Saturday 30 April 2016

Ladies, gentlemen and those who are yet to make up your mind

"I suspect Kinky Boots may have legs and not just the muscular ones that are encased in thigh-high, stiletto-heeled footwear that are specially designed for transvestite use." - Mark Shenton in The Stage.

" least the show has, in one sense, "come home" and is no longer lost in the translation of trans-Atlantic attempts at English regional dialects ... the show took a little while to get into its full stride but once the realisation dawned that "the sex is in the heel", it struts its stuff with terrific aplomb." - Edward Seckerson, The Arts Desk

"The great couturier Hardy Amies said that a gentleman could never look well-dressed in cheap shoes. Any self-respecting bloke today has to have good boots. And, in this glorious feel-good musical ... those boots are made for walking, talking, singing, flouncing and wearing well above the kneecap. Size isn't everything but thighs are." - Michael Coveney, WhatsOnStage

"You could make a case against the musical as a piece of preachy uplift about sexual tolerance. But it won me over through the quality of the lead performances, the verve of its staging and its conviction, in its fetishistic worship of thigh-high boots, that there's no business like shoe business." - Michael Billington, The Guardian
The reviews were not all as glowing as the above, and I can't deny I was apprehensive about a whole musical of music penned by Cyndi Lauper - as much as I love her. I'd heard a little of the cast recording from Broadway, and I wasn't blown away by what I heard...

However, "our little gang" (Hils, Crog, John-John, Paul and I) trooped off to the glittering Art Deco surroundings of the Adelphi Theatre to see the London production on Wednesday. I am pleased to report that it was utterly fantabulosa!

It's an incongruous story - if loosely based on a true-life tale of British ingenuity - boy meets girl, boy inherits fusty old family shoe factory in trouble, boy meets drag queen, boy makes a decision to recover the factory's financial crisis by making outrageous "kinky boots" for men to wear, girl gets shitty and boy loses girl, drag queen gains the trust of the factory workers, boy makes a success of business and gets new girl...

This musical-based-upon-heartwarming-Brit-flick may not be to everyone's taste [for every world-beater in this genre like Billy Elliott, there are likely to be a few Made in Dagenhams; the latter just having closed early in the very same Adelphi Theatre; and apparently the faboo film Pride is up for a musical makeover (gulp!) soon], but in the hands of Mr Harvey Fierstein (who wrote the "book"), one thing is guaranteed - it certainly is CAMP!

It started shakily enough, with the back-story heavily emphasised in the Price & Son Theme and the unlikely ode to the type of boring brogue favoured by the company The Most Beautiful Thing, sung by his father to a young "Charlie". However, the seeds of the tale to come are set by the lonely presence of a young black boy (brilliantly) dancing around the margins of the stage in a pair of obviously adored red stilettos. It doesn't take long for it to become obvious - when the now-adult Charlie (Killian Donnelly) rescues a now-grown-up "Lola" (Matt Henry) from a mugging, and surfaces in the middle of her barn-storming stage act, The Land of Lola - that the two lead characters' paths were destined to cross, as the "penny drops" when Charlie eyes Lola's shoes and realises he could make better.

“Tell me I haven't inspired something burgundy!... Burgundy is the colour of hot water bottles”

Cue Charlie's epiphany, his return to Northampton with the new business plan, and the triumphal appearance of Lola and her Angels to support him with one of the show's most memorable numbers Sex is in the Heel - which I played on Wednesday.

The whole ensemble of players is remarkable, the choreography is marvellous - and one of the factory workers Lauren (a brilliant turn by Amy Lennox) with a crush on the boss gets her own moment to really shine with her show-stopper The History of Wrong Guys [here sung (hilariously) by a man: Richie Barella]:

Finding they have more in common than they could ever have thought - Charlie and Lola were both lonely boys unable to live up to too-high parental expectations - Mr Donnelly and Mr Henry were simply magnificent on the "torch duet" I’m Not My Father’s Son [this is the US tour version]:

Speaking of choreography - the closing number of the first act is simply breath-taking, with everybody on stage in a perfectly-synchronised romp across the factory floor and even on the production line rollers (which move around with the action) - Everybody Say Yeah had us almost leaping out of our seats!

Act 2, as is inevitable, brings on the "dramatic plot twists" - Lola's taunting of the factory "blokes" (What a Woman Wants), the open challenge by homophobic Northampton "yokel" Don to Lola to "man up" by boxing against him (not realising that he/she had been trained to box by his/her Dad, which made the In This Corner scene very enjoyable), the re-emergence and swift departure of Charlie's unsympathetic fiancée (complete with her architect's plans to turn the factory into luxury flats), and Charlie's stress-driven lashing-out at everybody around him on the eve of a crucial fashion show - all of which are tied up neatly by the end (of course).

Speaking of What a Woman Wants, here's the Broadway cast take on it:

Of course, both leads - Charlie and Lola - get their own "big solo numbers" as they reconcile their own feelings, Charlie's being The Soul of a Man; Lola's is the bittersweet Hold Me in Your Heart [unfortunately the only visual is also of the Broadway cast, which in my opinion does not do this song the justice served to it by Mr Henry's incredible tonsils], made all the more heart-string-tugging when one realises that all her vocal histrionics are not being offered to a top-notch audience at the Palladium, but at the nursing home where his/her Dad now resides:

The finale takes place at the culmination of all the hard work and effort by Charlie and the factory workers - the Milan catwalk. Unfortunately, his stubborn alienation of his muse means the hapless lad staggers on the stage alone in his kinky boots; but (of course) the potential debacle is rescued at the eleventh hour by none other than Lola, her Angels, and all the workers (even Don) modelling the boots after all!

Here's a "live" version of the splendid closing number Raise You Up/Just Be, from some kind of parade in the USA. Don't let that put you off - it really was better than this on Wednesday:

If Mr Donnelly, Mr Henry and Miss Lennox are not up for some kind of award for this, I would be very surprised. It was certainly one of the most fun nights I have had without putting stillies on, and must rank among the best musicals on in London at the moment... [I only wish there were more videos out there, or even a West End cast recording CD, to prove it!]

Kinky Boots is a must-see!

Hep cats

It's "International Jazz Day". Apparently.

I can't deny I am no fan of modern "squeaky", free-form types of jazz - "Make mine Trad, Dad!"

So, who better to celebrate this day than the masters of that very genre? Here's Mr George Melly with the recently departed John Chilton and his Feetwarmers...

Hep cats, all!

More George Melly here and here.

Friday 29 April 2016

Eat my Salsa

Good news!

Putting its "enlightened" cousins in the US to shame [given recent anti-gay legislation in redneck states like Mississippi], Colombia joins fellow South American nations Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay and has legalised same-sex marriage.

To lead the celebrations, here is one of Colombia's most popular salsa groups Fruko y Sus Tesos, replete with some twirling girls and some guapos homosexuales...

Me encanta una fiesta!

Interesting fact: a Colombian doesn’t “hook up” with someone - instead, they “eat them” ("se lo comió"). Useful to know.

There is something goin' down and I can feel it

Another week is (almost) over, and it's time to party!

It is also an excuse to feature another "timeslip moment"...

In the news thirty-eight years ago: Cold War tensions continued after the Soviets shot down Korean Air Lines Flight 902; the Afghan Civil War began with a military coup; American homophobe Anita Bryant, Bob Marley, Saatchi & Saatchi and the Yorkshire Ripper were all headline-grabbers; and Britain's first official naturist beach opened in Covehurst Bay near Hastings. On telly: Pennies From Heaven, Cheggers Plays Pop and All Creatures Great and Small. In our cinemas: Dawn of the Dead, FM, and (of course) the ubiquitous Saturday Night Fever.

In the UK charts this week in April 1978: novelty act Brian and Michael's Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs was (unfortunately) at the top, and also selling well were Suzi Quatro, Wings, Showaddywaddy, Andrew Gold, Johnny Mathis with Deniece Williams, Gerry Rafferty, Sheila B Devotion and Blondie. However, continuing the inexorable dominance of the charts by the aforementioned Saturday Night Fever, this classic number was about to take over...

So let's take a step back to that remarkable Bee-Gees-led Disco boom, get our best black panties on - and Thank Disco It's Friday!

Listen to the ground:
there is movement all around.
There is something goin' down
and I can feel it.

On the waves of the air,
there is dancin' out there.
If it's somethin' we can share,
we can steal it.

And that sweet city woman,
she moves through the light,
controlling my mind and my soul.
When you reach out for me
yeah, and the feelin' is bright,

then I get night fever, night fever.
We know how to do it.
Gimme that night fever, night fever.
We know how to show it.

Here I am,
prayin' for this moment to last,
livin' on the music so fine,
borne on the wind,
makin' it mine.

Night fever, night fever.
We know how to do it.
Gimme that night fever, night fever.
We know how to show it.

In the heat of our love,
don't need no help for us to make it.
Gimme just enough to take us to the mornin'.
I got fire in my mind.
I got higher in my walkin'.
And I'm glowin' in the dark;
I give you warnin'.

And that sweet city woman,
she moves through the light,
controlling my mind and my soul.
When you reach out for me
yeah, and the feelin' is bright,

Then I get night fever, night fever.
We know how to do it.
Gimme that night fever, night fever.
We know how to show it.

Here I am,
prayin' for this moment to last,
livin' on the music so fine,
borne on the wind,
makin' it mine.

Night fever, night fever.
We know how to do it.
Gimme that night fever, night fever.
We know how to show it.

Possibly the one and only time anyone thought John Travolta was sexy.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday 28 April 2016

News of the Gay

Dahlings! It's all gay, gay, gay today...

We went to see Kinky Boots last night, and it was all I could do to stop dancing on my broken foot [but more of that later, no doubt...] - fantabulosa!

"My trunks are quite small, it's kind of how it is."

The utterly gorgeous Tom Daley has been swanning around in his teeny tiniest pants again for the Olympics. Cue the saliva...

That magnificently camp jazz singer (and house fave here at Dolores Delargo Towers), the late, great Blossom Dearie would have celebrated her 82nd birthday. Here she is, singing her "theme tune", I'm Hip:

A very different kind of performer, and no less beloved, Miss Ann-Margret is seventy-five years old! She's "auditioning" for The Rockettes. Apparently.

Oh! And this happened:

It's a fish!

Wednesday 27 April 2016

A gay cop, a micro-penis at 35,000 feet, the return of the Queen of Teen, a pas de deux of lust and love, and some twirling

A second outing for Polari - "London's peerless gay literary salon" - in a month? Ambassador, you are spoiling us!

And so on Monday this week, I and John-John (and Bryanne, Simon, Jayne, VG, Anny, and many more familiar faces this time) settled in for a feast...

Our genial host Mr Paul Burston was resplendent in purple in tribute to the dearly departed Prince (as was much of the lighting at the glittering Fifth Floor Function Room at the Royal Festival Hall), as he introduced this latest outing for what is undoubtedly one the Southbank's premier literary events - of which he, and the events team at the Centre, should be rightly proud.

Opening proceedings was a "Polari virgin", Mark Lock - coincidentally(?) from the same bit of Wales from whence hails Mr B (home town of rugby stud Gavin Henson, newsreader Huw Edwards and recently deceased drug smuggler turned author Howard Marks - Bridgend, I believe). He read from his debut crime-novel-with-a-twist Dead Man's Hand (recently chosen by book retailer WH Smith for promotion in their "Fresh Talent" series). It's blurb reads thus:
DI Hal Luchewski is a jaded London cop with a turbulent past and a complicated personal life. The stress of his job is getting to him – usually in the form of hard drink. He’s still living in his dead father’s shadow, his relationship with his daughter is strained, and his love life is complex to say the least… although nearly 40, Hal’s still reconciling himself to the fact he’s gay.
...and the piece Mr Lock read, where Hal is challenged about his attitude to being gay (and to his pick-ups in general) by one of his recent one-night-stands, was rather intriguing.

But up next - remarkably early in the evening's schedule, we thought - was the moment we (and many of the Polari regulars) were waiting for. The return of Rebecca Chance - recently described by TheGayUK as "a heady mix of RuPaul meets Joan Rivers"! One of our favourite readers/performers at Polari, she didn't disappoint - as she invited another chum and regular punter Wayne Herbert (writer and actor) to accompany her on one of her notorious re-enactments of a suitably smutty passage from her new book Mile High. Introducing the story - a highly-publicised maiden flight of a flagship new craft in the armada of an airline not-at-all-related-to-Virgin, on board which is not only a superstar singer with a stalker, a convicted criminal and a range of celebs, but also a randy pilot, a jealous head stewardess, and a new member of the in-flight team transferred in from recently folded budget flight company not-at-all-related-to-Ryanair - she had the audience hooting at such throwaway plot "spoilers" as "I think I’m the first author ever to have an accidental lesbian bondage scene"...

So it came to pass that Wayne had the onerous task of transforming his immaculately-coiffured persona into that of a lascivious and uncouth telly chef not-at-all-related-to-Gordon-Ramsay, as he (hilariously) attempts sex in the shower room with the newbie stewardess - and she can't feel a thing. A bastard-persona-created-for-television, the result of its creator having a micro-penis? Oh, how our real-life perceptions have been changed forever :-)

Completing the triumvirate of readers in the first half was Juno Dawson, making her own debut of sorts. For last time we saw the crowned "Queen of Teen" in September last year she read as James Dawson, and this was her first reading for Polari since she "came out" as trans. It was a confident performance, and the audience loved her. She was scheduled to headline the night's event but unfortunately had to depart early for home in Brighton.

Here she is reading from her recent novel Spot The Difference at World Book Day's Teen Fest:

And so, the break. Thankfully the Southbank Centre is an excellently accessible venue, and even with broken foot and crutch I was able to dash out for a fag and get back in plenty of time for the second half.

Rachel B Glaser, evidently an American expat, treated us to a reading from her own debut, Paulina and Fran, which was very good (despite being another "teenage interest novel"), but was somewhat diluted by the distinctly monotone delivery. Its blurb reads thus:
A story of friendship, art, sex, and curly hair: an audaciously witty debut tracing the pas de deux of lust and love between two young, uncertain, conflicted art students.

At their New England art school, Paulina and Fran both stand apart from the crowd. Paulina is striking and sexually adventurous—a self-proclaimed queen bee with a devastating mean-girl streak. With her gorgeous untamed head of curly hair, Fran is quirky, sweet, and sexually innocent. An aspiring painter whose potential outstrips her confidence, she floats dreamily through criticisms and dance floors alike. On a school trip to Norway, the girls are drawn together, each disarmed by the other’s charisma. Though their bond is instant and powerful, it’s also wracked by complications. When Fran winds up dating one of Paulina’s ex-boyfriends, an incensed Paulina becomes determined to destroy the couple, creating a rift that will shape their lives well past the halcyon days of art school.
The reviewers certainly love it, even if her friends seated at the table only seemed interested in their phones.

And finally, our surprise headliner - another familiar face from Polari past, Mr Will Davis, reading from How Not to Survive, the forthcoming sequel to his semi-autobiographical My Side of the Story. I can't find any extracts of his writing, nor any videos of him reading - so, it is to his "other" major skill to which I turn to show off his talent. Mr Davis is also an accomplished aerialist; and here he is a-twirling!

With the warm applause for the final "curtain call" resounding in our ears, that was it, once more, for another heady evening.

There is no Polari at the Southbank in May, but it returns to the Light Lounge in Soho on 9th May, featuring readings from Paul McVeigh, Jacquie Lawrence, Carl Stanley and Jules Grant. Our next outing at the Royal Festival Hall will be on 1st June (part of the annual "Festival of Love", apparently), and features Chris Neil, Tehmina Kazi, Richard Scott, Susan Heffernan and headliner (and favourite) Sophia Blackwell.

We love Polari!

Fierce as you can make it

Ironically enough, I am hobbling off to see Kinky Boots tonight...

Sex is certainly not in this "heel", however.

Tuesday 26 April 2016

Change the channel

A new album by Beyonce is extremely empowering for women, according to boyfriends and husbands who would rather have the telly on.

Lemonade, released yesterday, has already inspired millions of women to take back control of the stereo from the patriarchy while ordering it to go and get another bottle of Prosecco.

Nathan Muir, from Ludlow, said: “Beyonce’s third-wave sex-positive feminism is making real changes in the world, notably my chance of watching 'The Island with Bear Grylls'.

“Women, by which I mean my girlfriend and her sister, are really engaged with the issues the album raises and have spent roughly six hours since Sunday discussing them on the phone.

“It’s also a visual album with a video for each track, which stops me playing 'Call of Duty' on the laptop.

“I can’t wait to be sent to queue for the drinks when we go to see her on tour.”
The Daily Mash

Of course.

And, no, I'm not going to listen to or watch it, either.

PS There are some insane Beyonce fans out there - read this...

Monday 25 April 2016

Lord knows, I love it

Today's birthdays include Cromwell, Marconi, trans pioneer April Ashley, society hostess Elsa Maxwell, William Roache ("Ken Barlow" in Coronation Street), Björn from Abba and Ella Fitzgerald - but, on this Tacky Music Monday, it is to yesterday's clutch of celebrants we turn for our glittering entrée to a new week. Famously, two purveyors of "our kind of music" blew their candles out on the same day - MegaBabs and Shirley MacLaine.

Of the two it is, inevitably, Miss MacLaine who provides our traditional "wake-up call"; a performer who can always be relied upon to put a bit of va-va-voom into any number... As she says - I Love It!

Have a good week, dear reader.

Sunday 24 April 2016

That's the colour of our Margaret's shower curtains - them varicose veins over there

Just because...

...It is a Sunday...
...The weather's turned horrid again, so it's been too cold to potter in the garden...
...I've had enough of lumping around with this broken foot, but know I still have weeks to go before I can remove the "big boot"...
...The world needs some cheering up...

Here's some more of the much-missed Miss Victoria Wood!


And finally, of course...

Everybody loved "Barry and Freda", it seems - and everybody loved Victoria Wood.
  • "I've got a degree; does that mean I have to spend my life with intellectuals? I've also got a life-saving certificate, but I don't spend my evenings diving for a rubber brick with my pyjamas on."
  • "Foreplay is like beefburgers – three minutes on each side."
  • "I haven't got a waist. I've just got a sort of place, a bit like an unmarked level crossing."
  • "A man is designed to walk three miles in the rain to phone for help when the car breaks down, and a woman is designed to say, ‘You took your time’ when he comes back dripping wet."
  • "I once went to one of those parties where everyone throws their car keys into the middle of the room. I don’t know who got my moped but I’ve been driving that Peugeot for years."
  • "Sexual harassment at work... is it a problem for the self-employed?"
  • "She said 'Victoria, I see you in a beige Kaftan' I said, 'well I see you in an oxygen tent' and put the 'phone down."
  • "I looked up the symptoms of pregnancy ... moody, irritable, big bosoms ... I've obviously been pregnant for thirty-six years."
  • "My boyfriend had a sex manual but he was dyslexic. I was lying there and he was looking for my vinegar."
  • "Everyone's a national treasure these days; you can't move for them. But there should only ever be one at a time. For years, it was Dame Thora Hird. After she died, it was going to be Judi Dench, but then Joanna Lumley saved the Gurkhas so she got the gig."
  • "Life’s not fair, is it? Some of us drink champagne in the fast lane, and some of us eat our sandwiches by the loose chippings on the A597."

Saturday 23 April 2016

You have dancing shoes with nimble soles

"Nay, gentle Romeo, we must have you dance."

"Not I, believe me. You have dancing shoes
With nimble soles. I have a soul of lead
So stakes me to the ground I cannot move."

"You are a lover. Borrow Cupid’s wings
And soar with them above a common bound."
On this day of all things Shakespearean*, it is a felicitous coincidence indeed that also born on this day was the composer Sergei Prokofiev.

For it was Prokofiev who took inspiration from Will's greatest romantic play Romeo and Juliet to create one of the best ballet scores of the 20th century.

From it comes one of my favourite pieces of classical music, the dramatic and triumphal Dance of the Knights - also known as Montagues and Capulets - here played in its entirety by the London Symphony Orchestra conducted by Valery Gergiev:

And if that didn't wake you up, nothing will!

Sergei Prokofiev (23rd April 1891 - 5th March 1953)

[*'tis 400 years since the Bard's death, and traditionally also the date usually marked as his birthday.]

Shakespeare and his boys are the latest "exhibit" in the Dolores Delargo Towers Museum of Camp.

Friday 22 April 2016

Totty of the Day

Never having seen Game of Thrones, Cinderella nor the latest TV adaptation of Lady Chatterley's Lover, it was quite (ahem) a revelation to discover the (ahem) talented Mr Richard Madden from an interview in today's Guardian...

Prince Charming, indeed!

You don't have to watch Dynasty to have an attitude

The end of another week looms - a particularly sad one, as far as the loss of great iconic figures are concerned.

So there is only one way to end it on an upbeat note, really...

Here's the fabulous Kiss by Prince (RIP):

You don't have to be beautiful
To turn me on
I just need your body baby
From dusk till dawn
You don't need experience
To turn me out
You just leave it all up to me
I'm gonna show you what it's all about

You don't have to be rich
To be my girl
You don't have to be cool
To rule my world
Ain't no particular sign I'm more compatible with
I just want your extra time and your

Oh oh

You got to not talk dirty, baby
If you want to impress me
You can't be too flirty, Mama
I know how to undress me, yeah
I want to be your fantasy
Maybe you could be mine
You just leave it all up to me
We could have a good time

Don't have to be rich
To be my girl
Don't have to be cool
To rule my world
Ain't no particular sign I'm more compatible with
I just want your extra time and your

Yes, oh oh oh

Women not girls rule my world
I said they rule my world
Act your age, Mama (not your shoe size)
Not your shoe size
Maybe we could do the twirl
You don't have to watch Dynasty
To have an attitude
You just leave it all up to me
My love will be your food

You don't have to be rich
To be my girl
You don't have to be cool
To rule my world
Ain't no particular sign I'm more compatible with
I just want your extra time and your


It is very sad that he's gone, but by heavens - did that man know how to make a party go with a swing?!

Thank Disco (or should it be Funk?) it's Friday!

Have a good one.

More Prince over at the Dolores Delargo Towers Museum of Camp.

Thursday 21 April 2016

May she defend our laws, and ever give us cause to sing with heart and voice

Her Majesty The Queen of the United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, and New Zealand, Jamaica, Barbados, the Bahamas, Grenada, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Tuvalu, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, and Saint Kitts and Nevis, Head of the Commonwealth, Defender of the Faith, Queen of Scots, Duke of Lancaster, Duke of Normandy, Lord of Mann, Royal Lady and Sovereign of the Most Noble Order of the Garter, Sovereign of the Imperial Order of the Crown of India, Dame Grand Cross and Sovereign Head of the Most Venerable Order of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem, Lady of His Majesty's Most Honourable Privy Council, Sovereign of the Royal Victorian Order, Sovereign of the Order of Merit, Sovereign of the Order of the Companions of Honour, Sovereign of the Most Ancient and Most Noble Order of the Thistle, Sovereign of the Most Illustrious Order of Saint Patrick, Sovereign of the Most Honourable Order of the Bath, Sovereign of the Most Distinguished Order of Saint Michael and Saint George, Sovereign of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, Sovereign of the Distinguished Service Order, Colonel-in-Chief of the UK's armed forces, and so much more besides - on this, your 90th birthday, we salute you!

God save our gracious Queen,
Long live our noble Queen,
God save the Queen:
Send her victorious,
Happy and glorious,
Long to reign over us:
God save the Queen.

O Lord, our God, arise,
Scatter thine enemies,
And make them fall
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On thee our hopes we fix:
God save us all.

Thy choicest gifts in store,
On her be pleased to pour;
Long may she reign:
May she defend our laws,
And ever give us cause
To sing with heart and voice
God save the Queen.

Not in this land alone,
But be God's mercies known,
From shore to shore!
Lord make the nations see,
That men should brothers be,
And form one family,
The wide world over.

From every latent foe,
From the assassins' blow,
God save the Queen!
O'er her thine arm extend,
For Britain's sake defend,
Our mother, princess, and friend,
God save the Queen!

Lord grant that Marshal Wade
May by thy mighty aid
Victory bring.
May he sedition hush,
And like a torrent rush,
Rebellious Scots to crush.
God save the Queen!

HM The Queen Elizabeth II (Elizabeth Alexandra Mary, born 21st April 1926)

Wednesday 20 April 2016

Still thinking of having pork and pickle fancies for Shona's wedding?

Sad news today.

One of our favourite comediennes and writers, Miss Victoria Wood is dead. I am distraught.

Miss Wood emerged - unusually for someone with actual talent - out of winning TV talent show New Faces way back in the mists of time, soon partnered up with an equally impressive talent in Miss Julie Walters... and, well, the rest is history.

In her career she won more television BAFTAs than anyone in BAFTA history - for her stand up, her drama and her light entertainment programmes. As a stand-up she toured for more than twenty years, and held the record at the Royal Albert Hall for fifteen consecutive sold out shows. As well as comedy, she won two BAFTAs and an International Emmy nomination as Best Actress for her lead role in TV drama Housewife 49, based on the Mass Observation diary of Nella Last.

In common with the many, many people who are mourning the loss of Miss Wood today, it is the fact she was such an integral part of our lives that means that this news comes as such a dreadful shock. We all can recite lines - maybe even whole sketches word-for-word - from her ground-breaking television series. And here are just a few of our favourites...

And, of course...

RIP, a genius.

Victoria Wood CBE (19th May 1953 – 20th April 2016)

More of Victoria Wood's fabulosity here, here, here and here.

Tuesday 19 April 2016

Precious Ruby

Ruby Johnson - big hair, even bigger voice!

Black, Jewish and immensely talented, it is a crying shame that (commercial) success eluded her, and it was only the enthusiasts for all things "R&B" [the original musical derivation, not the wibbly crap we get under that descriptor these days] who frequented UK dancehalls and nightclubs like Wigan Casino in the 1970s that kept her flame alive.

Although (frustratingly) there appears to be no "live" footage of the lady performing, here are two numbers that demonstrate just what a talent she had...

.. and, possibly an anthem for Northern Soul gayers:

In the immortal words of Paul O'Grady, after his "Northern Soul" spot on his Radio 2 show - What do we do? We keep the faith!"

Ruby Johnson (19th April 1936 – 4th July 1999)

Monday 18 April 2016

First you push it up here, pull it down there

As the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) unclothes [see what I did there?] its new exhibition all about the history of underwear, so I thought that on this Tacky Music Monday I should seek out an appropriate song.

Here is, of course, the irrepressible Carol Channing (with Ginger Rogers) with their tribute to the garment:

However, as that clip is such poor quality, here's a corset-themed slideshow to accompany the same song, this time by Fran Warren...

Now, a corset can do a lot for a lady
Especially when a lady's got a lot
And a lady can do a lot for that cor-set
By filling in the bottom and top.

First you push it up here
Pull it down there
Tighten up the middle
Till you're gasping for air

Oh, a corset can do a lot for a lady
'Cos it helps to show a man what she's got


Undressed: A Brief History of Underwear is on at the V&A until Sunday, 12th March 2017

Sunday 17 April 2016

Not so common now, am I?

A poignant photo at the Taj Mahal has given the Duchess of Cambridge a fresh opportunity to tell her husband’s exes to eat it.

The Duchess said the image would be ‘something else for them to remember’ in 30 years’ time, when they are not the Queen and she is.

Kate sent the photo to William’s teenage sweetheart, Jecca Craig, with a note saying: “Oh look, who’s this being as iconic as fuck? It’s definitely not you, you stupid hippy.”

To Tess Shepherd, who was pictured with William during the couple’s brief split in 2007, she wrote: “Yet another massive defeat for the forces of skankery.

“Have a nice day not being on holiday with a prince. Eat that, you minger.”

And to Isabella Calthorpe, once regarded as William’s favourite, she wrote: “Not so common now, am I? Taj fucking Mahal. The Big One.”

She added: “YOU ARE AN ARSE!”
The Daily Mash

Of course.

Saturday 16 April 2016

Dusty at the boutique, our favourite trans prozzie, lesbians through history, a gay poem and a moment of mourning for the death of old Soho

[I'm not quite so old as to remember the pub like this]

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear. Whatever happened to The Theatre Bar? Friendly, reasonably-priced, old-fashioned, comfortable - the only gay venue in London where you could hear the likes of Ethel Merman, Peggy Lee, Shirley Bassey, John Barrowman, Liza Minnelli, Bernadette Peters, Dorothy Squires and innumerable "songs from the shows" being played night after night? The place where we first met all those characters from the theatre world such as our favourite roller-skating drag queen Eb-on-knee; the artiste soon to be known as Mrs Moore; stage-hands and wig-makers; and even Graham Norton? The place where I won (singlehandedly) the pub music quiz? Whatever happened to our hosts Wezley (aka Cassidy Connors), or Rupert or Graeme? Or regulars Tom, Roddy and Marc? Long gone, I'm afraid. The Theatre Bar closed when its "mother-ship" downstairs the West Central pub (formerly the White Bear or Polar Bear, now known as Ku Bar) disappeared for a while and "went straight". More's the pity.

Why the reminiscing? Well, the new incarnation of what was formerly the West End's campest bar is called Light Lounge, and this was the chosen venue for "London's peerless gay literary salon" Polari's much-vaunted "return to its Soho roots", that I managed (painfully) to stagger along to on Monday. As a location for such an event it is most definitely found wanting. Gone is any semblance of the illustrious revelry that marked out this most historic (and perhaps slightly seedy) of corners in Soho/Chinatown, in favour of shiny surfaces and (the nowadays ubiquitous) low banquette seating. Gone is any notion of an affordable night out, in favour of drinks at £9 a pop - cocktails are, no matter how "fancily" packaged, only tiny measures of booze, and don't last long; and the venue's cider (or beer) is served in miniscule bottles for the same price as a pint everywhere else in the real world, including the Ku Bar downstairs. Ambience? Clinical. Comfort? Negligible. Toilets? Incomprehensibly awkward [flush behind the seat? How very British Rail.] Value for money? Ludicrous.

Worst of all, many of the punters - some Polari regulars (including me, Paul, little Tony, Bryanne and Simon, as well as Anny, Jayne, Tanyth and chums), and some newbies - who were crammed into the confines of the seating area couldn't even see the evening's readers. Shame, because they were worth seeing (as well as listening to, of course). Still, the glittering environs made a great backdrop for the bods at cable channel London Live, who were there (along with free gay mag Boyz) to cover the evening...

Opening the show was a "safe pair of hands" for any Polari evening, in any venue - the utterly marvellous VG (Val) Lee. She read from her soon-to-be-published new novel Mr Oliver's Object of Desire, a funny and insightful exposé of the clashing values of a boutique owner with the rapidly-changing world of late 60s/early 70s London, as he finds himself disappointed that his chosen "celebrities" for his shop's grand opening the Beverley Sisters were substituted at the last moment by some "new whipper-snapper" of a singer (bewilderingly popular with "the girls", to his chagrin) Miss Dusty Springfield...

Concluding with a crowd-pleasing "Deirdre" story, Val had the audience suitably "warmed up". Here is the lady herself, in conversation with the London Live talking head, about Polari and the London Book & Screen Week, of which this evening was a part:

No sooner had VG finished, it was time for a break. This, we surmised, was to give sufficient time for people to empty their credit cards behind the bar, so we went for a fag out the back.

The lovely Alexis "Lexi" Gregory, Soho stalwart himself (we first met when he was "bar whore" at another deceased venue BarCode), read us his first performance piece Through the Wilderness, about a Madonna-obsessed, half-Italian, half-Greek gay kid growing up in the suburbs of 1980s North West London dreaming of becoming an actor. Unsurprisingly, he revealed, it is autobiographical.

He also treated us to an extract from his latest play, the utterly marvellous Slap (that John-John and I went to see in Stratford last year), which completely captivated the audience, needless to say!

Here's Lexi chatting about it on London Live:

Another break. Another over-priced drink.

Our next reader Diana Souhami is a writer of prodigious talents - in addition to the lesbian biographies for which she is most famous, she curated an exhibition on women's rights for the British Council that travelled worldwide, she has also written about the real-life Robinson Crusoe, an obscure 1940s murder, the "Bounty" mutineers and Leon Bakst's panels on the fable of Sleeping Beauty that were commissioned by the Rothschilds. Whew.

However, for Monday's audience, it was lesbians all the way - as Ms Souhami took us on a tour through her various works about painter Hannah Gluckstein ("Gluck") and her aristocratic lovers (including famed floral artiste Constance Spry), Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Mrs Alice Keppel's daughter Violet Trefusis (lover of Vita Sackville-West) and the Sapphic world of inter-War Paris with Romaine Brooks and Natalie Barney. This was an engrossing and entertaining journey, indeed - her wealth of research is impressive. Loved it.

Another break. Another fag.

Headlining this unusually disjointed Polari evening was the cute Keith Jarrett, poet and performance artist. Not to be outdone by Lexi's "autobiographical work", he gave us a selection of pieces about his own life and experiences being brought up as a budding gay boy in a God-fearing Jamaican community, culminating this one - A Gay Poem:

He wowed the crowd, that's for certain.

And, of course, the last word goes to Mr Burston...

Loved the speakers, love Polari. Thankfully the next one is back somewhere sensible - the South Bank - on 25th April (twice in a month? We are spoiled...) featuring Juno Dawson, Will Davis, Rachel B Glaser, Mark Lock, and the long-overdue return of our fave Rebecca Chance!

I can't wait!


Friday 15 April 2016

Always the best in town

The weekend nears - and party-planning begins (for those of us who are not still clomping around in a "big boot", of course) - and it's time for another timeslip moment.

Our trusty ship The Liberator's computer Zen [a little nod there to tacky 1970s TV classic Blake's 7, the eponymous hero of which Gareth Thomas died on Thursday] has deposited us in the midst of the glittering, lamé-clad, strike-ridden, Silver-Jubilee-obsessed Britain of thirty-nine years ago...

In April 1977: the papers were full of coverage of HM The Queen's return from her official tour of the Antipodes and South Sea island nations; Abigail's Party (with Alison Steadman) made its stage debut at the Hampstead Theatre; the Yorkshire Ripper murders gripped the nation, and the Tenerife air disaster gripped the world; Punk, the Baader-Meinhof gang, the National Front and the Anti-Nazi League were at their height, while the Labour government under Jim Callaghan was at an all-time low; and British Aerospace was born. On our cinema screens were The Eagle Has Landed, Airport '77 and Demon Seed; while on telly were Citizen Smith, Jesus of Nazareth (starring Robert Powell) and The Muppet Show.

In our charts this week in '77: Abba were leading the pack, with David Soul, Showaddywaddy, David Bowie, Manhattan Transfer, Elvis, Boney M, Brotherhood of Man and Maxine Nightingale all holding on in there - as, just making its descent after a triumphant twelve week run in the Top Ten, was this one. Ironically on this, the stormiest, most rain-sodden day for weeks, here's the inappropriately-named Heatwave and Boogie Nights. Don't go out dressed like this, kiddie-winks!

Thank Disco It's Friday - and have a good one!

Thursday 14 April 2016

Is he strong? Listen bud, he's got radioactive blood

The new film Spider-Man: Homecoming, featuring Tom Holland in the role, has been all over the papers today.

I wonder if its theme will be as good as this:

Wednesday 13 April 2016

Rule Britannia is out of bounds to my mother, my dog, and clowns

As the line-up for this year's Proms Season is announced, so we rejoice in the fact that Mr David Bowie will be celebrated in a Prom of his own on 29th July - featuring Anna Calvi and Amanda Palmer, among others.

Here, in anticipation, is the London Symphony Orchestra's own arrangement of Life On Mars:

Other highlights from the 2016 Proms programme include:
  • A tribute to French conductor and composer Pierre Boulez, who died in January aged 90.
  • US music legend Quincy Jones presents an overview of his career, from his solo works to collaborations with Miles Davis and Michael Jackson.
  • A season of music inspired by Shakespeare, marking 400 years since the playwright's death.
  • Bryn Terfyl performing the title role in Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov.
  • A celebration of Latin American music, to coincide with the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
  • Ten cello concertos, starting with Elgar's Cello Concerto, performed by Sol Gabetta on the First Night.
  • The John Wilson Orchestra performing the best of Ira Gershwin, marking the 120th anniversary of the composer's birth.
  • A night of Gospel music, featuring a hand-picked selection of singers from the UK's leading gospel groups.
  • All three of Stravinsky's landmark ballets for the Ballet Russes, performed over one weekend.
  • Headlining the Last Night of the Proms is tenor Juan Diego Flórez.
Here's the launch video, for your delectation:

The BBC Proms Season is on from 15th July to 10th September, but the headliners and other acts for our own "season closer" Proms in the Park won't be announced until Monday 2nd May.