Sunday 30 November 2014

An evening in Queen Anne's Footstool

St John's, Smith Square - nicknamed "Queen Anne's Footstool"

Completing a succession of evenings out this week - Polari, Sondheim's Assassins at the Menier Chocolate Factory, the "Fantasy Egypt" night at the Petrie Museum - our little gang went for a bit of classical culture yesterday evening: a concert of Bach, Wagner and Schoenberg by the Fulham Symphony Orchestra at the beautiful St John’s, Smith Square in Westminster.

The concert opened with J.S. Bach (orchestrated by Stokowski) – Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor, a beautiful baroque piece in perfect keeping with the sumptuous surroundings of Thomas Archer's 1728 masterpiece. Melodramatic and emotional in turn, it was lovely.

An even bigger treat was, however, their excellent second piece - preceded by a lengthy exploration by conductor Marc Dooley of the concept of the leitmotif, as heavily used by Wagner and later by Schoenberg (far better explained by the legendary Anna Russell, incidentally) - the final scene (Leb’ Wohl) from Die Walkure, part III. The part of Wotan was beautifully sung by bass-baritone Stephen Holloway:

[If the player doesn't work, click here to listen]

It was very helpful of Mr Dooley to do the "compare and contrast" between Wagner and Schoenberg, we found, for it merely helped convince us that none of us really wanted to stay for Pelleas und Melisande; modernist "symphonic poems" not really being our favourite style of music. So we buggered off to the pub instead.

However, what we heard (even if there were a couple of slight technical "ouch" moments) was splendid enough to make for a very enjoyable experience.

Fulham Symphony Orchestra website.

Oh, those nights in the oasis, when I toyed with Pharaoh's braces

Taking the Pith

Hils, The History Boy, Madam Arcati and I dusted off our amulets and trolled along to London's best "hidden secret", The Petrie Museum of Egyptology, on Friday to join students and Steampunks alike at an event lavishly titled Worlds Collide: Fin de Siècle Fantasy Egypt.

It was advertised thus:
Jump from the 21st century back over 100 years, then back to Ancient Egypt and forward again. A Friday night mini-festival with a range of activities from talks to fortune telling to making 3-D postcards from 1890s Egypt and a 1880s to 1920s disco with themed food and drink to buy.
A Vintage Disco? A Cabinet of Curiosities? Talks on "Esoteric Egypt in London" by Professor Roger Luckhurst, and "Fantasy Egypt on British Screens" by our fave expert on gay and camp ancient history John J Johnston? 1860s Egyptian Traveller Gin Cocktails?

Oh, and dressing-up opportunities!

How could we resist..?

To celebrate this fantastical evening, here's one of the (most appropriate) songs played by our lovely lady DJs Miss Amara Thornton and Miss Bibi Smythe at the event - it's the wonderful Douglas Byng!

Petrie Museum website

Saturday 29 November 2014

Everybody's got the right to their dreams

Hey, pal - feelin' blue?
Don't know what to do?
Hey, pal - I mean you -
Yeah. C'mere and kill a President.

No job? Cupboard bare?
One room, no one there?
Hey, pal, don't despair -
You wanna shoot a President?
C'mon and shoot a President...

Got the right
To be happy.
Don't stay mad,
Life's not as bad
As it seems.

If you keep your
Goal in sight,
You can climb to
Any height.
Got the right
To their dreams...

Judging by the way the show has been promoted to the press in advance, one might have been forgiven for thinking that Assassins was a star vehicle for the "national treasure" Catherine Tate. Of course, that is far from the truth, as we found out for ourselves when Al, John-John, Madame Arcati and I went along to one of our favourite theatres in London, the Menier Chocolate Factory on Thursday to see Jamie Lloyd's new production of Mr Stephen Sondheim's most - ahem - unusually themed musical.

For who else but Mr Sondheim would dare to create an entire musical about the imagined interplay between a group of people with nothing else in common but the fact that they had killed or attempted to kill the President of the United States?

This is an eerie enough construct to imagine - for in the classic music theatrical genre, there should normally be at least one character with whom one feels some empathy, surely? But that is the magic of Sondheim, of course. He has us rooting for a psychopath in Sweeney Todd, for a witch in Into The Woods, and for Ethel Merman's mother-from-Hell in Gypsy, after all. And in Assassins, each of the characters, deeply and truly mad as all of them are, has a little something in their character with which we can identify.

This achievement relies as heavily upon the skills of its ensemble cast as it does the writing, of course - and this cast is utterly superb! Two main characters hold the whole thing together, as we are introduced to each disturbed assassin in turn: The Proprietor (a deliciously mad, ever-goading, impressively demonic Simon Lipkin) and the Balladeer (the superbly confident Jamie Parker), and it is through their own interplay that we, the audience, are encouraged to understand (or if it were a panto, "boo", "hiss" or "cheer"; we did none of that, of course - this is Sondheim) what drove seemingly anonymous individuals to want to become assassins.

I think thereby hangs a tale - that word "anonymous". For in most cases, these people drove themselves to wield their fateful guns as a way to gain recognition/notoriety, to ensure they were not ignored or forgotten in history. This was certainly the case for John Wilkes Booth (the fabulous singer and elegantly handsome Aaron Tveit), whose murder of Abraham Lincoln was the first Presidential assassination, and the most earth-shattering, till the 20th century.

Lesser-known madmen followed in his wake - the would-be radical and downtrodden Polish-American Leon Czolgosz (a grandly dramatic David Roberts), who killed President McKinley; the pain-wracked and obsessive Giuseppe Zangara (sung and acted marvellously by the cute Stewart Clarke), who attempted to assassinate Roosevelt; and the hilariously loony Charles Guiteau (film star Andy Nyman), who killed President Garfield. It was the latter performance by Mr Nyman, skipping, dancing and convincingly delusional (adherent of several bizarre pseudo-religious cults, he petitioned the White House believing himself perfect for the role of Ambassador to France), that brought the finest snatches of comedic relief to the potentially very dark proceedings.

The more recent crop of killers included the totally unhinged Samuel Byck (the ever-wonderful Mike McShane), whose outrageous plan to hijack a plane and crash it into the White House to kill Richard Nixon was only balanced in its sheer oddness by the fact that Byck kept leaving voicemail messages outlining his plans for, of all people, Leonard Bernstein. In a shining moment of the production - and there were many! - the odd and lisping loner John Hinckley (played to perfection by by Harry Morrison), the attempted assassin of President Ronald Reagan, duets with Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme (a very scary Carly Bawden), one of the two women who tried to kill President Gerald Ford (the other being Miss Tate's character Sara Jane Moore) about their obsessive (unrequited) love for Jodie Foster and Charles Manson, respectively. Unworthy of Your Love is perhaps the most memorable of the show's songs, and they did it beautifully.

The denouement, of course, comes with the story of Lee Harvey Oswald (also played by "Balladeer" Jamie Parker) - the one assassin whose actions still resonate today, more than half-a-century later, and the final ensemble number, where all the killers pay Oswald their respects, waving their weapons menacingly in a dance macabre.

There are flaws, of course - not least Miss Tate's wobbly West Virginia accent; but we know she's a comedienne (accurately, and skilfully) playing a woman who was the object more of ridicule than of fear, so it didn't jar for me as much as it might for a purist. Some parts of the set and the sound-effects were a little wobbly too, but this was only a preview, so allowances must be made...

With its malevolent Circus/fairground set, and the fact it is staged "in traverse" (with the seating blocks either side and the performance in-between; our seats were right in the front row - in the midst of the action), we in the audience were spooked even before the show started. But at every turning point in the unfolding stories, to have actual guns pointed in one's face at regular intervals is utterly spine-tingling!

In all, this was a magnificent production, a once-in-a-lifetime experience. It is no wonder it is selling out rapidly...

As the press night has not even taken place yet, there is no video footage from the Menier. However, as a little taster of the music, here's the cast of the 2004 Broadway production of Assassins at the Tony Awards:

In the words of one reviewer: "It’s madness, but it works."

Assassins is at the Menier Chocolate Factory until 7th March 2015.

Friday 28 November 2014

Shiny bodies

It's the end of another busy week - in work and out (Polari on Wednesday, Sondheim's Assassins last night and a night at the Petrie Museum tonight; more of all that later, no doubt...).

I am definitely not going shopping (unlike the idiots who have succumbed to the marketing guff of this so-called "Black Friday"). Our "Black Fridays" here at Dolores Delargo Towers tend more towards funk!

So without further ado, let's welcome the looming weekend with our shirts off and our brass in our hands (oo-er) - in the company of Mr Bunny Sigler and the boys of Instant Funk. It's Bodyshine time!

Thank Disco It's Friday!

Have a funky time, folks...

Thursday 27 November 2014

Berlin blackmail, corpses, temps, obsessive painters, a mysterious boy and the lesbian Bermuda Triangle

[Photo Justin David]

It was a somewhat depleted "gang" at this month's Polari - no Paul, John-John, Jim, Emma or Toby. Just me, Wayne, Little Tony, Simon, Bryanne, Val, Paulo, Jane, Anni and a crowd of the great and the good of the glitterati that included the legendary Bette Bourne in attendance, as our host Paul Burston proudly welcomed us to the seventh anniversary edition of "London's peerless gay literary salon" (can it really be that long? Scary).

Opening the show was Mr Ben Fergusson, writer and impresario at the Hayward Gallery on the Southbank Centre, who read for us an extract from his sinister and atmospheric first novel The Spring of Kasper Meier - a tale of blackmail, black markets and black deeds in the seedy underbelly of a post-War Berlin that had been reduced to rubble and a morass of half-lit corners, where one might stumble across a secretive bar, a suspicious character, or both. The piece he read introduced us to the story's anti-hero Kasper and his confidant bar-owner Frau Muller, and hinted at several of the sinister twists and turns that had - or were about to - unfold. A very promising start, we thought. Read an extract of the book here.

Here is Mr Fergusson talking about the book - which was also featured on BBC Radio 2's "Book Club" recently - on Celebrity Radio:

[Photo Justin David]

The ever-ebullient Alex Marwood (pen-name of Serena Mackesy, whose book The Temp was a "chick-lit" bestseller) was next to the stage, to lighten the mood somewhat. As a former journalist and columnist for The Independent, she has a knack for observation whether writing about shoes, office life or grisly necrophiliac murderers(!). And so it was that she was able to dip into her pre-Marwood world to talk about life as The Temp, and top it off with a chilling piece from her latest as Alex Marwood - Crime Writer, the semi-fictional account of a serial killer of the Dennis Nielsen type, whose neighbours in the shared house in which he lived never knew he was keeping corpses of people he murdered as companions...

Here's the lady herself, talking about the latter story The Killer Next Door:

But it was her hilarious anecdotes of how people behave towards authors at book fairs ("What do you mean, you're not Adrian McKinty?!!") and her list of office "stereotypes" in the style of fantasy characters - The Gollum, the Barbie, the Handsome Prince, the Scarecrow, Tin Man and Lion, and so on - that had us in stitches most of all.

Niven Govinden is no stranger to Polari, and is now on his fourth novel - which is short-listed for The Green Carnation Prize 2014. It was from his newest work All The Days And Nights - a tale of manipulation in a relationship between a dying artist and her husband John, as he sets off on a pilgrimage searching out his past in the portraits she painted of him now hanging in museums, galleries and private homes across America - that he read for us a passage. It is an intriguing construct, with even John's observations on his journey narrated second-hand by his wife back home, and an exhausting one as we tried to concentrate hard enough to keep up with who was supposed to be where, and doing what, during the narrative. Beautifully done of course, if a little difficult to follow.

Quite the opposite was the case with our third reader, Sarah Westwood, who opened the second half after the fag-n-booze top-up break. Sarah famously (notoriously) writes for Diva magazine a column titled "The Rubbish Lesbian", and her short stories are always a joy to listen to. Including this one - Lesbian sex. It's a bit like the Bermuda Triangle:
I mentioned my habit of 'fat-fingering' to a straight friend this week. She went very quiet, and then said, "Is that a lesbian thing?" What? No, it's an inability to use an iPhone thing. It made me laugh, but it also made me realise that lesbian sex is still the big question mark that remains unanswered for a lot of people. In the words of 80's songstress Toyah, "it's a mystery."

I've been asked "But how DO you have sex?" on many occasions. It seems odd, but for whatever reason many people just can't get their heads around lesbian sex. Maybe I'm just particularly flexible, but I've never found it that much of a strain.

Even before I became a lesbian, if I closed my eyes I could picture it with ease, and did, on many occasions. The image wasn't sketchy, and it didn't fade-to-black like a 1940's film when it got to the good bit. But for many people lesbian sex remains as baffling as the Bermuda Triangle - actually make that two Bermuda triangles rubbing together.

In the past when I've talked about "having sex" to some of my straight girlfriends I've noticed that their faces fail to compute. They have the look of someone reading the assembly instructions for an IKEA bedside table. It's as if they are sitting cross-legged on the floor with all the bits laid out in front of them, but they just can't picture how we'll come together.

I think it's the lack of penis that throws people; their minds are desperately grappling with the logistics of how sex is possible without one. It's hard to know what goes where; like a game of naked Twister, there are body parts swinging around, and skin slapping against skin, but they can't see the wood for the trees. Perhaps because there is no wood, or trees - only bushes?

What is it about two women having sex that's so hard to imagine? It's not as if we're aliens from planet Zorb with paint bushes for genitals. We've got all the same bits as straight women, and like them sex comes down to personal preference. There's no "one size fits all" answer.

We might have put people on the moon, but for some reason lesbian sex is one giant mental leap too far. Oh well, as long as it remains the final frontier I'll just have to keep on boldly going where no man has gone before.

[Photo Justin David]

And finally, that maestro of the English language, Neil Bartlett. We love him. An accomplished and respected writer, playwright and gay cultural historian - and OBE, no less - he exudes a magical way with words, not least in the piece he read from his newest work The Disappearance Boy, a heart-stopping passage about the panic-stricken rescue from the path of a train of a strange, mute, emotionless boy. We were gripped!

However, it was his reading of his poetic monologue from those dreadful days of loss in the AIDS era of the 1980s that had us all emotionally drained. Here he is, reading That's What Friends Are For:

I cried. I was not alone.

[Photo Justin David]

With the rush of adrenalin and emotion out of our systems, that, bar the schmoozing, was that for another month... An absolutely wonderful evening, as always.

Our next outing will be "A Very Polari Xmas" on 12th December, featuring Susie Boyt, Rosie Wilby, Yrsa Daley-Ward, VG Lee, and headliner Jonathan Harvey reading from his new novel, The Girl Who Just Appeared.

Roll on December, I say!

Polari website


Over the pond, people move in their thousands across the wilds of America to gobble turkey. For some reason. I have no idea what. But they do.

So let's mark their celebrations (albeit briefly), in the super company of Big Gay Al!

Thanks for asking.

Thanksgiving Day

Wednesday 26 November 2014

Dance with me - don't dance with me, no

Following on from the reminisces this week has brought - seeing Adam Ant live for the first time, and singing my tits off to Alison Moyet (whose own comeback earlier in the year was a bit, errm, less than I had hoped for) - I thought I'd do a little catch-up of newer music released in the past few months by artists I have loved for much, much longer...

Bowie meets Bernard Hermann? There have been many attempts to compare his new song to other artists: such disparate souls as Dave Brubeck, Radiohead, Public Image Limited, Milton Nascimento, Robert Wyatt, Tricky and - inevitably - Scott Walker. Needless to say, David Bowie's latest artistic endeavour (with the Maria Schneider Orchestra and, once again, with Tony Visconti) is remarkable - a "Modern Jazz" take on some of the darker moments of his own Berlin phase, perhaps? It's Sue (Or in A Season Of Crime), and it is awesome:

Shamefully overlooked by the buying public (yet again - like so many artists with real talent and integrity), here's the single that the sublime Miss Marianne Faithfull released to coincide with her Give My Love To London album at the end of September (which I did write about at the time but never featured this track in full) - Sparrows Will Sing:

How about this for a surprise? The return (after thirty years' absence!) of the man whose genius - more or less - influenced everything in his wake, Mr Bowie, Mr Eno and Mr Visconti included, Signor Giorgio Moroder. He's back, to show the young 'uns how it's done, with his faboo new single 74 Is the New 24! [Yes, that is his age...]

Featured as an interlude on Princess Kylie's Kiss Me Once tour (that continues as we speak), here are four tracks segued into one video sequence, recently released as an EP. Produced by William Baker in conjunction with producer/songwriter Fernando Garibay, and featuring the gorgeous Aaron Sillis, here's Sleepwalker:

And in complete contrast - here is a sneaky radio rip of Our Princess in another collaboration, with that other "national treasure" Jools Holland, in a cover of the Clash classic Should I Stay Or should I Go? [from Jools' new album Sirens Of Song]:

One of our Patron Saints Miss Amanda Lear has been slogging away all year to promote her album of Elvis covers (all done in her own inimitable fashion of course). Shamefully, I (an avowed Elvis-avoider) have not featured any of it. With the release this month of the deluxe edition of that album My Happiness, it is time to make amends with the Almighty Remix of her version of Suspicious Minds:

And, to conclude - just because I think we all deserve a bit of eye candy - here's the newest fantabulosa effort from our houseboys Kazaky - Pulse:

Mine's racing...

As ever, enjoy - and let me know your thoughts!

Tuesday 25 November 2014

You took your time to come back this time

Timeslip moment again...

Basildon's finest singer Miss Alison Moyet, the backbone of the uber-cool synth-soul stylings of Yazoo had, thirty years ago, been seduced into striking out on her own. The result was one of those masterful albums that really defined the early 80s, Alf - I honestly don't think there was a home across the UK that didn't have a copy, mine included.

Hit after classic hit emerged for Miss Moyet, including Love Resurrection, Invisible and, from this week in 1984, one of the greatest sing-along torch songs of its era...

All together, now!

You took your time to come back this time
The grass has grown under your feet
In your absence I changed my mind
And someone else is sitting in your seat

I know that I said there'd be no one else
I know that I said I'd be true
But baby, I've burned out Cupid's arrow
And here's the short and the narrow
I've nothing left to offer you

I'm all cried out
You took a whole lot of loving
For a handful of nothing
(All cried out)
It's hard to give you something
When you're pushing and a-shoving me around

So don't look surprised
There was no disguise
You knew where I stood from the start
So stop
Look around you
You're right back where I found you
Take back your cold and empty heart

(All cried out)
I'm all cried out
You took a whole lot of loving
For a handful of nothing
(All cried out)
It's hard to give you something
When you're pushing and a-shoving
(All cried out)
I'm all cried out
You took a whole lot of loving
(All cried out)
I'm all cried out
It's hard to give you something
When you're pushing and a-shoving me around

(Around around around around around
Around around around around around)

(You go your way)
You go your way
(I'll go mine)
I'll go mine
(I won't stay around here)
I wont stay around here
Don't you waste my time
(Waste my time)

(All cried out)
You took a whole lot of loving
For a handful of nothing
(All cried out)
It's hard to give you something
When you're pushing and a-shoving
(All cried out)
I'm all cried out
You took a whole lot of loving
(All cried out)
I'm all cried out
It's hard to give you something
When you're pushing and a-shoving me around

(Around around around around around
Around around around around around
Around around around around around
Around around around around around)

Brilliant. I can still lip-sync every word...

Alison Moyet official website

Monday 24 November 2014

You may not like the things we do; only idiots ignore the truth

There was no Goody Two Shoes, no Prince Charming, no Stand and Deliver. I sincerely hope no-one turned up hoping this was going to be a "Greatest Hits" concert...

Colleagues in the council and I were thrilled to land tickets for last night's final (of four at Islington Assembly Hall) performance by one of the greatest survivors of the Punk and post-Punk eras that made the cusp of the 1970s to the 1980s so exciting, none other than Adam Ant!

This was indeed a concert for the die-hard fans of the former Stuart Goddard, as he and his fantastic new band performed - as promised - the Ants' seminal (and pre-fame'n'fortune) album Dirk Wears White Sox in its entirety. Just as raw, and just as complex and in-yer-face as it ever was when it was released thirty-five years ago (gulp!).

As "Musky03" at Aural Sculptors (one of those very die-hards) put it:
I can't believe that it was all reproduced so well. These songs can be best described as quirky, but the band did a magnificent job on it, especially with the falsetto harmonies that feature frequently across the album... Nine Plan Failed and The Day I Met God were clear highlights, as was Zerox.

Part of the show was given over to acoustic performances of S.E.X. and Picasso (Visita El Planeta De Los Simios). A nod was given to the direction that the Ants took after Malcolm McLaren took the first band when Adam played Kings of the Wild Frontier and Dog Eat Dog. Aside from that only a cover of Dave Berry's Strange Effect and [Vampires] took the set beyond the 1970's Ants. This was manna from heaven... a perfect 1979 time capsule and yet sounding completely contemporary.
And I couldn't agree more!

[That bloody light blinded us for most of the evening]

This was a bizarre, noisy and utterly inspiring evening of rock musicianship at its very best. Accolades must go to the "backing line-up" - guitarists Tom Edwards, Will Crewdson and (original Ant) Leigh Gorman, Joe Holweger on bass, and the two that really captured the "original" Ants sound, drummers Andy Woodard and (the brilliantly be-wigged) Jola.

But it was, of course, the theatrical and bizarre antics and vocal stylings of the UK's favourite pin-up of the early 80s - he's now a bit (ahem) bigger, and, as The Times described him, reminiscent of "a superannuated version of Captain Jack Sparrow"; but he is sixty years old after all! - that made the evening so very, very special indeed.

Here's the live version from the Islington concert of the classic Kings of the Wild Frontier:

One of the mainstays of the Dirk Wears White Sox album, Tabletalk (complete with its very odd video):

And, just because I like to reminisce about those heady days when I first grew to adore Mr Ant and his boys, here's their first chart hit from 1981 - Dog Eat Dog:

You may not like the things we do
Only idiots ignore the truth

It's easy to lay down and hide
Where's the warrior without his pride?

We're gonna move real good
We're gonna dress so fine
It's dog eat dog eat dog eat dog eat dog eat dog eat dog eat dog eat dog
Leapfrog the dog
And brush me, daddy-o

It's easy to lay down and hide
Where's the warrior without his pride?

You may not like the things we say
What's the difference, anyway?

We're gonna move real good
We're gonna dress so fine
It's dog eat dog eat dog eat dog eat dog eat dog eat dog eat dog eat dog
Leapfrog the dog
And brush me daddy-o

It makes me proud, so proud of you
I see innocence shining through

Adam Ant (born Stuart Leslie Goddard, 3rd November 1954)

A rather fab interview with Mr Ant in one of Islington's local papers, the Ham and High.

Jumpsuit Heaven

As dear ol' Cher announces the cancellation of the rest of her (final, final, final) tour due to health issues, let us wallow for a time on this Tacky Music Monday with a "classic" moment from her 70s TV show.

Bring on The Osmonds (and check out the matching outfits...)!

Cher cancels tour dates

Sunday 23 November 2014

Totty of the Day

...birthday boy Maxwell Caulfield (55 today)!

Facts about Mr Caulfield:
  • He began his stage career as an exotic dancer at London's Windmill Theatre, ostensibly in order to obtain an Equity card.
  • His acting career proper began in New York, starring in (among others) Entertaining Mr Sloane, An Inspector Calls and (famously) naked in Salonika.
  • His big break was alongside Michelle Pfeiffer in the critically slagged-off Grease 2, before hitting the big time as "Miles" in The Colbys and Dynasty.
  • More recently he made a bit of a comeback the UK, with parts in Casualty and Emmerdale, and has returned to his roots in stage musicals, currently in the touring version of Singing in the Rain.
  • He has been married to John Mills' daughter Juliet (eighteen years his senior) since 1980.

And yes, I still would.

Maxwell Caulfield (born 23rd November 1959)

Friday 21 November 2014

A new Queen of Disco

Another tiring week is dragging to its close, but we have to get ourselves into the party spirit...

In my most recent "Pick of the Pops" selection this week, I deliberately held back the newest release by a stalwart of all things gay (with a capital G) in the dance world in the last few decades, to share it with you today, dear reader.

As we gear ourselves up for the Great Release that is the weekend - let us give a warm welcome to the fantabulosa Jimmy Somerville, who has taken a step right back to the heady days of Disco with his new single Travesty!

And here, for your delectation, is an absolutely brilliant fan-made video for it (complete with skilful lip-syncs from some of that era's finest artists):

Thank Disco It's Friday!

Have a good one.

Jimmy Somerville

Thursday 20 November 2014

Culinary ideas we all should try

Read more at Dangerous Minds.

I walk in shadows, searching for light

“As I walk this land with broken dreams
I have visions of many things
But happiness is just an illusion
Filled with sadness and confusion
What becomes of the broken hearted?
I know I've got to find
Some kind of peace of mind

The roots of love grow all around
But for me they come a-tumblin' down.
Every day heartaches grow a little stronger,
I can't stand this pain much longer!
I walk in shadows,
Searching for light.
Cold and alone,
No comfort in sight.
Hoping and praying for someone who'll care,
Always moving and goin' nowhere.

What becomes of the broken hearted
Who had love that's now departed?
I know I've got to find,
Some kind of peace of mind.
Help me.”

RIP Jimmy Lee Ruffin (7th May 1936 – 17th November 2014)

Wednesday 19 November 2014

Put a peephole in my brain

I went (on my own) to the cinema last night to see the new documentary film David Bowie is, an in-depth look at the life of the great man, as outlined in the mind-blowing V&A exhibition of the same name (the fastest selling in the museum’s history, that I went to see last year) which has recently embarked on tour across the Americas, Australia and Europe.

It certainly was stunning to see, in massive close-up and un-encumbered by the immovable hordes of other visitors (as we were in May 2013), the minutiae of David's life that he and the V&A's curators had gathered together to put on stunning display - the costumes, the handwritten lyrics, the publicity material (old and new), the photography, the anecdotes and notebooks, and the legacy encapsulated by Paul Robertson's "Periodic Table of David Bowie" - the story of a life lived in a singular and extraordinary fashion.

"Dress my friends up just for show
See them as they really are
Put a peephole in my brain
Two New Pence to have a go
I'd like to be a gallery
Put you all inside my show"

It was amusing and heart-warming in turn to hear how much this one man,"David Jones from Bromley", has had such an incomparable impact on so many people, from the extravagantly-costumed exhibition visitors to artist Jeremy Deller, from Jarvis Cocker to Philip Hoare, from Paul Morley to Mr Bowie's fave designer Kansai Yamamoto - and upon the the hordes of musicians and performers who have followed in his footsteps.

The epic journey - as intensively covered here - of David's life and musical evolution is a fascinating one, of course, and vox-pops and tributes from "ordinary" people are a contributory part of any story. However, I did have a big problem with the "let's all play to an invited audience" snippets that permeated this long and lavish production.

I realise that this film is not meant to preach to the converted. It is principally intended to convince the (mainly American) public, whose ignorance of things cultural that aren't on screen is presupposed - not least the appeal of a British androgyne space-alien in their midst - to come along to the exhibition and to experience it for themselves. But to do so by placing notable and learned commentators in a setting reminiscent of The Jeremy Kyle Show or any number of US-style "judge-ye-others'-behaviour" TV programmes made my flesh crawl. A lot.

Did the eminent Professor Sir Christopher Frayling really need to be welcomed to the mosh pit stage with a chorus of "whoops" and "yelps" as if he were the next contestant on the X-Factor? It was embarrassing, and detracted needlessly from the documentary as a whole.

Thankfully, that whole is greater than the sum of its parts. So if you can't see the exhibition, see the film!

David Bowie is the exhibition is touring internationally. Confirmed venues are:
  • Museum of Contemporary Art, Chicago, USA from 23rd September 2014 - 4th January 2015
  • Philharmonie de Paris/ Cité de la Musique, Paris, France from 2nd March to 31st May 2015
  • Australian Centre for the Moving Image (ACMI), Melbourne, Australia from 16th July to 1st November 2015
  • Groninger Museum, Groningen, The Netherlands from 15th December 2015 to 15th March 2016
Further international venues to be announced.

David Bowie is the film is playing at a cinema near you somewhere in the world soon!

Tuesday 18 November 2014

Nova muzyka

"I'm terrible, Muriel."

I realise that I haven't done a little compendium of newer musical discoveries since August (when I did my three-blog catch-up). Time to make amends, methinks - with just a few slices of randomness that have caught my ear over the past three-and-a-bit months!

First up, this month saw a rather overdue return for Simple Minds - a band whose early hits (I Travel, Changeling and The American in particular) still have the power to send goosebumps down my spine. I went right off them as they got their big break and veered more into "stadium rock" and "U2-lite" pomposity, which pleased their American audience but not their fans from the 80s clubbing days. I have given them the benefit of the doubt with this new reappearance, and I must admit this single is not bad at all:

Another lot that can be described as real troopers - having been in the business for thirty years next year - and, of course, a true favourite of ours, is Erasure. And fortuitously just this week another of our fave electro bands here at Dolores Delargo Towers the fab Parallox has done a rather excellent remix of Andy and Vince's latest single Reason!

Speaking of the 80s... Here's the verrrry retro sound of Hearts On Fire (with its heavy-on-the-equal-rights video) by Aussie duo Divine Knights:

Paying tribute (to my ears anyway) to the sublime Noosha Fox, it's none other than "the voice of 2009", La Roux! For a "comeback" choice this is a rather excellent choon, too:

We always fancy a bit of Ricky Martin - no guesses which bit! - and here is the man himself, looking as sexy as ever, with his latest:

Ramping the beats per minute up a notch, another band we haven't heard from for a while is Avec Sans! Here's the duo's newest infectious dance number, the trancy All Of Time:

Courtesy (once again) of the lovely Henry (who has gone somewhat quiet of late over at Barbarella's Galaxy) - the blogger I can always rely on to sniff out music from across the interwebs, so I don't have to - here are a couple of works of wonder, starting with a Ukrainian singer cheering her nation's spirits up in the face of Russian hostility, the remarkable Yasinska:

And, to conclude - possibly one of the most infectious and downright silly dance songs of recent years! I can guarantee that before very long (if you let it), the refrain I'm an Albatraoz will be firmly embedded in your brain with little hope of release. Here's the Swedish brother and sister duo AronChupa (in the impressive surroundings of that Art Deco masterpiece The Paramount Theatre in Oakland, California):

[And for the completely insane, there is an hour-long version of that song on YouTube!]

As ever, enjoy! And feel free to comment...

STOP PRESS: I almost forgot! Courtesy of our friend Baby Steve, there's also THIS:

Mummy, I'm scared.

Monday 17 November 2014

Schlager louts

The gloom descends, as it does at the start of every week when we prepare to head back to the delightful environs of the office.

However - and words fail me at this particular discovery - here to brighten our mood somewhat on this Tacky Music Monday is quite possibly the tackiest musical number I've featured for a long time in this slot...

In the UK in 1981, we had The Human League, Ultravox, Adam & The Ants, Soft Cell, Orchestral Manoeuvres In The Dark, Visage, Depeche Mode, Spandau Ballet, Toyah and Duran Duran. In Germany, The Jacob Sisters had a hit with a revival of their - ahem - eternally popular song Adelbert:

And they revived it again in 1997, much to everyone's joy:

Among the sisters' achievements: they made a career out of parodying popular German hits in the 60s, they had a short-lived reality series on German TV, they embarked a possibly even shorter-lived attempt at shows in Las Vegas in the 70s, and they even marketed their own brand of nail polish for dogs! Unsurprisingly, their OTT camp brand of schlager cabaret was, and remains, wildly popular on the German gay scene.

In 2008 the youngest of the siblings Hannelore died. But, never fear - the three remaining sisters (and their poodles) continue to perform and appear regularly on German TV, and in 2011 Eva Jacob appeared in their version of I'm A Celebrity Get Me Out Of Here. Thank heavens.

I just love finding new camp divas!

Jacob Sisters website (in German, of course).

Sunday 16 November 2014

Oss-en-fay with sha fafa on the side

It is Sunday, it's been a hectic couple of days (drinks till 3am after Peter Tatchell's talk on Friday and a day with Mother yesterday) and I am in the mood for something a bit jazzy and laid-back...

What better than today's birthday girl - she's 50 today - Mrs Elvis Costello herself, Diana Krall with her version of a Nat King Cole novelty classic?

I don't want french fried potatoes, red ripe tomatoes
I'm never satisfied
I want the frim fram sauce
With oss-en-fay with sha fafa on the side

I don't want pork chops and bacon
That won't awaken, my appetite inside
I want the frim fram sauce
With oss-en-fay with sha fafa on the side

Well you know a girl
She really got to eat
And a girl she should eat right
Five will get you ten
I'm going to feed myself right tonight

I don't want fish cakes and rye bread
You heard what I said
Waiter please, I want mine fried
I want the frim fram sauce
With oss-en-fay with sha fafa on the side

I have always had a bit of a "love-hate" relationship with the saintly Diana, but that was just about right.

Diana Jean Krall, OC, OBC (born 16th November 1964)

Saturday 15 November 2014

All human beings everywhere

Paul, Jim and I proudly attended the annual "State of the Nation" (or in this case, "Nations") address by the formidable human rights and LGBT rights campaigner Peter Tatchell last night, on the subject Organised religion is the greatest global threat to human rights (another brilliant event hosted by the marvellous Gay & Lesbian Humanists (GALHA) at the Conway Hall).

Suffice to say, it was jaw-droppingly brilliant. No words of mine can do it justice. Thus I turn to Peter's own words to provide the gist of the almost two hour speech:
"Organised religion is the greatest global threat to human rights; especially to the human rights of women and gay people. It invariably promotes sexist and homophobic discrimination in law."

“The title of Organised Religion is a controversial claim, and you might say that free market capitalism is the greatest threat to human rights. It is debatable what is a greater threat, but I think it is organised religion that is the single greatest threat.”

"From the US and Russia to Uganda and Iran, religious fundamentalism is seeking to thwart equality and human rights. It is the cause of much sectarian violence, as we have seen in the Central African Republic, Nigeria, Pakistan, Burma, Somalia – and for many years in Northern Ireland. In Britain, our Anglican, Catholic, and Muslim leaders tried to block the right of same-sex couples to marry. Most faiths exclude women from senior leadership roles and some seek to deny them contraception, abortion and fertility treatment."

“Fundamentalists of all faiths threaten human freedom on many different levels. The Catholic Church is marginally less misogynistic and homophobic than Islamist extremists, but that’s about it.”

"Obviously, there are some people of faith, such as Archbishop Desmond Tutu, who are icons of human rights. Their humanitarian work is motivated by a good and positive religious ethos. But, for the most part, religious leaders around the world are the key orchestrators to attacks on human rights. This ranges from evangelical Christian leaders in the UK and the United States, the leader of the Russian Orthodox Church, orthodox Jewish leaders in Israel and Muslim clerics in many countries. It’s important that we support people in all faith groups, who are working for equality and human rights. It would be wrong to write off all religious people as colluding with persecution and oppression. From my own heart, I’ve been inspired by religious leaders such as Dr Martin Luther King and Archbishop Oscar Romero."

"Senior clerics are often those who are most hostile to women and gay rights. Yet only 5% of British Catholics actually support the Vatican’s opposition to contraception; 11% with the condemnation of homosexuality."

“Secularists support the separation of religion and the state. With no established state religion, there is equality for people of all faiths and none. Secularism is the best guarantor of religious freedom. It is in the interest of people of all faiths, as well as the interests of non-believers. People are entitled to their faith but they are not entitled to insist that their religious values are the law of the land.”

"All human beings everywhere have human rights and no political system or faith should be allowed to undermine them."
Powerful stuff, and not one word with which I would disagree. Here is a video of his recent lecture on the topic at the University of Exeter:

The Peter Tatchell Foundation (PTF) seeks to promote and protect the human rights of individuals, communities and nations, in the UK and internationally, in accordance with established national and international human rights law.

To join up, donate or get involved with Peter in support of this magnificent aim, visit the PTF website.

Friday 14 November 2014

Scherrie, baby

We are nearing the weekend, my dears - and it is a busy one pour moi, with the annual Peter Tatchell lecture tonight and a visit from Mother tomorrow - but, oh! what wouldn't I give sometimes for a tangerine sequinned jump-suit!

Having shamefully overlooked the 70th birthday of Freda's little sister Miss Scherrie Payne - the first "post-Diana Supreme" - earlier this month, it is time to make amends.

Here are the Supremes (Mary, Scherrie and Susaye) themselves, resplendent in said garments, with a not-quite-live version of I'm Gonna Let My Heart Do The Walking...

Thank Disco It's Friday!

Please excuse the Dick in that clip.

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Scherrie Payne interview

Thursday 13 November 2014

An audience with the Pope of Trash

It was described by the Great Man himself as "a 70 minute monologue about everything from crime, fashion, movie, glamour, mental health and sexual politics." I certainly didn't need much encouragement to book a ticket - the very last one in the very front row, I might add! - for the "Pope of Trash" John Waters' This Filthy World, Vol 2: Filthier and Dirtier one-man show at the Royal Festival Hall on Tuesday.

The evening was all he promised, and more... Witty, articulate, and famously unorthodox in his take on life and the eccentric foibles of people in general, he captivated the (full to capacity) audience for an hour and a half - barely stopping for breath.

Mr Waters is renowned for outraging critics and narrow minds alike, and he didn't disappoint. Covering such disparate topics as the Hollywood system, 'poppers parties', critical reception of his work, Justin Bieber ["Honestly, I screamed like a girl. But I want to enlist him for a special Christmas edition of 'To Catch a Predator'”], Divine crawling through pig shit, musicals based on sexploitation movies, arson, Lana del Ray, the fantasy concept of mainstream directors doing remakes of classic porn titles [How about David Lean directing I Dream of Weenie, Homo Alone, Schindler’s Fist or My Ass Is Haunted?], rioting or the effects of various illegal drugs - no subject was safe!

Inevitably, he couldn't resist taking the monologue to the filthiest level - he wants to popularise new sexual kinks [“It's 'adult babies' and 'feeders', I have trouble with."] - try Googling “sploshers” and “blossoms” to find out more! I was in fits when he proposed "The Snowman" - "Get a facial. Go outside till it freezes. Come back in covered in white 'ice' and shout 'Merry Christmas'!" Musing on how skimpy the frocks the girls wear on the catwalk are getting:
"Whatever happened to guys showing their baskets like Joe Dallesandro? I think Brad Pitt should be out there in tight pants that show off his balls.”
John Waters has always been a standard-bearer for the rights of "the outsider", gay or any other kind. However, he does challenge the trend in the gay movement towards aping "hetero-norms" (with his tongue firmly in his cheek of course):
“I think we have too many gay people now. I’m all for coming in - it’s about quality not quantity”
Recounting with pride the fact he had been excluded from most schools he attended, he said:
"If you have a kid that’s a rebel in high school, you should be happy, because they might end up in the arts. If they wind up in the arts, they did rebel somehow. They weren’t the football star or the prom queen - whose lives ended the day high school was over, basically. You should suffer a little in high school. I think that’s part of it. It makes you tougher.”
And he is a tough character and an artist - Mr Waters' back catalogue is a cornucopia of trashy delights, including Pink Flamingos, Desperate Living, Female Trouble, Polyester, Cry Baby, Serial Mom - and of course his biggest worldwide success Hairspray:
"Did I ever think I would be on stage winning the Tony award for best musical with all the creative people? No! But I’m thrilled about it. Hairspray is the gift that keeps on giving... I just want to keep on until we get to 'Hairspray on Ice'."
Here is the man himself, in an interview by some dim girl from London Live:

Of course, Mr Waters is inspired to create his work from all sources, however unlikely:
“If you read the New York Post every single day, you’d come up with a great exercise for film school - to do those stories every day, with those titles. And, the best title ever, and it’s music-related, was when Ike Turner died. It said: ‘Ike Beats Tina to Death.’”

His latest exploits - he decided to take off across America, hitch-hiking all the way - are documented in his latest tome Carsick. Some of the anecdotes he treated us to were fabulous - but of course, you'd need to read the book to get the full picture [he was signing copies after the event, but I didn't have the energy or the patience to try and get through the hordes to reach him myself]. Talking about the book (from London Live again):

This was an evening of pure unadulterated delight for me (as it was for Joe and Russ, seated in a box above me) - it was over far too soon!


Still basking in the afterglow of the evening, I can't help but think: had he seen (as I in the front row saw) the cockroach that scuttled, somewhat disdainfully, along the edge of the Royal Festival Hall stage from one side to the other during his performance, what would John Waters have done? Give it a name, perhaps? Cast it in his next movie?

Regardless, I think he would have appreciated it.

Any excuse for a clip from [2019 UPDATE - a compilation of clips from] Hairspray - do The Bug!

John Waters on Wikipedia

Wednesday 12 November 2014

Into the woods, and who can tell...what's waiting on the journey?

Another big-screen big-budget Sondheim adaptation opens at Xmas this year (after 2008's Sweeney Todd) - and its cast is quite a roll-call of beloved thesps including Johnny Depp, Meryl Streep, Christine Baranski, Frances de la Tour, Simon Russell Beale, Annette Crosbie and Tracey Ullman(!)

Into The Woods, one of Mr Sondheim's finest, most complex (and funniest) musicals, is (remarkably) a Disney production, and was primarily made in Shepperton Studios, London.

From the trailer alone, one just knew Miss Streep was born to play The Witch...

Heaven only knows how this will compare to our experience of the stage version at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre in 2010, complete with Dame Judi as The Giant and a full-scale breeze blowing the trees that complimented the atmosphere perfectly, I don't know...

...nevertheless I can't deny it - I am dying to see this one...

Into The Woods on IMDB.

Tuesday 11 November 2014

A Time Machine

In 2009, super-fan Brian McCloskey, an 80’s kid who had hung on to his copies of Smash Hits since youth, decided to rescue his collection from his parents’ attic at his childhood home in Derry, Ireland. McCloskey had the magazines shipped all the way to his home in California, tracked down copies he was missing in his collection from the magazines inception, then took on the painstaking process of scanning and uploading every page of every issue he had to his blog, Like Punk Never Happened. McCloskey’s collection of Smash Hits represents every issue of the magazine from 1979 to 1985.

As he says of his collection, in a recent article on Dangerous Minds:
"Smash Hits took music very seriously, but they didn’t take musicians seriously. A very sensible distinction. I think that people have either forgotten or didn’t realize to begin with that Smash Hits was quite a serious magazine. During their peak years they would receive thousands of letters - handwritten letters! You could read great interviews with real artist like Paul Weller or Ian Dury. After the magazine’s redesign at the end of 1981, the snark really took over. I’m glad that the my archive has reminded, or opened people’s minds to the early days of Smash Hits."
A good enough excuse, methinks, for another "timeslip moment"...

From the UK charts of thirty years ago this week, here's one of the stalwarts of Smash Hits in the 1980s, the gorgeous Limahl and his theme from the movie Never Ending Story:

Given in the lines, written on the pages
Is the answer to a never ending story.


Visit Like Punk Never Happened - Brian McCloskey's Smash Hits archive

Limahl official website

Monday 10 November 2014

Let's give 'em the old pazzaz

Oh, dammit. Another weekend has flown by - fireworks for the Lord Mayor's Parade on Saturday followed by late drinkies, a Sunday at home with Radio 2, and poof! It's time to go back to work.

To help wake us all up in the most fantabulosa way possible, on this Tacky Music Monday here's the truly amazing Miss Kay Thompson (who was born 105 years ago yesterday) and her equally natty dance partner Mr Fred Astaire in their "beatnik" number from Funny Face:

Clap Yo' Hands?

I think we all should after that...

Kay Thompson (born Catherine Louise Fink, 9th November 1909 – 2nd July 1998)

Sunday 9 November 2014

And the world will be better for this

Today is Remembrance Sunday, in the centenary year of the outbreak of The Great War. It is also a quarter of a century since another world-changing event: the fall of the Berlin Wall.

And here's today's birthday boy, the awe-inspiring Bryn Terfel, to sing a rather apposite number for today:

To dream the impossible dream
To fight the unbeatable foe
To bear with unbearable sorrow
To run where the brave dare not go

To right the unrightable wrong
To love pure and chaste from afar
To try when your arms are too weary
To reach the unreachable star

This is my quest
To follow that star
No matter how hopeless
No matter how far

To fight for the right
Without question or pause
To be willing to march into Hell
For a heavenly cause

And I know if I'll only be true
To this glorious quest
That my heart will lie peaceful and calm
When I'm laid to my rest

And the world will be better for this
That one man, scorned and covered with scars
Still strove with his last ounce of courage
To reach the unreachable star

Bryn Terfel Jones CBE (born 9th November 1965)

Lest we forget: read more about "the moat of poppies" at the Tower of London on my other half Madam Arcati's blog Random Jottings.

Saturday 8 November 2014

Totty du jour

The ultimate Gallic sex god - and avowed favourite here at Dolores Delargo Towers - Alain Delon is 79 years young today! To celebrate, here's a rare clip of the man singing...

With fireworks, as well!

J'aime M. Delon...

Bon anniversaire, mon cher.

Alain Fabien Maurice Marcel Delon (born 8th November 1935)

More Alain Delon here and here.

Even more Alain Delon, courtesy of my other half Madam Arcarti's Random Jottings blog.