Saturday 31 October 2020

None of your wittering, twittering, petty poltergeists for them

Lest we forget, here's a little something for Hallowe'en (courtesy of the playlist of the lovely Liza Tarbuck on Radio 2 tonight):

The Castleford Ladies' Magical Circle meets tonight,
In an upstairs aspidistra'd room that's lit by candlelight,
Where Elizabeth Jones and Lily O'Grady
And three or four more married ladies
Practice every week unspeakable pagan rites.

Dressed in their Sunday coats and their flowerpot hats,
Respectable middle-aged ladies - running to fat, at that -
There's Elizabeth Jones and Lily O'Grady
And three or four more married ladies,
Each with a Woolworth's broomstick and a tabby cat.

But they don't waste time with a ouija board or a seance now and again, no.
None of your wittering, twittering, petty poltergeists for them. No,
Elizabeth Jones and Lily O'Grady
And three or four more married ladies
Prefer to be tickled by the whiskery chins of bogey men.

Their husbands potter at snooker down the club,
Unaware of the devilish jiggery-poke and rub-a-dub-dub,
While Elizabeth Jones and Lily O'Grady
And three or four more married ladies
Are frantically dancing naked for Beelzebub.

And after the witches' picnic and the devil's grog,
After their savage pantings, their hysterical leap-frog, well,
Elizabeth Jones and Lily O'Grady
And three or four more married ladies
Go back home for cocoa and the Epilogue.

So be careful how you go of a Saturday night:
If you see a little old lady passing by, it very well might be
Elizabeth Jones or Lily O'Grady
Or one of those Satanical ladies.
Their eyes are wild and bright, their cheekbones all alight.
Don't go where they invite,
Because the Castleford Ladies' Magical Circle meets tonight. 


Of storms, heartthrobs and Darby O'Gill

The latest "annoyingly named storm" currently swamping the extensive gardens here at Dolores Delargo Towers is called "Aiden".

The spelling may be different, but any excuse for some gratuitous pictures of the lovely Mr Turner...

Drooling aside, sad news has arrived today - the "archetypal James Bond" Sean Connery is dead.

Mr Connery was well-known for his "hard-man" roles, but in just about every part he played, there was always that slight twinkle in his eye that said he wasn't taking himself entirely seriously...

...which is probably just as well in this early role, in which he was called upon to sing!

RIP, Sir Thomas Sean Connery (25th August 1930 – 31st October 2020)

Friday 30 October 2020

Crying, indeed

Unaccustomed as I am to posting a second "stab" at whipping up the party mood towards the weekend, but...

The utterly marvellous Miss Sophie Ellis-Bextor (house fave here at Dolores Delargo Towers) has been inexhaustable all through lockdown, posting a weekly "Kitchen Disco" live video podcast, singing and dancing with her family at home. Sounds cheesy, but Sophie appears so utterly genuine that we forgive her anything.

At the culmination of this project, she decided to release an album (mostly a "greatest hits" compliation of her more upbeat numbers) of the same name - buy it here - and from it, the new single is a faboo Alcazar cover!

The song is just what is needed by way of a further pick-me-up, but I must admit that the video made me a bit teary...

Thank Disco It's Friday (pt 2)!

One day, dear reader, this will all be over - and we will be laughing at a discotheque again.

Autumn winds blowin' outside the window

On this day in 1899 the Siege of Ladysmith began in the Boer War, in 1917 the Balfour Declaration (of support for the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine) was agreed, in 1938 Orson Welles broadcast his radio play of H. G. Wells's The War of the Worlds and caused a mass panic across the USA, and in 1973 the Bosphorus Bridge in Turkey (connecting the continents of Europe and Asia) was completed; a raft of assorted "names" were also born today, including Sir Christopher Wren, Grace Slick, Ruth Gordon, Charles Atlas, Stefan Dennis, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Mario Testino, Henry Winkler, Diego Maradona, Michael Winner, Ruth Hussey, Gavin Rossdale, Ezra Pound, Harry Hamlin, Anna Wing, Juliet Stevenson and (ahem) Ivanka Trump...

...and our friend John-John!

Since it is also the end of another uninspiring week of work and no parties to go to, I reckon we can combine the birthday boy's ABBA obsession with something a bit more "dancy", courtesy of some tarts, a boat and a pool - and Thank Disco Electro House It's Friday!

Happy birthday, dear.

Have a great weekend, dear reader!

Thursday 29 October 2020

Oh, fire, fire, fire*

Another legendary Diva, much cherished here at Dolores Delargo Towers, celebrates her 90th birthday today!

The magnificent Omara Portuondo [for it is she] has seen it all in her long career - her life spans the history of Cuban music from the 1940s to the present.

Having had some success as an actress, in the 1950s she began singing as part of an all-female group Quarteto Las d’Aida and the all-female Orquesta Anacaona, for whom she performed for fifteen years before going solo. Famously, however, it took until 1997 before the world "discovered" her talents, as part of the famous Buena Vista Social Club.

We fell in love with her self-titled solo album twenty years ago, and we adore her still. She's just completed a final World Tour (at nearly 90!), however, and we never did get to see her on stage... Sob.

I have (of course) lauded the lady before [see here and, particularly, here], but we can never have too much of a good thing...

Feliz cumpleaños, Señorita Omara Portuondo Peláez! (born 29th October 1930)

[*"Fire, fire, fire" = "Candela, candela, candela" in Spanish]

Wednesday 28 October 2020

Warrior in Woolworths?

It's tough finding a new job, and it’s even harder when companies sound like they’re assembling the Avengers rather than employing a data entry assistant. These buzzwords should make you run a mile.

Retail Jedi
Though not the most thrilling job title in the world, at least ‘shelf stacker’ has some dignity. Trying to make menial work seem fun by giving it a twatty name is insulting and degrading for everyone involved, even imaginary space knights.

Culinary artist
No, you won’t be the new Michelangelo or Van Gogh, you’ll just be slapping wet ham between slices of bread for eight hours a day. The only similarity to Van Gogh you’ll have is knowing what it’s like to feel fucking miserable and not have much money.

Office ninja
Ninjas are stealthy and secretive, launching deadly attacks when least expected. What they don’t do is sit at a desk dejectedly answering emails, fixing photocopier jams and listening to Martin at the neighbouring desk describe his ‘epic’ drinking session at the weekend.

IT help desk wizard
You might think you’ll be the new Gandalf, dispensing wisdom passed down through the ages. What you’ll actually be doing is answering the phone, googling the problem and reading out the top search result. Hardly defeating Sauron, is it?

Killer marketing guru
The Dalai Lama is a guru. A person who thinks there is value in coming up with naff marketing campaigns promoting shit products is not. However, the ‘killer’ bit is correct because you’ll be ready to commit murder after six months of writing social media posts promoting vape shops and wedding DJs.

The Daily Mash

Of course.

Tuesday 27 October 2020

Arrojo y una fiereza

As you will obviously be aware, dear reader, there is nothing in this world we love more here at Dolores Delargo Towers than to discover a new "diva"! Such a shame that on this particular occasion, the moment of discovery is purely because the gran dama has died.

Señorita Dolores Abril - for it is she - was a singer and famous film actress even before she met the renowned flamenco singer Juanito Valderrama in the early 1950s [who was at the time already married; they eventually wed on the death of his first wife], with whom she formed a professional and personal partnership for more than half a century until his death in 2004.

Their myriad records, stage and screen appearances (and their individual solo careers) made them the foremost couple in the world of copla singing, and both were revered as national icons in Spain. Dolores, in particular, was renowned for usually winning the "battle of the sexes" that they artfully played out on stage in their singing "contests" - gaining a reputation for her "courage and fierceness" ["arrojo y una fiereza"].

By way of a tribute, here's the young Dolores:

...and here she is, much later, doing battle with a purple boa - and winning! - all the while being adored by her audience... [Excuse the quality of the video; it appears someone recorded this off the telly.]:

Que en paz descanse, Dolores Caballero Abril (9th May 1939 – 25th October 2020)

Monday 26 October 2020

Witchy? Poo.

It is always an utterly weird feeling after the clocks change. In Spring you lose an hour and spend ages feeling jet-lagged, but in Autumn it's the opposite - at the moment the morning feels OK because we've been able to catch up on sleep, but anything after about 3pm is darkness... Either way, it doesn't change the fact that our precious weekend has disappeared in a flash, and it's time to open that sodding work laptop again!

With Hallowe'en looming, I thought I might have found something suitably spooky to start the week off with a bit of a buzz. Instead, on this Tacky Music Monday I have stumbled across this "masterpiece" called Salem's Witch that seems to have nothing to do with anything witchy or scary at all - but it is indeed truly tacky!

I say "nothing scary", but whatever those boys have in their trousers might startle one if caught unawares, methinks...

Have a good week, dear reader.

Sunday 25 October 2020

Anarcho-syndicalists, Sapphic Paris and QUILTBAG

Threatened new restrictions or not, John-John and I were determined to "form a bubble" and get to Friday's outing of "London's peerless gay literary salon" Polari at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern - especially as the readers were favourites of ours; two of the most distinguished writers of their genre, Philip Hensher and Diana Souhami.

By happy circumstance we were seated at a shared table not with complete strangers, but with fellow longtime Polari-ites, our chums Emma and Toby. The "bubble" extended...

Our faboo host Paul Burston opened proceedings with typical aplomb, and it was on with the show!

Our opening reader, the engaging Philip Hensher entertained us with some extracts from his (somewhat delayed due to COVID) new novel A Small Revolution in Germany, the complex tale of a group of typically pompous and over-confident teenage self-styled "anarcho-syndicalist" radicals rebelling against their mediocre school, the Establishment, and indeed anything that they perceive as "getting in the way" of some kind of imagined worldwide revolution, including CND - whose meetings they (amusingly, from one of the pieces Philip read) disrupt with gleeful cacophony and bags of flour. Of course, as the story unfolds, it would appear that the passion for rebellion has faded from most of the group, with the exception of the "anti-hero", the book's narrator Spike and his Chilean-exile lover Joaquin.

From the review by Elizabeth Lowry in The Guardian:

 ...“From now on,” announces a smitten Spike, “I resolved to devote my life to the liberation of the urban proletariat.”
We may smile knowingly, but he means it, whereas the others don’t. The novel moves easily between Thatcherite Britain and the present, by which time everyone except Spike and Joaquin has shed his or her youthful convictions. Ogden has become a journalist with a facile line in wokeness, Kate is a mediocre but lauded poet, Milne a peer and QC, and James Frinton is not just home secretary, but has turned into a Tory (though as someone points out, ‘he had to do that before he could be turned into the Home Secretary’). His one-time friends are proof, as Spike remarks, that “there is so much difference between the espousal of principles and the living of lives”. The political purity of his beliefs, on the other hand, “has been untainted by any deals with what may be achieved now, today, this minute”, although he adds ambiguously: “I had kept my principles. I had remained what I was, a boy.” Have the others sold out for the sake of power, or simply grown up?

You'll need to purchase a copy of the book to find out...

With her typical articulate and wry humour, the lovely Diana Souhami introduced us to what she has promoted as the last of her "Di's Dykes" series of acclaimed biographies of famous lesbians [that includes Gluck, Radclyffe Hall, Violet Trefusis and Vita SackvilleWest] - No Modernism Without Lesbians, a study of the interwoven lives of arty lesbians in inter-war Paris, and their contribution to the "making of a new world" (that was sadly interrupted by the advent of war).

From her introduction to the book:

In the decades before the Second World War, many creative women who loved women fled the repressions and expectations of their home towns, such as Washington and London, and formed a like-minded community in Paris. They wrote and published what they wanted, lived as they chose and were at the vanguard of modernism, the shift into twentieth-century ways of seeing and saying. I focus on the lives and contribution of Sylvia Beach, Bryher, Natalie Barney and Gertrude Stein – three were American, one was English. All rebelled against outworn art and attitudes. Sylvia Beach started the bookshop Shakespeare and Company and published James Joyce’s Ulysses when no commercial publisher could or would. Bryher, born Winifred Ellerman, daughter of the richest man in England, used her inheritance to fund new writing and film. Natalie Barney aspired to live her life as a work of art and make Paris the sapphic centre of the Western world. Gertrude Stein furthered the careers of modernist painters and writers and broke the mould of English prose. All had women lovers whom they kissed, and they changed the human mind to boot...

..."England was consciously refusing the twentieth century", Gertrude Stein said. America enforced prohibition of alcohol as well as censorship of literature and art. Lesbians with voices to be heard, who would not collude with silence and lying about their existence, got out if they could in order to speak out. Paris was waiting: the boulevards and bars, good food, low rents. It seemed on a different planet from London. Paris was where they formed their own community, fled the repressions and expectations of their fathers, took same-sex lovers, and painted, wrote and published what they wanted."Paris", Gertrude said, "was where the twentieth century was", "the place that suited those of us that were to create the twentieth-century art and literature". Indigenous Parisians held their traditional views but did not mind these foreigners with alternative lives. Gertrude Stein said they respected art and letters: it was not just what Paris gave, she said, "it was all it did not take away".

Modernism would not have taken the shape it did without the lesbians who gravitated to Paris at that time. There had been nothing like it since Sappho and the Island of Lesbos...

Stirring stuff!

No Modernism Without Lesbians is available from Gay's The Word bookshop.

After a break for a fag and a (socially-distanced, be-masked) mingle, it was time for part two, as Paul convened a panel discussion and Q&A session with our "stars".

Diana commented on her slight sense of progress at the fact her book was practically encouraged - by a mainstream publisher, yet - to include the word "Lesbian" in its title. An achievement in itself, the panel noted, in these days of multiple acronyms and self-identities, where the words "gay" and "lesbian" seem to be treated with something resembling disdain - a point I do so agree with!

Returning to the introduction to her book:

I duck the initialism of the present age: the LGBTQIA, the QUILTBAG (queer or questioning, undecided, intersex, lesbian, trans, bisexual, asexual or allied, gay or genderqueer) plus the +. Added recently are P and K: P for pansexual or polygamous and K for kink. And now there is prescriptive use of the pronoun ‘they’ for a person resistant to he or she...There are but twenty-six letters in the Roman alphabet and life is short...all the initials in the alphabet will not help in what I hope shines through: the uniqueness, the utter singularity of each individual life...For, of course, what matters from A to Z is not what you are, but how you are what you are, and the contribution made.
Amen, sister!

Questions and answers dealt with, and with resounding applause for another brilliant evening's entertainment, there was hardly time enough to say our farewells [and for me to do a little "vox-pop" of praise for Polari for some kind of podcast being organised by the lovely Sophia Blackwell, accomplished poet and fellow longtime Polari-ite] before the bar closed and it was time to wend our way home again.

Too soon.

Apparently, the next outing on 25th November will be another "Polari at Heaven" extravaganza - and that is definitely something to look forward to! Can't wait.

We love Polari.


"Di's Dykes":

[Clockwise from top left: Sylvia Beach, Bryher, Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Natalie Barney]

Saturday 24 October 2020

A Public Service Announcement...

...from Oscar Conlon-Morrey and a cast of dozens of West End troupers:

They'll Be Back. I look forward to that day!

Friday 23 October 2020

Eatin' fancy chow and drinkin' fancy wine

I want one of these masks!

Hoo-fucking-rah! The weekend's almost here - at last...

John-John and I are booked for Polari at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern again tonight, so there is actually something different to look forward to for a change.

To get us in that "party spirit", let's crank up the gramophone, conjure up something - ahem - classy, fling on our batwing tops and boogie along with the lovely Linda Clifford - and Thank Disco It's Friday!!

Have a great one, dear reader!

Thursday 22 October 2020

Domestic Klezmer

Having just discovered - after several weeks tweaking settings and reporting it as a fault - that another of the saintly Google's products, YouTube, has unilaterally and without prior notice stopped sending notification emails when a subscribed channel uploads a new video, it was only by chance that I spotted this slice of brilliance had been uploaded by the BBC as part of its socially-distanced "Instrumental Sessions" series [see here and here for more]:

Gawd bless the BBC!

Sod Google.


The composer/arranger of the excellent piece above is not merely a Klezmer clarinet specialist, but also a proud Welshman.

It was thus inevitable, I suppose, that he would lend his talents to producing a combination of the two things - in this faboo version of an old Welsh folk song (usually heard sung by male voice choirs and rugby crowds):

When worlds collide...

Wednesday 21 October 2020

La vida es una hermosura, hay que vivirla

Another day, another Patron Saint to celebrate!

The sublime Queen of Salsa, Señorita Celia Cruz would have been 95 years old today - and I can think of nothing better in this sodden, grey and downright miserable weather than to transport ourselves to somewhere more tropical in her company...


She was fabulous...

Celia Cruz (born Úrsula Hilaria Celia de la Caridad Cruz Alfonso, 21st October 1925 – 16th July 2003)

Tuesday 20 October 2020

Bangers stuffed

Oh, no!!

National Sausage Week has been cancelled!

We'll just have to make do with the buns...

Monday 19 October 2020

I was born to be crass, a loud brassy tart

Where do those weekends go?

Hey ho, there's always something that can redeem the situation - for, sharing her celebrations with another bizarre mix of notables, including John le Carré, Sir Michael Gambon, George McCrae, Mavis Nicholson, Sinitta, Philip Pullman, Bernard Hepton, Verónica Castro, John Lithgow, George Nader, Peter Tosh, Jennifer Holliday, Trey Parker, Gloria Jones and Juanita Moore, today would have been the 75th anniversary of the birth of our Patron Saint of Sleaze - Divine!

On this Tacky Music Monday, let's revel in not just one, but two of Our Great Earth Mother's perhaps lesser-known musical extravaganzas...

And then, there's this! An anthem, methinks...

Cheap, cheap
I was born to be cheap, cheap
A child no mother could keep, cheap
As sure as there's trash
I was born to be cheap

I was born to be helpless, I was born to be cold
I was born to never do what I'm told
I was to be shallow, wasn't born to be deep
Of all the things I was to be cheap

Cheap, cheap
I was born to be cheap, cheap
A child no mother could keep, cheap
As sure as there's trash
I was born to be cheap

I was born to be crass, a loud brassy tart
No one can accuse me of having a heart
I was born too fast

I don't do it twice with anyone, GET CHEAP!

Cheap, cheap
I was born to be cheap, cheap
As I'm walking down the street, cheap
I'm always too much
I was born to be cheap!

Now, if that hasn't woken you up and got you ready for another week at the grindstone, nothing will.

Have a good week, dear reader!

Divine (born Harris Glenn Milstead, 19th October 1945 – 7th March 1988)

Sunday 18 October 2020

Portrait of... Swindon?

As we look out on the grey dankness hanging over our autumnal garden, our thoughts once again turn to wallowing in the lives of impossibly glamorous people in exotic locations (even if the architecture in this clip probably lends itself more to Swindon than Italy) - and thank heavens we have the talented people over at Soft Tempo Lounge to provide it...

Oh. That's better...

[Music: Jerry Van Rooyen - Lisbon Sidewalks. Film: La morte bussa due volte (1969)]

Saturday 17 October 2020

Totty of the Day

"I’ve never known anyone who liked being in front of a camera as much as Monty. He was the same way in front of a mirror – never ashamed; he enjoyed looking at his reflection. He was like a woman in this regard. He could stare for minutes on end at his image unselfconscious – totally relaxed." - playwright Bill Gunn

"Look, I'm not odd. I'm just trying to be an actor; not a movie star, an actor."

"Labelling is so self-limiting. We are what we do, not what we say we are."

"I learned that most writers don’t need interviews to write about me. They seem to have their stories all written out beforehand."

We have a centenary to celebrate today, dear reader - the utterly gorgeous, tormented, closet gay Montgomery Clift, star of such great movies as A Place in the Sun, From Here to Eternity, I Confess, The Heiress, Red River, The Young Lions and Suddenly, Last Summer, one of Elizabeth Taylor's closest friends, and among the most photogenic Hollywood stars ever.

In his tribute to the man, Guardian columnist Philip French observed:

His seismographically delicate face and eyes conveyed his inner struggles and torment.

Clift was selective over his roles. Some think overly so. He turned down the parts played by William Holden (Sunset Boulevard), Gary Cooper (High Noon), Richard Davalos (East of Eden), Anthony Perkins (Friendly Persuasion), Marlon Brando (On the Waterfront), Richard Burton (Prince of Players), Dean Martin (Rio Bravo) and Oskar Werner (Fahrenheit 451).

Later, as a result of heavy consumption of drink and prescription drugs due to guilt over his homosexuality, and after a disfiguring 1957 car crash, he became erratic and unreliable. But he is heart-breaking as the reckless, alcoholic, mother-fixated rodeo performer in John Huston's The Misfits, in the title role of Huston's Freud, and as the concentration-camp victim in Kramer's Judgment at Nuremberg, made when he was seriously unwell.

He died a deeply unhappy man in New York City. Asked the previous evening by his partner-secretary whether he wanted to watch The Misfits on TV, he replied: "Absolutely NOT!" and went to bed. He was found dead the next morning in a locked bedroom aged 45.

Such a very sad loss. Another great talent who departed too soon.

Edward Montgomery Clift (17th October 1920 – 23rd July 1966)