Saturday 31 May 2008

Between a Rock and a hard place...

"It's a gay Pygmalion. My character turns this gasoline attendant into the highest paid movie star on the planet. He takes a callow youth and turns him into Rock Hudson, who was the perfect, ideal man - or so everyone thought."

What a great evening's entertainment Rock turned out to be!

This was not only a rather good play by Tim Fountain about the Machiavellian world of 50s Hollywood - personified in the bravura performance of Bette Bourne as Roy Willson, agent to the stars and supreme influence over the young Rock Hudson, manipulating the closeted gay hick into the macho "straight" star he became - but also a small-theatre extravaganza.

Advertised as a "red carpet event" we all went togged up, to be greeted with a lovely man in a sari, several queens with glitter in their hair, a six-foot drag queen, cute boys with braces - and Fenella Fielding!

Fuelled with complimentary glasses of Kir Royale and copious trays of mini cup-cakes, courtesy of the management of the Oval House Theatre, we and the rest of the audience (including Paul Burston, David McAlmont and other glit-lit-erati of the gay world) adored the play, Bette, and the sexy Michael Xavier (as Rock) in a frequent state of undress...

But it was the epilogue to the evening that provided the most fascinating entertainment.

Inducting Bette Bourne into the "House of Homosexual Culture Hall of Fame", Rupert Smith encouraged Bette to share with us some anecdotes of his extraordinary life - friendships with Ian McKellan and Quentin Crisp, his life in a drag commune ("the second floor was the make-up room - 270 shades of nail varnish"), and as founder of the infamous Bloolips drag theatre troupe. His recollections of a world long gone, of people who really made a difference during the time of the Gay Liberation Front right though to the tabloid-hate-filled AIDS era, provided a magical end to a magical evening!

Read the review in the Evening Standard

Friday 30 May 2008

Hedley Lamarr is dead

More bad news today - the death of actor Harvey Korman, famous in this country for his pompous sneering character roles in Mel Brooks' classic films, most notably as Count de Monet in History of the World: Part 1, and of course the fabulous Hedley Lamarr in Blazing Saddles.

Always the foil for the leading comic, Harvey was for many years the side-kick of the lovely Carol Burnett in her successful US TV show, and over the years he worked with George Burns, Lucille Ball, Jack Benny and Peter Sellers (in the Pink Panther films).

Another great loss to comedy, and one who will be sorely missed...

Read his obituary in the Guardian

Harvey Korman on IMDB

Thursday 29 May 2008

Larger than life

Very sad news - the wonderful artist Beryl Cook has died at the age of 81. Described by comic Victoria Wood as "Rubens with jokes", Beryl Cook's work was just so instantly recognisable that it is no wonder that the public took to her work in such a big way - whether in greetings cards, calendars or prints. Vulgar, always larger-than-life, and uplifting, Beryl's fat and jolly characters are very British - like a smutty seaside postcard, or a Hattie Jacques innuendo in a Carry On film.

The big, fun-loving characters featured in her work were largely inspired by people in Plymouth's pubs, including the long-gone gay pub the Lockyer Tavern (haunt of the youthful Madam Arcati). In fact, Beryl was a well-known and admired character on the gay scene in the city over the decades, often popping up in the back bar of The Swallow or in the fondly remembered Mr Harry's club.

Such a loss - who could ever replace Beryl Cook?

Beryl Cook obituary in The Times

Tuesday 27 May 2008

It’s all balls

Just when the gloom of more rain and another miserable day in work starts to make one feel down, along comes dear David Beckham to brighten our day...

Happy music

Although I feel downright miserable this morning - not only back to work after a lazy weekend, but also the dentist to look forward to first thing - here's some cheesy Italo Disco to cheer everyone up...

One of my favourites from the Hi-NRG era (and whatever happened to Fun Fun?)

Monday 26 May 2008

The great overgrown schoolboy

"There was often a touch of the great overgrown schoolboy about him, and his published interviews encouraged the perception that to him acting was no more than a delightful game for which one was paid."
- Brian McFarlane, Encyclopedia of British Film

Today is the centenary of the birth of the wonderful Robert Morley.

One of Britain's best character actors, Morley was most often called upon to play the quintessential English toff or civil servant, blustering and blithering alongside the stars of British films of the 50s and 60s such as Margaret Rutherford, Alistair Sim, Dirk Bogarde, David Niven, Felix Aylmer, Ralph Richardson and the like.

Son-in-law of actress Gladys Cooper, and father of the late critic and broadcaster Sheridan Morley, Robert was well bred and well educated in England, Germany, France and Italy, but evidently rebelled against his background to go to RADA. When asked to give a talk at his old school, Wellington, he said the only reason he would return to the school would be to burn it down.

In his long theatre and film career Robert played Oscar Wilde, Mr. Micawber, Charles James Fox and King George III, but my all-time favourite role of his was as one of the unfortunate victims in the uber-camp Theatre of Blood, starring with Vincent Price.

I love Theatre of Blood! In this blackly humorous revenge movie, whereby a slighted ham actor (played by Vincent Price) gets his Shakespearean revenge upon the critics who damned his career - in the film he dispenses with Ian Hendry, Harry Andrews, Coral Browne, Jack Hawkins, Michael Hordern and Arthur Lowe - Robert Morley, playing the "queen" (a la Titus Andronicus) who is force-fed her "babies" (in this case her pet poodles) is just brilliant...

Theatre of Blood on IMDB

Sunday 25 May 2008

We wuz robbed again - Eurovision 2008

So another Eurovision Song Contest has come and gone, and - surprise surprise! - neighbouring countries all vote for each other, and the UK came last... But at least as always we had a drunken and fabulous party to celebrate/commiserate - with voting cards and dressing up galore!

Admittedly Andy Abraham's song was dire, so we weren't expecting much more than the few points we managed from San Marino and Ireland, but even "Our Tel" couldn't contain his feeling of resigned inevitability when it came to the votes. All the Eastern Bloc countries voted for their neighbours (as did the Scandinavians), and so Russia (despite a very lacklustre song) ended up the winner.

The contest was the usual variety of madness (Bosnia Herzegovina, Croatia), weird-looking people (Georgia, Sweden, France) and po-facedness (Romania, Greece), with an occasional nod to thrash metal (Finland) and indie pop (Turkey). Camp elements were a-plenty - particularly the uber-gay Iceland, the Latvian pirate dance routine, and the melodrama of Azerbaijan - and there were several examples of eye candy, courtesy of Israel, and Russia's gorgeous winner Dima Bilan... We forgive him!

Our party's collective vote was, however, for the contagious Spanish entry, Baila el Chiki-chiki. All together, now...

"Cuatro: el Robocop!"

Friday 23 May 2008

Friday night is alright

Despite the gloomy weather forecast, I am looking forward to a nice long Bank Holiday weekend (despite only just having got back from hols, work has been soooo frustrating this week...).

We have the Eurovision Song Contest party to look forward to (lots of drinking, eating and shouting at the telly no doubt, and cable channels are bound to show one of those marathon back-to-back "100 crappest 70s Disco hits - ever" sessions.

So to get us all in the mood, here's a joyful little number I found, courtesy of some girlie group called Arabesque [who?]:

Friday night
Wrong or right
Dim the light we're out of sight
Friday night
Wrong or right
Hold me tight with all your might
Friday night is alright
Every night should be a Friday night

I agree.

Thursday 22 May 2008

We’re trash you and me

To celebrate the 30th birthday of that triumph of art over nature Jordan (aka Katie Price aka Barbie aka "glamour model"), I thought I would "treat" you to an example of the estimable trailer trash's "talent":

Wednesday 21 May 2008

A gay legend passes

Just found out the sad news that the classic erotic film-maker and artist Jean-Daniel Cadinot died suddenly at the end of April aged 64.

Heaven knows where I, and a couple of generations of gay men, would be without the sublimely artistic back catalogue of Cadinot's films to make our fantasies come true!

From Scouts in the early 80s, through Chaleurs (a treasured early video I had hidden under my bed), Minets Sauvages, Charmant Cousins, Service Actif, Expérience Inédite, Gamins de Paris and the rest, to the Hammam series of the 2000s - all were beautifully cast, filmed and directed to get the best from every scene. It was rare back then, and it is still is rare today to find a gay cinematographer with such a singular "way" with making p*rn that really works.

On his website was posted a message evidently prepared by Cadinot to be published in the event of his death:
"Dear friends, critics and others,

"If you're reading these words I will have put down my camera, switched off the lights, drawn the curtains and taken my final bow. May all the efforts and work of a whole life, the quest for the moment of pure truth in the sublime communion of two beings under the spell of the undefinable desire for the other, inspire those who inherit my heart.

"The human being is made such that it only remembers the good and the beautiful, therefore I leave you with a free mind and a head overflowing with a myriad of young men, sometimes strong and vigorous, sometimes fragile and sensitive. All of them gave me these unforgettable moments of their most tender intimacy, moments that only a few really know but which I made in to images to allow you to admire them over and over again.

"Never were success or personal fortune my creed. You offered me gratitude, and I thank you for that because I wanted nothing else. Cadinot salutes you. Remember a kindly fellow, an extreme observer given to rages and contradiction but who listened to others and was full of love.

"An erect phallus is a symbol of life, a cross a symbol of death."

Tuesday 20 May 2008

Hotpot, Ken?

Betty Driver, who celebrates her 88th birthday today, is quite rightly celebrated as one of the lynchpins of Coronation Street over the years, as Betty "Yes, Luvvie?" Turpin (later Williams).

But not many people realise that long before her debut in Corrie in the 60s (and in fact from her early teens) Betty sang the lead in a number of big bands, including that of Henry Hall, and also performed alongside such "national treasures" as George Formby and Arthur Askey.

Indeed, I am the proud owner of a collection of her classics titled, unsurprisingly, The Girl From the Street. Here is a rare example of the young Betty Driver exercising a formidable pair of lungs:

The Girl From The Street on Amazon

Sunday 18 May 2008

Just too good to be true

We had a fantastic time in Spain! Celebrating our tenth anniversary in the sunshine with good friends and family around us was a real joy.

Spain is a fabulously cultured and historical country, and during our many visits over the years we have assiduously explored such beautiful cities as Granada, Cordoba, Seville, Malaga and Madrid. Visiting the rich variety of heritage sites such as the Alhambra in Granada and the Mesquite in Cordoba are a feast for the senses, and everyone should try to see these wonders in their lifetime.

However this time we made our holiday an ultimate exercise in hedonism, and basically did very little except sunbathe, eat, drink, sleep and visit the seedy gay scene that is La Nogalera (the complex of dozens of bars and clubs in the centre of Torremolinos). And we had a great time...

Lest anyone believe that Spain is entirely a land of culture, apart from the sublime Monica Naranjo there was indeed plenty of cheerful dross to enjoy. Here's the bizarre Las Seventies to edify your palates:


Espana at her finest

Just got back from Spain, and thought it wise to bring a little of her culture back with us... The very lovely Monica Naranjo is causing quite a stir over there, and no wonder:

Grandes teatros llenaba mi voz. Indeed.

Saturday 3 May 2008

La la la la la la la la

To celebrate Kylie getting a top showbiz honour from the French (Read the BBC article), and because this is a song that has followed us around on our travels for years (and we fully expect to hear it being played in Spain), here's one of Miss Minogue's finest moments...

Back in TWO WEEKS! Yay!!!!!!!!!!

Friday 2 May 2008

Don’t it feel good?

Just getting myself in the holiday mood, so thought I'd post this fabulous summery hit by Katrina & The Waves...

Thursday 1 May 2008

Cocktails for Two

It is four decades today since the fantastically weird Spike Jones died.

Spike was a true innovator in music, single-handedly inventing a style of chaotic improvisation and sound effects that has been widely imitated ever since by such bizarre acts as The Goons, Bonzo Dog DooDah Band, and even some of the more avant-garde modern dance producers - he was an early pioneer of what house music called "sampling".

To illustrate what I mean, here's a favourite of mine:

Spike Jones on Wikipedia

Spike Jones website