Saturday, 29 December 2007

RIP 2007



We lost quite a few familiar famous names during 2007, including:

Alan Coren
Nigel Dempster
Lee Hazlewood
Gareth Hunt (Gambit in The New Avengers)
John Inman
Deborah Kerr
Frankie Laine
Verity Lambert
Ronald Magill (Amos Brearly in Emmerdale)
Magnus Magnusson
Bernard Manning
Marcel Marceau
Lois Maxwell (Miss Moneypenny in the Bond movies)
George Melly
Luciano Pavarotti
Mike Reid
Ian Richardson
Ned Sherrin
Anna Nicole Smith
Tony Wilson
Jane Wyman

A list of tributes is found on the BBC website

Friday, 28 December 2007

One’s still acting



"One went to school, one wanted to act, one started to act,and one's still acting."

Multiple Oscar and Bafta award winning actress and national treasure Dame Maggie Smith celebrates her 73rd birthday today.

Like so many theatrical queens, I love this woman, and never tire of her show-stealing performances in such classics as The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, California Suite, Evil Under The Sun, Murder By Death, Gosford Park, Room With A View and Travels With My Aunt - all favourite films of mine. With her quivering, fidgeting dottiness, she makes any film in which she appears that little bit more special.

Happy birthday, Ma'am!



Maggie Smith's illustrious career is listed on IMDB

Thursday, 27 December 2007

Photos of the year

Reuters has posted its selection of photos of the year, and they are fab!







See the whole selection

Monday, 24 December 2007

Face of an angel, body of a goddess



The sultry screen beauty Ava Gardner would have been 85 today.

A stunning, green-eyed brunette, Ava's rise to fame and acclaim began when her portrait appeared in an artist's shop window in New York, and was spotted by a telent scout for MGM. Following screen tests - after which the studio had to pay for voice coaching as her Carolina accent was so impenetrable - she appeared in dozens of films during the 40s and 50s (including DuBarry was a Lady and the Oscar-nominated Mugambo). Her heyday came however in the 1960s, with such classics as The Night of the Iguana and 55 Days at Peking.

En route her beauty also attracted the eye of some of the top stars of her day, and she married both Mickey Rooney and Artie Shaw, and dated Howard Hughes. But it was Frank Sinatra who proved to be the most famous of her relationships - and despite the scandal of him leaving his wife for Ava, their tumultuous marriage and subsequent divorce, he always referred to her as the love of his life and they remained friends until her death.

Indeed, Frank paid for Ava's medical bills when she fell ill, and it is rumoured that he actually attended her funeral in London, viewing the scene from behind tinted windows in his limo. Apparently this song was his lasting tribute to Ava Gardner:


A tribute to Ava Gardner

Sunday, 23 December 2007

The queeniest website ever...

...quite literally! Her Majesty the Queen has launched her own YouTube channel.



Welcome to cyberspace, yer Majesty! Here's an extract (not really):


Visit the real Royal Channel on YouTube

Friday, 21 December 2007

Merry Christmas your arse, I pray God it’s our last...

All this bullshit in the news about the lyrics of the finest Christmas song ever made is beginning to get on my tits. It just makes me want to sing along even more...


You're a bum
You're a punk
You're an old slut on junk
Lying there almost dead on a drip in that bed
You scumbag, you maggot
You cheap lousy faggot
Happy Christmas your arse
I pray God it's our last

The boys of the NYPD choir
Still singing "Galway Bay"
And the bells were ringing out
For Christmas Day


Indeed.

More about Fairytale of New York on the BBC

Thursday, 20 December 2007

Sheer perfection

A little tribute to model Tyson Beckford, 36 yesterday - one of the finest hunks of man flesh to grace our billboards in the last few years...



Gratuitous, moi?

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

La Vie en Rose

92 years ago today a certain Edith Piaf was born (as Edith Giovanna Gassion).



A tragic figure, and a tiny slip of a girl (hence her nickname Little Sparrow), Piaf rose from her incredibly poor background in the backstreets of Paris, mingling with pimps and mobsters, to become the most incredibly popular singer France has ever seen.

Her popularity was largely due to the way she interpreted ballads with her singularly heartbreaking voice, and among the songs for which she is famous are timeless classics like La Vie en Rose, Milord and Je ne Regrette Rien. Along the way to success, Edith was responsible for launching the careers of such French luminaries as Yves Montand and Charles Aznavour, and she grew to become an international star, performing to sell-out audiences across Europe and in the US. She was renowned for her appetite for pleasure - and indeed there were many men in Edith Piaf's life, husbands, lovers and friends.

On her tragic - and early - death in 1963, it is said that the traffic stopped in the city of Paris for only the first time since WW2. An icon, a star, never to be emulated, imitated, or matched...


La Vie en Rose, a biographical account of Edith Piaf's life, was released as a movie in 2007. Order a copy of the DVD on Amazon

Edith Piaf on Wikipedia

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

As good an excuse for a holiday as any



Lack of sunlight may increase the risk of lung cancer, a study suggests.

It is thought vitamin D - generated by exposure to sunlight - can halt tumour growth by promoting the factors responsible for cell death in the body.

Read more on the BBC website

I am counting down the days to our next dose of cancer-curing sunshine - it's only five weeks till we are in Spain for a week for our winter holidays... Sod smoking bans, and sod Xmas!

Sunday, 16 December 2007

It’s behind you!!



"A sparkling tale of magic, midnight and mischief: jam-packed with laughter, cross-dressing, singing, shoes, envy, dancing and cake."

We went to see Stephen Fry's Cinderella panto at the Old Vic last night, and everyone thoroughly enjoyed it! This is a fabulous spectacle of innuendo, smut, explosions, puppet mice, drag, and hunks. The humour is completely filthy, but we were in stitches...

Stephen has taken the traditional panto and cleverly interpreted it with his trademark cleverness, and I can guarantee most of the dirty jokes will have flown quite successfully over the heads of the children there (and probably many of the adults as well).



The cast were excellent - especially Sandi Toksvig's Narrator, Hal Fowler and Mark Lockyer as the Ugly Sisters (who looked remarkably like Paris Hiton and Nicole Ritchie), the gorgeous Joseph Milson as Prince Charming (look out for his shower scene), and Pauline Collins (doing her best "Nan" from Catherine Tate Show impression) as the Fairy Godmother. And Paul Keating as Buttons was a queeny joy!

[NB- We met Mr Keating in the Arts Theatre bar after his stunning and sexy performance in the Pet Shop Boys' Closer To Heaven in 2001. He is still as cute now as he was then...]

Although the show has not received many good reviews in the tabloids ("too gay", apparently!), ignore the critics and try and get to see it before it closes in January.

A fitting end to the year's theatre trips - I recommend it!

Cinderella - Old Vic Theatre website

Saturday, 15 December 2007

Opulence



That Art Deco masterpiece The Savoy hotel in London's Strand is closing for a £100m refurbishment. The makeover promises to "restore" some of its original opulence - and there is an auction at Bonhams of items that are being disposed of as part of the refit.

Your chance to own five hundred soup bowls, eighty ice buckets, or a selection of unusual wardrobes, towel rails and chairs I suppose... This is my favourite of all the items on sale, but where would we put it?



Bonhams

Read about the refurbishment on the BBC

Thursday, 13 December 2007

Something tells me Liza’s tour this year may be off...



Liza Minnelli collapsed on stage during a performance in Sweden and is returning to the US for a medical examination. The cause of the collapse is unknown.

Read the BBC article

Liza's website

Wednesday, 12 December 2007

I like to be in Americaaaa



Ah, Rita Moreno! The queen of Puerto Rican sirens was 76 years old yesterday.

born Rosita Dolores Alverío, Rita has had a long career in movies, starting out as a child actor. But it was her role as Anita in West Side Story that brought her the fame and fortune she deserves.

Notably the first (and only Puerto Rican) actress ever to have won an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony Award, she manages to maintain a magnetic screen presence whether she is dancing, singing or playing a comedy part such as Googie Gomez in The Ritz.

Or indeed as a guest on the Muppet Show...


Rita Moreno on Wikipedia

Monday, 10 December 2007

Sunday, 9 December 2007

Shakin’ bloody Stevens!



The UK Charts have (officially) become a laughing stock this week. As we oldies remember, you used to have to sell a couple of million seven-inchers in Woolies every week to stay at the top, and many thousands to even enter the top 40... Nowadays it takes fifty chavs and a dog to buy it.

This week, due to the effects of the relaxation of the law which means that every download - no matter how weird - counts towards the so-called Top 40, we have a host of rubbish from yesteryear hitting the chart just because people are downloading them (at 50p a pop) for their parties! Just take a look at it and weep...

CHRISTMAS "CLASSICS" IN TOP 40
8 Mariah Carey - All I Want For Christmas Is You
12 Pogues & Kirsty MacColl - Fairytale of New York
23 Wham! - Last Christmas
25 Andy Williams - It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
27 Wizzard - I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day
33 Shakin' Stevens - Merry Christmas Everyone
37 Slade - Merry Xmas Everybody
38 Band Aid - Do They Know It's Christmas?

Does anyone really think that Leona Lewis deserves to be in the chart, let alone Mariah (warbling t**t) Carey, Andy Williams, and bloody Shakin' bloody Stevens??

No wonder EMI and HMV are going down the pan...

Saturday, 8 December 2007

Go for the mystery, the magic and the mood



It's rather gaudy but it's also rather grand.
And while the waiter pads your check he'll kiss your hand.
The clever gigolos romance the wealthy matrons
At La Cage Aux Folles.

It's slightly forties, and a little bit "New Wave".
You may be dancing with a girl who needs a shave.
Where both the riffraff and the royalty are patrons
At La Cage Aux Folles.

La Cage Aux Folles,
The Maitre d' is dashing,
Cage Aux Folles,
The hat check girl is flashing,

It's bad and beautiful,
It's bawdy and bizarre.
I know a Duchess who got pregnant at the bar.
Just who is who and what is what
Is quite a question at La Cage Aux Folles.

Go for the mystery, the magic and the mood.
Avoid the hustlers,
And the men's room,
And the food.
For you get glamour and romance and indigestion
At La Cage Aux Folles.

La Cage Aux Folles,
a Saint Tropez tradition,
Cage Aux Folles
You'll lose each inhibition,

All week long we're wondering who
Left a green Givenchy gown in the loo.
You go alone to have the evening of your life.
You meet your mistress
And your boy-friend and your wife.

It's a bonanza, it's a mad extravaganza,
At La Cage Aux Folles.


Ten of us went to see the new production of La Cage Aux Folles at the Menier Chocolate Factory last night, full of anticipation. The show has seemed ill-fated, with several bouts of illness forcing the previews to be delayed three times - and indeed the intended lead Douglas Hodge is still unwell and was replaced by his understudy. But we were definitely in for a treat!!

Everyone should be familiar with the plot - whether from the original (brilliant) French film, its US remake The Birdcage, or indeed this, the Jerry Herman/Harvey Fierstein musical. Two ageing queens Albin and Georges, who run a drag club on the French Riviera, have their lives turned upside down when "their" son announces his engagement to the daughter of a right-wing politician, and farce follows...

Star of the show at La Cage Aux Folles is Zaza, alter-ego of the ultra-camp Albin, who was played to quivering perfection by (the understudy) Spencer Stafford.



Despite a bit of a shaky start, he really came into his own in the first half when Zaza's stage show begins. Spencer commands a breathtaking presence when, during the show's title number, he stands among the troupe stirring a Martini. The faster he stirs, the faster the "Cagelles" spin around him. When he stops stirring they stop twirling. When he eats the olive, they fall to his feet, and he/she stands there, queen of all he surveys. Genius!

The interplay between Albin and Georges (played subtly and skilfully by Philip Quast) provides a wonderful insight into the complexities of relationships, no matter who they are. Torn between his love for his son, and his loyalty and love for Albin, Georges has some of the most emotional and stirring numbers in the show, Song on the Sand and Look Over There - and Philip's beautiful renditions had several of us in tears. Even I welled up...

As the story unfolds, Albin's reaction to being told he is not welcome at the eventual meeting with the prospective in-laws leads him to sing the show's most famous and triumphal number I Am What I Am - revealing with bitterness just how strong and resilient he is, and providing us with an insight of just why the couple have stayed together so long.

Then the real farce ensues - Albin's attempts to "play it straight" as the boy's "uncle", and the eventual meeting with the girl's nauseating father and his dim wife (played by Una Stubbs), where Albin emerges as "Maman". The interplay between the characters (and their fabulous "maid" Jacob) is hilarious. And the restaurant scene, when Albin sings the show's most brilliant number The Best Of Times Is Now, is an absolute joy!

As in all classic shows there has to be a dazzling denouement, and the closing sequence where the politician father has to escape the paparazzi is played to glittering sequinned perfection. And there is a lovely happy ending...



I cannot fault this show! Every one of us enjoyed it so much - the tears and the laughs, and the sheer feeling of uplifting exuberance it gave us - that we are even talking about going to see it again before it closes in March 2008...

Given the Menier Theatre's record of success - their productions of Little Shop of Horrors and Sunday in the Park with George have both gone on to West End and worldwide acclaim - I sincerely hope that La Cage Aux Folles will see the same level of success. West End - here we come!


Menier Chocolate Factory

Footnote:

And for the homosexual in your life...

Camp Classics Collection: Some Like It Hot, Priscilla Queen Of The Desert, La Cage Aux Folles and The Birdcage.

Friday, 7 December 2007

The original Lavender Lady



Yesterday, 107 years ago(!), the wonderful Agnes Moorehead was born. Although she appeared in more than 70 films (including Citizen Kane, Hush... Hush, Sweet Charlotte and a miscellany of character roles in melodramas and horror films) and on dozens of television shows during a career that spanned more than 30 years, she is probably most widely known to modern audiences for her role as the imperious diva witch Endora, Samantha's mother, in the television series Bewitched.

Rumours abounded about Agnes's lesbian affairs - not least that with Debbie Reynolds during filming of How The West Was Won - and indeed there is anecdotal evidence to back up the "alternative" lifestyle she liked to keep away from the public gaze. However, all that is irrelevant compared to the brilliance of the unique style she brought to every part she played on the big and small screen, and in her one-woman shows with which she toured theatres and universities across America in the 1960s - a recording of one of which, The Lavender Lady, is a treasured part of my our collection of camp icons. A true star!

Agnes Moorehead's career outlined on IMDB

Agnes Moorehead in the GLBTQ online encyclopedia

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Another victory against bigots

I was so happy to read that the odious homophobic fascist Stephen Green and his band of baying bigots Christian Voice have lost their appeal in their case to sue the BBC for blasphemy over its broadcast of Jerry Springer the Opera!

Hopefully now the Anti-Hate Crime legislation is in place, this evil little shit will crawl back under that pulpit where he belongs and keep his narrow minded opinions to himself.


Read about the pathetic Christian Voice's anti-gay activity

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Dollywood Yorkshire style



Oh my goodness! Dolly Parton was (in all places) Rotherham today!

But what was she doing there?

Read the less-than-interesting story

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

You give me Fever



It was with huge excitement that we ventured last night to the Cafe de Paris in Coventry Street. This was, after all, the high society home of the top dance bands of the Twenties and Thirties frequented by the Prince of Wales, Cole Porter and the Aga Khan, and after being destroyed by a WW2 bomb and rebuilt was still the height of fashion for the likes of Princess Margaret in the 50s and 60s, where Frank Sinatra rubbed shoulders with Tony Hancock, Eartha Kitt with Spike Milligan, Grace Kelly with Noel Coward.

Cafe de Paris website

Today the venue is rather sadly wedged between a tacky casino and the KFC, but still retains a faded glamour - with its chandelier, gilded balconies and double staircase (which of course we made full use of!). And now it is the home of the annual Scarlet Fever variety show.

Arriving at the head of the queue we got ourselves a nicely placed booth, and the show commenced. Unfortunately our MC for the evening Chris Fitchew got things off to a very uncomfortable start with his manic leaping about and shoutingly unfunny routine - what he was "on", and quite why he seemed to think he was Russell Brand is beyond me, but we cringed. And the first few warm-up singers were just so bad that it began to appear we'd walked into a Croydon karaoke - oh! and a girl climbed up a rope, twirled about a bit, practically fell off it and went off again. She was closely followed by someone called Nick Mohammed, who was billed as a "comedian" but I couldn't quite see it myself...



However, the first half was saved by the effortlessly brilliant Rick Skye, doing his classic turn as Slice O'Minelli. He showed up the previous acts as the absolute amateurs they are - with style, perfect comic timing and by refusing to allow the baying juveniles at the front of the audience to rhythmically clap along and turn his show-stopping numbers into some kind of seal-feeding impression. His/her version of of Charles Aznavour's My Love complete with sign language is an acid parody, and I Love My Rolling Chair (Mein Herr) is just superb! Rick Skye is a comic genius, and one who should be even more well known than he is.



(Met the lovely Rick after the show, and he is exactly as charming as we might have hoped. A star!)

Part two, and perhaps helped by the volume of bloody expensive gin and tonics we sank, even the smarmy Mr Fitchew was not too unbearable as he and his partner in crime in the double act Lick & Chew launched into a fairly funny routine about the tabloid obsession with B-list celebs. Some slightly pointless dancers in burlesque costumes jiggled about a bit to some tunes, and then we were entertained to a really bizarre act...

Now, I have nothing against people - even those who are a bit too old for it - doing a bit of break-dancing, and to be fair we were expecting it from the poster (just one of those points in the show where you plan to get to the bar, really). But Shlomo "The Human Beat-box" was something really weird indeed, and very unexpected - how can you actually be entertained by a man who makes synthesiser house music through his nose and throat? It was rather like watching a mad person sitting next to someone else on a bus, but it was strangely diverting nevertheless.



And then came the lovely Mrs Barbara Nice. Now all I had ever known of Janice Connolly was her part as the barmaid in Phoenix Nights, but I knew she had taken "Mrs Nice" to the Edinburgh festival and had rave reviews. Barbara Nice is a Stockport Mam who doesn't drive and instead travels the country by National Express coach reading Take a Break. Her husband assumes she's at Bingo. And her act is indeed hilarious - everything from Iggy Pop to the news headlines. She ended up stage diving the willing audience, and was carried hand to hand overhead all the way across the theatre to the bar! Fab!

Despite it being a Monday night, the music performed by the remaining acts took a bit of an up-tempo kick from then onwards and we had a bit of a bop for a few hours - admittedly not till the advertised 3am (but there were lots of party poopers there)...

All in all it was a fabulous night!!

Monday, 3 December 2007

Oh, Miss Ross!

Diana Ross has had her ups and downs, but alongside a mixed bag of stars like Aretha Franklin, Martin Scorsese, Steve Martin and Beach Boy Brian Wilson, Miss Ross received a Kennedy Centre Honor for her "contribution to American culture". Congratulations.

But what was that dress all about?!

Sunday, 2 December 2007

Bathhouse Betty



Yesterday the queen of all gay icons Bette Midler was (unbelievably) 62 years old!! What can I say about Bette? She, of all the classy divas we adore, has probably had the greatest influence on me and several generations of gay men. (My own nickname is Dolores Delargo, the Toast of Chicago!)

I first encountered this sassy lady when I happened to catch a late-night showing of her classic (and currently still deleted) show Art or Bust in the 1980s; and to this day the opening routine Lovely Legs and Great Big Knockers - and the spectacle of that formation Busby Berkely routine in mermaid fishtails and in electric wheelchairs - remains indelibly imprinted in my brain! I recently managed to get a copy of the VHS video, and I have to say that watching it even today makes my heart cheer...

"I'm still proud of those days. I feel like I was at the forefront of the gay liberation movement, and I hope I did my part to help it move forward. So, I kind of wear the label of 'Bathhouse Betty' with pride."

As is well documented, The Divine Miss M began her fabulous career as a singer in gay New York bathhouses, alongside Barry Manilow on the piano. On the video of Art or Bust there is even some footage of her shows - Googie Gomez eat your heart out! Even from such relatively lowly beginnings she was always a brilliant performer, and with a pair of lungs(!) like that she was destined for the big time.

With several hit albums and rave concert reviews under her belt, Bette gained huge international success with her performance as the Janis Joplin-esque lead character in the movie The Rose in 1979. And inevitably, with her bawdy sense of humour and almost inexhaustible energy, she re-launched herself in the 80s as a favourite comedic actress in a series of wildly popular comedies such as Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Ruthless People, Outrageous Fortune, The First Wives Club and Hocus Pocus.

But it was Beaches that sent her to the top of the heap. A sad "girly" film it may be, but Bette's torch song Wind Beneath My Wings from that movie remains one of the most successful songs of the late 20th century (it is still apparently one of the top choices to play at funerals to this day). Personally I think the song has become more of an albatross round Bette's neck - she must be sick of it - and I prefer her in films like the Oscar-nominated For the Boys.

However, Bette Midler is - and always will be - the gayest of the top female performers. Recent hit albums include songbooks of two of the top gay icons of the 50s Peggy Lee and Rosie Clooney, and her 1998 album Bathhouse Betty was released as a specific tribute to her early career on the gay scene. That girl knows her audience - Happy Birthday Bette!


The official Bette Midler website

Saturday, 1 December 2007

All the seats were free, and she comes and sits right next to me



Knowing how much I love gossip and overheard conversations, I was overjoyed to discover this fabulous website the other day.

Tube Gossip is just a list of quotes from a master eavesdropper on the London Underground - and some of them are just classic! Some examples:

  • "He woke up one morning and his toes had fallen off in the night."
  • "Brian, did you put my other hair extension in your bag?"
  • "Have I ever told you about the time I nearly choked on a carrot in a falafel shop in Amsterdam?"
  • "I mean, she lives in Chiswick. That's worse than France!"
  • "They say blind people never actually fall asleep."
  • "Yeah, she looks like Kylie. If Kylie is a 6 foot bearded transvestite."

Visit Tube Gossip and join in the fun!