Saturday, 20 February 2010

Hasta la vista baby

Back in seven days...

Friday, 19 February 2010

Papito!



From yesterday's blog about Matadors, we turn to the famous son of one.

Miguel Bosé is a megastar in Spain, with 21 albums, roles in more than 35 films (including Pedro Almodovar's High Heels and the award-winning French film La Reine Margot) and his own television show. His father was one of the country's top bullfighters Luis Miguel González Lucas, and his mother Lucia Bosé is a reknowned Italian actress, who counted Luchino Visconti and Pablo Picasso among her friends. From that promising start it was obvious that Miguel was destined for a life in the spotlight.

Of course the fact that he was a beautiful young man must have helped. The fact that he is also as gay as a handbag full of rainbows probably helped too - I expect it made his mum proud, if not his dad!



This must be one of the campest dance routines in the world! Madame Acarti reckons he reminds him of Anita Harris. We are rehearsing this as I speak...



A shining example of 70s fashion, this would be a great candidate for a Tacky Music Monday...



And here he is with the original version of one of our favourite recent Spanish hits (covered last year by the marvellous Las Seventies), Don Diablo:



Miguel Bosé on Wikipedia

Olé



As we reach the almost final countdown to our holiday, it is worth focusing on one of the more controversial cultural traditions in Spain - the bullfight. Barbaric, brutal and incomprehensible it may be, but it has a stylistic and very sexy association - the Matador, of course!



With its bulls, balls and braid, the cult of the Matador has certainly inspired some interesting musical tributes too..

Here's the wonderful Eleanor Powell with her own inimitable tap-dance take on the art of the Torero:



Here's one I have probably posted before, but it is fabulous (Fabulosos Cadillacs, in fact)!




Not quite so fabulous, but here's Japanese boyband "News" (who seem to have 126 members) with their catchy little tribute Ai No Matador:



Then there is this infectious dance number by another group no-one's heard of, Kasenetz & Katz Allstars [sic]:



To finish, I just had to post this fantabulosa number from Victor Victoria, featuring the eternally-missed genius Robert Preston:



Vamos a estar de vacaciones en breve...

Thursday, 18 February 2010

I just found me a brand new box of matches

For no better reason other than the fact that this lady always cheers me up, here's a fabulous version of a fierce song by the wonderful Amanda Lear...

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

"If we stop to gaze upon a star, people talk about how bad we are"



Today marks the 70th anniversary of the birth of the simply fantabulosa Gene Francis Alan Pitney, singer, songwriter, and one of those remarkable survivors of the melee that hit America when the British Invasion conquered the West in the early 60s, and indeed remained a cult icon for the British "cool" musical establishment for decades.

An out-and-out master of that certain "Wall of Sound" style, Mr Pitney wrote such classics as He's a Rebel for The Crystals, Today's Teardrops for Roy Orbison, Rubber Ball for Bobby Vee, and Hello Mary Lou for Ricky Nelson. His own masterpieces include The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance and his poignant version of Bacharach & David's Twenty Four Hours From Tulsa. Of course we remember him more recently for his duet with Marc Almond on that superb reprise of his 1967 hit Something's Gotten Hold of My Heart - it became Gene's first UK number 1 in late January 1989, lasting four weeks at the top.

However it is with my favourite Gene Pitney number - and its (gay?) lyrics with which a whole generation of "small town boys" must have identified - that I say rest in peace to a musical genius, taken away from us too soon...



Gene Pitney on the Rock'n'Roll Hall Of Fame

Casta Diva, indeed...

It's the middle of a wet and miserable week, our flat is in a state of complete upheaval as we anticipate the arrival of the men to replace our rotten back windows, and I'm off to work feeling knackered.

What better way to cheer up a day than with a bit of culture? Well.... here's the outrageous drag queen Lala McCallan singing operatic arias, anyhow....





And here, she tackles the highly appropriate "Natural" Woman:



Lala McCallan website

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

For crying out loud!



On this, the 59th birthday of that marvellous singer-songwriter (and one-time Barry Manilow collaborator) Melissa Manchester, I have the perfect excuse once again to post this magnificently camp interpretation of her most famous song Don't Cry Out Loud



Melissa Manchester official website

"I love flouncing as much as any other queen!"



How would you sum up your life in three acts? You couldn't! I couldn't! And if your life was as interesting as Bette Bourne's? - well...

Playwright and author Mark Ravenhill has helped the venerable queen (dowager?) to do just that, by basically bringing a set of interviews they did a couple of years ago to the stage. Acknowledging this fact from the outset, it was inevitable that the format would make this a slightly "stiff" performance in parts - both players reading from the page - but it's the stories that Bette has to tell that make this a sublime experience.

In two hours, this unique life is explored - from his earliest memories of being a theatrical toddler with an abusive father, through schoolday fumblings with other boys, to a serious stage career, the notorious gay commune and politics, New York and the anarchic Bloolips drag troupe, the AIDS era, and his evolution into today's revered theatrical legend (he has even played Lady Bracknell...). Bette even entertained us with some of the songs from his shows - it was magical!

We love Bette Bourne - we saw him in Rock - the Henry Wilson Story two years ago, when he was also inducted into the "House of Homosexual Culture Hall Of Fame". A fascinating and multi-faceted grande dame indeed - catch this while you can!



Bette Bourne - A Life in Three Acts is at the Soho Theatre

Monday, 15 February 2010

They were meant to be superstars

It is another Tacky Music Monday (and the last before our holiday this weekend in Spain this weekend). However, it is not to Spain that we turn for a change, but to Sweden, where Chanelle, Claudia and Neena caused havoc (for some reason) with this attempt at representing their country at Eurovision.

According to their own website:
"The dynamic trio met at a party at the Rectum Club [sic] in Munich and then stayed close friends. When they were offered to perform Trendy Discotheque it all became obvious for them, they suddenly had a purpose in life, they were meant to be superstars. But today there is no longer any doubt; Pay-TV are back and they will be as big as Madonna and The Sex Pistols, as Britney Spears and Kraftwerk, Adolf Hitler and Mahatma Gandhi - all at once."
Can't understand it, myself.



What will sell...

Sunday, 14 February 2010

London as you never normally see it

Everybody deserves a badge of honour...

...especially some of these!



Gay Merit Badges

Kung Hay Fat Choy!



Happy Chinese New Year! It is apparently the Year Of The Tiger in 2010 - grrrrrrrr.

To help celebrate, here are two of the marvellous Shanghai divas whose lovely music from the 30s and 40s was cleverly remixed by enthusiast and DJ Ian Widgery. We were delighted to discover this album way back in 2004, and love it!





Shanghai Lounge Divas album on Amazon

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Blues, garbage men, gay lions and Elvis



The Vinyl Closet event last night was a fabulous and inspiring evening. Organised by the Gay & Lesbian Humanist Association (GALHA) at the bizarrely minimalist (almost school-like) Conway Hall, we were treated to a potted history of gay themes in music from the early part of the 20th century.

Our hosts were a couple of veteran gay rights activists (and evidently real enthusiasts about gay history) Ted Brown and Brett Lock. Unexpectedly, as part of their exploration of the featured songs, they actually performed several of them to emphasise the meaning behind some of the lyrics, as well as playing some very crackly old recordings of some others.

From the birth of the blues in America, there has always been a prevalence of filthy lyrics - we have a whole compilation of tracks with suggestive titles like I Need A Little Sugar In My Bowl, If It Don't Fit, Don't Force It, and It Ain't the Meat It's The Motion - but in this pre-censorship era (black music was largely ignored by the mainstream before WW2, so was less constrained than other genres) there was a profusion of gay stuff there as well. Ma Rainey sang about "BD Women" (bull dykes), there were lesbian themes in some of her friend (lover?) Bessie Smith's stuff. Here's Ma challenging people to prove she's some kind of sappy femme...


...and a number of male artists covered this exotic little number called Sissy Man Blues...


Brett and Ted also performed this one - apparently very popular with men of a certain "sissy" variety in the 20s - complete with all the actions! All together now: "I'm not the plumber or the plumber's son, but I'll plug that hole 'til the plumber comes... Stick out your can, here comes the garbage man!"


Not wanting to neglect the "mainstream" altogether, they turned their attention to the always contentious explanation(s) of why the term "Friend Of Dorothy" was widely linked to the illustrious gay icon Judy Garland, from the gay lion in the Wizard of Oz, the heart-wrenching performances (and real life), to the coincidence of La Garland's death with the Stonewall Riots... And then there's this little piece of gender role-reversal from Easter Parade...


Returning to the blues, and how it broke into the mainstream with the rise of "Rock'n'Roll" (itself a name derived from the old blues slang "Cock'n'Hole Music") and the ground-breaking Elvis Presley. Not my favourite artist, I have to admit, and as a consequence I have never seen any of his films. Thus, it seems, I missed the overtly gay connotations of this number, with its lyric "Number forty-seven said to number three: You're the cutest jailbird I ever did see. I sure would be delighted with your company, come on and do the Jailhouse Rock with me."


The breakthrough of underground blues music after the war, however, brought a bit of a double-edged sword where gay themed music was concerned. With the largely white music industry now taking an interest in the genre and the "Hays Code" sanitising the film industry, everyone apparently had to clean up their act. Despite the best efforts of Mr Presley and artists like the Rolling Stones and The Kinks, the dirt and innuendo appeared to be brushed over and covered-up again until the events of the end of the 60s (Stonewall riots, Gay Lib etc). However, many theories abound about whether this song was in fact a love song from John Lennon to Brian Epstein...


The remit of the evening was to stop the historical journey at the time of Stonewall (they promise to do a follow up in time for next year's LGBT History Month), which left us wanting more! In our inevitable post-match discussions, we did wonder why so much of the music they discussed was American - ignoring some of our home-grown "naughty" artists like Douglas Byng and Leyton & Johnson, and of course the legacy of the Music Hall - but the general consensus was that this was a fantastic evening's entertainment and thought-provoking stuff. I am in a vintage gay music whorl this morning as a result!

GALHA website

Friday, 12 February 2010

Funny, dirty, deeply romantic



'Funny, dirty, deeply romantic, Man's World is a wonderfully evocative novel.' (Jake Arnott)

The great and the good of the gay literati turned out in force for the launch of Rupert Smith's novel Man's World in the Blue Room at the Royal Festival Hall last night. Among the illustrious audience were Maureen Duffy, Jake Arnott, Mark Simpson, Suzi Feay, Dom Agius, Clayton Littlewood, Kenneth Hill and Paul Burston (and that's just the ones I knew!). And what a fascinating evening it was too (as if we could expect anything less from Rupert)!

Man's World, it appears, is a real labour of love. Having always harboured a desire to write a book on gay history, Rupert spent oodles of his own money and time on this tome, collecting old copies of early post-war men's "physique" magazines such as Health & Strength and of course Man's World (which gave the book its title), interviewing photographers and models from those mags, researching the archives of the Hall Carpenter Archive and drawing on his own and colleagues' personal experiences.

In the end, he admits, a factual anthology was inevitably out of his grasp (and resources), and a fictional tale just about gay lives in the 1950s appeared to be too dry. Thus he decided to weave a story that brings together the experiences of gay men in London from two very different times, over a 50 year period. Bridging as he does the gap (so to speak) between the generations, Rupert said he felt in a good position to knit the contrasting types of experience together in one thread. The story contrasts the contemporary designer lifestyle of Robert, seeking fulfilment in gay clubs, with that of Michael and his secretive gay life in the era of National Service and continued persecution of (still illegal) homosexuality.

In conversation with The Times Arts Editor Tim Teeman, Rupert explained the rationale behind the book, then read some pithy and superb passages from it, before giving us a history lesson in the evolution of men's pictoral (and increasingly erotic) magazines through the decades. These obviously form a mainstay of the thread of the story - particularly that of Michael.

Wrapping up with a very interesting and erudite question-and-answer session (why isn't Alan Turing held in such high esteem as Nelson Mandela in history teaching in our schools?), and a heartfelt thanks to the contributors (one of whom, an eighty-year-old veteran of the pre-legalisation era, was in the audience), out to the bookstall we all trooped to get our copies signed. I can't wait to read it!

A wonderful evening, and here's a fitting piece of music from Natacha Atlas...



It's a Man's World, indeed.

Buy your copy from Foyle's

Hall Carpenter Archives

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Skinheads, Ball(s) and lesbians in love...



We had another great Polari evening in the lovely St Paul's Pavilion on the roof of the Royal Festival Hall.

Opening with a few "in-jokes" for the regulars, Paul Burston was thrilled to be playing to a packed house with loads of new faces. Of course John-John and I now count as regulars and we were very happy to have a table near the centre of the action. We shared a couple of bottles of wine with the lovely Celine, whose friends were on the adjacent table, and tried (unsuccessfully) to eavesdrop on the gossip from journalist Johann Hari's table.

After an opening poem by the winner of the recent Write Queer London competition, we were stunned into silence by author Max Schaefer, reading some unsettling passages from his new novel Children of the Sun. Centred around the difficult subject of homosexuality in the skinhead/Nazi movement in the 70s and more recently the 90s, his lead characters are an unsympathetically racist gay teenager and a modern writer and researcher obsessed by a vile character by the name of Nicky Crane, who apparently became a gay porn star before dying of AIDS. Challenging stuff, but brilliant.

After the break Celine performed a couple of upbeat electro numbers with collaborator Dave Ball, taken from her forthcoming album - a remixed version of he legendary Polari song, and a newer dancy number, which was fab. She has loads of stuff going on this year, but I particularly look forward to this release!

Our headliner Mia Farlane read some very funny pieces from her novel Footnotes to Sex, accurately and pithily capturing the day-to-day lives and mundane conversations of two women in a long-term (and ironically given the title, sexless) relationship. I could hear me and Madame Arcati played out in miniature in much of the pre-sleep chit-chat...

In its new home, it seems that Polari is really carving a niche for itself in the world of artiness - for it to be "sold out" is remarkable, and Paul deserves huge congratulations for continuing to make it such a varied and entertaining event. Roll on next month with headliner Jake Arnott, and I look forward to tonight's evening with Rupert Smith launching his new novel Man's World (a tale that covers 50 years of gay life in London). So literary, dahhhhling!

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

...And the living is easy



"If you are going to think black, think positive about it. Don't think down on it, or think it is something in your way. And this way, when you really do want to stretch out, and express how beautiful black is, everybody will hear you."

Happy 83rd birthday today to the diva Leontyne Price, the first black person to become a leading prima donna at the Metropolitan Opera of New York.

Born in a poor neighbourhood in Mississippi, like so many singers she was discovered while singing in a church choir. With the help of none other than the remarkable Paul Robeson, she made the move to New York and eventually auditioned for one of the world's biggest conducters, Herbert von Karajan. The world fell in love with her sublime soprano voice, and she headlined in Vienna, at La Scala and at the Royal Opera House before triumphantly returning to the New York Met, where she sold out performances throughout the 1960s. By the early 80s, she was (briefly) the highest paid opera singer in the world.

Her crossover album Right as Rain, on which she collaborated with Andre Previn, is one of our favourites here at Dolores Delargo Towers, in addition to her triumphal Tosca. Many happy returns to a ground-breaking woman, and a brilliant talent!



Leontyne Price tribute site

Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Essential tips for fashionable people

We all need to learn how to make scarves look magnificent...

I wa-wa-wa-wa-wonder



On this day twenty years ago, the world lost a great talent when Del Shannon, the object of teenybopper lust in the 1960s, committed suicide with a shotgun after a period of depression.

What a sad end to an amazing life - the man wrote his most famous hit Runaway at the age of 21, and on transferring the the UK in the early 60s became a best-selling artist to rival even The Beatles. In fact his cover of From Me To You was a chart hit back home in the US before Beatlemania even took off! The artist formerly known as Charles Weedon Westover went on to work with a myriad of stars from Ike and Tina Turner to Tom Petty, and Bob Seger was his protegé. Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler admits that "Del Shannon was the reason I picked up my first guitar."

Alongside another favourite 60s vocalist Gene Pitney, Mr Shannon was largely forgotten for many years, then re-discovered in the 80s by the "cool set" - in Del's case his music was used for a TV show theme tune. A little too late unfortunately, but at least we have his legacy of fine music with which to remember him, including these...







http://www.delshannon.com/

Monday, 8 February 2010

She was amoral

"She was amoral. If she saw a stagehand with tight pants and a muscular build, she'd invite him into her dressing room."





I couldn't let the 89th anniversary of the birth of the sublime Miss Lana Turner pass unnoticed...



Lana Turner on IMDB

Boom boom! Boom boom!

As it is another Tacky Music Monday, and because (bizarrely) this song was one of the topics of conversation at Madame Acarti's birthday bash on Saturday, why not turn the spotlight on one of Scotland's finest musical exports?

Take it away, Miss Kelly Marie...



Kelly Marie official website

Sunday, 7 February 2010

"I am a marvelous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man I keep his house."



"How many husbands have you had, Miss Gabor?"
"Do you mean my own, or other peoples, daaaarlink?"


It is (remarkaby) the 93rd birthday of that Queen of Z-list celebrity, Zsa Zsa Gabor!

The original (and best) of those ladies who are "famous-for-being-famous", Miss Gabor and her sisters Magda and Eva arrived in the USA in 1941 as exotic Hungarian refugees, and hit the highest of high society with a bang! Within a very short time, Zsa Zsa had bagged herself a multi-millionaire husband in none other than Conrad Hilton (yes indeed, Paris's great-granddaddy!) - the second of nine husbands in her life, including the wonderful actor George Sanders and her current hubby (and millionaire) Frédéric Prinz von Anhalt. With this impeccable start, it was obvious that miles and miles of gossip columns would thenceforth be devoted to the great socialite over the next seventy years.

Despite appearing in numerous movies ranging from the memorable original Moulin Rouge and the not-so-memorable Frankenstein's Great Aunt Tillie, it is for merely being Zsa Zsa (daaaaarlink!) that she is most revered. Happy birthday to a very lucky lady indeed...

Here is the trailer for probably Miss Gabor's finest screen moment - the incredibly camp Queen of Outer Space:



And here is the lady herself, sharing her tips for health and fitness - and you'd better listen!

The Gabor Sisters website

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Eat your heart out Arlene Phillips

A little choreographed fabulosity for a Saturday - happy birthday Madame Acarti!



Busby Berkeley's Dames. Perfect.

Friday, 5 February 2010

"Friday night and the strip is hot! Sun's gone down and they're about to trot"

Just in case anyone wants to know why ALL gay men (even secretly) want to be Liza Minnelli... Have a happy Friday!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

"A little touch of sin - why wait another minute?"



Today it is the birthday of the fabulous Linda Eder, showbiz singer and Broadway star. Not an overly familar name in this country, maybe, but it gives me the perfect excuse to post one of our favourite songs - her ultimate show-stopper, and our recurring theme song for Gay Pride....

Please forgive the strange "anime" video - just Bring On The Men and let the fun begin!



Linda Eder MySpace page

El Baile Del Gorila

Dreaming of our Spanish holiday in a couple of weeks, what better to focus on than a combination of typically Andalucian cheesy pop and some semi-naked boys? Thanks to a recent discovery by Madame Acarti, we have both...

Melodía Ruiz Gutiérrez was discovered by the Spanish actor/singer known as El Fary, and at the tender age of ten became a child superstar across the Spanish-speaking world mainly due to this lovely little number. Little did she know how some gay men would itake it to their hearts, and even dance around in their skimpies to it...



Recognising this adulation (once she was old enough to realise it, maybe), Senorita Gutiérrez entered her country's heats to compete in Eurovision 2009. Narrowly pipped to the post by the Cheryl Cole looky-likey Soraya, in my honest opinion Melody y los Vivancos were the far better performers (for many reasons, not least her boys!)...



Melody's MySpace page

Wednesday, 3 February 2010

Feeling a little faggoty?

Just a little extra to feed my Tacky Music obsession!

Boys were their Gods



We went to the fabulously atmospheric Petrie Museum last night for the first of our selection of events to mark Gay History Month. In a fascinating talk, visiting US Professor Andrew Lear gave his explanation of the ancient Greek fascination with gay seduction, the adulation of the young male form by older and wealthier men. Ostensibly this could be any night out at The City of Quebec (aka "The Elephants' Graveyard"), but this is history...

Illustrating his thesis by comparing classical scenes on fragments of ancient pottery, he explained how the "youth cult" was treated very differently from pornographic art, and was in fact a widespread and accepted norm in that culture. It was a really engaging and educational evening, and we look forward to the rest of the events we have booked to attend.

And on the theme of Greek adulation...

Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology Andrew Lear's book "Boys Were Their Gods" LGBT History Month

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

The unstoppable broad



This week seems to have a glut of anniversaries of camp icons, showbiz legends and Broadway troupers.

It's a magnificent milestone today, as we celebrate the 85th birthday one of my personal idols, the eternally sassy Miss Elaine Stritch!

I have lauded this wonderful woman many times before - not least when I posted a potted life history of the magnificent lady just because I heard her being played on Radio 2... Read my last blog about "Stritchy".

Remarkably, even at her venerable age Miss Stritch refuses to back down from big stage challenges. In her current one-woman show at New York's Cafe Carlyle, Elaine Stritch Singin' Sondheim... One Song At A Time, she tackles her mentor's impressive back catalogue in celebration of the great man's 80th birthday celebrations this year.

The show ends tonight, with a massive 85th birthday bash and masses of flowers. Happy birthday, ma'am!



Read more about the show on the NY1 website

Monday, 1 February 2010

Le cavalier électrique



Was he murdered by secret agents? Did he electrocute himself with a dildo? Many increasingly stupid theories abound about the death of Claude François, Gallic/Egyptian superstar of the 1960s and 70s (whose 71st birthday it would have been today). However, given the offical verdict that he actually electrocuted himself by trying to a change a light-bulb while stood in the bath, who is the most stupid?

Anyhow, whatever the truth about the man's death, in life he was one of the most flamboyantly camp showbiz characters in post-war French pop, and although he never had any hits of his own outside France he made his fortune internationally nonetheless. For M. François was the mastermind behind one of the best-selling songs in history Comme D'habitude, which when translated into English by Paul Anka became My Way. A legend was born.

Despite his outrageous costumes, his nickname "Clo-Clo", his "ye-ye" go-go dancer backing troupe Les Clodettes and his hysterical following of young girls and queens d'un certain age, he maintained an ostensibly heterosexual life - he married once, had a public affair with chanteuse France Gall, and fathered two children with wine expert Isabelle Forêt before ditching her for a younger model. In private, many insiders have gone on record to state that his affairs d'amour were indeed less-than-straight...

Whatever the truth may be, it is a fact that on his untimely death at the age of 39 in 1978, mass hysteria followed among his fans. His death even inspired a number of female fans to attempt suicide in order to join him in the next world. Two of them succeeded... Ten years after he died a square in Paris was re-named in his honour. He entered that hallowed world of camp French icons alongside the likes of Dalida and left us, on this Tacky Music Monday, with some deliciously kitsch gems indeed!

..





Claude François biography on RFI Musique..

"The Claude François Mystery" blog article