Sunday 31 May 2009

Summertime, And the livin' is easy

Sun is shining, I am off to Soho for Paul Burston's book reading, and the livin' is easy...

Saturday 30 May 2009

Where did you get that hat?

I have always had a "thing" for hats - whether those of Schiaparelli or Cecil Beaton, Philip Treacy or Mitza Bricard for Dior. Among my greatest style icons are people who can really wear hats - George Melly, Audrey Hepburn, Gloria Swanson, Molly Parkin, Grace Jones, Greta Garbo, Isabella Blow. So it was no surprise, really, that we had to go and see the exhibition Hats - an Anthology at the V&A before it closes tomorrow.

It was a sumptuous extravaganza - so many beautiful and bizarre creations I just wanted to try on!

Influenced by Cecil Beaton's 1971 V&A show Fashion - an Anthology and including 300 examples of millinery and its inspirations throughout history - from an Egyptian Anubis mask dating from 600 BC, a Coptic Fez (ca. 1100), a Tudor knitted beret and a silk and straw bonnet dating from 1807, to the most unusual creations of today - it was collated and artistically inspired by the wunderkind milliner to the stars Stephen Jones.

Born in 1957, Stephen graduated from London's St Martin's School of Art in 1979 and began to make hats for friends - just at the right time for the post-punk Futurist/New Romantic dressing-up world that heralded the early 80s.

At around that time he lived in a squat with Boy George, among others - and as the only squatter with a car, he used to drive the Boy around to the Blitz Club and other arty nights where they would parade their latest outrageous sartorial creations.

As his designs became wildly in demand amongst the uber-hip (Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Steve Strange) within a year of graduating he had his own shop in Covent Garden. Things really took off when Jean-Paul Gaultier saw George wearing one of Stephen's designs in the video for Do You Really Want To Hurt Me? and invited him to design the hats for his latest Paris show.

He went on to acquire the greatest accolade of the age when Princess Diana commissioned him to design for her, and his fame was assured - over the years he has worked with Vivienne Westwood, Claude Montana, Comme des Garcons, Marc Jacobs, Thierry Mugler and John Galliano, and his surreal creations have been worn by just about everyone including the Rolling Stones, Madonna, Marilyn Manson, Pink, Gwen Stefani, Alison Goldfrapp, Beyonce Knowles and Dita Von Teese.

Even renowned contemporary and rival surrealist milliner Philip Treacy learned his trade on work placement with Stephen Jones...

A genius - and a brilliant exhibition!

Hats - an Anthology

Stephen Jones Millinery

Friday 29 May 2009

Almost makes me want to watch 'stenders

News is all over the place that not only has the very lovely Marc Elliott joined the cast of Eastenders as long-lost [yawn] son of the Masood family, but he is to be involved in a gay tryst.

I never watch the soaps, but just looking into the sexy eyes of this man could change my mind...

Gay Muslim story for Eastenders

Thursday 28 May 2009

You're into a time-slip...

This makes me feel a little old. Patricia Quinn, forever in our hearts as "Magenta" in The Rocky Horror Picture Show celebrates her 65th birthday today!

Unfortunately for Miss Quinn, she has never really been able to shake off the part that really made her a star around the globe - despite being a first-class actress, with roles in the classic series I, Claudius, Fortunes of War opposite Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson, and even Dr Who.

Facts about Patricia Quinn:
  • She was born in Belfast.
  • She was a Playboy Bunny Girl before becoming an actress.
  • From her marriage to the late Sir Robert Stephens, she in fact "Lady Stephens".
  • She is is stepmother to Robert's sons by marriage to Maggie Smith: Toby Stephens and Chris Larkin.
  • Her nephew Jonny Quinn is the drummer of Snow Patrol.
  • She became a London club hostess in 2006, and duetted on stage with Patrick Wolf.
Happy birthday to a camp icon...

Patricia Quinn, Lady Stephens (born 28th May 1944)

Wednesday 27 May 2009

Horror Hammers

As we raise a glass (of virgin's blood, perhaps?) in toast to Christopher Lee, whose 77th birthday it is today, it is worth pondering on a bizarre coincidence...

Amazingly, fellow horror star Peter Cushing was born on May 26 (yesterday) and Vincent Price was also born on today's date! Three horror icons, contemporaries, sharing birthdays on two consecutive dates. Even better, the three men were good friends.

Of his meeting Christopher Lee in 1968, Vincent Price said, “I had heard he was very pompous, and I was really a little worried about meeting him. Well, we took one look at each other and started laughing… We find each other hysterically funny.”

On meeting Peter Cushing on the set of The Curse of Frankenstein. Christopher Lee wrote, “Our very first encounter began with me storming into his dressing-room and announcing in petulant tones, ‘I haven’t got any lines!’ He looked up, his mouth twitched and he said dryly, ‘You’re lucky. I’ve read the script.” And from that moment on the two men became friends for life.

And here are the three great hams in one of their rare performances together:

Tuesday 26 May 2009

Nothing like a Dame

That magnificent dame of the theatre Serena (Sir Ian McKellen) celebrated his 70th birthday on Monday. He celebrated his night off from Waiting for Godot in style by taking 25 of his friends to La Cage aux Folles, where he acquired a lovely lipstick print on his forehead from one of the "Cagelles".

After the show he continued the festivities at a private birthday in the theatre with the cast, with stars Roger Allam and Philip Quast, and other friends including the wonderful Frances Barber, fab luvvie Simon Callow, and the gorgeous Paul Keating.

Happy birthday to a stalwart of theatre, and of gay rights! For it is another famous anniversary this summer - twenty years ago, the ground-breaking political lobby group Stonewall was founded (allegedly in a meeting in Serena's front room), and its successes are now legendary, not least with the estimable support of Sir Ian McKellen. A marvellous man!

Sir Ian McKellen

Monday 25 May 2009

Electrify my heart, electrify my soul

OK - it is a Bank Holiday Monday, it's pissing down (as usual), and I reckon the world is well overdue for a dose of possibly the most preposterous German Eurotrash band of all time. Needless to say still very popular in Spain, here's the amazingly tacky Modern Talking...

And, of course...

Modern Talking on Wikipedia

Sunday 24 May 2009

Mas es mas

Recovering from our week in Spain - another wonderful mix of incredible sunshine, excessive booze, good food, good friends and very late nights - I just had to share a little discovery from the bizarre musical mix at Men's Bar in La Nogalera - from Fangoria...

Friday 15 May 2009

Se a vida é

A little selection of things we expect from a Spanish holiday! Sun, sea, sand, cocktails, and eye candy...

See you in a week's time!

Thursday 14 May 2009

Come on and shake me

Continuing our countdown to Spain, a country that has never been afraid of naffness, it cannot go unnoticed that we are also in the final throes of semi-finals before Saturday's Eurovision Song Contest (which we hope to be able to watch in a bar on the Costa).

So, to combine both things, here's the Spanish entry this year - a typical Eurovision-by-numbers ditty performed by what looks like a cross between a young Margie Clarke and a tranny club hostess...


Wednesday 13 May 2009

I've been to some hen parties...

... but a stag do?

As Paul Burston quite rightly says in The Gay Divorcee:
"For some reason, women always seemed to invite their gay friends to their hen party. Men never invited them to the stag do. Maybe they thought they'd be embarrassed by the lap dancers. Or maybe they just didn't want a gay man around when it was time to strip the groom naked and leave him tied to a lamp-post."

Last night's Polari East - "The Stag Night" was a new deviation on a theme for our favourite "peerless gay literary salon", outside the usual Soho haunts. It took me a while to find the new venue for Ghetto/Trash Palace in Old Street, despite its bright red paint-job, but it is a fashionably bijou little club and ideal for a one-off event like this.

Although the audience was slightly sparse, those of us who did turn out on this sunny May Tuesday had a treat in store.

Not only the usual fab camp disco/electro playlist courtesy of the lovely DJ Dom Agius, but on this occasion host Paul had the tables turned on him and had to perform a reading himself. Of course, that was the whole theme of the evening - the "Stag Night" preceding next week's main launch of The Gay Divorcee (the "Wedding Night" - no mention of the "Divorce Night", but c'est la vie).

Poet (and so it would seem, stripper for the evening - appearing as he did, shirtless) Trevor Medicine treated us to one of his pithy poems. The buffet was appropriately naff - all sausages on sticks and cheese nibbles. And the "novelties" on every table included (obviously) stag horns, devil head-dresses and inflatable caveman clubs.

I had a ball - particularly satisfying after what I felt was a very good meeting with an agency who have an excellent job prospect for me, and after drinks with our friend Maria in the sunshine - and it made up for the fact that next week's "official" event takes place while we are sunning ourselves in Spain, so I haven't missed out on my Polari "fix".

Roll on the next one - "Supernatural Night" on June 17th!


Tuesday 12 May 2009

That Dress, That Dress

Wow! I never thought I would ever be so fascinated by women's tits before...

We went along to "The Tease Show" at Koko (formerly the Camden Palais) last night, and what a spectacular event it was! The show was hosted by MC Julian Clary, whose repartee was filthier and costumes more camp than I have seen him in do a long time, and he held the whole thing together brilliantly.

Some of the best burlesque performers in the business performed stunning routine after stunning routine - Catherine D'Lish and her naughty champagne bubble bath, Pearl Noire and her flawless Josephine Baker impression; and we were blown away the amazing Oriental and Egyptian costumes of Miss Kalani Kokonuts.

Toning down the boob-heavy content a little, the hilarious Glitter Bandits camped it up in silver leggings and performed a couple of their unique "dance routines". Best of all was our headline act Immodesty Blaize, who has the most fantastic array of frocks (despite the fact that inevitably they all come off) - her recreation of Erte's iconic poster image "Symphony in Black" was a work of genius; and my word, can that girl ride a rocking horse?!

But top of the bill for me was Marc Almond, performing some appropriately-themed and previously unheard material with the help of the excellent big band, looking and sounding great as always. A superb night's entertainment, and my very first female strip show (of sorts).

Immodesty Blaize website

Monday 11 May 2009

And so you're back from outer space

As we get more and more excited about our holiday in Spain this Saturday, what more fitting way to start off the week than with one of Spain's tackiest performers?

NB Sin Afeitar = "Unshaven"

Sunday 10 May 2009

A talented Nancy

Today would have been the 87th birthday of the "Broadway Bombshell" Nancy Walker.

Although most people remember her for her 70s TV roles as the domineering mother in the Mary Tyler-Moore spin-off series Rhoda and as the housekeeper in MacMillan and Wife, she was in fact a ground-breaking artiste in the history of American musical theatre, working with luminaries such as Lucille Ball, Betty Comden, Adolph Green, Phil Silvers, Jule Styne, Bert Lahr, Jackie Gleason, Jerome Robbins and Dick Van Dyke. Leonard Bernstein was an early fan. He created the role of Hildy in On The Town with Nancy in mind, and it is her version of I Can Cook Too! that all subsequent actresses in that role aspire to emulate.

Her chutzpah and comic timing led her to appear in numerous TV variety shows, with among others Carol Burnett and Tab Hunter, and eventually to her own (unsuccessful) show.

One of her last screen appearances was as the hilarious deaf mute maid in one of my favourite movies Murder By Death, with its all-star cast including Truman Capote, Alec Guinness, David Niven, Maggie Smith, Peter Sellers, Eileen Brennan and Elsa Lanchester. And a little-known fact is that Miss Walker directed the kitsch cult classic Village People film Can't Stop The Music...

A whirlwind, a firebrand and a truly talented all-rounder, I loved her.

Nancy Walker (10th May 1922 – 25th March 1992)

Saturday 9 May 2009

Sunny Delight

Had a fun night with old friends from work last night, it's just seven days till our holiday in Spain, and Hugh Jackman is shirtless in Brazil. All is right with the world...

...and here's the lovely Mr Jackman "playing gay" for the boys:

Friday 8 May 2009

Life In The Bush Of Ghosts

Early birthday greetings today to Brian Peter George St. John le Baptiste de la Salle Eno. His birthday is actually next week, but I am in the mood to post some stuff that encapsulates this man's sublime talents...

Happy Friday!

Eno was a vital part of the early Roxy Music:

His collaborations with David Bowie produced some of my favourite albums, including Heroes:

Always in demand, he has collaborated with many of the greats including John Cale, Robert Fripp, Michael Nyman and Robert Wyatt, but his longest lasting partnership is with Talking Heads' David Byrne, and they are still producing great music today:

A genius!

Eno on Wikipedia

[Incidentally it is his "look" from the Roxy Music days that has inspired my costume for Pride. So watch this space...]

Thursday 7 May 2009

Somewhere between "Sex and the City" and a three-part harmony act

"I don't know what people expect when they come to see us but I think we are somewhere between Sex and the City and three-part harmony act!"

Long after the girls announced they were no longer going to perform together, the fabulous Fascinating Aida are back with a new album Silver Jubilee, celebrating 25 years of their singular brand of rollicking satirical cabaret.

Always topical, always on the ball, the girls - founder member Dillie Keane, the almost as long-serving Adele Anderson and relative newcomer Liza Pulman - specialise in taking a "pop" at the British establishment, in a most genteel and ladylike (and regularly smutty) way of course, and this album encapsulates their style brilliantly.

Nothing is sacred here - not Tesco, nor Gordon Brown, nor, hilariously, the Health & Safety Executive... The collection opens with a number that takes the piss out of shallow fame-seekers like WAGs, Lily Allen and Paris Hilton, and I almost fell off my chair at their hysterical ditty all about dogging!

Their Bulgarian song cycles(!) are brilliant and very clever, and although there are some poignant and melancholy moments this is a superbly crafted and hilarious album.

Recorded live at the Jermyn Street Theatre in January 2009, listening to the CD just makes me regret not having booked tickets.. I recommend it to everyone - the album is available from Dress Circle as ever.

Despite the fact there are no videos of this particular show, here are some snippets of the fabulous Fascinating Aida for your delectation:

Wednesday 6 May 2009

A huge loss

"I'm actually a thin serious person but I play fat and funny, but only for the movies."

Dom DeLuise is dead. Such a loss to the world of comedy.

Most famous, of course, for his collaborations with Mel Brooks, his early career was in children's TV, starring in The Shari Lewis Show among others before landing his own show. This led to a series of comic stooge parts on the big screen, often starring alongside real-life friends such as Burt Reynolds and Dean Martin.

Mel brooks once famously quipped that, whenever he hired Dom DeLuise for one of his films, he would instinctively add another two days to the schedule because of the constant laughter Dom provided on the set -- especially when the camera started rolling.

More recently, he returned to work aimed at children, providing voiceovers for cartoons such as Duckman and Disney's Hercules, and published two children's books.

Here is just a sample of his huge screen presence. RIP.

Dom DeLuise on IMDB

Tuesday 5 May 2009

Tacky Music Tuesday (for a change)

As yesterday was a bank holiday I decided to change the routine somewhat and instead to treat the world to some more tacky music on a Tuesday...

Looking forward to our Spanish holiday, we've been digging out some of the holiday classics - lots of Latino, salsa, flamenco and Euro-pop, and of course this slice of warped genius:

Monday 4 May 2009

Dick? That's an interesting name...

Happy birthday to Dick Dale, 72 today. Who? I hear you ask...

This legendary Lebanese/Polish guitar maestro was hugely influential in the early 1960s. His skill was to merge the musical influences of his exotic background with the sound of the electric guitar to create a whole new style, which became more widely known as "surf music".

Being largely outshone by imitators such as the Beach Boys, Dick probably would have been consigned to the dustbin of history had it not been for one of his biggest fans, a certain Mr Tarantino...

But this is my own personal favourite of his:

Dick Dale (born Richard Anthony Mansour, 4th May 1937)

Sunday 3 May 2009

Um diddle diddle diddle um diddle ay

Former post-office worker Robert Sherman and his younger brother Richard, an artificial-flower arranger whose prior claim to fame was gluing leaves on trees at Disneyland, created some of the best-known tunes for the best-loved Disney movies. As long as they concentrated on music, the brothers got along famously, creating a string of hits for movies including 101 Dalmatians, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Sword in the Stone, Aristocats, Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Jungle Book and Mary Poppins.

However despite this apparently harmonious partnership that brought joy to generations of children (and adults!), the Shermans hardly ever spoke to each other, and to this day remain estranged!

They refused to even acknowledge each other at the recent US premiere of the stage version of Mary Poppins. Robert lives in London, Richard in Los Angeles.

Now two of their sons (Robert's son Jeff and Richard's son Gregg) have produced a new documentary movie about this strange relationship - The Boys: The Sherman Brothers' Story - which has just been released in the USA. Keeping the spotlight strictly on their dads, the film has interviews and commentary from famous fans and former collaborators, including Julie Andrews, Alan Menkin, Angela Lansbury, Jim Dale, Cameron Mackintosh, Stephen Schwartz and even Ben Stiller (who, as a fan of the Shermans' work, is also executive producer of the film).

I hope the movie gets a showing over on this side of the pond, it sounds a fascinating story. But it is for their music that we all really love the Shermans. Ah, nostalgia...

Classics, all.

Saturday 2 May 2009

I'll always be there for you, Dr Dick

"Look at these clothes! So this is where the 70's came to die."

Happy birthday to the lovely Christine Baranski - star of Broadway, screen and TV.

Although most queens love her for her portrayal of the uncompromising bitch Maryann in Cybill (and more recently in the film Mamma Mia, which I haven't seen and am unlikely to), Miss Baranski has many more strings to her bow - she is a classically trained singer as well as a versatile actress. She has starred in such diverse productions as Tom Stoppard's deadly serious The Real Thing, Jerry Herman's Mame and Sondheim's Follies.

One of my favourite screen appearances of hers was as the MC of the ludicrous "Hoe-down for AIDS" in the classic gay comedy Jeffrey:

Here she is singing a fab number from the ill-fated Laurents/Strouse musical based on The Thin Man films, Nick and Nora:

And despite the rumours that she and her co-star Cybill Shepherd really didn't get on at all, they certainly managed some cracking harmonies:

Christine Baranski on IMDB

Friday 1 May 2009

Geef mij maar Amsterdam en God bescherm de Koningin

Queen's Day in Amsterdam

I just read the news that a would-be-assassin targeted the Dutch Royal Family at the "Queen's Day" parade in Apeldoorn this week by driving his car at the royal bus. In doing so he instead hit the crowd, killing five people (and himself). Apparently he was a security guard who had recently been sacked. [What is it with security guards and doormen? So many murderous rampages seem to be committed by gentlemen of this profession lately.]

I have always wanted to go to Queen's Day - it sounds like loads of fun, with massive carnival parades (Amsterdam's being mainly on the canals), everyone dressed in the Royal colour orange, and a general party atmosphere (and a lot less pompous than the Trooping of the Colour here). My friend Richard lived in Amsterdam for a while and said the crowds can get quite scary as they try and cram through the narrow streets, however. Still, murderous madmen aside, I would still love to experience such a spectacle in my favourite city.

Trivia alert! Back in 1981, a recording surfaced of the Dutch Royal Family singing(!). The song Loo-Show-Trend is a strange find indeed, and of course was featured as part of the infamous 365 Days Project a few years ago (a web-based music project I followed avidly, and from which huge swathes of my utterly bizarre record collection originate).

And here's the link to the MP3

Loo-Show-Trend vocals are sung by (then) Princess Beatrix, Prince Claus (her now deceased husband), Princess Margriet (her sister) and Pieter van Vollenhoven (Margriet's husband, who also plays the accompanying piano). On the single they were named Boa Trix, Margriet, Claus von A. and Pieper van V. (pieper meaning potato head).

Read more about this bizarre record at the 365 Days Project site