Saturday 24 October 2009

Costa del Sol - land of culture

As we depart at the crack of dawn tomorrow (3.30am!) for ten days in the sun, I thought it best to leave everyone with a last little "taste" of the music of Espana. I am sure we'll come back with many more delights to torture, sorry, entertain you with, but...

First up are what can only be described as a couple of extras from a Spanish TV version of Planet of the Apes. Words fail me...

Next up a genuine tranny - La Prohibida:

Now this man is not - repeat after me, not - gay! OK? Hahahahahahaha!

And, just because I am away for not one, but two Tacky Music Mondays - how about this rare gem? The costumes! The choreography! Its, so, wow...

Thursday 22 October 2009

Oh, Fluck!

"They asked me to change my name. I suppose they were afraid that if my real name Diana Fluck was in lights and one of the lights blew..."

It would have been the 78th birthday today of Britain's answer to Jayne Mansfield, Miss Diana Dors.

Born in unprepossessing Swindon - it's grim today, imagine what it would have been like for an aspiring glamour-puss in the 1940s! - by the age of sweet sixteen, Miss Fluck was already under contract to Rank Studios and was appearing in small parts in their films. By the time she was 20, she was famously the youngest registered owner of a Rolls Royce in the UK.

Yet despite this promising start Diana Dors never quite achieved the huge success of other famous blondes with whom she was often compared (Jean Harlow, Marilyn Monroe). Eventually she became typecast in either tarty roles, or later, as a bawdy rotund maneater. Not so far for the truth, in real life, actually. Her infamous drunken parties and alleged orgies were manna from heaven for the tabloids, and discredited her completely in Hollywood. She only sold modest numbers of her (now cult) album Swinging Dors - a shame as it is rather fabulous.

In Britain however she became, and remains, one of our best-loved characters in the world of entertainment. Numerous TV appearances (Morecambe & Wise, Two Ronnies, variety shows and even her own comedy series Queenie's Castle) reinforced her popularity, and inevitably she became a camp cult figure - famously appearing as the Fairy Godmother in Adam & The Ants' Prince Charming video.

The whole country mourned her untimely death from ovarian cancer in 1984. I remember feeling like I had lost a relative, a naughty auntie perhaps - the one your Mum doesn't talk about. A fabulous and legendary woman! RIP.

Diana Dors official website

Viva prima donnas

Today's focus on Spain turns (inevitably) to the divas. Spain produces many of them, particularly since one of the most popular musical forms is the Copla - a dramatic vocal style that combines the fire of Flamenco with histrionics of which Dame Shirley Bassey would be proud. Over the years, many of these grande dames have commanded incredible adulation, none more so than Rocio Jurado.

Big-haired Andalucian uber-Diva Rocio Jurado's career started in the 60’s and never went away. There was mass hysteria in Spain when she sadly died of cancer in June 2006, with crowds lining the streets at her funeral.

According to a travel reviewer in Notes on Spain:
"Universally loved by everyone (passports can be officially revoked just for saying a bad word about her), and known as La Más Grande (that’s "The Greatest", and not "The Biggest" as I originally thought they were rudely calling her!), this woman’s voice has been known to shift small planets from their orbit. Despite her death, her celebrity lives on."
Más Grande indeed!

A more modern diva is one of our current favourites, Monica Naranjo, whose histrionics and melodrama hit a whole new level, crossing pop and Copla with operatic styling. For Spanish gays, she is even more popular than her French diva-equivalent Mylene Farmer!

I have blogged about both ladies before, but I could not resist posting this duet between the older and the newer diva, for your delectation...

Wednesday 21 October 2009

New-fangled sounds

I am feeling in a musical mood today, as we warm up (not literally - it's bloody freezing!) for the hols.

So, just in case anyone labours under the misapprehension that my entire musical taste consists of long-dead big band singers, tacky Eurodisco, showtunes, New Romantics and obscure foreign divas (well, admittedly 99.9% of it does!), here are a few current tracks that have well and truly caught my ear...

Thanks to the weird and wacky people over at The Hospital Club for alerting me to the hypnotic charms of Vitalic:

Bizarrely (considering their usual mix of Madge, Sugababes and Taio Cruz remixes with hands-in-the-air handbaggy vocal house tracks on a loop), I first heard this marvellous new single on Gaydar Radio! The Editors seem to capture something very reminiscent of that early 80s sound - a hint of Classix Nouveaux maybe, or pre-pomp-rock Simple Minds perhaps...

Another surprising find on Gaydar Radio (I think someone is hitting the electro clubs lately - DJ Simon Le Vans, maybe?) is this magnificent remix of a newish song Plans by The Christophers. More than a hint of New Order here, I reckon...

[They currently have no video available so I just made this one quickly.]

Buy their EP from their website

And then there's this hypnotic remix of this choon by French artist Yelle, which I recently stumbled upon. Despite its hilarious video which features what appears to be three skinny lesbians emulating Mr C of the Shamen, once you get the hook into your head it is nigh-on impossible to shift it!


Hola Guapo! ¿Cóma está?

Further down the line in our countdown to our holiday, I feel it is time to focus on pleasures of the flesh!

Beautiful out-gay hunk José Galisteo is a huge pop sensation In Spain, inevitable really since he rose through the ranks of their top reality TV show Operación Triunfo.

He has quite understandably wowed the Spanish scene with his artistic model poses and performances at Europride 2007 in Madrid and other gay events and venues.

Here he is trying desperately not to look too camp (and failing) in a cheesy video for his cover of Nik Kamen's I Promised Myself:

And gawd only knows why the bints even bothered to turn up in this video for his brand new single Logicamente No, as he sure as hell doesn't seem particularly interested... I am, though - he is one fit Spaniard!

Señor Galisteo's first album Remember is available (bizarrely) via Amazon Germany. His new album Luces y Sombras from which the single is taken, is released on CD on 26 October but is apparently available to purchase from iTunes now.

Visit José's MySpace page

Tuesday 20 October 2009

"Margaret Dumont, we thought you were dead"

Discovering that today is the 120th anniversary of the birth of the classic character actress Margaret Dumont (the larger lady who always provided a foil for Groucho's jokes in the Marx Brothers movies) provides me with a perfect excuse to post one of my favourite scenes from one of my favourite movies - the hilarious Terrence McNally film The Ritz:

All about the real Margaret Dumont

For those of you who haven't seen the film yet (why not?!), it is available on Amazon

Monday 19 October 2009

La lalala lalala lalala...

Continuing this week's countdown to our hols, on this Tacky Music Monday my thoughts wander inevitably towards Eurovision, and the weird world of the creatures who inhabit it. Spain is a country that has no fear of tackiness whatsoever, so it is inevitable that when you combine the two, you can come up with some real corkers! Enjoy...


Sunday 18 October 2009

La diva de la mejor cantante

As the countdown to our Spanish holiday begins in earnest, I think it appropriate to pay tribute to one of that country's most respected and majestic singers, Maria Dolores Pradera.

Born in Madrid in 1924, Senora Pradera began her long and illustrious career as an actress back in the 1950s. Her beautiful and delicate voice soon led her to huge international success as a singer, not just in Spain but across the Latin world.

Specialising in classic song formats like the Bolero, Ronda and Fado, she has recorded more than 50 albums, all of them selling in their millions across the globe. Over the years she has performed duets with a cavalcade of top Latin and Spanish artists including the late, great Rocio Jurado, and at the age of 85 she continues to perform and works to support the emerging careers of new Spanish singers and musicians.

Maria was honoured in 2008 alongside luminaries such as Vikki Carr and Astrud Gilberto with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the US Latin Recording Academy, to add to her many awards in her native Spain. A most beautiful vocalist indeed. Madame Arcati recently discovered this diva's music and has made quite a collection of her work - we love her!

And then there is this beautiful masterwork:

María Dolores Fernández Pradera (born 29th August 1924)

Saturday 17 October 2009

Diwaali muubaarak

Happy Diwali everyone!

And what better way to celebrate but with some camp, Bollywood-style...

First, Dola Re Dola:

An "Indian Dance Extravaganza" [full listing of clips here]:

And, of course, my favourite dance routine from Moulin Rouge:

More about Diwali - the Hindu festival of light

Friday 16 October 2009

That's peachy for some people - some people ain't me!

In the pantheon of great performers in stage musicals, there are always a few names that stand out - Ethel Merman, Chita Rivera, Elaine Stritch, for example. But standing tall over these Broadway belters is the universally adored Angela Lansbury, whose 84th birthday it is today!

Stephen Sondheim, Jerry Herman, Terrence McNally, Kander & Ebb - she's worked with them all over the years. And of course, the lady's screen appearances are many and notable, from The Manchurian Candidate, through Bedknobs and Broomsticks to the magnificent Salome Otterborne in Death On The Nile, and en route becoming the most highly-paid actress on TV for her enduring series Murder She Wrote.

Even today the lady is unstoppable - having recently won an Emmy for her performance as Madame Arcati (yes, the real one) in Blithe Spirit, she will star as Madame Armfeldt in the first Broadway revival of A Little Night Music, which is scheduled to open in December 2009. A supreme talent indeed - we idolise this woman!

Angela Lansbury on Wikipedia

Thursday 15 October 2009

Divinely decadent daahling

We had another fab evening at Polari at the grotty Concrete Bar on the South Bank last night. John-John and I (as usual) took the theme of "High Society" as an excuse to dress in our best bib-and-tucker, and host Paul Burston looked relieved to see fellow dressing-up fans, as he changed his flat cap for a glorious top hat to compliment his luxurious (and borrowed) evening jacket and satin trousers combo.

Concrete Bar attracts a peculiar mix of people, from regulars at the Hayward Gallery to aesthetes, and of course fans of our evening's readers - the lovely poet Mark Walton and former Lesbian Avenger-turned-"straight" authoress Stephanie Theobald. We grabbed a front-row table in a packed house, and immersed ourselves in red wine and decadent culture of the highest order.

Mark read a few of his sublime poems from his anthology Frostbitten, taking the "high" theme to a new level, with poems about drugs, sex and even Jesus! Excellent stuff, and such a shame he is still looking for that elusive mainstream publisher for his work. I hope he gets signed up very soon, as what the world needs right now is more of this great man's ascerbic observations on life...

After a brief hiatus, Miss Theobald read a passage from her new novel A Partial Indulgence - a divinely decadent tale of the life and loves of aristocratic society. Described as "a contemporary gothic voyage through a decadent world of high society and low morals", this certainly sounds like a fantastic book, and one I will definitely get round to reading asap. Read an extract from the book on Stephanie's website.

Sated with literature, I was thrilled when Paul introduced me to his gorgeous special guest, the American actor and star of the film Big Gay Musical (I am dying to see this film if it ever gets a proper cinematic release in the UK!) Daniel Robinson.

Although I had my photo taken with the lovely Daniel, he declined the suggestion to replicate the poses he did for a rather gorgeous recent revue called Broadway Bares. Damn! Never mind, he had a hot date in (of all places) Croydon(!) so perhaps he was saving himself, lol...

Despite the enduring grimness of the venue this was a brilliant and well-attended evening, and I look forward to the next one!


Wednesday 14 October 2009

Where's the sunshine?

Feeling a bit grey and miserable this morning, so I felt a hit of jolly music was in order...This cheesy slab of Europop is quite appropriate, methinks. Enjoy!

Tuesday 13 October 2009

Respectable spectacles

Heavens! The bespectacled diva Nana Mouskouri is 75 years old today...

One of the world's biggest-selling artists ever, Miss Mouskouri has sold more than 200 million records worldwide in a career spanning over five decades, out-selling Barbra Streisand and Diana Ross combined - quite remarkable, really, given her "lighter-than-light" vocal style and unchallenging selection of ballads and folk music. I often think she makes Doris Day sound like Janis Joplin in comparison...

An unlikely rebel in her youth (she was famously thrown out of the Athens Conservatoire where she was studyng for illicitly moonlighting in a jazz band), she was soon tipped for success when she was "discovered" by one of Greece's top songwriters Manos Hadjidakis, with whom she formed a long collaboration.

It is for her classical, powerful voice and clear diction that she is most lauded; and she sings in many languages - French, German, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese as well as English and Greek. Over the years the world's top musicians, including Quincy Jones and Michel Legrand have queued up to work with her.

And here's a selection of the great lady's music, starting with my favourite song of hers:

Then there's this oddity - a duet with Nina Hagen, of all people!

Here she is paying homage to Jacques Brel:

And in this bizarre clip she is entertaining a freaky puppet:

And finally, the great lady's theme tune:

Nana Mouskouri biography on ArtistDirect

Monday 12 October 2009

Pon una linea de bajo para que esto se anime

With less than two weeks to go before our holiday, it is only fitting that this Monday we should pay a return visit to the spiritual home of tacky music, Spain...

So, without further ado here's a new song from an old favourite, Las Seventies - with a hilarious video to boot, as the Andalusian cougars show the Pamplona tramps just how it should be done!

Sunday 11 October 2009

Bozzies on Sunday

On the anniversary of the death of the lovely Connee Boswell, I thought I'd post some of her songs for our delectation - true "Sunday music".

Connee was the middle sister of the Boswell Sisters (known affectionately as "The Bozzies"), whose close harmonies and jazzy tunes began a whole musical genre in the 1930s, influencing the Andrews Sisters and Ella Fitzgerald. After the other two sisters retired in 1936, Connee went on to a highly successful career, both solo and as a vocal partner to Bing Crosby.

Little known facts about Connee:
  • She used a wheelchair, as a result of childhood polio.
  • Connee based her vocal style on the ground-breaking blues singer Mami Smith.
  • The Andrews Sisters began their career as "Boswell Sisters impersonators".
  • She changed the spelling of her name from Connie to Connee to make it easier to sign autographs.
And here's the lady herself. Enjoy!

Official "Bozzies" website

Saturday 10 October 2009

I don't want to change the world

Today Kirsty MacColl, one of the most refreshing female artists of the 80s and 90s would have been 50 years old. Lauded by critics and the buying public alike as a "national treasure" in post-punk Britain, she successfully managed a commercial crossover between her family tradition of folk music and the energetic irreverent pop of the type her label Stiff Records specialised in.

Her own songs such as There's a Guy Works Down the Chip Shop Swears He's Elvis, Don't Come The Cowboy With Me Sonny Jim, Days, Terry and You Broke My Heart In 17 Places combine complicated and quirky lyrics with a sardonic nod to older, more familiar styles of music such as country and 60s girlie pop (with a twist).

Her fame was assured when Tracy Ullman (who had managed a successful transfer from typically British alternative comedy to become the darling of US telly) covered Kirsty's They Don't Know, which was a hit on both sides of the Atlantic.

Miss MacColl could quite easily have ridden this wave of songwriting success and followed contemporaries like Cathy Dennis across the water to international mega-stardom. However, Kirsty preferred to stay true to her roots and her preferred collaborations were with the likes of The Smiths, The Wonder Stuff, Shane McGowan and Billy Bragg.

Her version of Bragg's A New England is quite rightly adored as a classic, and A Fairytale Of New York (with the Pogues) remains the best (and only bearable) Christmas song ever recorded. And of course her regular appearances on French & Saunders' shows confirmed her beloved status with the public.

Ironically Kirsty MacColl was probably on the brink of renewed success, having just released her brilliant album Tropical Brainstorm (featuring one of my favourite of her tracks In These Shoes), when she was tragically killed in that notorious boating "accident" while on holiday in Mexico in 2000, a tragedy that really touched the hearts of many people (and still has reverberations today, with the "Justice for Kirsty Campaign").

A brilliant star, who will always be remembered (indeed, there will be a celebration of her life at her memorial bench in Soho Square tomorrow at 1pm onwards). I love her!

Kirsty MacColl official website

Justice for Kirsty Campaign

Friday 9 October 2009

Say no more

This has been a hectic week for many reasons, and I will be very glad for a restful weekend. So without further ado, let's get our hot-pants and glitter wigs on - and boogie!

Thank Disco it's Friday...

Thursday 8 October 2009

"Get away from her you BITCH!"

Happy 60th birthday today to the lovely Sigourney (nee Susan) Weaver. Having taken her stage name from a F. Scott Fitzgerald character in her teens, it was obvious that she was born to be a dramatic actor. She studied at New York's Yale drama school alongside Meryl Streep, and progressed onto the stage in a number of critically acclaimed (albeit uncommercial) productions. It was from this vantage point that she caught the eye of one Woody Allen, who introduced her to Hollywood and to later legendary stardom.

It is obviously for the Alien series of movies that she really became an acting legend. Indeed, "Ripley" became a rare thing in the genre of horror/sci-fi - a believable and memorable character. Ever the tenacious actress, Miss Weaver never allowed herself to be typecast, however, and went on to take leading roles in such differing types of movie as Ghostbusters, Working Girl, Half Moon Street and of course Gorillas In The Mist, for which she won the Best Actress Oscar. I particularly love her cameo as a "healer" in Jeffrey:

I respect Sigourney Weaver's dedication to acting, to environmental campaigns and to human rights, and in particular to gay rights. Often cited as a lesbian icon for her portrayal of strong, not simpering characters, she is in fact happily married with a child but continually stands up for the issues of gay marriage and anti-homophobia. Her ground-breaking film Prayers for Bobby sets out to tackle the issues of religion and homosexuality.

And she sings! conclude, of course, this!

Sigourney Weaver on IMDB

Wednesday 7 October 2009

"L'amour physique est sans issue"

Four decades on from the scandalous debut in the charts of Serge Gainsburg's Je T'aime, Moi Non Plus, complete with its breathy orgasmic vocal by Jane Birkin, its BBC playlist ban and general moral outrage in the tabloids, I have discovered a fabulous cover version.

Featuring a bizarre combination of one of Germany's top DJs Sven Vath and the estimable talents of French electro-diva (and collaborator with Tiga and the Scissor Sisters to name but a few) Miss Kittin, this is suitably kooky to cheer me up on a grey and grizzly Wednesday...

Sven Vath on MySpace

Miss Kittin on MySpace

Tuesday 6 October 2009

Broadway would be terrified

Twenty years ago today the greatest of all screen divas Miss Bette Davis died at the age of 81, and we lost another beloved legend.

I have expressed my admiration for the indomitable Miss Davis many times before, but today I have found a rare treat - the great lady's appearance as a singer(!?) on the glittering Andy Williams show. Enjoy...

If you love Miss Davis as much as I do, her wonderful album Miss Bette Davis Sings is available from Amazon.

Monday 5 October 2009

You are my Candy Girl

It never ceases to amaze me how and why DJs think it a good idea to remix the most godawful uncool tunes (Jay-Z and his remix of that song from Annie comes to mind). Maybe they think they're being ironic.

Anyhow, a couple of years ago, the cheesy theme from "The Archies" (a kid's cartoon of the late 60s) also received this remix treatment, with amazingly pointless results. So, on this Tacky Music Monday, I thought I'd treat you all to a "mercifully short" listen...

And here's the original, just to add to this uplifting experience. (Just be thankful I didn't post the Archies' other "classic" Me And You And A Dog Named Boo, although you never know when the time may be right for that...)

Sunday 4 October 2009

All About Sin

Yesterday, to mark what would have been the 42nd birthday of the legendary "Sinders" (who survived the Admiral Duncan bomb and was brutally murdered by a gang five years ago), his friends Alison and (our mate) Sally organised a gala evening of entertainment at Halfway to Heaven to raise money for the Albert Kennedy Trust, which supports homeless young gay people.

Appropriately titled "It's All About Sin", giving their time for free were some of the London scene's greatest drag acts including our hosts Kelly Mild and Crystal d'Canter, Kevin Cruise, Tanya Hyde, Lady Imelda, Rose Garden, Mrs Moore, Titti La Camp and Sandra - and it was one helluva show!

Among the highlights were the £100 that was popped into Imelda's bra for her to flash her "mangina" (which she did, briefly - eek!), one random bloke who raised a fortune to display his bare ass at the crowd, Rose Garden selling snogs (including a passionate clinch with lesbian Jools from QX magazine), and Mrs Moore hijacking punters for their small change on their way to the loo...

All the acts were magnificent, and early estimates reckon that well over £1000 was raised in four hours! Excellent stuff, and here are some random clips of the "ladies" themselves:

[PS The photo at the top of the page was taken about nine years ago at a party at Sally's pub, with Sinders (in cap).]

David "Sinders" Morley tribute site

Albert Kennedy Trust

Halfway II Heaven

Friday 2 October 2009

"Everybody with an IQ above room temperature is on to the con act of our media"

On the occasion of his 84th birthday, I feel it is important to once more celebrate the absolute genius that is Gore Vidal.

At a recent performance of the acclaimed West End play Mother Courage, Mr Vidal apparently stood and addressed the audience with an anti-war speech. His ascerbic analysis of the state of the Western world, and American society in particular, its wars, the duplicity and corruption of its politicians, and the lies peddled by the media, is legendary.

Read my blog on the wit and wisdom of Gore Vidal last year.

On the state of journalism today, he says:
"Everybody with an IQ above room temperature is on to the con act of our media. They are obeying bigger, richer interests than informing the public - which is the last thing that corporate America has ever been interested in doing."
When asked how he thought President Barack Obama is doing:
“Dreadfully. I was hopeful. He was the most intelligent person we’ve had in that position for a long time. But he’s inexperienced. He has a total inability to understand military matters. He’s acting as if Afghanistan is the magic talisman: solve that and you solve terrorism.”

"America has no intellectual class and is rotting away at a funereal pace. We’ll have a military dictatorship fairly soon, on the basis that nobody else can hold everything together. Obama would have been better off focusing on educating the American people. His problem is being over-educated. He doesn’t realise how dim-witted and ignorant his audience is."
On the Republicans:
"Obama believes the Republican Party is a party when in fact it’s a mindset, like Hitler Youth, based on hatred - religious hatred, racial hatred. When you foreigners hear the word ‘conservative’ you think of kindly old men hunting foxes. They’re not, they’re fascists.”
Read this fascinating interview with the great man in The Times

Here is the man himself, doing what he does best - excoriating the lies of the media:

Gore Vidal's partner of 53 years Howard Austen, who died in 2003, took myriad portrait photographs during their life together, from the handsome young Vidal to the older "man of letters".

His book Gore Vidal: Snapshots in History’s Glare is available from Amazon

"I cried all the way to the bank!"

It is remarkably fifty years since the sparkling multi-million-selling entertainer Liberace sued the Daily Mirror for libel (and won!). Gossip columnist Cassandra (William Connor) had described him as:
"The summit of sex - the pinnacle of masculine, feminine, and neuter. Everything that he, she, and it can ever want… a deadly, winking, sniggering, snuggling, chromium plated, scent-impregnated, luminous, quivering, giggling, fruit-flavoured, mincing, ice-covered heap of mother-love... this superb piece of calculating candy floss... the biggest sentimental vomit of all time... a preposterous clown."
Absurd, of course! After all, this is the same "devout Catholic" Liberace who outsold Elvis, broke all the records for ticket sales at Madison Square Gardens and in Vegas, and was "almost married" to the silver screen formation skater Sonja Henie - how could he be gay?

The rest, as they say, is history. In 1982, his former lover Scott Thorson sued for "palimoney" (and was paid off to the tune of $95k!), and (in a sickening media frenzy at the time) eventually "Mr. Showmanship" died of complications from AIDS in 1987.

But let us not dwell on that when we can have the man himself. Enjoy your weekend with a bit of sparkle!

The book Crying All the Way to the Bank: Liberace V Cassandra, which gives all the gory details of the fabulous libel trial, was published in June 2009.

And why not visit The Liberace Museum?

We are toying with the idea of going to see the current production in the Leicester Square Theatre Liberace - Live From Heaven starring (would you believe?) Bobby Crush, but not sure what exactly we would be letting ourselves in for if we did... Read more

Thursday 1 October 2009

Pluck with pride

With Paris Fashion Week well underway, and the news that Susan Boyle is due back on British screens with a guest appearance on something called X-Factor ("A popular musical talent show, m'Lud"), I am overjoyed to find a spurious excuse to post this little delight. Enjoy...