Friday 29 February 2008

A near Miss?

Good lord! Released on DVD this week is Our Miss Fred, the very first big screen outing for the amazing Danny La Rue; co-starring some classic British actors such as Alfred Marks, Lance Percival, Lally Bowers and Frances de la Tour.

According to the blurb: "Shakespearean actor La Rue is drafted into WWII and appearing in a camp show in France when the Nazis advance. He will be shot as a spy unless he continues in his female costume. Soon he is trying to escape in the company of a group of randy English schoolgirls." Hooked yet?

Totally kitch and dreadful, you can order it from Dress Circle (where else?)

Dress Circle Music Shop

But rather than dwell too long on quite how bad this film is, why not remind ourselves of the real reason why Danny LaRue has a special place in our queeny hearts...

Thursday 28 February 2008

Why don’t more pubs have jukeboxes?

Spent an evening in the Admiral Duncan in Compton Street - one of those rare gay boozers that actually has a jukebox instead of those relentless Britney-Justin-Rhianna loop-tapes - and Madam Arcati decided to give it a go.

Inevitably, we find something a bit bizarre on there - Alma Cogan, maybe, or some obscure German 80s music - but tonight he managed to find a really rare gem! Try to think of the last time you heard this being played in a gay bar...

About Fraggle Rock

Wednesday 27 February 2008

Dick-lit and glitterballs

Whoever would have expected that a night dedicated to talking about books -even gay ones - would be such a success? The glitter-ball-filled Freedom Bar in Soho was packed to the gunnels last night for just that - the Between the Covers event (organised as part of LGBT History Month 2008).

Rupert Smith as MC was a perfect representative of his "organisation" The House of Homosexual Culture. Waspish, witty and bedecked in a foppish cravat, he held the evening together with aplomb.

One of the original ground-breaking lesbian authors of the pre-equality 1960s Maureen Duffy gave a wonderful insight into the difference between writing on queer themes then and now - listening to her talk about the terror that girls felt on entering the famous Gateways club (immortalised in The Killing of Sister George), and the discrimination they received in their daily life was fascinating. Christopher Fowler was very entertaining as he gave his perspective on writing books that many consider to be more at the "erotic" end of the scale.

From the perspective of how the "mainstream" press deals with the tricky problem of reviewing gay literature as opposed to "genre publishing", Suzi Feay from the Independent on Sunday gave us her witty theory as to why gay authors rarely break through into the wider world of literature - they simply don't know how to handle them. (Unless of course you take the reviewer out for a champagne lunch!)

We had a discussion about the similar issues that face the book selling trade, with speakers from Gay's The Word (which almost closed down last year), Prowler Store and Foyles. But the piece de resistance was the dramatised version of Clayton Littlewood's forthcoming book Dirty White Boy - serialised in its original version as a blog on MySpace.

And with the campest music I have heard in a long time, courtesy of prize-winning author Mr Paul Burston, who jointly organised the evening - with his Rubettes-cum-Minets Sauvages flat cap and scarf ensemble - the evening was complete!

A great way to spend a Tuesday evening...

Tuesday 26 February 2008

Prick up your ears (and your mouse)

A website dedicated to the life and times of the icon of all gay sluts Joe Orton has been launched.

I have always taken inspiration from Joe's life. His bold and unabashed mission of sexual conquest is a fascinating story indeed - "any time, any place, anywhere" appears to have been his motto as far as casual sex with men was concerned. Amen to that!

His plays - including Entertaining Mr. Sloane, Loot and What the Butler Saw - are regarded (quite rightly) as classics. He specialised in parodying traditional farce by adding some very perverse twists indeed, and was greeted with a degree of incredulity by the straight-laced critics of the day.

His infamous diaries inspired John Lahr to write Joe's story - Prick Up Your Ears - later to become a fantastic film, one of my favourites of all time.

It seems appropriate, during this LGBT History Month 2008, to remind ourselves just how uncompromising and bold Joe Orton was - years before homosexuality was even decriminalised he set the tone of queer freedom for a generation of gay men.

Joe Orton online

Monday 25 February 2008

Never mind the Oscars

The Hollywood hoo-ha may come and go, with endless analysis of the frocks and why Tilda Swinton has a buttock obsession, but this is what we want! A picture of loveable buffoon Bruce Forsyth cuddling some exotic dancers at his 80th birthday bash...

Brucie's big night

Sunday 24 February 2008

Depp-th charged

We wait with bated breath this evening for the announcement of the Oscar winners (not really - this annual American back-slapping event has always been a bit of a crap affair, with the obviously good performances unrewarded and the obviously populist films scooping prizes).

Here is a clip of the gorgeous Johnny Depp - nominated for Best Actor- singing in his best David Bowie voice in Sweeney Todd:

Voted People Magazine's Sexiest Man Alive in 2003, I have been in love with Johnny Depp ever since Cry Baby. With his twinkling eyes, his off-beat choice of roles - think Edward Scissorhands or Ed Wood - and his all-round charm he has my vote any day!

The Oscars

Johnny Depp on IMDB

Saturday 23 February 2008

Makes you proud to be Welsh...

It entered the UK Singles Chart at number one solely on download sales last week - here's Mercy by that sassy Welsh singer called Duffy. This is truly fab!

She knocks Charlotte Church into a cocked hat...

Friday 22 February 2008


Dorothy: Blanche, you dated Tony Bennett?
Blanche: Honey, I did more than date him! He may have left his heart in San Francisco, but he left his shorts on my radiator.

To celebrate the 73rd birthday of the lovely Rue McLanahan, here is a fab clip of the Golden Girls singing:

An entire album of songs from the show is available to download! Golden Girls website.

Needless to say, we have a copy.

Thursday 21 February 2008

The High Priestess of Soul

That smoky-voiced diva Nina Simone would have been 75 today.

One of the most successful and well-respected black artists of the 20th century, Nina was renowned for being a bit difficult to deal with - she shot and wounded her neighbour's son with a pneumatic pistol after his laughing disturbed her concentration! - and her performances were always a bit unpredictable. One favourite anecdote of mine is from her residency at Ronny Scott's Jazz Club.

Apparently the audience had been waiting hours for the great lady to come on stage, when suddenly the doors to the club flew open and in she breezed with armfuls of carrier bags, plonked them down on the piano and just blithely launched into her opening number without so much as a nod to her waiting fans.

People adored her for it, of course. She always managed to retain an entourage of gay fans and acolytes, despite her strict religious background and perfectionism, and gained the nickname "High Priestess of Soul". When she died in 2003, Elton John sent a floral tribute with the message "We were the greatest and I love you".

Nina Simone official website

Wednesday 20 February 2008

Red Carpet and Bloolips

I just booked tickets for our gang to attend a very special event indeed. That iconic figure Bette Bourne will be inducted into the House of Homosexual Culture Hall of Fame on 30 May...

This fabulous description of the grand dame featured in The Guardian:
"On stage and off, Bette Bourne is the embodiment of a certain tradition of British camp. Even making a cup of coffee in the kitchen of his west London flat, he wears scarlet lipstick, eyeshadow and a funny hat, from under which his curly mop of hair protrudes in every direction. In performance, either with his own company or as an actor for hire, he tap-dances, delivers caustic one-liners and wears enough paint to make a good start on the Forth Bridge."
Bette was a founder member of the Bloolips Queer Theatre troupe, whose anarchic brand of camp was a big hit on "the circuit" during the 1980s, and has progressed since their demise to become an award-winning (if still avant garde) actor - he portrayed his friend Quentin Crisp in the hit play Resident Alien, and appeared as the fat queen with the poodles in the stage adaptation of Theatre of Blood with Jim Broadbent a couple of years ago.

On the evening of the award we will also see Bette in Rock, a new play all about the machinations that went on in the 1950s to protect the true sexual identity of the young Rock Hudson. He/she plays Henry Willson, the man who made him a star; the most unscrupulous agent in Los Angeles.

Bette Bourne deserves this accolade, having played every bit as important a role in our gay history as the more mainstream players. It is also an excuse to get our best bib and tucker on for what is described as a "Red Carpet Event" - I can't wait!

Camp, moi?

The play "Rock" at the Oval House Theatre

Bette Bourne interviewed in The Guardian in 2005

Tuesday 19 February 2008

Cybill Rights

To celebrate the 58th birthday of Cybill Shepherd yesterday, what better than the lovely lady's rendition of The Menopause Blues?

Cybill has always been a favourite of mine - not least from her eponymous show that was a huge success in the 90s. With her wry, knowing humour and skill at put-downs, she was also the perfect sparring partner for Bruce Willis in Moonlighting. During her long film career Cybill was personally chosen by a number of top directors to appear in their films, notably Peter Bogdanovitch (The Last Picture Show) - with whom she had a personal as well as business relationship - Martin Scorsese (Taxi Driver) and Woody Allen (Alice).

She deserves particular kudos for her active and vocal support for issues such as gay rights and abortion rights, and was present at the opening of the National Civil Rights Museum in her home-town of Memphis. In a recent interview she was quoted as saying:
I marched on Washington in a major gay and lesbian march. The Human Rights Campaign sponsored me, and when I got there I said, "I want to be in that first row and carry the banner" and they said, "I'm sorry, unless you're gay or lesbian, we're not going to let you carry it. Because the people who've worked so hard, they deserve to carry it." I took issue with that.

I said, "I don't know why you'd have to be gay and lesbian to lead the march and carry the banner. It is an equal investment for anyone, regardless of what their orientation is or whatever you want to call it." I said, "Would Martin Luther King not have let me march with him because my skin was white? I don't see any difference in the issue." It's about bigotry and hatred.
She ended up carrying the banner.

Her wonderful attitude to gay issues continues to this day, with with a regular role in the TV show The L-Word, and she has even confessed to having a long-time crush on Salma Hayek... What a woman!

Cybill Shepherd official website

The L-Word website

Monday 18 February 2008

All together now! My Old Man Said Follow the Van...

"To Great Apollo, God of early morn,
Who wakes the song of birds from Eastern sky,
We consecrate this shrine of gentle music;
Music that alternates from smiles to tears;
Smiles emanating from the purest mirth,
And tears of sympathy that speak not sadness."
(Dedication written for the opening of Wilton's Music Hall in 1858)

We went along to the fantastic Wilton's Music Hall yesterday afternoon to listen to Roy Hudd - not just one of Britain's favourite comedians, but an expert in these matters - who gave a one-man show on the origins of Music Hall entertainment and its development into Cabaret and Vaudeville.

The man is a joy to watch and listen to. His knowledge and sheer enthusiasm for the songs and music of our ancestors, and his obvious love for the sadly neglected Wilton's, were an entertainment in itself. He sang some classics from the Music Hall repertoire, gave a potted history of the origins of this style of music - to sell beer! - and kept the audience enthralled with his insight into the performers of the nineteenth century and their show-stopping songs.

To add to the entertainment, when we took our seats we noticed that several in the row behind were marked "Reserved". Imagine our delight when the seats were taken by June Whitfield, Prunella Scales and Timothy West! Ah... What a perfect Sunday...

Anyway, here's a couple of clips of one of the Music Hall performers who survived until the cinema era, Lily Morris:

Wilton's closed as a Music Hall in 1885, and was taken over by the East End Mission of the Methodist Church, and even though the hall was eventually used for a variety of activities ranging from film shows to badminton, it retained its original decor. Wilton's was used by the Mission until 1956, after which the building was sold and used as a rag warehouse.

In 1964 John Betjeman led a successful campaign to save Wilton's from demolition. The campaign was successful and Wilton's was saved. It is now a Grade II* listed building, but desperately needs donations to secure its future.

Wilton's Music Hall website

Sunday 17 February 2008

Ac-cent-tchu-ate the Positive

My word! Who would have thought that any of the Andrews Sisters was still alive?

But yesterday Patty Andrews, youngest member of that fabulous vocal group, celebrated her 88th birthday. Inspiration for hundreds of impersonators, drag queens and fancy dress parties, the girls were wildly successful in the dark days of WW2 and brightened everyone's mood with their brand of swing harmony.

Their influence carries on and on - in the music of Bette Midler, the Puppini Sisters, and lately Christina Aguilera, and we owe them a huge debt for their camp contribution to female vocal styling... Happy birthday, Patty!!

You got to ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive
E-lim-i-nate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister in-between!

You got to spread joy up to the maximum
Bring gloom down to the minimum
And have faith, or pandemonium
Liable to walk upon the scene

To illustrate my last remark
Jonah in the whale, Noah in the ark,
What did they do, just when everything looked so dark?
Man, they said, we better

Ac-cent-tchu-ate the positive
E-lim-i-nate the negative
And latch on to the affirmative
Don't mess with Mister in-between!

Andrews Sisters official website

Saturday 16 February 2008

Sunny disposition

The sun is shining and we're already planning picnics and outdoor events for the summer, so immediately thought of this song by the magnificent Koop:

Koop on MySpace

Friday 15 February 2008

A fitting tribute to the Spice Girls

The band The Feeling made an impressive show at G.A.Y. last weekend, apparently, dressed as the ageing supergroup...

I think they look even better than the old munters themselves - and now they've cancelled their tour dates, maybe we could send Dan and the gang along as a substitute!

Thursday 14 February 2008

St Hallmark's Day

"Saint Valentine used to be the patron saint of lovers, now he seems to be the patron saint of card makers." Edward Stilliard

As it is apparently Valentines Day I thought this John Lydon classic might be appropriate:

I mean, what is the point of setting aside one day in the year to make childish people in lovey-dovey new relationships feel smug, people without a love in their life feel sad, and those of us with a more realistic view on life feel sick at the sight of (yet another) bunch of wilting overpriced red roses, or "cute" teddy bear with "I Wuv You" emblazoned across its slave-labour-manufactured chest?

Wednesday 13 February 2008

There are worse things I could do

Happy birthday to the beautiful and mega-talented Stockard Channing, 64 years old! One of my favourite actresses, she is probably best known for her tour de force part of Rizzo in Grease, but I particularly love her for her roles in To Wong Foo, Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar and for the made-for-TV drama Tidy Endings, in which she starred with the fantastic Harvey Fiersten [a film that to this day, shockingly, has never been released on DVD!].

After four decades in the business, Stockard went on to become a household name as the First Lady in The West Wing until the series ended in 2006. But we queens will always hold her close to our hearts when we sing along with this classic number:

Stockard Channing on Wikipedia

Monday 11 February 2008

Bona to varda your dolly old eek

We went to Central Station yesterday for Ray's Camp Drag, an evening of archive footage of drag queens and gay comedians as part of LGBT History Month. What a bona evening it was, too!

Although I don't actually remember many of the artists featured, we have always maintained a collection of vinyl classics from the early drag era - Lee Sutton, Danny LaRue, Mrs Shufflewick - and it was just fab to see them brought to life on screen, even if some of the recordings were (understandably) a bit scratchy.

There were cine recordings from the Black Cap and Vauxhall Tavern of (very young) Regina Fong, Sandra, Phil Starr and Lily Savage, some vintage scenes from old films, and TV clips including the Two Ronnies, Jules & Sandy and the infamous "Weakest Link Drag Queen Special".

Here is a clip of the fabulous Disappointer Sisters (Regina Fong with her partners in crime Rory and Gracie) filmed in 1975:

And a scene from Over the Garden Wall, featuring the brilliant Norman Evans:

And this is a rare recording of the awesome Mrs Shufflewick, appearing in a revue in 1964 at the Watermans Arms in East London called The Entertainers: Pubs, Pearlies & Pints, which we have in our collection.

Listen to Mrs Shufflewick in all her glory

When you see or hear these wonderful performers you realise just how much we "fortunate", emancipated queens of the 21st century owe to the pioneers of the drag world. After all, they were performing their outrageous acts in an era when you could be imprisoned just for being gay...

LGBT History Month

Sunday 10 February 2008

Show me the way to the next whiskey bar

Idol and inspiration for so many of my favourite artists - Kander & Ebb, Marc Almond, Scott Walker and David Bowie to name but a few - the genius that was Bertolt Brecht was born 110 years ago today.

A poet first and foremost, Bertolt Brecht's genius was for language, and he was prolific in his expression of this talent. Amongst his classics was The Threepenny Opera, which gave birth to one of the 20th Century's great standards Mack The Knife, and a later collaboration with Kurt Weill, Mahagonny famously upset the Nazis with its decadent Left-leaning sympathies.

Brecht's influence can be seen in the cinema - filmmakers as Lars Von Trier, Rainer Werner Fassbinder and Jean-Luc Godard were influenced by his ideals and his style, but it was this same subversive quality that began to upset his adopted homeland of America in the McCarthy witch-hunt era, and he ended up living the rest of his life in Communist East Berlin.

But his legacy carries on well into the 21st Century - Marianne Faithfull recorded his Seven Deadly Sins and continues to perform his works, and Patti Smith included an evening in tribute to Brecht in her "Meltdown" series of concerts in 2005 [which we went to see - it featured Marc Almond, Antony of the Johnsons, Dresden Dolls, Tilda Swinton, Tiger Lillies, Neil Finn, Sparks, Fiona Shaw and Martha Wainwright on the bill, and it was fab!].

Enjoy this performance of one of the sleaziest songs from The Threepenny Opera performed at the 2006 Tony Awards - by none other than our own Alan Cumming duetting with... Cyndi Lauper! Genius, indeed.

Bertolt Brecht on Wikipedia

Saturday 9 February 2008

It’s all pants, I tell ya...

It appears that Calvin Klein is fighting back against the new Beckham modelling campaign for Armani underwear - and thank heavens for it!

Friday 8 February 2008

A classic of our gay history

We are currently in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender History Month.

I hope to pop along to a couple of the events - this Sunday I plan to be at Central Station in Kings Cross where DJ Ray Reynolds will present a feast of great moments from our gay history caught on television & film including Phil Starr, Dockyard Doris, Mrs Shufflewick, Les Dawson, Larry Grayson and Kenneth Williams.

And talking of great drag artists of television history, the wonderful Stanley Baxter is often overlooked when we come to recall such things. But his shows were so spectacular, so clever, and so well observed that they deserve a particularly special place in any history of the genre:

LGBT History Month February 2008

Thursday 7 February 2008

Gung Hay Fat Choy!

It is Chinese New Year today - the Year of the Rat. And in the spirit of random rat-like things:

London Chinatown Association

Wednesday 6 February 2008

Vanity, vanity, all is vanity

I am salivating about the forthcoming exhibition of photos as featured in the gloriously camp Vanity Fair magazine.

On display at the National Portrait Gallery from 14 February 2008, the exhibition promises a spectacular display of pics by some of the most renowned photographers of the twentieth century, including Baron De Meyer, Edward Steichen, Man Ray and Cecil Beaton, as well as portraits by celebrated contemporary photographers such as Annie Leibovitz, Mario Testino, Helmut Newton and Herb Ritts.


Read more about the exhibition

Monday 4 February 2008

Close to you

Can it really be twenty-five years since Karen Carpenter died?

Masters of the middle-of-the-road pop genre, Karen and brother Richard always looked a bit creepy and extremely wholesome/sickly, but behind the mask they were supremely successful in putting together some of the best produced standards of the 70s, and indeed have gone down in history of one of the biggest selling acts of all time.

Following on the heels of the softer musical styles of Neil Sedaka, Bacharach & David and Herb Alpert (who first signed them up as a recording act), Richard's arrangements and Karen's sublime voice proved to be an all-conquering phenomenon in an era that is more remembered for the rock music of Hendrix, Led Zep and the Rolling Stones, hitting the top of the single and album charts across the world for almost an entire decade.

Unfortunately even this squeaky-clean duo hit the rocks when Richard went into rehab for drug addiction, and Karen's attempts at both marriage and a solo recording career (even with the help of Phil Ramone) went sour. In February 1983 Karen died of complications brought on by anorexia, and now all we have are the memories of their sweet but brilliant music.

Carpenters website

Carpenters discography on Wikipedia

I Just Wanna Dance!

Just the thing to cheer up a miserable Monday morning... Watch these guys move!

Sunday 3 February 2008

The party goes on... Wow!

Back from the sunshine - suitably mahogany-coloured - and enjoying a chillout day, when what happens?

...I stumble across the new video for Kylie Minogue "Wow", and suddenly I'm in party mode again!