Monday, 30 September 2019

I'ts never too late to have a fling; for Autumn is just as nice as Spring



Sixty-five years on from the original (at the time record-breaking) run in the West End of Sandy Wilson's The Boy Friend, the show's appeal shows no sign of diminishing. We went to see a production at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre in 2006, and now it's back - in a new revival at the Menier Chocolate Factory!

What better way to cheer us up this Tacky Music Monday - after a murky weekend, and with the prospect of a dismal week in work to come - than with one of the show's jolliest numbers...

...with puppets?!


"Whack-a-doo, Whack-a-doo, Whack-a-doo!" Indeed.

Have a great week, peeps!

Sunday, 29 September 2019

Like a flower bending in the breeze


A very rainy view of the extensive gardens here at Dolores Delargo Towers today.

Oh dear, another landmark of impending autumn is upon us - today is the feast of Michaelmas, ostensibly a date marked by the "fact" that the asters ("Michaelmas daisies") are the only plants coming into flower now. Ugly things, they are, too. Our garden on the other hand, albeit battered by the intermittent downpours we're getting lately, is still sparkling with salvias, bizzie-lizzies, thunbergia and fuchsias (and more besides).

Michaelmas myths and facts:
  • In many countries, today is when Harvest Festival celebrations take place.
  • Traditionally a special meal of "stubble-goose", i.e. one prepared around harvest time, was consumed. This allegedly began because Queen Elizabeth I was in the middle of a meal of goose when she was informed of the defeat of the Spanish Armada on this day.
  • In Scotland a special bread or cake, Sruthan Mhìcheil or Michaelmas Bannock (made with barley, oats, and rye without using any metal implements) was blessed in remembrance of absent friends or those who had died.
  • In the City of London, Michaelmas is the day when the new Lord Mayor of London is elected.
  • Blackberries should not be picked after today, apparently - because when St Michael expelled Lucifer from heaven he fell from the skies and landed in a prickly bramble bush, which he cursed, scorched them with his fiery breath, stamped, spat and urinated on them, so that they would be unfit for eating.
  • From Victorian times it was believed that Michaelmas was the best day to plant trees, for them to grow well.

And, in one of my customary "convoluted connections" to mark the occasion, here's a most appropriate "Michael" to sing for us:


Fab.

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Softly falls the rain


Better than a brolly!

My, my - the murk has descended with a vengeance this week. Yesterday evening, the downpours were so torrential that I almost got stranded in Iceland [the frozen food emporium, not the country], as the storm drains flooded the roads either side. With a rather energetic (pour moi) leap, I made it across the torrent and got away home. Today, it's been constant drizzle.

Time, methinks, for another sojourn into the lives of gorgeous people cavorting around exotic places - courtesy of the ever-wonderful Soft Tempo Lounge, of course:


Oh, that's better.

[Music: Romantic Places by Nelson Riddle. Original film: Il dolce corpo di Deborah (1968)]

Friday, 27 September 2019

Feelings change just like seasons



Another week rolls to a close, amid the apocalyptic showers and rapidly-denuding trees that remind us that summer is a distant memory now, more's the pity. However, the best way to start any weekend is with a bit of a party - and who better to lead us into it than Ten City? Thank Disco(?) It's Friday!


Class.

Have a good weekend, dear reader.

Thursday, 26 September 2019

Gold crocodiles they snap their teeth on your cigarette



We're off this evening to an event at our beloved Petrie Museum - Egyptomania in the Time of Freud and Petrie, which promises, among other things: "an atmospheric window on the past evoking the era of Petrie’s archaeological discoveries. Artist Nikki Shaill will be on hand throughout the evening to analyse your inner subconscious and illustrate your dreams and nightmares, while socialite Auntie Maureen shares more music on her gramophone. Catch a pop-up talk from one of our experts in Egyptology and archaeology, and experience an extract from a new play exploring whether Freud and Petrie actually met during their lifetimes."

It should be fab!

Only one thing to play, really...


Wednesday, 25 September 2019

I still look up to him because although I have money, I am vulgar







Among a host of mismatched fellow birthday celebrants including Pedro Almodóvar, Felicity Kendal, Michael Douglas, Catherine Zeta-Jones [bizarrely, spouses who share a birthday], Juliet Prowse, Dmitri Shostakovich, Mark Hamill, Sir Colin Davis, Christopher Reeve, Mark Rothko, Aldo Ray and - ahem - Heather Locklear, the "national treasure" that was Mr Ronnie Barker would have been 90 years old today.

Here are just a few of his shining comedy moments:





There'll never be another...

Ronald William George Barker OBE (25th September 1929 – 3rd October 2005)

For the legendary "Four Candles" sketch, see my tribute to Mr Barker's "Ronnie-in-crime", Mr Corbett.

Tuesday, 24 September 2019

This is the rhythm of my life, oh yeah



Timeslip moment again...

We've been booted out by Jean-Claude Van Damme into the strange, transitional world of 1994 - the year of the IRA ceasefire, Rwandan genocide, the Channel Tunnel, Fred and Rose West, the Israel–Jordan peace treaty, ordination of women priests, Pulp Fiction, the final end of the Cold War and the culmination of the Charles vs Diana one, Silvio Berlusconi, Four Weddings and a Funeral, Sunday trading, Ace of Base, the age of homosexual consent reduced to 18 in the UK, the so-called "Sharongate" saga in EastEnders, President Clinton, President Nelson Mandela, Schindler's List, peace in Angola, O.J. Simpson, the arrival of Tony Blair, Russian invasion of Chechnya, Mrs. Doubtfire, the "cash for questions" affair, and Priscilla, Queen of the Desert; the births of Tom Daley, Amazon, Harry Styles, Justin Bieber, Halsey and the National Lottery; and the year that Telly Savalas, Burt Lancaster, John Curry, Dan Hartman, Henry Mancini, Stephen Milligan MP, Cesar Romero, Peter Cushing, Derek Jarman, Dennis Potter, Harry Nilsson, Jackie Kennedy, Doris Speed, Fanny Cradock and Labour leader John Smith all died.

In the news headlines in September '94? The sinking of car ferry MS Estonia with the deaths of 852 people on board, the rape and murder of Danish tour guide Louise Jensen by British squaddies in Cyprus, the Iraq disarmament crisis, the end of the broadcasting ban on spokesmen for the IRA (Sinn Féin) and other paramilitary groups, and the seaside town of Whitby hosted its inaugural Goth Weekend. In the ascendant were Jean-Bertrand Aristide (restored to power in Haiti after US military intervention), and Lidl (which opened its first stores in Britain), but we waved a fond farewell to telly stalwart and all-round entertainer Roy Castle. In our cinemas were The Mask, Colour of Night and The Hudsucker Proxy. On telly: Top of the Pops 2, The X-Files, University Challenge with Jeremy Paxman.

And in our charts this week twenty-five years ago? Saturday Night by Whigfield had finally knocked Wet Wet Wet's Love Is All Around off the top of the chart after fifteen weeks; also present and correct were Bon Jovi, Princess Kylie, Boyz II Men, REM, Luther Vandross & Mariah Carey [aaaargh!], M-Beat feat General Levy [nope; me neither] and one of my favourite songs ever, Seven Seconds by Youssou N'dour and Neneh Cherry...

...and this one!


I'm jigging around at my desk as we speak.

A quarter of a century later.

Monday, 23 September 2019

Luna-cy



After another faboo weekend - shopping and a show; business as usual, really - we've arrived not only at the start of another week in the benighted office, but the Autumn Equinox, to boot. Nights are officially longer than days from here, dears!

Sob.

Never mind, eh? Why be glum, when there's another insane Italian television spectacular ready to cheer us up on this Tacky Music Monday?!


Miss Parisi is our saviour. Have a good week, dear reader!

Sunday, 22 September 2019

Don't look down, it's a long long way to fall



Well - what to say about the brand new production of Evita that our little gang (me, Madame Acarti, Baby Steve, Houseboy Alex, Lou and Our Sal) went to see at the Regent's Park Open Air Theatre last night [on its own last night]?

Having only really had a connection with the Andrew Lloyd-Webber/Tim Rice classic via its hit songs Don't Cry For Me Argentina, Oh What a Circus and Another Suitcase Another Hall, and the gloriously opulent Madonna movie [we've never seen it on stage before], it was quite a shock to the senses to experience Jamie Lloyd's stripped-to-the-bare-bones version. There was none of the Baroque architecture, grandiose militaria nor dazzling costumes here - quite the opposite, in fact, as all the action takes place on an enormous set of stepped concrete walkways, starkly illuminated, with a rusting "Evita" sign at is head, behind which the orchestra occupies centre stage throughout. With the frequent use of smoke, ticker-tape bombs, fireworks and flames, it often more resembled a rock concert than a piece of musical theatre...

Reflecting the brutalist air of the set, our "anti-heroine" spent the entire show in basic attire; mainly a white slip dress and trainers. Although this was at first a bit jarring, it served the story as a whole by not distracting us from the realities of the life of Eva Peron, née Duarte - she was a dirt-poor girl of very easy virtue, who used and abused anybody and everybody (mainly men) on her way to the top; hardly batting an eyelid at the disdain of the establishment, the fate of her opponents (be they her lovers, or their partners, or the political opponents who became known as "the disappeared") nor at the brutality and corruption of her eventual husband President Peron's regime, over which she presided as matriarch. Her goal was immortality, and she achieved that in spades.

Playing Eva in the first half was the American singer Samantha Pauly - who is fresh from a US staging of the "teenage girly fan-pop musical" Six, and it showed. Her voice was [like the "Curate's Egg"] good in parts, but veered dangerously close to rock-chick "Pink-lite" shrillness at times, which none of us appreciated much. She was obviously suffering however, coughing a lot, so it was no surprise that in part two her understudy Marsha Songcombe took over. Ms Songcome's voice was much more melodic, which was just as well as she got all the "big numbers", including Don't Cry For Me, Argentina, and did them beautifully.

Trent Saunders as Che Guevara portrayed the frustrated (and ultimately impotent) voice of the cynical radical opposition excellently, right from his opening number Oh, What a Circus. The interplay between the two lead characters - perpetually grabbing each other's microphone, until eventually, at the height of her power, Evita cut the wire - and the air of frightened anger and despair this "voice of the people" felt, as the "Peron star" began to outshine and crush everything it/she claimed to uphold, came across very well. Juan Peron (played by Ektor Rivera) was less impressive however; we didn't feel he conveyed the true callousness of the man as dictator nor (at the end) errant husband convincingly enough to complement the narrative.

The chorus and dancers were all excellent (and some of the boys were very sexy indeed!), and the choreography (albeit very, very modernist) worked well within the limitations of the set. Some of the gimmicks (the popping balloons symbolising the "disposal" of lovers by Eva or political opponents by Peron; the changeover (under sufferance) of Che's t-shirt from his own face to that of Evita; the use of light and shadow, smoke and flames at various points in the drama) worked very well. Others less so - after a while, the lack of distinguishing outfits made the "action" a bit confusing; the graffiti-spraying of Eva's frock to denote her glittering array of outfits on the so-called "Rainbow Tour" was somewhat unimpressive; and one-too-many centrepiece songs being sung by people in their knickers began to grate.

However, there were sufficient brilliant moments for this to be a rewarding experience - the "comic" turn of Adam Pearce as the crooner Magaldi (Eva's first "lover/victim"), the sublime Frances Mayli McCann as Peron's doomed mistress, Eva's seduction of Juan Peron with I'd Be Surprisingly Good For You, her bitter swansong You Must Love Me, and Che's sardonic High Flying, Adored were all as much high points of the show as were the star-billing numbers - in all, it was a very memorable production, and one we're very glad we got to see.


And, just because - heeeere's Ricky!

Saturday, 21 September 2019

Grammar lesson

Friday, 20 September 2019

Now don't you wait or hesitate



Hoooo-wee!

Thank heavens for that. Another week chalked-off, and a sunny weekend [thankfully - tomorrow we're off to the Open Air Theatre in Regent's Park for Evita, which would have been a bit miserable if it was raining] to come!

Let's celebrate with a mash-up - what would have happened, dear reader, if Sister Sledge had merged with the "hair rock" Woodstock generation? This:


Have a good weekend, dear reader - and Thank Disco It's Friday!

Thursday, 19 September 2019

Totty of the Day - a seven nation army couldn't hold me back



Mr Scott Bradlee is not only the musical genius behind our beloved "house band" Postmodern Jukebox, he is decidedly cute to boot!



It also happens to be his birthday today, and - as if we'd ever need an excuse - by way of a tribute, we need some more of his/their extraordinary interpretations of modern "classics". First up, the man himself, solo, with what is apparently a Taylor Swift song [dunno - even looking up the original left me none the wiser, as I generally tend to avoid her kind of country-pop with a vengeance]...


Brilliant!

However, we couldn't leave it there without another choon from the rest of his combo:


Fab musicianship. Fab vocals. Fab frock!

Many happy returns, Scott Bradlee (born 19th September 1981)!

Wednesday, 18 September 2019

It killed an Alsatian?


A poster for a ‘much-loved’ missing cat has omitted its nine-year reign of terror over the rest of the street.

Tortoiseshell Tom is described as ‘friendly, fun and great with people’ on the poster created by the Booker family, in contrast to neighbours who call him a ‘vicious little bastard’.

Margaret Gerving said: “The poster makes it look like butter wouldn’t melt, but I’ve seen that cat hiss at a baby in a pram. I cross the road when I see him coming.

“He shits in every sandpit, leaves dead birds in every kitchen and all the other cats leap up walls to avoid him. And I can’t prove this, but there’s a rumour round here that it killed an Alsatian.”


Others familiar with the ‘cherished family pet’ have described him as ‘deranged’, ‘not of this earth’ and ‘pure evil in feline form’.

Neighbour Stephen Malley said: “But the good thing is - no stranger getting clawed by that savage twat will ever match him to the description. So our long nightmare could be over.”
The Daily Mash

Of course.

Tuesday, 17 September 2019

Give me one more chance to keep you satisfied



Probably my favourite band, ever [erm - I'll probably change my mind on that score next week, or the week after], Mr Neil Tennant and Mr Chris Lowe aka Pet Shop Boys pulled out all the stops for their only live UK gig this year - at the annual Radio 2 Live in Hyde Park event on Sunday! Headlining a full-day festival of feelgood nostalgia, with acts such as Status Quo, Simply Red and Bananarama preceding them (as well as Westlife, Clean Bandit and someone called Kelsea Ballerini [nope; me neither]), they were in their element - with a set full of hits [and a new single to boot], such as these...

Enjoy! I did [Via the BBC iPlayer].






Utterly fab-u-lous!

The Boys' performance is available (for those who can get it) on the BBC iPlayer for the next 28 days.

Monday, 16 September 2019

And it's turning out all wrong ma



Despite the fact that it is a concept lost on a Dowager Countess, we had a brilliantly sunny weekend - and a full-on one! The Downton Abbey film on Friday evening, then a trip to London's "horticultural mile" of Crews Hill on Saturday, followed by the finale of the Last Night of the Proms [on telly, of course], then Sunday almost entirely spent in the extensive gardens here at Dolores Delargo Towers, potting-up for Spring (oo-er), followed by a full-volume Pet Shop Boys extravaganza [on telly again] courtesy of Radio 2 Live in Hyde Park. I was dancing around the living-room for a good couple of hours to that...

Crash! Bang! It's back down to earth. Work again.

Hey ho. On this Tacky Music Monday, let's let last Saturday's birthday girl [she's 75, you know!] - a doyenne of all things "tacky" [in this context, OTT song-and-dance numbers] - Miss Joey Heatherton take the stage!


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

Sunday, 15 September 2019

Flag-waving?



You, dear reader, will no doubt know already that I am a long-serving campaigner for, and staunch advocate of, the rights and visibility of gay people (and related acronyms). I have hawked many a protest banner, been an active participant in many a rally - not least the Gay Pride March since 1985, from when it was still a valid political statement rather than today's rules-obsessed corporate wank-fest - gathered signatures for petitions against Section 28 and for the equal age of consent, protested the Pope and Putin, and worn both the pink triangle and the rainbow flag as a badge of honour. Out and Proud, indeed.

But what to make of last night's - ahem - Last Night of the Proms?

Far from wanting to sound like Violet, Countess of Grantham, I am patriotic, and a bit of a traditionalist when it comes to such matters. I love a good pageant - and the Royal Family always comes up with goods on that score - and I do believe that the closing session of the most important eight-week musical festival in Britain (and indeed the the world) is, has always, and always should be a moment when everyone who is British [English, Scots, Welsh, Northern Irish] has the opportunity to show their red, white and blue colours. And why the hell not?! Despite the best efforts of the hand-wringing middle-class Guardianistas to upset this with their free hand-outs of EU propaganda, the good old Union Flag is still the predominant visual symbol one expects to see on such a prestigious occasion. Of course, the flags of all nations have always been in evidence as well, but at least they, too, are symbols of nationhood.

US mezzo-soprano Jamie Barton is undoubtedly a fantastically-talented singer. She obviously has a deeply-held pride in being "different"; in being an outspoken advocate for women of her size, and for the visibility of those, like herself, who are bisexual. Good on her, if that is what she wants to do with her influential position as a rising star and public figure. She chose to wear outfits for her appearances on the Last Night in the "colours of bisexual pride", lavender, pink and blue. So far, an excellent way to get a message across.

But what possessed her, or the BBC, or anyone in charge of the night's classic finale, to raise the rainbow flag rather than the British one? She was singing Rule, Britannia [our "second national anthem"], ffs, not Over the Rainbow [which she actually did sing earlier]! I loved seeing rainbow flags in the audience, and especially around conductor Sakari Oramo's podium [where the world's cameras focus so heavily]. But for an American to fail to raise the British flag at this climactic moment of a British celebration was jarring to say the least. Just imagine if someone from the UK had done it at the American Independence Day Concert in Washington, for instance, while The Star-Spangled Banner was playing?

There are times, and - as I know - places where protest and making a statement are necessary, especially when there are so many examples of bigotry, persecution and criminalisation of LGBT people across the globe. Might I humbly suggest that while singing Rule, Britannia was not one of them?

There is no real footage of the Last Night online, so here's a whirlwind tour, accompanied by the traditional Hornpipe:

Saturday, 14 September 2019

Thanos in a tiara




[Click to embiggen]

From the review in Time Out:
In a cinema landscape crowded with superhero smack-downs and CG apocalypses, it’s sometimes nice just to watch a film that wants you to worry about the whereabouts of some vegetables. That film is Downton Abbey, a big old comfort blanket of a movie stitched together from vignettes involving missing paper knives, a problematic ball gown and an unfortunate outbreak of rain. It’s as nourishing as one of Mrs Patmore’s crumpets, and about as edgy...

Everyone gets their moment to shine, and Maggie Smith’s acid-tongued Dowager Countess (basically Thanos in a tiara) gets about seventeen of them. Her catty rivalry with Imelda Staunton’s similarly formidable aristocrat and her snarky asides are a highlight. Smith steals every scene she’s in, trowelling each line with ironic disdain...

This is a movie that knows what its core audience wants and provides it in spades.
Oh, yes! It certainly does...

Madam Arcati and I went to the opening night of the big screen adaptation of the series that took the world by storm (for five years until its ostensible final episode back in 2015) last night, and it was just like slipping into a comfortable pair of slippers.

Needless to say, as most reviewers have concurred, you wouldn't go to see this for its heavy, engrossing plot; nor indeed for anything unexpected, other than to wallow in the sumptuousness of it all. Which we did. The consternation and kerfuffle over the Royal visit, the machinations of the Dowager to get exactly what she wants against all comers, the wiliness of the downstairs staff, the stiff-upper-lips upstairs, a frisson of flirtings and semi-scandalous goings-on, a glittering array of frocks and tightly-buttoned toff totty, and everything coming together in the end with a sumptuous ball - what more do you want?!

Possibly the most "shocking" thing in the whole film was seeing Lady Edith (Laura Carmichael) in her cami-knickers.

Imelda Staunton added a welcome bitter-and-twisted grist to the Dowager Countess's mill, the cartoon-villainy of the evil Royal Butler played by David Haig (and his supporting "henchmen") provided some hilarity, and two of our favourite "posh totty" characters played central roles, for a change...



It was all one could have wanted from a couple of hours in the cinema: a delightful escape from everything that constitutes life in the modern world. Perfection.



Facts about the movie:
  • Geraldine James, who plays Queen Mary in the film, wears a dress made using fabric that was actually worn by the real-life royal.
  • Maggie Smith's tiara is a 19th-century platinum-and-diamond number from Bentley & Skinner of Piccadilly that contains 16.5 carats of brilliant-cut diamonds.
  • Both Lady Mary (Michelle Dockery) and Lady Cora (Elizabeth McGovern) wear original Art Deco pieces, carefully adapted and embellished for the film.

More trivia:
  • In 2010, composer Andrew Lloyd Webber made an offer to purchase Highclere Castle, where Downton Abbey is filmed, apparently as a home for his art collection.
  • It’s estimated that more than 120 million people around the world have watched Downton Abbey at one point; the show was broadcast in 250 territories worldwide, and became a major hit in Russia, South Korea, and the Middle East.
  • HM The Queen is a fan, and apparently noticed on one episode that there was a young British officer wearing medals which had not yet been awarded in the period the episode was set.

Enough of all that, and on with the show...

Friday, 13 September 2019

Because it's only make believe



Another week drags slowly to a close, and we keep our fingers crossed on this day of superstitions...

Tonight, Madam Arcati and I plan to go and see the big-screen episode of Downton Abbey, so that is something to look forward to, but in the meantime let's get ourselves in the right sort of mood for a party weekend, in the company of a Diva who always brings us some cheer. And luck, of course...


In my imagination
There is no complication
I dream about you all the time
In my mind, a celebration
The sweetest of sensation
Thinking you could be mine

In my imagination
There is no hesitation
We walk together hand in hand
I'm dreaming
You fell in love with me
Like I'm in love with you
But dreaming's all I do
If only they'd come true

I should be so lucky
Lucky, lucky, lucky
I should be so lucky in love
I should be so lucky
Lucky, lucky, lucky
I should be so lucky in love

It's a crazy situation
You always keep me waiting
Because it's only make believe
And I would come a-running
To give you all my loving
If one day, you would notice me

My heart is close to breaking
And I can't go on faking
The fantasy that you'll be mine
I'm dreaming
That you're in love with me
Like I'm in love with you
But dreaming's all I do
If only they'd come true

I should be so lucky
Lucky, lucky, lucky
I should be so lucky in love
I should be so lucky
Lucky, lucky, lucky
I should be so lucky in love


Thank Disco Kylie It's Friday (the Thirteenth)!

Have a good one, peeps.

Thursday, 12 September 2019

Weary dread


Nobody in a large office can summon the will to open and read an email titled ‘Christmas Do 2019!!’, they have confirmed.
The group email has been sent to 412 employees, but from the boardroom to the post room every recipient is staring at its boldface unread title with weary dread.

Acquisitions manager Joseph Turner said: “So soon, the death-knell of the year?

“I know they have to ask early so we can book somewhere and to give us a choice and all that’s good in theory, but I’m just not emotionally ready to deal with the end-of-the-year thing. I’m not even prepared to say the word.

“Strictly’s on, tubs of 'Heroes' in the shops, the shadow of the darkest season has fallen across us. But if I don’t read this email perhaps it won’t be real.”


Colleague Joanna Kramer said: “Basically once we open that it’s all over. Tinsel round the monitors, pathetic turkey dinner in the canteen, names out of hats for Secret Santa. So it’s staying closed.”

Sender Mary Fisher said: “No responses? Everyone must be fine with the Chinese restaurant with Elvis impersonators then. Good.”
The Daily Mash

Of course.

Wednesday, 11 September 2019

The Whale



Sharing a birthday with the anniversary of the Twin Towers terrorism attack (eighteen years ago today) are such notables as D. H. Lawrence, Herbert Lom, Jessica Mitford, Brian De Palma, Harry Connick Jr., motorcycling legend Barry Sheene, tacky showbiz entertainer Lola Falana, Richard Ashcroft of the Verve, soprano Catherine Bott, Boy George's ex Jon Moss, deposed dictator Ferdinand Marcos, and Mr Richard Melville Hall.

Who? I hear you ask...

...he's better known as Moby [so nick-named after the famous titular whale in the novel written by his great-great-great uncle Herman], of course!

Here, by way of a tribute, are two faves from his repertoire:



Ah, the 90s again...

Tuesday, 10 September 2019

Fly away on Venga Airways



Timeslip moment again...

We've been dumped by battlecruiser the Excalibur into a Blairite Britain two decades ago - the year of Harold Shipman, the Admiral Duncan pub bombing, Shakespeare in Love, the murder of Jill Dando, the minimum wage, Tracey Emin, war in Kosovo, The Matrix, Prince Edward and Sophie Rhys-Jones, Ladbroke Grove rail crash, Jonathan Aitken, Columbine High School massacre, the official opening of the Millennium Dome, Steps, Thabo Mbeki and The Naked Chef; the births of Brooklyn Beckham, the Euro, Napster, ExxonMobil, and the terms "texting", "carbon footprint", "dashcam" and "blog"; it was also the year that Dusty Springfield, Quentin Crisp, Madeline Kahn, Ernie Wise, Lena Zavaroni, Anthony Newley, Cardinal Hume, Oliver Reed, John F. Kennedy Jr., Bill Owen, Willie Whitelaw, the Midland Bank, Stanley Kubrick and Screaming Lord Sutch all died.

In the news in September 1999: a furore erupted over the arrest of Norfolk farmer Tony Martin for shooting dead a burglar in his home, the funeral of Jill Dando took place, the Royal Bank of Scotland launched a hostile takeover bid for the NatWest Bank, huge earthquakes hit Athens and Taiwan, and the Police Review Commission recommended widespread reform of the Royal Ulster Constabulary. In the ascendant were Bobby Robson (appointed Newcastle United's new manager) and Jerry Springer (with a brand new British TV chat show), but we waved a fond farewell to singer and dancer Frankie Vaughan. In our cinemas: South Park: Bigger, Longer & Uncut, Eyes Wide Shut and Beautiful People. On telly: Diagnosis Murder, Family Guy and Loose Women.

And what of our charts this week in '99? A rather "Latino" feel, methinks. Holding onto the top spot was Lou Bega's timeless Mambo No 5, Mucho Mambo (Sway) by Shaft was at #3, Enrique Iglesias Bailamos was at #4, Geri Halliwell's Mi Chico Latino at #7, and Ricky Martin had just left the Top Ten. Also present and correct were Moloko, TLC, A1, Martine McCutcheon, Alice Deejay and - erm - DJ Jean [nope, me neither.]

Lurking outside the Top 40, however, was a choon that only by a stretch of the imagination could be described as "Latin" [the band is Dutch, and the original song was written and performed by two Welshmen masquerading as being from Barbados], yet was soon to sweep everything before it...


Twenty years ago?!! Heavens.

Monday, 9 September 2019

A rose by any other name



And so, the cycle begins once more - yet again the office beckons...

Hey ho. To cheer us up on this Tacky Music Monday, in my hankering for something sunny and summery I came across this "delight" - apparently the second best-selling single in the Netherlands in the summer of '76, it supplanted ABBA's Dancing Queen at the top of their charts, and was so popular that in 2005 (the band's 40th anniversary) it was re-released and hit the charts all over again.

The dead-eyed stares! The over-acting (and distinctly creepy) male singer! The bad French pronunciation! The hideous resort!

It's bizarre, to say the least:


Have a great week, dear reader.

Sunday, 8 September 2019

Experience has made me rich


Cider in the garden? Yes, please!

In complete contrast to my pessimistic post yesterday, today was gloriously sunny and warm. I cleared away the remains of the dessicated Canary Creeper (Tropaeolum peregrinum) that had given us such joy during the summer, and even paid a visit to the local garden centre [having finally acknowledged that the extensive gardens here at Dolores Delargo Towers are never going to be a baking-hot tropical paradise thanks to the overgrown trees in other gardens in the vicinity, I bought a new fern, as well as some more Chionodoxa bulbs and wallflowers for the Spring].

To complete the circle, how about a bit of "Sunday music" - courtesy of our "house band" Scott Bradlee's Postmodern Jukebox [of course!] and their extraordinary multi-talented leading lady Gunhil Carling?!


Faboo!

Saturday, 7 September 2019

The sun doesn't answer


An array of autumnal colours in the extensive gardens here at Dolores Delargo Towers.

It's that most depressing of seasons again. Despite it only being the first week of September - and we are still enjoying the glimmer of warm sunshine by day - with the blustery winds and colder nights over the past few days, the realisation that autumn is on its way has begun to hit home. The sun is noticeably lower in the sky, sunsets are getting earlier and earlier, and loads of our plants have set or are setting seed.

You can keep your "season of mists and mellow fruitfulness", sorry! - I want summer to last a bit longer, thank you...

...something like this:


Why can't he give her his love
No more again
Tears on her face, the dove
She cries, she knows
She won't be able to fly
Away from him
She'll look a red rose in the spring
No she won't be able to sing
Songs of love

I'll open up my heart
I'll be loving you forever and ever
I'll be part of you
In the way I do
Come into my life so I can sing

And then she questions the sun
Why, why me
The sun doesn't answer
Oh God, can you help me
The answer is easy my love
You've built your own jail
You've always been part of the sky
So why d'you keep staying by his side
Away from me

I'll open up my heart
I'll be loving you forever and ever
I'll be part of you
In the way I do
Come into my life so I can sing

I'll be loving you forever and ever
I'll be part of you
In the way I do
Come into my life so I can sing

She's a white dove
An angel in disguise
She fell in love with the man
But this man won't give back her love

So this is her cry
This is her cry
This is her cry

I'll open up my heart
I'll be loving you forever and ever
I'll be part of you
In the way I do
Come into my life so I can sing.


Sigh.

Friday, 6 September 2019

From Liverpool To Wales I wanna hear the music pumping



Sharing a birthday with a mixed bag of luminaries such as CeCe Peniston, Idris Elba, Laugh-in veteran Jo Anne Worley, songwriter Jackie Trent, one of London's great landowners Lady Anne Cavendish-Bentinck, Pink Floyd's Roger Waters, the original "Nosferatu" Max Schreck, MAD magazine cartoonist Sergio Aragonés, Dolores O’Riordan of The Cranberries, and - erm - Buster Bloodvessel from Bad Manners, the late, great Sylvester (James) would have been 72 today.

To get us in the mood for the celebration that is the weekend (yay!), let's have something a little different from the great gay icon himself - a number from his later career, when he ventured into the electro-tinged (sometimes known as "New-Beat") crossover territory that marked the slow decline of Hi-NRG and the ascendancy of House and Techno music. Regardless of what you call it, however, let's just Thank Disco It's Friday!!


Have a great weekend, peeps!

Thursday, 5 September 2019

Wednesday, 4 September 2019

Love and insanity and pagan profanity before a worshipping crowd



"Someone once said to me ‘Billie, you are so pretentious – I think it was Jean Paul Sartre. Or it could’ve been the Dalai Lama, I forget."

Madam Acarti and I were very pleased to get tickets for the opening night of Musik, the new "sequel" to the faboo Pet Shop Boys musical Closer to Heaven, that we went to see in - gulp! - 2001!

The basic premise of this wonderful one-woman tour-de-force is that we are being "treated" to an evening with "Bille Trix", club hostess, muse to the world's great artists, the woman who was in the right place at the right time to witness many of the milestones of modern history. Think Forrest Gump, only with more vagina references and a shitload of drugs.

It's an utterly hilarious, camp-as-tits and entrancing performance by Miss Frances Barber [see also here] (as if we would expect anything less from our Patron Saint of the maniacal husky laugh) - and she had the audience [the Leicester Square Theatre was packed to the brim - the short five day run is sold out, apparently!] in the palm of her hand throughout. With shit-hot writing from the lovely Jonathan Harvey [see here, here and especially here] and musical numbers by PSB, it's a class act.

"Billie"'s journey veered from being the unwanted child of an unloving mother and and unknown soldier father (she describes her desolate childhood in the song Mongrel), through exodus to the USA and earning a crust busking (with a ridiculous "hippie-era" ditty called Cover Me in Calamine, apparently a duet with a girl later to be renamed Nico), to the Vietnam war (to which she attributed her song Run Girl Run), to Andy Warhol's Factory (she allegedly gave Warhol the inspiration for his Campbell's tin artworks, as explained in the bizarre Soup song), a year in a Soho Square phone box, and a resurrected career as a "disco diva"; en route she hung around with everyone from Dali to Donald Trump (who allegedly was a fellow émigré from Germany, took her virginity, and whom she "inspired" to build "the wall"), the Beatles, the Jaggers and Damien Hirst. Her Mother Courage was reviewed as “incomprehensible”; and her singing inspired everyone to shout, as her mother did on her death-bed: "When will it end?"



In her own world, however, Billie Trix is music, is art, is gender; a “zeitgeist for sore eyes” - and let no-one tell her otherwise!

We absolutely loved it, from beginning to end. Here are two of the songs Neil and Chris wrote especially for the show - first, her "disco diva" number:


... and her contemplative closing number:


The PSB boys also re-used a couple of numbers from Closer To Heaven, not least our favourite, the "torch song" Friendly Fire. Fortuitously, some fabulous person out there in YouTube-land has found some actual footage of that original West End show from eighteen years ago, in which Miss Barber sings it:


An inspirational tirade against me
How to explain my life?
Boys to the left of me
girls to the right of me
neither husband nor wife
Though the days are filled with pain
there is no one who'll explain
why I'm coming under friendly fire
shot in the fatal cause of rock 'n' roll
but there's nothing, really nothing, to say

Why I endure under force majeure
slander without shame or tact
I who studied make-up, mime and Buddha
who taught two generations to react
About me the critics lied
I ignored them and survived
in spite of coming under friendly fire
shot in the fatal cause of of rock 'n' roll
I have nothing, really nothing, to deny

When I look back my eyes are filled with tears
Danger to mascara, applause to my peers

When fame sustained me and arenas acclaimed me
I floated through life in a cloud
of love and insanity and pagan profanity
before a worshipping crowd
Now my status is ill-defined
As an icon I'm inclined
to be coming under friendly fire
shot in the fatal cause of rock 'n' roll
but whatever dull or clever points they've scored
I have never, oh no never, been ignored.


Amen to that!

Tuesday, 3 September 2019

Le garçon que nous connaissions



On reading of the premature death (at 58) of one Laurent Sinclair [pictured above, left] of the French New-Romantic-era band Taxi Girl [one of his fellow band members being Queen Madge-collaborator Mirwais], I have to confess I had to go and look them up. And I am very glad I did...

Although their bandname may not have been instantly familiar, their biggest hit certainly is (to me anyway - I remember "pointy-dancing" to this in Lazers in Newport in 1981)!


RIP, the 80s M. Sinclair.

Monday, 2 September 2019

Slow down, you move too fast



And, so, with a bump, we awake to another start to yet another week in the office...

We watched a rather faboo documentary this weekend on the life and influence on modern choreography (not least that of her husband Bob Fosse) of the lovely Gwen Verdon. Born into showbiz (her mother was a member of the legendary Denishawn dance troupe - read more about Ted Shawn), her disfigured legs meant she spent her early childhood in leg braces - which could have thwarted the family's ambitions for her. She nevertheless became an accomplished dancer and was eventually tutored by the renowned Hollywood choreographer Jack Cole. When she first met Mr Fosse, she was already hugely popular for her role in Can-Can, and through their partnership he developed his trademark style, directing not only her stage shows, but onward into movies such as (the show she premiered in the theatre) Sweet Charity.

One suspects that this particular number might not have been their most shining moment, but it's absolutely perfect for a Tacky Music Monday!


Yeah, baby, yeah!

Have a good week, peeps.

Sunday, 1 September 2019

Don't thumb your nose, but take a tip from mine





Another little piece of my childhood has gone, with the sad news that the eternal Rhoda, Miss Valerie Harper has died.

Despite having a diagnosis of terminal cancer back in 2013, she still managed to outlive her former co-star Mary Tyler-Moore by a couple of years.

Miss Harper epitomised for us a whole era of showbiz that straddled the slow demise of the "variety show" and the rise of the sitcom in the 1970s, and we will always fondly remember her smiling, cheery personality, whether as "Miss Morgenstern" or - more surprisingly, as a singer...


RIP, Valerie Kathryn Harper (22nd August 1939 – 30th August 2019).

More Miss Harper here and here.