Wednesday 30 December 2009

"It's behind you!"

We went to see the "adult panto" Sinderfella in the tiny basement of Leicester Square Theatre last night. It was possibly the best panto I have seen in years. No special effects, no pretension - and best of all, no kids allowed!

Starring Bette Rinse, drag queen extraordinaire, the story is basically that of Cinderella but with a twist, in that the leading lady has walked out to work in a shop in Oxford Street and the drag hostess gamely steps in to take the lead...

"Big Brother's Kat Cookie Monster" (no idea - never watched it) with her thick Thai accent was completely incomprehensible at times as the Fairy Godmother, but with a little help and translation from Miss Rinse we got the gist of her magic spell - basically instead of pumpkins she transforms the falsies into real boobs and lo and behold, a drag queen in her fifties really is a virginal scullery maid. [This is panto, remember!]

Subtle, this ain't - the Handsome Prince Donkey Dick spends the entire show with a very impressive dildo stuffed into his tights, and even Cinders' three wishes come true courtesy of rubbing a realistic Jeff Stryker member. The jokes were obvious, the songs were all versions of chart hits, the banter was filthy - and we loved every minute of it!

The players were all anarchic and very entertaining - not least the genuinely horrifying Ugly Sisters (the play's author Simon Gross and Adam Wooley), and Harry Dyer goofing it up as Buttons, whose unrequited love for Cinders/Bette is confusing to say the least. As for the gorgeous dancing boys - they made the evening go with a bit of a frisson!

A great evening out (despite the ridiculously steep bar prices), and it completed the "festering season" traditional entertainments off nicely.

Just New Year's Eve to go, and it'll all be over for another year. "Oh yes it will. Oh no it won't" ad infinitum...

Tuesday 29 December 2009

Oh, those Russians...

Today I thought I'd share one of my new(ish) discoveries for your delectation. Our eternally-missed hero Klaus Nomi was a one-off, but one young Latvian/Russian megastar seems to have taken up at least some of the mantle.

Vitas has a remarkable singing voice, and it was his semi-operatic falsetto that brought him instant fame in Russia back in 2000 with his hit Opera No 2.

His fantastic costumes (he sidelines in fashion design) and twink good looks meant that his concert tours became a massively popular spectacle across the East, from Eastern Europe to China, where he is one of their most popular artists. Just this year, he brought his acting skills to a new Chinese live-action movie of the story of Mulan (which became a Disney cartoon in 1998). Anyway, here is the gentleman himself...

Vitas website

Monday 28 December 2009

Hee hee! Sophisticated, Singer, Liverpool, Great, Scouse

It's the post-Xmas Tacky Music Monday! Yesterday I sat through the marathon that was "Every Number One of the 80s". As a friend wittily said, "there must be some "number twos" amongst that lot". True, there is only so much Cliff, Tiffany, Nick Berry or Shakin' Stevens that you can take, but there were some good ones amongst them.

This being the last week of the Noughties I thought I'd focus on the charts at the end of two decades hence, 1989 - but as the chart-topper was a choice between Jive Bunny or Band Aid 2, I decided instead to check out some of the choons that didn't make the top of the UK charts twenty years ago. And for today's selection, I came across a really tacky corker... Heeeeeerre's Sonia!!

And lest we forget, here's that classic French & Saunders sketch "featuring" the diminutive Scouser in all her glory...

Sunday 27 December 2009

Sparkling Sunday

It's that weird time of year, when the post-party hangover has gone, the leftovers are still leering at you from the fridge but nobody wants to eat them, all channels are showing films we've all seen before and never want to see again (and if it's not films, it's Ant and bloody Dec or Jeremy bloody Clarkson). Oh, and the sales have all started, so going into town would be Hell.

Thank heavens for Miss Peggy Lee and Dame Julie Andrews, duetting in La Lee's sparkling boudoir... Happy Sunday!

Saturday 26 December 2009

Oh, Jessica Christ!

On this, what would have been the 82nd birthday of the brilliant actor and singer Denis Quilley, what better way to celebrate the great man's talents than with one his most hilarious roles - take it away, Acting Captain Terri Dennis...

Mr Quilley often "played it gay" (in reality he was happily married with three children), but his repertoire was far greater than such roles as Terri Dennis or Zaza in La Cage Aux Folles - he acted in Shakespeare alongside Laurence Olivier and John Gielgud, came to stardom as the mysterious Commander Traynor in one of my childhood favourite kids' TV programmes Timeslip, appeared in both Murder On The Orient Express and Evil Under The Sun, and was the star of the first London production of Sondheim's Sweeney Todd.

A brilliant man, taken from us far too soon.

Denis Quilley obituary

Friday 25 December 2009

Laying the table

An essential and handy guide to making your Xmas dinner table perfect for your guests...

Season's Greetings! - My Kind Of Panto

It's that day! To some, it's Xmas. To others it is Saturnalia. To most people, it's a day off work and an excuse to eat and drink more in 24 hours than you would normally imbibe in a week. However, there are some things that always come to mind at this time of year - such as Pantomime!

Featuring The Tiger Lillies' Martin Jacques and Justin Bond, in my case...

According to the blurb:
The Twisted Tale Of A Christmas Crack-Whore: A reality faerie tale for our times. Poor Sinderella (Justin Bond) is a whore with deep psychological problems caused by resentment towards her wicked stepmother (Martin Jacques), a sadistic whore with introspective complications. So far, Sinderella's problems can only be assuaged by crack. The world awaits the coming of Prince Charming, whomsoever he/she/it may be.
Season's Greetings, dears...

Thursday 24 December 2009

Star of wonder, star of night. Star with royal beauty bright.

As the countdown comes to its natural end this evening, what better way to acknowledge the fact that it is the eve of Dies Natalis Solis Invicti, Brumalia, Saturnalia or Yule?

Not with Balthazar, Melchior, and Caspar, but with Debbie Harry...

Wednesday 23 December 2009

Shopping is easy

As the weather continues to make that last-minute shopping an even bigger nightmare than usual this year, let's hear from two ladies who have already made their shopping lists.

Miss London and Miss Kitt cared very little about the queues in Marks & Spencer when someone else was obviously going to bring them their heart's desires...

Tuesday 22 December 2009

La période des fêtes

Ah, Dalida! A supremely talented woman taken away from us too soon...

Yet who knew she lived long enough to give this song her own very special treatment? As the countdown continues, enjoy a slice of Gallic class!

Monday 21 December 2009

Countdown begins

I do hate this festering season - amateur drinkers vomiting everywhere, false jollity, endless repeats on telly, huge queues at the shops, and every music channel turned over to "The Greatest Hits Of Christmas" (which will inevitably feature Mariah-bloody-Carey, Chris Rea or Johnny Mathis at some stage).

However, this is indeed the season for tackiness, and so without further ado here is the first of my choice of songs in the countdown to Saturnalia. Laydeez and gentlemen, give a warm welcome to the Del Rubio Triplets!

Sunday 20 December 2009

The glamour of Hollywood has never worn thin for me

"The glamour of Hollywood has never worn thin for me. I'm just as excited today over autograph fans as I was the day I arrived, and just as disappointed if I'm ignored."

It's Sunday, traditional home of "our kind of music" (© David Jacobs), especially that music of a long-lost era of glamour. And no-one epitomises those stylish years of Hollywood better than the five-times Oscar-nominated actress, singer and style icon Irene Dunne (born 108 years ago today).

In thirty years of films, Miss Dunne starred alongside Randolph Scott, Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers, Cary Grant, Charles Boyer, Barbara Bel Geddes, Rex Harrison, Van Johnson and many more. Jerome Kern wrote songs specifically for her. Later in her career, she discovered a penchant for comedy, and once her movie career was over she became a favourite guest on popular US television programmes such as The Jack Benny Show and What's My Line. Lucille Ball was allegedly a huge fan.

Anyhow, here is the beautiful lady herself in a magnificent Art Deco setting, with one of the numbers Jerome Kern composed for her, with Fred Astaire conducting the orchestra. How life should be...

Interesting facts about Irene Dunne:
  • the fur she wore in that clip from Roberta cost 9,000 dollars in 1935. During filming, she had a special bodyguard following her around - to protect the dress!
  • she apparently began her glittering career when she bumped into showman Florenz Ziegfeld in an elevator the day she returned from her honeymoon. He cast her in his touring theatrical version of Showboat and a talent scout from RKO happened to be in the audience for one of her performances.
  • she was the first woman ever elected to the board of directors at the Technicolor corporation.
Irene Dunne on IMDB

Saturday 19 December 2009

"How bravely they dance..."

On this sunny (but freezing) Saturday, I thought I'd post a wonderful clip from a little-known comedy film that was released at the end of the "Swinging Sixties".

Despite its magnificent all-star cast, the anarchic The Happy Christian remains obscure and forgotten. Indeed, I had never heard of it until recently - even though it was co-written by (and starred) Peter Sellers, John Cleese and Graham Chapman, with guest star roles going to Ringo Starr, Racquel Welch, Roman Polanski, Wilfrid Hyde-White, Richard Attenborough, Christopher Lee, Spike Milligan and Laurence Harvey!

There were many other stars of the time who appeared in cameo roles, including this one. See if you can guess who this alluring drag queen is...

The Magic Christian on IMDB

Friday 18 December 2009

I hear birdsong

The legendary Cindy Birdsong celebrated her 70th birthday this week! Having started her career as a member of Patti LaBelle's first singing troupe, it was only when the lovely lady joined the world's most successful girl group The Supremes (following the departure of the tragic Florence Ballard) that her fame and fortune were assured.

Her star only really rose (briefly) however, once the saintly Diana had left the group to pursue her solo career. Here are some of Cindy's shining moments... Happy Friday!

Cindy Birdsong on Wikipedia

Thursday 17 December 2009

Muppets on Acid

This week has passed by without the much-anticipated dose of "weirdness" that sparked the interest of readers last week. Well, far be it from me to disappoint, so today let us focus in on a long-time favourite piece of sheer insanity...

Often described as "The Muppets on acid", the Lord Of The Rings director Peter Jackson's early work Meet the Feebles is in every way a blacker-than-black, hilarious and surreal masterpiece, and a cult hit round at Dolores Delargo Towers (ever since I was introduced to it in Plymouth by my equally eccentric friend Richard).

Featuring a bizarre array of puppet characters and their attempts to make it to the big-time in a down-town theatre - from the sleazy walrus club owner and his kitten floozy, to the kinky-underwear-clad cow and cockroach who are involved in filming a porn film, to the drug-addict frog and his deadly knife-throwing act, and other characters including flies, rats, worms, hedgehogs, dogs, frogs, elephants and aardvarks - this is a completely anarchic movie.

Its scenes of drug dealing, mutilation, back-stabbing, date rape, kinky sex and massacre are not for the faint-hearted. It makes Avenue Q look like, well, Sesame Street in comparison!

In this scene, the outrageously gay fox stage director sings his classic Busby Berkeley-inspired number Sodomy while our heroine, the downtrodden and ultimately psychopathic hippopotamus, runs rampage backstage with a machine gun. I think you get the picture!

Meet The Feebles fan site

Buy Meet The Feebles from Amazon

Wednesday 16 December 2009

"Although she never was a girl to let a man go, she wouldn't sacrifice her principles for sex."

What mere words of mine could pay tribute to the sheer genius that was Noël Coward (who was born 110 years ago today)?

It was for a very good reason that he was known as "The Master". His wit, camp, style and poise genuinely did epitomise a whole era of British life -through his plays, songs, music, acting, performance and sheer panache.

His stage productions including Cavalcade, The Vortex, Hay Fever, Private Lives, Design for Living, Present Laughter, Bitter Sweet and Blithe Spirit, and films such as Brief Encounter are forever embedded in the psyche as examples of what represents "Britishness" in classic 20th Century drama.

UK society (and indeed high society - among his close friends were Prince George, Duke of Kent, and Lord Louis Mountbatten) adored him so much that there was an almost universal decision to ignore his gay lifestyle and his long-term relationship with Graham Payne. ("There are still a few old ladies in Worthing who don't know", he said.)

After all, his film In Which We Serve and songs such as London Pride had been officially sanctioned as a major contribution to the war effort, and in real life he worked on behalf of the the Secret Service for much of WW2... The rest is history, as Sir Noël continued to be an internationally beloved dilettante until his death in 1973.

So without further ado, here is a cavalcade (geddit?) of the Master's finest moments...

Here is Stephen Fry paying tribute to The Master earlier this week:

And finally, my favourite version of a favourite Noël Coward song by that latter-day genius Neil Hannon and The Divine Comedy:

Noël Coward Society

Noël Coward on Wikipedia

Tuesday 15 December 2009

Oh, Johnny, Oh!

By far the weirdest story of the past week is the saga of French superstar Johnny Hallyday.

In November, he went to hospital for an operation on a slipped disc. The operation went badly and he ended up with a life-threatening infection in his spine. Doctors in the US put him into a "medically-induced coma" (who knew such a thing was a valid medical procedure?) until today, when he has apparently woken after further corrective surgery. And in the strangest twist of all his surgeon was violently attacked - but no-one knows if this was the work of a deranged fan...

Mr Hallyday certainly has a huge army of fanatics out there - not for nothing is he nicknamed "the French Elvis". This year was meant to signal his "farewell tour" after fifty years of performing, 400 tours, 18 platinum albums and more than 100 million records sold! Even President Sarkozy is a fan... Yet this iconic figure has never had a hit outside his native France.

Here are a few examples of the great man's talents. Get well soon, Johnny!

Johnny Hallyday biography

Monday 14 December 2009

Up, and down

I have often described our musical taste here at Dolores Delargo Towers as being "everything from Wagner to the Vengaboys". This much is true.

So on this Tacky Music Monday let's go to the lowest end of that particular scale... Enjoy!

Sunday 13 December 2009

“What are fears but voices airy?"

On this, the 80th birthday of the lovely Christopher Plummer, what better way to celebrate than with a piece from his most lauded film The Sound Of Music?

In the actual movie, Mr Plummer's voice was dubbed, but here is a rare clip that features his own voice. As he says in his autobiography, In Spite of Myself:
"Daunting is not a strong enough word to describe it. Julie and I stood side by side in a small glassed-in cubicle facing two microphones. Surrounding our prison cage sat 75 musicians like hungry jackals waiting to pounce, led by their keeper, Irwin Kostal.

"Warbling softly into a mike is far more difficult than singing full out in a theatre as I was later to discover. One is much more likely to catch and collect "frogs" in the throat, whereas projecting usually gets rid of them. I tried so hard not to look like a complete basket case. Julie, sensing my nerves, took hold of my hand and held it throughout the session. It must have taken her days to recover the use of it afterwards, I had squeezed it so hard.

"No matter how diligently I'd slugged away at my lessons, I was still untrained as a singer. To stay on a long-sustained note was, for me, akin to a drunk trying to walk the straight white line, whereas you can bet the very first cry that Julie let forth as she emerged from her mother's womb was in perfect pitch! Listening to the playback, there was no disputing we were on separate planets. In the end, Robert Wise managed to hire someone to take care of my elongated passages, and the balance was somewhat restored."

Despite his fifty-year film career - everything from The Fall of the Roman Empire, through The Return of the Pink Panther, to The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus - he will forever be remembered for being "Captain Georg von Trapp", and generations love him for it!

Christopher Plummer on IMDB

Saturday 12 December 2009

Sweet Melody

I was recently alerted to a new talent on the music scene, and what a talent!

Melody Gardot is a young jazz singer from Pennsylvania, and the circumstances by which she came to prominence are indeed unusual. Following a catastrophic road accident which left her nervous system severely damaged, Miss Gardot created music while semi-paralysed in her hospital bed.

When these recordings came to the attention of the local university radio station, they went into publicity overdrive, and she soon landed a record deal. Her first album Worrisome Heart was hugely successful in the US jazz charts, and earlier this year - with the able assistance of musical arranger Vince Mendoza, who has worked with Robbie Williams, Björk, Elvis Costello, and Joni Mitchell - she released a brilliant second album My One and Only Thrill.

Here are two fabulous tracks from that album. Her voice, and the orchestral arrangements, are sublime! Enjoy...

Melody Gardot on MySpace

Friday 11 December 2009


Happy 65th birthday today to the original "Little Miss Dynamite"(-ee), Brenda Lee!

Miss Lee, a child prodigy who at the age of five was the main breadwinner for her impoverished family in Georgia, rocketed into the hearts of the US and UK public as a teenager with such archetypal 50s hits as Rockin' Around the Christmas Tree, Jambalaya, Let's Jump The Broomstick and Speak To Me Pretty.

However it was for this heap of string-laden campness that she is best remembered. I'm Sorry was so wildly popular, Miss Lee single-handedly saw off rivals such as Connie Francis and Helen Shapiro and (briefly) conquered the world. Indeed, in the UK her support act on a blockbuster tour was none other than that popular beat combo The Beatles...

Here she is, for some reason singing in a football scarf, on what looks like the set of Coronation Street... Enjoy!

Official Brenda Lee website

Thursday 10 December 2009

Hornets, dry cleaning and darkrooms

Last night's Polari provided some interesting interpretations on the theme of South London. Paul Burston was suitably "Brixton-blinged up", with his baggies on and his Calvins showing (that man always struggles to keep his clothes on!), and, once the room (largely full of non-Polari-ites who left after the happy hour) was silenced, introduced our first reader William Eaves.

Will read a few pieces from his varied work, starting with an interesting piece from his as yet unpublished new book featuring a dysfunctional family encountering hornets in their holiday chateau in France. As he said, "Very very South London"(!)

He followed this with a very funny pastiche of an insipid magazine profile from his recent acclaimed work Nothing To Be Afraid Of, in which the lead characters are a pair of thespian sisters. The more pretentious of the two, Martha, is asked by a magazine for an insight into the busy life she has led since she took on the part of Miranda in The Tempest:
"It's a gruelling schedule, which means I have to get the eating right: orange juice, cereal, toast and honey in the morning, a sandwich at lunchtime and something else before the show. Miranda can easily come across as a milksop, but I'm trying to be more hardline about her, so it's lots of hearty food and fresh air. The riverside walk from the Design Museum to Hungerford Bridge is one of my favourites, and you can grab a crab salad and some Orvieto along the way."
Apparently Will was inspired by reading one of the "60 second interviews" in The Metro, and it is so true - how many times do you read this kind of drivel in a free paper or "lifestyle magazine"?

After the break, it was the turn of one of our Polari favourites, the lovely Stella Duffy. She opened with a hilarious poem, oddly titled I don't write poetry. All became clear as it turns out it is all about mistaken identity. For many people (and shamefully, The Guardian newspaper) our Stella is interchangeable with fellow lesbian, the Poet Laureate, with whom she shares a surname. (Hence the line "No, I don't write poetry. That's Carol-Ann.")

She informed us that she was tempted to read from her new book Theodora: Actress, Empress, Whore (set in Istanbul), but - like Will's earlier piece - considered that would be "too far South London". Instead she treated us to a couple of extracts from the Orange Prize-nominated Room of Lost Things, set in Loughborough Junction (between Camberwell and Brixton apparently).

A tangled web of relationships, the book centres around (of all things) a dry-cleaners. Why a dry-cleaners, you ask? But the penny soon drops when we discover the insights that Robert, who runs the business, gains about people - the little pieces of people's lives that arrive in the pockets of garments, the secrets they contain. The dry cleaners is the "room of lost things" of the title. The two passages she read were so beautifully observed and fascinating that both John-John and I just had to buy copies of the book, which Stella kindly signed.

Paul, concluding the evening's entertainment, asked the audience whether he should lower the tone, to which Stella responded, "shall I start? I can say "Cunt" at the top of my voice if you like...". We love her. Unfazed, he treated us to particularly sordid and smutty extract from Shameless, set in one of the sleazier clubs in Vauxhall. I, for one, will never leave my pint on the bar beneath a walkway full of cruising leather queens - talk about a creamy head...

Another fab evening, we chatted to friends including Rupert Smith and his pal (whose name I forget), author Alan Hollinghurst, and the lovely Frasier from Foyles bookshop, and were overjoyed to learn that January's Polari will be moving from the gorgeous Concrete Bar to a different venue within the South Bank complex - hooray! I look forward to it...


Wednesday 9 December 2009

I warn you about my secret I'm going to expose

Continuing our journey into the weirder side of music this week, I recently rediscovered the work of Sven Väth. [Indeed, I recently blogged about his collaboration with the brilliant Miss Kittin.]

Mr Väth was the brains behind one of my favourite obscure 80s bands OFF (acronym for Organisation for Fun) which released the brilliant Electrica Salsa in 1987. A formative influence, and still in my Top 30 all-time fave tunes today...

From that estimable height, he went on the pioneer the genre known as trance music across Europe, and remains one of Germany's most respected DJs to this day. I love his music, and his strangeness!

Here's just a little slice of the genius that is Sven Väth...

Sven Väth on Discogs

Tuesday 8 December 2009

Uncategorizable strangeness

WFMU is a listener-supported, non-commercial radio station in New Jersey, USA, and unlike so many stations over there it has a unique stance on music policy.

They describe their programming as:
"...ranging from from flat-out uncategorisable strangeness to rock and roll, experimental music, 78 RPM Records, jazz, psychedelia, hip-hop, electronica, hand-cranked wax cylinders, punk rock, gospel, exotica, R&B, radio improvisation, cooking instructions, classic radio airchecks, found sound, dopey call-in shows, interviews with obscure radio personalities and notable science-world luminaries, spoken word collages, Andrew Lloyd Webber soundtracks in languages other than English..."

I have not listened to many of their actual broadcasts, but when in 2003 (and again in 2007) they created their legendary "365 Days Project" - a little slice of weird music to download every day of the year - I was hooked. Indeed, a helluva lot of our CD collection owes its roots to this fabulous web innovation.

Now, thanks to a tip-off from the lovely people calling themselves Tingle In The Netherlands, I am reminded of just one of those wonderfully weird tracks... Fred from Jupiter, a single from 1981 by Die Doraus und Die Marinas:

WFMU's Beware of the Blog

Monday 7 December 2009

Let me be your drag queen

It is Tacky Music Monday again, and today's is a fabulous example of mid-90s gay Euro Dance music - sassy, vulgar, and just right for the occasion...

One of the collaborators on this wonderful piece of kitsch was Gérard Langella, in actual fact a well-respected DJ and remixer in France - in latter years he has worked with producers such as Laurent Wolf, and is one of the geniuses behind the famous Buddha Lounge compilation CD series.

This was a shining moment, I am sure you will agree, in his career...

Sunday 6 December 2009

Its a sweet trip to a candy shop

Congratulations today to the gorgeous actress Dame Helen Mirren, winner of the Lifetime achievement award at yesterday's Women In Film And Television Awards in London.

Dame Helen is indeed a marvellous actress, with a long history of gripping screen appearances including several Shakespearean adaptations and BBC plays, ITV's Prime Suspect, and marvellous films like The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover, The Madness Of King George, Some Mother's Son, Gosford Park, and of course The Queen. Uncompromising and sexy even in her 60s, she is quite rightly adored on both sides of the pond.

But I wonder if the great Dame counts this appearance (in Peter Sellers' last, disastrous, movie The Fiendish Plot Of Fu Manchu, singing On The Good Ship Lollipop) among her lifetime achievements?

Dame Helen Mirren on IMDB

Saturday 5 December 2009

Be Italian!

Apparently the new movie Nine - based upon Fellini's - follows the life of film director "Guido Contini" played by Daniel Day-Lewis, who reaches a creative and personal crisis of epic proportion, while balancing the numerous women in his life - including his wife (Marion Cotillard), his mistress (Penelope Cruz), his film star muse (Nicole Kidman), his confidant and costume designer (Dame Judi Dench), an American fashion journalist (Kate Hudson), his glamorous courtesan (Stacy "Fergie" Ferguson of the Black-Eyed Peas) and his mother (Sophia Loren).

Sounds marvellous - and what a cast!!

Can't help singing

It was the 88th birthday yesterday of the lovely Deanna Durbin, known as the "Canadian songbird".

Deanna was launched on Hollywood's big screen as a fifteen-year-old (alongside another young aspiring star, Miss Judy Garland) way back in 1936 - and her beautiful operatic voice became an instant sensation. So popular were her versions of arias by Puccini and Gounod that allegedly the Japanese used to try and break the spirits of their US prisoners-of-war by telling them their idol was dead...

Miss Durbin made numerous movies during the 30s and 40s, including Three Smart Girls and Can't Help Singing, and even some non-musical films such as Lady on a Train. Allegedly, it was her vocal style that influenced Kiri ti Kanawa, and even the composer Rostropovich cited her as his inspiration.

Surprisingly, given her potential to become as big a star as La Garland, Deanna Durbin's career ended in 1950. She married, moved to Paris, and walked away from her film and recording contract for ever. And there she still resides - to this day she refuses (despite numerous efforts) to come out of retirement and perform again, or to talk to the media about her success.

Many happy returns to a beautiful lady! Here are couple of Miss Durbin's greatest screen musical moments:

Deanna Durbin on IMDB

Friday 4 December 2009

Must be the reason

Can it really be a whole decade since this was at Number 1? A super-hip dance choon that really caught the mood in Britain at the time, King Of My Castle is also one of those songs which was so confusing that people would make up their own words to it - was she singing about "trestles", "thresholds", or as some people thought, "arseholes"?

Anyhow, it is a cheery dance classic - even if what looks like Pete Burns' younger sister is singing it. Happy Friday!

Must be the reason why I'm king of my castle
Must be the reason why I'm freeing my trapped soul
Must be the reason why I'm king of my castle
Must be a reason why I'm making examples of you

Thursday 3 December 2009

Mr Smooth

Happy birthday to that epitome of squeaky-clean wholesomeness Mr Andy Williams, who will (attempt to) blow out 82 candles on his cake today...

A remarkable survivor of the great "crooner" era, Mr Williams's ultra-smooth vocals provided the backdrop to many a swinging 60s party, as well as having hits with the theme tunes to both Breakfast At Tiffany's (Moon River) and Love Story. It was on his show that The Osmonds first came to fame (although some might think that is a bad thing), and his prime time position on American TV meant that artist clambered over themselves to appear on it - Jackson 5, Bobby Darin, Julie Andrews, Pearl Bailey, Sammy Davis Jr and Ella Fitzgerald among them.

In recent times, alongside contemporaries Tony Bennett and Tony Christie, Andy Williams made something of a "comeback" as a cult figure - largely thanks to the power of advertising (as usual). And he is still performing today, most recently as a guest star on Strictly Come Dancing. If I weren't going to work (bleurggh) I would be running a hot bath and relaxing to the great man's dulcet tones...

Andy Williams official website

Wednesday 2 December 2009

Meet my friend, he knows every little trick

My post on Monday featured the wonderfully tacky 80s Eurobeat combo The Flirts. That was enough to get me to delve once more into the sleazy underbelly - sorry, brilliant classics - of Hi-NRG, and one name leapt out of the archives: the lovely Eddy Huntington.

Although hailing from rural County Durham, Mr Huntington's biggest commercial success was in Europe, Russia and Japan, with hits such as Up and Down, Bang Bang Baby, Future Brain and U.S.S.R.

But his success on the gay dancefloors was ensured when he released this uber-camp number! Meet My Friend, with its sexual innuendo and sung as it was by a (then) fresh-faced chicken was a huge gay anthem in 1987. I absolutely love it! And here, gentlemen and laydeez, it is...

The biggest surprise I had while researching the whereabouts of this little-remembered gay icon was the fact that not only is he nowadays a primary school teacher back in the North East, but that the Norwegians have sought him out and asked him to perform one of their entries for next year's Eurovision! Here is the (local) news:

I have no idea yet whether he will eventually appear, but we shall see - Norway has yet to finally announce the performers who will sing the competing songs in their national equivalent of our Song for Europe next year. We may yet get a chance to see the return of a real blast from the past...

Meet my friend, he knows every little trick
Meet my friend called Dick

I've got a friend
He's so much fun
And I know he's ready for action
He'd like to fire
And wake up your desire
He knows every way to
Make you really lose your mind

Well hello, how do you do?
I'm really pleased, pleased to meet you

Just take your time
But don't be shy
Let yourself go with the attraction
I'm sure he'd like you and I'm sure you'd like him too
My friend wants to meet you
And you'll find the four of us

Well hello, how do you do?
I'm really pleased, pleased to meet you

Meet my friend, he knows every little trick
Meet my friend called Dick

Interview with Eddy Huntington

Tuesday 1 December 2009

“I wouldn't say I invented tacky, but I definitely brought it to its present high popularity”

Happy 64th birthday today to that gorgeous bundle of campness Miss Bette Midler! I have always loved this lady's sassiness and chutzpah, and to me, as with many gay people, she embodies a way of being to which I aspire...

Read my previous blog about Bette two years ago.

Bette's The Showgirl Must Go On has been the top selling show in Las Vegas for the last two years, and she has announced that her last show will be Sunday 31st January 2010. As she says, "These legs have had such a great run in the desert - it may be time to haul them to places with more humidity and fewer slot machines."

One of those places is the UK! Miss Midler is appearing on this weekend's Strictly Come Dancing, and she will undoubtedly make a few more appearances on TV to promote her Best Bette: Deluxe Edition compilation CD, which was released yesterday.

Indeed, Bette will perform in front of the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh at the 81st Royal Variety Performance next Monday on a bill that includes Michael Buble, Miley Cyrus and Lady GaGa - and I reckon she'll give them all a lesson in what it really means to be a performer!

[Yes, I know I posted this one before, but how could I resist?]

Bette Midler (born 1st December 1945)

Monday 30 November 2009

"I just cannot imagine there is treachery. All I have is memories."

Another Tacky Music Monday, and who better to give us a little lift on a drab morning than that incredibly trashy 80s Eurobeat group The Flirts? These three epitomise one of my favourite eras of music - the poppers-fuelled nights at every gay club in the land were throbbing to this stuff, and we loved it!

Oh, the hair! The choreography! The lyrics... Enjoy!

The Flirts

Sunday 29 November 2009

Your own, your very own...

Before going to the Chris and Richard's wedding reception last night [which was a fab evening - friends, evening wear, posh poofs, drunken uncles, canapés and Ceilidh - a typical society wedding], we had a visit from our mother, whose birthday it was last week. As a treat my sister and I took her to the Players Theatre Victorian Music Hall at Leicester Square Theatre. It was excellent, as always!

Starting with a celebration of St Andrew's Day we were "entertained" by a bagpipe player, but we forgave them this as the show proper began. Opening (of course with the MC and his traditional "patter"), we had a full two hours of top class entertainment, including Players stalwart (and former Crackerjack regular) Jan Hunt, a tap-dancing tribute to Hollywood classic musicals, a portly comedienne from Wolverhampton (who was hilarious), a one-man interpretation of a Victorian melodrama (in which the player played all the parts, villain, girl in peril, mother and policeman), a cruise ship singer who tackled Nessun Dorma (and didn't quite make it), a chorus line of young lasses from drama school, and a lovely trilling singer of sentimental arias.

Mother loved it, we loved it, and for a couple of hours on a miserable Saturday afternoon we were transported back to the halcyon era when the marvellous Good Old Days was essential viewing on the BBC. I wish they'd bring this show back! And why-oh-why has the BBC not put their back catalogue of this series out on DVD? They've probably destroyed the archive I expect. To remind everyone how remarkable this type of entertainment really is, here's a fuzzy old clip of an original programme from 1974...

And here is a very inventive piece called Let's All Go To The Music Hall by a chap who goes by the name of "Ukulele Eric"...

Players Theatre

Saturday 28 November 2009

Oh, you've got the future in your hand (signed, sealed, delivered)

A wonderfully convoluted music post today...

This evening we join our friends Richard and Chris, who are having their Civil Partnership ceremony, for a celebration party at the very swanky Whitehall venue One Great George Street [oo-er, what to wear?].

Today also marks the 80th birthday of Berry Gordy Jr, creator of Motown Records (which itself celebrates fifty years of music next month).

So to link these things together, I chose this number out of the zillions of songs in Motown's back catalogue (but not the Stevie Wonder original, as I'm not keen on him), which seemed appropriate.

Congratulations, boys! And here's the magnificent diva Ruby Turner, just for you...

Friday 27 November 2009

Made it to the top, although the road was steep

The fantabulosa Dame Shirley Bassey is everywhere at the moment, or so it seems. Electric Proms, Paul O'Grady Show, Portrait of the Month at the National Gallery, newspaper interviews, Strictly Come Dancing, Graham Norton Show and Children in Need, not to mention documentaries on Radio 2 and BBC1 (which we have lined up to watch on iPlayer) - whew!

Her new album The Performance is the focus of all this frenetic activity, of course - I pre-ordered the limited edition version box set, and we listened to it the other day. It is a great collection of brand new songs, including ones written for the Great Dame by Gary Barlow, Rufus Wainwright, KT Tunstall and Manic Street Preachers - and unusually our Shirl has a much more restrained vocal tone on several of these, which takes a little getting used to.

However, trust the Pet Shop Boys to provide the Tiger Bay Belter with a more traditional camp showbiz number! Take it away, Shirl (and happy Friday!)...

Get your copy of The Performance today!

Thursday 26 November 2009

I will see you in the sky, tonight

Happy 70th birthday today to that living embodiment of a "great ball of fire", the eternally sassy Tina Turner!

I have already posted one video of hers this week (with Cher). I have blogged about her before - read my posting from last year.

But in my world, there is always room for a bit more music from the fantastic former Anna Mae Bullock, especially when her special guest is a certain David Bowie...

Wednesday 25 November 2009

And I don't know the answers, 'cause I don't know the questions

Having only heard about the existence of the event the day before yesterday (Paul Burston posted a comment about it on MySpace), I hastily organised tickets to go to the House of Homosexual Culture's "Do You Come Here Often?" event last night at the South Bank. After a clothes shopping in delightful Wood Green (for our first gay wedding bash, to which we are going on Saturday) it was touch and go whether Madame Arcarti would want to go (she hates shopping, and has an early start tomorrow) but since this was an evening focussing on the history of gay clubbing in London, how could we do anything else?

Off we trolled through the drizzle into the bowels of the Festival Hall to the comfy and bijou surroundings of the "Blue Room", which was beginning to fill up as soon as we arrived. Our host Paul B was sparkling from head to toe in sparkly black sequins, and opened proceedings by reading the lyrics of In The Evening by Sheryl Lee Ralph (read my blog about the importance of that particular song).

Without further ado, our guests Tris Penna and Sue Wade entered into a lengthy and educational journey through the way gay nightlife has evolved since the 50s and 60s "hidden" years, when clubbing was basically a refuge, having a bit of a bop to a jukebox behind closed doors in a downstairs bar or coffee shop. In the late 60s, our newly founded emancipation following the legalisation of homosexuality led to the popularity of the famous Lesbian club Gateways (as long as you adhered to their strict "butch and femme" role-playing rules) and gay clubs such as The Catacomb, both on Kings Road.

During the 70s, there was a very slow and gradual relaxation of the "members-only club" tradition, and of course we had the rise of gay Disco, which meant that larger "one-nighters" such as Bolts (which had a home very near where we live now in Harringay) and Bangs (in the Astoria in Charing Cross Road, fore-runner of G-A-Y) could begin to flourish, alongside the emerging leather and "clone" scene, which found a home in The Coleherne in Earls Court and The London Apprentice at Old Street . All are now gone, but one club founded in that decade still survives - Heaven (although according to Tris, it was a vey different and more sleazy place in its early days).

Even into the 80s, Soho was only a minor player in the world of gay nightlife. Heaven was out of the hub of what we now think of as "the gay village" and quite segregated, with its mainly men-only nights. The Fridge in Brixton, Bromptons and the Copacabana in Earls Court and the various clubs under the arches of Kings Cross were ascendant. Blitz Kids and "gender benders" were popularising gay culture in the press. But with immaculate timing, AIDS had begun to make an impact on the gay clubs - particularly the sleazy leather scene.

And then came Trade in Turnmills, which, being off the beaten track and (with a lot of word-of-mouth advertising in the era when dancefloor drugs such as Ecstacy became popular) a very easy-going attitude to what exactly constitutes an "all-night venue", took off massively. Although not without its casualties - for as Tris commented, probably more people were damaged and burned out by the chemical excesses of the late 80s and early 90s than had been directly affected by AIDS over the previous decade.

A direct reaction to these excesses (fuelled by the hedonistic "anything goes" attitude of poly-sexual clubs such as Taboo, which was actually not strictly gay) was the founding of alternative clubs like PopStarz, Kinky Gerlinky and Ducky. But the biggest winners in the 90s were the newly cleaned-up Heaven, which began to attract the glitterati of the time, and latterly G-A-Y, which appealed to a largely squeaky-clean younger crowd and hosted some of the biggest acts around on its stage.

As our speakers observed, however, the age of the "mega-club" and its "mega-star DJs" seems to have petered out somewhat in recent years. For even with a vast variety of drugs and the vastly popular aggregation of gay venues around Vauxhall, it seems that a profusion of smaller club venues and "one-nighters" has begun to emerge once more (possibly in a reaction to recession, as in the early 90s) - in places like Hoxton, and of course Soho.

This was a bit of a "curate's egg" of a discussion, as the speakers veered backwards and forwards between eras, venues, stimulants and perspectives (gay women's and men's experiences), and perhaps some of the details were slightly lost. In their enthusiasm to express how it felt to "be there", and to talk about the people who were responsible for the developments on the scene, we missed where many of these clubs actually were located, for example. However, we were enthralled to hear all these fabulous anecdotes "straight from the horse's mouth", as it were...

But the best was yet to come. In a magnificent finale, and as an acknowledgement of one of the home-grown talents who contributed so much to the gay scene of the 80s, the lovely Miss Hazell Dean took to the stage! We were treated to fabulously belting versions of her gay anthems Who's Leaving Who and Searching, as well as Hi-NRG re-workings of Addicted to Love and the classic We Are Family. She is superb, and her powerful voice has lost none of its impact - brilliant stuff!

I thanked Miss Dean afterwards, and explained to her that it was she who provided the soundtrack to my coming out. As the penny dropped (for both of us) that this was actuallly twenty-five years ago, I decided to casually drop the conversation at this point. Anyhow, here's the lady herself:

Hazell Dean official website

Tuesday 24 November 2009

Just because...'s a grey and miserable day, and we need cheering up (and because Paul Burston is hosting a House of Homosexual Culture event on the history of gay clubbing at the South Bank tonight), here are two of our favourite divas Tina Turner and Cher with their version of that Disco classic Shame Shame Shame - enjoy!

Monday 23 November 2009

Viva la Diva, Viva Victoria, Cleopatra

Just in case anyone thinks I have neglected Tacky Music Monday, here's something that fits the bill perfectly!

Here is a strange cover of the fabulous Dana International song Diva that Madame Acarti stumbled across. It is by the very weird-looking Russian megastar Philipp Kirkorov, former chair of that country's Eurovision Song Contest jury. In Spanish, yet! (Lord knows why...)

Apparently straight (he famously married a television personality eighteen years his senior), Mr Kirkorov counts among his close personal friends (ahem) the Greek hip-swayer Sakis Rouvas and (ahem) Ricky Martin... Enjoy!

Philip Kirkorov on Wikipedia

"Fifty crept up on me like a Catholic priest in a lavatory."

"I’m 50. The shame of it. Too old for Alcopops, too young for Midsomer Murders. This will be an intimate evening – a celebration, no less, of my twenty-five years in the camp spotlight: how I got there and why I refuse to leave."

We went to see Julian Clary's final show in his Lord of the Mince tour last night at the Leicester Square Theatre (“I did Two Gentlemen of Verona here in 1984. They said they were from Verona, anyway”). Celebrating his 50th birthday and 25 years in showbiz, Mr Clary has lost none of his magic touch. "I’m a national trinket," he said - and he's not wrong!

We were in hysterics at times as Julian led us through his achievements over those five decades, including bizarre boyfriends, moving to the country, his best-selling books, caravanning ("I'm really only happy when I'm bent double in a small space washing my hair in recycled urine") and Strictly Come Dancing ("As soon as I pressed my Fred against her Ginger, I could smell triumph"). Oh, and fisting, of course!

Reflecting on his boyfriend’s flaky-skinned eczema, he described life as “like living with a gecko”. Nothing is safe from his sardonic observations - the audience, Dale Winton, Exeter ("shithole"), heterosexuals, his neighbour Paul O'Grady (Julian's impression of him was genius!), the restaurant next door ("I looked through the window and saw a mouse sucking a Rennie") - and he delivers every put down with his customary knowing look, eyebrow raised and deadpan tone of voice. Brilliantly done, and very funny!

The second half is devoted to even more audience humiliation, as Julian reveals his new-found psychic skills ("Madam, I'm getting spiritual vibes that next week you will dye your hair blonde, and it will be a disaster. Oh, sorry, that must have been last week.") Dragging two unsuspecting queens up onto the stage, he subjected them to some mortifying "psychic experiments" including blindfold taste tests and a psychokinetic experiment with a teddy bear. All done in the best possible taste, of course!

As a finale, he brought his dogs Valerie and Jism (!) on stage, much to the delight of the punters. But it wouldn't be Julian without one of his half-spoken "songs", and his closing number You Probably Are Gay was wonderful. Quite rightly, he received a thunderous ovation!

Madame Acarti went along not knowing quite what to expect, and was in fits of laughter all the way through. Last night proved (if any proof were necessary) that Julian Clary is one of the funniest comedians around, and I hope UK television wakes up to the fact and we get more of him on our screens again...

Here's Julian and Paul O'Grady camping it up on the latter's show this year...

Julian Clary offical website

Sunday 22 November 2009

"The melody haunts my reverie, and I am once again with you..."

Here at Dolores Delargo Towers we adore and avidly collect a category of entertainment that comes under the heading of "Sunday Music". And today, on the 110th anniversary of his birth it is time to celebrate one of the great masters of that genre Mr Hoagy Carmichael!

In his eight-decade career as a songwriter Mr Carmichael collaborated with just about everyone who was anyone in the music industry, including his best friend Bix Beiderbecke, Louis Armstrong, Paul Whiteman, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, Gene Krupa, Duke Ellington, Bing Crosby, George Gershwin, Fred Astaire, Yip Harburg, Frank Loesser and long-term musical partner Johnny Mercer.

Hoagy the actor appeared in a number of top Hollywood films, including Topper (with Cary Grant), To Have and Have Not (with Bogart and Bacall) and Young Man With A Horn, the bio-pic of his friend Bix.

By the time of his death in 1981, he was lauded by generations of fans as one of the greatest composers in American history. An incredible career indeed!

Facts about Hoagy Carmichael:
  • He was christened with that peculiar first name because his mother was friendly with a circus troupe called "The Hoaglands".
  • His 1943 song I'm a Cranky Old Yank in a Clanky Old Tank on the Streets of Yokohama with my Honolulu Mama Doin' Those Beat-o, Beat-o Flat-On-My-Seat-o, Hirohito Blues is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the song with the longest title.
  • He composed a song for the original Flintstones cartoon - Yabba-Dabba-Dabba-Dabba-Doo.
  • John Lennon cited Hoagy Carmichael as his favourite songwriter.
Here's the beautifully-crafted tonsils of Nat King Cole crooning Hoagy's classic Stardust:

With another take on the tune, Glenn Miller adds his own inimitable panache with his big band version:

Next we turn to another Carmichael standard Georgia On My Mind, and this lovely version by the incomparable Ray Charles, who made the song his own:

And here Aretha Franklin gives us a brilliant version of Hoagy's torch song Skylark:

Back in 1991, Bette Midler paid tribute to his song Billy-a-Dick in the wonderful film For the Boys (here being used as a soundtrack for some amateur tap-dancers - the only video out there!):

Most remarkably of all, in addition to his jazz/swing/blues standards Hoagy Carmichael also wrote this camp classic for the Marilyn Monroe movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. Take it away, Miss Jane Russell!

Hoagy Carmichael biography

Saturday 21 November 2009

Scrunch and diffuse

I love the wonderfully bitchy Dexter Clark (Celebrity Hairdresser) whose blogs have long brightened many a dull day at Dolores Delargo Towers. And so it came to pass that we trouped off to the delightful environs of Highbury Corner (eek!) for the great stylist's long awaited one-man show Sharp Tongs and D-List Bangs the Hen & Chickens Theatre Bar on Highbury Corner in Islington. And we had a hoot!

Rather than just reprise his marvellous video blogs in their entirety, the lovely Dexter gave us a hysterical and seamless insight into his fabulous life, his forthcoming (hilarious) perfume launch, his (secret) charitable work for the Silver Scissors Foundation, his forthcoming biography, and most of all his celebrity clientele.

Katie Price ("Thick Up Top"), Naomi Campbell ("Dangerous Weave"), Kate Moss ("Chemical Streak"), Amy Winehouse ("Camden Belfry"), Terry Wogan ("Painted Shredded Wheat"), Dale Winton ("Black Fuzzy Felt"), Madonna ("Peroxide Raptor") and Kerry Katona ("Council House Bangs") all got the adulation they deserve from their fabulous confidante.

On his celebrity book club - "We give Katie Price the OK magazine to read. I's the only chance she gets to see her kids."

On offering a new treatment at the salon - "It's all about the "youth" in "youth-enasia."

On the suicide of his business partner Giupetto, who hung himself from the chandelier in the kitchen - "I know what you're thinking, but I got the insurance."

Although only a half-hour show, the audience (which included TV and orchestra-conducting celeb Sue Perkins) was rocking with laughter all the way through. The man is a genius, and deserves to go much further than a grotty attic above a student pub in Islington... I really hope he goes on to bigger and better venues!

Friday 20 November 2009

One love

Just because it is a grey and damp morning again, I thought a little pick-me-up was in order. Here's the brilliant new collaboration between dance genius David Guetta and the budding bitch of dance music Estelle - I love this song, and the video is brilliant too. Happy Friday!

Thursday 19 November 2009

Then you came along with your siren song

Lest we forget a largely unheralded gay genius, I thought it appropriate to have a little celebration of the birthday of the late Billy Strayhorn - author of Take the A-Train for Duke Ellington, among many many more classic jazz numbers. And to do so, it is only fitting to post his masterpiece.

Mr Strayhorn (remarkably) wrote Lush Life when he was just eighteen, yet its sophistication and complexity is worthy of much more mature writers. Quite rightly the song has become a true standard, with covers by Nat King Cole, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Stan Getz, John Coltrane, Herbie Hancock, Nancy Wilson, Carmen McRae, Julie London, Linda Ronstadt and Donna Summer.

However, out of all the versions that have been recorded I have made an unusual choice. A rather lovely version by (of all people) Queen Latifah...

I used to visit all the very gay places
Those come-what-may places
Where one relaxes on the axis of the wheel of life
To get the feel of life from jazz and cocktails

The girls I knew had sad and sullen grey faces
With distingué traces that used to be there
You could see where they'd been washed away
By too many through the day, twelve o'clock tales

Then you came along with your siren song
To tempt me to madness
I thought for a while that your poignant smile
Was tinged with the sadness of a great love for me
Ah yes, I was wrong
Again, I was wrong

Life is lonely again and only last year
Everything seemed so sure
Now life is awful again
A trough full of hearts could only be a bore

A week in Paris could ease the bite of it
All I care is to smile in spite of it

I'll forget you, I will while yet you are still
Burning inside my brain romance is mush
Stifling those who strive

So I'll live a lush life in some small dive
And there I'll be
While I rot with the rest of those
Whose lives are lonely too

Billy Strayhorn biography


"If diva means giving your best, then yes, I guess I am a diva." - Patti LaBelle

As last night we decided to stay in and Madame Arcati was cooking, we decided it was time for a "Diva Music Night", through the medium of YouTube. What fun!

Among the fabulous ladies' videos we played were Florence Ballard, Patti Labelle, Monica Naranjo, Shirley Bassey, Army of Lovers, Loleatta Holloway, Sweet Pussy Pauline, Dusty Springfield, Etta James, Barbara Tucker, Madge, Freemasons featuring Siedah Garrett, Liquid Gold, Sarah Vaughan, Madison Avenue, Ofra Haza, A Taste Of Honey, Jessie Matthews, Marsha Raven, Kylie, Amii Stewart, Basement Jaxx feat. Lisa Kekaula, Sheryl Lee Ralph and Laura Branigan!

And this one. Enjoy three divas - Koko Taylor, Irma Thomas and Ruth Brown -for the price of one (oh, and BB King too of course)...

Wednesday 18 November 2009

"With your long blonde hair and your eyes of blue..."

In 2002 A Hollywood movie producer was planning a film of her book My Life With Dali and wanted Claudia Schiffer to play Amanda Lear. "I ran into Claudia at a restaurant," Lear recalls. "She said, 'I love your book! Who wrote it for you?' I said, 'I did, darling. Who read it to you?' So that was the end of that. They never made the movie."

Today may well mark the 70th (or 68th, or 64th, or as she claims, 61st) birthday of that glamorous and mysterious siren, the model, singer and Dali muse Miss Amanda Lear!

Why the mystery? It is so typical of Miss Lear... For apart from evading questions about her age, the debate remains open as to whether she was actually born a man! Apparently old photographs of the young Alain Tapp do exist, and April Ashley stated publicly that she met him/her before the operation in 1963. Nevertheless, he/she climbed to a position of fame as the companion of Salvador Dali (collector of the exotic for many years) and became a fashion model.

It was at one of these catwalk shows in 1973 that Miss Lear was first spotted by Brian Ferry and she became the cover girl on Roxy Music's seminal For Your Pleasure album. David Bowie (another collector of the exotic) adopted her for his Ziggy Stardust tours, and it was he who encouraged Amanda Lear to become a recording artist in her own right. The rest, as they say is history - to date she has remarkably sold approximately 15 million albums and 25-30 million singles worldwide, and has released two albums this year alone!

After her marriage to Frenchman Alain-Phillippe Malagnac in 1979, she began to vigorously deny her transsexuality and as supposed proof posed nude for several men's magazines. While this certainly proved to her delighted fans that she still had an amazing body despite being in her 40's, her case was always unconvincing and the mystery was enhanced, not completely refuted. Tragedy struck Amanda in December 2000 when her home in France burnt down, killing her husband and destroying many of her and Dali's paintings.

Yet she refused to stop working, and is still a much-loved performer (and "gay icon") today. Happy birthday to a true trooper!

Amanda Lear biography

Tuesday 17 November 2009

Velvet underground

As today marks the 20th anniversary of the "Velvet Revolution" that finally led to the departure of the Communist regime in what was then known as Czechoslovakia, what better way to celebrate that to dig out some of the weird and wonderful music of the Czech Republic?

First up is a charming young lady by the name of Lenka Dusilová (who is so butch she makes Italian singer Gala look like Pixie Lott!):

Of course every country has to have a boy band, and the Czech one is called Lunetic [sic]. They don't seem to get their clothes off much, but it is a cold country...

Now here's a girl who thinks she is one of the Pussycat Dolls - she certainly is bad enough! Even the scandalous Eastern Bloc-voting couldn't scrape Tereza Kerndlová past the semi-finals in Eurovision 2008:

From the ridiculous to the sublime - Lucie Bílá is one of the Czech Republic's most celebrated singers. She has turned her talents to opera, rock and pop, and appears to be quite a dramatic lady indeed:

Of course this little potted tribute could not be complete without an appearance by that amazing performer Karel Gott (Czech megastar of the Cold War era). I have blogged him before on Tacky Music Monday, and it isn't really hard to see why...

Monday 16 November 2009

Bara du och jag

Thanks (once again) to the lovely Henry for drawing my attention to the existence of this wonderful pair of famous Swedes!

Apparently Lili & Susie were the Scandinavian answer to Mel & Kim and had huge success in the 1980s with such unpronounceable hits as Okej Okej and Bara du och jag ("The Two Of Us"). This year they re-formed for the local Melodifestivalen (which is by all accounts a wildly popular junior version of Eurovision). So on this Tacky Music Monday I thought I would (ahem) treat everyone to a slice of their talents...

This couldn't really get more Eighties if it tried:

Oh! The padded shoulders! The hat...

And here they are, bang up-to-date in 2009 and looking like relatives of Pat Butcher...

Sunday 15 November 2009

When you're alone and life is making you lonely, you can always go...

Happy 77th birthday today to the lovely chanteuse Petula Clark CBE, stalwart of that genre known as "MOR"*, and to date the best-selling British female solo recording artist ever!

In a career that began as a child star (alongside Julie Andrews) in 1942, our Pet successfully made the transition to an adult performer, with numerous radio, film and later TV performances. But her greatest commercial success came in the 1960s, when she married and relocated to France. In an unprecedented "dual career", Pet became a wildly successful performer of the beloved French chanson while establishing what became a long and successful English-language singing career in the UK (and later, the US).

She carved her place in history with hit songs like Sailor, Romeo, My Friend the Sea, and of course the mega-hit for which she is most remembered, Downtown. Further collaboration with the composers Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent - including one of my faves Don't Sleep in the Subway - established her success on both sides of the Atlantic and she landed her own show on US TV (and starred in that godawful film Finian's Rainbow).

More recently, Petula Clark has concentrated mainly on the stage, starring in both Sunset Boulevard and Blood Brothers, and continues to tour extensively today.

I love Pet - and we were mightily pissed off to have missed her appearance at Brighton Pride back in 2002. We were there and watched the parade, but decided not to go to Preston Park as a thunderstorm had turned the grass into a quagmire so instead headed back to the pub. It was only later that we discovered that the great lady had braved the elements and appeared on stage after all...

Many happy returns, Pet!

I'm a Woman (with Peggy Lee):

Petula Clark official website

[*MOR = middle of the road, in music]

Saturday 14 November 2009

"They were always having tomato soup and she lost her faith"

We trolled off en masse to windy Southwark last night to see Victoria Wood's Talent at the Menier Chocolate Factory. A very entertaining evening indeed!

Although a bit dated in places (the original "play with music" was written in 1978 and many of the contemporary references in the script remain intact - would many people these days remember Mike and Bernie Winters or the "Oh, Malcolm" Vicks commercial, for instance?), Victoria Wood's wit and penchant for the sardonic quip shine through.

Set in the sleazy world of the Northern night-club scene (so brilliantly captured by the likes of Phoenix Nights), the dreadful stereotypes are all in place: the secretary with ambition but no discernible talent, her fat best friend, the sleazy groping club host, the long-lost rat of an ex-boyfriend, and the dreadful old-school variety acts. From the opening number with the cheesiest "vocal trio" in the world, we retreat to the grotty dressing room for the rest of the drama, as the relationships between the characters unfold.

The players are excellent - Suzie Toase is particularly good as the "fat friend" Maureen, as is Hi De Hi’s Jeffrey Holland as the crappy all-round entertainer, and, surprisingly, ex-Blue Peter presenter Mark Curry as the pervy MC. Shakespearean actor Mark Hadfield is great in the dual role of the (female) bookings organiser and the twitchy side-kick in the dire variety act. The weakest link was surprisingly the lead character Julie, played by Leanne Rowe, who really doesn't quite fit the part that was obviously created for Julie Walters - but fair play, who could?

But is of course for the dialogue that we love Victoria Wood's work. You cannot fault a play that throws out lines like "I thought coq au vin was a fuck in a lorry", "She used to be a nun. They were always having tomato soup and she lost her faith" and "Mine's the white Cortina up against the back wall in the VIP car park. Take your girdle off and bring a tissue." And of course, the songs are brilliant and sometimes poignant as you might expect...

Apparently one song from the show, Fourteen Again, had its lyrics adapted for another tune, Rusholme Ruffians by none other than The Smiths. Morrissey was a great fan of Wood's, and had even proposed marriage to her via the music press (to which she responded "Morrissey and I have been married for 11 months, though due to touring commitments, we have yet to meet.")

Of our evening, one of the most unintentionally hilarious moments was when Sally and Maria popped off for a pee (the show has no interval), but Maria took a wrong turn and ended up trying to get out through the curtains at the side of the seats. Their subsequent enjoyment of the play was rather spoiled after that as they were made to take seats near the (real) exit, and couldn't see the rest of the show properly. Hey ho. All in all, a very enjoyable evening - highly recommended for Victoria Wood fans in particular!

About Talent

Thursday 12 November 2009

Others may have wine, but I have poetry

The smell of ink is intoxicating to me - others may have wine, but I have poetry.
Abbe Yeux-verdi

Last night's Polari Poetry Night was most certainly the busiest since the move to its new home at the beautiful (ahem) and atmospheric (ahem!) Concrete Bar on the South Bank. We arrived in a Byronic mood (I dressed the part anyhow!), and had a bit of a job at first getting seated as every table was full (either with avid Polari-ites, or with Haywood Gallery punters). But we managed to chuck a couple of tardy diners off their table eventually, and settled in for the evening's entertainment.

Paul Burston had told us that Radio 4 were going to be there and planned to include Polari in one of their programmes about language - and indeed we spotted poet and presenter Michael Rosen at the bar.

Our host (Paul) was in a "Stevie Nicks" mood, apparently (to which I responded: "What? A fat hippie?"). Something to do with her singing a song about poetry I believe, and he was wafting a scarf around a lot so I assume it was meant to be a literal interpretation. Once the preamble music was over, without further ado he introduced the ever-lovely Celine to open proceedings with her specially composed Polari song. Paul solemnly recited the lyrics to Abba's The Day Before You Came as an intro, and it was fairly obvious that half the audience had no clue that this was not a poem specially written for the occasion, which was quite funny...

Our first reader of the evening was Catherine Brogan who read some of her wonderful poems about life, love and lesbianism. A Belfast lass, she typically railed against her Catholic upbringing, and got several resounding rounds of applause. As we offered her congratulations on her way back to her seat she told us that she had avoided railing against the BBC, but was sorely tempted to do so as they had barred her from reading one of her gay poems on a recent radio appearance!

During the ciggie break, I got talking to Celine, Dave Ball from Soft Cell, Little Annie's promoter (whose name I forget), Christopher from the similarly-named Polari magazine, and none other than David Hoyle. Never having met him before I only had his (rather aggressive) stage persona upon which to judge the man, and I am not particularly keen on that. However in the flesh he is a gentle, charming man and I thoroughly enjoyed chatting to him. Quite a revelation, actually!

After the break it was the turn of the poet-cum-stripper (well not really, but he does like to do his readings shirtless) Trevor Medicine. I last saw him at the Polari Goes East "Stag Party" event last year, and he didn't disappoint last night either. Fast, furious and excellent poetry - this man deserves a publishing deal.

Last but by no means least was the effervescent Caroline Bird, who, despite looking about twelve is an excellent and accomplished poet and writer, and rounded the proceedings off nicely.

And what a surprise for John-John, when he and Celine were interviewed by Michael Rosen and recorded by the BBC crew, speaking a bit of the Polari lingo!

Despite having far too much wine (their other drinks are a bit pricey) and having a head like a boil waiting to pop this morning, it was altogether a great night as usual. And, so a little bird tells me, there may be another move afoot (within the South Bank complex), which can only be a good thing...

The next Polari is "London Night" on 9th December - and I look forward to it!