Tuesday 31 July 2007

Get them young

"...You, my youth, are our nation's most precious guarantee for a great future, and you are destined to be the leaders of a glorious new order under the supremacy of National Socialism. Never forget that one day you will rule the world…" - Adolf Hitler, 1938.

More chilling news from the world's biggest fundamentalist society, the United States.

Wal-Mart has apparently started selling Christian-themed children's "action figures", presumably in an attempt to twist small children's minds towards the type of mindless religion fuelled hate that pervades much of the good ol' American Way™ these days.

Read the whole sad story

You've Got to be Carefully Taught (Rodgers & Hammerstein)
from the musical South Pacific

You've got to be taught
To hate and fear,
You've got to be taught
From year to year,
It's got to be drummed
In your dear little ear
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught to be afraid
Of people whose eyes are oddly made,
And people whose skin is a diff'rent shade,
You've got to be carefully taught.

You've got to be taught before it's too late,
Before you are six or seven or eight,
To hate all the people your relatives hate,
You've got to be carefully taught

Monday 30 July 2007

Adieu, Zaza

Sad news today - Michel Serrault, unabashed star of that marvellous camp classic film La Cage Aux Folles, is dead.

As the outrageous drag queen Albin (whose alter ego Zaza was queen of the nightclub run by her boyfriend Renato), Serrault set a superb precedent of hysterical camp that could not be matched by any future pretenders to the throne - not even the fab Nathan Lane, who reprised the role for The Birdcage with Robin Williams.

The film itself was ground-breaking stuff in 1978. Its sympathetic portrayal of two ageing gay men and their relationship with each other - and their cultural clash with so-called "normal" life as Renato's son prepares to marry the daughter of an ultra right-wing politician - was practically unheard of in its day and quickly became a cult hit, even though it is entirely in French. It was nominated for three Oscars, and won several awards including a Golden Globe.

Those giants of Broadway Jerry Herman and Harvey Fierstein were inspired to make a hugely successful musical out of the story, which spawned an uber-gay anthem in I Am What I Am, and one of my favourite songs The Best Of Times Is Now.

And of course without La Cage, where would such films as Torch Song Trilogy, Priscilla Queen of the Desert and To Wong Foo be?

Farewell, Zaza!

The Best of Times is Now (from La Cage Aux Folles the musical)
The best of times is now.
What's left of Summer
But a faded rose?

The best of times is now.
As for tomorrow,
Well, who knows? Who knows? Who knows?

So hold this moment fast,
And live and love
As hard as you know how.
And make this moment last
Because the best of times is now,
Is now, is now.

Now, not some forgotten yesterday.
Now, tomorrow is too far away.

So hold this moment fast,
And live and love
As hard as you know how.
And make this moment last,
Because the best of times is now, is now.

So hold this moment fast,
And live and love
As hard as you know how.
And make this moment last,
Because the best of times is now,
Is now, is now
Is now, is NOW!

La Cage aux Folles (film) on Wikipedia

La Cage aux Folles (musical) on Wikipedia

Michel Serrault - BBC article

Saturday 28 July 2007

Old Spice

Bored already with this bloody Spice Girls reunion! What is Geri thinking of?

According to reports, each member of the new Old Spice will use their own private jet to accommodate their entourage of assistants, family members, and massive egos. Each is planning to take 10 hair stylists and make-up experts, as well as fitness trainers, nutrition advisors, personal assistants and child minders. No mention of the people who airbrush their publicity photos...

Thursday 26 July 2007

Hello Dolly!

That spectacle of glitter, sequins and hutzpah Danny La Rue is 80 years old today! Danny was a camp phenomenon of the mid 20th century - he made drag "respectable" in an era when gay sex was punishable with a prison sentence, playing to any kind of audience without giving offence.

With his catchphrase "wotcha mates", he swept on stage in spectacular costumes and wigs, impersonating such celebrities as Elizabeth Taylor, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Dorothy Squires, even Margaret Thatcher. He was feted by some of the dodgier characters of the 1960s including various hangers-on of the likes of the Krays, but rose to become one of the highest-paid entertainers of that decade.

Danny La Rue was the first female impersonator to perform for the Queen at the Royal Variety Performance, and was befriended by many stars who attended his nightclub in Hanover Square including Marlene Dietrich, Barbara Windsor, Judy Garland, Shirley Bassey, Noel Coward, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Elizabeth Taylor and even (famously) Princess Margaret, who walked in on him while he was naked in his dressing room!

Noel Coward described him as "The most professional, the most witty...and the most utterly charming man in the business." Danny's mainstream career continued for many decades after his 60s heyday, in TV specials, on the big screen (albeit to limited success), and in pantomime. And of course, he made a real name for himself when he landed his most famous stage role - that of Dolly Levi in the musical Hello, Dolly!

Never obviously a great one for supporting gay rights when he was younger, Danny spent much of his career pretending to be a straight man who just happened to dress up for the stage. In truth, Danny lived for decades with his partner and manager Jack Hanson, until Jack's death in Australia following a major stroke. Danny - recently awarded an OBE - went into semi-retirement in 2006 after he too had a stroke, but has apparently stated his intention to tour again in 2008. I look forward to it!

I said hello, Dolly,......well, hello, Dolly
It's so nice to have you back where you belong
You're lookin' swell, Dolly.......I can tell, Dolly
You're still glowin'...you're still crowin'...you're still goin' strong
I feel that room swayin'......while the band's playin'
One of your old favourite songs from way back when
So..... take her wrap, fellas.......find her an empty lap, fellas
Dolly'll never go away again

I said hello, Dolly,.....well, hello, Dolly
It's so nice to have you back where you belong
You're lookin' swell, Dolly.....I can tell, Dolly
You're still glowin'...you're still crowin'...you're still goin' strong
I feel the room swayin'...while that ole band keeps on playin'
One of your old favourite songs from way back when
So...golly, gee, fellas....find her an empty knee, fellas
Dolly'll never go away....I said she'll never go away
Dolly'll never go away again!!


Wednesday 25 July 2007

Fascinating Rhythm!

What a show!

We went to see Lady Be Good at the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park last night with a group of friends. For once we actually had a dry, warm sunny day - and it stayed that way all evening, which was a blessing. We started off with bottles of Cava and a picnic, and carried on drinking wine the whole evening... at least fifteen bottles between ten of us (oo-er).

Anyway, this current revival of the George and Ira Gershwin show is absolutely brilliant! The mainly youthful cast tapped, giggled, danced and hammed their hearts out as the silly, camp story of love triangles, mistaken identity and high society parties unfolded. And the songs...you can't fault a show that contains such classics as Oh Lady Be Good, Sweet and Low Down, The Half of It Dearie Blues and of course Fascinating Rhythm!!

Against a beautiful and gloriously over-the-top set comprising Art Deco stairs in the design of piano keys and drums, the ladies in their fabulous sequinned frocks sparkled in the dimming light, and the dancing boys - well, twink is the word!

Director Ian Talbot was sufficiently reverent about this Fred and Adele Astaire classic for it not to lose its period magic, but the way the characters emphasised some of the double-entendre lines was perhaps a bit of a nod to the supposedly more "aware" modern audience. (Mind you, with the number of liver spots and bad rinses that surrounded us I felt sure half of last night's crowd were around for the premiere of the original!)

A great night out in a great venue.

Oh! Lady Be Good
Listen to my tale of woe,
it's terribly sad but true,
All dressed up, no place to go
Each ev'ning I'm awf'ly blue.
I must win some handsome guy
Can't go on like this,
I could blossom out I know,
With somebody just like you. So...

Oh, sweet and lovely lady, be good
Oh, lady, be good to me
I am so awf'ly misunderstood
So lady, be good to me

Oh, please have some pity
I'm all alone in this big city

I tell you I'm just a lonesome babe in the wood,
So lady be good to me.

Oh, please have some pity
I'm all alone in this big city

I tell you I'm just a lonesome babe in the wood,
So lady be good to me.

Read the Official Theatre website's review

Saturday 14 July 2007

Absolute bloody shower

That magnificent actor Terry-Thomas, who portrayed the archetypal "cad" in so many glorious films of the 1960s, would have been 96 years old today...

His gap-toothed lustful leer and well-groomed faux aristocratic air brightened up our days in such classics as Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines, It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World, School for Scoundrels and Lucky Jim. Who could resist his charm?

Terry-Thomas on IMDB

Thursday 12 July 2007

He lived for gossip

A man after my own heart! Described as "the hack who lived for gossip", Nigel Dempster - unrivalled lord of the society columns and stalwart of Private Eye jibes for decades - is dead.

Dempster's columns in first the Daily Express, then later the Daily Mail, concentrated on revealing the foibles and indiscretions of the gentry, the rich, the famous and not-so-famous alike. As Roy Greenslade says in his tribute in the Guardian, "There was a vicarious pleasure in reading about the illicit relationships, the divorces and the parties."

Although his days were numbered with the onset of rival (and much cheaper and easier to digest) slag-mag columns in the tabloids, the rise of the TV and pop "celebrity" and Hello! and OK! magazines, his spirit still lives on - if only in their envy at his ability (and their failure) to get the true stories before they happen.

Dempster accurately predicted the planned resignation of Harold Wilson as prime minister - an event which came as a bolt from the blue to most of the political establishment. He was also first with the story about Prince Andrew's plans to marry Sarah Ferguson. These are the kinds of scoop the big celebrity magazines would die for...

But after all, only a true journalist can root out the lowest facts about the most "untouchable" people, and present them (as he did) in a matter-of-fact way amongst the photos of polo matches and charity balls, then sit back and wait for the fireworks to begin!


Roy Greenslade on Nigel Dempster

BBC Online's obituary

Wednesday 11 July 2007

Ecky Thump!

University students can learn about coal-mining, rugby league and brass bands as part of a new degree course in northern life.

"It is thought to be the first time an English university has offered a course dedicated to Northernness." No shit, Sherlock!

So what next? A doctorate in Coronation Street? A PhD in Last of the Summer Wine? Grim.

That's the silliest story I have heard since I found out about the (apparently legitimate) degree in Klingon!

Read all about it

Tuesday 10 July 2007

I could slap this fopdoodle

In an obvious irony of fate, while watching this evening a fabulous examination of the life of that literary giant Dr Samuel Johnson, I stumbled across a ghastly piece on the BBC website.

An illiterate American called Masha (sic) Bell, member of the sinisterly named "Simplified Spelling Society", truly believes that bastardisation of the English language is the way forward - as if America has not been responsible for enough disruption in our fine language!

And I quote, "Worldwide, English spelling wastes zillions, not onely in terms of time and effort, but in real munny too: for remedial education and to suport functionally illiterate adults. The latter ar also mor likely to becum yung singl parents, end up in jail, be adicted tu drugs and alcohol and hav poor helth."

I despair! Our education system struggles enough with the social problems of a generation brought up on rap, text messaging and videogame-speak, without some bored Yank offering validation of the breed of ignorant youth that litters our streets by publishing this kind of clap-trap!

Read a debate between the fragrant Masha and a real person, one with an education and a vocabulary, in the BBC online magazine.

Read more of Dr Johnson and his ground-breaking dictionary

Monday 9 July 2007

Torch songs, showgirls and a naked man

The god(dess) of sleaze, torch song aficionado and all-round camp icon Marc Almond is 50 today!

An inspiration for me ever since the days of Tainted Love/Where Did Our Love Go? and the Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret album back in 1981, I first saw Marc on stage at the grotty "New Ocean Club" in Tremorfa, Cardiff in 1984 when I was still a student. His performance even then was awe-inspiring, but cut short when he got a strop on as a girl in the audience wrenched a bangle off his wrist. He threw the mike down, stormed off and we were left blinking in the grim surroundings staring at an empty stage.

Since then I've seen him at various Gay Pride festivals - most notably at Finsbury Park in 2000, accompanied by various Follies showgirls and a naked man!:

...and most recently at the Bertold Brecht tribute concert at Patti Smith's Meltdown on the South Bank in 2005. That occasion was particularly poignant, as it was one of his earliest stage appearances after a horrendous motorbike crash left him fighting for his life.

Marc apparently still has a degree of memory loss due to the severity of his injuries, yet he still continues to amaze and astonish, not least with his latest CD Stardom Road. He admits that he chose to do a collection of covers rather than an original album partly because he has difficulty writing new material - but it is magnificent nonetheless, in particular his version of Dusty Springfield's I Close My Eyes and Count To Ten with Sarah Cracknell of St Etienne.

I raise a glass of absinthe to a true genius of the music world, and long may he continue to astound and amaze us!

>Marc Almond website

Saturday 7 July 2007

Attend the tale of Sweeney Todd

"Rest now, my friends.
Soon, I'll unfold you.
Soon you'll know splendours
You never have dreamed
All your days,
My lucky friends
'Til now your shine was merely silver.
Friends, you shall drip rubies, you'll soon drip precious rubies...

Possibly the only musical ever written that contains a love song to a box of knives, Sweeney Todd is Stephen Sondheim's darkest work.

With nods to Bertolt Brecht and his Threepenny Opera, this is a musical not for the faint-hearted, especially in its rendition by Bryn Terfel, Maria Friedman and the brilliant cast at the Royal Festival Hall last night!

With his booming voice and commanding stature, Bryn was a truly chilling Sweeney, and Maria Friedman the perfect foil as the cunning and darkly comic Mrs Lovett - each playing to each other's passions, his for murder and revenge, hers for making a profit (a killing?) from making pies out of dead men's flesh.

Suffering slightly from the terrible acoustics (where did they spend all that money when the RFH was refurbished?) and awkward staging, it was still a truly magnificent and spine-tingling evening. A performance that even the uber-talented Johnny Depp is going to struggle to emulate in the forthcoming film version of the musical!

But regardless of any version, one song from Sweeney Todd remains one of the greatest Sondheim ever wrote:

Not While I'm Around
Nothing's gonna harm you, not while I'm around.
Nothing's gonna harm you, no sir, not while I'm around.

Demons are prowling everywhere, nowadays,
I'll send 'em howling,
I don't care, I got ways.

No one's gonna hurt you,
No one's gonna dare.
Others can desert you,
Not to worry, whistle, I'll be there.

Demons'll charm you with a smile, for a while,
But in time...
Nothing can harm you
Not while I'm around...

Being close and being clever
Ain't like being true
I don't need to,
I would never hide a thing from you,
Like some...

No one's gonna hurt you, no one's gonna dare
Others can desert you,
Not to worry, whistle, I'll be there!
Demons'll charm you with a smile, for a while
But in time...
Nothing can harm you
Not while I'm around...

Cleo Laine singing this song:

Josh Groban (who?) singing this song (very well actually):


Thursday 5 July 2007

Rum, Bum and Concertina no more

Very sad news today bout the death of dear old George Melly. We adored him.

Flamboyantly camp megastar of the trad jazz world, eccentric writer of bestselling and blatantly honest autobiographies, surrealist, raconteur and wit, the man epitomised the decadent post-war world that gave birth to the Swinging Sixties.

His genius as a performer both on and off the jazz stage gained him a legion of fans - me included - who continue to love and adore his sardonic versions of blues numbers like God Bless The Child and I Hate A Man Like You, and rumbustious renditions of standards such as Hard Hearted Hannah, Sweet Georgia Brown, and, of course, Anything Goes:

George was a trooper to the end, and despite lung cancer and several strokes that had evidently contributed to his creeping dementia, he still continued to perform even after collapsing on stage during a concert in January this year.
"When camp is tragic, and it can be, it is always personal and never universal. That it is sometimes silly and snobbish is obvious. It is however always, and at whatever cost, a cry against conformity, a shriek against boredom, a testament to the potential uniqueness of each of us and our rights to that uniqueness."
- George Melly, from the preface of "Camp - the Lie that tells the Truth" by Philip Core.
Read more about George's life on Wikipedia

Tuesday 3 July 2007

The first lady of pop

Not many people really noticed, blinded as we all were by driving rain, but the theme of this year's Pride parade was "Icons".

I chose the gorgeous Debbie Harry as mine - and spent a week customising a T-shirt with the gorgeous diva's picture on it.

The lady herself was 62 years old this week, and still looks absolutely stunning. With a back catalogue that slappers like the Spice Girls can only dream of - think Atomic, Heart Of Glass, Denis, Sunday Girl, Call Me, Hanging on the Telephone, and the exquisite (my favourite) Picture This and many many more - our Debbie epitomises everything that a diva should be.

An inspiration to a generation of rebel girls, a wank fantasy for teenage (and older) boys, and a face to die for, Debbie's beautiful persona became the equivalent of Marilyn Monroe for the post-punk set. I salute a true icon of our times!

Monday 2 July 2007

Brolly Pride

And so we stood and stood and stood, in the worst weather I have seen in sixteen years as a Gay Pride veteran, waiting for the barriers to be lifted and for the parade to get the go-ahead to move off.

Fuelled by Cava and the sheer "Blitz Spirit" that occurs in any crowd on such occasions, we kept ourselves amused by singing Barbra's Don't Rain On My Parade and perving over the gay police and military personnel nearby. And then, over half an hour late and with feather boas by now looking like rats' tails, we were off!

Our group was right at the front, behind the rainbow flag and Ken's (rather drier) float. This year, fellow staff and supporters of Scope were marching for the first time ever as an organised group, and with wheelchair-using members of the organisation we were placed in the so-called "safe space" at the head of the march. Safe? My word! We were off at a great rate of knots - those wheelchairs can get up a fine pace when they put their minds to it...

Resplendent in purple Scope sashes, we handed out hundreds of "Time to Get Equal" leaflets - generally to the prettier members of the bemused tourist crowd lining the route - as we teetered through the puddles. A fabulous melange of diamanté, showgirls, lesbians and gay men together.

The parade, for only the second year running, took its prominent route through the heart of shopping London, down through Piccadilly, past the ridiculous handful of idiots representing the National Front (all six of them!) and the bible-bashing bigots (every one of them so elderly and soo mad-looking that I felt they were almost at the point of meeting their God) to Trafalgar Square and finally dispersing (far to early we thought) at Whitehall.

There we stood for a while to watch the floats, semi naked muscle boys, community groups and dripping drag queens to their conclusion before seeking a pub to top-up the alcohol levels!

It was all over far too soon, but despite the torrential rain it was as always a fantastic day!! Brolly Pride, indeed...

Don't Rain On My Parade
Don't tell me not to live, just sit and putter,
Life's candy and the sun's a ball of butter.
Don't bring around a cloud to rain on my parade.

Don't tell me not to fly-- I've simply got to.
If someone takes a spill, it's me and not you.
Who told you you're allowed to rain on my parade!

I'll march my band out, I'll beat my drum,
And if I'm fanned out, Your turn at bat, sir.
At least I didn't fake it.
Hat, sir, I guess I didn't make it!

But whether I'm the rose of sheer perfection,
Or freckle on the nose of life's complexion,
The cinder or the shiny apple of its eye,
I gotta fly once, I gotta try once,
Only can die once, right, sir?

Ooh, love is juicy, juicy, and you see
I gotta have my bite, sir!
Get ready for me, love, 'cause I'm a "comer"
I simply gotta march, my heart's a drummer.
Don't bring around a cloud to rain on my parade!

I'm gonna live and live now,
Get what I want--I know how,
One roll for the whole shebang,
One throw, that bell will go clang,
Eye on the target--and wham--
One shot, one gun shot, and bam--
Hey, Mister Arnstein, here I am!

I'll march my band out, I will beat my drum,
And if I'm fanned out, your turn at bat, sir,
At least I didn't fake it.
Hat, sir, I guess I didn't make it.

Get ready for me, love, 'cause I'm a "comer"
I simply gotta march, my heart's a drummer.
Nobody, no, nobody
Is gonna rain on my parade!