Friday, 25 January 2008

Sunshine and Isabel

The last posting for a week as we fly off to Spain tomorrow for a well-deserved holiday, so why not feature that ultimate Andalucian diva Isabel Pantoja? Ah, sunshine...

Wednesday, 23 January 2008

A living legend



The legendary Chita Rivera is 75 years old today!

Always a class act, Chita emerged from ballet school in New York into the glittering lights of Broadway and, still in her teens, landed a part in one of the biggest shows of the day Call Me Madam. This was soon followed by high profile roles in Guys and Dolls and Can-Can, and a starring role in West Side Story - which really launched her in the public eye as an all-round sensation of musical theatre.

Indeed, Chita Rivera is regarded by many theatre aficionados as a "living legend", has received two Tony awards, and is the first Hispanic woman to receive a Kennedy Center Honors award.

Chita is due to appear in London as part of the Michael Feinstein season at the Shaw Theatre (although her legendary unpredictability, and the fact she cancelled a similar London appearance last autumn leads some observers to wonder if she will actually turn up).

But in person, on stage or on screen she is indeed a sensation, as this (shaky) video of a TV appearance with Mary Martin shows...



Chita Rivera website

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Good will, indeed!

This caught my eye in the papers today - I nearly fell off my seat. Here is UN "goodwill Ambassador" David Beckham playing football with the locals in Sierra Leone - how lovely...



Read more in The Independent

Monday, 21 January 2008

Ah, daydreams...

John Stewart, the author of that fabulous song Daydream Believer died of a brain aneurism on the weekend, aged 68. The Monkees had many famous songwriters queuing up to write for them, including Neil Diamond, Carol King and Harry Nilsson, but it was always this one that stood out. Simply a wonderful song...



Monkees website

John Stewart obituary on the BBC

The gloomiest day of the year

It is "officially" the most miserable day of the year, according to experts in depression. Well, here's a lovely summery Spanish song to brighten up this morning:



Read more about Miserable Monday

Sunday, 20 January 2008

All together, now...

As we get nearer the holiday, here is a little something we discovered on a previous visit to Spain. Addictive and very weird:

Saturday, 19 January 2008

Just an old fashioned girl



"the textbook diva — a woman who acts with divine providence as high as her cheekbones."

This week we celebrated the 82nd birthday of our icon Eartha Kitt!

Eartha's seductive and feline voice is often imitated, but never bettered. She began her career as a dancer, but was soon snapped up to appear on Broadway - not least because of the support of Orson Welles, with whom she allegedly had a torrid affair. Indeed he described her as "the most exciting woman in the world". And he was right! How can anyone compete with her classic performances of songs like C'est si Bon, Just an Old Fashioned Girl, I Want To Be Evil, Mink, Schmink, Under the Bridges of Paris, and of course Santa Baby?

Her film career may not be so well-remembered as her songs and her vampish look, despite starring alongside such luminaries as Sidney Poitier, but Eartha certainly takes her place in the kitsch history books for her portrayal of Catwoman on the Batman TV series. Never known for her reticence Eartha's career was effectively blacklisted in the USA in 1968 when she made an anti-Vietnam remark at a White House luncheon hosted by President Johnson's wife.

But despite that setback her adulation across the world continued, with concert and television appearances . Her loyal gay following in particular never deserted Eartha, and in the early '80s she hit the comeback trail with several huge Hi-NRG singles, including I Love Men and Cha Cha Heels.

It was her hit Where is My Man? that had the greatest influence on my life. When it was released I was suffering the throes of teenage angst - and it was Eartha Kitt who finally encouraged me to fling open the closet doors and come out! I am eternally grateful to her for that...

We had the privilege of seeing the gorgeous Miss Kitt on stage at the Sondheim 70th birthday celebration gala in 2005, out-performing the rest of the ensemble with her rendition of I'm Still Here - what a lady, what a diva!





Eartha Kitt official website

Friday, 18 January 2008

Tears run rings

As we look forward once again with anticipation as tickets go on sale on Monday for Marc Almond's return to Wilton's Music Hall in April, what better than the gorgeous Marc singing along with a group of Russian sailors (in those hats rarely seen these days outside of a gay porn film)?



Buy Marc's album Heart on Snow on Amazon

Thursday, 17 January 2008

How could being jilted make me feel so good?

"I jumped through hoops to keep that man, oh how did I get it so wrong...? I tried new positions, I learned his friends' names, I made myself sit through football games"

View with awe the latest quality video from the lovely Puppini Sisters! It certainly cheered me up...



Puppini Sisters on MySpace

Wednesday, 16 January 2008

If baby I’m the bottom, you’re the top!



It is the centenary of the birth of the owner of one of the biggest voices in showbiz - happy birthday Ethel Merman!

Ethel Zimmerman may not have been the greatest "looker" of her generation, but she soon rose from the ranks in the live performance stakes. She was "discovered" while working for a car parts company, and from an early start in vaudeville was soon snapped up by the likes of George and Ira Gershwin and Cole Porter.

With such estimable backing she soon leapt to stardom, notably with her signature song There's No Business Like Showbusiness and her long-remembered starring role in Anything Goes, belting out hit songs like Blow Gabriel Blow and You're the Top. Dozens more shows, films and guest apopearances followed in her long career, including in It's A Mad Mad Mad World and we won't even mention her appearance in Airplane, nor the fantastic Ethel Merman Disco Album...

There's no-one in showbiz who could ever touch the sheer gutsy bravado of Ms Merman - and indeed she was admired by (and was an inspiration for) some of the biggest and the best in the business, including Elaine Stritch, Angela Lansbury, Bea Arthur and Lucille Ball.

Ethel Merman's crowning glory was as "Mama" in Gypsy - a role which was always going to be "hers", despite losing out on the original film role to Rosalind Russell (who then ended up having her voice dubbed). Of Russell's role, Merman said: "There's a name for women like her but it's seldom used in society outside [of] a kennel."

A class act indeed!



You're the Top
At words poetic, I'm so pathetic
That I always have found it best,
Instead of getting 'em off my chest,
To let 'em rest unexpressed,
I hate parading my serenading
As I'll probably miss a bar,
But if this ditty is not so pretty
At least it'll tell you
How great you are.

You're the top!
You're the Coliseum.
You're the top!
You're the Louver Museum.
You're a melody from a symphony by Strauss
You're a Bendel bonnet,
A Shakespeare's sonnet,
You're Mickey Mouse.
You're the Nile,
You're the Tower of Pisa,
You're the smile on the Mona Lisa
I'm a worthless check, a total wreck, a flop,
But if, baby, I'm the bottom you're the top!

Your words poetic are not pathetic.
On the other hand, babe, you shine,
And I can feel after every line
A thrill divine
Down my spine.
Now gifted humans like Vincent Youmans
Might think that your song is bad,
But I got a notion
I'll second the motion
And this is what I'm going to add;

You're the top!
You're Mahatma Gandhi.
You're the top!
You're Napoleon Brandy.
You're the purple light
Of a summer night in Spain,
You're the National Gallery
You're Garbo's salary,
You're cellophane.
You're sublime,
You're turkey dinner,
You're the time, the time of a Derby winner
I'm a toy balloon that's fated soon to pop
But if, baby, I'm the bottom,
You're the top!

You're the top!
You're an arrow collar
You're the top!
You're a Coolidge dollar,
You're the nimble tread
Of the feet of Fred Astaire,
You're an O'Neill drama,

You're Whistler's mama!

You're camembert.

You're a rose,
You're Inferno's Dante,

You're the nose
On the great Durante.
I'm just in a way,
As the French would say, "de trop".
But if, baby, I'm the bottom,
You're the top!

You're the top!
You're a dance in Bali.
You're the top!
You're a hot tamale.
You're an angel, you,
Simply too, too, too diveen,
You're a Boticcelli,
You're Keats,
You're Shelly!

You're Ovaltine!
You're a boom,
You're the dam at Boulder,
You're the moon,
Over Mae West's shoulder,
I'm the nominee of the G.O.P.

Or GOP!

But if, baby, I'm the bottom,
You're the top!

You're the top!
You're a Waldorf salad.
You're the top!
You're a Berlin ballad.
You're the boats that glide
On the sleepy Zuider Zee,
You're an old Dutch master,

You're Lady Astor,
You're broccoli!
You're romance,
You're the steppes of Russia,
You're the pants, on a Roxy usher,
I'm a broken doll, a fol-de-rol, a blop,

But if, baby, I'm the bottom,
You're the top!


Ethel Merman page on Musicals 101

Monday, 14 January 2008

A masterclass in acting



"I'm a bit high maintenance, but it gets your attention. A little hot and cold never hurts."

Yesterday that fabulous actress Faye Dunaway celebrated her 67th birthday.

Three times an Oscar winner (for Bonnie and Clyde, Chinatown and for Network), Faye has starred in numerous stupendous films in her four-decade career. My favourites include her raunchy bitch "Milady" in The Three Musketeers with the sexy Michael York, and of course her tour de force as Joan Crawford in Mommie Dearest...

But surprisingly I think her role as the villainous witch Selena (with the fab Brenda Vaccarro as her sidekick and Peter Cook as her lover, vs the very wooden Helen Slater in the title role) in Supergirl ranks as my all-time favourite part she has played!



And for sheer villainy the award goes to...



Faye Dunaway on IMDB

Monday morning blues, or pinks

Just because I feel like I need cheering up, I thought this flurry of terrible Italian dancers in pink jump suits fitted the bill... Gawd bless Raffaella Carra!

Sunday, 13 January 2008

The last of the Red Hot Mamas



One of the most successful and influential entertainers of the early half of the 20th century, the amazing Sophie Tucker was born on this day in 1884.

With her blowsy style, combining rarely-heard black musical numbers of her day with outrageous banter, she successfully bridged the gap between the Vaudeville and Ragtime eras into Hollywood movies and mainstream entertainment, making guest appearances on TV until her death in the 1960s.

Never reknowned for her great beauty, she was nevertheless hugely popular, and her carefree style was an influence on generations of sassy lady stars such as Mae West, Joan Rivers, Roseanne Barr, and most famously of all Bette Midler - who regularly features some of Sophie's smutty routines in her shows...

Enjoy the rare talent that is Sophie Tucker!



And Bette's tribute to her:



"We Love Sophie Tucker" page on MySpace

Saturday, 12 January 2008

Eat them up yum

No particular comment is necessary (or possible) for this Barnes & Barnes classic...


The world according to Barnes & Barnes

Rolling, rolling...



At sixty-nine years of age, the glorious Tina Turner effortlessly managed to sing (and dance) that overblown clothes horse Beyonce off the stage at the Grammy Awards. Proof, indeed, that singers just ain't what they used to be...

Friday, 11 January 2008

Ian Curtis never sounded so cheerful

With the dreadful wet, cold and dark still looming over us, I try and cheer myself up by thinking not just of our week in Spain coming up, but hopefully a sunny summer in 2008... And if we do have a decent run of sunshine this year, this is exactly the kind of music I'd like to hear while picnicking in a park..

What else, but lounge cabaret versions of punk classics?



Nouvelle Vague on Amazon

Thursday, 10 January 2008

Risque cabaret is dead



Sad news this week about the death of the little-remembered Ruth Wallis, mistress of a type of "risque" cabaret beloved in post-war America.

I first discoved this magnificent lady's work while on a quest for "interesting" music to add to my weird collection a couple of years ago, and so loved her cheeky, knowing style that we are now proud owners of three of her albums - full of classics like Johnny's Got a Yo-Yo, Davy's Dinghy ("the cutest little dinghy in the Navy") and of course her classic song Boobs.

Not exactly subtle double-entendre, this song - a favourite of drag queens everywhere - and Ruth's career even inspired an off-Broadway show about her life and career in 2003!

And for your delectation the video is available on the fabulous Internet Archive:



RIP

Ruth on the Queer Music Heritage website


"Boobs" - Ruth Wallis' Greatest Hits on Amazon

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

There is nothing you can name that is anything like a dame!



Ah, Dame Shirley Bassey - what a woman! What a diva!

The unchallenged Empress of the dramatic power ballad, Our Shirl has been at the top of the showbiz league since she was "discovered" by bandleader Jack Hylton singing in a Cardiff nightclub in the early 1950s.

Rightly admired by queens across the globe (including our own HM, who is a great fan apparently), Shirley Bassey's theatrical performances - and of course spangly frocks - never fail to send shivers down the spine!

Surely no-one can resist singing along (and waving your arms) to the likes of Goldfinger, Diamonds Are Forever, or This Is My Life? Where would James Bond be without a Shirley Bassey number? And don't we all love that "Morecambe and Wise" sketch when she puts her foot through the set?

Adopted as an honorary god in her native Wales, Dame Shirley is indeed worthy of that cliched accolade "national treasure", and we love her for her humour, her hutzpah and her charm.

She celebrated her 71st birthday yesterday in Los Angeles - HAPPY (belated) BIRTHDAY!

But in true diva style she hosted a glamorous ball at Clivedon in December, at the end of her 70th year...





Songs of Shirley Bassey fan site

Tuesday, 8 January 2008

You have to understand the way I am, Mein Herr



We went along to see the West End version of Cabaret last night, with its new cast including Julian Clary as Emcee - and what a stunning show!

Everyone should know the story, not least from the classic film version with Liza Minnelli, Joel Grey and Michael York. But Bill Kenwright's production at the Lyric takes the story back to its original, darker tale of doomed decadence in the rise to supremacy of the Nazis.

Mr Clary may not be many people's first choice to portray the sleazy and bitter "face" of the underbelly of pre-war Berlin nightclub life - known as he is for his slightly precious and undemonstrative style of humour. But he rose to the challenge admirably, together with the rest of the bawdy ensemble at the "Kit Kat Club". His version of Money, Money in particular was a superb tour de force!

Our Sally Bowles for this performance was understudy Rebecca Bainbridge, who was marvellous in the role. She captured the essence of Sally: a middle-class good-time girl gone bad, trapped in a world where pleasure is everything, oblivious to the fact that the whole thing is about to crash horribly around her - belting out cracked torch songs like Maybe This Time and of course Cabaret in defiance of the fact she, and all the others, are living on borrowed time.

The staging was great, with suitably sleazy touches - a lot of nudity (male and female), whole scenes performed entirely on or in beds, and cast members writhing about on ladders and scaffolding. And the raucus showstoppers Two Ladies, Don't Tell Mama and Mein Herr were all spectacular.



As time progresses and Nazism begins to take over, so the central stories that make up this brilliant show - not just Sally and Clifford's tangled relationship, but the love affair between landlady Fraulein Schneider and Jewish Herr Schultz, and the slow rise of what began as minor characters Ernst Ludwig and Fraulein Kost - get darker and darker, and you soon realise that in this fairytale there will be no happy endings...

We've been to a lot of West End shows in our time, but this is the first time I have ever witnessed total stunned silence as the curtain falls at the end - absolutely gob-smacking.

To understand exactly why, you have to go and see it. Altogether this is an excellent show, and highly recommended...

Cabaret reviewed in the Daily Telegraph

Monday, 7 January 2008

He’s Chameleon, Comedian, Corinthian and Caricature



A proliferation of birthdays this week, but early congratulations go to the magnificent rock god David Bowie, 61 years old tomorrow!

How can I put into words the impact this man has had on my life? When I first ventured out to clubs as a teenager, it was to the ephemeral "Bowie/Roxy" nights that I was strangely drawn - and there I discovered the sheer genius of such songs such as Fashion, Ashes to Ashes, The Jean Genie, TVC15, Young Americans and of course David's early classics from his Ziggy Stardust/Aladdin Sane years.

I adored everything about Bowie - his look, his voice, his uber-cool attitude - and for a time my adulation and attempts to emulate him, with 'loon pants and hennaed hair, got to the stage where I too was nicknamed "The Thin White Duke" (those were the days!). Nowadays of course, I answer to "Queen Bitch"...

To this day, I never tire of listening to his records - in my opinion Hunky Dory still stands out as one of the best albums ever recorded, and Scary Monsters & Super Creeps, Station to Station and Heroes must all rank near the top of that list... And seeing David Bowie live in concert at Milton Keynes Bowl in 1983 remains one of those earth-shattering events that is forever etched in my psyche.

Over the years his capacity for re-invention has become legendary, and is a secret of success rarely emulated, other than by the sharpest of superstars such as Madonna. From his early days as a Mod, through the hippy generation, to Glam (as Ziggy), funk (the first white man on American TV show Soul Train), and eventually the synthesiser/New Romantic years, he always kept his finger on the pulse of music and as such kept his place at the top.

His career may have gone off the boil a little in the past few years, and he has been taking it a bit easier since his heart scare in 2004, but my god do I still love David!







David Bowie on Wikipedia

And furthermore...

The Bewlay Brothers
And so the story goes they wore the clothes
They said the things to make it seem improbable
The whale of a lie like they hope it was
And the Goodmen Tomorrow
Had their feet in the wallow
And their heads of Brawn were nicer shorn
And how they bought their positions with saccharin and trust
And the world was asleep to our latent fuss
Sighing, the swirl through the streets
Like the crust of the sun
The Bewlay Brothers
In our Wings that Bark
Flashing teeth of Brass
Standing tall in the dark
Oh, And we were Gone
Hanging out with your Dwarf Men
We were so turned on
By your lack of conclusions

I was Stone and he was Wax
So he could scream, and still relax, unbelievable
And we frightened the small children away
And our talk was old and dust would flow
Thru our veins and Lo! it was midnight
Back o' the kitchen door
Like the grim face on the Cathedral floor
And the solid book we wrote
Cannot be found today

And it was Stalking time for the Moonboys
The Bewlay Brothers
With our backs on the arch
In the Devil-may-be-here
But He can't sing about that
Oh, And we were Gone
Real Cool Traders
We were so Turned On
You thought we were Fakers

Now the dress is hung, the ticket pawned
The Factor Max that proved the fact
Is melted down
And woven on the edging of my pillow
Now my Brother lays upon the Rocks
He could be dead, He could be not
He could be You
He's Chameleon, Comedian, Corinthian and Caricature
"Shooting-up Pie-in-the-Sky"
The Bewlay Brothers
In the feeble and the Bad
The Bewlay Brothers
In the Blessed and Cold
In the Crutch-hungry Dark
Was where we flayed our Mark
Oh, and we were Gone
Kings of Oblivion
We were so Turned On
In the Mind-Warp Pavilion

Lay me place and bake me Pie
I'm starving for me Gravy
Leave my shoes, and door unlocked
I might just slip away

Just for the day

Sunday, 6 January 2008

Monstrous

Notable for their abysmal out-of-step "dancing" and dreadful cheesy costumes and routines, Pan's People were amazingly popular amongst pubescent boys and Dads every Thursday on Top Of The Pops in the 1970s. This video captures just a little of their "talents"...

Bobby "Boris" Pickett and the Crypt-Kicker Five - the Monster Mash!



Read their entry on the BFI

Oops! I did it again...



I suppose no-one in the world was really surprised when the perenially psycho Britney Spears finally snapped yesterday and had to be taken from her home strapped down to a stretcher, after allegedly trying to barricade herself in the bathroom to prevent her kids being taken off her. Like that's going to impress the courts...

And the news from LA-LA Land today is that the magistrate has awarded ex-hubby Kevin Federline custody after all - surprise, surprise.

This woman seriously needs help! (And we thought Amy Winehouse was bad...)

Read the sordid story on Perez Hilton

Not so much Toxic, as tragic.

Friday, 4 January 2008

And for services to the music industry of Hong Kong...

...the award for most hilarious attempt to do an Abba cover goes to - WING!



More about the lovely Wing on Wikipedia

Thursday, 3 January 2008

The hills are alive...

...with the sound of the fabulous Mary Schneider!



Mary Schneider Yodelling the Classics CD is still available. We have our copy!

Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Start the year with a bang



Starting as I mean to go on in 2008 - entertaining the masses with some of the weirdest, tackiest music on the planet - I begin with a cute little number by someone called Joi Lansing, and her Web of Love...



More about Joi's "career" on IMDB

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

Hootenanny!



HAPPY NEW YEAR everyone!

Just watched the Jools Holland Hootenanny 2007 - and it was a real treat!! (And so much better than that amateur dismal New Year show on BBC1)

A host of stars were featured (as always), such as Kylie - singing the most fabulous crooning version of I Should Feel So Lucky ever! - plus the effervescent Ruby Turner, Madness, the very sexy Mika, Paul McCartney, Lulu, the Kaiser Chiefs, and many more...

Part three was especially wonderful!!



And just because I want to, here's a gratuitous picture of Mika...