Saturday 30 June 2012

Friday 29 June 2012

A magic fills the air. There's music everywhere

The end of another strange week draws to a close, and we need something to which we can really shake our tail-feathers this weekend!

Bearing a distinct resemblance to Christine McVie (or is it Amanda Lear?), it's Switzerland's finest - the lovely Patrick Juvet, with an absolute favourite of mine from 1978, I Love America...

Comb those flicks - and Thank Disco It's Friday!

[He's 62 years old this year - very scary!]

Patrick Juvet on Wikipedia

Thursday 28 June 2012


What a shambles!

From GayStar News:
"Pride London bosses have confirmed they have axed the cars and floats from the World Pride parade on 7th July.

The event will now be a ‘procession’, they say, with ‘walking groups only’ and will start earlier at 11am due to the organisers' 'cash crisis'.

The decision comes after an emergency all-agency meeting at City Hall."
The DJ events in Soho are cancelled, and the Trafalgar Square stage will close earlier, at 6pm.

We are furious at this last minute decision, as many people must be. Admittedly it is doesn't have a huge impact for our gang, as we only ever do the procession and hardly bother with the after-parties or the big stage. Gay Pride is a march, after all! A presence. A statement. A message of unity and strength.

However, we do feel the whole debacle will have a major knock-on effect for not just the groups who have stumped up thousands of pounds for their floats, but also on the numbers who will be celebrating - this is, after all, supposed to be a "World" event!

As Peter Tatchell (one of the original organisers of the first Pride march forty years ago in 1972, and understandably livid) said to Pink News:
"Many people have booked coaches and trains to arrive at the original start time of 1pm, and it’s too late to ensure that everyone knows that the start time has changed. It is going to result in total chaos and gridlock throughout the West End. The police and the Mayor are stark, raving mad to have agreed to this shambles.

"Scaling back speakers and performers on the main stage at Trafalgar Square will cause huge disappointment. The fear is that some of the human rights speakers will be axed as a result, further depoliticising the event.

"Whatever the rights and wrongs, this scaling down of World Pride is a huge embarrassment for London and for our LGBT community. We promised LGBT people world-wide a fabulous, spectacular event. It now looks like World Pride in London will go down in history as a damp squib.

"We’re not only letting down LGBT people in Britain, we’re also betraying the trust and confidence of LGBT people world-wide. This is an absolute disaster."
In my own long history of attending Pride events, this is not the first time I have experienced a cancellation of a Gay Pride party (never the march). It is, to my recollection however, the first time a Pride has been so radically changed at such short notice.

Our plans are going ahead regardless - and we will have a fab time as always! However, some of the glitter has been removed from the gingerbread...

Lock the door, tight!

"Let’s have a Kiki
I wanna have a Kiki!
Lock the door, tight!
Let’s have a Kiki, mother-fucker!"

Sometimes, just sometimes, an artistic happening comes along and restores my faith in gay humanity.

And so it was when we stumbled across this divine combination of the world's campest band Scissor Sisters and some video-editing virtuoso working for a gay club in Boston...

Let's Have A Kiki indeed - whatever that might be!


Scissor Sisters - Magic Hour

Wednesday 27 June 2012


Time for a bit of culture (with a capital "K") here at Dolores Delargo Towers, for a change!

Today is the 90th anniversary of the birth of the very lovely and photogenic operatic diva Miss Anna Moffo, a singer so popular she even had her own TV show on Italian television in the 1960s (which succeeded, unusually for Italian TV, in never featuring Raffaella or Mina, or any cheesy dancers).

Aside from television, Miss Moffo was a truly lauded diva in the classical world, performing at The Metropolitan Opera of New York for seventeen seasons and starring at major opera houses around the world, including the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden. She died in 2004.

Here the great lady arrives, typically glamorous, to sing "Meine Lippen, die küssen so heiß" ("My lips kiss with such fire") from Giuditta by Franz Lehár [2019 UPDATE: Gone from the interwebs. Here she is instead, with something equally as sparkly]:

How life should be...

Read my previous tribute to La Moffo

Tuesday 26 June 2012

The Baroness

The lovely Eleanor Parker (possibly best known in her long career as the Baroness in The Sound Of Music) celebrates her 90th birthday today!

Who even knew she was still alive?

What better way to pay a fitting tribute to the lady than [a well overdue visit to] Steve Hayes aka Tired Old Queen at the Movies, with his review of one of her sadly forgotten - yet amazingly campy - movies (for which she was nominated for an Oscar), the 1950 women's prison drama Caged:

Camp movies we have never seen, #297 in a series...

Happy birthday to a great survivor!

Eleanor Parker on Wikipedia

Monday 25 June 2012

Still glowin', still crowin', still going strong

Wow - that was a whirlwind-quick weekend! As always, I could do with at least one more day to get everything I planned to do done...

Hey ho, never mind. On this Tacky Music Monday, let's cheer ourselves up as we prepare for our sad trudge back to work - in the company of one of our fabulous patron saints Miss Carol Channing! Here's her rollocking 1979 Royal Variety Performance of Hello Dolly:

Hope you have a good week!

Sunday 24 June 2012

Chansons d'amour

Time once more to visit some of the newer choons I have picked up on lately.

Just for a laugh I thought I'd open with something that - had it featured Legs and Co dancing to it - would probably sit more comfortably in my regular "Tacky Music Monday" slot. It's a brand new remix by DJ Dave Audé of Stand By Your Man! What on earth would Tammy think?

Swedish band Straight Up! are obviously anything but [straight]. I've loved them ever since their oh-so-subtle single Twink two years ago. Their Show The World Tonight was the anthem of Stockholm Pride last year, and this Pride season they're back with another pumpin' anthemic dance number Family:

The trio calling themselves The Face are certainly "proud" - so much so, their clothes just fall off in this video! The single Love Stuck is a fabulously catchy number reminiscent of Alcazar, which is a good thing, and I like it!

Keeping up the (blood) pressure in the contest for "sluttiest gay artist" with Johnny McGovern aka Gay Pimp, Noo Yawk's finest Cazwell returns with Rice and Beans - and one helluva sexy video!

To calm us down a little after that, the magnificent Pet Shop Boys' new single Invisible catches the boys in one of their extremely wistful, sombre moods - truly beautiful, but perhaps much more suitable for a late-night chill-out session than the record-buying X-Factor generation...

And finally, the find of the week - here's a most hypnotic and ultra-fabulous single called The Witch by the clunkily-named Dombrance featuring Sourya (who? They're both French, That's all I know.). Electro-tastic!

Once again, enjoy - and let me know what you think!

Saturday 23 June 2012

We can only see a short distance ahead

"We can only see a short distance ahead, but we can see plenty there that needs to be done."

Today marks the centenary of one of the most fascinating of gay men, the mathematical genius Alan Turing - famed as the breaker of the Nazis' Enigma Code, and father of the modern computer and of the scientific theory of "artificial intelligence".

His story is well known - a genius with possible signs of Asperger's Syndrome, a typical "boffin", all crumpled suits and illegible handwriting, and a gay man hounded to death by the very authorities in peacetime that his war effort had fought to save. Much is being made in the press of his personal contribution to current science, and many are the efforts to get his reputation officially recognised and his abysmal criminal treatment as a gay man pardoned. And well they should!

However, Alan Turing's complex personal life is a subject of many theories and speculations. His place as a gay icon is assured - this year's Manchester Pride (25th August 2012) theme is Queer'd Science, in honour of the "father of computer science, mathematician, logician, wartime codebreaker and victim of prejudice."

His homosexuality does indeed appear pivotal to his subsequent emergence as a brilliant scientist. The death of his schoolmate and first love Christopher Morcom ("He made everyone else seem so ordinary") appears to have been a central factor in Alan’s subsequent development. Shaken by the unexpected loss, he rejected the religion of his parents and his school, and thus began a lifelong dedication to atheism and logical scientific analysis.

Drawing of Alan Turing ("Hockey. Or Watching the daisies grow") by his mother at his preparatory school, Hazelhurst, Sussex. Annotated by Mrs Turing "sent to Miss Dunwall, matron at Hazelhurst. Date Spring term 1923."

Although often depicted as the "passive victim", Mr Turing's surprising defiance in the face of persecution is excellently analysed by the author of Alan Turing: the enigma Andrew Hodges:
[His]... self-effacement, mixed with a dark hint that he had actually contributed something better than "donkey work" to the [development of the] computer, typified the cryptic way he spoke of himself.

In this era, most people who heard on the grapevine of [his] story probably assumed that his death typified the suicide culturally expected of ashamed and exposed homosexuals.

In fact, his death came more than two years after the arrest. And he had shown defiance rather than shame.

He told the police that he thought there was "a Royal Commission sitting to legalise it".

In 1952 and again in 1953 he insisted on holidays abroad, in Norway and Greece, explicitly for freedom from British law, and very likely influenced by hearing of the early Scandinavian gay movement. His ears pricked up at a hint of modernity.

But as a gay man, Turing was particularly unlucky. The point in about 1948 when he decided to have a more positive gay life was just the point when there was a change from silence to active persecution...

...Turing's cryptology work at Bletchley Park helped counter the threat posed by Germany's U-boats These changes, taken together, have made Turing much more accessible than he could ever have been in his lifetime. He has become, posthumously, a modern icon.

Alan Turing drank the cyanide but left an apple by his bed.

It was a grim joke against his reputation for impracticality, kindly allowing those who wanted to believe it that he had ingested the poison by mistake.

Turing himself knew the apple as an icon of death in the Snow White story, and perhaps his theatrical prop was also alluding to the great decision he made in 1938 to abandon the Eden of pure mathematics for the deadly business of duelling with Nazi Germany.

His story is tragic, but this last twist to his story is part of the comedy of life which, despite everything, he did his best to enjoy.

Amen to that.

Let's leave the last word to Dr James Grime, Enigma Project Officer at Cambridge University, who provides (for me at least) possibly the clearest explanation of exactly what contribution Alan Turing's work made to the world of mathematics and computer science. A fitting tribute to the life of a genius:

Alan Turing website

More Alan Turing on the BBC

Friday 22 June 2012

"Oooh, I know..."

Just enough time to wish many happy returns to the fabulous not-yet-Dame Prunella Scales, 80 years old today.

In her 60-year acting career, Pru has played just about everything - from costume dramas to the plays of the "angry young men", Bennett to Shakespeare, comedy, tragedy and melodrama, and no less than two Queens (Elizabeth II and Victoria).

On the way, she managed to bring to life two of the greatest ever comedic on-screen monsters - Mistress Mapp in the magnificent Mapp and Lucia, and of course, Sybil Fawlty.

I have met Miss Scales (when she was supporting a fundraiser for the charity I worked for; she was pissed before she even got to the hospitality room), and a couple of years ago at Wilton's Music Hall we were privileged to sit immediately in front of a gathering of "national treasures" that not only included Prunella and hubby Timothy West, but also June Whitfield!

We loved eavesdropping on their conversation...

Happy birthday, ma'am!

Prunella Scales on IMDB

I don't pop my cork for every guy I see

Another working week grinds to a juddering halt, and for that we are eternally grateful...

It's time to start planning our parties! On the eve of what would have been the 95th birthday of the late, great Bob Fosse, yet in keeping with our regular trip back to the hedonistic sparkly world of the 1970s, here's Dolores Delargo Towers favourites The Ritchie Family and their version of Big Spender from Sweet Charity, cleverly cut with one of the great man's finest big screen moments from the original movie....

You, too, can look like a slut if you really try... Thank Disco It's Friday!

Mr Fosse would love this.

Bob Fosse (23rd June 1927 – 23rd September 1987)

Thursday 21 June 2012


Today is the Summer Solstice, the longest day of the year - almost, but not quite, the designated official Midsummer's Day (which, confusingly, falls on Sunday 24th).

Regardless, we in the UK inevitably (but especially this year) greet today with amazement. How can it be mid summer? It hasn't even started yet! Ad infinitum. [We wouldn't be Brits if we didn't talk about the weather, after all. And for weeks and weeks it has been shit...]

Enough of this shenanigans, let's leave it to Bananarama (again - in their 30th anniversary year) to sum it all up quite neatly - Cruel Summer, indeed!

PS Midsummer's Eve is a time associated with witches, magic, fairies and dancing. I'd better start planning my outfit for Saturday!

PPS The nights start drawing in from here, folks...

Wednesday 20 June 2012

And it's the memories of the shed, that make me turn red

A brief respite of sunshine today between storms; the gardens at Dolores Delargo Towers are full of flowers and looking lovely, and - work or no work - that makes me feel happy.

Funny enough, despite its rather contradictory emotional lyrics, I find this song always reminds me of happy days in summer sunshine. So I'm going to play it!

Let us enter the time machine again, and head back to 1998 - it's Tin Tin Out featuring Shelly Nelson, with Here's Where The Story Ends:

People I know, places I go
Make me feel tongue tied
I can see how, people look down
They're on the inside

Here's where the story ends

People I see, weary of me
Showing my good side
I can see how, people look down
I'm on the outside

Here's, where the story ends
Ooh here's, where the story ends

It's that little souvenir, of a terrible year
Which makes my eyes feel sore
Oh I never should have said, the books that you read
Were all I loved you for
It's that little souvenir, of a terrible year
Which makes me wonder why
And it's the memories of the shed, that make me turn red
Surprise, surprise, surprise

Crazy I know, places I go
Make me feel so tired
I can see how people look down
I'm on the outside

Here's, where the story ends
Ooh here's, where the story ends

It's that little souvenir, of a terrible year
Which makes my eyes feel sore
And who ever would've thought, the books that you brought
Were all I loved you for
Oh the devil in me said, go down to the shed
I know where I belong
But the only thing I ever really wanted to say
Was wrong, was wrong, was wrong

It's that little souvenir, of a colorful year
Which makes me smile inside
So I cynically, cynically say, the world is that way
Surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise, surprise

Here's, where the story ends
Ooh here's, where the story ends

I wonder whatever happened to Tin Tin Out? Or indeed Shelley Nelson?

[And no, 1998 was not such a terrible year. It's when I met Madam Arcati... xxx]

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Superhero of the Day

Miss Dolly Parton at the launch of RiverRush - the first watercoaster at Splash Country, part of the Dollywood theme park.

No comment.

Dollywood - The Experience

Play the game of life with our hearts

As the bizarre Yoko Ono arrives in London for the opening of her typically off-the-wall exhibition at the Serpentine Gallery, so I find a good excuse to dig into the far distant corners of my musical mind to play this work of wonder.

Walking On Thin Ice features the last musical appearance of John Lennon (on guitar), and he was apparently holding a proof copy of the track when he was shot in 1980. I raved about this song when it was released in the midst of the New Romantic/electro era of 1981, and in my opinion the original version still sounds as fresh and avant garde as anything released today...

Walking on thin ice
I'm paying the price
For throwing the dice in the air
Why must we learn it the hard way
And play the game of life with your heart?

I gave you my knife
You gave me my life
Like a gush of wind in my hair
Why do we forget what's been said
And play the game of life with our hearts?

I may cry someday
But the tears will dry whichever way
And when our hearts return to ashes
It'll be just a story
It'll be just a story


"I knew a girl who tried to walk across the lake,
'Course it was winter when all this was ice.
That's a hell of a thing to do, you know.
They say the lake is as big as the ocean.
I wonder if she knew about it?"


Yoko Ono website

Monday 18 June 2012

Gotta take it!

Oh, lordy! It's back to work time already...

Never mind, eh? To cheer us all up on this Tacky Music Monday I have something very special indeed. Returning to the ever-entertaining wild and wacky world of Italian TV (we never get enough here at Dolores Delargo Towers), here's the fabulous Bizzy & Co, begging us to Take a Chance:

I'm sure the rest of the programme was just as faboo!

Sunday 17 June 2012

Totty of the Day

Mr Joe McFadden, co-star in Torch Song Trilogy at the Menier Chocolate Factory.

I've loved him ever since he appeared in The Crow Road in 1996.

I could swim in those eyes. Sigh.


Once again, we at Dolores Delargo Towers owe a debt of gratitude to Thombeau over at The Redundant Variety Hour for his ceaseless exertions trawling across the interwebs in search of the fabulous and the ultra-mega-camp.

I whooped with joy when I saw this particular delight he discovered!

For your delectation, we not only have a magnificent (and previously unknown to me) drag diva by the name of Paulo Poli performing a set-piece of what I can only imagine are the Italian equivalent of Music Hall numbers, but also house fave divas Raffaella Carra (whose 69th birthday it is tomorrow) and Mina in man-drag providing the backing vocals!

A feast of fabulosity that is just perfect for a Sunday afternoon (or indeed any time!). Enjoy!

Spettaculo, indeed!!

Unsurprisingly, I have installed Paulo Poli as our latest exhibit in the Dolores Delargo Towers Museum of Camp

Saturday 16 June 2012

You know there are easier things in this life than being a drag queen

We trolled off en masse to the marvellous Menier Chocolate Factory last night to see another of its famed revivals, Torch Song Trilogy, and we were utterly overwhelmed by its excellence.

Having read many of the reviews today, I find a bit of a thread going through the (mainly straight) reviewers' comments - "dated", "period piece", "look at what the gays have now", all slightly dismissive in tone. Even thirty years on from the era in which the play is set, all is not so rosy in the "gay garden", actually, folks! The opening night of Torch Song Trilogy coincided with the vitriolic condemnation of homosexuality (in the context of gay marriage) by those bigots in the Church of England, bullying of gay kids is on the rise not falling, and rejection by parents and families is still a frightening and confusing experience for many gays. Soap-box over, and on with the show...

Harvey Fierstein 's Torch Song Trilogy is a masterpiece, of that there really should be no doubt. Its premise - three chapters in the rollercoaster-ride that is the life of drag queen Arnold Beckoff - draws the audience into the position of not merely observer, but practically a participant. The stories themselves are fairly familiar - man meets man and falls in love, man loses man to another (this time to a woman), man finds new love, tragedy ensues and men meet again years later and try and disentangle their experiences. But this is bigger than just a soap opera. Arnold is perhaps one of the most sincere, believable and complex characters written in a drama of this kind - sympathetic yet selfish, put-upon yet acidly dismissive, above all defiant in the face of every melodrama the world can throw at him.

In the hands of the brilliant David Bedella, Arnold really shines. His sheer omnipresence in the role forces us, the witnesses to his unfolding story, to immerse ourselves in it all - for three hours the man is constantly in our sights, never off stage, never sidelined, never silenced. Not by widowhood, not by desertion, not even by his mother! Mr Bedella really brings his humour, the glitter, the warmth, the rage and the tears to life. Not least in my favourite monologue of all time (here are some extracts):
"I think my biggest problem is being young and beautiful. It's my biggest problem because I've never been young and beautiful. Oh, I've been beautiful. And God knows I've been young, but never the twain have met. Not so as anyone would notice anyway. Y'know a shrink acquaintance of mine believes this to be the root of my attraction to a class of men most subtly described as old and ugly. I think he's underestimating my wheedles. See, a ugly person who goes after a pretty person gets nothing but trouble, but a pretty person who goes after a ugly person gets at least cab fare. Now, I ain't sayin' I never fell for a pretty face, but when les jeux sont fais, gimme a toad with a pot o' gold and I'll give you three meals a day. Cuz honeys, ain't no such thing as a toad when the lights go down. It's either feast or famine. It's the daylight you gotta watch out for. Well face it, a thing of beauty is a joy 'til sunrise...

With a voice and a face like this, what do I got to worry about? I can always drive a cab. You know there are easier things in this life than being a drag queen. But I ain't got no choice. See, um... Try as I may, I just can't walk in flats!

You know there was one guy once. His name was Charlie. Aw, he was everything you could want in an affair and more: he was tall, handsome, rich, deaf. The deafness was the "more." He ain't never yelled at me, never complained if I snored. All his friends was nice and quiet. I even learned me some of that deaf sign language. Oh I…I remember some. [signs with hands] "Cockroach." Means "fuck." Oh this here's my favourite. Means "I love you." And I did too. But um…"not" "enough." You know, in my life I've slept with more men than are named and or numbered in the bible, old and new testaments put together. But not once has someone said "Arnold, I love you." That I could believe. And I ask myself: "Do you really care?" You know the only honest answer I can give myself is "yes." I care. I care a great deal. But, "not" "enough."

Part one, International Stud (a real-life Greenwich Village bar of the 80s), introduces us to Arnold, his formidable wit and tenacity and his hang-ups about sex (graphically depicted in the infamous dark-room scene), and to the man who is to become his big "love interest" Ed (played with remarkable aplomb by, in my opinion, one of Britain's sexiest actors Joe McFadden). Possibly the most self-absorbed man one could have the misfortune to fall in love with, Ed genuinely wants "to have his cake and eat it". Clumsily discarding Arnold's formerly central role in his life in favour of the easy option of marrying a woman, he deserves every second of the rage that the fiery drag diva fires at him.

In the second segment Fugue in a Nursery, blood has flowed under the bridge. Arnold is now enamoured of the ditzy blond model Alan - played in all his shallow, arrogant, attention-seeking glory by the utterly gorgeous Tom Rhys Harries - and the couple are invited by Ed and his idealistic wife Laurel (the impressive Laura Pyper) to spend a weekend in their rural "idyll" (in truth anything but). A game of emotional (and sexual) chess begins. Mostly played out (metaphorically) in eye-popping fashion on one outsized bed (we appreciated the many forward rolls, bends, squats and thrusts by Mr McFadden and Mr Rhys Harries in particular!), Laurel's apparent naiveté is soon rudely shaken by the reality of her own situation, as Alan and Ed fuck, and she and Arnold hissily exchange home truths like two pampered pedigree cats trapped in a cage. Of course, this unresolved merry-go-round is brought to a shattering conclusion when, back in New York, Alan is brutally murdered by homophobic thugs.

The whole theatre was in a stunned silence.

After the much-needed break [this is a long play - three hours in all], we find ourselves further down the line of complications in Arnold's life, in Widows and Children First. Still mourning Alan, he is now proud "mother" to traumatised gay teenager David (convincingly played as odd yet street-wise by Perry Millward), and Ed has hoved back into view after his relationship with Laurel finally petered out. The cobwebs of this almost-but-not-quite cosy situation are about to blown categorically out of the window however, with the arrival of the fearsome Mrs Beckoff, Arnold's own mother (magnificently played by theatrical grande dame Sara Kestelman). With some of the best interchanges in the whole epic, their showdown is simultaneously the excuse for blood-letting of the highest order, and the springboard for many of the deepest simmering realities of just who and what "makes" Arnold the man he is, to come - explosively - into the open.
""Whoops" is when you fall down an elevator shaft. "Whoops" is when you skinny-dip in a school of piranha. "Whoops" is when you accidentally douche with Drano! No, Ed. This was no "whoops." This was an AAAAAAAAAAAAAHA-HA-HA-HA!"

With the closing "torch song" I Will Never Turn My Back On You (a song previously unknown to me, performed beautifully by the entire cast) we were finally allowed to come to terms with the emotional wringer we had been put through. And yes, we cried. Even a hard-bitten bitch like me cried. We also gave the performers the most resounding ovation.

This is a theatrical experience I simply must recommend to everyone. Director Douglas Hodge has masterminded a staggeringly good production; the whole cast (and the clever sets) were superb. The music (thankfully) was subtly delivered on a harp, and the songs (each performed by members of the cast as an aside to the main scenes) such as My Funny Valentine and You Made Me Love You were just perfect.

Do I sense another West End transfer? I hope so!

Torch Song Trilogy is on at Menier Chocolate Factory until 12th August 2012.

Friday 15 June 2012

With a happy refrain

And so the rain returns, just in time for the weekend.

Never mind, eh? We have a gang outing to see the new production of Torch Song Trilogy at the Menier Chocolate Factory to look forward to this evening, and Sheila and B. Devotion are here to cheer us up!

Time to grab your favourite skin-tight metallic silver go-go gear, and get bopping - with a most appropriate number indeed, Singing in the Rain:

Have a fab weekend!

Thursday 14 June 2012

Girls gone wild

The American cougar is now re-populating parts of the US, scientists say.

Their numbers had plummeted in the last 100 years because of hunting and a lack of prey.

Now researchers have published the first scientific evidence that cougars have returned to the mid-west and are now to be found as far south as Texas and as far north as the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Manitoba.

Read more on the BBC

Cougar (slang) on Wikipedia

No one's gonna tell me what's wrong or what's right

Timeslip moment again...

Let us take a little trip back to another hot summer (as I recall, we were dancing under the sprinklers on the cricket pitch to keep cool!) - it's 1982, and the gorgeous Mr Adam Ant was simultaneously at the top of the charts and at the top of my teenage wank fantasies...

Where did those thirty years go?

We're all older, and madder, like Mr Ant himself, I suppose...

Adam Ant official website

Wednesday 13 June 2012

We are friends of Dorothy

Dorothy Squires was, quite simply, one of the most popular singing stars of the 1940s – a charismatic and electrifying stage performer who, thanks to her enduring musical partnership with the respected songwriter and bandleader Billy Reid, topped theatre bills throughout Britain, and whose many recordings included such smash hits as The Gipsy, I’ll Close My Eyes, It’s A Pity To Say Goodnight, I’m Walking Behind You, A Tree In The Meadow, This Is My Mother’s Day and Safe In My Arms.

Later, in the 1950s, when Dorothy was married to the young up-and-coming actor Roger Moore, she moved to the United States to help further his career and became one of the first British recording artists and performers to work there. In the 1960s Dorothy continued to have hit recordings, including Say It With Flowers and For Once In My Life, and the 1970s were notable for her sell-out concerts at such venues as the London Palladium, Theatre Royal Drury Lane, Royal Albert Hall and The Talk Of The Town nightclub. The hits also continued, thanks to her recordings of Till and My Way. Even in the 1980s Dorothy was still performing and recording (most notably, releasing a powerful version of I Am What I Am, from the stage show La Cage Aux Folles). Her last live show was at the Brighton Dome in March 1990, almost 54 years after she had made her recording debut.
And, being the camp queens we are, Madam Arcati and I simply shrieked in unison "we must get a ticket!" when we found out that none other than one of our fave cabaret artist(e)s (Mr/Ms) Al Pillay was appearing in a new show Dorothy Squires: Mrs Roger Moore at the White Bear Theatre pub in Kennington. So off we went last night...

What an amazing performance! We have always admired Al Pillay and his/her particular brand of camp, but who would have thought that a towering Anglo-Indian performer such as he/she could encapsulate the spirit, chutzpah and balls of the tiny, Welsh whirlwind that was Dorothy Squires?

From the outset he had the audience (who, in such a tiny theatre, were practically sniffing his marabou) transfixed. The Camarthen accent, the perfect rendition of Dot's strident early "theme tune" The Gipsy, the guts it took to run away from it all as a young naive lass to become a singer with a big band, the triumphs and the tragedies - he/she got them all exactly right.

Dot's fame and fortune was vicarious, seemingly never destined to be secure. Her place at the centre of the fly-by-night jet-set showbiz world ("The party doesn't start till Dottie arrives") seemed supreme at the peak of her commercial success (selling out the London Palladium, Vegas, successive chart-toppers), but - and it was a big "but" - there were very few people who stuck around when times got tough; several stuck their knives in for good measure ("Barbara Cartland? Cunt!"). Not least among these were her abusive first partner Billy Read (who she eventually left) and (of course) Dot's true love Roger Moore (who left her, distraught).

Mr Pillay (and his admirable supporting cast of - very attractive - boys, playing every other role) managed to portray this incredible life with all its incandescent, excoriating bitterness and over-the-top histrionics that Dottie lived - to the full.

Drink problems, breakdowns, arrests, scurrilous headlines, lawsuits, bankruptcy, the burning down of one house and the loss of another in a flood - the lady's resilience in surviving it all was astonishing! And when Mr Pillay sang For Once In My Life, Say It With Flowers and, best of all, My Way, it was from the heart - not just of him as the performer, but of Miss Squires herself.

A grade "A" performance, rightly deserving of the standing ovation he received from us and the rest of the audience (Mr David Hoyle included). Let us hope this splendid show gets all the accolades and awards it so richly deserves when the company takes it to the Edinburgh Festival!

And now the end is near
And so I face the final curtain
My friend I'll say it clear
I'll state my case of which I'm certain

I've lived a life that's full
I travelled each and every highway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

Regrets I've had a few
But then again too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption

I planned each charted course
Each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way

Yes there were times I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew
But through it all when there was doubt
I ate it up and spit it out, I faced it all
And I stood tall and did it my way

I've loved, I've laughed and cried
I've had my fill, my share of losing
And now as tears subside
I find it all so amusing

To think I did all that
And may I say not in a shy way
Oh no, oh no, not me
I did it my way

For what is a man what has he got
If not himself then he has not
To say the things he truly feels
And not the words of one who kneels
The record shows I took the blows
And did it my way!

We say "cheers" to you, Dottie! And to you, Al Pillay!

Here's the legendary Miss Dorothy Squires herself talking about the song of her life:

And here she is singing her classic Say It With Flowers (with Russ Conway on piano):

Dorothy Squires: Mrs Roger Moore (a musical tribute by Richard Stirling) is at the White Bear Theatre until Saturday 16th June 2012.

The Wonderful World of Al Pillay

Dubious drag, superpoofs, mystery, murder, Music Hall and mayhem

We went to another wonderful Polari on Monday evening in the glittering Royal Festival Hall - and we regulars (John-John, little Tony, Ange, Paul and I) were joined by a "virgin" to the event, Craig, who thoroughly enjoyed it.

Her Majesty Paul Burston - fresh from celebrating her Diamond Jubilee last weekend - opened the show draped in ermine and Union Jacks (appropriately enough), but without dear Philip she looked a bit lonely (hee hee!).

Alex Hopkins, Paul Burston and moi. Photo by Krys FitzGerald-Morris

The fantabulosa Alex Hopkins, Polari regular, journalist, writer, dilettante and all-round sweetheart opened the show - teetering onto the stage in six-inch heels in a remarkably good impression of Tori Spelling. His dark, confessional tale of cow-pats, bullying, suicide attempts, coming-out, and pursuit of sleazy sexual encounters was engrossing, and certainly set the scene for the rest of the evening. Progressing into more familiar territory, we entered the nightlife of Soho in the company of Mr Hopkins and his large and strident lady friend, as they encounter such delightful characters as “Prudence Chastity Chambers – Drag Queen of Dubious Distinction”. He had us laughing and gaping in awe as the adventures unfolded. Excellent stuff, and as always left me wanting to read more...

The rather sexy Kristian Johns was up next. Apparently one of the "most influential gay people on Twitter" (whatever that means) Mr Johns was a contributor to last year's short story anthology Men and Women, edited by Mr Burston. So well-received was his excellent story - an allegory of the powerlessness of an HIV diagnosis offset by the young protagonist's discovery of superhuman abilities - Dying, and other super-powers that it is now being made into a film!

Well done that man... Here he is reading from his tale, at the launch of Men and Women:

Completing the first half of the evening's entertainment, and in complete contrast, Mr David Waller had a true tale about a Music Hall entertainer and strongman - a long-forgotten Victorian/Edwardian "Muscle Mary" indeed - by the name of Eugen Sandow. His is a fascinating (and brilliantly researched by Mr Waller) story of success and scandal, and quite possibly one worthy of its own blog entry one day hence...

After the break, a rare overseas visitor Mr Colin Kelley - all the way from Atlanta, Georgia - read for us a passage from his new novel Remain in Light - a tangled web of relationships that unfolds in unexpected ways in Paris at the time of Princess Diana's death. Intriguing and mysterious...

Our most anticipated speaker, Mr Neil Bartlett was next. In typically dramatic manner (his theatrical back-catalogue is indeed impressive) he stunned the audience into (almost) silence with his readings from his new work Queer Voices. Harking back to the endless fundraisers and awareness-raising events he was involved in (as were we all - "Ask someone with white hair. They were there.") during the AIDS panic 80s, his monologues - heavy on sarcasm and quiet, subtle, seething anger - were not so much effective weapons as downright gut-wrenching in their impact. I was mightily impressed (and choked) at the same time...

And so it fell to headliner Alex Marwood to cheer us up. In the circumstances, the story she had to tell (from her new novel The Wicked Girls, about two young girls from very different backgrounds who committed a random murder, then through happenstance end up meeting again as adults) was not exactly a jolly bundle of laughs. What it was, however, was brilliantly written and absolutely engrossing, and we loved it!

Once again, a remarkable and fascinating array of readings and styles of writing were gathered together to make a fine evening's entertainment, and once again it left us emotionally drained and hankering for another helping.

Roll on next month - where we will be treated to the announcement of the Polari First Book Prize 2012 "long-list" and readings from Mark McCormack, Alex Drummond, Vicky Ryder, Michael Wynne and Stuart Wakefield. I shiver in antici.....pation!

Polari at the Southbank