Monday 30 September 2013

Nice to have known you, you were my big kick

The gnomes at BBC Radio 2 are at it again - fucking around with their schedules and once more cheapening the experience. One of the absolute highlights of my week has always been to listen to the intelligent dulcets of Mr Russell Davies' show at 9pm on a Sunday "celebrating the art, craft and inspiration of the popular song".

His - and the man really knows his stuff, being a jazz musician himself - was an hour dedicated to extensively-researched musical history, tirelessly revealing hitherto unknown details about the songs, composers, writers and performers of music from a long-lost era - when such legends as the Gershwins, Harold Arlen, Cole Porter, Jerome Kern, Rodgers and Hart (or Hammerstein), Lerner and Loewe, Irving Berlin, Harry Warren, Yip Harberg, Dorothy Fields, Johnny Mercer, Cy Coleman and many more too numerous to list created the song "standards" we still know and love today.

Now his show - listening to which I would normally soak in a luxurious bath, and just wallow in musical loveliness (as I did yesterday, with sadness in my heart) - is axed, along with the Beeb's own midweek BBC Big Band Special, to be replaced by an extended swing music programme presented by Clare Teal. Miss Teal is just 40 and is pretty, Mr Davies is 67 and, even by his own judgement no doubt, is not that. And thereby we identify a sad trend...

As Mr Davies himself recently said in an interview with The Telegraph, “I think there’s a cultural shift going on. I don’t know why they’re doing it. It seems to be at the expense of people who know anything before The Beatles.”

He continued:
“If there is no one on Radio 2 who knows about the standards of songs, it is a great shame. There are some people who are being increasingly poorly served by the BBC.

“People like me, in the BBC local radio firmament as well, are disappearing. I don’t think age has a lot to do with it. I think it is the kind of song. The well written song that was pioneered by the likes of Irving Berlin, Cole Porter and the Gershwin duo. It is more [to do with] that catalogue: I don’t know what they have got against that. I think there’s a risk that the longer memory of music is being lost from the station... It’s a complete waste.

“I have had some messages already [from listeners] and they feel that they are being badly treated, and snubbed, and that their tastes are not being recognised, let alone catered to.

“Radio listening is diminishing among the younger people, but not among this older generation. These are not the people to be ignoring at this time, I think, or snubbing.

“On a lot of Radio 2, the music is just there. It’s the pleasant gaps between the chat and the chat.

“I think Radio 2 is just content to do that, and leave the music be and the music business can look after itself. There is always something to be said about the music business, past and present. And where better to say them than on Radio 2?

“My programme is a niche programme in the sense that only a certain number of people at any given time are going to take music seriously enough to enjoy the history of it in the way that I do. But Radio 2 is built on songs and there must be something on the network that is taking songs seriously.

“Money is always mentioned as being part of it, but I don’t really think much money will be saved from getting rid of me."
Although Mr Davies' voice will not be entirely lost to BBC Radio (yet!) - he has a new show (not the same intelligent format, unfortunately) coming up on Monday nights at 11pm for two 13-week stints a year, and he is still the question-master on the long-running Brain of Britain quiz on Radio 4 - I believe he is correct about the way "our kind of music" is increasingly being sidelined, and older presenters and listeners are not respected as they should be.

David Jacobs is dead, admittedly replaced by another "old-timer", the composer Don Black in the late Sunday slot; Mr Jacobs' contemporary Desmond Carrington (one of the voices on the BBC's predecessor to Radio 2, "The Light Programme" back in the 50s) is constantly seeing his show moved about in the schedules, having originally (much like Russell Davies himself) been shunted from Sunday afternoons to make way for superstar Elaine Paige; and the Your Hundred Best Tunes light classical show that was the domain of Richard Baker, the late Alan Keith and latterly Alan Titchmarsh is gone for good.

Latest figures from Radio Joint Audience Research showed that Radio 2 had 15.27 million listeners a week, up 4.9 per cent on last year. The increase was put down to older people turning away from Radio 1, where changes aimed at attracting a younger audience have led to a drop in listeners.

Yet the Controller of Radio 2 Bob Shennan seems determined to ignore the perhaps lesser-known and definitely older presenters and formats in favour of the new, the famous and the "shouty" - both the lovely Hugh Laurie (54) and the not-so-lovely Sarah Cox (38) have new shows announced. Let's not even contemplate why the well-respected folk singer Mike Harding (68) was replaced at the helm of Radio 2's folk coverage by Mark Radcliffe (55, formerly of Radio 1's "Mark & Lard" show), nor why Sir Terry Wogan (75) was replaced by "ginger minger" Chris Evans (47), nor indeed the alleged sackings of Sarah Kennedy (68) or the late Malcolm Laycock...

Just today I signed a petition asking for the programme to be saved, and left this comment:
"Russell Davies Song Show was the most important source of intelligent and important historical research, providing a valuable background to the wonderful music of the 20th century he played. He is replaced for what reason? The BBC quotes money. Piffle. Its values are increasingly about "celebrity" and intellectually light programme formats, and this is evident in the way Sundays on Radio 2 have been rearranged."
The man is too important to be sidelined in this shabby way...

In last night's show alone, we had rare treats from (among others) Rosemary Clooney, Fred Astaire, Bing Crosby, Susannah McCorkle, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, the recently-deceased Joan Regan, The Swingle Singers, Frankie Laine and Peggy Lee - read more on his page on the "Wise Buddah Productions" website.

I shall miss Russell Davies' programme on Sunday, and look forward to hearing what he has in store when his new format show finally arrives on Mondays later this year.

Let's finish by playing the classic with which he opened his final "Song Show" - Miss Rosie Clooney and I'm Checking Out (Goombye), here in a medley with It Don't Mean A Thing... How apt.

Read more about the demise of the Russell Davies Song Show in The Telegraph.

Be it Fahrenheit or Centigrade

Oh, pook. It's Monday again.

As we sadly wend our weary way back to the realities of daily toil, we wish early felicitations to the "practically perfect" Dame Julie Andrews, who celebrates her 78th birthday tomorrow!

On this Tacky Music Monday, let us revel in the great Dame's effort to shed her wholesome image in the company of some rather tight-trousered safety gays, as she tackles La Lee's Fever in the most unconvincing fashion, wearing what can only possibly be described as a tangerine judo suit...

Dame Julie Elizabeth Andrews, DBE (born 1st October 1935)

Sunday 29 September 2013

Why am I dressed in these beautiful clothes? What is the matter with me?

It has been a very slow Sunday. I have been in a bit of a haze after partying on Friday for the History Boy's 40th, and our gang's trip to the legendary Wilton's Music Hall (both followed by verrrry late drinkies at Halfway to Heaven- oo-er).

But what a show we were treated to last night! The Players' Theatre Company - founded in the 1930s to keep the spirit of the old-time Music Hall alive - is a fine collective of troupers, and in true Variety fashion they created a wide-ranging bill of entertainment in the fitting surroundings of the oldest surviving Music Hall in the world.

Hosted by the traditional patter and gavel-banging of our "genial and worthy Chairman" Johnny Dennis, we had comedy characters such as John Styles' "Chelsea Pensioner" (who also came back later and did a very entertaining magic show), a pair of energetic young dancers The Todd Sisters (Tiffany and Georgina, who gave us a tribute to The Dolly Sisters as well as traditional rousing Victorian numbers) and another youngster, the banjolele-playing Mark Walsh.

Among the rollicking ditties the marvellous Players' stalwart Jan Hunt sang for us was Why Am I Always The Bridesmaid - which was fab! Here's the original by Miss Lily Morris, for your delectation:

Why am I dressed in these beautiful clothes?
What is the matter with me?
I’ve been a bridesmaid for twenty-two brides
This one’ll make twenty-three
Twenty-two maidens I’ve helped off the shelf
No doubt it seems a bit strange
Being the bridesmaid is no good to me
And I think I could do with a change.

Why am I always the bridesmaid
Never the blushing bride
Ding, Dong, wedding bells
Only ring for other gals
But one fine day
Please let it be soon
I shall wake up in the morning
On my own honeymoon.

Twenty-two times I have been to the church
Following the bride up the aisle
Twenty two maidens have answered I will
Meaning I won’t all the while
Twenty-two couples I’ve seen go away
Just to be on their own
Twenty-two times I’d wished it was me
And gone back home to Mother alone.

Why am I always the bridesmaid
Never the blushing bride
Ding, Dong, wedding bells
Only ring for other gals
But one fine day
Please let it be soon
I shall wake up in the morning
On my own honeymoon.

I had a good chance a week or two past
And took my young man home to tea
Mother got playful and gave him a pinch
And pinched my fiancée from me
Being a widow she knew what to do
No use for me to complain
Then they got married today if you please
I was only the bridesmaid again.

Why am I always the bridesmaid
Never the blushing bride
Ding, Dong, wedding bells
Only ring for other gals
But one fine day
Please let it be soon
I shall wake up in the morning
On my own honeymoon.

Operetta star Marilyn Hill Smith gave us a beautiful tribute to "dear old" Ivor Novello as well as the eternally catchy Oh Velia, Oh Velia from Lehar's The Merry Widow. We all had song sheets for some of the Players' sing-along numbers such as Daisy, Daisy, Down At The Old Bull and Bush, Hold Your Hand Out You Naughty Boy, Pack Up Your Troubles, Knees Up Mother Brown, My Old Man (Said Follow The Van) and the like, but we couldn't quite hit the high notes during Miss Hill Smith's repertoire...

Unfortunately our headliner was the smarmy Don Maclean [not that one], who was never particularly funny as a TV host in the 70s, let alone now. His routines were dated, un-PC and cringeworthy on occasions, as one might have expected from someone whose career began on The Black and White Minstrel Show. More importantly, they were not what we would call "Music Hall".

However he was merely a part of a greater whole, and there were certainly some very memorable moments indeed. Apart from the ever-marvellous Miss Hunt, the two appearances by Julia Sutton were exceptional - especially her hauntingly beautiful take on Albert Chevalier's The Coster's Serenade. [No video footage exists of anyone doing this song unfortunately (in fact there is a shocking lack of actual Music Hall performances on the web).]

But the avowed highlight of the evening was the legendary character comedian Peter John with his "Coster songs" - and, best of all, "Bertha the Barmaid" and her Stout and Bitter routine, which was deserving of a show all of his/her own!

I have written many times about our trips to Wilton's before (fortunately the venue has recently benefited from some Lottery money to help its much-needed conservation), and about our "Late Joys" courtesy of the Players' Theatre. They are national institutions, both deserving of every support we can give - and long may they carry on!

Here's a special feature, on the occasion of the Players' 75th anniversary two years ago:

Players' Theatre Company

Wilton's Music Hall

Saturday 28 September 2013


Crog's 40th birthday cake, from his "Dr Who" themed party last night.

Happy birthday, dear...

Friday 27 September 2013

And the answer came loud and clear

The end is nigh for a very frustrating week! On the downside, our spare hard drive (complete with all our photo albums, some of which we neglected to back up!) despite my very best efforts has decided to exhibit every sign of death (it just emits the "click of doom" and refuses to boot up), and although we have upgraded to the wild'n'wacky world of smartphones (my old Nokia is on its last legs, unfortunately), they are incomprehensible and not working with our network yet...

On the positive side, it was payday yesterday (yay!), we've booked our week in Spain in February (yay!), with the LGBT Forum in work I have started planning a new series of fabulous events for Camden & Islington LGBT History Month 2014 (yay!), and the party weekend starts here - with Crog's 40th "Dr Who-themed" birthday party in swanky Belgravia tonight, and a trip to Wilton's Music Hall tomorrow!

To get the weekend started in traditional fashion here at Dolores Delargo Towers, orange flares and all, here's a fab choon by Crown Heights Affair. Thank Disco It's Friday!

Have a great one, dear reader.

Thursday 26 September 2013

Lead me through oblivion

It's another "fabulous at 50" birthday today - many happy returns to that eternal "supporting actress" Miss Lysette Anthony!

Way back in 1980 when she was 16, photographer David Bailey labelled her the "Face of the Eighties". With that accolade to propel her Miss Anthony soon launched a successful career as a model, and later turned to acting, appearing in such classic 80s series as Auf Wiedersehen, Pet and Three Up, Two Down, and the inevitable soaps such as Corrie, The Bill, Hollyoaks and Casualty - as well as roles in movies alongside stars of the calibre of Michael Caine, Ben Kingsley, Colin Firth, John Travolta and Hugh Grant, not to mention a succession of parts in horror movies (some spoof, some not). She also turned her talents to the stage - to much critical acclaim - appearing in West End and off-West End productions by writers as diverse as Alan Ayckbourn, Tennessee Williams, Henrik Ibsen and Noel Coward.

Yet numerous television appearances on from her debut, and poor Miss Anthony remains one of those familiar faces you know, but are never quite sure where from...

One of those places was her seductive and sinister part in the video by Depeche Mode for their 1993 single I Feel You. [Any excuse to play Depeche Mode!]

Lysette Anthony (born Lysette Chodzko, 26th September 1963)

Wednesday 25 September 2013

In the land of the dreamy scenes

Today's birthay girl Miss Juliet Prowse, the exotic Anglo-Indian beauty who first graced the screens in Can-Can and went on to appear in many roles and performances alongside the likes of Frank Sinatra (to whom she was briefly engaged), Elvis, Sal Mineo, Dean Martin, Carol Burnett and Elaine Stritch as well as her own Vegas shows, died far too young at 59.

Had she lived, she would no doubt have taken her place alongside other va-va-voom entertainers as Ann-Margret and Shirley MacLaine in showbiz history. We love her!

Let's celebrate the lady in her prime - in a set-piece routine that would be very much at home on one of our "Tacky Music Mondays" here at Dolores Delargo Towers. Here's the leggy lady herself in all her glory, with Way Down Yonder In New Orleans:

Juliet Anne Prowse (25th September 1936 – 14th September 1996)

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Monday 23 September 2013

Nothing could be finer

Today is another unexpected 70th birthday - that of Spanish heartthrob and Dad to Enrique and Julio junior, Señor Julio Iglesias.

It is also another Tacky Music Monday, when we try our damnedest to cheer ourselves up as we head back for another soul-destroying week in work...

To that end, here is the great "Latin Lover" himself, in a manic duet with Don Lurio (last seen in that bizarre dance video with Lola Falana I featured here two years ago) on Chattanooga Choo-Choo:

Whew. Feliz cumpleaños!

Julio José Iglesias de la Cueva (born 23rd September 1943)

Have a good week, peeps...

Sunday 22 September 2013

You're so fine, you blow my mind

It is scary to think it but... Miss Toni Basil is 70 years old today!

Despite being mainly known notorious for her world-conquering mega-hit Mickey (which is itself 31 years old), Miss Basil is actually the choreographer responsible for many of music's more impressive visual moments - including David Bowie's Diamond Dogs tour in 1974, the video for Once in a Lifetime by Talking Heads and Bette Midler's Las Vegas show The Showgirl Must Go On.

Here, of course, is the video that set MTV alight in 1982...

Antonia Christina Basilotta (aka Toni Basil, born 22nd September 1943)

Saturday 21 September 2013

I took her to a supermarket. I don't know why, but I had to start it somewhere

Ah, another "fabulous at fifty" birthday happened this week (on Thursday) - the marvellous singer, songwriter and latterly BBC Radio 6 DJ Mr Jarvis Cocker!

Indubitably eccentric, Mr Cocker's blend of poetry and music has elevated him from the cynical world of BritPop in the early honeymoon days of Tony Blair and his "Cool Britannia" phase to something resembling an "indie icon" (in the vein of Morrissey or Ray Davies).

It is, of course, for the classic Common People for which he is forever applauded...

She came from Greece, she had a thirst for knowledge
She studied sculpture at Saint Martins College
That's where I caught her eye
She told me that her dad was loaded
I said, "In that case I'll have rum and Coca-Cola"
She said, "Fine"
And then in thirty seconds' time, she said

"I wanna live like common people
I wanna do whatever common people do
Wanna sleep with common people
I wanna sleep with common people like you"
Oh, what else could I do?
I said, "I'll, I'll see what I can do"

I took her to a supermarket
I don't know why, but I had to start it somewhere
So it started there
I said: "Pretend you've got no money"
And she just laughed and said, "Oh, you're so funny."
I said, "Yeah?
Huh, I can't see anyone else smiling in here
Are you sure

You wanna live like common people
You wanna see whatever common people see
Wanna sleep with common people
You wanna sleep with common people like me?"
But she didn't understand
She just smiled and held my hand

Rent a flat above a shop
Cut your hair and get a job
Smoke some fags and play some pool
Pretend you never went to school
But still you'll never get it right
'Cos when you're laying in bed at night
Watching roaches climb the wall
If you called your dad he could stop it all, yeah

You'll never live like common people
You'll never do whatever common people do
Never fail like common people
You'll never watch your life slide out of view
And then dance and drink and screw
Because there's nothing else to do

Sing along with the common people
Sing along and it might just get you through
Laugh along with the common people
Laugh along even though they're laughing at you
And the stupid things that you do
Because you think that poor is cool

Like a dog lying in a corner
They will bite you and never warn you
Look out, they'll tear your insides out
'Cos everybody hates a tourist
Especially one who thinks it's all such a laugh
Yeah, and the chip stains and grease
Will come out in the bath

You will never understand
How it feels to live your life
With no meaning or control
And with nowhere left to go
You are amazed that they exist
And they burn so bright
Whilst you can only wonder why

Rent a flat above a shop
Cut your hair and get a job
Smoke some fags and play some pool
Pretend you never went to school
But still you'll never get it right
'Cos when you're laying in bed at night
Watching roaches climb the wall
If you called your Dad he could stop it all, yeah

Never live like common people
Never do what common people do
Never fail like common people
Never watch your life slide out of view
And then dance and drink and screw
Because there's nothing else to do

Wanna live with common people like you
Wanna live with common people like you
Wanna live with common people like you
Wanna live with common people like you
Wanna live with common people like you
Wanna live with common people like you
Wanna live with common people like you, la la la la
Ooh, la la la la
Ooh, la la la la
Ooh, la la-la-la la-la
Oh, yeah

Facts about Mr Cocker:
  • After that notorious incident at the Brit Awards in 1995, when Jarvis bared his arse at the ludicrously posturing Michael Jackson on stage ([It was] "a form of protest at the way Michael Jackson sees himself as some kind of Christ-like figure with the power of healing", he said), with comedian Bob Mortimer acting as his solicitor he was released without charge.
  • When Pulp split in 2002 he briefly assumed the persona of “Darren Spooner”, fronting the avant garde electro duo Relaxed Muscle.
  • He fronted the wizard rock band in 2005’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.
  • With French film director Michel Gondry and Belgian musician Arno Hintjens, he appeared in a surreal marketing campaign for Eurostar's sponsorship of the Olympics in 2012.
  • He wrote one of my all-time fave songs Walk Like A Panther for the All-Seeing Eye featuring Tony Christie (first featured here back in 2008).

Many happy returns to am avant garde superstar!

Jarvis Branson Cocker (born 19th September 1963)

Friday 20 September 2013

See me, feel me, hear me, love me, touch me

A long, autumnal, miserable week draws to its welcome close, and it's time to sparkle!

It may be somewhat impractical, however, to suggest that we choose to dress up in an outfit like Miss Dee D Jackson - she was definitely a one-off...

Let us instead merely marvel at the glory that is her one and only UK hit Automatic Lover, and Thank Disco It's Friday!

Have a great weekend, folks!

Dee D Jackson

Thursday 19 September 2013


As the last sequin is swept up at Somerset House after the madness of London Fashion Week, and all eyes turn to Milan for the next round of impractical catwalk wear, let us join the young Catherine Deneuve and chums for a little light musical interlude...

[Music: Cookout Society by Dominic Frontiere]

Milan Fashion Week September 2013

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Don't ask me any questions, my personal life is a bore

News from the coolest woman on the planet:
Grace Jones is to tell her life story, despite saying she would never write a memoir.

The singer has signed with Gallery Books, an imprint of Simon and Schuster, to write a book scheduled to come out next year.

The Jamaican-born model, actress and singer said she changed her mind because "if she didn't do it, someone else would".

Her song Art Groupie began with the line: "I'll never write my memoirs."
Indeed it did - and here it is, in all its magnificence...

I'll never write my memoirs,
There's nothing in my book,
The only way you see me an Art Groupie,
I'm hooked.

Some people like to be used,
I've been used and amused,
But that's the way I see me,
My Art Groupie look.

Love me in a picture,
Kiss me in a cast,
Touch me in a sculpture,
Whisper in my mask.

Don't ask me any questions,
My personal life is a bore,
Admire me in glory,
An Art Groupie. That's all.

Love me in a picture,
Kiss me in a cast,
Touch me in a sculpture,
Whisper in my mask.

I'll never write my memoirs,
There's nothing in my book,
The only way you see me an Art Groupie,
I'm hooked.

Gallery Books said among the stories the 65-year-old planned to share included rooming with Jerry Hall during her model days, collaborating with Andy Warhol, the Studio 54 years and acting with Arnold Schwarzenegger in Conan the Barbarian.

Source: The BBC

We'll be what we want to be

Good lord.

Is it really a whole twenty years to the day since this song entered the UK charts at #2?

So much water has passed under the bridge since 1993...

Pet Shop Boys

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Separate church and state

As featured today by the lovely Henry over at Barbarella's Galaxy, when Our Glorious Leader Queen Madge was asked (by the slobbering hordes of fans on some social network that escapes me completely, Reddit):

"What should religion and politics do to help World Peace?"

Madonna answered:

"Not get involved with one another. Separate church and state!"

By coincidence (was she there?!), this was one of the slogans I and a couple of hundred others were chanting last Saturday as I joined the lovely people of GALHA (Gay & Lesbian Humanist Association) to traverse through London in the wind and drizzle - for the protest march and rally for the Secular Europe Campaign...

The camaraderie among the marchers was brilliant - we chanted, we waved our makeshift placards (mine said "Should Governments do God?") at passing tourist buses, and we congregated in our designated spot opposite Downing Street (we had to oust a protest against Britain's support for the repressive Bahraini regime that had overrun...) to hear a selection of excellent speakers - including philosopher and senior lecturer in the University of London Stephen Law, the ever-inspiring Sue Cox of Survivors Voice, Nina Sankari of the Polish Rationalist Association, Charlie Klendjian of the The Lawyers' Secular Society and (of course) our very own Adam Knowles (Chair of GALHA).

All fabulous. All motivating. All crystal clear in their dedication to exposing what is intrinsically wrong about the way religion has an excessive influence over our lives, our freedoms and our legal system in Europe.

Such a shame I had to leave the rally early (I was frozen to the core and my bladder was determined to force me away), and therefore missed (among many others) the keynote speaker Professor AC Grayling - a personal hero of mine:

The campaign itself is an annual effort that sees many diverse groups united in demanding an end to religious privileges and asking that the European institutions must remain secular.

Starting in 2008, the Secular Europe Campaign has a special focus on the Vatican, given the enormous political and economical power it holds, but aims at representing all the issues around secularism and human rights, including opposition to state-funded faith schools, rejection of religious tribunals and support to equal rights for LGBT citizens.

We protest against:
  • the privileged status of the churches under Article 17 of the TFEU (Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union);
  • the privileged status of churches in countries where they are established;
  • the special status of the Vatican at the United Nations and its economic and political privileges across Europe;
  • state-funded religious schools.
We promote:
  • freedom of religion, freedom of conscience and freedom of speech;
  • women’s equality and reproductive rights;
  • equal rights for LGBT people in all the European Union;
  • a secular Europe – democratic, peaceful, open and just, with no privilege for religious or belief organisations;
  • one law for all, no religious exemptions from the law;
  • state neutrality in matters of religion and belief.

A cause and a campaign dear to my heart, and an occasion I support every year, come wind, rain or whatever.


[PS I would have posted about this earlier, but despite my optimism my own photos from this fab day remain - stubbornly - on a spare hard drive that has now decided not to work with our new PC (so I have had to retrieve some from the Web). Groan...]

Dwie lewe nogi

It would have been the 82nd birthday today of another of our most cherished (and most deeply missed) icons here at Dolores Delargo Towers, Miss Ann Bancroft...

In a brief tribute to her extraordinary talents, here she is with her beloved hubby Mel Brooks and their classic number (in Polish) Sweet Georgia Brown:

No wykonane gal ma cienia na Sweet Georgia Brown
Dwie lewe nogi, ale oh, tak zgrabny ma Sweet Georgia Brown
Wszyscy wzdychają i chcę umrzeć słodka panna Georgia Brown
I powiem ci, dlaczego, wiesz, że nie kłamię, nie wiele Sweet Georgia Brown

Truly fabulous!

Anne Bancroft (17th September 1931 – 6th June 2005)

[NB "Dwie lewe nogi" means "two left feet" in Polish]

Monday 16 September 2013

Welcome to this business we call show

Too soon, the weekend is over and we're heading back to the tedium of the office... It's been a busy weekend: dodging the miserable weather, marching through London (more on that later), and trying to get our new computer to recognise all the bits and pieces I cannibalised from the old one (yes, I'm a geek).

Hey ho - to put a smile on our faces on this Tacky Music Monday, let us take a trip back to the Tony Awards of 1970, and enjoy our birthday girl Betty Bacall triumphally singing the show-stopper from her award-winning show Applause - Welcome to the Theatre:

Many happy returns, Miss Bacall!

Lauren Bacall (born Betty Joan Perske, 16th September 1924)

Sunday 15 September 2013

Totty of the Day

Yesterday's birthday boy (35 years old), Mr Ben Cohen, of course..!

'Nuff said.

Here's an appropriate number for the occasion [a song I adore that I haven't heard for ages]:

Benjamin Christopher "Ben" Cohen MBE (born 14 September 1978)

Saturday 14 September 2013

I'll Close My Eyes

RIP the lovely Miss Joan Regan, gone to that great "David Jacobs Collection" in the sky...

Joan Regan (19th January 1928 – 12th September 2013)

Friday 13 September 2013

I don't know, I don't know why

He's hungry, and he's carrying a rose...

Wet, miserable, and it's Friday 13th.

But it is the end of the working week, and rain or no rain, it's time to party!

To guide us into that mood, here's the "Walrus of Love" himself, Mr Barry White (whose birthday it would have been yesterday) - wearing an outsize jacket of a remarkably similar sparkliness to the one I wore yesterday - purring in his own inimitable way one of his trademark seduction numbers, Can't Get Enough of Your Love, Babe:

Thank Disco It's Friday!

Enjoy it as best you can, folks.

Thursday 12 September 2013

Diamante, neuroscience, ghosts, hurricanes, old broads, an Antiguan dandy and Maggie Thatcher

Me and DJ Connell

"The suggested dress-code is silver" was the message from Paul Burston, hostess with the mostest of "London's peerless gay literary salon" Polari, to celebrate in style the return for the Autumn/Winter Season of our favourite regular evening out. So I dragged out from the back of the wardrobe where it had languished since Gay Pride the dinner jacket that I lovingly customised in Art Deco diamanté style, and minced across with John-John to the Royal Festival Hall on the South Bank to do just that!

It was lovely to see everyone again - regulars such as John McCullough, Jayne Rogers, Val Lee, Chris Chalmers, Alex Hopkins, Helen Smith, Anny Knight, Suzi Feay and DJ Connell; not-so-regulars such as Ingo from Wotever World; and Paul's hubby Paulo and his dear mum (all the way from Brazil), Heidi.

Paul, of course, arrived in customary understated fashion in his silver winged cape to open proceedings and usher on the first of our readers for the evening.

Nick Field, an old fave of ours - and making quite a name for himself these days as a performance artist, with a gig at the Latitude Festival this summer - read for us a selection of his poems, all linked cleverly together on the theme of "neuroscience" (the rational scientific explanation for the feelings we experience when we are in love).

As always, food for thought, and excellently done!

Actress, performer, singer, opera librettist and author Lois Walden gave us a tour-de-force turn as she read (complete with all the voices) some segments from her latest acclaimed novel Afterworld, a decadent and Grand Guignol tale about the ghostly manifestation of the dead patriarch of a Deep South sugar plantation dynasty observing the self-destructive behaviour of his family - including a steamy scene of the son's exploits in a public toilet - to the backdrop of the looming devastation of Hurricane Katrina.

Here she is reading at another recent literary event - with the passage she read for us:

The ever-lovely Susie Boyt (who I have discovered, to my surprise, is the daughter of the controversial artist Lucien Freud), closing the first segment of literary treats, read for us her fabulously camp short story Documentary at Clareville Lodge.

A poignant tale of the reminisces of two elderly former stars of the silver screen, her story was published in the anthology Once Upon a Time There Was a Traveller, a selection of writings by women authors, new and established. It was utterly superb, and left us laughing and contemplative in turn as we headed into the break.

Suitably refreshed with nicotine and a top-up of alcohol, we returned to our seats for a special announcement as Miss Suzi Feay took to the stage to announce the shortlist for the Polari First Book Prize 2013! The final candidates are:
  • The Murder Wall – Mari Hannah
  • Tony Hogan Bought Me An Icecream Float Before He Stole My Ma – Kerry Hudson
  • The Sitar – Rebecca Idris
  • Catching Bullets: Memoirs of a Bond Fan - Mark O’Connel
  • The Tale of Raw Head and Bloody Bones – Jack Wolf
The winner of this year's prize will be announced at November's Polari - which will take place in the swanky and prestigious Purcell Room in the Queen Elizabeth Hall (normally home to recitals, chamber orchestras, jazz and World Music) - and the lucky author will receive £1000, donated by sponsor Societé Generale.

And so, on with the show...

Bernardine Evaristo's fascinating story Mr Loverman tells the tale of Barrington Jedidiah Walker, a 74-year-old Antiguan living a double life - married to the shrewish and fearsome Carmel, who constantly accuses him of "carrying-on" with other women, he is in fact in a long-term gay relationship with his best friend Morris. The conundrum for poor Barry is can he, after all these years, finally leave his "conventional" life and settle down with his one true love?
...Still here, thanks be to God. Still spruced up and sharp-suited with a rather manly swagger. Still six foot something with no sign of shrinkage yet. Still working a certain je ne sais whatsit. I might have lost the hair on my head, but I still got a finely clipped moustache in the style of old Hollywood romancers. Folk used to tell me I looked like a young Sidney Poitier. Now they say I resemble a (slightly) older Denzel Washington. Who am I to argue? The facts is the facts. Some of us have it, some of us do not. Bring it on Barry, bring it on.
From the brief extracts she read, this is a beautifully-written and absorbing story, and by the end we were all rooting for the plucky Barry...

Finally, our top-billed author (and host of his very own literary salon in swanky Soho House) Mr Damian Barr took to the lectern, to read for us some pieces from his opus Maggie and Me. An autobiographical recollection of the pain of growing up a weedy, abused, gay child in a recession-torn industrial Scottish town in the mid-80s, the piece he read took a more tender turn - his early "love" for his school chum, and their brief yet romantic attempt to run away from all that grimness to dabble their toes in the sea on a beach in Cornwall.

Touching, adorable and a fittingly satisfying climax to another marvellous evening!

Here is Mr Barr talking about the book:

And here he is talking about the eponymous anti-heroine of the story, Maggie Thatcher:

Applause, photoshoots and "working the room" over and done with, John-John and I headed back across the (by now, moonlit) Thames for a nightcap before winging our way home, our literary senses refreshed once more for another month.

Next month's Polari (on 22nd October) features a very welcome return appearance from the writer of some of our favourite films and telly series ever (Beautiful Thing, Gimme Gimme Gimme, Murder Most Horrid, Beautiful People) Mr Jonathan Harvey, plus Diriye Osman, Robyn Vinten and more.

Bring it on!

Polari website


It had to be...

Cher's new video, as interpreted by the ever-wonderful Charlie Hides TV!

"I'm a fist-pumpin' girl!"

Charlie Hides TV

Wednesday 11 September 2013

No one can stop us now

Many happy returns to Mr Richard Melville Hall, who blows out 48 candles on his cake today.

Who? I hear you ask.

Mr Hall is none other than one of the biggest-selling dance music artists and remixers in the first few years of the new millennium - better known, of course, as Moby!

To celebrate let's take a trip back to 2002, to one of my faves among his back-catalogue of moody electronica, the Bowie-esque We Are All Made of Stars:

  • The song was apparently written just after the Twin Towers atrocity, twelve years ago today.
  • The video features a weird mixture of actors and musicians, notably including Verne Troyer ("Mini Me"), Sean Bean, Gary Coleman, Tommy Lee, Ritchie Blackmore and porn star Ron Jeremy.
Moby (born 11th September 1965)

Tuesday 10 September 2013

The hirsute decade

There is a definite nip in the air today. I did not want to leave the comfort of bed to trudge to the miserable office, but hey ho - it pays the bills.

Time, methinks, for little escapism with a nostalgic musical interlude - as we revisit the world of unfeasible hairdos and remarkably unflattering attire, the 70s, courtesy of the Soft Tempo Lounge...

I really must start growing my sideburns.

[Music: Ebb Tide by Tony Hatch and his orchestra]

Monday 9 September 2013

Brimful of Asha

After a fantastic weekend of Proms, picnic and pals, it's time to wake up and go back to work. Yuk.

On this autumnal Tacky Music Monday, let's wallow in something warm and exotic to cheer us up - it's the ever-marvellous Asha Bhosle (the woman whose voice has been heard on hundreds of Bollywood movies, who celebrated her 80th birthday yesterday), and her tongue-in-cheek take on an old Usha Uthup number [from the only Bollywood film in which Rex Harrison and Vera Miles ever appeared, Shalimar] The Cha-Cha-Cha Song. This video was filmed just last year, when the lady was 79...

Ēka acchā saptāha hai (have a good week), folks!

Asha Bhosle (born 8th September 1933)

Sunday 8 September 2013

The Lounge Lizard, the Dame, the bagpipes, the fiddles and the lesbian Last Night

And so, dear reader, once again we bid a fond farewell to the Summer Season in style.

The Last Night of the Proms traditionally marks the end of summer (for us at least), and for the past six years we have greeted the changeover to autumn by sitting in a blustery park for seven hours - for Proms in the Park! Always a joy.

Thus, expectantly, Sally, Lou, Liz, Madame Arcati, Baby Steve, Alex and I managed to fight our way into the park, laden down with folding chairs, picnic blankets, baskets of food and (of course) copious quantities of booze, running to grab our "usual" pitch (next to the "landmark" lighting tower, fairly close to the stage), ready for the action to unfold.

And the evening's entertainment certainly opened with a bang - as the humorously-titled Red Hot Chilli Pipers took to the stage! Now I am no fan of the bagpipes per se, but this gang of hunky kilt-wearers' particular brand of "bag-rock" whipped the audience up into an early frenzy, pairing traditional standards like Danny Boy with rock classics such as Don't Stop Believing, We Will Rock You and Smoke On The Water...

Not even the combined efforts of our inane presenter (the idiotic DJ Tony Blackburn) nor our next act Craig-fucking-Charles and his Funky Bores Funk Band could put a damper on that.

Eventually, having had cake (kindly baked for my birthday by Lou), and convened our annual Gay Pride Costume Committee to decide the "theme" for next year - more on that in due course - it was time for the "surprise" act to conclude the first half, the no-longer-boy-band Blue. Never a favourite ensemble, they warbled their way through a melange of their instantly forgettable hits, proving that some bands, once they split up, should stay split. They didn't even play their Eurovision entry I Can - which we liked three years ago. I'd still do Duncan and Simon, though...

As the sun started to set over Hyde Park - it was beautiful - and the break was over, it was time for the big-hitters to arrive on stage. Our host for part two was the ebullient (if slightly more bumbling than usual) Sir Terry Wogan, and he introduced the BBC Concert Orchestra and its conductor Richard Balcombe who, without further ado opened proceedings with the most appropriate and rousing curtain-raiser, Strike Up The Band by Gershwin. Our first performer, however, was a real class apart.

Maltese tenor Joseph Calleja is quite the rising star of the opera world, and at 35 has already performed at the world's greatest venues including Covent Garden, the New York Met, Amsterdam's Concertgebouw and the Vienna State Opera. He stunned us with the beauty of his voice, especially on his opening number, Lucio Dalla’s Caruso. Some of us were in tears. Here is some footage of him performing the song earlier in 2013:

From the sublime to... Dame Edna Everage! The "Housewife Superstar" herself - due to finally throw in her ornamented specs and retire next year after her farewell tour - no doubt sparklingly visible even from the back of the 40,000-strong crowd, entered into a battle of wits with Sir Tel before entertaining us with her tribute to us, That's What My Public Means To Me:

Although, as it turned out later (when she was due to lead the finale only to find the show was overrunning) she never got another opportunity to entertain us, this brief moment was fabulous enough - as was the (unintentional) hilarity that ensued when her bouquet leaked water over the stage, and various stagehands swarmed around her and Tel's feet while they ad-libbed away.

And the reason for the urgency to mop the stage? Another treat was to follow - as Strictly Come Dancing superstar dancers Erin Boag and Anton Du Beke gave us a breathtaking display of their skill by performing the most beautiful and elegant waltz on stage, accompanied by the full orchestra. We were blown away. [If only the BBC would get its arse into gear and post the coverage, I would add it here for your delectation...]

Not dancing but singing, Mr Calleja returned to the stage next with more silky smooth numbers - including house fave here at Dolores Delargo Towers Besame Mucho, and the most marvellous interpretation of La Vie En Rose. Unfortunately he was immediately followed by the cast of the West End show Let It Be, who proceeded to murder several Beatles songs. It mattered little to the audience by this stage, of course, filled with excessive amounts of liquid refreshment and dancing and singing along. I went for a pee.

That over and done with, another classical sensation - hot foot from his stint at the Royal Albert Hall less than an hour earlier - the violin virtuoso Nigel Kennedy leapt onto the stage (in an Aston Villa football shirt), accompanied by the cute Palestinian teen prodigy Mostafa Saad, for a duel of the strings on Mr K's own composition Melody in the Wind. Utterly stunning, and one of the finest moments of the evening.

Emotions suitably fired up by the brilliance of that, it was time for the living legend, the great "lounge lizard" himself - Mr Bryan Ferry! I have been a lifelong fan of Mr Ferry and Roxy Music, and yet this is the first time I have ever seen him live. He was superb.

Accompanied by some of the finest backing singers we've heard since the heyday of Carol Kenyon or Helen Terry (Michelle John and Sharon White in particular), he crooned his way through an esoteric selection of his (mainly solo) back catalogue, including A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall, Jealous Guy, Smoke Gets in Your Eyes, Hold On (I'm Coming), Let's Stick Together, and, accompanied by his pseudo 1920s dance band, Love Is The Drug:

We danced our tits off, and sang till we almost popped. But no - we had to save the best till last...

Dame Edna came on, the audience waved "gladdies" (Gladioli - it's her emblem), she bantered, we cheered. The choir came on. The live feed to the Royal Albert Hall came on. Only at that point, methinks, did anyone realise that the actual Last Night of the Proms was running about twenty minutes behind schedule, so synchronisation was going to be rather difficult. Dame Edna shimmied off again. The choir dispersed.

We settled down to a remarkable insight into the world of The Proms before it turns into something familiar. As the wry commentator in The Telegraph observed: [some in the audience]...took on Granville Bantock’s tricky 'Sea Reivers' through the art of interpretive dance." Indeed.

Anyhow, eventually we got to the point where the Hall and the expectations of the sozzled Prommers-in-the-Park could relate to each other, as the commanding presence of the first woman (and she's a lesbian!) to conduct a Last Night, Marin Alsop took control and ushered in the beautiful mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato to the stand.

A very special lady indeed, as I found out today from Gay Star News:

Opera star Joyce DiDonato will be dedicating her performance of Somewhere Over The Rainbow at the Last Night of the Proms to the victims of LGBT persecution across the world.

Speaking on BBC Radio 4, DiDonato said: "there’s a lot of those voices that are being silenced today, by families, by governments, by countries and I take that really personally.

"If I literally and figuratively have a voice that I can use in their honour I’m really happy to do that."

DiDonato has previously shown her support to LGBT people.

Speaking further on her personal blog, DiDonato wrote: "The Russian Government (among others) is systematically silencing their own citizens and those of us that support them around the world.

"But, you know what? It’s not only Russia. There are well-intentioned parents, siblings, friends, strangers, communities, schools, as well as governments, that insist on trying to make homosexuals feel like lesser human beings, hoping for their silence, which is seemingly so much easier for their oppressors to bear.

"This simply cannot stand. We are TRULY better than this."
What a gal!

Opening the sing-a-long section (appropriately, perhaps) with You'll Never Walk Alone, resplendent in her Vivian Westwood-designed patriotic frock she led us - 40,000 flags aloft - into the traditional Proms finale with a rousing Rule Britannia, accompanied by the BBC Symphony Orchestra and Chorus (which they followed swiftly with the equally magnificent crowd-pleaser Land of Hope and Glory).

After that exhausting set, it was time for Ms Alsop to give her début speech (in which she said, to booming cheers: “Quite a lot has been made of me being the first woman to conduct the Last Night of the Proms. I’m incredibly honoured and proud to have this title, but I have to say I’m still quite shocked that it can be 2013 and there can still be firsts for women. Here’s to the second, third, fourths, fifths, hundredths to come.”). With that triumphant mood, it was time for more singing and flag-waving to Jerusalem, then the National Anthem, before the whole place exploded with fireworks!

And that was it, for another year.

A splendid occasion, and one incredible day.