Saturday 28 February 2015

Really old frocks, rocks and cocks

It was all about frocks, dear! Certainly, the superb LGBT History Month Objects of Desire event, in London's best "hidden treasure" the fabled Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology, on Thursday began and ended with a pair of the most miraculously preserved examples of ancient Egyptian garments - with, of course, many more fascinating objects (and speakers) in between...

The concept of the evening, genially hosted as ever by that expert in all things LGBT-history-related Egyptologist John J Johnston, is that a series of individuals whose area of expertise is not Ancient Egypt are invited to select an item from the museum's vast collection and to have a chat about why their chosen artefact attracted them. It's a great formula for discussion - as we found when we attended a similar event there two years ago. And so it was that Hils, the History Boy, Jim and I went along with much anticipation. We weren't disappointed.

First up was Geoff Slack, film and television costume designer, to talk about the above beautiful Fifth Dynasty bead net dress. Knowing a thing or two about how clothing is constructed, he agreed that the conservators of the dress had probably accurately captured the way it would have been when it was originally worn (found as it was as just a pile of beads, the threads rotted away long since its burial) - and, as Mr Johnston's slide helpfully pointed out, if worn with minimal undergarments was not too dissimilar to the type of outrageous costume worn today by the likes of Cher or Katy Perry.

The discussion then steered into how other costume designs - notably some of those worn by Elizabeth Taylor in her epic Cleopatra - were wildly inaccurate and rather reflected the era in which they were made than the way clothes were worn in Dynastic Egypt. Artistic licence vs historical accuracy; a common phenomenon, even today.

Moving swiftly on, Professor Sharon Morris - senior lecturer at Slade School of Art and poet - came on to talk about a lovely papyrus fragment of the Book of the Dead of Nes-Ptah, notable in its own way for its obvious portrayal of powerful women enjoying the fruits of their privilege at the top of Egyptian society. Fascinated as she is in the relation between words and images, Prof Morris talked about the way women writers have often featured analogies of the glittering times of old Egypt to act as a juxtaposition for the state of society today. Her own favourite modern poet, Hilda Doolittle (known as "HD") often incorporated Egyptian themes in her abstract verse, as some passages she read illustrated.

Egyptian classical history is full of homoerotic art, but it wasn't until the Romans took over that more "realistic" funerary portraits such as the above image of a "young man from Hawara", described by founder Flinders Petrie as "the Red Youth", became commonplace. Our next guest Mark O'Connell (shortlisted for the Polari First Book Award 2013 for his book Catching Bullets: Memoirs of a Bond Fan) is fascinated by them, and the discussion ventured a few theories about why quite so many appear to our eyes as apparently gay, beautiful young men - were they revered athlete pin-ups (a la David Beckham?) or genuine portraits of departed male partners?.

Nice to look at, whatever.

Dr Nathaniel Coleman, UCL lecturer in Philosophy of Race, came next - to talk about the controversial collection of terracotta heads from Memphis, identified by Petrie as "foreigners". Dr Coleman is strongly of the opinion that the collection, the way the items were catalogued and presented, was evidence of Petrie's own predilection for eugenics, and that they even have their modern equivalents in racial stereotyping (such as on gay dating sites). This, needless to say, generated a slightly heated debate with members of the audience, whose interpretations were at variance with Dr Coleman's.

Hamish Steele - animator and graphic novelist, author of Pantheon: The True Story of the Egyptian Deities - chose to talk about the most famous gay artefact of all in the Petrie archive, a papyrus fragment that tells a particularly smutty story from the Tale of Horus and Seth. That saga in itself might well be the sort of thing a superhero comic/film might tackle - the everlasting battle between vengeful uncle and son, taking on the guise and form of various mythical animals as they thrash out their differences (and thrash each other). However, it would seem that not all the "thrashing" was necessarily so violent - the passage this particular papyrus reveals is one of a sexual liaison between the two, and one of the oldest (and corniest) chat-up lines ever: ‘How lovely are your buttocks! And how muscular your thighs…’

Unsurprisingly, this almost 2000-year-old equivalent of Grindr was chosen by one of the participants at the previous event in 2013. However, this was the first time the papyrus was actually on display - and it was fascinating to see it.

Finally, saving the "surprise reveal" till last, we were greeted by the arrival of a real Ancient Egyptian! Well, almost. Rob Eagle - visual anthropologist and documentary film-maker - is also a dressing-up fan, and decided to come appropriately garbed for the occasion, to talk about another frock - a First Dynasty linen dress (known, internationally, as 'the Tarkhan dress'). By far the oldest piece of intact clothing in the collection (and indeed, one of the oldest on display in the world), its conservation and how it might have been worn drew the discussion into a fab analogy with modern attitudes to "men in skirts", and how these have changed over the millennia.

With that final flourish, a most absorbing and stimulating evening drew to a close. Sheer magic...

The Petrie Museum of Egyptian Archaeology never fails to astonish and entertain - and in the next few months alone, there are showings of Carry on Cleo and The Spy Who Loved Me (with its fabled battle between Jaws and Bond in Karnak Temple) to look forward to!

Friday 27 February 2015

Tell me why is it so?

It's almost the finale to another (rather odd) week, dear reader - a week of awards ceremonies, Gays supporting Miners, Polari and Ancient Egypt (more to come on those LGBT History Month events in due course when I have a moment to myself, no doubt), and also a week when Google turned nasty with its outrageous "crack-down on adults".

The last bombshell has hit my favourite blog community hard. Anyone who has ever posted a nipple or a pair of bollocks is now threatened with "lock-down" (I wait and see if anything I've ever included will fail The Test), several have already made the switch to the unfamiliar world of Wordpress, and some are threatening to close down operations altogether in response to the announcement.

So it's with mixed feelings that I post this jolly number by the much-anticipated headliner for tomorrow's "Gala Parlour" end-of-History-Month Ball, Mr Jimmy Somerville (here with the Communards) - and Thank Disco It's Friday!

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

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


Thursday 26 February 2015

A late birth, Lesbians go wild in the country, Boniface, a legendary nightspot and hipsters dressed as gay lumberjacks

My first Polari of 2015 was on Monday - and it was a special one, as promised by our delightful host Paul Burston (nursing a cold), for LGBT History Month. As always, we had a great time...

First up was Mansel Stimpson, eminent film critic, co-author of Film Review, and reviewer and interviewer for What's On In London for almost 20 years. He wrote his observational "coming-out" memoir No Drum to Beat thirty years ago, yet it was only published in 2014 - and, from the extracts he read for us, sounds a fascinating step-by-step account of how the truth dawns eventually, no matter how late in life. It opens with what surely must be one of the most intriguing first lines of the lot: "I was born in Edinburgh in 1978 at the age of forty." own assertion that everything was "fine" surely carried an unintentionally sanctimonious air; besides, it was essentially false... Possibly encouraged by the fact that my companion was a friend but not a close friend, I turned the conversation to my own life and admitted the loneliness I felt as a forty-year-old virgin who had for so long assumed wrongly that the right girl would turn up one day. "In fact," I added, "I'm beginning to wonder if it's possible that I'm gay."

Having always been true to myself, there was no question of suddenly seeing myself as a different person, no release of any hidden effeminacy. What was being shaken was not my character or my appearance but the myth of the gay stereotype.
We've all been there. Mr Stimpson evidently never looked back from that momentous moment: he became actively involved with the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (CHE), has written for Gay Times and, most happily, he is still with the partner he met 24 years ago.

Clare Lydon's story The Long Weekend had little to do with "coming-out" - her protagonists, a group of old friends all heading to the West Country for their first reunion in ten years, are all, in varying degrees, secure in their sexuality. However, the emotional entanglements and what (it is implied) may be about to happen when lies, deceptions and old passions start bubbling to the surface, could certainly make this a weekend to remember. A soap opera in the making, methinks. Speaking of (watching) soaps, here's a "day in the life" of Miss Lydon herself:

Completing the triptych of authors in the first half was the ever-charming Diriye Osman (winner of The Polari First Book Prize 2014), who read for us from his familiar and charming stories Watering the Flowers, and, of course, Shoga:
‘Is it not true? And furthermore, this business of me braiding your hair has to stop! You’re a boy not a lady-boy!’

‘You know you love me,’ I smiled, ‘besides, what’s wrong with being a lady-boy? It’s a good look.’

She pulled my hair and said, ‘Waryaa, if you grow up to be gay, walaahi I will do saar.’

‘Saar’ was a brand of Somali exorcism. The ‘possessed’ – which was code for the mentally unstable – were put through their paces. Healers would beat drums to release spirits from the possessed, who would shimmy and shake, and if they got too frisky, would face the kind of beat-down usually reserved for criminals. Such superstition has always been rife in the bush and my gran, a country gal through and through, knew its effectiveness at deterring unacceptable behaviour.

I smiled now as she flexed my follicles. My grandmother did not know that I was gay and that I’ve always loved being gay. Sure, Kenya was not exactly queer nation but my sexuality gave me joy. I was young, not so dumb and full of cum! There was no place for me in heaven but I was content munching devil’s pie here on earth.

I was seventeen and I specialized in two things: weed and sex. And there was only one person in my neighbourhood who served both those dishes on a steaming plate for me.

I loved the way Mr Osman read this, licking his lips...

After a swift break for a fag and a trip to the bar, Mr B leapt back on stage to introduce a writer who has meticulously captured the lost history of a very special gay venue indeed - the famous (notorious) London lesbian club "Gateways" [most famously featured as the backdrop for the groundbreaking film The Killing of Sister George, starring Beryl Reid, Susannah York and Coral Browne.].

The fabulously flamboyant Jill Gardiner (for it is she) has collated in her book From the Closet to the Screen: Women at the Gateways 1945-1985 more than 80 fascinating first-hand accounts from lesbians back in the 40s, 50s and 60s, on how they perceived themselves and were perceived by others, the fears and the joys and, of course, the sheer thrill of discovering the club "behind the Green Door" and the fact that there were many other women just like themselves after all...
"When I went to the Gateways [in 1944], the atmosphere was fantastic. For a start we had women from overseas coming in, because they were stationed here, so you had all sorts of different people. Very interesting, very crowded, very packed. You got sightseers, of course, coming to look at all these people. People danced, especially during that war period when they were extra-enjoying themselves". - Pat

“The old diehard crowd with the Brylcream saw us as an invasion. Their femmes had perms and clip on mumsy earrings, summer dresses and court shoes. They’d say ‘What are you ? Are you butch or femme ?’” - "Brighton Sue"
Each and every one of them was enthralling, and Ms Gardiner's tireless work in gathering and collating them is an valuable contribution to LGBT History Month, and to all our histories. Fabulous.

[Her reading has inspired me to feature the Gateways Club as our latest "exhibit" in the Dolores Delargo Towers Museum of Camp - read it here.]

Our headliner Christopher Fowler is always a highlight for me, whatever he chooses to speak about. His daily blog about life, London, culture and everything, is a constant joy to read, and I do. Avidly. For our delectation on Monday, he chose to address a topic very close to his (and our) hearts - what advice can we give to inspire a new, younger generation of gay writers? Here's an extract of his well thought-out advice:
The best way to write about any place or group of people is to see it from outside. Colin Wilson was 24 and living on Hampstead Heath when he wrote The Outsider in 1956. At exactly the same time Colin MacInnes was writing Absolute Beginners, taking as his subjects urban squalor, racial tension, homosexuality, drugs, anarchy, and the new decadence. Oddly enough, Noel Coward was also 24 when he wrote The Vortex, about nymphomania and drug addiction. He became London’s bad boy, upsetting the old order by being interviewed in his dressing gown and smoking what people wrongly took to be opium.

So you’d think that now, 24 year-old writers would have even more to say, wouldn’t you? Especially gay London writers.

Try Googling ‘gay London writers’. What comes up first is a group called ‘Gay London Writers’. They were formed in 1993 and stopped meeting in 2009. After that there’s a mention of the Polari literary nights, and then the Samaritans helpline. We’ve been so assimilated into the mainstream that even search engines can’t find us. We got what we wanted. Our desires were legislated, our marches turned into parties, our private places became public, our secrets became national conversation, our style was adopted by all. Last week I went into a straight bar in Islington and found myself surrounded by hipsters dressed as gay lumberjacks in checked shirts and beards. It looked like 1983 was back. The gay people had been given a number and told to go sit with everyone else. Job done.

Except that writers are still outsiders. I watch TV commercials and see housewives still discussing toilet cleaners. That world, there, with the 2.4 children and trips to Centerparcs is the alien outside world to me. It’s like watching Martians or Top Gear. Gay people can get married now. I got married. We can be sold stuff like anyone else. We’re not pariahs, we’re a socio-economic demographic. So we stopped writing about being different even though we may think differently. For gay writers London is now about inclusion, not exclusion, acceptance, not exception. So what can we write about? Well, this is where it gets interesting.

First, there’s history. Recently there was a film called Pride. I was at the Bell pub for the miners’ fundraiser, and on some of the marches, and I thought the film was incredibly accurate, but it failed at the box office. A young woman called Elise Nakhnikian writing for the hipster American magazine Slant had this to say; "It’s depressingly ordinary dreck. A Disney movie bloated with swelling music, healing hugs and hearty handshakes, suspiciously eloquent speeches, and bigotry smacked down by smug liberal pieties." Presumably Elise wasn’t old enough to be there and didn’t realise its importance, and she certainly doesn’t understand Londoners.

Pride was about gay history, even if its subject matter was censored on US posters. In the same way, a play called The Boys In The Band by Mart Crowley opened in 1968 off-Broadway and ran for over 1,000 performances. Before this no-one had ever written a play with only gay characters. It was described as a landmark piece about acceptance and self-denial, and proved groundbreaking. But as the seventies progressed it was vilified for its self-loathing attitude, particularly as it contained lines like "Show me a happy homosexual and I’ll show you a gay corpse". The world moved on and sexual variety became just another element of urbanization. The play’s bitchy partygoers caught in the pre-liberation closet no longer reflected our lives, and the dialogue eventually wound up in an episode of The Simpsons.

Let’s skip to the 1970s. In the film version of Joe Orton’s play Loot, Hal and his lover Dennis have sex with a traffic warden in the back of a hearse in order to avoid a parking ticket. The satisfied warden says "I’ve a son your age. I’ll bring him around next time for a foursome." The scene tramples so many taboos in the space of 20 seconds it’s a wonder the film wasn’t banned, but nobody turned a hair. The line wasn’t added by Joe Orton but by Galton & Simpson, who wrote Steptoe & Son. That was a real moment of change, and it passed unheralded.

To me, it’s not the portrayal of explicit sex that’s edgy, it’s the expression of outsider thinking. Are there still unusual, original thinkers? I suspect that the peer pressure of social networks is levelling us out a bit. Originality develops in isolation. You can’t be too strange when you’re telling everyone what you’re doing all the time. Perhaps it’s just a blip. After all, Facebook, that mirror of our vanities, is already eleven years old. How do we get originality back? How can we write about our city?
Brilliant, as always. We were enthralled.

And with his wit and wisdom still ringing in our ears, it was over, and we were off into the very city that we and Mr Fowler love so dearly. For late drinkies, of course.

Next month's Polari (on 30th March) will be, by all accounts, the biggest event in the entire history of "London's peerless gay literary salon" - for our headline reader is none other than worldwide lesbian bestseller Sarah Waters! Also on the bill are the faboo David McAlmont, Eric Karl Anderson, Jan Pimblett and Stevan Alcock. This should be a corker...

Polari official website

I get up again, over and over

Poor Madge - I wonder whether GaGa was in the background in that dressing room?

I get up again, over and over
I get up again, over and over
I get up again, over and over
I get up again, over and over

Indeed she does.

Madonna falls off stage at The Brits.

According to all sources, her triumphal recovery and performance was still the best thing about the whole ceremony...

Wednesday 25 February 2015

Pits and Perverts

"We knew gay people existed – my dad worked with a miner who was gay – but nobody openly talked about it; it was considered very personal. There was an uncertainty about how these people would be different and whether we would have to modify our behaviour. Would they expect us to talk about things, ask them questions? And they were bloody vegetarians! This fazed us far more." (Siân James: miner's wife, now Labour MP)

To my eternal shame, I have yet to see the film Pride [although I hope to redress this heinous omission during the forthcoming London Lesbian and Gay Film Festival in March]. Of course, I knew the story [I came out in 1984 in the middle of the strike, and my first Gay Pride was in 1985 - Divine-on-Thames, and all], and I was overjoyed that a mainstream film starring luminaries such as Bill Nighy, Imelda Staunton and Dominic West, had been made and was met with such huge acclaim (not at the Oscars, inevitably) - nominations for Best Film at the London Film Critics Circle, the BAFTAs and the Golden Globes, winner at the British Independent Film Awards, and awards at the Cannes, Flanders and Leiden film festivals. By all accounts, it is joyful.

Of the real story - well, there was nothing particularly "celebratory" about the 1984-5 Miners' Strike. It proved massively divisive and caused bloodshed and mayhem up and down the country - mineworkers vs police, mineworker against mineworker in some cases. So, to find that of all the fundraising efforts from traditionally militant minority groups in Britain at the time, the one that raised the greatest amount of money for Welsh miners' families (whose union welfare fund had been frozen by the government during the strike) was a rag-tag bunch of gay men and lesbians from London, of all places, must have come as a shock to all concerned.

Three decades on from that momentous tale, and as part of Camden and Islington LGBT History Month 2015, we were ecstatic that one of the founder-members of that original "rag-tag" group, Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners (LGSM), Mike Jackson was to speak about his memories of that era (at Central Station pub near King's Cross - where he is a regular) last Sunday. I was very pleased to find that time has not eroded his passion...

As he said in an interview in Pink News: "We are so thrilled that [the film] has happened because there was a great danger that the story would be lost to history forever. I mean OK, yes, I did keep an archive of everything that we did but it’s a chicken and egg argument – it’s no good having a historical archive gallery in a museum if nobody actually knows about the history in the first place."

Along with the politics and how it felt to be part of a ground-breaking "meld" of what at the time probably could not have been two more diametrically opposite causes (gay rights and those of striking workers in Britain's dying industrial heartlands), he gave us an insight into some of the fun times they all had (that form a major part of the film's story, no doubt) - such as how on their very first visit to the village of Dulais near Swansea, the group's minibuses got lost in the valleys and didn't get there till one in the morning, long after the "reception committee" had packed up and gone to bed. Twenty-seven assorted gays and lesbians (in the film it is a dozen) slept on the floor in one of the miners' houses.

Then there were tales about the hugely well-attended "Pits and Perverts" gala concert with Jimmy Somerville, Mike's secret crush on the group's founder (who sadly died of AIDS-related pneumonia not long after the strike ended) Mark Ashton, his long-time friend and co-founder the eternally camp Jonathan Blake in his home-made faux-furs and flamboyant trousers raising money basically by leaping on people, and about many others who were sadly left out of the film (for logistical reasons - the cast would have been too huge). Of the film's variance from their real experiences, he was benign.

In real life, he did not ring to offer the Welsh miners LGSM's support as he does in the film – he wrote them a letter. "I thought - God, I'd love to be a fly on the wall when they open it." Nor was there much in the way of homophobia on the group's first meeting with the miners:

"It would be dishonest to say there was no dissent. Years later, we found out there had been a meeting following my letter explaining a bunch of queers wanted to support them. It had led to a very heated discussion. But the consensus was: we have been demonised by the press, maybe we should meet the gay people because they've also been demonised. Those who had a problem with it were told to stay away. So we never encountered any hostility."

"They started wearing gay badges on their lapels. They wanted money because they were on strike; we wanted recognition and acceptance – not that we went with any preconditions, we did not expect anything back."
However, the miners were the "headline act" who led the Gay Pride march in London the very next year alongside Mike and the LGSM crew - and, by all accounts, they will be doing so again at this year's march to mark the thirtieth anniversary...

This was a fascinating and intriguing evening, and made me just want to see the film even more. Here, however, is a real treat from the archives - the home-made mini-documentary made at the time of the strike and of LGSM:

Read more interviews with the real people behind the story of Pride in The Guardian

Oh, yes! And guess who's performing at the closing Gala Ball for this year's Camden and Islington LGBT History Month? Only the aforementioned Jimmy Somerville, that's who!

Can't wait...

Tuesday 24 February 2015

Who decides?

I am aghast at the latest censorship moves from the gnomes of Google:
"Starting March 23, 2015, you won't be able to publicly share images and video that are sexually explicit or show graphic nudity on Blogger.

Note: We’ll still allow nudity if the content offers a substantial public benefit, for example in artistic, educational, documentary, or scientific contexts.

Changes you’ll see to your existing blogs

If your existing blog doesn’t have any sexually explicit or graphic nude images or video on it, you won’t notice any changes.

If your existing blog does have sexually explicit or graphic nude images or video, your blog will be made private after March 23, 2015. No content will be deleted, but private content can only be seen by the owner or admins of the blog and the people who the owner has shared the blog with.

Settings you can update for existing blogs

If your blog was created before March 23, 2015, and contains content that violates our new policy, you have a few options for changing your blog before the new policy starts:

- Remove sexually explicit or graphic nude images or video from your blog
- Mark your blog as private

If you’d rather take your blog down altogether, you can export your blog as a .xml file or archive your blog's text and images using Google Takeout.

Effect on new blogs

For any blogs created after March 23, 2015, we may remove the blog or take other action if it includes content that is sexually explicit or shows graphic nudity as explained in our content policy."
So, for all you "grown-ups" out there, Blogger has overnight forbidden you to be "grown up".

I despair at what is happening in this world. As does Amanda Palmer - in her magnificent retort to the reprehensible Daily Mail coverage of her left breast:

Say no to censorship!

Monday 23 February 2015

Be a movie star on your own

As the world's media goes loopy over the winners and losers of the "no surprises" Oscars that were announced last night [I didn't watch it so really cannot comment on the ceremony], I am in the mood for something really OTT and glitzy to wake me up as I head back to the definitively non-showbiz world of the office...

Who better to provide it, on this Tacky Music Monday, than the unstoppable Peter Allen and the Rockettes?!

Have a good week, dear reader!

Sunday 22 February 2015

Hang together

Heavens. The lovely Louise Lopez, one of the two sisters who formed one of my favourite Soul bands of all time, Odyssey, is 82 years old today!

I feel ancient.

Never mind, we can rely on them to provide a bit of class on this depressingly wet and miserable Sunday. Here is one of Odyssey's lesser-known hits - Hang Together:

The world is full
Of hurrying people,
Tryin' to take us somewhere.

The world is full
Of worrying people
Say we ain't got a prayer.

Hold on to me
Don't let me go...
We gotta hang together.


Odyssey on Wikipedia

Saturday 21 February 2015

Dish of the day

Boneless pork rectums.

Yum yum.

Friday 20 February 2015

Mind Made Up

Thank heavens! It's almost finished.

My first week back in work after the holiday has been, to put it mildly, excruciating. However, it'll all be over bar the screaming in a few hours - and that means it's party time again!

Here to help us along is the most bizarre oddity from forty years ago (and I am not even going to begin to suggest anyone attempts to dress like this) - a group calling themselves Instant Funk, with outfits that look like a combination of the worst excesses of heavy rock combined with bell-bottoms made out of pedestal mats from someone's Gran's house, performing in front of an audience of weirdos who seem to have absolutely no connection to the music whatsoever. The performers don't even notice!

No drugs involved there, then.

Thank Disco It's Friday!

Thursday 19 February 2015

New Year, roses and ramming

Kung Hei Fat Choy!

It’s not just any old “Year of the Ram”, you know – it’s the Year of the Green Wooden Ram. And the Sheep. And the Goat as well. Whew! These things get complicated…

Far simpler to understand is why we at Dolores Delargo Towers adore this song (also a favourite of Paul O’Grady, as featured regularly on his show on BBC Radio 2).

Here, for your delectation dear reader, is the lovely Yao Lee and a song better known by its English translation as Rose, Rose, I Love You.

All together, now!

Rose, Rose, I Love You on Wikipedia.

Chinese New Year explained.

Wednesday 18 February 2015

Give me your life

I think another "timeslip moment" is upon us - in particular as we have been listening to quite a bit of "old school" House music here at Dolores Delargo Towers since getting in from work...

Let's take a trip (and it is a trip) back twenty years again to celebrate another delirious new UK chart entry for a superb dance number (in a year that saw some of the very best choons of their genre).

It's "back to the baggies" with Alex Party and the marvellous Don't Give Me Your Life!

Alex Party on Wikipedia


In case anyone's wondering (or should I say, "Is anybody actually reading this?"), that is indeed the lovely Jake Canuso aka Mateo from Benidorm shaking his tush in the video...

Tuesday 17 February 2015

We didn't own her

"I think the record industry, by and large what's left of it, is still totally homophobic. I think it's much less so in the film industry now, but the record industry, it's always been a man's world."

"I didn't disappear; I started writing songs and worked behind the scenes."

"I just kind of lived my life naturally and did what I wanted to do."

"I think that in many ways, gays are behind women and behind blacks, as far as rights go. But I always say, if you know one of us, it's hard to hate us."

Lesley Gore, archetypal 60s "girl singer" and latterly an out-and-proud lady lesbian and campaigner, has died. She really cornered the market in "teen-angst" songs in her day - not least the marvellous You Don't Own Me. At least now we know what she was really singing about. It wasn't boys...

RIP Lesley Sue Gore (née Goldstein, 2nd May 1946 – 16th February 2015)

Monday 16 February 2015

It's only words...

"Portmanteaus are generally obnoxious. Putting two words together to create a new word is not a unique, creative skill. It's lazy kitsch."
I stumbled across a most excellent article today - Top 10 Words That Need To Die, Immediately by Rob Hart, writing for a site called LitReactor. In it, he berates the rubbish words that litter conversations and so-called journalism these days.

In Rob's list, he includes several bugbears of mine that have driven me to apoplexy in recent years, including such loathsome constructs as "bromance", "foodie" and "irregardless", as well as social-media-crap words like "fail", "nom", "totes" and "LOL".

Rob's readers came up with some that are equally deserving of scorn, such as "chillax", "troll", "diss", "OMG", "factoid", "on trend", "impactful" and "amazeballs" and the over-use or misuse of "literally", "weird", "random" and "awesome". One comment in particular made me chuckle: "unless your drunken night involved a sword, it was not 'epic'."

I could add many bêtes noires of my own to the list, not least the "management-speak" evils of "hub", "guesstimate", "integrated", "leveraging" and "synergy", or such inept "street" words/phrases as "my bad", "no problemo" or "twerk". I would implement an immediate ban on the word "like" when used as a "filler" word, or in place of "said" ("And she was, like, 'Don't diss me', like."). [The late, great Christopher Hitchens agreed.]

Like the author, I too despise lazy portmanteau words - particular irritants I have come across include "staycation", "advertorial", "prequel" (and, even worse, just yesterday I audibly gasped when I read an article in which the term "spinquel" was used; how horrible!), "frenemy", "docudrama" and "webinar". I particularly hate references to celebrities and celebrity couples as an amalgam of names ("Brangelina" and "R-Patz" are vile examples).

And all this was prompted by... Today's newspaper headlines (even in the normally stuffy Telegraph!) referring to something called "Grexit", yet another lazy way of talking about Greece's proposed exit from the European Monetary Union. I despair.

I know that bloggers (a word that is itself a "portmanteau") are a pernickety bunch.

So what words, dear reader, really get up your nose?

Au revoir, mon cher

Another great star has twinkled for the last time.

Adieu Louis Jourdan, who died on the weekend. One of the most beautiful men ever to grace the screen, in his movies he seduced many a leading lady including Brigitte Bardot, Joan Fontaine, Grace Kelly and Leslie Caron, yet in real life he remained married to Berthe from 1946 until her death last year. Here he is exercising his charms on Ann Margret, with a Paris Lullaby...

RIP Louis Robert Gendre aka Louis Jourdan (19th June 1921 - 14th February 2015)

9 to 5

Oh, good grief. I am up at an unearthly hour to go back to work! After an extremely pleasant fortnight off (a week in the sunshine of Spain and a week off just pottering around at home), this is going to be horrid.

Never mind, to help us ease ourselves back into that vile reality called "work", on this Tacky Music Monday I have found a most wonderful addition to our canon of outrageous showbiz-iness - how about the Misses Sister Sledge (no less) doing Cher, Dolly, Miss Ross and Miss Holiday?

I think we deserve it!

Have a great week, darlings. I doubt I will.

Saturday 14 February 2015

You won't see me with a bunch of roses, promising fidelity

Today is "St Hallmark's Day": the only day in the year when grown men are seen buying anything in pink, covered with hearts and teddy-bears, and the shit poetry and laquer-sprayed-flower industries rub their hands with glee.

In my usual cynical manner, here's a contribution - courtesy of the Pet Shop Boys:

I've been taking my time for a long time
Putting my feet up a lot
Speaking English as a foreign language
any words that I haven't forgot
I've been thinking how I can't be bothered
to wash the dishes or remake the bed
What's the point when I could doss instead?

I've been hanging out with various riff-raff
somewhere on the Goldhawk Road
I don't think it's gonna be much longer
'til I'm mugging up on the penal code
Love is a bourgeois construct
so I've given up on the bourgeoisie
Like all their aspirations, it's a fantasy

When you walked out you did me a favour
you made me see reality
that love is a bourgeois construct
It's a blatant fallacy
You won't see me with a bunch of roses
promising fidelity
Love doesn't mean a thing to me

Talking tough and feeling bitter
but better now it's clear to me
that love is a bourgeois construct
so I've given up the bourgeoisie

While the bankers all get their bonuses
I'll just get along with what I've got
Watching the weeds in the garden
Putting my feet up a lot
I'll explore the outer limits of boredom
moaning periodically
Just a full-time, lonely layabout
that's me

When you walked out you did me a favour
It's absolutely clear to me
that love is a bourgeois construct
just like they said at university
I'll be taking my time for a long time
with all the Schadenfreude it's cost
calculating what you've lost

Now I'm digging through my student paperbacks
Flicking through Karl Marx again
Searching for the soul of England
Drinking tea like Tony Benn
Love is just a bourgeois construct
so I'm giving up the bourgeoisie
until you come back to me

Talking tough and feeling bitter
but better now it's clear to me
that love is a bourgeois construct
so I've given up the bourgeoisie


Friday 13 February 2015

Devenir gris

And so farewell, a pioneer, an icon, a muse. The end of an era, indeed.

Steve Strange of Visage, RIP. There's only one song I could play, really. Here's Fade to Grey:

Devenir gris, Devenir gris

One man on a lonely platform
One case sitting by his side
Two eyes staring cold and silent
Shows fear as he turns to hide

Ah, we fade to grey, fade to grey
Ah, we fade to grey, fade to grey

Un homme dans une gare desolee
Une valise a ses cotes
Deux yeux fixes et froids
Montrent de la peur lorsqu'il
Se tourne pour se cacher

Ah, we fade to grey, fade to grey
Ah, we fade to grey, fade to grey

Sens la pluie comme un ete anglais
Comme les notes d'une chanson lointaine
Sortant de derriere d'un poster esperant
Que la vie ne fut si longue

Ah, we fade to grey, fade to grey
Ah, we fade to grey, fade to grey

Feel the rain like an English summer
Hear the notes from a distant song
Stepping out from a backdrop poster
Wishing life wouldn't be so dull
Devenir gris

Ah, we fade to grey, fade to grey
Ah, we fade to grey, fade to grey
Ah, we fade to grey
Devenir gris
Ah, we fade to grey, fade to grey
Devenir gris

Ah, we fade to grey, fade to grey
Ah, we fade to grey
Devenir gris
Ah, we fade to grey, fade to grey
Ah, we fade to grey

See my tribute to Mr Strange over at The Museum of Camp.


Oo-er. It's Friday 13th! Ah, who gives a hoot about all that superstition crap when it's a weekend looming anyhow?

Let's get on with our traditional way to celebrate the end of a week...

Although it is true that we really didn't discover any new music while we were in Spain, there was one venue [a Dutch bar called Chessa] that played "our kind of music" as its soundtrack - Dame Shirley, Dalida, Baccara, Raffaella Carra and all.

And it is thanks to the lovely Peter, hostess of that very hostelry, that a mystery was solved going back to our last Amsterdam trip! We had heard a certain song sung by a drag queen during that weekend - a song that I had ringing in my ears for months, yet was unable to name (we referred to it as "Zippy-Doo"); so it was impossible to locate via the interwebs. It had been driving me wild ever since until I heard it again in La Nogilera.

And, here, as we get into the party spirit for the looming weekend, it is - Marianne Rosenberg and Ich bin wie du. Enjoy!

Thank Disco It's Friday!

Have a good one folks...

Thursday 12 February 2015

Once in a Lifetime, indeed

David Byrne, the award-winning musician known for his eclectic collaborations and as co-founder of Talking Heads, will curate the 22nd Meltdown Festival at London's Southbank Centre this August - following in the wake of such luminaries as Jarvis Cocker, Patti Smith, David Bowie, Yoko Ono, Ray Davies and Antony Hegarty.

As well as being the creative force behind Talking Heads, Mr Byrne has forged a hugely successful solo career, collaborating with a range of artists that include Brian Eno, Morcheeba, Fatboy Slim, Paul Simon, Thievery Corporation, Arcade Fire and Anna Calvi.

Of the appointment, he said:
"This is going to be exciting! I plan to invite performers I've seen - and I do get out - and others I've missed or have dreamed of seeing. It's going to be a bit of fun puzzle solving I imagine - seeing who's interested, who is available and what venues at Southbank Centre are appropriate. I really hope to find things that take this beyond sit-down concerts as well - but of course I'm speaking way too early as I'm still working on my wish list."

It is far too soon to predict who might be on the bill but, as always, we have high hopes.

And, just because... Here's my favourite Talking Heads track, for your delectation:

The Meltdown Festival is at the Southbank Centre from Monday 17th August to Friday 28th August 2015.

And the sun beats down on me

Timeslip moment again...

Today, we're taking the TARDIS back to this week twenty years ago (heavens!), and an anthemic dance choon that just about every right-thinking person in the UK was hoping would knock the godawful Slimy Dion "Think Twice" off the top of the charts (it unfortunately never did).

I adored this back in 1995! It's N-Trance and Set You Free:

When I hold you baby
Feel your heart beat close to me
Wanna stay in your arms forever
Only love can set you free

When I wake each morning
And the sun beats down on me
And I know we belong together
Only love can set you free

Lordy - that takes me back. I had no idea how to dance to it then, and I certainly have no idea how to dance to it now. I still "throw a few shapes" to it in the privacy of my living-room, however...

N-Trance on Wikipedia

Wednesday 11 February 2015

Greece is the word

An indispensable guide to the Eurozone crisis:
It is the coming crisis that absolutely nobody, from the innumerate man in the street to the technocrats leading the EU, understands or has any idea how to stop.

What are the options for the Eurozone’s future?
  • Greece wants to stay in Eurozone but is unable to pay bailout debts, goes bust leaving French and German banks with billions in write-offs, Eurozone fucked.
  • Greece negotiates delay to bailout debts, situation unfolds exactly as above but nineteen months later, Eurozone fucked.
  • Greece leaves Euro, pays debts with worthless new currency backed by nationalised industries of goat-herding and slapping octopi on wet rocks, Eurozone fucked.
  • Greece leaves Euro and EU, says it never wanted to be in either in stream of passive-aggressive posts on social media many of which quote Radiohead lyrics, pays debts with worthless currency as above, Eurozone fucked.
  • Greece leaves Euro and EU, is joined by Spain, Italy, Portugal and Ireland to form new cool EU for countries who prefer having a boozy laugh to working, all of whom are too irresponsible to even bother opening letters about debts, Eurozone fucked.
  • Greece stays in Eurozone, agrees to banks’ demands to sell off citizens’ organs to pay debts, angry citizens elect fascist government which invades Turkey, Macedonia and Albania, war spreads across whole continent, one-third of EU population killed and economy saved by resulting boom in industry. Preferred solution of banks, IMF and Switzerland.
The Daily Mash.

Of course.

[The real story]

Tuesday 10 February 2015

Breaking news of world importance, Cobbers!

From the BBC:
Australia is to compete at this year's Eurovision Song Contest.

Organisers invited the country to participate as part of the contest's 60th anniversary celebrations.

"It's a daring and at the same time incredibly exciting move. It is our way of saying let's celebrate this party together!" contest supervisor Jon Ola Sand said.

The show has a long tradition of being broadcast in Australia by broadcaster SBS.

"SBS has been broadcasting Eurovision for over 30 years and we have seen how Australians' love of the song contest has grown during those years," managing director Michael Ebeid said.

"We are very excited to have secured this historic opportunity for Australia to be represented on the world's biggest stage and are honoured that the European Broadcasting Union has supported us to achieve this ambition."
Exciting news, indeed!

Adding the world-renowned classiness of the great Southern continent to the proceedings will improve matters no end, no doubt. For example, there's always...

...Sir Les Patterson!

...Kevin "Bloody" Wilson!

Or maybe Bob Downe!

I can't wait.

The Eurovision Song Contest 2015 will take place in Vienna, Austria, on 23rd May 2015.

[PS Unusually, Auntie Beeb got a few facts wrong in its article when it stated "Australians have also competed representing the UK - including the New Seekers, Gina G and Olivia Newton John." Miss ONJ was in fact born in the English city of Cambridge to a Welsh father and a German mother; just two out of five New Seekers were Aussies (the others being Brits); only the saintly Gina "Ooh Aah Just a Little Bit" G is a true Australian.]

Ever I saw your face

Many happy returns today to the eternally fabulous Roberta Flack, a sadly under-rated vocal talent who (in my opinion) is every bit as worthy of adulation as Miss Franklin, Miss Ross or (heaven forfend) Miss Warwick.

Here she is in a rare performance of a forgotten ('til Miss Amy Winehouse covered it) soul number from some time in the 70s when tribal art backdrops and butterscotch wallpaper were considered de rigueur - it's Mr Magic:

By the way, anyone else think she may have had some "work" done..?

More Roberta here, and the ultimate "Battle of the Divas" - in which Miss Flack holds her own quite well - is here.

Roberta Cleopatra Flack (born 10th February 1937 or 1939)

Monday 9 February 2015


We're still in recovery mode from our week in Spain (although, unlike my better half, I do have another whole week's leave to go). Unusually I have brought nothing new - music-wise - back from "the land of gaudy tackiness" this time. We basically spent all week in bars whose musical soundtrack was MOR to say the very least.

Instead, on this Tacky Music Monday I thought I would pay further tribute to the lovely Lizabeth Scott, who died last week. Here she is, in the remarkably odd company of Patti Page and Gracie Fields(!), and their - ahem - interesting version of the bubblegum-pop hit, Lollipop:

Have a great week, daahlings!

Sunday 8 February 2015

We're back...

...but what did we miss while we were away? Another bus strike, some cold weather, the closure of yet another gay bar in Soho, Britain becoming ever classier with the news that Poundland is trying to take over its rival 99p Store chain, Putin and ISIS being bastards (no surprises there), and a slight setback for the Qatari royal family's plans to take over the whole of London...

We missed what would have been Elaine Stritch's 90th birthday, Natalie Cole and Morgan Fairchild's 65th birthdays, the 93rd birthdays of both Patrick McNee and Denis Norden, Zsa Zsa Gabor's 98th, and also that eternal survivor Carol Channing's 94th!

On a more sad note, we bade a fond farewell to the film noir stalwart Lizabeth Scott (read my blog about her on the occasion of her 90th birthday), and, in even more sad news, the fantabulosa Geraldine McEwan - the original television Emmeline "Lucia" Lucas in Mapp and Lucia - has died. "Au reservoir", indeed.

There was some good news for the West End - despite an excellent yet sad article by John Harris in The Guardian mourning the continued gentrification of the centre of our fine city - as it was announced (as had been rumoured for some time) that the Cyndi Lauper/Harvey Fierstein musical Kinky Boots is coming to London this summer. A rather fab addition to the "Season" calendar, methinks - a season of events that begins immediately, as February is LGBT History Month!

Oh! And Madonna's new single Living for Love is out. Here's a tribute from Charlie Hides TV. Of course.

It's strange being back. There's no beach...