Tuesday 30 September 2014

Shoes and frogs

Today, an oddity opens in the Dorfman Theatre (formerly known as The Cottesloe) at The National here in London.

An unlikely collaboration between two musical icons - David Byrne of Talking Heads, and dance music's own "national treasure" Fat Boy Slim - a "sequinned, disco-dancing spectacle" charting the rise and fall of shoe-lover and tyrant Imelda Marcos, the former first lady of the Philippines is an odd choice of subject for a musical, one might think!

Quoted in The Guardian, Mr Byrne said:
“I knew that Imelda was given to memorable pronouncements and aphorisms and outrageous behaviour, some of it amusing and some of it horrific, but the fact that she immersed herself in the disco club world was a big selling point.

“When I heard she had a giant mirror ball in her New York townhouse and turned the roof of the palace in Manila into a dancing club, I thought ‘she really surrounded herself with this music and created her own soundtrack to her life.’ Disco was a genre that I was uncomfortable with but keen to explore, so with those factors in mind I thought, ‘let’s see if there’s a story to be told here’.”
Lyrics in the show [Here Lies Love] were often lifted directly from speeches, interviews, recordings from the time and even Marcos’s high school yearbook. One song is taken verbatim from a speech that Benigno Aquino gave about President Marcos building arts centres and not doing enough for the shanty towns in Manila, while another is based on quotes from an oral history of the People Power revolution that Byrne stumbled across.


It might well be a hoot! We'll see...

In tribute to this remarkably odd piece of news, here's another unlikely combination - none other than Kermit the Frog's very own tribute to Talking Heads' biggest hit Once in a Lifetime...


David Byrne and Norman Cook's Here Lies Love is on a strictly limited run at The National Theatre from 30th September 2014 to 8th January 2015 - book tickets here

Monday 29 September 2014

It's not the bum sex that was the big problem

From my own published interview with Rupert Smith in Beige magazine (he says, modestly):
In a nutshell it is about a young woman now - Helen - who has a famous grandfather [Edward] who was a novelist loathed by the critics; very, very successful and loved by the public. She begins to dig around into his past, his "real" story to find out why he stopped writing when he did and his career went stone dead. The more she finds out, the more she begins to understand why that is, but in the process she discovers some truths about her own family that might have been better left undiscovered. She possibly wishes she hadn't.

The great relationship between her grandfather Edward and the love of his life Billy is the cause and effect that drives the whole thing... The secrets Helen discovers about her family stem from the shame and secretiveness of Edward and Billy, but as we discover, it's not the bum sex that was eventually the big problem.
It was with these themes in mind (knowing that I was likely to be one of the few people in the audience who had read it, and therefore understood exactly what the mysterious "secret" was) that I went along with John-John and Paul to the launch of Rupert's latest opus Interlude at the chi-chi New Bloomsbury Set bar yesterday afternoon.

As ever, Rupert's mellifluous tones, as he read passages from the book, held the crowd in hushed attentiveness. The audience was a mixed bag of literary types and "friends of the family", newbies and die-hard fans.

The divine David McAlmont was there. The event was hosted by the sexy Uli from Gay's the Word bookshop (around the corner). I was overjoyed to see former Polari DJ (from its early days in the Trash Palace and Freedom Bar in Soho) Dom Agius - whose stunning photographic portrait of a male model graces the book's cover - as I hadn't seen him in years.

The room was packed out, in fact, and everyone gave The Author a massive round of applause.

This was an enjoyable event, as book launches go - engaging and never dry (Mr Smith is a past master of the witty aside), and the readings and the question and answer session afterwards were excellent.

I really hope it does well. Interlude is certainly one of the best books I have read for a long time!

[PS I never did get a complimentary copy (other than the proof copy by email) for my journalistic efforts - so had to buy it at the event, and Rupert kindly signed it.]

Buy a copy today via Waterstones or Amazon.

Der grossen Welt

It was a fab weekend of sunshine, gardening and culture in turn. Now it's over, and we sink into despondency once more...

Let's allow Goebbels' favourite femme fatale of the war era lift us out of the gloom on this Tacky Music Monday (together with her ensemble of distinctly unmännlich dancers) - here's Fraulein Marika Rökk:

Have a fabelhaftesten week, Lieblings!

Marika Rökk on Wikipedia

Sunday 28 September 2014

They had a very mad affair

I do love a good mash-up - and this one is the best I've heard for a while...

It's Iggy Pop vs Peggy Lee, bitches!

I think Miss Lee wins.

Saturday 27 September 2014

How to build a music library...

...the Soft Tempo Lounge way!

Ah, that's better.

[ Music: Sao Salvador Da Bahia by Joss Baselli and Armand Canfora]

PS Over at the Dolores Delargo Towers Museum of Camp, we have amassed quite a collection of such weird and wonderful LP covers...

Friday 26 September 2014

Magnifique, fantastique

One of the highlights of Saturday nights on BBC Radio 2 (if, as is sometimes my wont, one finds oneself at home alone on a Saturday night) is the delightful Miss Ana Matronic from Scissor Sisters presenting her own singular selection of obscure choons from the dancing days of the disco era.

And, this being the traditional countdown to the weekend - with a distinct likelihood I may be in, listening again, tomorrow night (not tonight, of course - it's pay day!) - here's one of those fantabulosa oddities she played for us last week.

Accompanied by brilliant footage from that eternally kitschy favourite Roller Boogie [2022 UPDATE: Gone from YouTube] - it's the camp-as-tits Magnifique.

Have a great weekend, folks, whatever you do - and Thank Disco It's Friday!

Are you ready for this?
The question is can you take it?
And would you know what to do if you had it?
She say Magnifique!

Magnifique, fantastique
Wow this guy, he's got style, he's so sweet
Magnifique, elastique
Slick and tall, all of them makes me weak
Magnifique, fantastique
How he glides, how he sides, how he speaks
Magnifique, fantastique
It's so nice, say it twice, it's so nice
Come on y'all...

Magnifique, magnifique
Every shake, every twist, with his hips
Magnifique, erotique
I'm so glad what we have in the sheets
Can it be, fantasy?
Sugar boy, make me fly, magnifique
Magnifique, voulez-vous?
Me and you? Not tonight!
That's alright

Magnifique, fantastique
Wow this guy, he's got style, he's so sweet
Magnifique, elastique
Slick and tall, all of them makes me weak
Magnifique, fantastique
How he glides, how he sides, how he speaks
Magnifique, fantastique
It's so nice, say it twice, it's so nice

Going out tonight to the Panorama bar
In my skin-tight knee-highs
All the guys going crazy for my juice
Cut loose, stepping on the coco puffs with the shoes
Don't ya know that there ain't nothin' left to lose
On the dancefloor, search and spectate
You're strange to me when your eyes get googly
Oh...that feels good...and really hot stuff...
C'est Magnifique!

The Scissor Sisters used to cover this song on stage.


Thursday 25 September 2014

Just a little touch up

It's another in our regular series of timeslip moments - taking us back thirty years to the padded-shoulder-pencil-skirted days of 1984 - and for today's nostalgia-fest I stumbled across a song (which scraped the lower reaches of the UK Chart this week in that year) that I cannot deny had completely slipped my memory...

Here's the immensely camp Stephanie Mills [whatever happened to her?]:

Danger eyes are no surprise
In stayin' wise to you
Shady walks and midnight stalks
Have showed me what to do

Kept my cool, this ain't no fool
You think you're messin' with
I know how to keep you round
Cause I know where you been

You think that they really want just you
(Better think again, better think again)
I'm the only one knows what to do
Cause you've been bad, baby, oh, so bad, baby
And there's only one thing can be done

You need a little bit of this medicine
(Just a little touch up)
Mama's gonna give you some medicine

You need a little bit of this medicine
(Just a little touch up)
Mama's gonna give you some medicine

Every time I think you're mine
You're up to somethin' new
I've done almost everythin'
To try to get to you

All my friends are just dead ends
In helpin' me alone
I just keep on wonderin'
What am I doin' wrong

There is only one thing left to try
(Do it again, do it again)
On this cure I'm sure I can rely
Cause you've been bad, baby, oh, so bad
And there's only one thing can be done

You need a little bit of this medicine
(Just a little bit touch up)
Mama's gonna give you some medicine
(Just a little touch up)


Stephanie Mills' entry on the AllMusic website

Wednesday 24 September 2014

Everybody move to prove the groove

Extracts from an article by Paul Gallagher over at Dangerous Minds today:
In 1981, the BBC banned Heaven 17’s début single (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang on the grounds the song’s lyrics were possibly libellous to President Ronald Reagan.

The couplet that caused the Beeb’s legal eagles such wrinkled brows was contained in the song’s third verse:
Democrats are out of power
Across that great wide ocean
Reagan’s president elect
Fascist god in motion
Generals tell him what to do
Stop your good time dancing
Train their guns on me and you
Fascist thang advancing
[The song] was very much of its time... the lyrics contain the expected tropes on racism, fascism, Adolf Hitler, nuclear war, cruise missiles and a call to “unlock that funky chain dance.”

And to a man the nation asked, “Why hadn’t we thought of this before? Unlocking our funky chain dance to stop nuclear war?”

The BBC has always had a strange relationship with pop music. In 1969, they banned The Kinks’ song Plastic Man because it contained the word “bum”. Just a few years later in 1972, they were happily piping out Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side with its lines about “giving head” to the Beeb’s Radio 2 grey-haired Daily Mail-reading middle aged listeners. Now, they were quaking that "the Gipper" might possibly, maybe, well you just never know, sue the ass off the Corporation for some rather juvenile political pop posturing?
Despite the ban, Heaven 17 didn't come off too badly. (We Don’t Need This) Fascist Groove Thang made the lower reaches of the charts, and garnered a lot of attention in the "cool" clubs of the New Romantic era [I remember dancing to it myself at the "Bowie/Roxy Nights" at Lazers in Newport, with friends of Steve Strange] - and the band went on to have a string of smash chart hits, including the classics Temptation and Come Live with Me. And they're still going today.

The BBC did everyone a big favour, just as they did for Frankie Goes To Hollywood a mere three years later... And here's the "controversial" song in question:

Heaven 17 official website

Tuesday 23 September 2014

God speaks to rubbishy sluts

Patron Saint (and according to Eddie Monsoon, God, with whom I have had an audience) Marianne Faithfull has said what we're all thinking:
Speaking to ITV News in an interview ahead of the release of her new album, Faithfull was asked what she thought of young artists like Miley Cyrus or Rihanna and the way they dress.

She replied: "I think they are complete rubbishy sluts actually."

"I've no idea what they think. I cannot understand that way of thinking."

"That they want to be so much in the music business that they're prepared to make complete fools of themselves. I'm amazed,"
she added.
I think 'nuff said. Let Miss Faithfull show them how it's done:

The family tree was chainsawed Wednesday week
So now I have to mingle with the meek
Hey mister, you have finally met your match
Now everybody wants to kiss my snatch

To go where God knows who has gone before
I am a muse, not a mistress, not a whore
Oh, suburban shits who want some class
All queue up to kiss my ass

And I was only trying to please
I never got any royalties oh no, not me
I'm still sliding through life on charm
Sliding through life on charm

If Marianne was born a man she'd show you all
A way to piss your life against the wall
Go ahead why don't you leave me to these thugs
And creeps who want to fuck a nun on drugs?

Is it such a sin I never ever tried too hard?
I had to know how far was going too far
In proper homes throughout the land, Fathers try to understand
Why Eunice who is seventeen aspires to live her life like me

Oh no, can't ya see, Daddy?
She's just captivated by my charm
Sliding through life on charm


I wonder why the schools don't teach anything useful nowadays
Like how to fall from grace and slide with elegance from a pedestal
I never asked to be on in the first place

Sliding on charm, sliding on charm
Sliding on charm, sliding on charm
Sliding on charm, sliding on charm
Sliding on charm

Marianne's new album Give My Love To London is released on 29th September 2014 - and here's a delicious behind-the-scenes trailer:

Marianne Faithfull official website

Monday 22 September 2014

Beauty, brains, breeding and bounty

Oh dear, "back to work time" is here again...

On this Tacky Music Monday, by way of a little tribute to the lovely Miss Polly Bergen, who died on Saturday aged 84, here she is with her very own set of "safety gays" and the marvellous Two to Tango:

Facts about Polly Bergen:
  • She never seemed to stop working throughout her six-decade career, appearing in everything from The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse in the 50s to Move Over Darling and Cape Fear in the 60s, to The Sopranos and Desperate Housewives in the noughties.
  • Having started her career as a singer - she sang with Harry Belafonte, and even had her own TV show in the 50s - she returned to the world of musicals in 1999, appearing in Sondheim's Follies and in Cabaret.
  • She wrote three best-selling beauty books; founded a mail-order cosmetics business in 1965 which she later sold to Fabergé; and developed her own shoe and jewellery lines.
  • As the formidable Mrs Vernon-Williams in John Waters' classic Cry-Baby, she had some of the best lines: "Juvenile delinquents are everywhere. Right here in this community. Boys with long hair and tattoos who spit on the sidewalk. Girls who wear tight slacks. Hysterectomy pants, I call them. And if one of these creatures ever approach you on the street, you are to silently repeat to yourself the four "B's" you learned here at RSVP. And what are they, children, the four "B's"? Beauty, brains, breeding and bounty!"
RIP Polly Bergen (born Nellie Paulina Burgin, 14th July 1930 – 20th September 2014)

Sunday 21 September 2014

An unprecedented Bohemian sound

That legendary jolly person, singer-songwriter Leonard Cohen is 80 years old today.

Although I do acknowledge that his writing has a poetic touch, in general (in a similar vein to those written by the Beatles or Bruce Springsteen) I tend to prefer his songs covered by other artists.

Imagine my joy when I found this fantastic version of Mr Cohen's Dance me to the End of Love by a band from Amsterdam - Zorita, who describe themselves thus: "...a raucous rousing rabble. This well-oiled ragtag collection of instruments, styles and personalities boasts an unprecedented Bohemian sound."

It's fab!

Leonard Norman Cohen, CC GOQ (born 21st September 1934)

Zorita MySpace page

Saturday 20 September 2014

One down...

From the BBC:
Ukraine has announced it will not be taking part in next year's Eurovision Song Contest due to limited finances.

"We don't want to do something badly, and we don't have the money to do something well," said Zurab Alasania, of the state broadcaster NTU.

Mr Alasania said the broadcaster had to "optimise" its funds given the unstable financial and political situation caused by the conflict in east Ukraine.
Oh dear. We'll just have to do without such musical campness as these Ukrainian gems...

Ruslana - Wild Dances (which won Eurovision in 2004):

Last year's entry Mariya Yaremchuk (notable mainly, if not solely, for the presence of the hunky man in the hamster wheel):

The country's foremost stripper singer Svetlana Loboda from 2009:

...and of course, the irrepressible Verka Serduchka with the wonderful Dancing Lasha Tumbai* (which came second in 2007):

There has been no such statement from the aggressors in Russia, unfortunately.

*Incidentally, according to Wikipedia: There have been allegations that the words [Lasha Tumbai] were chosen due to their phonetic resemblance to "Russia Goodbye".

Friday 19 September 2014

It says, "Turn around, you fool"

Sensibly, the Scottish people have voted "no" today to independence from Great Britain.

As we hurtle towards another fun-filled party weekend (for some of us; not the SNP obviously), there is only one song appropriate to play to greet the news, really.

It's Miss Gloria Gaynor (who celebrated her 65th birthday earlier this month) and Never Can Say Goodbye... Thank Disco It's Friday!

I never can say goodbye
No, no, no, I
I never can say goodbye

Every time I think I've had enough
And start heading for the door
There's a very strange vibration
Piercing me right to the core

It says, "Turn around, you fool
You know you love him more and more"
Tell me why is it so?
Don't wanna let you go!

Hey, I never can say goodbye boy, ooh baby
I never can say goodbye, no, no, no, hey

I never can say goodbye
Oh, no, I
I never can say goodbye

I keep thinking that our problems
Soon are all gonna work out
But there's that same unhappy feeling
And there's that anguish, there's that doubt

It's that same old dizzy hang-up
I can't do with you or without
Tell me why is it so?
I don't wanna let you go!

Hey, I never can say goodbye boy, ooh baby
I never can say goodbye, no, no, no, oo

Have a great weekend, everyone - even the Scottish ones.

Thursday 18 September 2014

A woman who enjoyed life, who sang to live

The late, great "Shirley Bassey of Spain", Señora Rocío Jurado would have celebrated her 70th birthday today. If you listen carefully, you will probably hear the sound of hundreds of thousands of Spanish queens across the world wailing, rustling their mantillas and knitting their rosaries as we speak - such is the adulation that the lady they called La más grande ("The Greatest") commanded.

After her death, her body was laid "in state" in her home village of Chipiona in Andalucía:
"...More than 10,000 people paid their respects at the local church, La Regla, where her body lay overnight. At the service, the Bishop of Jerez, Juan del Rio, described her as “a woman who enjoyed life, who sang to live.” Jurado was later buried at a private family ceremony.

In Madrid, 22,000 people are estimated to have paid their respects at a wake in the space of eight hours, amongst them film director Pedro Almodovar and musician Emilio Estefan. The Spanish film-maker said she had the “biggest voice in Spain” and described her as, “a generous, sincere and affectionate” woman. Estefan called her “a great singer and a great person”, while President Zapatero expressed condolences to the family of a “great artist”."
We can but hope to receive a send-off like that...

I have, of course, featured this magnificent lady before, but here are two more of her emotionally-draining (and camp-as-tits) numbers, for your delectation:

[Why she's singing to a stole is beyond me.]

[Which could easily be mistaken for a Jennifer Saunders parody.]

María del Rocío Trinidad Mohedano Jurado (18th September 1944 - 1st June 2006)

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Oral power

From the BBC:
Engineers in Canada have built a chin strap that harnesses energy from chewing and turns it into electricity.

Dr Aidin Delnavaz and Dr Jeremie Voix, mechanical engineers at the École de Technologie Supérieure in Montreal, Canada, suggest that jaw movements are a promising candidate for harvesting natural energy.

The pair, who work on auditory technology like powered ear-muffs and cochlear implants, are keen to put that energy to work, and decrease reliance on disposable batteries.

"We went through all the available power sources that are there," Dr Voix told the BBC. These included the heat found inside the ear canal, and the overall movement of the head, which might have been used in a similar way to the wrist movements that power automatic watches.
Anyone else thinking what I'm thinking?

Or am I the only one with a filthy mind?

Tuesday 16 September 2014

The only game in town

Timeslip moment again...

While trampling through the vaults of the UK Charts of thirty years ago, one often comes across choons that would otherwise have remained completely forgotten - such as this one.

Here's the jazz-funky Animal Nightlife (whatever happened to them?), and their jolly Mr Solitaire (a new entry this week in 1984):

According to their Wikipedia entry, lead singer, tight-trouser-wearer and former "Billy's" club punter Andy Polaris has recently resurfaced creating fashionable window displays in Dalston's Oxfam shop.

How trendy.

Monday 15 September 2014

She's got your number

Sixties "sex kitten" - and kitschy fave here at Dolores Delargo Towers - Miss Joey Heatherton is 70 years old!

Relatively unknown in the UK (we had our own set of "dolly-bird" entertainers such as Aimi MacDonald, Pan's People, Anita Harris, Lulu and the rest), Miss Heatherton's rise from "saucy ingénue" on variety shows with Perry Como and Dean Martin, to TV commercials and Las Vegas stints, and her equally spectacular fall (with assault charges and drug addictions splashed across the headlines) would make for a great daytime TV movie. But at least she's still here...

To cheer us up on this Tacky Music Monday is the lady herself at the peak of her powers, complete with the best safety gays in the business - it's I've Got Your Number. [And I bet she did, too...]:

Many happy returns, Davenie Johanna Heatherton (born 14th September 1944)

Sunday 14 September 2014

A Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious day

What a day.

What a crowd.

What a line-up of acts!

Proms in the Park was simply wonderful yesterday. We were a small (but perfectly-formed) coterie this year - just me, Madame Arcati, John-John, Sal, Russ and Joe - but we managed to get in (in record time) through the throng to our usual spot near (but not too near) the stage and to manfully eat, drink and be merry enough for a whole troupe.

Thankfully, the weather stayed dry (if a little windier than we'd have liked, which meant it felt rather cold towards the end) as we settled in for a programme of delights. The afternoon session (presided over by the ever-cheesy Tony Blackburn) included the jolly former busker and Radio 2 fave Si Cranstoun, the entertaining cast of the T-Rex musical 20th Century Boy, Welsh "Britain's Got Talent" finalists and pretty-boy twin operatic tenors Richard & Adam (who were perfectly fine until their harmonies went somewhat awry on their final number The Impossible Dream) and the rather dull country-folk duo The Shires.

But the biggest thrill came when the faboo Dhol Foundation took to the stage, complete with traditional costumes, dancers and a guest singer K.S.Bhamrah - and got everyone in the 40,000-strong audience Bhangra dancing! Here they are at the Shrewsbury Folk Festival in 2009:


The break threw a new and unexpected spanner in the works of an otherwise enjoyable day. One of the deep joys of outdoor festivals (and I am being sarcastic here) is getting to and from the toilets. Usually at Proms in the Park this causes little problem (for boys, anyhow) - but something went deeply wrong yesterday. With all the Portakabins crushed into the tiniest amount of space in the far corners of the Hyde Park arena, it was bedlam. Men and women, old and young, were faced with the biggest queues I had ever seen. Half the loos had packed up, apparently. Women were barging into the gents, hordes of stewards were trying to keep order (to little avail), and as a consequence I missed several interesting and enjoyable bits of the day's performances. Abysmal.

Anyhoo, this brings us to the joys of the evening programme of Proms in The Park - the part with the real star performers (all introduced by the ebullient Sir Terry Wogan aka "Our Tel"), including our opener, the rather cute tenor Vittorio Grigolo - who, apart from having a beautiful voice also has a charming sense of humour. Not least when he was on stage for the BBC's pioneering "mass participation project" - a "virtual choir" performing Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious:

And of course, the Park audience joined in.

We had an early Royal Albert Hall link-up treat, when Our Tel introduced a further selection of Mary Poppins tunes (it is the 50th anniversary of the film), sung by the lovely Ruthie Henshall...

...as well as quite a pleasant surprise - Walton's Façade:

Ah, Mr Rufus Wainwright. I truly, honestly try my best. I want to love the man who overcame suicide attempts, an awkward coming-out, the death of his mother and all that torment, to carve himself a respected cult musical career (even tackling, song-by-song, the iconic Judy Garland Carnegie Hall concert). It's just a shame he's so - errm - dreary. The three songs he performed (Dinner at Eight, Oh What A World and Going To A Town) were all very heartfelt and impassioned, but there was no spark; not for us anyway.

Miss Pumeza Matshikiza, on the other hand... (what little I caught of her while trying to traverse the inconvenient conveniences again) has a beautiful voice, and loads of joie de vivre to go with it. To open with Puccini's O Ma Babbino Carra was a brave move, but she carried it off with aplomb. We were impressed - as we were when she and Signor Grigolo joined forces a little later on for a stunning set of tunes from the eternal classic West Side Story!

The Fisherman's Friends of Port Isaac were a pleasant diversion, with their fine repertoire of bawdy sea-shanties and folk tunes:

But all of this was merely a warm-up, let's face it. For the band we were all waiting for was the legendary Earth Wind And Fire! Even though their combined ages must be in the region of 300, the "boys" (founding members Philip Bailey, Verdine Scott, Ralph Johnson and ensemble) have certainly still got it - and performed the most magnificent set, which whipped us all up into quite a dancing frenzy... Auntie Beeb in her wisdom has not uploaded any clips, so here's someone's hand-held video of the occasion (we were somewhat closer to the action than this):

Mr Bailey's voice is remarkable, even after all these years.

And so, adrenalin still pumping, flags at the ready, we came to the (second) live link-up with the Royal Albert Hall for the grand finale, including, as is traditional, an exhilarating sing-along on Elgar's Pomp and Circumstance:

And, of course (after lead conductor Sakari Oramo's speech), the rousing - and poignant, given that Scotland later this week could well be separating off from the rest of the "United Kingdom" if the referendum vote is won by the "Yes" campaign - Thomas Arne's Rule Britannia, sung beautifully by Roderick Williams:

With the magnificent Jerusalem and the National Anthem bringing us to a close, that was it for another year.

We love Proms in the Park - one of the brightest highlights of our social calendar!

Saturday 13 September 2014

Golden dreams were shiny days

Our (somewhat depleted, thanks to illness and holidays) gang is off to spend seven hours in Hyde Park this afternoon, for that most marvellous tradition in our Season Calendar - and the landmark event that sees the official end of the Spring/Summer Season and the start of Autumn/Winter - Proms in the Park!

I am sure Rufus Wainwright will do his best, but - apart from the ecstatic all-singing, all-flag-waving Last Night of the Proms finale - the highlight is inevitably going to be our faboo headline act, Earth Wind and Fire. I know it's not "Thank Disco It's Friday" (my traditional "home" for preposterous 70s dance choons) but how could I resist the sparkly, over-the-top majesty of this (most appropriate for the Season's end) song? It's September!

Do you remember the 21st night of September?
Love was changing the minds of pretenders
While chasing the clouds away

Our hearts were ringing
In the key that our souls were singing.
As we danced in the night,
Remember how the stars stole the night away

Ba de ya, say do you remember
Ba de ya, dancing in September
Ba de ya, never was a cloudy day

My thoughts are with you
Holding hands with your heart to see you
Only blue talk and love,
Remember how we knew love was here to stay

Now December found the love that we shared in September.
Only blue talk and love,
Remember the true love we share today

Ba de ya, say do you remember
Ba de ya, dancing in September
Ba de ya, never was a cloudy day

Ba de ya, say do you remember
Ba de ya, dancing in September
Ba de ya, golden dreams were shiny days

Ba de ya de ya de ya
Ba de ya de ya de ya
Ba de ya de ya de ya de ya

They don't write lyrics like that any more.

Earth, Wind and Fire official website

Friday 12 September 2014

The Walrus of Love

Oh, joy. The weekend is in sight...

It also happens to be the 70th anniversary of the birth of "The Walrus Of Love", Mr Barry White. A man legendary for his influence on fashion for the fuller figure, and on hair styles, his growly vocals on a succession of OTT "seduction Soul" songs in the 1970s were more than likely a contributory factor to the population explosion of that decade.

Who better to guide us funkily towards thoughts of party-planning? [We're already getting excited about Proms in the Park tomorrow!]

Here's Big Barry, introducing his lovely singers Love Unlimited, with their vocal version of his orchestral hit Love's Theme - Thank Disco It's Friday!

Have a funky and seductive weekend, one and all.

Barry White (born Barry Eugene Carter, 12th September 1944 - 4th July 2003)

Thursday 11 September 2014

Amazeballs word shit

If only this wasn't quite so close to reality...
Spelling words correctly no longer matters to anyone, it has emerged.

After years of abuse the English language has finally given up and allowed anyone to use any halfwitted spelling they like.

Oxford English Dictionary editor Denys Finch Hatton said: “‘Independant’, ‘loose’ meaning ‘lose’ and ‘pacific’ for ‘specific’. The barbarians are through the gates and spelling is over.

“A population that uses ‘hun’ and ‘bae’ to save their texting thumbs simply isn’t capable of understanding diphthongs.

“Most people seem quite happy just guessing how words are spelt, so logophiles like myself will just have to learn to live with seeing ‘rogue’ spelled ‘rouge’ and ‘necessary’ as ‘nessicery’ or some other fucking abomination.”

Office worker Tom Logan said: “Language is constantly evolving so there is no such thing as correct spelling, which I point out whenever someone questions the illiterate garbage I write.

“Spelling isn’t important as long as your meaning is clear. Shakespeare couldn’t spell and he done amazeballs word shit standard innit?”
The Daily Mash.

Of course.

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Pride, murder in mind, Trans identity, missing children and Our Lady of the Underpass

Ah, Polari. How we (Paul, Jim, little Tony, Emma, Toby, Alex, Bryanne, Simon, Marcus, Val, Anni, Jayne and the rest) love it.

On Monday we assembled once more for the first in the new season of "London's premier gay literary salon" (after its brief break for summer hols) with excitement and relief, and as ever we were not disappointed!

Our host Paul Burston proudly congratulated Toby and Emma on their recent (theatrically public) nuptials, welcomed his hubbie Paulo and Mum-in-law Heidi to the evening, and opened proceedings with customary top-hatted aplomb.

First to the podium was another "LGBT literary face" on the London circuit, the (artistically) label-clad Trudy Howson - hostess-with-the-mostest of the long-running "Incite" poetry evenings at the Phoenix Artists' Club, and, as we found, a delightfully pithy poet in her own right. Here she is performing her classic, Pride:

Carole Morin, up next, read for us (in character as "Vivien Lash", the protagonist of her "noir"-ish novel Spying on Strange Men) a most chilling piece.

Our narrator has just received an envelope of photographs (anonymously) that detail her husband's secret affair, and now she is tempted to thoughts of murder:
Knowledge is power. Without information, I can’t get revenge. If I had an address or even a name for, let’s call her Z, I could send a dead chicken in the mail.

But I don’t. So I checked that the maid had gone, peeled off my clothes, and stepped into my bath just in time.

Our wedding picture caught my eye. There’s one in every room, spying on me.

The clarity of his complexion makes him look innocent. In movies, the villain is pockmarked. So in real life good skin has come to mean good faith. Where is he now, that boy I married? Where am I?

Angry in my pink marble bathtub plotting a murder. The bath full of rose petals picked on a moonlit night. He spat on my heart with his betrayal.

Betrayal is a cliché.

Does his romance convert me into a victim? Has he won again, beat me to it, devised his escape route? Bought her presents? Those miscellaneous expenses from shops I haven’t heard of can’t all be surprises for me.

Why would the stinky little slut send me a picture she doesn’t even look that good in? How the fuck does she even know where we live? James is so secretive he has secrets even from himself.

Maybe the ho-bag didn’t intend the picture for me? It’s a present for him. Something to remember her by? A warning? But if the envelope was for him, it would have his name on it.

When I come out of the bath, he’s home.

His heart has no home. He gets nervous when love circles him. Panics when happiness closes in. Should I laugh out loud or bite him?

"Hello Baby," he says, like nothing’s changed. He looks innocent. We are still the perfect couple. "We’re going to the Russian Riviera."
Thrilling stuff!

Collin Kelley - who last landed at Polari from Atlanta, Georgia two years ago - provided us with some much-needed light relief to conclude part 1. His poems about love, lust, growing-up and the vagaries of stupid middle America are always a joy; not least this one - The Virgin Mary Appears in a Highway Underpass:

Suitably refreshed after a fag on the moonlit Thames-side terrace, replenished drink in hand, it was time for the "second act".

But before the readers would begin, it was time for judging panel-member Suzi Feay to make an announcement - the shortlist of five for the Polari First Book Prize (which will for the first time be displayed at W.H. Smith travel outlets>:
  • I Am Nobody's Nigger by Dean Atta
  • Petite Mort by Beatrice Hitchman
  • Fairytales for Lost Children by Diriye Osman
  • God's Other Children - A London Memoir by Vernal W. Scott
  • The Rubbish Lesbian by Sarah Westwood

Juliet Jacques is very angry. Her account of her experiences of growing up in the wrong gender, and of transition, maltreatment and psychological stress, interspersed with her more recent encounter with radical performance artist Marina Abramović was - admittedly - a challenging thing to listen to, yet she has my ultimate admiration for her intelligent stance on the controversial topic of how trans people and gender identity are brow-beaten even more spitefully by the ultra-feminist Left than by the bullies and bigots of the Right. Just this small extract from her magnum opus on the subject published in the New Statesman earlier this year makes me shudder:
"...so few know any trans people, with the twin problem of family and friends being encouraged to disown them and their feeling that they have to live in stealth. Factor in a media culture that values bad-tempered slanging matches above sensitive exposition, with broadcast slots or word counts too small to allow much beyond familiar soundbites, and the problem is even worse. The tendency of publications and broadcasters towards clickbait-style questions debated by thundering bell-ends is by no means limited to trans people – witness BBC Newsnight’s jaw-dropping decision to ask ‘Is it ever OK to call women sluts?’ and invite Godfrey Bloom, a man shoved off the right-hand edge of the UK Independence Party for his views on women and ethnic minorities, to help them find a consensus. But we’re constantly forced to justify our existence, responding to questions which people aren’t conditioned to see as unreasonable: I got loads on starting transition – usually about my genitalia – but the most difficult was simply “Why?” I don’t know what caused my gender dysphoria – nature, nature or some combination: it just is, and I don’t see why I should bear the responsibility of answering it to anyone who meets or reads me.

When I was a child, I’d go to my grandmother’s house and start writing. When I picked up my pencil, she’d tell me that in her day, left-handers would be forced to write with their right hands, which seemed ridiculous to me. Luckily, those days were over and although my left-handedness is still treated as a curiosity by people who expect me to have terrible script, I can write as I wish – but sometimes I imagine how absurd, not to mention vindictive, a campaign to return to this would look, and wonder if we’ll ever reach a similar point where my transition is quietly accepted as a matter of bodily autonomy."

[For a more light-hearted, if just as honest, exploration of gender dysphoria, see yesterday's blog.]

Our headliner Joanna Briscoe - winner of the Commonwealth Betty Trask Prize (for Mothers and Other Lovers in 1994, and partner of fellow award-winning novelist Charlotte Mendelson - had the unenviable job of following that show-stopping monologue, but took to the task with aplomb, reading from her new mysterious Gothic novel Touched.

As Peter Bradshaw in The Guardian put it:
"Touched is a gripping novella, a waking nightmare in the home counties that is both erotic and claustrophobic. There's a woozy atmosphere of menace, a satirical stab at Britain's postwar commuter-belt aspirations, and an elegant, postmodern, cine-literate twist.

Rowena is the beautiful, harassed mother of five young children who has been chivvied by her husband into moving away from London to this sweet little village, a convenient half-hour drive from the capital. They have turfed Rowena's ailing mother-in-law out of her cottage, bought the one next door and are now trying to knock them through to create a family house and commuter base. But the cottage itself seems to resist this proto-yuppification. Haunted with resentment, the walls groan and bulge. Rowena's children start behaving oddly, forming a friendship with the local builder and his wife, Mr and Mrs Pollard – and then they begin to disappear. Rowena finds herself faint with desire for her handsome neighbour Gregory and begins to sense the presence of Freddie, the imaginary friend of her disturbed daughter Evangelina. Is Rowena having a breakdown – or is it something else?

...Touched would make a terrific 1960s black-and-white film."
And that is precisely how I pictured it as she was reading - a perfect story for a film adaptation (or more likely TV, for which Miss Briscoe's previous novel Sleep With Me was adapted in 2009). Spooky, indeed. We were gripped, and were left wanting to find out more.

However, with a final flourish as the assembled artists gathered for their well-deserved applause, it was not to be.

Another marvellously eclectic Polari evening was over for another month.

Next month's event, as part of the London Literature Festival, will be in the prestigious (if somewhat soulless) Purcell Room - as we start our celebration of seven years of LGBT literary fabulousness, and the winner of the Polari First Book Prize is announced. Ali Smith, Mari Hannah Will Davis, Karen Mcleod and Justin David will be on the bill - and, as ever, I can't wait!


Tuesday 9 September 2014

I looked fab in a chemise

Only Fascinating Aïda could come up with such a jolly ditty to gender dysphoria...

Fascinating Aïda official website.

Monday 8 September 2014

Chasing rainbows


Five of the UK's top footballers - from one of the highest-ranking clubs in the UK, Arsenal - have lent their support to this year's anti-homophobia in sport campaign.

Watch and see (no full-frontals, unfortunately):

Today's Metro free paper is full of rainbows today, too!

As Ruth Hunt, CE of Stonewall says:
Football is one of the most powerful institutions in the world. In Britain there are 5,000 professional footballers in the top flights of men's football. Yet not one of them is openly gay or bisexual. Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia remain rife on the terraces. That’s hardly surprising when seven in ten football fans who'd attended a match heard or witnessed homophobia.

Last year we sent a pair of rainbow laces to every club and professional footballer in the country. Players from 52 clubs wore the laces and sports stars, politicians and celebs got involved too. By wearing the laces they showed that there is no place for prejudice in football.

This year Rainbow Laces will be bigger than ever. We’re working with even more players and even more clubs. We’re teaming up with Paddy Power and Metro and have the backing of the Premier League. We’re all showing our support for LGBT players and fans. By working together we can reach people we’ve never reached before. And then we can start changing attitudes.
Read more about the campaign.

You're just kind of wild

I am convinced that time moves far more quickly on a weekend than it ever does during our time at work in the week...

Hey ho, it's Tacky Music Monday again, folks - and here to ease the pain of having to face another five days of unending joy the office, by way of a celebration of the lady's 83rd birthday last Friday, we revisit one of our very favourite Patron Saints Miss Mitzi Gaynor's most sparkling moments.

It's her tribute to the great Gertie Lawrence - Limehouse Blues:

Oh, Limehouse kid
Oh, oh, Limehouse kid
Goin' the way
That the rest of them did
Poor broken blossom
And nobody's child
Haunting and taunting
You're just kind of wild

Indeed she is - happy belated birthday, Mitzi!

Have good week, peeps...

Mitzi Gaynor official website

Sunday 7 September 2014

Be warned...

...perspiration is acid!

[Source: Ajax All-Purpose blog]

Saturday 6 September 2014

I will wait here for my man tonight

Timeslip moment once again, dear friends, as we take another little trip back thirty years to this week in 1984...

One-hit-wonders Alphaville from Germany certainly hit the zeitgeist of the New Romantic/synth-pop era, not least with this video for their only UK Top 20 hit, Big In Japan - complete with its flags, dry ice, preposterous lyrics and "exotic" outfits. It's still fab today!

Winter's cityside, crystal bits of snowflakes
All around my head and in the wind
I had no illusions that I'd ever find
A glimpse of summer's heatwaves in your eyes
You did what you did to me
Now it's history I see
Here's my comeback on the road again
Things will happen while they can
I will wait here for my man tonight
It's easy when you're big in Japan

When you're big in Japan, tonight
Big in Japan, be tight
Big in Japan, where the Eastern sea's so blue
Big in Japan, alright
Pay, then I'll sleep by your side
Things are easy when you're big in Japan
When you're big in Japan...

Neon on my naked skin
Passing silhouettes
Of strange illuminated mannequins
Shall I stay here at the zoo
Or shall I go and change my point of view
For other ugly scenes
You did what you did to me
Now it's history I see
Things will happen while they can
I will wait here for my man tonight
It's easy when you're big in Japan

When you're big in Japan, tonight
Big in Japan, be tight
Big in Japan, oo the Eastern sea's so blue
Big in Japan, alright
Pay, then I'll sleep by your side
Things are easy when you're big in Japan
When you're big in Japan, tonight
Big in Japan, be tight
Big in Japan, oo the Eastern sea's so blue
Big in Japan, alright
Pay, then I'll sleep by your side
Things are easy when you're big in Japan
When you're big in Japan

I must admit I had forgotten just how camp lead singer Marian Gold was - yet, according to Wikipedia, he's allegedly straight and has seven children by four different mothers.

Appearances can be deceptive, indeed.

Even more remarkably, Alphaville are still going strong in their homeland - visit their website.

Friday 5 September 2014

Let me show you how

With a feeling of loss in our hearts after news of the death of dear Joan Rivers, our thoughts as we look forward to the impending weekend turn to another late, great icon - the fantabulosa Sylvester. He would have been 57 tomorrow...

Bringing a suitable amount of sparkle to the occasion, here he is accompanied by (another great talent taken from us too soon) Mr Patrick Cowley - and their classic Do You Wanna Funk?

Thank Disco It's Friday!

Sylvester James (6th September 1947 – 16th December 1988)

Thursday 4 September 2014

I'm in nobody's circle

"I've had so much plastic surgery, when I die they will donate my body to Tupperware."

"I have no sex appeal; if my husband didn’t toss and turn, we’d never have had the kid."

"The only time a woman has a true orgasm is when she is shopping."

"People say that money is not the key to happiness, but I always figured if you have enough money, you can have a key made."

"I like colonic irrigation because sometimes you find old jewellery."

"A man can sleep around, no questions asked, but if a woman makes nineteen or twenty mistakes she's a tramp."

"My love life is like a piece of Swiss cheese. Most of it's missing, and what's there stinks."

"I'm in nobody's circle, I've always been an outsider."

Farewell, dear Joan. We will miss you.

Joan Rivers (born Joan Alexandra Molinsky, 8th June 1933 - 4th September 2014)

Sing a song of love

Their famous Eurovision song Sing Little Birdie (Sing, Sing) was a hit in 1959, four years before I was born. Their last appearance as performers on stage was twenty-seven years ago in a revival of Sondheim's Follies in 1987.

Today, to our joy, we discover that Pearl Carr and Teddy Johnson - Britain's favourite singing sweethearts in the mid-20th century - are still alive (and, happily, still living together in Brinsworth House, a care home for retired performers)!

To celebrate Teddy's 94th birthday today, let us pay due homage to the ultimate light entertainment survivors. First, up, their Music Hall Medley:

Their famous Eurovision runner-up song:

There's a bird on a branch
There's a branch on a tree
Where we carved our initials there
For all the world to see

'Neath that bird on a branch
'Neath that branch on a tree
Where we promised our true love
For all eternity

Sing, little birdie, sing your song
Sing, you'll help our love along
Sing, little birdie up above
Sing a song of love

And here's a fabulous discovery - a mini-documentary (created by students at MaD Theatre Company) about the history of the form of entertainment (sadly now disdained by "reality"-obsessed TV execs) known as "Variety".

Narrated by another "national treasure" Roy Hudd, Variety of Memories features (among others) a splendid interview with Pearl and Teddy, talking about their memories of that long-lost era:

[2024 UPDATE: Gone from the interwebs, unfortunately.]

Happy birthday, Teddy!

Teddy Johnson (born Edward Victor Johnson, 4th September 1920)

Wednesday 3 September 2014

When you're in New-putt

As Obama and the rest start arriving in the dead posh golfing resort The Celtic Manor near my definitely-not-posh home town Newport [It's a city now. Fancy.] today, there is only one song I can play, really...

An old favourite, it's Newport State Of Mind!

Newport locals unimpressed by the NATO summit

Tuesday 2 September 2014

He's so unusual

Always a striking-looking chap, yet too unusual to really be described as "totty", the super-cool Keanu Reeves turns 50 years old today!

Born of an English theatrical mother and a father whose family origins included Chinese, Hawaiian and Portuguese genes, young Keanu - much like his contemporaries the Phoenix clan - was treated to a bit of an itinerant upbringing: born in Beirut, he lived in Australia, New York, the UK and finally Canada, and his mother married four times.

None of the above prevented the young Keanu seeking, and achieving, the idiosyncratic stardom he enjoys today - from such contrasting, yet enduring classics as My Own Private Idaho and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure to blockbusters like Speed and The Matrix, he has largely (unlike others in his generation) avoided the archetypal roles offered by Hollywood's staple of "rom-com" and "street-cop" movies.

Often perceived as a moody, reclusive type (he's had more than his fair share of personal tragedy, and has avoided the melee of continually-photographed celebrity parties in favour of fronting his own grunge band "Dogstar"), he nevertheless retains huge respect in Hollywood, and has lately turned his hand to producing and directing his own films.

Forget the grunge - he can also turn his hand to "proper" singing. And here he is in a very early role alongside Jill Schoelen and Googy Gress ("Whoooooo?") in Babes In Toyland:

Many happy returns, Keanu Charles Reeves (born 2nd September 1964)

Monday 1 September 2014

Like a horse and carriage

On Saturday, a gang of us (me, John-John, Paul, Jim, Alex, Anni, Lexi, Jane, David, Paul Burston and many more) went to a most unlikely event indeed - not one, not two, but twenty weddings!

Part of the South Bank Centre's "Festival of Love" - a two-month celebration of the Same Sex Couple Act - "The Big Wedding Weekend" featured seventy couples, gay and straight, young and old, marrying or renewing their vows on the stage of the Royal Festival Hall, around twenty at a time. It was most bizarre.

However, as our friends and fellow Polari-ites Emma and Toby (after 24 years together, with their daughter as one of the witnesses) had decided that now the law treated everyone as equals that they would finally "tie the knot", it was a must! The Hall was packed to the brim with 3000 guests, as I witnessed my first legal gay marriages as well as Emma and Toby's - and the whole razzmatazz of the day, including live bands, ballroom and line-dancing and much champagne, was rather more fun than I (the ultimate "marriage-phobe") might have hoped...

On this Tacky Music Monday, as we haul ourselves reluctantly back to that other undesirable convention - work - here's an apposite little song-and-dance medley from the Lettermen, featuring Love and Marriage, Me and my Gal and (one from yesterday's birthday boy Alan Jay Lerner) Get Me To The Church On Time:


Have a good week, everyone.