Friday 31 October 2008

Happy Hallowe’en everyone

I thought it appropriate to post this clip for Hallowe'en. As a kid I used to scare my sister to death by re-enacting this scene from the campy 70s horror film The Return of Count Yorga, and it still works to this day - hee hee!

Thursday 30 October 2008

Now then now then now then, guys and gals

As the furore over the BBC's announcement there is going to be no Top of the Pops on Xmas Day (shock! horror! "Pops-gate" tabloid headlines!), enter stage left the big guns...

Apparently Simon Cowell says he wants to take the venerable show - cancelled by former Children's' TV muppet Andi Peters, then the executive in charge of moving the show around until viewing figures declined to the lowest possible number - to ITV!

"I would rather it came to us than just sit in the dustbin," he said. "If the BBC wanted to do a deal, and I can get ITV to buy it and broadcast it, I'd put it on ITV."

Read the article on the BBC

Judging by that channel's historic failure to produce any music programme ever to rival it, this might just work. Just let's avoid the "Z-list" celeb presenter/phone-in challenge/interactive yoof programming that makes ITV so unbearable, eh, Simon?

Here are some classic TOTP clips for your delectation, and to show you how a real music programme should be:

Wednesday 29 October 2008

Talk to me Harry Oppenheimer, tell me all about it...

Today is the centenary of the birth of Harry Oppenheimer, diamond magnate extraordinaire and owner of DeBeers. He inherited South Africa's biggest private fortune from the gold and diamond conglomerate his father established. In 1997 Forbes magazine estimated the Oppenheimer family fortune to be $2.5 billion.

Controversially, given the fact that the business was largely built upon native African labour in a colonial territory, Oppenheimer spoke out against apartheid and on his death in 2000 at the age of 91, tributes were paid to him by the ANC government.

The founding of the DeBeers empire was largely down to a chance discovery. Surprisingly, as late as the 1860s, South Africa was dismissed as having no prospect of producing quality diamonds to compare with those discovered in India. Then in in 1869 the 47.69-carat old style pear-shaped diamond stone we now call the Star of South Africa was discovered.

Apparently it was presented to the South African parliament with the words "This diamond gentleman, is the rock upon which the future prosperity of South Africa will be built". The rest, as they say, is history - the Cape remains to this day one of the world's greatest sources of diamonds, and in 1888 the De Beers company was formed to exploit this fact.

There is something significantly more enticing about a diamond than perhaps any other gem (not that I would turn down the odd emerald or sapphire you understand!).

"Diamonds are forever,
They are all I need to please me,
They can stimulate and tease me..."

And, with Xmas coming up (hint hint), these are some very interesting diamonds indeed:

Currently the largest cut diamond in the world is The Golden Jubilee, with the weight of 545.67 carats, presented to the King of Thailand in 1997 for the 50th anniversary of his reign.

The Cullinan Diamond was discovered in 1905 and at 3,106 carats was the largest gem-quality rough diamond ever found. Cullinan I, or the Great Star of Africa - at 530 carats formerly the largest cut diamond - was one of the 105 gems cut from it. It is now in the Royal Sceptre, but can be worn seperately.

The Koh-i-noor, a 105 carat (21.6 g) diamond that was once the largest known diamond in the world. is part of the British crown jewels. It originated in India and belonged to various Mughal and Persian rulers who fought bitterly over it, but was seized by Britain as a spoil of war in 1849.

The De Beers diamond was found in Kimberly mines in 1888, during the great "diamond rush" in South Africa. Weighing 234.65 carats, the De Beers is the 8th largest faceted diamond in the world, yet its whereabouts are apparently unknown today.

The Hope Diamond is a large (45.52 carat), deep blue diamond. It is legendary for the curse it supposedly puts on whoever possesses it. Previous owners include Kings Louis XV and XVI and Marie Antoinette.

Richard Burton famously purchased for Elizabeth Taylor a 69.42-carats pear shaped gem, later to be called the Taylor-Burton diamond. It was cut from a rough stone weighing 240.80 carats found in the Premier mine in 1966.

The 203 carat Millennium Star is the world's second biggest flawless diamond.

De Beers Group famous diamonds

And to follow that illustrious theme...

Burnt out ends of smoky days

As we experience a slightly unseasonable cold snap - the first snow in London in October since the Thirties apparently - I thought it appropriate to post one of my favourite poems:

by T. S. Eliot

The winter's evening settles down
With smells of steaks in passageways.
Six o'clock.
The burnt-out ends of smoky days.
And now a gusty shower wraps
The grimy scraps
Of withered leaves across your feet
And newspapers from vacant lots;
The showers beat
On empty blinds and chimney-pots,
And at the corner of the street
A lonely cab-horse steams and stamps.
And then the lighting of the lamps.

(And yes, this is one of the inspirations behind the lyrics of Memory from Cats - a musical based upon Eliot's Old Possum's Book of Practical Cats.)

Monday 27 October 2008

A moonless night in the small town, starless and bible-black

"You can hear the dew falling, and the hushed town breathing. Only your eyes are unclosed, to see the black and folded town fast, and slow, asleep."
The greatest Welsh poet (and one of the greatest in history) Dylan Thomas would have celebrated his 94th birthday today.

In an interesting piece of news apparently his childhood home 5 Cwmdonkin Drive in Swansea has been restored to how it would have looked on the day of the poet's birth, and is now open to the public as self-catering holiday accommodation.

Read more about the project

What better excuse on this cold damp Monday morning to share with you a couple of gems from the great man's work, the complete classic Under Milk Wood and one of my all-time favourite poems Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night, both read by Richard Burton.


Sunday 26 October 2008

Victoria's secret

After working (!) a whole day yesterday at the AGM of my organisation, we spent a sort-of-pleasant evening setting the world to rights in The Stag near Victoria station.

Always a bizarre pub, with its octagonal shape and high seats (even our friend Alistair, who is 6ft 5" felt it unusual to have his legs not touch the floor), at least the DJ had the forsesight to play a few of the gayest of the gay hits.

And that spurious introduction allows me the indulgence to play a few of them...

Saturday 25 October 2008

He was never happier than when he was creating a big bang

Sad news about the death of Jon Miller, described as the "boffin presenter" of children's TV classic How! throughout the 70s and early 80s.

For those of us fortunate to have been brought up in an era when children's television never ever featured Japanese cartoons nor shouty presenters, that weekly delve into the world of facts How! was a real treat, as the team of Jon, Fred Dineage, Jack Hargreaves and Bunty Miller showed us the mysteries of how toilet rolls are made, how to get a ship in a bottle, and (according to TV Cream) "how to balance an egg on the rim of a milk bottle with only a cork, four forks, twelve feet of cotton and a tampon..."

I loved it, and I loved the homely, friendly uncle-like charm of presenters like Jon Miller. "He lived his life for explosions," recalled his fellow presenter Fred Dineage. "He was never happier than when he was creating a big bang - and those were the days before the health-and-safety police."

RIP to a great character!

Jon Miller obituary in The Independent.

Friday 24 October 2008

A blogger after my own heart

Reading this week's Boyz magazine, I was fascinated to read an article on Trashy Pop by a fabulous Aussie queen by the name of Mike Wass.

His love and enthusiasm for all things cheesy and obscure in the pop world is simply staggering, and I bow to anyone who can increase my breadth of knowledge about such matters of vital importance as Olivia Newton-John's Totally Hot era and the fact that in a thirty year career LaToya Jackson has yet to get a hit record...

Excellent stuff indeed, but the real revelation from this man's encyclopaedic collection of trash - and one that I am going to have to get on a mission to find mor of - is a Spanish act called Las Supremas de Mostoles.

This three-girl singing group have a collective age of about 250, failed to get their song Eres Un Enfermo (You are a Pervert) adopted as Spain's Eurovision entry in 2005, and in the words of Mr Wass on his blog Pop Trash Addicts (which is a thing of beauty and wonder in itself):
"I've come across a wealth of trashtastic talent during my travels but these heavenly beings are truly in a league of their own. Susi, Vicki and Luisi represent everything I love about music. The ladies are irreverent, outrageous and endlessly entertaining. Not to mention the fact that they positively exude glamour and camp appeal from every saggy orifice!"

I never thought I would come across a Spanish singing act who would out-strip the remarkable Las Seventies in the "so bad they're good" stakes! And with that thought, here are some examples of the talents of the ladies themselves...

Las Supremas de Mostoles on MySpace

Pop Trash Addicts Blog

Thursday 23 October 2008

Don’t tell me not to fly!

Continuing my current obsession with the brilliant Beautiful People (read my previous blog), I just had to post this new clip.

Possibly one of the campest things I've ever seen on the BBC!

Apparently none other than that genius among entertainers Harvey Fierstein shares my enthusiasm for this brilliant programme...

Comedy Guide - Beautiful People

Wednesday 22 October 2008

You could never be the real Mrs DeWinter

We celebrate the 91st birthday today of the classic Hollywood star Joan Fontaine.

Together with her beautiful sister Olivia de Havilland, Joan was one of those actresses whose elegant charm entranced audiences in the golden age of cinema. An early favourite of Hitchcock (she won an Oscar for her role in Suspicion), she began her career slowly but soon eclipsed Olivia's career. In fact the two have not spoken since 1941!

Married four times, her former husband waspishly commented that her autobiography No Bed of Roses should have been better titled "No Shred of Truth".

It is for her superb role as the second Mrs DeWinter in Rebecca that Joan Fontaine is indelibly etched on the collective memory, however, and despite starring in hundreds more films she never quite shook off the role. Happy birthday to a living legend!

Joan Fontaine on IMDB

Tuesday 21 October 2008

The Hoff battles with his enormous snake

Oh good grief!

As if all this blah about remakes and sequels wasn't bad enough [apparently someone is planning to remake Ab Fab, and talk about the Brideshead Revisited film is causing all around us to bleed from the ears...], now there is apparently a third sequel to possibly the most stupid horror film ever made, Anaconda, starring none other than that walking parody David Hasselhoff!

See a clip of this masterpiece here courtesy of MTV Movies Blog.

But as we all know, "The Hoff" has far greater talents than this straight-to-DVD movie could ever hope to expose, so here is another chance to catch what is possibly his greatest audio and video moment:

Monday 20 October 2008

Some days I’m a Superbitch

Bizarrely for me, as I tend to avoid the "lady" like the plague, I actually quite like a song by Christina Aguilera! We heard her new single first in Spain, and it really grows on you...

Sunday 19 October 2008

Home is where the grey is

Back home after our latest jaunt to Benalmadena, tanned but knackered after a week of pure hedonism.

Again we did bugger all but sit in the beach bar sizzling and swatting the irritating flies, and spent every night in the sleazepot bars of La Nogalera in Torremolinos!

Great to get away, but isn't is chilly and grey coming back? Ho hum.

Here's another little sampler of the high art and culture we bring back with us from Spain...


Friday 10 October 2008

Autumn leaves

Slightly mixed moods today, as we're getting excited about our holiday, yet tonight there's yet another leaving do - and this time it's our good friend Maria being made redundant after twelve years...

Optimism vs sadness, style vs substance - it's the age old conundrum!

Thursday 9 October 2008

Lucky bitch

Our favourite Impossible Princess Kylie Minogue was snapped in Paris snuggling up to her new boyfriend, Andres Velencoso - a Spanish underwear model!

That girl is such an honorary gay man...

Andres Velencoso on

and there are nude pics out there!

Wednesday 8 October 2008

Oh, you can dance if you want to; you can leave your cares behind

I have had a certain song buzzing through my head for the past couple of days, so in an attempt to exorcise the demon I thought I'd post it here and pass on the baton...

Tuesday 7 October 2008

The Profane Angel

"I live by a man's code, designed to fit a man's world, yet at the same time I never forget that a woman's first job is to choose the right shade of lipstick."

We celebrate the centenary this week of the birth of the lovely Carole Lombard. A woman of supreme beauty, she was also a multi-talented actress who could turn her hand to romantic leads and comedy romps with equal vigour.

She was famed for her glamour, and was the talk of the tabloids for her marriage to screen idol Clark Gable. Indeed, he referred to her as "the love of his life".

But she was also known for her foul mouth - her language was allegedly "so bawdy it could make a sailor blush". She apparently learned this little trick from her brothers, to provide her with a defence against aggressive boys. This is how she earned her nickname "The Profane Angel".

Tragically, not long after the US entered World War II in 1941, Carole Lombard was travelling home with her mother from a war bond fundraising event when the small plane in which they were passengers crashed in the mountains close to Las Vegas. All 22 passengers were killed. A grief-stricken Clark Gable apparently wore a piece of her brooch that was recovered from the scene of the crash until the day he died.

It seems strange that we often idolise stars from the classic days of Hollywood such as Bette Davis, Lana Turner, Betty Grable or Lauren Bacall, yet Carole Lombard is little remembered today - and her centenary seems destined to pass without a mention in the media.

Carole Lombard website

Monday 6 October 2008

Shaved her legs and then he was a she

Once again the Warhol circus is in town, as the "triumph of art over nature" Holly Woodlawn arrives to speak at an exhibition of the bewigged one's artworks this week.

Andy Warhol: Other Voices, Other Rooms

Holly, the legendary drag queen who hitch-hiked from Miami to New York City in the 60's to become one of Andy Warhol's Factory-era protégés, was immortalised in Lou Reed's famous song Walk on the Wild Side. She was one of Warhol's major muses, and is indeed a survivor - the last man/woman standing from the original Factory crowd.

As good an excuse as any to replay that magnificently decadent tribute song to a lost era:

Holly Woodlawn is in conversation with actress and writer Mary Woronov and Bibbe Hansen, the youngest Warhol Superstar and mother of musician Beck, at the Purcell Room on the South Bank this Thursday (9th October).

Holly Woodlawn biography

Sunday 5 October 2008

Never wear nylon bought for you by a blind person

"I wasn't always a slightly fey window dresser in glamorous New York; I was a slightly fey schoolboy in humdrum Reading."
And so begins the new BBC comedy Beautiful People, based on the memoirs of New York window dresser (sorry- Creative Director for Barneys store) Simon Doonan, as told through a series of flashbacks to his teenage years in the 90s.

We watched the first episode last night, and I am hooked! As one would expect from a piece that is steered by the supremely talented Jonathan Harvey (Beautiful Thing, Gimme Gimme Gimme), this is a whirlwind of weird and wonderful characters, fantasy sequences, camp, dysfunctional family life, grim working class estates, tarts, and did I mention - camp?!

As Hermione Eyre, writing in the Independent on Sunday, says, "It's like the Secret Diary of Adrian Mole, except camp. Screamingly, thrashingly, life-threateningly camp."

Simon and his best friend "Kylie"/Kyle escape their boring surroundings by "doing everything that normal lads do - pretending to be Canadian in public places, working out complicated dance routines to 80s floorfillers and doling out unwanted fashion advice to the proletariat of Reading ('Ditch the fringe love, it ain't working')."

Family life is eccentric to say the least - sassy Mum and (quite cute) Dad are drinkers and generally bonkers, sister Ashlene is a wannabe slut, and blind Auntie Hayley (Meera Syal) is a sort of hippy with a guide dog that is more blind than she is. Their sheer joy at drinking, brawling, bitching and theatricality - look out for their brilliant rendition of the "Egoiste" perfume advert - is hilarious. It's like The Royle Family with show tunes.

But it is the experiences of the two boys and their exuberant gayness that makes for the best comic moments. When young Simon is caught out stealing the local slag's dress and wearing it "to see what I'd look like", his parents are understandably concerned. "What did you say to him?" says Dad. "I said what any mother would", says Mum - "What's wrong with my bloody dresses?!"

In the words of this wise teenager: "Two fashion pointers: never wear nylon, and never wear nylon bought for you by a blind person".

Unmissable! - and the opening episode is on BBC iPlayer for the next week or so.

Here's a taster of a future programme in the series:

Review in The Stage

Saturday 4 October 2008

Vamos indeed!

Sitting here watching Wild China all about the frozen wastes of north east Manchuria - all frozen rivers and hairy animals - and looking out on a bleak October day in London, it is hard to feel warm.

But one week away from our holiday in Spain, I find this helps...

We need to be "vamos-ing" to that playa!

Friday 3 October 2008

Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn

Happy 82nd birthday to the wonderful Gore Vidal, man of letters, ardent critic of the Reagan and Bush administrations of America, and elegant wit.

Born into a socialite family, Gore Vidal was destined to mix in the most erudite of circles, his early relationships included Anais Nin, and he was good friends with the Kennedy family. His ground-breaking homosexual-themed novel The City and the Pillar caused controversy in late 1940s America, and his later Myra Breckenridge (a transgender satire) was later made into a cult film starring Raquel Welch and Mae West.

His TV clash with right-wing writer William Buckley was notorious for its evident hatred between the debaters, and on Buckley's death Vidal said "hell is bound to be a livelier place, as he joins forever those whom he served in life, applauding their prejudices and fanning their hatred". Ouch!

Some more examples of this deadly waspish wit:
  • A good deed never goes unpunished.
  • A narcissist is someone better looking than you are.
  • Andy Warhol is the only genius I've ever known with an I.Q. of 60.
  • Any American who is prepared to run for president should automatically, by definition, be disqualified from ever doing so.
  • Apparently, a democracy is a place where numerous elections are held at great cost without issues and with interchangeable candidates.
  • As societies grow decadent, the language grows decadent, too. Words are used to disguise, not to illuminate, action: you liberate a city by destroying it. Words are to confuse, so that at election time people will solemnly vote against their own interests.
  • By the time a man gets to be presidential material, he's been bought ten times over.
  • Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little.
  • Half of the American people have never read a newspaper. Half never voted for President. One hopes it is the same half.
  • I never miss a chance to have sex or appear on television.
  • I'm all for bringing back the birch, but only between consenting adults.
  • It is not enough to succeed. Others must fail.
  • Never have children, only grandchildren.
  • Our form of democracy is bribery, on the highest scale.
  • Sex is. There is nothing more to be done about it. Sex builds no roads, writes no novels and sex certainly gives no meaning to anything in life but itself.
  • Some writers take to drink, others take to audiences.
  • Style is knowing who you are, what you want to say, and not giving a damn.
  • The four most beautiful words in our common language: I told you so.
  • Today's public figures can no longer write their own speeches or books, and there is some evidence that they can't read them either.
  • We must declare ourselves, become known; allow the world to discover this subterranean life of ours which connects kings and farm boys, artists and clerks. Let them see that the important thing is not the object of love, but the emotion itself.
  • What other culture could have produced someone like Hemingway and not seen the joke?
  • Write something, even if it's just a suicide note.

Happy birthday to the original classy bitch!

Gore Vidal biography

Thursday 2 October 2008

C’mon Barbie let’s go party

Today we celebrate the 35th birthday of Lene Nystrom, the mad, bad and dangerous to know lead singer of the wonderfully camp Danish popsters Aqua.

I recall the first time I ever heard Barbie Girl - I was in a car in Brittany with two French friends (one of them my ex), and we spent a good time on the journey doing all the actions to the song, to the bemusement of the Breton locals as we passed!

Although Aqua were one of those bands you either loved or hated (I was obviously in the former camp), they had remarkable success in the late 90s and early 2000s - where many other EuroPop acts had failed they conquered the lucrative US and Japanese markets, and sold more than 30 million records worldwide. Indeed they remain the most successful Danish act ever!


Aqua official website

Wednesday 1 October 2008

In Cuba they called me crazy

Having recently bought the CD I Like It Like That, a compilation of music and remixes by artists from the famous superb Latin American record company Fania [I was in HMV, it was playing, I had to get a copy - a familar story...], I was enthralled to read an article in The Guardian today about one of the featured artists on the CD, the legendary La Lupe. As is my wont I was determined to find more about this fascinating Queen of Salsa (whose career began before Celia Cruz claimed the title).

Widely impersonated by drag queens across the Americas, La Lupe was cited by Susan Sontag as one of the 17 entries that defined "camp" in her brilliant Notes on Camp.

She was neither pure "Latin" nor pure "Salsa", having defined by her ultra-dramatic performances a niche all to herself. Ditched at an early stage by Tito Puente - who was quite probably, and quite rightly, scared of her - she became a cult figure not just amongst the Latin community but also the underground gay society of New York and beyond for her bizarre covers of popular songs including Yesterday, Dominique (originally by The Singing Nun), Twist & Shout, Unchained Melody, Fever and America (from West Side Story).

She unfortunately ended up turning to religion, and died in 1992.

Here are a couple of examples of the exuberance of the lovely lady herself...

A documentary of her life is doing the rounds, and I really need to get hold of a copy!

Read the article in The Guardian

La Lupe on Wikipedia