loved all things feline: cat ears, cat plushies, cat beanie babies, Hello Kitty, and Grumpy Cat.
Serena was very close to her cats and was predeceased by two of them: Isis and Selket. Selket passed away in February, just before shelter-in-place. Her loving concern for her elderly cat, who had feline leukemia, touched many people’s hearts, as seen by their support for the many fundraisers to support Selket. She also raised money for manuls, also known as Pallas Cats, a pet cause of hers. A vegetarian and an avid animal lover, she raised even more money for Isis Oasis, an animal sanctuary in Forestville, CA. Her 2015 event, ManulFest, a day-long music festival at Isis Oasis featuring Gitane Demone, held a special pride for her. It raised money for manuls in Southern California, as well as for Isis Oasis, which is home to ocelots, bobcats, alpacas, and other exotic animal rescues.
Serena’s Cat-Themed Fashion Show on CatSynth TV:
She has left behind an incredible body of work, which includes her books, also available on Lulu, her music on ReverbNation (Protea and Starchasm), and Bandcamp (old Protea and super recent Protea), and her latest on Bandcamp.
With wholesome, girl-next-door pin-up model looks, Serena enjoyed a substantial modeling career. including work in fashion, fetish, and commercial modeling. In fact, if you buy wigs from Spirit Halloween Store in October, you might see her smiling face modeling a Cleopatra haircut wig. Her many eye-catching tattoos, which covered most of her arms and legs, and often equally colorful hair made her a popular alternative fashion model. They contrasted with her. Serena turned 52 five months before she died. At 52, she was still a stunner and highly sought after as a professional model.
Serena was the founder of the Oakland Temple of Bast, where she served as its priestess among colorful murals depicting the cat goddess Bastet and other members of the Egyptian pantheon. Her service to them also led her to become a priestess at Isis Oasis. She worked as a life coach, and many of her self-help videos can still be found on her YouTube Channel, along with videos of her book readings, and musical performances.
As a visual artist, she not only painted, but also created unique fashions adorned with her feline artwork. She even published a Tarot deck featuring feline images.
Another friend and colleague of Serena’s, Bram Stoker Award-Winning horror author Rain Graves, had this to say of her:
“She sang beautifully, and was in a lot of different groups throughout the years. Ephemeral Orchestra, Apocalypse Theater, Stagefright (Sumiko’s band), and Protea were among her many projects and collaborations. She loved collaboration of any sort. It was fun for her to create with others. It helped her inward shyness, which was hidden by the ruse of extrovert. She was more introvert than many knew. Even when she modeled. She knew how to find the light.
When I was starting out as a writer of dark fiction and poetry, around the same time we met, she had written a few things already. They were very esoteric, brilliantly cerebral, and fluid. Evangeline and the Drama Wheel was among these, a little bit later. It was intelligent and stream of consciousness; ahead of its time. A lot of people didn’t know what to make of it, except other writers.
It was also autobiographical. Almost everything she created was, though tweaked and fictionalized to protect her friends and those she modeled characters after. “
French ‘Mau Bast’ Excerpt 2 – Chapel of the Chimes ‘Garden of Memory’ 2019 – -Manul Override