Tuesday, 21 October 2014

"It’s more Carry On Camping than Blue Velvet"

From the fabulous review by Ellie Violet Bramley in The Guardian:
"...now Logan is descending from the ceiling on a hoop, heralded by the two queens, and the competition has begun... Some outfits, especially the swimwear, just weren’t built for the Globe’s narrow doorways. I watch as an infinity pool, a giant jellyfish and an inflatable octopus struggle to squeeze through the Jacobean-sized doorways."
The 13th Alternative Miss World competition, hosted as it has been since he founded the event in 1972 by the admirably eccentric Andrew Logan, took place on Saturday (after a five-year hiatus) at the unlikely venue of London's Globe Theatre. Judges included Dame Zandra Rhodes and the magnificent Molly Parkin:

The eventual winner was Russia's Miss Zero+ who wore skintight rubber and an almost entirely inflatable costume. Of course.

I wish I had been there. In fact I wish I had ever been...

Costume designer David Cabaret in 1991

Derek Jarman, winner in 1975

Alternative Miss World, 2009

Andrew Logan with Divine, 1978

The Alternative Miss World official website

Read my previous tribute to the Alternative Miss World competition - and my previous blog about Andrew Logan here

Friday, 17 October 2014

Thursday, 2 October 2014

I have lived...

We bid a sad farewell to Madame Gaby Aghion last weekend - the formidable co-founder of the remarkably successful French fashion house Chloé, and proud creator of a post-war style somewhere between Haute Couture and the High Street that she liked to call "prêt à porter de luxe".

Facts about Mme Aghion:
  • She was born in Alexandria, Egypt - her father was a Jewish cigarette factory manager - and she met her husband-to-be Raymond while they were still in school there.
  • An émigré in Paris in the 50s, she and her friends were unable to afford extravagant "New Look" couture fashions so started making their own; thus the line that became Chloé (named after one of those friends) was born.
  • Distinctly Bohemian by instinct, her very first fashion show was held during breakfast at the Café de Flore, the haunt of poets, artists and "free-thinkers" of the day (André Breton, Arthur Koestler, Ernest Hemingway, Truman Capote, Lawrence Durrell and Albert Camus among them).
  • One of her fashion muses and designers was 50s "supermodel" Maxime de la Falaise (Loulou's mum), who also worked with Elsa Schiaparelli and went on to be an even more famous muse to none other than Andy Warhol.
  • Far more successful nowadays for his own eccentric influence on couture, Karl Lagerfeld started out in the fashion world working on designs for Chloé, and only left Madame's employ in 1983.
  • In 2012, Chloé (nowadays subsumed into the conglomerate of Dunhill-Compagnie Financière Richemont) celebrated its sixty years in operation with an extravagant show of Mme Aghion's (and others') designs at the Palais de Tokyo in Paris
"I don't explain anything, I have lived... I lived the life I wanted. I soundly believed in all of this and I held on."

Gabrielle Aghion (née Hanoka, 1921 [date unknown] – 27th September 2014)

Tuesday, 30 September 2014

A tough little bitch

"A conversation is a dialogue, not a monologue. That's why there are so few good conversations: due to scarcity, two intelligent talkers seldom meet."

"Friendship is a pretty full-time occupation if you really are friendly with somebody. You can't have too many friends because then you're just not really friends."

"Past certain ages or certain wisdoms it is very difficult to look with wonder; it is best done when one is a child; after that, and if you are lucky, you will find a bridge of childhood and walk across it."

"Writing has laws of perspective, of light and shade, just as painting does, or music. If you are born knowing them, fine. If not, learn them. Then rearrange the rules to suit yourself."

"If the notion is good enough, if it truly belongs to you, then you can't forget it - it will haunt you till it's written."

"Disco is the best floor show in town. It's very democratic, boys with boys, girls with girls, girls with boys, blacks and whites, capitalists and Marxists, Chinese and everything else, all in one big mix."

"Life is a moderately good play with a badly written third act."

"All literature is gossip."

[On one of his portraits:] "I look like a tough little bitch in that one."

The magnificent Truman Capote, who was born ninety years ago today (born Truman Streckfus Persons, 30th September 1924 – 25th August 1984)

Friday, 26 September 2014

Meanwhile, below decks...

Who, me?!

You wanna do what?!"

OK - let's bounce!"

It's the weekend.

Go on.

Enjoy it!

Wednesday, 24 September 2014

The Last Sister

Deborah, the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire, and the last surviving Mitford sister, has died aged 94.

From a brilliant article about the "Mitford Girls" and the upbringing that made several of them into controversial characters (Diana married British Fascist Oswald Mosley, Unity was Hitler's greatest fan, Jessica eloped to Spain with a communist during the Civil War, and Nancy became a hugely admired authoress, but married a homosexual man and later ended up as mistress to de Gaulle's Chief of Staff), courtesy of The Evil Style Queen blog:
The parents of the Mitford sisters, David Bertram Ogilvy Freeman-Mitford, 2nd Baron Redesdale and his wife Sydney Bowles, were described as handsome, eccentric, cold and remote. The Mitford children (six girls and a boy) grew up in relatively moderate circumstances deep in rural Oxfordshire. The parents didn't believe in education for girls, specifically not in formal schools. Lady Redesdale ran a chicken farm, the return of which was duly invested in her daughters' scant education. The children were brought up by a nanny who, as it happens so often in English upper-class families, provided their only stability and warmth. A string of hapless governesses was employed to convey what little knowledge the parents thought girls needed.

Contact with other children was very limited because Lord and Lady Redesdale were of the opinion that this might overexcite the girls. According to Jessica Mitford, Lord Redesdale wouldn't receive any "outsiders" such as "Huns", "Frogs", Americans, Africans and any other "foreigners", which included other people's children, most friends of the girls and almost all young men. An exception was made for some (but by no means all) relatives and some choice red-faced and tweed-clad neighbours.

Jessica, Nancy, Diana, Unity, and Pamela, 1935. The youngest, Deborah, is not pictured.
This cruel and eccentric environment was mirrored by the girls from an early age. Merciless bullying among them was rampant, an "art" at which specifically the oldest sister Nancy excelled, a precocious sign of her later whip-lash tongue, for which she became famous as a writer.

The parents split up after more than 35 years of marriage over the crucial question whether Adolf Hitler would be welcome as a son-in-law and whether a German invasion was appreciated or not. Lord Redesdale was against, his wife all for it.

Exasperated, he left her and moved to the tiny Scottish island of Inch Kenneth near Mull, about the only bit of estate that had remained in the family, and from where he returned only after the war.

Deborah Mitford by Pietro Annigoni
The youngest sister, Deborah (born 1920), married Lord Andrew Cavendish, second son of the 10th Duke of Devonshire, when they both were 21. At that time, Andrew was not expected to inherit the title. Because his older brother William (who was engaged to be married to Kathleen Kennedy, sister of JFK), was killed in combat in 1944, Andrew became Marquess of Hartington and 11th Duke of Devonshire after his father's death in 1950.

Deborah, Duchess of Devonshire never put a foot wrong. She was considered the most perfect of all Duchesses of Devonshire. There had been ten before her.

She [was] the public face of Chatsworth House, the Devonshires' seat in Derbyshire, for many decades... She [wrote] several books about Chatsworth and played a key role in the restoration of the house, the improvement of the garden, the development of commercial activities such as the Chatsworth Farm Shop (a business that employs a hundred people), and Chatsworth's other business operations. She [was] even known to man the ticket office herself if the need arose.

The Chatsworth Cookbook
She became the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire in 2004 upon the death of her husband when her son inherited the title. Andrew and Deborah had been married for 63 years.

Debo moved out of Chatsworth House to make way for her son, but said: "In all those years I never took the place for granted, but marvelled at it and the fact that we were surrounded by beauty at every turn."

Jessica, Deborah and Pamela. In the background Alexander Mosley (son of Diana) and Alexander's wife Charlotte, Editor of 'The Nancy Mitford Diaries' at a book launch party held at The Reform Club on the 23rd September 1993.

  • Andrew, Duke of Devonshire, often wore a jumper with the slogan "Never Marry A Mitford".
  • Nancy, her eldest sister, was cruel to Debs as a child. "Everyone cried when you were born," she would enjoy reminding her (their mother had wanted another boy).
  • She met John F Kennedy at a ball in 1938, and later became close friends with him; he would often ring her at 3am to chat, and she and Andrew attended his presidential inauguration in 1961 and, in 1963, his funeral.
  • One of her eight grandchildren is the model Stella Tennant.
  • Deborah was a big Elvis Presley fan: "Wasn’t he wonderful?", she said. "I never became a fan until after he was dead, otherwise I would have been a stalker."
RIP, Debo.

Deborah Vivien Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire DCVO (née Deborah Freeman-Mitford, 31st March 1920 – 24th September 2014)

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

To the depth and breadth and height my soul can reach

Ooooh, how utterly camp is this?

From Martin Schneider, writing for the ever-sublime Dangerous Minds site:
Shakespeare, Tchaikovsky & Me, Jayne Mansfield’s delicious album from 1963 or 1964 (depending on where you look), has never seen a CD release and it’s not available on the music streaming services I consulted. That scarcity has driven up the price: right now you can get a copy from Amazon.com for $60 and up.

Assessing Mansfield’s intelligence is something of a mid-20th-century parlour game. Quoting Wikipedia: “Frequent references have been made to Mansfield’s very high IQ, which she claimed was 163. She spoke five languages, including English. ... Reputed to be Hollywood’s ‘smartest dumb blonde’, she later complained that the public did not care about her brains: ‘They’re more interested in 40–21–35,’ she said.”...

So how are her recitations of some of the greatest erotic poetry in the English language? Welllll, just fine, I think. I wouldn’t say she exactly reads them well - she reads them about the way you’d expect a big movie star to read them, crisply and evenly, perhaps a little too briskly. She brings a purr to the material that you wouldn’t probably get from current U.S. poet laureate Charles Wright, let’s say.

Here’s a track listing, followed by a clip of about six minutes from the album:

Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “How Do I Love Thee”
Percy Bysshe Shelley, “The Indian Serenade”
Percy Bysshe Shelley, “Good-Night”
Robert Herrick, “You Say I Love Not”
Henry Constable, “If This Be Love”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “The Lady’s ‘Yes’” -
Lord Byron, “She Walks In Beauty”
William Shakespeare, “Cleopatra”
Christopher Marlowe, “Was This The Face”
Joseph Beaumont, “Whiteness, Or Chastity”
Anonymous, “Madrigal”
Leigh Hunt, “Jenny Kiss’d Me”
Anonymous, “Verses Copied From The Window Of An Obscure Lodging House”
Thomas Otway, “The Enchantment”
Christopher Marlowe, “The Passionate Shepherd To His Love”
Robert Herrick, “Upon The Nipples Of Julia’s Breast”
Ben Jonson, “Drink To Me Only With Thine Eyes”
Lord Byron, “The Lovers”
Robert Herrick, “To The Virgins, To Make Much Of Time”
Elizabeth Barrett Browning, “Inclusions”
William Butler Yeats, “When You Are Old”
William Wordsworth, “Daffodils”
William Shakespeare, “Take, O, Take Those Lips Away”
Thomas Carew, “Mark How The Bashful Morn”
Anonymous, “Oh! Dear, What Can The Matter Be?”
Alfred Lord Tennyson, “The Miller’s Daughter”
Charles Sackville, “The Fire Of Love”
Sir John Suckling, “The Constant Lover”
John Dryden, “Why Should A Foolish Marriage Vow”
Thomas Moore, “Believe Me, If All Those Enduring Young Charms”
Anonymous, “Love Me Little, Love Me Long”

I am in raptures.

Contrary to what the author says, it would appear that those fine purveyors of the "weird and obscure" - Sort Of Records - do in fact offer a vinyl to CD recording of this camp gem.

Browse their magnificent "cabinet of curiosities".

Here (from an enquiry I made back in 2012 to their email address - SunPK@aol.com) is what they replied about prices:
Most of the collections are $20 and albums are usually $15 or $16. Singles and EPs are usually $8. There's a 10% volume discount for 3 or more at once and 5% off for discs without jewel cases (full set of inserts included). Shipping to the UK is $4 or more depending on the size of the order.

You can Paypal me at sunpk@aol.com or send a cheque or money order (USA only) to:

Sun PK
131 East Ave. #5
Walden, NY 12586

Audio quality is terrific. Inserts are printed on coated matte papers and look excellent. So let me know the titles that interest you and I'll give you a total.
I never did get back to them. Their catalogue is somewhat overwhelming, and at the time I was a little "strapped for cash".

Now I have heard that snippet of Jayne, I may well have to rectify the situation and place an order - Dody Goodman's there, as are Lizabeth Scott, Mae West, Kim Novak, Gypsy Rose Lee, and (errmm) Rock Hudson!

Shopping and Jayne Mansfield. Two favourite pastimes.

Monday, 22 September 2014

It's a look...

This stunning new look in slacks comes from the high 5" waistband, with elastic back for a snug, trim fit... and dramatic sash that ties in front for an extra dashing effect.