Thursday, 4 August 2011

Village People, fringes, moustachioed Vatican divas

After (remarkably) about ten years since I last set foot in the place, I found myself in the Royal Vauxhall Tavern (RVT) yesterday evening (Wednesday 3 August). I'm not sure why it has been so long between visits - they have a feast of events on regularly by artists I like, including David Hoyle, Justin Bond, Myra Dubois, Marcus Reeves and the rag tag and bobtail of the Wotever World crowd, so I have no excuse.

Last night's excuse was (of course) a visit to the RVT Hot August Fringe by our favourite "peerless gay literary salon" Polari! Our host Paul Burston (looking even more svelte than last time we saw him - the man needs some pie!) had been invited to fill the hour's slot at quite short notice, so it was remarkable that he managed to assemble three of our most esteemed literati to read pieces from their contributions to the recently published Men and Women compendium.

First up was the wonderfully wacky Karen McLeod, who announced to the audience "last time I was on this stage I was dressed as a six-foot penis" - which was quite a surprise - before revisiting Never Can Say Goodbye, her tale of lesbian marital woe on the less-than-paradise honeymoon island of Barbados, that I so enjoyed last month at the launch of the book.

She was followed by one of our literary giants, the lovely Christopher Fowler. His short story Ladies and Gentlemen takes up where his prize-winning novel Paperboy left off, this time entering the heady world of teenage and early gay adulthood. It is an excellent tale, and as Mr Fowler said, a bit of a taster for the novel's forthcoming sequel. Again giving us a humorous insight into his own life, in his early days of working in the advertising industry one of his jobs was to promote an ill-fated movie...
Back at the office we were working on s film called Discoland, but by the time it went into production disco was suddenly as dead as Donna Summer's reputation, so the title was changed to "Discoland: Where The Music Never Stops", and finally, with an air of desperation, Can't Stop The Music.

When we saw the finished cut, our jaws dropped. The film had dated badly before it had even opened. It was impossible to imagine who director Nancy Walker thought she was making her magnum opus for. Walker was an old chorus girl from films like On The Town, and had filled the film with gay men and old broads, which probably reflected her life.

The wrong-headedness of this film gave a clue to the kind of dead-end in which the gay 70s now found itself. Steve Guttenburg ran around shrieking in cut-off denims, and the Village People appeared with some 8-year-old boys dressed in chaps and cock-rings. For the film's premiere, the distributors decided that we, the marketing men, should surrender our last shreds of dignity and show up in tiny short shorts and roller skates. Unfortunately the cinema has a steeply raked floor, so that when the ridicule began we found ourselves unable to move without shooting down the the front of the theatre and vanishing into the organ pit. The audience laughed with the desperation of cancer-stricken children at their last panto.
Absolutely brilliant!

Closing the triptych, and in complete contrast was the eternal fave Sophia Blackwell with her tale The Pianist's Hands - a thoughtful peek into the reminisces of a former jazz singer and her seduction by the androgynous female pianist of the title. It is a mesmerising story, and one of the few about whose characters I want to read more.

Despite the reasonably small crowd (it was the early slot), this was a sterling effort on Mr Burston's part, in trying to get good literature into what is otherwise the preserve of unconventional performers, singers and comedians. Speaking of which...

We stayed on a little while after the literati left the stage, and caught the magnificence that is Fabylicious in all his glory!

Demi-drag doyenne of twisted lyrics to popular songs, ostensibly "the only out gay man in the Vatican City", wild child, performance artist, outlandish queen - all suitable epithets for this marvellous eccentric, arriving as he did dressed in fetish mac and headgear, set off with a pink fluffy mask (and later a fetching leopardskin top and purple trousers combo). How different he was when he joined the Almondettes for Marc Almond's Varieté album launch at HMV last year.

With side-swipes at everyone from the Pope to Lady GaGa, even though this was a typically shambolic show (more or less what you expect from the RVT), it was bloody hilarious! A fine way to round off an interesting evening in South London's legendary cultural venue...


  1. Loved Wednesday night and this blog.

    Great photos too.

    I've just started reading* Julian Corkle is a Filthy Liar by DJ Connell which is so good I've already ordered Sherry Cracker Get's Normal by the same author.

    *side-stepping Sometimes My Life with Andy Bell.

    see you on Sunday - come rain or come shine x

  2. What a shame I missed this. I'm a friend of Fabi's and it would have been fab to see him full throttle so to speak!!;-). I've also got the Ladies and Gentlemen collection of short stories and am most of the way thru the Gents, soon to move onto the Ladies! I love Sophia's collection of poetry that I bought at Polari goes Pop! in June. Hope to make it to September's. See you soon darling xxx

  3. I still didn't realise that Faby Liscious was the one who was there at Marc's record signing even though Jon said as much I still thought he was referring to the third act of the evening whom we left without seeing ... I'm a dozy mare at times.

  4. Paul Burston and the Official RVT Facebook page have both posted links to this blog. x

  5. It was a fab night - shame you missed it, Ange!

    Tony - DJ Connell certainly writes fab stories; I haven't bought them yet, but I will...

    Mr Faby is indeed a wonderful performer, and I hope to see/hear more from him!

    I look forward to what September's Polari will bring.


    PS good to hear that my blog is being "pimped" out there in Fuckbookland...

  6. PPS See you both Sunday!! Jx


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