Thursday, 20 November 2014

The last great Grandee?

"The Curse of Dolores Delargo Towers"?

A mere three weeks after I featured the remarkably eccentric (and plastic-surgery-addicted) María del Rosario Cayetana Paloma Alfonsa Victoria Eugenia Fernanda Teresa Francisca de Paula Lourdes Antonia Josefa Fausta Rita Castor Dorotea Santa Esperanza Fitz-James Stuart, Silva, Falcó y Gurtubay over at my Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle blog, the old dear has folded her mantilla away for the last time, and flamenco-ed off this mortal coil.

Considering only three years ago she married (against her family's wishes) a man 25 years her junior, I am bagging a ring-side seat for the forthcoming (inevitable) battle over her will (despite her public statement that she had rescinded any personal claim to her fortune)...

Five times a duchess, 18 times a marchioness, 18 times a countess, 14 times a Spanish grandee and once a viscountess; possible contender to the throne of Scotland, and the richest noble in Spain - RIP The Countess of Alba (28th March 1926 – 20th November 2014).

Monday, 17 November 2014

My dreams

I hear you say "Why?"

Always "Why?"

You see things; and you say "Why?"

But I dream things that never were; and I say "Why not?"

George Bernard Shaw - Back to Methuselah

Friday, 7 November 2014

Oh no, how will we cope..?

It's the last episode of this series of Downton Abbey on Sunday!

Good job some queens are keeping the spirit alive...

And dykes..

...and even Cecil Beaton's channelling Lady Mary!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Don't walk away, Renée

Today, I read an article on the generally marvellous Dangerous Minds website about a drag queen with a long and illustrious history - Miss Ricky Renée, star of stage and screen (she was "Elke", one of the "Kit-Kat Girls" in Cabaret).

I was, however, somewhat confused that the article's author Martin Schneider felt it necessary to write...
"Ricky grew up in Florida but quickly made his way to NYC and then London and the European continent after that. Information about him isn’t the easiest to come by. It’s telling that there is an entry for him at, the German Wikipedia, but none whatsoever at the English-language Wikipedia."
...especially as Mr Schneider's subsequent painstaking translation of said German Wikipedia entry merely summarises the wealth of biographical information about the career of Miss Renée that is readily available on the artiste's own website (to which the author had helpfully given a link earlier in his article).

Furthermore, Mr Schneider concludes: "I’m a little obsessed with Ricky. If you know anything about him and his act, by all means write a comment!" I have not done so yet, but on a cursory Google search I managed to find a fascinating back-story to this mythical creature and her eponymous "Ricky Renée's Club" in London's West End.

If Mr Schneider had done the same as I, he would have come across the website of a wonderful old queen called Eric Lindsay, co-founder (among other such extravaganzas) of the Casino de Paris in Denman Street just off Piccadilly Circus - one of the earliest striptease clubs in Soho in the 50s which, in addition to the girls and the occasional celeb in the audience, also boasted the first male stripper, and "the first nude knife throwing act on a revolving wheel, called Jacqueline and Ruger." Mr Lindsay himself, true to his camp theatrical roots, ended up becoming a glitzy showbiz stage magician called "Zee" who hob-nobbed with the likes of Liberace, Danny La Rue and Mae West.

It was a particular blog article of Eric's from May 2013, about his attempt to launch a new club near the Theatre Royal Drury Lane back in 1965 - originally to be named in honour of the esteemed drag queen Sonne Teal, who was tragically killed in a plane crash on her way to the UK to open the joint - that gave me loads of "gen" on Miss Renée's time in London. Here are some extracts:
We couldn’t stop the building, it had gone too far. Too much money was already involved. We were truly up the creek without a paddle! Who could possibly take Sonne’s place? There were the French female Impersonators, but none of them spoke English well enough to banter with an audience. There was an American drag act called Ricky Renée who had worked at Al Burnet’s "Stork Club" in Swallow Street for quite a while a few years before and whom Sonne had talked about favourably as they had worked together at the "82 Club" in New York. Maybe he would be interested?

Ricky was working in a night club in Berlin at the time. Apparently he had been there for a number of years. It seemed that he had made Berlin his home. So we rang him and explained our situation, telling him the full story of poor Sonne. Was he interested in coming back to London and fronting a night club with his name as "Ricky Renée’s"?

Ricky had worked with Teddy Green when he was at the "Stork Club" and he was happy working with him again, so he was engaged. We also engaged Maria Charles, Melvyn Hayes and Anne Hamilton, all West End performers, plus a few other dancers and singers.

All the costumes were designed and made by Dougie Darnell, who made exclusively for Shirley Bassey. So you see we had the best of everything. There was no expense spared. When the club was finished it looked beautiful, the furnishing, the exotic glass dance floor and the wonderful colour of the room. It was just the way I imagined a night club should look.

The only thing missing were the customers! Where were they? We had hoped for a phenomenal success, but it just wasn’t to be. Whoever came to the club adored the show and came back many times. The show was great and Ricky Renée was fantastic in his own way, although he wasn’t a Sonne Teal, but there just weren’t enough customers.

Well, after about six months we admitted that we had made a big mistake and decided to call it a day. We had to close "Ricky Renée’s". The place was a flop!

Ricky Renée went on to further success and later appeared in the film “Cabaret” and is still working, I believe, back in Berlin.
And indeed, as Miss Renée's own website confirms, she still is.

The point (I think) of Mr Schneider's Dangerous Minds article was to showcase a rather marvellous bit of British Pathé footage all about "Ricky Renée's Club" and the lady's "quick-change" act:

[Mr Lindsay, who also features said video in his blog, directs his readers in addition to the Pathé website, where another video of out-takes shows more of the club itself.]

And here again is the estimable Ricky Renée, on stage in her adopted home of Germany (in a video posted in 2012!):

Ricky Renée official website

And, as a final footnote - find more on Ricky Renée at the absolutely indispensable Queer Music Heritage website. Of course.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

Debbie the débutante

A small selection of images from the forthcoming exhibition of photography by former "Mr Debbie Harry", Chris Stein.

Chris Stein/Negative: Me, Blondie, and The Advent of Punk is at Somerset House in London from 5th November 2014 to 25th January 2015. A must-see, methinks!

More photos from the exhibition on The Guardian website.

Monday, 27 October 2014

Bugger all, innit?

On this, the centenary of that greatest of Welshmen the poet Dylan Thomas, among the quirkier tributes - we missed the whole celebratory festival in his old drinking haunts of Fitzrovia in London, including the arrival of his writing shed(!), which is apparently touring the country - was a most unlikely coupling, of the audio kind.

For none other than the fantabulosa latter-day "Queen of Cymru" Cerys Matthews (of Catatonia fame) and the normally gruff (Welsh) anchor man of BBC Radio 4's deadly serious Today programme this morning read together a lovely extract from the Bard's master-work, Under Milk Wood:

Perhaps the funniest part was when he got Cerys to say - out loud, at breakfast-time - the name of Milk Wood's notorious village "Llareggub" backwards, as it was meant to be read - "Bugger All"!

[If the clip doesn't play, try the originating site Audioboom]

“Poetry is not the most important thing in life... I'd much rather lie in a hot bath reading Agatha Christie and sucking sweets.”

“An alcoholic is someone you don't like, who drinks as much as you do.”

“I know we're not saints or virgins or lunatics; we know all the lust and lavatory jokes, and most of the dirty people; we can catch buses and count our change and cross the roads and talk real sentences. But our innocence goes awfully deep, and our discreditable secret is that we don't know anything at all, and our horrid inner secret is that we don't care that we don't.”

“When one burns one's bridges, what a very nice fire it makes.”

“I do not need any friends. I prefer enemies. They are better company and their feelings towards you are always genuine.”

“Wales: The land of my fathers. My fathers can have it!”

Dylan Marlais Thomas (27th October 1914 - 9th November 1953)

Dylan Thomas Centenary website

More Dylan Thomas classics, courtesy - this time - of Richard Burton (who was born to read Under Milk Wood, and, indeed, Thomas' work in general.

My previous blog showcasing Cerys and Catatonia.


Even more Dylan Thomas!

Sunday, 26 October 2014

Sweet though in sadness

From Ode to the West Wind
Percy Bysshe Shelley

If I were a dead leaf thou mightest bear;
If I were a swift cloud to fly with thee;
A wave to pant beneath thy power, and share

The impulse of thy strength, only less free
Than thou, O uncontrollable! If even
I were as in my boyhood, and could be

The comrade of thy wanderings over Heaven,
As then, when to outstrip thy skiey speed
Scarce seem’d a vision; I would ne’er have striven

As thus with thee in prayer in my sore need.
Oh, lift me as a wave, a leaf, a cloud!
I fall upon the thorns of life! I bleed!

A heavy weight of hours has chain’d and bow’d
One too like thee: tameless, and swift, and proud.

Make me thy lyre, even as the forest is:
What if my leaves are falling like its own!
The tumult of thy mighty harmonies

Will take from both a deep, autumnal tone,
Sweet though in sadness. Be thou, Spirit fierce,
My spirit! Be thou me, impetuous one!

Drive my dead thoughts over the universe
Like wither’d leaves to quicken a new birth!
And, by the incantation of this verse,

Scatter, as from an unextinguish’d hearth
Ashes and sparks, my words among mankind!
Be through my lips to unawaken’d earth

The trumpet of a prophecy! O Wind,
If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?

British Summer Time has ended.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Karma. Chameleons.

Heavens be praised! The eternally inspirational Thombeau (of legendary - and sadly missed - "Fabulon" and "Chateau Thombeau" blog fame, and currently curator of the wonderful Redundant Variety Hour) has launched a new blog, Full Fathom Five (from whence these magnificent photos of Boy George, dressed by Jean-Paul Gaultier, came)!

And a thing of wonder, it is, too.

Visit the "cabinet of curiosities" that is Full Fathom Five and see for yourself...

Boy George and the newly-reformed Culture Club are on tour as we speak - read the review of their appearance at Heaven earlier this week.