Tuesday 30 September 2008

TV Heaven

We got into a long nostalgic conversation the other night about cult TV series of the 1960s and 70s, and their various fabulous theme tunes. So I thought I'd post a selection for your delectation...

Man in a Suitcase

Department S

The Baron

The Zoo Gang

The Protectors

The Champions

The Persuaders

Those were the days...

Monday 29 September 2008

Julian Most Fab

We applauded the induction of the most fab Julian Clary into the House of Homosexual Culture Hall of Fame last night!

I have always loved listening to people talking about themselves and their life - I mourn the demise of the Parky-style chat show in favour of the Jonathan Woss-style "me me me" type show (where the guests hardly get a look in). And listening to Julian in conversation with the lovely Paul Burston was indeed a fascinating and classy dip into an extraordinary life.

I never knew, for example, that Julian was brought up in a strict Catholic household, and didn't have a particularly good time of it in school. However his parents appear to have adjusted to this exceptionally camp child in their midst, and he is still very close to them.

His early teenage life was apparently quite musical. Accompanied on the Purcell Room stage by the typical "new Romantic"-style picture he related the tale of how he and a school chum formed a band, and spent hours plotting out their futures as superstars.

But Goldsmith's College beckoned, and Julian waved goodbye to his band The Thinkmen - but very soon reappeared on the cabaret circuit in the guise of "Gillian Pie-Face". Not an entirely successful stint, he admitted, as "most of the audience turned up to see Fanny [the Wonder Dog], not me!"

Gillian was ditched in favour of his far more famous persona The Joan Collins Fanclub, and when he finally landed a slot in the mid 1980s on Friday Night Live, the rest very soon was history!

Paul probed Julian about his Sticky Moments (oo-er) - the Channel 4 show that really catapulted him to fame, and we watched clips of both this and an early Joan Collins Fan Club routine. It was fabulous to rediscover the classic humour we loved so much!

Of course, any evening with Julian Clary would inevitably have to touch upon "that Norman Lamont moment". Apart from the obvious outraged reaction from the British media, it was quite revealing to find out that his famous line "I've just been fisting Norman Lamont" was followed by so much raucous laughter from the audience that his intended punchline ("Talk about a red box!") was almost entirely drowned out.

Inevitably in a conversation between authors, the topic veered on to Julian's more recent successes with his autobiography A Young Man's Passage and recent first novel Murder Most Fab. He let slip a little news that a second novel is on the way, but so far no name - probably just as well, as some of the titles he came up with for the first were apparently "unsuitable for sale in supermarkets".

Murder Most Fab on Amazon

As Julian's story drew to a close, after a few audience questions Rupert Smith, dandy extraordinaire and proprietor of the aforementioned House of Homosexual Culture, presented Julian with his entry into the Hall of Fame.

And at that juncture, Julian introduced his own choice of accompanying act, The Haddocks.

We were totally unprepared for this spectacle - having spent an enjoyable hour-and-a-half engrossed in softly-spoken (but razor-sharp) repartee. The Haddocks' act consists of a large chap and a small woman dressed in sparkly variety-act costumes, variously balancing raw fish and fish fingers on parts of their anatomy - and fire-breathing. And that doesn't really do it justice.

A very bizarre closing act indeed, but one that sums up the complexity of the one and only Julian Clary.

Sunday 28 September 2008

Mavis Riley smells wonderful

Yesterday I spent a few hours in the rose garden at Regents Park in the sunshine - with my top off (unheard of in late September, surely)!

I found a lovely sheltered bench just behind Thelma Barlow (the rose named after the Corrie actress, not Mavis herself!) and absorbed the wafts of glorious rose perfume as my skin thanked me for letting it get some colour again...


Saturday 27 September 2008

Ban it!

As dear Daniel Radcliffe celebrates the debut of his dick on Broadway (as Equus opens there this week) we too can celebrate a milestone.

For today is the 40th anniversary of the triumphal lifting of the control of the censors over British theatre. Amazingly this remarkable law, brought in in 1737 to counter the rise of satirical drama and reinforced (unsurprisingly) by the Victorians, made it illegal for any new or adapted play to be performed without the permission of the Lord Chamberlain - until 1968.

According to an excellent article by Michael Billington in What's On Stage: "Over the years, plays by Sophocles, Ibsen and Shaw were subject to bans. Both A View from the Bridge and Cat on a Hot Tin Roof had to be staged in London, initially, under members-only "club" conditions to evade the censor."

Read his article

Unbelievable, really, in this day and age. The first controversial performance in London - staged one day after the ban was lifted - was the hippy musical Hair, which became an overnight success.

Nowadays of course we hardly bat an eyelid to controversy (unless of course you happen to be a fan of Mary Whitehouse, a member of the Christian Voice bunch of bigots, or write for the Daily Mail), and here are a few examples of theatrical successes we might never have otherwise seen:


Friday 26 September 2008

Eccentricity rules

For a little Friday treat, here's the latest single by the wonderfully eccentric friend-of-the-gays Cyndi Lauper... Enjoy!

Cyndi Lauper official website

Thursday 25 September 2008

Queens on children’s TV shocker

Over the years, there have been plenty of queens on Blue Peter.

However this year Her Majesty The (real) Queen has arranged a special birthday tea at Buckingham Palace to mark the 50th anniversary of the BBC's landmark children's programme.

Invited to the tea will be the current presenters, key production staff and a selection of the longest-serving presenters from each of the show's five decades.

One to watch out for, as hopefully we'll get to see John Noakes, Val Singleton, Peter Purves, Leslie Judd and Peter Duncan on our screens again. Oh happy memories...

This special extended edition of Blue Peter will be shown on Thursday 16th October 2008 at 5.15pm on BBC One.

Article in The Telegraph

Wednesday 24 September 2008

Hopelessly devoted

I can't believe she's sixty years old this week!

I was a fan of Olivia Newton-John from a very young age. For some reason, the budding drama queen in me took to this smiley blonde Country singer - despite her unhealthy association with Cliff Richard - and I loved her melodramatic and sentimental songs such as Take Me Home Country Roads and Sam. [I know, forgive me, I was only a child - and I hadn't discovered Dolly Parton yet...]

As a teenager I was shocked and amazed when she was cast as Sandy in the blockbuster Grease alongside a much newer crush of mine John Travolta [it was the infamous black pants scene in Saturday Night Fever I think...]. Surely she was too old to play a teenage virgin? How would her sugar-sweet vocals cope with a pop musical? The rest, as they say, is history.

Slightly less believable was her progress from Grease onwards - I mean, no-one could quite understand the popularity of Physical (apart from the sweaty men in the video). And what the hell was Xanadu all about?

Nowadays these lumps of kitsch are regarded as camp classics (or as Deep Dish calls Xanadu - "one of those Bad Movies We Love"), and slowly but surely Olivia Newton-John has entered the "gay icon" category - albeit at the lower end of the scale. Her self-mocking humour, the right level of tragedy in her life (breast cancer), and her penchant for rhinestones and younger men are all things we latch onto when choosing our divas, after all.

She sort of acknowledged this status in 2000 when she took the part of a faded lesbian singer in the film Sordid Lives, and she performed at the LA Gay Pride event this year...

I think I still have a soft spot for her.

Guess mine is not the first heart broken
My eyes are not the first to cry
I'm not the first to know
There's just no getting over you

You know I'm just a fool who's willing
To sit around and wait for you
But, baby, can't you see
There's nothing else for me to do?
I'm hopelessly devoted to you

But now there's nowhere to hide
Since you pushed my love aside
I'm out of my head
Hopelessly devoted to you
Hopelessly devoted to you
Hopelessly devoted to you

My head is saying, "Fool, forget him."
My heart is saying, "Don't let go.
Hold on till the end."
And that's what I intend to do
I'm hopelessly devoted to you

But now there's nowhere to hide
Since you pushed my love aside
I'm out of my head
Hopelessly devoted to you
Hopelessly devoted to you
Hopelessly devoted to you

Olivia Newton-John official website

Tuesday 23 September 2008

Is it so wrong..?

... to fancy David Miliband?!

I've always had a major "pash" for cute men in suits, and this one is definitely growing on me.

Monday 22 September 2008

Living in my, living in my dreams

In my usual attempt to cheer everyone up on a miserable Monday, here's some real cheese from the early 80s...

Sunday 21 September 2008

Sunshine through my window

On such a lovely day it is a shame not to get out into the sunshine, and to accompany the continuing Indian Summer here's an appropriate tune by Gabrielle...

Saturday 20 September 2008

A captivating diva

Happy birthday today to the ultra-glamorous sex symbol Sophia Loren, looking great at 74!

Always the most captivating of European screen stars, Ms Loren has turned her hand to all genres - tragedy, serious drama, comedy and indeed singing... Happy birthday to a true Diva!

Friday 19 September 2008

An enormous clock

The extraordinary "Chronophage", unveiled today by Stephen Hawking at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. Time is not read by use of hands, but by a giant mechanical grasshopper...

How weird - I wonder if you can get one on eBay?

Read about the Chronophage in The Times

Ah, time...

Thursday 18 September 2008

Brad puts it on the table for the gays

The very lovely Brad Pitt has donated $100,000 to fight a ballot initiative that would make same-sex marriage illegal.

The ballot question known as Proposition 8 essentially will ask California's voters to prohibit the practice of same-sex marriage, which was approved this year by the California Supreme Court.

In a statement, Brad explained his stance by saying, "Because no one has the right to deny another their life, even though they disagree with it, because everyone has the right to live the life they so desire if it doesn't harm another and because discrimination has no place in America, my vote will be for equality and against Proposition 8."

Will you marry me, Brad Pitt..?

News article on Reuters

Wednesday 17 September 2008

Would you like me to seduce you?

Today would have been the 77th birthday of the gorgeous Anne Bancroft, superstar of films such as The Graduate, The Miracle Worker and (my favourite) 84 Charing Cross Road.

She was a marvellous comic as well as serious actress, often appearing in films produced by her husband Mel Brooks, and gave a blinding performance as Harvey Fierstein's mother in Torch Song Trilogy.

I loved her, but never realised she could also sing...

Anne Bancroft on Wikipedia

Tuesday 16 September 2008

The BBC "Just Says No"

And so, another chapter closes on classic British television, as the very last ever episode of Grange Hill aired on the BBC yesterday.

This was probably one of the most influential children's programmes ever - and certainly in its early years I was glued to it. For several years I had a sneaking crush on Tucker Jenkins (which soon faded after Tucker's Luck when Todd Carty's hair started falling out and he began to resemble a giant eyebrow); its various characters (remember "Row-land"? "Trisha Yates"? "Gripper Stebson"?) and storylines were certainly memorable...

RIP another class act (boom boom):

Grange Hill

Monday 15 September 2008

A man with a horn

We watched a marvellous tribute to the late, great Humphrey Lyttelton last night on BBC4. The man is indeed a sad loss, and so on this miserable Monday here's an example of the man's joyful talents...

Read my blog on the occasion of Humph's death

Sunday 14 September 2008

Britannia rule the waves

We had a wonderful time again at the Last Night of the Proms in Hyde Park!

A much better line-up than last year (no Chico!), with the exception of the godawful presenter Aled Jones, whose dreadful jokes and smarmy persona made the first half of the entertainment painful (we would have preferred Dick & Dom, so that's saying something!).

But the acts were all great - Bellowhead, Bjorn Again, Teatro, Sharleen Spiteri, violinist David Garrett, and of course the headliners Leslie Garrett (no relation) and Jose Carreras. Master of Ceremonies for the latter half was good old Terry Wogan, and as always the highlight was the live link to the sing-along finale featuring Bryn Terfel at the Royal Albert Hall...

All together now!

Friday 12 September 2008

Gawd help America if this is their taste in music

I always knew Americans generally have no taste in music, so it is no surprise that such pap as Lee-Ann Rimes and Debby Boone are among their most popular records ever, but...

Apparently the all-time most successful record in the history of the Billboard charts in the US is... The Twist by Chubby Checker!

Also in the Top Ten are Physical by Olivia Newton-John, Unbreak My Heart by Toni Braxton, and The Macarena...

Good grief, and this is the most powerful nation on Earth.

Read more on the BBC

Thursday 11 September 2008

The key is to dress in such a style that you would attract attention at a Liberace concert

We had the most fabulous night at Polari last night! The Trash Palace was rammed to the gunnels with a real cross-section of gayers - from the grande dame Bette Bourne and queen diva Marc Almond, to a smattering of studenty types in Doc Martins, and some shouty lesbians.

All were gathered to listen to the "art freak" (© News of the Screws) Sebastian Horsley - in turn insulting, challenging and entertaining the audience with passages from his book Dandy In The Underworld. And what a captivating man Sebastian turned out to be, practically salivating while revealing the prurient details of his obsessive dandyism, drug addiction and hyper-sexual life.

In his own words:
"So what is dandyism? Dandyism is a form of self-worship which dispenses with the need to find happiness from others - especially women. And yet the estrangement of the thorough going dandy is not from women, but from life. It is taking up a posture of ironic detachment from the world and living it out in scrupulous detail.

"Dandyism is social, human and intellectual. It is not a suit of clothes walking about by itself. Clothes are merely a part - they may even be the least important part of the personality of the dandy. Dandyism isn't image encrusted with flourishes. It's a way of stripping yourself down to your true self. You can only judge the style by the content and you can only reach the content through the style.

"Being a dandy is a condition rather than a profession. It is a defiance against suffering and a celebration of life. It is not fashion; it is not wealth; it is not learning; it is not beauty. It is a shield and a sword and a crown - all pulled out of the dressing up box in the attic of the imagination. Dandyism is a lie which reveals the truth, and the truth is that we are what we pretend to be."
Dandy in the Underworld on Amazon

I loved it! And once the superb reading was over, we made every effort to recreate a microcosm of that truth, as Paul Burston and Dom Agius once more provided their twisted, eclectic, decadent brand of disco for the rest of the evening.

Dandies - us?

As a "Polari virgin" I am hooked. I can't wait for the next one, at which we not only have two Duffys for the price of one (Maureen and Stella) doing the readings from their works, but also the lovely Celine (who provided the brilliant Music Hall opening numbers for Marc Almond at Wiltons earlier this year)!


Wednesday 10 September 2008

Now they want to remake Rentaghost!

Hot on the heels of other ghastly planned re-workings of TV programmes we all loved when we were younger (such as Banana Splits), comes this news that the company behind such intellectual and insightful programming as Wife Swap want to remake Rentaghost and Worzel Gummidge!

In the words of a spokesman:
"In spite of being an American, it has always been my intent to get both iconic shows back to the UK for a revival, but at the same time confident that today's worldwide kids' audience will embrace their reintroductions as well,"

"We feel there is real potential for these classic brands to be reworked for a modern day audience."

Why do these commissioning editors not have an original bone in their body? If the "brand" (that's wanky-bollocks-speak for "good programme") is "classic", then why not just show the originals?

Whatever next? A live action version of Mr Benn starring Josh Hartnett maybe? A CGI version of Mike Read's Runaround? Celebrity Crackerjack perhaps?

I despair.

[and yes, I am signing up for the next season of Grumpy Old Men]

Tuesday 9 September 2008

Elegance has nothing to do with fashion

Apparently celebrating his 70th birthday this week (he refuses to admit his age), that eccentric legend Karl Lagerfeld is indeed a waspish soul.

Here are a few of his more memorable quotes:
  • "I am basically the most superficial person in the world."
  • "Gratitude is a sticky feeling."
  • "Coming out after a show is good discipline for me because I have to watch out that I don't look like an old garden gnome next to all these 20-year-old models."
  • "Elegance has nothing to do with fashion."
  • "I'm sorry. What I say is only applicable as I am saying it."
  • "I hate the word 'cheap'. People are cheap. Clothing is either expensive or inexpensive."
  • "I really love animals, particularly when they are stuffed with cotton or polyester. That way you can guarantee that they won't bite, won't claw, won't smell bad and make your things dirty"
  • "I am made of total egoism."
  • "Sunglasses are like eyeshadow. They make everything look younger and prettier."
  • "I avoid thinking. I want to have an easy life without problems."
  • "You cannot take yourself too seriously."
Earlier this year, the DVD of his life Lagerfeld Confidential was released in the UK. I haven't seen it yet, but I am certain that even a carefully crafted documentary couldn't get to the real measure of this complicated and fascinating man...

A true dandy, and we salute him!

Hello! magazine profile of Karl Lagerfeld

Monday 8 September 2008

So a voice within me keeps repeating you, you, you

This clip has John Barrowman singing a Cole Porter song in the most loving way to another man (Kevin Kline) - what more excuse do I need to post it?!

The film De-Lovely is a "bio-pic" [how much do I hate that phrase?] of the life of the aforementioned Cole Porter, and my friend Maria had never seen it before so I burned her a copy. Now she agrees with me - it is one of the most wonderful musical films of recent years.

It has the lot - great acting (Mr Kline and Ashley Judd), great costumes and sets, and great cameo roles for the likes of Robbie Williams, Natalie Cole, Elvis Costello, Sheryl Crow, Diana Krall and Alanis Morissette (and even Lemar!)...

If you've never seen it, you must!!

DeLovely is available on Amazon

Sunday 7 September 2008

If there’s hope and love across the nation, everybody find a recreation

Tonight we had a relatively quiet evening in the Admiral Duncan, but someone with a modicum of taste put some money in the jukebox, and came up with this little slice of 80s cheesy magnificence...

London Nights just hit all the buttons. It was a hit right in the middle of the Stock-Aitken-Waterman domination of the charts in the late eighties and early 90s, and the duo were not only very good at Europop harmonies, but had super-fit bods and performed acrobatic break-dancing in their videos and live shows.

I was smitten at the time!

Unfortunately, their first album also proved to be their last chart success.

Edem Ephraim and Dennis Fuller of The London Boys were both killed in a car crash in The Alps on 21st Jan 1996.


Saturday 6 September 2008

For many years this land was the turnip of Europe

We went to see possibly the noisiest, most hilarious, campest musical in the West End last night - Eurobeat: Almost Eurovision.

As great fans of the annual Euro-Kitsch fest - in the immortal words of Sir Terry Wogan "the ideal opportunity to have a jolly good sneer at Johnny Foreigner and throw things at the telly" - it was inevitable that this just had to be in the social diary.

The evening began at "The Most Homosexual Place On Earth" (Dress Circle music shop), whose lovely management not only gave us copious amounts of free bubbly to get us in the mood, but also Eurobeat goody bags. Armed with a souvenir brochure, a clacker and a flashing horn, it was off to the show!

Hosted by Les Dennis ("Sergei") and Mel Giedroyc ("Boyka"), we were treated to ten of the cheesiest acts in Europe from which were had to vote by text message. And what a selection!!
  • Italy - Vesuvia Versace - leggy bird and bad rappers
  • Poland - Toomas Jerker & the Hard Pole Dancers - queens dancing in suits who then strip off
  • Iceland - Gert Grollmersdetter - Bjork looky-likey with weird dance routine
  • UK - Reyne & Shiner - hilariously bad, smiley boy-girl combo
  • Hungary - The Molnar Sisters - folk costumed trio singing about chickens (my personal fave!)
  • Russia - KGBoyz - the best/worst boyband ever!
  • Ireland - Ronan Corr - a singer taking himself way too seriously
  • Greece - Persephone - if you've never seen Nana Mouskouri strip, well...
  • Germany - Nepotism - strangely familiar electronic arthouse mime act
  • Sweden - Avla - indeed, the same old song

With every new crap performance we were wetting ourselves with laughter! Such an accurate representation of everything we love and hate about Eurovision, and superbly done!

We all cast our votes, then in the second half of the show came the judging from across the countries of Europe. But first, our local host Boyka "treated" us to one of the best songs of the evening I'm Sarajevo (taste me!) dressed as "the turnip of Europe". [I'm not making this up, you know...]

The winner of each show is entirely decided by the votes of the audience, apparently, and changes every night. Our winning act was the supposedly tongue-in cheek Polish entry, which was fab - and extremely gay (which says a lot for the audience!). Highly recommended - I'd go again!

Eurobeat - Almost Eurovision website

Friday 5 September 2008

You better work, bitch

For no particular reason other than it cheered me up, here's a picture of the lovely Tyson Beckford having a bit of a "Janet Jackson moment" at the launch of a new US series of Make Me A Supermodel.


Thursday 4 September 2008

She’s my little honey bun!

Amazingly, the fabulously camp dancer and actress Miss Mitzi Gaynor is still going strong, celebrating her 77th birthday today.

Here's the crowning glory from her sparkling career (in my opinion)...

Honey Bun (from South Pacific)
My doll is as dainty as a sparrow,
Her figure is somethin' to applaud.
Where she's narrow she's as narrow an arrow,
And she's broad where a broad should be broad.

A hundred and one pounds of fun,
That's my little honey bun!
Get a load of honey bun tonight.

I'm speakin' of my Sweetie Pie,
Only sixty inches high,
Ev'ry inch is packed with dynamite!

Her hair is blond and curly,
Her curls are hurly-burly.
Her lips are pips!
I call her hips 'Twirly' and 'Whirly.'

She's my baby, I'm her pap!
I'm her booby, she's my trap!
I am caught and I don't wanna run,
'Cause I'm havin' so much fun with honey bun!
I am caught and I don't wanna run,
'Cause I'm havin' so much fun with honey bun!

Believe me sonny!
She a cookie who can cook you 'till you're done,

Ain't bein' funny!
Sonny, put your money on my honey bun!

Mitzi Gaynor website

Wednesday 3 September 2008

Fame puts you there where things are hollow

After a pleasant evening drinking yesterday with Madame Acarti's niece and nephew who are in London for a few days, we were wending our way back to their hotel up Drury Lane when we encountered a massive crowd and hordes of paparazzi outside the front of the Royal Opera House.

Now, we Londoners might sniffily sneak a peek at who was traversing the red carpet and then rush by, feigning disinterest as we head to the Tube.

But you can imagine the excitement of our visitors from Plymouth - where the most likely celebrity you would see might be Wincy Willis, or someone who used to be in Brotherhood of Man perhaps - as one by one the great and the not so great began to emerge from the GQ Men of the Year Awards.

We apparently just missed Orlando Bloom, thought we saw Elle McPherson in a passing limo, and obviously didn't see Elton (who would have been airlifted safely away from the cameras no doubt). We did see Gordon Ramsay, Liz Hurley [squeal!], Chris Evans, Lord (Seb) Coe, Mark Ronson and Daisy Lowe [scream!], Jimmy Page of Led Zep, Carol Vorderman [oooh!], Alan Carr - and so it went on.

By now Madame Arcati and I were past criticising the relative Z-list status, frocks and free-champers-induced stupor of various guests as they left (trying desperately to get their photo taken), and we were angling to get another drink.

Our visitors' enthusiasm was undimmed, however, and it took the sound of running water to remind our Jen that she was indeed dying for a pee and to stop shouting for Lily Allen because she's bound to have passed out under a table somewhere and not be able to hear her...

Oh the joys of welcoming tourists to London.

Tuesday 2 September 2008

Sweet pea and buttock-up

Madam Arcati does it again - a few random searches and up pops a little-remembered couple of gems from If They'd Asked For A Lion Tamer, a brilliant TV programme from many moons ago featuring the supremely talented Mr Dave Dale (one of the drag trio with HIH Regina Fong called the "Disappointer Sisters")!

Back in the early 1980s, this "sort-of-autobiographical" featurette had a profound influence on me, being in the middle of my own camp coming-out. I loved it - but as far as I was aware it never got to video, and I haven't seen it repeated on telly for years. So I was overjoyed when the Madame found these clips:

Incidentally, the song A Cottage for You and Me (Sweet Pea and Buttercup) was written by none other than the fabulous Kit & The Widow.

[How much do I want to see any or all of these superb artists on stage...?]

Monday 1 September 2008

The singers' singer

Who knew she was still alive? Now she's not.

In tribute to the lovely Lita Roza, who I discovered died last week at the age of 82, here are a couple of numbers that serve to remind us of the lady's endearing and uplifting talents:

Lita Roza tribute in The Times