Friday 30 November 2007

Puttin’ on The Ritz

Wow! Just discovered the fact that a production of Terrence McNally's fabulous comedy The Ritz has been revived on Broadway...

A camp classic (and the movie is one of my favourite films), The Ritz is the story of Carmine, a member of a mob family who, on the run from hitmen ordered by his own dying father-in-law, takes refuge in the one place he thinks the killers will never find him - a New York gay bath house!

Inside, the interplay between the characters is one long farcical (and hilarious) romp of innuendo and mistaken identities. The lead gay character is the uber-camp Chris, whose one-liners I still quote today:

  • (Bumping into a big butch queen in the lift) "Margaret Dumont, we thought you were dead!"
  • "Well, if there's one thing I can't stand, it's a queen without a sense of humour. You can die with your secrets, honey!"
  • "There will be an orgy in Room 340 in approximately four minutes! Orgy in 340, four minutes!"

But among the eccentric mix of characters in The Ritz , the star of them all has to be that epitome of all dire cabaret acts, Miss Googie Gomez! Played in the movie by the supremely talented Rita Moreno, Googie Gomez is anything but... Her hilarious "tribute" to Cole Porter, her violence when someone thinks she is "tacky drag", her pursuit of Carmine when she thinks he is a music producer - all priceless!

And so Terrence McNally's play returns to the stage, and hope one day the producers will have the good sense to bring it over here - I will be first in the queue for tickets!

Read all about the Broadway production at Studio 54

Footnote: And for any of you bizarre people out there who have never even seen The Ritz there is the perfect opportunity coming up, as the DVD is (finally) released in the US in January! No sign of a UK release as yet, but I wait with bated breath...

Order your copy from Amazon

Thursday 29 November 2007

For us, stars will stop where they are

Tonight, tonight
Won't be just any night
Tonight there will be no morning star.
Tonight, tonight
I'll see my love tonight,
And for us, stars will stop
Where they are.

The minutes seem like hours,
The hours go so slowly,
And still the sky is light…
Oh moon, grow bright,
And make this endless day endless night!

On this day in 1981, Natalie Wood drowned in a mysterious accident. The actress, husband Robert Wagner and actor Christopher Walken were aboard their yacht off California that November night. Natalie's body was found floating off shore the next day.

For years, speculation was rife in the tabloids about exactly what happened. By all accounts, there was a lot of drinking and arguing that night, and it was evident the Wood-Wagner marriage was a rocky affair. The Los Angeles Coroner decided that Wood had died accidentally, "possibly attempting to board the dinghy and had fallen into the water, striking her face." Still, the rumours continued: Was it murder? We will never really know.

Natalie Wood was one of the most beautiful actresses in Hollywood, yet very temperamental. She was a child star in the 1940s, but her rise to fame really began when she starred alongside James Dean in Rebel Without A Cause in 1955.

But it was surely for her role as the innocent Maria in West Side Story that Natalie Wood really became an icon - despite her singing voice being dubbed by the ubiquitous Marni Nixon. One of the greatest musicals ever, the film brought her the type of fame already enjoyed by the likes of Elizabeth Taylor, and affairs with Elvis Presley, Dennis Hopper, Warren Beatty and Michael Caine.

Her long acting career never really hit those dizzy heights again, but she and Robert Wagner remained a favourite celebrity couple until her sad death. To celebrate this wonderful woman, here's a clip from her finest screen appearance.

Natalie Wood on IMDB

West Side Story website

Tuesday 27 November 2007

I smell a compensation scam...

As many as 15 art lovers have been injured at London's Tate Modern since the opening of an installation which features a large crack in the floor, according to a report in the Times.

In this American-style "compensation culture", where people sue tobacco companies for not telling them that smoking can cause chest problems and fat people can sue McDonalds for not telling them that fried cow innards are bad for your waistline, I am not surprised! It makes me sick that the public are so greedy and so transparent in their motives that they seize any opportunity to sue rather than be able to behave like a responsible adult nowadays.

I blame the Government, Watchdog, Oprah Winfrey and lawyers. I think I'll sue!

Read the full story on the BBC

Monday 26 November 2007

Simply the Best

Wow! That diva of ballsy rock and soul Tina Turner is 68 today.

Tina (born Anna Mae Bullock) is one of music's truly great survivors. She went from her bluesy roots with abusive husband Ike - with whom she created such classics as Nutbush City Limits and River Deep, Mountain High - through a very lean period in the 1970s, to become the legend she is today.

One of the biggest-selling female artists of all time, Tina recovered her musical credibility in the 80s with the help of those supremely talented British producers Martyn Ware and Ian Craig Marsh, founders of the Human League and later Heaven 17, who on their British Electric Foundation (BEF) album Music of Quality and Distinction gave Tina the break she deserved with her brilliant rendition of Ball Of Confusion. From that came massive international success with her cover of Let's Stay Together (also with the BEF boys), and the subsequent album Private Dancer.

And the rest is history - biggest ever audience for a single performer (over 184,000 fans at the Maracanã Stadium, Rio de Janeiro), record sales in excess of 180 million, and numerous awards including Grammys (mainly for What's Love Got to Do With It), the French Lègion d'Honneur, and MTV, Rolling Stone,VH1 and Billboard Lifetime awards. What a trouper!

Tina Turner official website

Sunday 25 November 2007

You can’t stop the music, unfortunately

A slightly dubious excuse for a post - it is THIRTY YEARS since the Village People were created by the late Jacques Morali, and launched a string of mega-hits that form the staple of hen parties and chav wedding receptions to this day.

I cringe every time I hear YMCA, and see people still doing "those" hand movements. However to be fair, their silliness and parody did (in some shape or form) bring gay men into the spotlight long before the likes of Boy George and Pete Burns...

To celebrate the tacky phenomenon that was the Village People, here is a tribute to their feature film You Can't Stop The Music, directed (unbelievably!) by the brilliant Nancy Walker (Broadway diva and TV favourite in shows such as Rhoda and MacMillan & Wife). The movie "won" the Worst Picture and Worst Screenplay prizes at the 1980 Golden Raspberry Awards in March 1981 and was nominated in almost all the other categories. Enjoy...

Official Village People website

Saturday 24 November 2007

Naked and vulnerable

That very cute little Scottish actor James McAvoy has revealed that he really enjoys acting without any clothes on.

The star of films such as Atonement, Wimbledon and The Chronicles of Narnia, and Channel 4's Shameless, says that he enjoys the feeling of being "completely vulnerable" once he is naked in front of an audience.

McAvoy told the Daily Star: "I like to get naked.

"Naked on film is not that much fun, but naked on stage is really quite freeing because there's nowhere to hide, you're completely vulnerable.

"When you're completely vulnerable, it can't get any worse, can it?"

All I can say is - when's his next appearance?

James McAvoy on Wikipedia

Friday 23 November 2007

Hey Mr DJ, take a record off!

I have decided exactly which DJ I would like to play at my next party...

DJ Brett Henrichsen (aka Masterbeat) is apparently very talented...

Wednesday 21 November 2007

Jets are hot!

A photo taken from the new revival of West Side Story in Paris - all in the interests of news, you understand, nothing to do with gratuitous shots of gorgeous tight buns...

Tuesday 20 November 2007

Congratulations, Ma’am

Congratulations today to HM The Queen and Prince Philip, celebrating their Diamond (60th) wedding anniversary today...

"During an hour-long service to celebrate their diamond wedding anniversary, in the same Westminster Abbey in which they were married amid the grey, postwar austerity of 1947, the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh did not look at each other; there was no exchange of surprised, "Crikey, we've made it" glances."

She deserves a medal.

Read more in The Times online

Monday 19 November 2007

She transcended the cliché

Today, that most magnificent of Middle Eastern divas Ofra Haza would have been 50 years old. It is impossible to realise what an incredible influence this woman had as a singer throughout the troubles of the Arab-Israeli conflicts - she was (quite rightly) adored by both sides, yet was resolutely (despite her Yemeni origins) a Jewish patriot.

I first encountered her luscious voice on a remixed house track called Wish Me Luck in the early 1990s, but got to know her and to love her music more than a decade after that - her albums Kirya and Yemenite Songs are still favourites today!

Here is just a snippet from a tribute written by journalist Eric Silver at the time of her death in 2000: "With her striking, Middle Eastern beauty, she was the sister every Israeli would like to have had: talented, warm, spontaneous, unspoiled. She was a cliché - the ninth child of poor Yemenite immigrants, a star who made it from the back streets of South Tel Aviv to Hollywood, then came home. But she transcended the cliché.

"Ofra was Israel's pop star laureate. Her fans spanned generations and ethnic divides. She was chosen to sing in Oslo when Yitzhak Rabin, Shimon Peres and Yasser Arafat received the Nobel Peace Prize. She sang again at the memorial concert after Rabin's assassination. Ehud Barak and Bibi Netanyahu paid public tribute after her death. Peres eulogized her at the graveside.

"Her 13 days in intensive care were a national drama. Television cameras hovered at the Tel-Hashomer hospital. Every change (or non-change) in her condition was reported on the hour. Admirers recited psalms. A bearded elder delivered an herbal cure. A Yemenite rabbi changed the mezuzah on the door of the emergency ward. Channel 1 television broke into an international basketball match to announce her death."

Such was the impressive respect that Ofra Haza had! - and for very good reason. She was indeed a sublime talent, and one the like of which we will never see again... Rest in peace.

The orginal Eric Silver article

Ofra Haza on Wikipedia

Sunday 18 November 2007

Don’t mess with my Tutu!

"It is a perversion if you say to me that a person chooses to be homosexual. It's like saying you choose to be black in a race-infected society." Desmond Tutu

I love this man! South African Archbishop Desmond Tutu has called the Anglican Church and its leadership "homophobic" for its attitudes towards gay people in an interview with BBC Radio 4.

He said that the Church was "obsessed" with the issue of gay priests.

Read the article

Saturday 17 November 2007

Looking Good, Feeling Gorgeous

Many happy returns today to the spectacular RuPaul!

Statuesque, ground-breaking diva that she is, RuPaul hit our screens in the early 90s as a "star" of the weirdo Public Access TV show Manhattan Cable - a weekly freakshow that made compulsive viewing, and also launched the careers of such luminaries as Margarita Pracatan...

But chart success with Supermodel (You Better Work) changed RuPaul from cult status to an outrageous disco diva, idolised by queens on both sides of the channel! Her success since then has been intermittent, but her version of It's Raining Men with Martha Wash in 1997, and the club successes Looking Good, Feeling Gorgeous in 2004, and People are People in 2006, stand out as gay classics.

RuPaul's icon status has led to some strange collaborations indeed, including Elton John, and the divine Miss Ross herself...

Happy birthday, fierce ruling diva!

RuPaul on Wikipedia

Friday 16 November 2007

Suddenly I understand the joys of rugby...

I went along last night with our friend John-John to the Prowler store in Soho to get copies of his fundraising calendar signed by the lovely Ben Cohen, former England rugby player.

I have never been much of a sports fan, but seeing this cute hunk of a man in the flesh, I suddenly understood the appeal of a scrum...

Ben may be straight, but he so appreciates his gay fans that he has announced plans for some kind of special gay event in the New Year in aid of his testicular cancer awareness campaign. What a man!

Ben Cohen website

Wednesday 14 November 2007

Do you really want to hurt me?

General tabloid frenzy as per usual as poor mad old Auntie Boy George is arrested for allegedly chaining up a rent boy... But just read part of the article and see if you sniff a gold-digger:

"Mr Carlsen claimed he met the former Culture Club star on the website Gaydar, and agreed to go to his flat at midnight as a £400 photographic model. He denied he was working as an escort."


Read more about it

Tuesday 13 November 2007

Swimming with sharks

Many commentators may observe that the grande dame of cinema Dame Elizabeth Taylor has been doing just that for years, but at the age of 74, Liz recently went swimming with sharks!

Read the amazing story

Pictured at the recent launch of the Elizabeth Taylor jewellery line, she looks fabulous despite all her problems.

Monday 12 November 2007

America’s most versatile singer

Often called "America's Most Versatile Singer" for the wide range of material she performed, the lovely Jo Stafford is (unbelievably) 89 years old today!

Jo was indeed versatile, as her singing career stretched across genres, from her early beginnings in vocal harmony groups such as The Pied Pipers in the 1930s, to big band fame with Tommy Dorsey, and later with her soon-to-become husband Paul Weston. She was one of the darlings of the forces during WW2, and eventually hit TV success in the 1950s with her own variety show, singing with guests such as Ella Fitzgerald and Judy Garland.

Jo and Paul had a long and happy personal and professional partnership, but to my mind their greatest creation was the parody of all things "lounge", the amazing Jonathan and Darlene Edwards. First created as a party piece for friends, the enfants terrible of bad vocals and bad musical arrangements gained a cult "life" of their own, with several hugely successful albums, even winning a Grammy for Best Comedy Album in the 1960s.

Just in case anyone fails to understand their unique magic, here's a sample of their classic style:

And if you might think that is is the sum total of the lovely Jo Stafford's talents, here's an appearance from one of her shows that demonstrates what a great singer she really was:

Jo Stafford on Wikipedia

Sunday 11 November 2007

Don’t Tell Mama

Two bits of showbiz news have filled me with excitement today - not only is Liza Minelli coming to tour the UK next year, but the incredibly talented Rick Skye is returning to London this December for something called The Scarlet Fever Christmas Spectacular at the Cafe De Paris on December 3rd...

For those of you who aren't familiar with his/her repertoire, or why the connection, you evidently missed the fabulous Slice O'Minelli show that rocked the West End last year. Shame on you!

Here's a hilarious reminder of the stupendous talents of Rick Skye:

And more from Rick's award-winning show (at the Dublin Theatre festival - winner "Best Performance"):

Saturday 10 November 2007

Oh what a show

John-John and I went to see the Soho Divas revue last night - a fantastic show!!

Never having been to the Soho Revue Bar (formerly Raymond's Revue Bar, famous for several decades as a strip joint) we weren't sure what to expect. But the venue has absolutely no hint of seediness, and is in fact an extremely glamorous old-fashioned cabaret club, with individual tables and banquettes arranged in tiers from the floor next to the stage. Remnants of the past remain however, at either side of the seating area, where tables on raised platforms are arranged around the stripper poles...

Our host and MC for the evening was the fantastic Lea deLaria. Bold, brassy and outrageously butch lesbian diva that she is, she held the proceedings together magnificently with lewd humour - even flirting with the Polish waitresses!

First on stage was jazz singer and Ronnie Scott's stalwart Natalie Williams, who, despite a bit of a shaky start, wowed the audience with smoky renditions of familiar favourites including an excellent version of I Will Survive. She was followed by former Shakespear's Sister vocalist Marcella Detroit - such a sublime voice! Marcella has evidently taken to the cabaret/lounge type of singing with a vengeance and she gave us brilliant interpretations of numbers by Cole Porter and the like, as well as superb renditions of more modern classics including Nothing Compares 2 U and her own song Stay.

But the treat of the evening came after the interval with the first ever London appearance of the superb vocal impressionist Jimmy James. With uncanny skill, he brought a selection of divas such as Eartha Kitt, Cher, Billie Holiday and Judy Garland to the stage. But it was his brilliant Bette Davis that brought the house down. Flouting the smoking ban to the full, it was almost as if the bitter old icon was actually in the room!

Headline diva, the supremely talented West End star Caroline O'Connor (who we saw most recently in On The Town), had a hard act to follow. But she rose to the challenge, belting out her repertoire of Judy Garland numbers from her recent success in Edinburgh, the hit show End of the Rainbow. A superb end to a superb show.

But even after the show we were treated to a marvellous late night in the Green Room bar upstairs. Not only were Caroline O'Connor and the players still around, but at their table was none other than the cute Will Young and his pretty boyfriend! But best of all, we were joined on the banquette next to the star table by none other than those lovely ladies The Puppini Sisters, and they told us all about the evening they'd had.

The girls had been invited by drag hostess Jodie Harsh to play a guest DJ slot at Circus, the gay "burlesque" night that followed our revue in the main room downstairs. It hadn't gone entirely to their liking, but they seemed chipper and very chatty. The Puppini Sisters are genuinely lovely, friendly people - how rare among the stars of the music world.

What an absolutely brilliant night!

Friday 9 November 2007

Basket balls indeed

This beautiful man DeMarco Majors (who??) has made it to the American Out magazine awards for the most influential gay people list this year. He is certainly recognised for his - ahem - talents!

PS he's a basket-baller. Apparently...

Wednesday 7 November 2007

Pink is the word

So St Pancras Eurostar terminal got its official opening today with not only a genuine 100% Queen, but all lit up in PINK, no less...

How camp!

Tuesday 6 November 2007

"Don’t say that, Foxy..."

Sad news tonight that the wonderful character actress Hida Braid is dead.

Such a constantly sweet person on screen, Hilda's rise to sort-of-fame was as the girlfriend's dotty mum in Citizen Smith in the 1970s, a part for which I and many others will remember her with love. She was most recently famous for her part as "Nana Moon" in Eastenders, which obviously will resonate more deeply in the tabloids, but the lady was far more worthy of respect than that.

A former Shakespearean and repertory actress, Hilda was a resident of Brighton and a stalwart supporter of her many gay friends. A lifelong friend of June Brown (otherwise known as Dot Cotton) she was there at Phil Starr's funeral to hear June speak and said of the great drag queen, "Phil was a consummate professional, I honestly believe the best at his craft in the business. Seeing Phil was always the highlight."

Of the lady herself, a close friend said: "She was an amazing woman. She was a diva in every sense of the word and was highly-respected in the profession. She will be sorely missed."

RIP, Miss Braid - we will indeed miss you.

BBC article

Sunday 4 November 2007

Still pining for Spain...

...but I found this, and it immediately cheered me up! I know, it isn't strictly Spanish but Mexican or Panamanian or somewhere in Central America, but it is still fab.

Friday 2 November 2007

I know we’ve just had Halloween, but...

Eek!! Apparently media muppets Peter Andre and Jordan are recording a new television show! Will the horror never end?

Katie & Peter show page