Friday 31 August 2007

A decade of mourning

TEN YEARS! It seems incomprehensible...

An icon for a generation was tragically killed a decade ago, and yet she is hardly ever off the front pages (particularly if you look at The Express every Monday!).

They say everyone can remember where they were the exact time they found out the awful news about the death of Diana, Princess of Wales. And yes, I know exactly where I was... Waiting for a ferry early in the morning from Roscoff in Brittany to Plymouth, there was a hastily scribbled A4 sheet of paper pinned to the information booth - "Lady Di dead".

Not understanding the full implication of this, we went back to the car and my boyf at the time translated the local radio reports from French into English. It was true! Our Royal Princess, fashion icon and "friend" was indeed gone for ever - and ironically died in a car crash in the capital of this very country.

The journey home was peculiar. I felt the news had not yet sunk in - not just for me, but also for the hundreds of passengers on board, many of whom were obviously just learning the dreadful news from looking at the widescreen TVs in the breakfast lounge. The gradual stunned silence that fell over what would normally be a chaotic crowd of returning Brits and French back-packers was eerie.

It may be crass to say that Diana herself in any way changed our world, but her death certainly made the biggest emotional impact I have ever known upon the public in Britain and across the globe. International media had made her THE face of a generation, and in death Diana eclipsed any megastar status she could ever have dreamed about.

Many people can make accusations about a "conspiracy" surrounding her accidental death, or about "the real Diana", but in many many ways she continues to live on (in pictures) as the young, beautiful woman we want to remember - an ethereal spectre of a most unusual era in British history.

Read more on the BBC

[Oh, and if anyone has never seen The Queen with Helen Mirren, the definitive recollection of this bizarre time ten years ago - you really should!]

Tuesday 28 August 2007

A Nightingale sang...

BBC Radio 1 has announced that Annie Nightingale's Request Show is being revived for one night only to mark the station's 40th anniversary. The two-hour show will be broadcast on 30 September 2007.

Annie Nightingale (unbelievably, she is 67 years old!) was the first female presenter on BBC Radio 1, and since the death of John Peel in October 2004 has been its longest-serving presenter. Her career at the station is more than twenty years longer than that of the second longest-serving presenter, DJ Pete Tong.

I used to love her Request Show! Coming as it did straight after the Top 40 - a show that in its heyday in the late Seventies and early 80s was an absolute essential in any youngster's listening week - Annie brought to the airwaves a selection of those bands that never made the high points of the charts at that time, but were somehow cooler and less esoteric than those that John Peel played.

Pioneering such artists as Siouxsie and the Banshees, The Cure, Joy Division, and anything from punk to acid house, she has now carved a late-night niche with her breakbeat and chillout shows for the post-clubbers who tune in at 4am to hear her.

How fantastic to have little part of my adolescence back, albeit briefly. (And we won't even mention The Old Grey Whistle Test!)

Read the article on Gigwise

Monday 27 August 2007

A poignant anniversary

Three years to the day since the lovely Laura Branigan died - far too young at 47 - of an aneurysm.

She was such an influential singer in her heyday in the 1980s, with such hits as Gloria, Solitaire and of course the fantastic Self Control, the theme tune of my "coming out" (and that of probably many other boys of my generation).

So, in tribute to the lady, a rare outing for the video...

Sunday 26 August 2007

John Waters vs the caterpillar

Bizarrely, when I read this headline I was momentarily confused.

Could it be possible that a classic film by John Waters and Divine (or even its erstwhile musical remake featuring John Travolta) really save Sherwood Forest from destruction by caterpillars?

No, unfortunately. Read the true story.

Friday 24 August 2007

He always was cheap

This article made me laugh out loud today! At a charity auction of pictures and sketches done by famous people, the effort submitted by former Labour leader Neil Kinnock raised the princely sum of £36! Less even than drawings by Anne Widdicombe, Tony Benn and David Cameron...

Read the article in The Independent

He was just as well respected when he was the Leader of the Opposition.

Tuesday 21 August 2007

Eddie Murphy Raw?

"That's a new thing for me, to have my co-star in a scene turn to me and tell me they love me. In "48 Hours", Nick Nolte never turned to me and went "I love you Ed"!"
Eddie Murphy

So what is it with these rumours going round the web at the moment?

Just check this out! And this.


Apparently according to some crackpot new research girls prefer pink - or at least a redder shade of blue - and boys prefer blue, which allegedly shows that men and women see the world differently. Read the Telegraph article.

With this pic of our gang at Sunday's Soho Pride, I beg to differ...

Thursday 16 August 2007

Our glorious leader

The very gorgeous Madonna is 49 years old! And still so flexible...

So what on earth is there left to say about the mighty Madge that hasn't been said before? The grand mistress of re-invention, Madonna has masterminded more changes of image and musical direction in her twenty-odd years at the top of the charts than anyone other than perhaps David Bowie!

Everything Madge touches seems to turn to gold in the end (apart from her acting career maybe). From the street-savvy Noo Yawker of the early 80s Starlight and Holiday era through the all-consuming dance classics of Get Into the Groove and every gay boy's fave Vogue, to her notorious fetishist Erotica days and a climb back to the mainstream with Evita, a Bond theme, an Oscar-winning husband - and an undeniable awareness that she is indeed "Our Glorious Leader" on the gay scene - I think everyone of our era must admit that at some crucial stage in their life there is at least one Madonna song that was playing. And thus she knocks all of the competition into a cocked hat...

Madonna, we salute you!!

Tuesday 14 August 2007

My favourite bar in my favourite city

Just returned from an extended weekend in Amsterdam for my birthday - what a fantastic time we had! Beautiful weather, beautiful people... My 28th visit in sixteen years, and I never tire of the place!

Amsterdam is a totally laid-back city. You don't actually need to smoke weed to feel relaxed! It's the atmosphere that makes it so special - the lack of attitude (apart from tourists of course), the FEBO...

...the canals, the pleins, the cafes, the bars, the music, the joy of it all! If I could live there I would!

And for anyone who has never been there before, you simply must try the Montmartre bar off Rembrandtsplein - the most fantastic FUN bar in the world. You may feel miserable, or sad, or just a bit tired when you enter the Montmartre, but I can guarantee you will not leave this bar without a smile on your face!

No wonder they call it Happy Hour...

Tuesday 7 August 2007

Carry on Babs!

The lovely Barbara Windsor is 70 years old!

Who would believe that? It must be her East End upbringing (and a much younger husband!) that keeps her looking so fresh-faced and bubbly...

Fag-hag, Carry On star and former associate of notorious gangsters such as the Krays, Babs is one of those national treasures that no-one ever has a bad word to say about. She is scheduled to be amongst the stars of stage, film and TV who will appear in a tribute show in honour of the late John Inman on 30th September at the Lyric Theatre in London, and apparently plans to continue in her role as Peggy Mitchell in Eastenders for the foreseeable future.

Bizarrely, at her birthday bash in London she received an unexpected party crasher - none other than genius author Professor Stephen Hawking! I wonder what they found to talk about? The history of the universe, or just THOSE gravity-defying boobs?

Ten things you never knew about Babs Windsor

Barbara Windsor on Wikipedia

Sunday 5 August 2007

Brighton Pride 2007

We didn't actually go to Brighton Pride yesterday, as I had a joint birthday party with my sister in the evening, but I think this picture may capture some of the spirit of the day...

150,000 people at Brighton Pride - BBC

Thursday 2 August 2007

Who Killed the Drowsy Chaperone?

Well, who would have thought that I would absolutely love a musical that had Elaine Paige in it?!

However we went to see The Drowsy Chaperone last night - in its last week in the West End for some unfathomable reason - and, my word! what a show!

Its premise is extremely clever. The narrator ("Man in Chair") is an ageing show fan, who from the outset takes the audience into his confidence and tells of his love of a mythical 1920s show (The Drowsy Chaperone), the music of which he uses to escape from his dreary daily life.

As he plays his treasured vinyl copy, the show comes to life - in his own meagre apartment - and the Man in Chair takes us through his beloved show - the plot of what is obviously an extremely second-rate and hammy production, full of clumsy scenes and songs and a cast of has-beens, even for their era.

But in doing so the real magic unfolds with his own enthusiasm for the show, as we are treated to some genuinely superb costumes, humour and choreography - particularly from the lead characters Janet Van der Graaf (the incredible Summer Strallen, whose legs and footwork were astonishing!) and Robert Martin (John Partridge, whose dance number on roller skates was amazing).

In truth, the show really belongs to the Man in Chair himself (Steve Pemberton, famously known as "Tubbs" in The League of Gentlemen). Such gags as the record "jumping" and the cast "jumping" with it, to his mistake in putting the wrong musical on - which leads to a gloriously overblown camp Oriental (non-PC) number appearing on stage instead of our regular snippets of the show - to the quite poignant ending where he appears to "see" the characters sing the show just for him, are captivating, as he demonstrates his sheer passion for a world he would never know - but one which he wishes was his.

And how much do we empathise with that!

A truly original and altogether astonishing production, The Drowsy Chaperone will be a very sad loss to a West End currently so full of contrivance and over-familarity - a West End that needs a show of this class and calibre to maintain its credibility!

Perhaps the promoters' biggest mistake was to use Elaine Paige (whose role is a very good, very funny, very skilled, but relatively minor part of the whole thing) as their only selling point.

Read The Guardian blog by Kelly Nestruck - Who Killed the Drowsy Chaperone?

Wednesday 1 August 2007

A unique musical genius

Just a little tribute to the fantastic Kate Bush, whose 49th birthday it was this weekend.

What can you possibly say about Kate - one of the greatest and most creative solo female performers ever! There is no-one who can touch her unique talent, no-one that sounds quite like her, and no-one who can quite master her visual style either...

Kate Bush on Wikipedia