Friday, 31 July 2009

And when they play the right groove, Your body makes the next move

It's the weekend! Sun is shining (although it probably won't last) and all is well with the world when we have The Ritchie Family to entertain us...

Thursday, 30 July 2009

And more, much more than this



Paul Anka, whose 68th birthday it is today, is one of those "mixed bag" types in musical history. On the one hand, his back catalogue includes some really cheesy pap such as the massive teenybopper anthem of the 50s Diana and the godawful You're Having My Baby. On the other, he has written some enduring standards. In a similar vein to artists like Neil Sedaka, Barry Manilow, George Harrison and even Bruce Springsteen, however, his songs are best when sung by other people.

How many people realise that Mr Anka wrote the English version of My Way, for example, or that he wrote She's A Lady (the Tom Jones hit), Buddy Holly's It Doesn't Matter Anymore, Puppy Love (Donny Osmond's biggest hit), and the much-covered Eso Beso (That Kiss)?

Today, after six decades of writing and recording, stage and TV appearances, Mr Anka has turned his canny attention to parody - his brilliant album Rock Swings gives the big band swing treatment to modern artists' songs such as those by Nirvana and Oasis. I love it! Happy birthday to a musical legend...

Wonderwall:


Smells Like Teen Spirit:


Here is a medley of some of his own hits:



And of course, his classic - My Way:



Paul Albert Anka (born 30th July 1941)

Just you and your idol singing falsetto



Many happy returns today to a seriously important musician - one David Sanborn. Who? I hear you ask...

Mr Sanborn is a world-reknowned saxophonist who, in his five-decade career, has provided the finishing touches to a wealth of music by artists such as James Brown, Eric Clapton, Cat Stevens, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Players Association, Bruce Springsteen, James Taylor, Al Jarreau, George Benson, Elton John, Carly Simon, Linda Ronstadt, Billy Joel, Steely Dan, The Eagles and The Grateful Dead. Whew!

However, it is for his contribution to this particular slice of gorgeousness that I applaud him most! Not quite "Thank Disco It's Friday", but... Enjoy!



David Sanborn website

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Tenuous link #97 in a series...

Scanning this week's celebrity birthdays (as is my wont), I had a double-take when I read that Jonathan Edwards was 63. I thought for a moment that the lovely athlete with the endless legs was truly more youthful looking than I thought. Then, disappointingly I found that the entry referred to some godawful Cuntry'n'Western [sic] singer.

Jo Stafford and Paul Weston

However that got me thinking about the "Jonathan Edwards" who is far more dear to my heart, he of "Jonathan and Darlene Edwards" fame. In real life the alter egos of the multi-talented orchestra leader Paul Weston and the lovely singer Jo Stafford, their highly innovative comedy act began as a party entertainment for friends but soon developed a successful career all of its own - even overshadowing the pair's original careers for a while!

So what better excuse for me to post a couple of their "fab" numbers...





...and there's more such delights on Jonathan & Darlene's MySpace page!

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

She'll make you take your clothes off and go dancing in the rain

My heavens! Time flies when you're having fun.

Is it really ten years since this slice of Latin fluff (the song, and, according to recent news, the performer) was at number 1 in the charts?

Ladies and gentlemen, Señorita Ricky Martin...

Monday, 27 July 2009

Te dijo te amo

On another miserable, wet Monday, I think we are all hoping for a little sunshine in our lives. Who better to provide it but the Queen of Tackiness herself, Charo?!



Madge must love her.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Take back your mink, take back your pearls



Forty years ago the musical genius that was Frank Loesser died (far too early at only 59), and the world of musicals lost one of its most prolific writers.

In his glittering career, Loesser wrote more than 700 songs, giving the world such enduring standards as On a Slow Boat to China, Two Sleepy People, Heart and Soul, I Don't Want to Walk Without You, Wonderful Copenhagen, Moon of Manakoora, Spring Will Be a Little Late this Year, They're Either Too Young or Too Old, Standing On The Corner, and the Oscar-winning Baby, It's Cold Outside. Some of his songs, with their open-to-interpretation lyrics even became camp gay anthems - including Kiss The Boys Goodbye and (See What) The Boys in the Backroom (Will Have).

After a prolongued spell in Hollywood, writing for over sixty films including Destry Rides Again, Neptune's Daughter, Thank Your Lucky Stars and Fred Astaire's Let's Dance, he returned to Broadway and produced his masterwork - one of the most popular musicals of all time - Guys and Dolls.

With its cavalcade of classics such as A Bushel and a Peck, Luck Be a Lady, Sit Down You're Rocking the Boat, Take Back Your Mink and the wonderful Abigail's Lament, this musical has had numerous revivals (and was famously adapted for the big screen with Marlon Brando, Frank Sinatra, Jean Simmons and Vivian Blaine), including the 2005 West End production, which we went to see, starring Ewan McGregor.

So to celebrate this man's genius, here are just some of Frank Loesser's greatest musical moments:

Take Back Your Mink:


Luck Be A Lady:


They're Either Too Young Or Too Old:


The Boys in the Backroom:


Baby It's Cold Outside:


Frank Loesser (29th June 1910 – 28th July 1969)

Saturday, 25 July 2009

"House wine? What house? Council?!"



We turned out in force to watch the stage adaptation of Clayton Littlewood's Dirty White Boy at the tiniest theatre in the Trafalgar Studios complex last night - we were actually on the stage with the players!

Many people are already familiar with Mr Littlewood's award-winning tales of the weirdness that is day-to-day life in Soho's Old Compton Street - prozzies, trannies, rent boys, hustlers, eccentrics, hoodies, tramps and old queens - they started out as a blog on Clayton's MySpace page. And here, the sublimely talented David Benson and Clayton himself brought it all to an alarmingly engrossing form of reality.

Mr Benson (who wrote recently about his professional jealousy at the success of fellow Kenneth Williams impersonator Michael Sheen) is indeed a superb actor, with the ability to convincingly transform himself from the ageing queen Leslie (with his acid quips) into his long-lost knicker obsessive love Charlie (both of whom we think were in the audience!), to Angie proudly showing off her new lady bits, to the brothel madam upstairs, to Clayton's own boyf Jorge with a minimum of costume accoutrements.

Brilliant stuff, as Clayton (convincingly bemused by the experience) tracks the decline of his shop alongside the (often touching) stories of his most favourite customers.

With musical interludes by the superbly talented Maggie K de Monde (formerly with the band Swansway), we thoroughly enjoyed it - and according to Clayton, there may well be some more outings for this marvellous performance in the Autumn. I think I may well book again if it comes off...

After having a brief chat with Soho's fave decadent dandy Sebastian Horsley, at the kind invitation of Clayton himself we ventured to the Groucho Club (opposite the site of his shop, now a bear emporium called "DV8", and next to the sadly now closed Colony Club) - a venue that unsurprisingly we had never been to before. We were thrilled to be "on the list", but the thrill was slightly tarnished by the discovery that the after-party was actually in the suite adjacent to the karaoke room (an amateur "artform" I despise - my sister even suggested to Maggie that she might like to take their microphone and treat us to some proper singing instead, but I don't think she was in the mood)...

We had a great evening nonetheless - despite rumours to the contrary the drinks were not too expensive, even if the service was inevitably a bit crap. We spent time chatting to Clayton, Jorge, David, Maggie and their friends including author Kenneth Hill and the lovely and eccentric singer Al Pillay. We did a bit of star-spotting too, but I think it was "Z-list" night - Richard Bacon, Martin Degville, Hattie Hayridge, Aldo Zilli and what looked like they could be members of a cheap girlband like The Saturdays, but no-one was quite sure...

In all, a fantabulosa night!!

Anyway, here's an earlier stage adaptation of DWB from one of last year's Polari nights:



Fab!

Friday, 24 July 2009

Dress-up Friday!

I have never been taken in by that office cliché "dress-down Friday" - loads of boring people in IT and Accounts looking uncomfortable in pressed denim and dreadful tops - my philosophy is to find any excuse to dress UP!

I think Miss Mitzi Gaynor and her boys are with me on this one... Have a sparkling weekend!

Let Go!

Thursday, 23 July 2009

I am in gay Heaven

Two blog posts in one day?

But...... OMG!!!

There's a new gay musical film out featuring numbers with scantly clad tap dancing angels, a retelling of Genesis, tele-evangelists, a camp that attempts to turn gay kids straight and loads of showtunes; it features songs like I Wanna Be A Slut! and co-stars Rick Skye (Slice O'Minelli) and porn twink Brett Corrigan?!

I just creamed my pants...



The Big Gay Musical

Haute Couture can be fun!

For our delectation today, I thought I would share this latest obsession of mine - a brand new collaboration between that most wonderful of French DJs Mr Martin Solveig and those Canadian weirdos Dragonette (whose Take It Like A Man last year was a similar obsession)...

The video was shot in the Paris boutique of the legendary Jean-Paul Gaultier. It's the campest thing under the sun - I love it!

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

"Only round the edges, dear!"



"I’m not bisexual and I’m not straight. I’m gay, but I could never live a gay lifestyle because I’m much too competitive. When I was with a guy I would always want to be better than him: what we were accomplishing, what we were wearing - anything. With a woman you compete like crazy, but coming from different points of view, and as far as I’m concerned, that was doable."
Jack Wrangler

As we wish a very happy 85th birthday to the lovely singer Margaret Whiting, it is worth reflecting upon her rather unconventional life and marriage.

For, bizarrely, after a long career of chart hits and numerous appearances on stage, variety shows and TV, the seventy-year-old Miss Whiting surprised everyone when she got married for the fourth time in 1994 to a gay porn star Jack Wrangler, twenty years her junior!

Despite this strange and unlikely coupling, the pair evidently loved each other, and stayed together until Mr Wrangler's death in April this year. Allegedly, when he said publicly "But I'm gay!" Miss Whiting replied, "Only around the edges, dear."

Remarkable, really. Anyway, here's a sample of the talents of Margaret Whiting...

Alone Together:


My Foolish Heart:

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

A handbag?!



"When one is in town one amuses oneself. When one is in the country one amuses other people."

We went to see The Importance of Being Earnest at The Open Air Theatre last night - and the rain held off! (Miracle!)

After a fab picnic, with many bottles of wine consumed, it was time for the performance. Suffice to say the plot of this comedy of manners, misguided affections and failed pranks should be familiar enough to most people for me not to have to do a synopsis...

The players were brilliant (the boys were cute!), giving their own interpretation of Oscar Wilde's greatest play (rather than try and ape classic performances such as Edith Evans' Lady Bracknell), the set was splendidly minimal, costumes were stunning, and there was even (bizarrely) a Kletzmer band playing the intro and exits...

We all thoroughly enjoyed this great show, and I highly recommend it...



Article on The Importance of Being Earnest on Wikipedia

Review of the Open Air Theatre production in the Independent

Monday, 20 July 2009

Who's your friend when things get rough?



H.R. Pufnstuf was an absolute obsession of mine when I was a child. From the same production house that brought us The Banana Splits, this was a strange (typically 60s, slightly druggy) fantasy about a boy (played by the late Jack Wilde, of Oliver fame), shipwrecked on a weird island with a talking flute named Freddy, a magic boat, the giant puppet dragon of the title, his friends Cling & Clang and Dr. Blinky, and a wicked witch named Witchiepoo (played by Billie Hayes) who rode on a Vroom Broom... Bizarre stuff, indeed.

On a tacky music Monday, what better than to post some reminders of that very odd series?





H.R. Pufnstuf

Sunday, 19 July 2009

Katie Price, Kerry Katona, sit up and take notice...

Here, for your delectation, is a fabulous tribute to all those "ladies" who clog up the tabloid headlines and gossip columns for no apparent reason...

Saturday, 18 July 2009

Won't it just knock their socks off when they find out... I'm a Carrington



Happy birthday yesterday to one of the troupers of music and acting, the lovely and multi-talented Miss Diahann Carroll.

Best known to audiences worldwide as the formidable "Dominique Devereaux" in Dynasty, her career in fact spans six decades - she was the first black actress in television history to star in her own series Julia in 1968 (which received an Emmy nomination in its first year on the air), and made many subsequent TV appearances in both singing and acting roles, including playing Whoopi Goldberg's mother in that lady's one-woman show.

The young Carol Diahann Johnson emerged from stage school in the early 1950s and was catapulted into showbiz via supporting roles in films such as Carmen Jones (with Dorothy Dandridge) and Porgy & Bess (with Sydney Poitier, Sammy Davis Jr and Pearl Bailey). A long career - with myriad studio albums, and appearances on stage, on TV and on film (including an Oscar nomination for her role in Claudine) - was to follow, culminating in the Dynasty role.

Up to the present day, Miss Carroll's energetic performances and smoky soulful voice still draw in the crowds for her one-woman shows in New York, and she has conquered glittering roles such as Norma Desmond in Lloyd-Webber's Sunset Boulevard to great acclaim.

Diahann's autobiography, The Legs Are The Last To Go was published last September, and is available from Amazon.

And here are some stunning appearances by the lady herself:





Wow.

Friday, 17 July 2009

"Six inch heels, seven inch wig, slinky gown and loads of attitude"

We had been looking forward to last night's The House of Homosexual Culture's landmark event Stonewall - 40 for a while. Both Madame Acarti and I have long histories in the gay rights movement, mine through several years of lobbying, petition-raising and Pride-attending (previously blogged - and badged again on the night - so I probably don't need to elucidate for the sake of repetition).



Tony (the erstwhile Madame A) has an even longer history than my own of involvement in campaigning - in deepest darkest Plymouth, he was a very early 1970s member of their own branch of the Campaign for Homosexual Equality - and he proudly wore the T-shirt to prove it. A particularly rewarding moment was when he had his pic taken alongside his (and our) hero Peter Tatchell, who remains an inspiration to us all (small town or big city queens alike) for his ceaseless efforts on behalf of our rights and our liberation.



Our host Rupert Smith opened the proceedings with a potted outline of the context against which the night was set - the 40th anniversary of a major landmark in gay history, when a hitherto insignificant New York gay bar and its punters stood up to their continued harassment by the police, and fought back. The Stonewall Riots began.

Professor Jeffrey Weeks (London South Bank University) began the evening with a very incisive exploration of whether the Stonewall "riots" were actually the foundation of everything we think of as "gay liberation". His argument, notwithstanding his own background in activism, was that yes, the events of June 1969 in America did indeed breed a new form of radical direct action amongst gay people - not least the formation of the Gay Liberation Front here in the UK, and the various attempts to make Gay Pride events happen, from the early 70s to today's glittery parade, at a time of year that commemorates Stonewall.

But he also exposed the various well-documented divisions that occurred almost as soon as movements such as the GLF arrived. Women, political lobbyists such as the Campaign for Homosexual Equality (as opposed to direct action aficionados), bisexuals and the Trans community soon went their own separate but distinct ways - and the rest, as they say is history.

Lindsay River (Director of user-led older LGBT organisation, Age of Diversity) followed, with her personal perspective on one of those dichotomies - the role of gay women in the rights movement. Her early loyalties torn between the budding GLF (which ironically she joined in the early 70s just as the radical lesbians all quit en masse) and her radical leftie feminism, she gave us a fascinating insight into her own evolution from those early days into the frequent attempts to get lesbianism recognised within the wider Women's Movement, and to get women's rights integrated within the gay rights movement.

Roz Kaveney - whose excellent and quotable mantra is "I was reared Catholic but got over it, was born male but got over it, stopped sleeping with boys about the time I stopped being one and am much happier than I was when I was younger" - led our understanding of Stonewall (and its repercussions) down a separate path.

Obviously trannies, TVs and drag queens have subsequently been recognised for the vital and central part they played in repelling the cops on that particular night (read my blog for a potted history), but, stung by the memory of how certain elements of this so-called "unified" gay rights movement tried to play down the significance of their presence, she read a poem she recently composed on the subject and dramatically placed the spotlight back onto those "Stonewall Girls" who were actually on the forefront of the action.

Part one of our evening concluded in an even more fittingly dramatic style as Rikki Beadle Blair, actor and creator of Stonewall the Movie (and play, which we went to see at The Pleasance Theatre before it went to Edinburgh in 2007), took the stage. In an excellent and captivating extract from his "one (wo)man show" he captured loudly, proudly, dramatically and brilliantly the (semi-biographical) feelings of a naive gay black man who relives the pride of the drag queens ("six inch heels, seven inch wig, slinky gown and loads of attitude") who led the riot, then recreates him/herself with all the pride, drama and chutzpah that they inspired in him. Superb!


Paul Burston, Michael Twaits, Jeffrey Weeks, Peter Tatchell, Ruth Hunt, Rikki Beadle-Blair, Roz Kaveney

Opening part two, Ruth Hunt (Head of Policy and Research at Stonewall), a "young dyke in a suit", as she described herself - took us through a little of what the current day lobbyists - named, twenty years after the event, in honour of the riots - stood for, and what they had achieved (quietly, maybe, without direct action, maybe) on behalf of gay people in the political arena.

She freely admitted that there were indeed critics of their, and her, modus operandi, but that she was more than well aware that in some future political climate there may once more be a need for a more radical type of protest - and that she would be ready and more than willing for the challenge should that day ever arrive.

Our star speaker was of course the tireless, splendid and iconic campaigner Peter Tatchell. His speech - welcomed with whoops of acclaim from our audience - tore into some of the shameful facts that remain about what gay people have actually achieved over the past forty years, and what in effect "second best" citizens we remain, from the perspective of equal - or even distinct - rights. Peter's utopian vision may sometimes appear to drift towards ultra-leftie "commune"-based idealism, but at the heart of the matter are some absolutely brilliant insights.

"Civil partnership" is indeed a compromise. We are supposed to accept the fact that we will never be able to marry if we want to or not, there is no option for becoming "next of kin" or gaining any of the other "advantages" that come with "civil partnership" without succumbing to a prescribed social "norm" of a ceremony, and no-one - whether gay or straight - who wants to opt out of a religious or civil ceremony has any partnership rights at all.

The "age of consent" may well have been equalised at 16 for gays as well as heterosexuals, but under this government's tenure the specific criminalisation of anyone who dares to be sexually active under that age is now written into the statute books, with a maximum prison sentence of six months (unprecedented under any previous government).

Shocking, angry stuff - yet so many gay people are completely unaware of the facts!

Peter's rapturous ovation almost brought the house down. However, we had one final treat in store, as the lovely Michael Twaits took the stage. "Post drag; Post Gender; Post giving a shit!". We had seen and enjoyed his thunderous, poetic patter-song/poem about the experiences of the queens on the night of the Stonewall riots (set the the backing track of Amy Winehouse's Back in Black) before, but tonight, after a breathtaking evening, it just seemed to be the most fitting way to round off the final event of the London Literature Festival...


Stonewall: 40

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Dancing, dancing, dancing, dancing

It is indeed unusual for me to post two blogs in one day, but this is too good (in the tackiest possble way, of course!) not to share...

Unlikely porn stars



Another truly fabulous night at Polari last night - who would have thought that such a collection of smut and sleaze could turn out to be so entertaining (hee hee)? Wearing my T-shirt in tribute to the legendary gay porn director JD Cadinot (RIP), I wasn't sure what to expect...



Eric Karl Anderson's reading was a salutary tale of a prissy queen who harbours some very dark fantasies indeed - ending with stalking a porn star, who turns out to be much more sensible than just a fantasy sex object... His story Breathe appears in the compilation Between Men 2.

The lovely Rupert Smith aka award-winning gay porn smutmeister James Lear gave us a whole new insight into the joys of playing "hide-and-seek" with your hostess's hunky boyfriend... An excellent and entertaining reader as always, Rupert certainly knows how to get an audience "warmed up". His book The Back Passage is currently top of several best seller lists, and is also available on Amazon.

Our host Paul Burston almost resisted the temptation this time to take all his clothes off, and instead opted for teeny tiny denim shorts and a leather "easy-wipe" waistcoat for his reading, a particularly erotic extract from his bestseller The Gay Divorcee.



Then it was the turn of our star author, former porn star turned director Blue Blake, whose account of how excruciating filming a gay porn film in the Mexican desert can be was hilarious - complete with marauding dogs, snakes and "gay-for-pay" actors with unfortunate haemorrhoids! His reading from his memoirs Out of the Blue: Confessions of an Unlikely Porn Star was so brilliant and entertaining I had to buy a copy!

Possibly one of the best Polari evenings I have been to, this was also the last to be held at Freedom Bar, as a bigger and brighter future awaits this "peerless gay literary salon" in September, as we move to the South Bank Centre. I can't wait!

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Just because...

...it's Polari "Porn Night" tonight, here's a fab video that celebrates one of that genre's legendary talents, Mr Jeff Stryker!

[It's OK, it's safe for work..]

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Coq Gaulois



As today is Le quatorze juillet, better known to non-Frenchies as Bastille Day, in addition to posting a photo of a proud French cock I decided to dig out some Gallic treats for our delectation.

A million years ago, I was in a relationship with a French boy (we're all still friends today). The very first contemporary French artiste he introduced me to was ex-soap actress turned singer Ysa Ferrer, and this brilliant song (Mes Rêves) became something of an anthem at the time:



Next is one of those "must-haves" for anyone (like me) who delights in collecting bizarre and eclectic music - a dance remix of one Edith Piaf's hits La Foule (of course!), set to someone's charming holiday snaps of Paris:



And speaking of the divine Edith, here's the little sparrow herself with Padam Padam:



Of course, any tribute to French music cannot be complete without that glittering gay icon Dalida - whose costume here (in her own tribute to an earlier Gallic legend Mistinguett) may well provide us with another option for next year's Pride outfits:



Nor should I neglect the wonderful Charles Trenet, whose iconic status in France was undented by a gay sex scandal (he was apparently briefly imprisoned for "corrupting minors") in the 1960s. Boum, indeed:



And to end this brief (and incomplete) trawl of music from the land of strong cigarettes, wine, smelly cheese, Napoleon, garlic and air traffic controller strikes, here's their national anthem La Marsellaise, brilliantly sung here by opera diva Jessye Norman:



Bastille Day

Monday, 13 July 2009

Hustle with my Muscle

As it is Monday, there's a habit of mine I just can't change... Today's tacky music frenzy is rather tinged with sleaze however, as the world needs a reminder of the dramatic presence that was... John Sex!!





In his/her book On Edge, C.Carr describes the impact of this fabulous man:
"The pompadour deserves a place on the history of great ideas. No one realised this until John Sex sharpened his hair, exaggerating the outlandish essence of a sex god. It crests a foot above his forehead like a wave about to crash...

"This was las Vegas from another planet, Sex working through songs of either awesome schmaltz or vulgarity - from the Mary Tyler Moore Show theme to the X-rated Hustle with my Muscle. He dropped the electric Liberace coat, asked us to applaud it, and danced loose as a go-go boy in front of his three-woman back-up group, The Bodacious Ta-Tas.

"This teen dream is a freak, delighting in his sexiness and everyone else's: "I've got it and it's alright. She's got it and it's alright. Sex appeal!"

John Sex website

Sunday, 12 July 2009

We will live each day in springtime



Time really does fly so quickly - it is three decades since the very lovely Minnie Riperton died at the age of 31.

It is impossible to guess exactly what kind of glittering career the former backing singer for artists such as Etta James, Fontella Bass and Chuck Berry might have had if she had lived, but hers was indeed a unique voice...

We should celebrate this magnificent song as her legacy:



Minnie Riperton biography on BBC Music

Saturday, 11 July 2009

I Will Survive



Thirty years ago, a huge crowd of rabid rednecks gathered at a football stadium in Chicago to perform a mass detonation of hundreds of Disco records - a symbolic gesture ("Disco Sucks") that was supposed to signal the death of a type of music loathed by homophobes and racists across the USA.

This radical gesture may well have sparked the rapid demise of the illuminated dance floors, the go-go dancers and the glitterballs for a while, but they failed to kill the music. Despite a sea-change in styles and attitudes throughout the 80s (most American dance music in that decade featured guitars and heavy drum-box effects), in Europe we developed our own more synth-based Italo/Eurodance/Hi-NRG style, and deep underground in the US some pioneering mixers and club DJs were busy creating what later became known as House Music.

As one of those pioneers Frankie Knuckles says, "disco music is alive and well and living in the hearts of music-lovers around the world. It has simply changed its name to protect the innocent."

And so, thirty years later what type of dance music is dominant among cool clubbers? Disco, of course! Here's some examples...

First up (featuring possibly the most unconvincing heterosexual performance ever by Steve Perry), here's Cyberjacks:



And then there's this slice of brilliance from Shena:



But of course, the greatest proponents of the "Disco" sound in the noughties must be the Freemasons (love them!)...



Have a great weekend at the Disco!

Read more on the BBC website

Friday, 10 July 2009

Lesbian tyre-changing, a one-legged gay WWI veteran and a naked man in a top hat



"At last
My love has come along
My lonely days are over
And life is like a song"


"Lesbian tyre-changing, one-legged WWI veterans and a naked man in a top hat". I wasn't expecting any of those at an event titled Love and Marriage as part of the London Literary Festival on the South Bank, but we got them all...

The former came courtesy of a lovely reading by Welsh author Stephanie Dummler, all about the innocence of emerging love, as two very different women tentatively embark on an unknown journey into a lesbian relationship in 1960s Britain, when attitudes were very different to today... The Dovecote on Amazon.

The second came, amusingly, from the imagination of Marion Husband, as she described how the lead character (the aforementioned one-legged WWI survivor) in her book The Boy I Love developed as she wrote - and she decided that instead of returning to the arms of the local butcher's daughter he would instead return to the bed of Doctor Adam Harris. Excellent stuff! The passage Marion read is available as an extract via Google.



But, as you might have guessed, the third of these unexpected entertainments came when it was our host Paul Burston's turn to read - as between two extracts from A Gay Divorcee all his clothes (bar those pants that so shocked his mum when she saw the cover of Boyz) seemed to fall off, to the excruciating background music of Lady in Red...



With gorgeous musical interludes from the sexy David McAlmont, this was an excellent evening - even if the hour flew by alarmingly quickly.

I look forward to the next event in Rupert Smith's House of Homosexual Culture season at the Festival. We are booked for next week's Stonewall - 40 event at the Purcell Room.

Let Etta have the last word:

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Adored and explored



Happy birthday Marc Almond - our dearly beloved Marc, another great diva who has a massive influence on me...

Read my blog in celebration of his 50th birthday.

Marc has always, and continues to be, a most welcome part of my life - his performance at Wiltons' Music Hall in April 2008 was magnificent, as was his guest starring role at The Tease Show in May this year.

Despite continuing problems arising from his near-fatal motorbike crash, 2009 is turning out to be another busy year for him. As well as taking part in a special celebration concert called Carousel, featuring the songs of Jacques Brel, at the Barbican this October [reminder to self - must buy tickets], Marc has announced the forthcoming release of a new CD Orpheus in Exile on 7th September. The album, a collaboration with Russian producer and musical arranger Alexei Fedorov, is a tribute to the music of Vadim Kozin, gay folk singer and composer who was sent to the gulags by Stalin.

This is not, of course the first venture into the world of traditional Russian music for Marc, as this breathtaking performance of a song from his 2003 album Heart on Snow shows:



Here, however, is a favourite of mine among Marc's in a very different style of music - the chanson - and what more appropriate way to celebrate his birthday...

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

I'm a man of wealth and taste

Forty years ago this month Rolling Stones drummer Brian Jones was found dead in his swimming pool, apparently from a drugs overdose. The notorious circumstances of this event catapulted the boys into the headlines yet again, and made their reputation as the "bad boys" of 60s music into a legend.

I am not a huge fan of everything the Stones produced, but I must admit to having a bit of a crush on Mick Jagger over the years...



Anyhow this anniversary of a significant moment in their history gives me an excuse to post the very last performance of the band before Brian's death. And this is my favourite Rolling Stones song ever...



Please allow me to introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
I've been around for a long, long year
Stole many a man's soul and fate

I was 'round when Jesus Christ
Had his moments of doubt and pain
Made damn sure that Pilate
Washed his hands and sealed his fate

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game

I stuck around St. Petersburg
When I saw it was a time for a change
Killed the Czar and his ministers
Anastasia screamed in vain

I rode a tank
Held a General's rank
When the Blitzkrieg raged
And the bodies stank

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
What's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah

I watched the glee
While your kings and queens
Fought for ten decades
For the Gods they made

I shouted out
"Who killed the Kennedys?"
Well after all
It was you and me

Let me please introduce myself
I'm a man of wealth and taste
And I laid traps for troubadours
Who get killed before they reached Bombay

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, oh yeah

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, oh yeah
But what's confusing you
Is just the nature of my game, ooh yeah

Just as every cop is a criminal
And all the sinners saints
As heads is tails just call me Lucifer
I'm in need of some restraint

So if you meet me, have some courtesy
Have some sympathy and some taste
Use all your well learned politics
Or I'll lay your soul to waste, mmm yeah

Pleased to meet you
Hope you guess my name, mmm yeah
But what's puzzling you
Is the nature of my game, get down
Woo hoo, ah yeah, get on down, oh yeah

Tell me, baby, what's my name?
Tell me, honey, baby guess my name
Tell me, baby, what's my name?
I'll ya one time you're to blame

What's my name?
Tell me, baby, what's my name?
Tell me, sweetie, what's my name?

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

From gospel to The A-Team



Many happy returns yesterday to the magnificent Della Reese, 78 years old. Who even knew she was still alive?

Miss Reese rose to fame in the 1950s and 60s, with hit singles such as Don't You Know and Someday (You'll Want Me to Want You), and her soulful gospel voice earned her several Grammy nominations.

In the 70s, she made a transition to acting, appearing in a number of hit shows in the US including Chico and the Man. At the height of her success in 1979 she almost died of a stroke, but after neurosurgery she made a full recovery, and continued her recording and screen career, appearing alongside Eddie Murphy in the film Harlem Nights, and making numerous cameo and guest appearances on TV. In later years she returned to her gospel roots, and is an ordained minister in one of America's numerous "happy clapper" churches.

Madame Acarti and I only recently discovered the lovely Della, when we stumbled across her cha-cha-cha version of Diamonds are a Girl's Best Friend (what else!). And here is the lady herself...



Della Reese trivia:
- she played the mother of B. A. Baracus in The A-Team
- she was the first black woman to guest host The Tonight Show in the US
- she was launched in her singing career when she was "discovered" by Mahalia Jackson
Della Reese music profile on MySpace

Monday, 6 July 2009

Les Miserables meets A Chorus Line with Macaroons



We watched the DVD of the fabulous Acorn Antiques - The Musical last night. We've had this for years now, ever since we went to see the sell-out show back in 2005, but never got round to watching it...

It was a great reminder of just how much of a genius writer Victoria Wood is, as she skilfully weaves the familiar absurdities of her most-loved regular sketch about the bizarre "Manchesterford" shop with pastiches and parodies of other musical shows and genres.

It also proves once more what absolutely brilliant actors Julie Walters and Cela Imrie really are (skilfully supported by Duncan Preston, Josie Lawrence, Neil Morrissey and the sublimely talented singer Sally Ann Triplett) - and indeed Miss Imrie won a well-deserved Tony award for her role.

Any excuse, really, to post this.



Acorn Antiques - The Musical! on Wikipedia

Acorn Antiques - The Musical! DVD available from Dress Circle

Sheer fabulousness

Still coming down after the most fabulous Gay Pride weekend in years, who better to bring some tackiness into our life this Monday than one of the cheesiest divas ever, Miss Raffaella Carra? This may well be our look for next year's Pride...

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Proud



According to official figures about one million people attended yesterday's Gay Pride march. We had the most fantastic day, our dressing-up costumes were superb, and the weather was absolutely perfect!



Many people criticise Pride for its apparent lack of focus on the real issues that it was founded for - the tendency to ignore the fact that it began as (and still should be seen as) a protest against injustice and inequality. After all, this is meant to represent our continuing struggle against homophobic bullying and intolerance (and solidarity for our brothers and sisters across the world who remain without the rights that we in the UK almost take for granted).

The organisers say "If we were heavily politicised, there's no way we would be in Oxford Street and Regents Street. The traders wouldn't want it and they have a lot of clout with the council, but when they can see it attracts people into the city, they're happy." What rubbish.



But many of those people who complain about the "commercialisation" of Pride tend to stay away from the march yet will gladly go to the parties afterwards.

As I said in yesterday's blog, I am a stalwart of gay rights activism. I do not, though, have any problem at all in making a statement while dressed in feathers, sequins, diamanté and glitter.



Paul Burston encountered ridiculous amounts of hostility when he attempted to bring some genuine political messages to the march. He is also quite right to draw attention to some of the uncomfortable observations in Suzanne Moore's article in (of all papers) The Daily Mail.



However, as far back as I can remember, Pride was always about celebrating fabulousness as well as highlighting the reality of homophobia - although I agree this year's "official" theme of "Come Out And Play" was vacuous in the extreme.

Because I understand the reason for the march being held every year on the anniversary of militant protests in America (read my article on the Stonewall riots), and because I also celebrate the joy of being a camp, feathery, diamanté-clad outrageous queen, I will never miss a Pride march - and I (and all of our coterie) always plan our outfits almost twelve months ahead. This is Gay Xmas, after all!



Our favourite moment (apart from flinging cock-shaped confetti at the homophobic Evangelists in Waterloo Place, and cheering Peter Tatchell's banner "Gordon & Sarah can marry - gays can't") was probably the synchronised turn to the Gay Catholics as Tainted Love was playing - "I'm sorry, I don't pray that way!".

I hope that somehow, some way we made a difference. We are not just some kind of fouffy freak show, and I rather hope that maybe next year we may have a Pride committee that will actually get the word "Gay" back into its title, do some work with the commercial businesses of Oxford and Regent Streets (Gap had a rainbow flag!) to make certain that they do not have such a say over what defines a march that passes their door, and realise that gay people have still got a lot of work to do before we can honestly say "this is just a parade".

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Happy Gay Pride Day, everyone!



I am ecstatic - it's Gay Pride Day at last!

I have always been a stalwart activist for gay rights and for Gay Pride. I have attended every Pride event since 1991 (and I was also there in 1985). I have raised hundreds of signatures for Stonewall's Clause 28 and Age of Consent campaigns (in Newport!), and I was the first ever gay widow(er) to get a pension out of Devonport Naval Dockyard, Plymouth (after a battle).

I have seen annual Pride events that had hundreds of people, then thousands, then hundreds of thousands. I have watched as commercial elements took over, then collapsed. I have winced at the attempt to transform "Pride" to "Mardi Gras", and the endless arguments about the order in which the "L", "G", "B" and "T" should be placed.

Although just being there is probably enough to make a statement, I always like to do a bit more spectacle - planning costumes is a year-round exercise, and every year we get more and more people adding to our "dressing-up" ensemble. I still look forward to this every year...

And just because I want to celebrate the fabulousness that is Pride, and remembering the very first event I attended in 1985 when there were no more than a couple of hundred people in Jubilee Gardens, Tom Robinson was the headline act, and a certain Divine floated past on a barge singing her tits off, here she is...

Friday, 3 July 2009

When they insist we're just good not enough



Just one more day to go before Gay Pride, and I just had to post one of the absolute anthems of the struggle for equality, to remind us of what it's all about, really...

Written and composed by a black out-gay man, it is inevitable that this song has been adopted as symbolic of many struggles for recognition (black, gay, even Irish Nationalist - ahem), but to me its words strike a chord for what Pride is really all about -

"Brothers and sisters
When they insist we're just good not enough.
Well, we know better.
Just look 'em in the eyes and say
We're gonna do it anyway!"



But who knew that there was an Almighty remix of this fabulous song? How camp...


Thursday, 2 July 2009

Shut up, shut up

Continuing my countdown to Gay Pride this weekend, here's the lovely Sin with Sebastian, an early influence on a certain Mr Patrick Wolf, methinks...

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

I wanna be kissed from head to toe, by that man in the very back row



Today is [takes deep breath!] the 64th birthday of the fabulous Debbie Harry! My teenage idol, my muse - adorable, sultry, sexy and somehow still cooler than a cool thing - I know I have blogged about her (and my love for Blondie) before, but in this countdown to Gay Pride, there is always room for an absolute diva...



She wants that man - and who are we to refuse?