Wednesday, 30 September 2009

A real Contessa



Happy 62nd birthday today to the lovely model, actress, singer and former Mrs Dennis Waterman, the Polish artistocrat's daughter Miss Rula Lenska.

A statuesque beauty, she was famously the "face" of Alberto VO5, and has made many appearances on the small screen (particularly here in the UK) and on the West End stage, and confirmed her position as "a friend of the gays" when she toured with The Gay Mens' Chorus as their MC.

I once ran headlong into the lady's decolletage while she and then hubby were filming an episode of Minder in Cardiff - and my word, is she impressively tall!

It is, of course, for her starring role as "Q" in the kitschy cult 70s series Rock Follies that we love her the most - those glittery costumes, the boots, the hair! Many happy returns to one of my favourite beautiful ladies...

Stairway:

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

You'd like to be a legend - a big star overnight



Happy birthday today to perhaps the most plastic of 80s "stars", twins Matt and Luke Goss of Bros...

The success of Bros was a complete mystery to me. Their songs were lowest common denominator pop, their voices weak, and their dancing was a bit "Geography teacher" - they weren't even fanciable! (They sacked the pretty one early in their career.)

Yet their legend is still there etched in the memory, if only (in my case) for that marvellous parody of Bros doing "Star Test" by French and Saunders back in the 80s. [Now unfortunately removed from YouTube and the rest of the web.]

Yet now after all the ridicule, Matt Goss has gone and got himself a residency at a Las Vegas casino - how strange...

Monday, 28 September 2009

Gonna make some noise

Providing ample evidence of why a "one-hit wonder" remains just that, back in the golden days of disco Miss Karen Young decided to follow-up her absolutely sublime classic Hot Shot with this dreadful heap of tackiness. Just right for a Monday I think...



In case anyone is unfamiliar with the lady's mega hit:

Sunday, 27 September 2009

C'est ci Bon, indeed...



It is a sunny Sunday, and I am in the mood for some campy music by a 50s/60s wannabee diva - and who better to fill the bill than the lovely Jane Morgan?

Some little-known facts about Jane:
  • Although American, she was a contender to sing the UK Eurovision entry in 1959.
  • Jane made her big break in showbiz in 'Club des Champs Elysées' in Paris.
  • She was the first to have a hit with What Now My Love?, the English version of an old French chanson.
  • Sshe took over the lead in Mame on Broadway from Angela Lansbury in 1969.
  • at the ripe old age of 88, she currently lives in retirement in Malibu and Palm Springs, California.
And here's the lady herself:





Jane Morgan biography at Musician Guide

Friday, 25 September 2009

The Electric Lounge Lizard



Many happy returns today to Mr Bryan Ferry, that suave crooner, musical pioneer and at one stage one of the coolest men on the planet!

Even at 64 years old, he is still a supremely stylish commanding presence on the musical stage, despite his ill-advised attempts at covering the American songbook (the awful As Time Goes By album) and more recently recording a tribute album to Bob Dylan. Mr Ferry is of course still hugely in demand today for the most chichi of events - he made a surprise appearance at the lauch of London Fashion Week 2009, performing for an audience including Anna Wintour, Vivienne Westwood, Naomi Campbell and a host of superstars of the fashion world.



It is of course for his founding of the ground-breaking Roxy Music that we love him the most - one of the greatest of all bands, ever! His solo work is less memorable, and it is no surprise that Roxy have managed more comebacks than Madonna...

Here are just a few of my chosen moments from this incredible man's career:

Dance Away:


Let's Stick Together:


Roxy Music - Virginia Plain:

Bryan Ferry offical website

Mr Dale's diary



What a wonderful evening we had in the company of the legendary David Dale, courtesy of the House of Homosexual Culture at the Purcell Room last night!

Opening with a fabulously revealing in-depth exploration of a grande dame's life in drag, with a perfectly-steered conversation with the ever-lovely MC Rupert Smith, Mr Dale gave us some selected insights into his early emergence into the world of gay London from rough-neck Essex.

Through theatrical aspirations in such ground-breaking ensembles as "The Disappointer Sisters" (with HIH Regina Fong and Lily Savage) and numerous revues and panto, all the way to his current-day artistic management of what he describes as a club "a bit like Blackpool's 'Funny Girls'" complete with hen parties and lip-synching to Kylie and Christina in lots of feathers, it appears to have been an incredible journey indeed... But even Mr Dale's personal insights into his fantastical life couldn't prepare us for the show with which we were entertained in part two!

Transmogrifying himself from Frank-n-Furter to Mrs Lovett (from Sweeney Todd) to Oliver's Nancy to Miss Hannigan in Annie to the grandest finale of the lot, Ethel Merman's Mama Rose (from Gypsy) - this was a tour-de-force spectacle in front of which all the drag queens in mufti in the audience could only sit in awe!

Quite rightly, Mr Dale received a standing ovation which left him in tears - perhaps this was not only a performance that served to remind the audience just how good the star is, but also one that reminded our celebrated diva himself what exactly he is capable of...

And here are some of my memories of my first encounter with the superbly talented Dave Dale - from the 1984 TV special If They'd Asked For A Lion-Tamer:



Thursday, 24 September 2009

It keeps me stable for days



It is, amazingly, thirty years this week since Gary Numan's classic Cars hit the top of the UK charts... Yet it seems like it has never really gone away.

For with this mega hit, the maestro of electro-pop and godfather of the "80s sound" not only provided the springboard upon which such giants as The Human League, OMD, Depeche Mode and even Soft Cell could launch their estimable paths to success, and provided a catalyst for even greater geniuses such as David Bowie, Roxy Music and Kraftwerk to revive their careers, but in more recent times his "sound" has been re-jigged and sampled by such modern Electro DJs and producers as Richard X, Basement Jaxx and even Armand van Helden - and soon to be released, the new one from Chicane.

Compare and contrast...



Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Dust, anyone?



As residents of Sydney, Australia woke up today to find their city had turned orange thanks to dust from the outback, I immediately thought of this song, so thought I'd post it...



Read more about the dust storm

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Let's face the music



Twenty years ago today Irving Berlin, that astounding genius of music, died at the ripe old age of 101. During his lifetime he wrote an estimated 1,500 songs, many of which are absolute standards today - including Alexander's Ragtime Band, Cheek to Cheek, I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm, Let's Face The Music and Dance, There's No Business Like Show Business, What'll I do?, Heat Wave, Anything You Can Do (I Can Do Better) and even God Bless America.

Mr Berlin (born Israel Baline, a Russian Jewish refugee) also wrote classic musicals like Annie Get Your Gun, Call Me Madam, Holiday Inn, Top Hat, Puttin' On The Ritz, White Christmas and Easter Parade, worked with Ziegfield, Paul Whiteman, Al Jolson, Fred Astaire, Ethel Merman, Rudy Vallee, Judy Garland, Rodgers and Hammerstein, Moss Hart and Jerome Kern, and was commissioned by the US government to produce patriotic numbers during WW2. Whew!

Even George Gershwin acknowledged the influence of the great man thus: "Irving Berlin is the greatest songwriter that has ever lived.... His songs are exquisite cameos of perfection, and each one of them is as beautiful as its neighbour. Irving Berlin remains, I think, America's Schubert. But apart from his genuine talent for song-writing, Irving Berlin has had a greater influence upon American music than any other one man."

Praise indeed...





Irving Berlin (11th May 1888 – 22nd September 1989)

Monday, 21 September 2009

Lady Karneval

Here is one very weird lump of tackiness to brighten up this sunny Monday. The blouse! The five-button trousers! The dancing! All together, now...

Sunday, 20 September 2009

These foolish things



A very interesting piece on the BBC today:
"Artist David Hockney is backing calls for a review of the smoking ban which he says is destroying 'bohemia'. He accused former Prime Minister Tony Blair and his successor Gordon Brown of interfering in his life and said: "I loathe them for it."

"The 72-year-old lifelong smoker is supporting moves by a cross-party group of MPs to amend the UK smoking laws. They want people to be able to light up in designated smoking rooms to prevent pubs that are losing trade from closing."

Read more

Having been to Amsterdam where this system of smoking rooms in bars is in place, and to Spain where small bars are protected from smoking bans altogether (both systems working perfectly without any complaint from the "health freaks"), I wholeheartedly agree with this campaign and hope it succeeds.

A pub is a pub and a health club is a health club after all - if you have ever seen the majority of a pub's punters standing outside the building and the bar itself being empty (apart from the one "non-smoker" minding the bags) you'll know why the existing law is so stupid.

And on the subject of smoking...









And finally, an interesting expose of the lies that the UK government have told in order to make sure their draconian ban is enforced:

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Oh, you pretty thing



Happy 60th birthday today to the lovely Lesley Hornby, who became the fashionista and national treasure known as Twiggy.

Born in less-than-salubrious Neasden, as a waif-like sixteen-year-old she was launched as the face of the "Swinging Sixties" in zillions of fashion shoots for the likes of designer Mary Quant, photographer Norman Parkinson, and of course Vogue magazine, and in the 70s she was famously used on the cover of David Bowie's Pin-Ups album.



Twiggy progressed from this early peak into acting, singing and dancing in such star vehicles as The Boyfriend, recorded a dozen albums, and made numerous TV appearances throughout the decades between her 1960s debut and becoming today's M&S spokeswoman.

Here's some of Twiggy's best moments...









Twiggy Offical Website

Friday, 18 September 2009

Psychosomatic addict insane



So Keith Flint of The Prodigy celebrates his 40th this week! A good enough excuse to get some big beats on for the weekend...





And to finish off this little Friday tribute, here's The Zimmers' singular interpretation...



Happy Friday!!!

Thursday, 17 September 2009

Just purse your lips and blow...



There are many people who are decribed as a "legend" these days, but there is only one Lauren Bacall...

One of Hollywood's most stunning actresses, who celebrated her 85th birthday yesterday, Miss Bacall set the movie screens alight on her debut in 1944 in To Have and Have Not when she smouldered the infamous line "You know how to whistle, don't you, Steve? You just put your lips together and... blow."

From that moment on, the studios and the hot-blooded fans queued up to pay homage to the former Betty Joan Perske and a star was born...



Seven decades (and about seventy movies) later the diva is still working, with three films in production just this year, and remains one of the most beautiful women on the silver screen. Many happy returns to the lady who defines what it is to be "a legend".







Lauren Bacall on IMDB

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

I am a friend of Dorothy



For no good reason, other than the sun is shining and I am happy to be starting a placement at Islington Council today, I felt like posting an overdue tribute to one of our favourites, that chirpy, leggy, energetic star of The Great Race, It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World and the TV series The Roaring Twenties Miss Dorothy Provine...





Tuesday, 15 September 2009

Life is food



"Food is life, life is food. If you don't like my approach you are welcome to go down to MacDonalds."

Celebs are dropping like flies, it seems. First we had the sad news about Patrick Swayze, and also today we hear that one of my TV "heroes", the eternally sozzled Keith Floyd has died.

The grand-daddy of all the UK's "cookery-meets-travelogue" series, from the early 1980s Mr Floyd's wine-glugging slightly shambolic programmes became hugely popular, and, along with the saintly Delia he did wonders in bringing renewed enthusiasm into the cooking habits of the great British public (and inspired others like Rick Stein, Anthony Worral Thompson and even Jamie bloody Oliver to venture onto our screens).

Always on the go, it was inevitable that he would embark on chef's tours around the UK, France and the Mediterranean in search of the most authentic and the best recipes - a ground-breaking TV genre at the time. I, like millions of others, found him mesmerising, and I will miss his ebullient style...





Keith Floyd: Obituary

Miss Vida Boheme RIP



Just by way of a little tribute to Patrick Swayze, who sadly died today...



BBC Obituary

My blog for Mr Swayze's birthday last year

Monday, 14 September 2009

Yma played Sondheim?



Today we mark what would have been the 87th birthday of the fabulously exotic Yma Sumac, "Nightingale of the Andes" and proud possessor of a five-octave operatic voice, which she certainly put to very good use no matter what musical genre she was singing - be it mambo, traditional, or show music.

Read my blog on the occasion of her death last year.

Today I stumbled across this rarity, and just had to share - it's a video of Miss Sumac in a 1990 revival of Sondheim's Follies in which she starred alongside Juliet Prowse, Shani Wallis and Dorothy Lamour...



Now wouldn't THAT have been a show worth seeing?

Yma Sumac

Pack up your rubber duck. I'd like to wish you luck





I would have blogged about how fab Soho Live was, except it wasn't that interesting.

Hordes of people packed into a tiny corner of Soho Square making it impossible to get near the stage and its crappy sound system (which even made Stewart Who and the one half of the Freemasons who turned up sound crap), and practically no-one around Rupert Street at all (although I did catch Sarah McLachlan,and she was good). However after retreating to Halfway to Heaven for the CK Sunday show I finished the day with fab fireworks on the river for the close of the Thames Festival, so all was not lost...


Anyhow enough of all that, here's a brilliant piece of tackiness to brighten up a grey Monday, courtesy of Wonder Woman and former Maybelline model Miss Lynda Carter herself...

Saturday, 12 September 2009

I write the songs that make the whole world sing



What a fantastic evening we had at Proms in the Park yesterday - the weather was the best it had been for days, we brought a huge and unhealthy picnic with loads of booze and managed to get a prime spot near the stage and the giant screens, ahead of a crowd of at least 40,000 people.



The first half of the concert (hosted this year by the affable Ken Bruce) is, as has become traditional, the home of the "tribute band". Last night we had three of them - all very good, admittedly - the Counterfeit Stones, One Night Of Queen, and a Motown act The Emperors of Soul. Think what you will of tribute acts, this lot got the crowd in a really good mood and we were all up and dancing and chanting along...



After the break Our Tel took to the stage to thunderous applause, appeasing the cheering crowd by stating "Rumours of my retirement are somewhat premature". In his own inimitable style he led us through the evening's entertainment, opening with the incredible voice of Icelandic tenor Garđar Thór Cortes, who was simply breathtaking. Faux-classical strumpets Escala strutted around the stage like the Pussycat Dolls, giving the elderly men a heart attack and the younger ones something to "phwooar" about.

Katherine Jenkins proved to possess a far better mezzo voice than her publicity and reputation would lead one to believe, and looked absolutely stunning to boot. Charmingly, she also gave us a rendition of the first song she sang in public at the age of four, I'm Going Down The Garden To Eat Worms.



But the block-buster headline act that many of the audience (particularly the women d'un certain age) had really come to see was a certain multi-million-selling megastar Barry Manilow!

Several of our little gang (Julie Pie Lady and Madame Arcati in particular) loathe him, yet by the time he was into his second number all of us were singing and dancing our hearts out. As I said in yesterday's blog, he may be the epitome of cheese, but many of his songs are indeed classics.

Then came the ultimate surprise, as Mr Manilow was joined on stage by none other than John Barrowman! The crowd went absolutely bananas, of course (you could practically hear them fainting onto their picnic blankets...), as they duetted on I Made It Through The Rain. Our throats were hoarse after singing along to numbers such as I Write The Songs, Bermuda Triangle, an up-tempo version of Could It Be Magic, The Old Songs and of course Copacabana.

Whew! I was impressed by his performance - it reminded me that love him or hate him, the man is the consummate showman. Throughout his hour-long set, he kept the audience exactly where he wanted them and never failed to deliver. I like Barry Manilow.





After the shower of fairy-dust of Bazza, John, Kathryn and Gardar it was time to go over live to the Royal Albert Hall, starting with the by now obligatory link-up between musicians in other outdoor Proms events in County Down, Glasgow, Swansea and Salford, playing some awful atonal "Fireworks Fanfares" by new young composers (yawn). This dull bit was soon forgotten as we were treated to excerpts from Handel's "Music for the Royal Fireworks", accompanied by actual fireworks - a first for all of us - which was spectacular.

Although we were disappointed not to get the Henry Wood "Sea Songs" this year, we still managed to do a bit of a bob up and down as the traditional build-up to the finale began. The excellent mezzo-soprano Sarah Connolly (dressed bizarrely as Nelson in men's naval costume) led the sing-along for the rousing Rule, Britannia!, followed by Jerusalem, Land Of Hope and Glory and the National Anthem. More spectacular fireworks exploded overhead, we sang Old Lang Syne, and it was all over for another year.. A fabulous night's entertainment!

And here's the finale of the Last Night, for your delectation...




Sublime.

Just aim beyond the clouds, and rise above the crowds

We're getting excited about the Proms in the Park this evening. Despite criticism of its supposed "jingoism" by some joyless souls, I have always found it a rollickingly good feast of entertainment - whether just watching the last night concert at the Albert Hall, or more recently the variety show in the park followed by a live feed to the Hall for the finale. Friends, flag-waving, fun and fireworks - what more do you need for a party?

In previous years we have seen Will Young, Tony Hadley, Jose Carreras, Lesley Garrett, James Galway, Sharleen Spiteri and Bjorn Again. This year's live acts include Katherine Jenkins, Garđar Thór Cortes, and the headliner, Mr Barry Manilow! Now, I am not what anyone would call a huge fan of Mr Manilow, despite his auspicious beginnings as the pianist for Bette Midler when she first appeared on stage at the gay men's Continental Baths in New York back in the pre-AIDS 1970s. However, I do believe he has written several corkers of songs - and here are just a few performed by other artists...

Donna Summer - Could It Be Magic:


Liza Minnelli - Copacabana:


John Barrowman - Made It Through The Rain:

Friday, 11 September 2009

Turing apology

Alan Turing

Thanks to everyone who responded to the petition asking the British government make an unreserved apology for the inhumane treatment of one of the UK's unsung heroes Alan Turing, the mastermind of code-breaking during WW2, developer of the first true computer, and ultimately hounded to death by the establishment for being gay. [Read more in The Independent]

Here is Gordon Brown's response in full:

Prime Minister: 2009 has been a year of deep reflection – a chance for Britain, as a nation, to commemorate the profound debts we owe to those who came before. A unique combination of anniversaries and events have stirred in us that sense of pride and gratitude which characterise the British experience. Earlier this year I stood with Presidents Sarkozy and Obama to honour the service and the sacrifice of the heroes who stormed the beaches of Normandy 65 years ago. And just last week, we marked the 70 years which have passed since the British government declared its willingness to take up arms against Fascism and declared the outbreak of World War Two. So I am both pleased and proud that, thanks to a coalition of computer scientists, historians and LGBT activists, we have this year a chance to mark and celebrate another contribution to Britain’s fight against the darkness of dictatorship; that of code-breaker Alan Turing.

Turing was a quite brilliant mathematician, most famous for his work on breaking the German Enigma codes. It is no exaggeration to say that, without his outstanding contribution, the history of World War Two could well have been very different. He truly was one of those individuals we can point to whose unique contribution helped to turn the tide of war. The debt of gratitude he is owed makes it all the more horrifying, therefore, that he was treated so inhumanely. In 1952, he was convicted of ‘gross indecency’ – in effect, tried for being gay. His sentence – and he was faced with the miserable choice of this or prison - was chemical castration by a series of injections of female hormones. He took his own life just two years later.

Thousands of people have come together to demand justice for Alan Turing and recognition of the appalling way he was treated. While Turing was dealt with under the law of the time and we can't put the clock back, his treatment was of course utterly unfair and I am pleased to have the chance to say how deeply sorry I and we all are for what happened to him. Alan and the many thousands of other gay men who were convicted as he was convicted under homophobic laws were treated terribly. Over the years millions more lived in fear of conviction.

I am proud that those days are gone and that in the last 12 years this government has done so much to make life fairer and more equal for our LGBT community. This recognition of Alan’s status as one of Britain’s most famous victims of homophobia is another step towards equality and long overdue.

But even more than that, Alan deserves recognition for his contribution to humankind. For those of us born after 1945, into a Europe which is united, democratic and at peace, it is hard to imagine that our continent was once the theatre of mankind’s darkest hour. It is difficult to believe that in living memory, people could become so consumed by hate – by anti-Semitism, by homophobia, by xenophobia and other murderous prejudices – that the gas chambers and crematoria became a piece of the European landscape as surely as the galleries and universities and concert halls which had marked out the European civilisation for hundreds of years. It is thanks to men and women who were totally committed to fighting fascism, people like Alan Turing, that the horrors of the Holocaust and of total war are part of Europe’s history and not Europe’s present.

So on behalf of the British government, and all those who live freely thanks to Alan’s work I am very proud to say: we’re sorry, you deserved so much better.

Gordon Brown

If you would like to help preserve Alan Turing's memory for future generations, please donate to Bletchley Park.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

The artist makes things concrete and gives them individuality



"The artist makes things concrete and gives them individuality."
Paul Cezanne

We went along last night to the first Polari evening in its new home - the appropriately-named "Concrete Bar" adjoined to the Hayward Gallery in the South Bank complex.

A peculiar venue. I felt it was similar to trying to have a good night out in an NCP car park, but we ignored the nasty surroundings and John-John and I began planning how it would look with flock wallpaper and glitter-balls. It didn't exactly help that the advertised 2-for-1 cocktails are only those with vodka in them (a spirit I cannot drink - bleurgh!), so we tucked into 2-for-1 wine instead then discovered Bellinis - and that made the atmosphere soooo much more amenable! That, and the cute barmen...



As the theme of the evening was "Lucky Bitches" (after the French & Saunders piss-take of Jackie and Joan Collins) on John-John's suggestion I had T-shirts made with photos of the Minogue sisters brawling on them, which seemed to go down very well.

The smallish crowd (the venue is limited to 75 capacity) was made up of a healthy mix of stalwart Polari-ites such as Ben, Johnny and Mark, and a lot of new ones. We were joined at our table by a lovely lady called Jeannie who lives next door to the South Bank Centre with great river views, apparently, and got talking to a few newcomers who weren't sure of the format of the evening.

Paul Burston opened the show with a suitably bitchy passage from The Gay Divorcee which perfectly encapsulates the "pecking order" of tables in a gay bar (the best of which is always reserved for the cattiest regulars). In the interlude, I was amazed to find an Australian who didn't recognise Kylie on the T-shirt (and thought it was Sharon Stone), but I forgave him as he was "a bit of a nosh"...

Then came our star turn, the erstwhile Rupert James (the artist formerly known as Rupert Smith and James Lear), who read a thoroughly entertaining extract from his brand new novel Silk, focussing on the book's most wicked character Victoria, in his own inimitable way (always a great reader, is Rupert!).



In the question and answer session afterwards Rupert gave us a most fascinating insight into the world of genre publishing. Unable to get mass interest in his gay fiction books beyond the world of specialist markets, he transformed himself into James Lear and ventured into the world of gay porn (by its very nature a niche genre, but nonetheless a lucrative one). Recently having decided to turn his hand to the Jackie Collins/Harold Robbins world of trashy fiction, it was time for yet another nom-de-plume and Rupert James was born.

Asked why the new name, the man himself eloquently explained "It sells books, dear!". In the weird world of publishing, apparently it is widely assumed that a "gay author" cannot possibly write "straight" sex and so it becomes necessary to assume new identities in order to land a publishing contract for new styles of writing. Brilliant and thoughtful stuff...

After purchasing a copy of Silk - which is available from Foyles - we stayed around for a couple more cocktails, chatting to Paul and Paulo about the upheaval their apartment is in with the reconstruction of their new kitchen, then ventured on to the Piano Bar at the Players Theatre for late drinkies and tinkling ivories. Probably a mistake in hindsight, but in all a great night again...

Polari

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

'Bend the knees and keep the back straight'



Back in 1976 the consummate figure skater John Curry, who would have been 60 years old today, won Britain's first Olympic gold in the sport - the UK's first medal at the winter games for 12 years (and he scored the highest points total in the history of men's figure skating). I remember it well, and the hysteria which surrounded this lithe man and his near-perfect grace on the rink.

Mr Curry, who had longed to become a ballet dancer (despite his father's refusal to let him), fused for the very first time the artistic styles of ballet into his skating and created a new way forward for the event - even though the sport's traditionally-focussed governing body criticised his "graceful" [read="effeminate"] technique.

And it seems that these stuffed shirts of the establishment set an unhealthy precedent, as the gay sporting hero was thenceforth subjected to typically bigoted and intrusive tabloid interest in his personal life, which distanced the public from his triumphal successes and may well have contributed to a homophobic assault he suffered in the late 70s.

Despite a couple of TV spectaculars and numerous balletic stage productions in Europe and in the US, the appeal of his ice dance shows waned and commercial success eluded him. In 1987 he was diagnosed HIV positive, and in the 90s his condition declined. According to recently published information he apparently died in 1994 in the arms of his lover at the time, the Oscar-winning actor Alan Bates - which in itself is quite a revelation.

RIP, a genuine sporting legend.


John Curry obituary

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways



How can you sum up in a short space of time the reasons why you like a particular artist?

That was the conundrum set at the Marc Almond Orpheus in Exile album signing at HMV, when, just after having been onto the stage with the great man, spoken briefly to him, had photos taken and got him to sign my CD, I was collared by an interviewer and camera from Reuters TV.
"How long have you been a fan?" "Since first seeing him on Top of the Pops performing Tainted Love, I suppose."

"Are you pleased to see him make a comeback after his accident?" [Doh!] "Of course - we all were! I saw him at one of his first stage appearances afterwards [at the Patti Smith Meltdown in 2005], and he performed brilliantly, and got huge applause."

[and then the killer question] "Why do you like Marc?" How can you answer that? So I flustered a bit, realising there was limited time and said "He is one of Britain's greatest singers. He can turn his hand to so many different genres of music, and perform them all superbly."
Not sure whether any of these slightly pedestrian answers will ever get broadcast, but it does rather throw you when confronted by a boom mike...

The event was a great experience - it's not often you get to meet someone whose influence on your life is so immense. It is something that cannot be summed up in a few soundbites. Marc was charming and affable, even in the face of hundreds of eager fans and slightly agitated security staff [one of whom I knew from a previous life in Plymouth, but that's another story!]. It really made me feel good - and I know it did the same for the gang of "Almondettes" I was with (Ange, Yvonne, Tony, Lydia, Adrian and the rest).





All of us floating on cloud nine - particularly Ange, who Marc recognised immediately, and Yvonne, who was chuffed to bits at Marc's admiration for the portrait she had done for him - we settled our thoughts over a drinkie at Halfway to Heaven, and Yvonne and I went on to do Mrs Moore's Monday Quiz downstairs (which we didn't win, dammit), finishing off with a nightcap in the bar at Yvonne's hotel till the wee small hours.



A great day indeed!

Buy Orpheus in Exile from Amazon

Monday, 7 September 2009

As long as I know how to love I know I'll stay alive



Gloria Gaynor, whose 60th birthday it is today, was a bonafide soul singer when she began her long showbiz career in the late 60s. However it was the Disco era that brought fame and fortune to this particular diva, "topping and tailing" it as she did - with Never Can Say Goodbye in the mid 70s, and of course her classic I Will Survive at the end of the decade, keeping the flame alive into the 80s with her upbeat version of I Am What I Am.

Unfortunately coinciding with this later success, Miss Gaynor well-and-truly blotted her copybook with her number one buying audience, the gays, when she became a bible-thumper and allegedly said a few disparaging remarks that immediately lost her that treasured "gay icon" status.

So, in this 30th anniversary year of the song - and in honour of my tacky music tradition on a Monday - I thought it best to focus on the (now well-and-truly clichéd) anthem for which she remains famous, in its many incarnations (but not that awful Sugababes song)...

Miss Ross:

Las Seventies:

Puppini Sisters:

k.d lang:

Cake:

And, finally, the original...


Happy birthday, Glo! Even if you're a silly bitch who thinks we all "should be led to your God", we continue to ignore your misguided comments as we lip-synch along to your songs...

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Pif, paf pof!

I'm off to Dress Circle music shop this afternoon, as Alan Cumming will be signing copies of the CD of his new one-man show I Bought A Blue Car Today. I love Mr Cumming! He has turned his hand to many different genres, from Bond villain (in Goldeneye) to The Threepenny Opera on Broadway (with Cyndi Lauper); from the award-winning stage revival of Cabaret to "Nightcrawler" in the movie X Men 2.

However it was for his part as Sebastian in the sitcom The High Life that I love him the most...





The High Life

Friday, 4 September 2009

In olden days a glimpse of stocking...



It's Friday, the sun is shining (and looks set to shine even more over the weekend), and it's one of my current obsessions Miss Mitzi Gaynor's 78th birthday today!

Miss Gaynor's glittering career encompasses several classic Hollywood musicals of the post-war era, including There's No Business Like Show Business, Anything Goes, and of course her most famous role as Nellie Forbush in South Pacific. In later years she starred in her own TV spectaculars [which were available on DVD but are currently deleted - why?], and she is still performing today - her show Razzle Dazzle! My Life Behind The Sequins was a sell-out in the US earlier this year. A real trouper! Enjoy...



Miss Mitzi Gaynor official website

Thursday, 3 September 2009

For the love of Iris



Following my ecstatic reaction to the discovery of an incredibly camp new movie The Big Gay Musical being released this year, it appears the film will get its UK premiere next month in none other than Cardiff!

In a coup for something called the "Iris Prize Festival" (which takes place on 7th-10th October), two of the film's stars Daniel Robinson and gay porn star Brent Corrigan will be putting in a personal appearance for the showing.

The Iris Prize is an international award for the best gay and lesbian short film, apparently, and the Festival is an annual event that started in 2007 at which all the contending films are shown and the winners announced. The event also hosts panel discussions, special guests and features - including this year a focus on the life, work and impact of one of Cardiff's greatest sons, the matinee idol, composer and singer (and celebrated gay man) Ivor Novello. Among the judges for the prize itself is our very own "gay version of Jacqueline Suzann" Paul Burston, who will also take part in a panel discussion on gay portrayal in films such as Bruno.

I'd love to go to this! It looks like a classy festival (and one I had never previously heard of) that seems to have got its act together far better than such disorganized events as GLBT History Month or Pride London Festival Fortnight - but scarcity of both money and time will most likely prevent me from getting there (especially as we are in Spain again at the end of October). However, you never know...

Iris Prize Festival website

Regular Royal Queens



As the Edinburgh Festival draws to a close this week, it is worth reflecting that it was at this very festival 35 years ago that a certain magnificent pair of "old ladies" made their international debut.

Hinge and Bracket [for it is they] first became a double act with their regular bookings in the early 70s every Sunday lunchtime at a gay Kensington restaurant run by the iconic April Ashley. Their earliest breakthrough into the mainstream, however, was their smash hit appearance in 1974 at the Edinburgh Festival.

Patrick Fyffe (Dame Hilda Bracket) and George Logan (Dr Evadne Hinge) both had brilliant operatic singing voices, and their evocation of middle class gentility in the mythical "Stackton Tressel", suffused with smutty double-entendres, kept their flame alight until they were "discovered" by the BBC in 1977 - resulting in hit radio series such as The Enchanting World of Hinge and Bracket, followed by The Random Jottings of..., and At Home with....

As well as gracing us with their TV commercials for sherry, they appeared in two Royal Variety Performances, their own series of "Gala Evenings", starred on The Good Old Days, landed their own prime-time TV series Dear Ladies, and made a number of records. They also appeared in a televised Royal Opera House production of Die Fledermaus in 1983, conducted by Placido Domingo and starring Kiri Te Kanawa as Rosalinde.

Our own precious copy of the Best Of Hinge & Bracket is often on an evening's playlist, not least for the pair's superlative versions of We'll Gather Lilacs, Zigeuner and A Regular Royal Queen.

Sadly Patrick died in 2002, and George moved to France to run a guest house. But we will never forget the sheer joy that Hinge & Bracket gave us...







Hinge & Bracket official website

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Jayne

On a grey and grizzly day, why not think of better things? Like Jayne Mansfield visiting gay bars in Paris for instance...

[Skip to 2mins 30]



Simply wonderful...

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

We don't care. We don't have to. We're the phone company.



"No matter how cynical you become, it's never enough to keep up."
Lily Tomlin

Happy 70th birthday today to that lovely lady lesbian actress, comic, wit and cult figure Miss Lily Tomlin!

Over 40 years - from Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In to guest appearances in Desperate Housewives today - Miss Tomlin has always had the ability to make me laugh. She is another of those actors whose very appearance in a movie will make me more interested in seeing it. Indeed, films such as All Of Me (with Steve Martin when he was actually funny) and Big Business (with Bette Midler) were saved from mediocrity by her presence, and I loved her part in Tea With Mussolini - where she more than held her own in a cast that included three Dames (Maggie Smith, Judi Dench and Joan Plowright) and the ever-OTT Cher.

On the way, Lily has provided numerous voice-overs for commercials and cartoons alike, and notably for the classic gay documentary The Celluloid Closet. In her own subtle way Miss Tomlin has always spoken out for the rights of the lesbian and gay community, lending her support to a number of gay marriage campaigns in the US.

However it must be for her sassy, scheming role in one of the best feelgood movies of the 80s Nine to Five that we love her the most...



And here she is playing that cult favourite character "Ernestine, your telephone operator" from Laugh-In:



Lily Tomlin official website