Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Not the marrying kind

"Some women just aren't the marrying kind - or anyway, not the permanent marrying kind, and I'm one of them."
Four-times married Jane Wyman

Monday, 27 June 2011

Shopping and fucking

And the subject of today's sermon is “gay identity”. For what profit a man if he loves another man, but has no sense of identity? Without identity his love is like a pink balloon or a whistle blowing in the wind – full of air, signifying nothing. If a gay man has love, but no identity, then he can never truly enter the kingdom of gay goodness and everlasting pride. Or to put it another way, keeping faith in the redemptive power of identity is what being gay is all about. Of course, it wasn't always thus. In the years BP (Before Pride), there were no such things as gays, only homosexuals. And what's worse, identity wasn't really something that people thought about very much. In those dark times, homosexuals were truly lost in the wilderness – a disparate group of individuals, spread out all across the globe (but mostly in America), each pursuing his own interests and never sparing a thought for the plight of his fellow homosexuals, or even liking them very much. Then lo, it came to pass that the wise queens at the Stonewall Inn did take exception to the police pushing them around and did fight back against their oppressors. And for five long days and nights they fought, with tooth and nail and six-inch heels. And through their good fight, the modern gay rights movement was born and identity forged.

And the forefathers of the gay movement looked on and saw that it was good. And the gay merchants looked on and saw that it was a good way to make money without a great deal of investment, and so everybody was happy. And so it continued for many years, until the day came when the youngsters of their tribe did start to question the wisdom of their elders, and ask if this thing called gay identity wasn't just a little bit restrictive, and did it come in a different size? And the elders were sore afraid and said, “Who has put these words into your mouth? Surely it is the work of the devil, for only one possessed by the devil could question the goodness of such a holy thing. For a man can say that there is no one gay identity but many gay identities. But he can never, ever say that gay is not good. Goodness and mercy shall follow the children of Stonewall always. For thus is was written, and must remain for ever and ever, amen.” And the youngsters listened carefully to the words of the elders. And when they had finished listening they turned to one another and said, “Fuck that, we're going shopping.”
Author unknown

Happy Gay Pride week!

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Guinness is good for you

"I don't approach fashion; fashion approaches me!"

In the beginning there was La Marchesa Casati, who begat Elsa Schiaparelli, who begat Vivienne Westwood, who begat Isabella Blow. Then came Daphne Guinness...

Style icon, model, millionaire heiress and muse to Alexander McQueen, Miss Guinness has been named many times amongst the world's best dressed women. Her great-aunt was Nancy Mitford; her parents were close friends of Salvador Dali; her sister lived amongst the Warhol set. Her influence is everywhere.

"Life is a stage for Daphne, funerals or balls, she always makes a performance."

Daphne Guinness - Style Icon

Friday, 24 June 2011

My Existence

I wish...

A Delightful Page in the Record of My Existence by Cardwell Higgins

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

The look?

Milan Fashion Week, June 2011:

Dolce and Gabbana


Alexander McQueen

I embrace emerging experience.
I participate in discovery.
I am a butterfly.
I am not a butterfly collector.
I want the experience of the butterfly.

William Stafford

Don't question why

Don't question why she needs to be so free
She'll tell you it's the only way to be
She just can't be chained
To a life where nothing's gained
And nothing's lost
At such a cost

There's no time to lose, I heard her say
Catch your dreams before they slip away
Dying all the time
Lose your dreams
And you will lose your mind.
Ain't life unkind?

Goodbye, Ruby Tuesday
Who could hang a name on you?
When you change with every new day
Still I'm gonna miss you...

Saturday, 18 June 2011

Unlikely conversations

It makes you wonder...

Joan Crawford and Debbie Reynolds

Gloria Swanson and Diana Dors

Morrissey and Pat Phoenix

Andy Warhol and Lana Turner

See also

Friday, 17 June 2011

The Priestess of Depravity

"The Dancer Anita Berber", Otto Dix, 1925

What a woman!
"She danced nude in nightclubs, seduced a wide swathe of the the population, both male and female, appeared in soft porn silent films, drank on the average one bottle of cognac per day, married three times, was addicted to cocaine and opium, was never seen in public without heavy make-up, talked incessantly, told lies with abandon and, predictably, died at an early age."

Read more at The Random Jottings of Madam Arcati (my erstwhile other half's fantastic blog).


Swan hat pictured at Royal Ascot Ladies Day 2011

Wednesday, 15 June 2011


Is this a window, or is it something else?

Monsieur Beaucaire

A beautiful Art Deco poster for Rudolph Valentino's Monsieur Beaucaire, nonetheless...

Thursday, 9 June 2011

“I don’t do minimal”

At the grand old age of 90, former interior designer, fashion maven and New York socialite Iris Apfel is a sudden superstar. She has been photographed by Bruce Weber; Simon Doonan devoted a whole window at swanky department store "Barneys" to her, and in 2005 the Metropolitan Museum of Art mounted a full-scale exhibition dedicated to her wardrobe!

The self-proclaimed "geriatric starlet" is certainly a walking art-form, with trademark out-sized glasses and exquisite - and deliberately clashing on occasions - outfits.

Iris Apfel by Bruce Weber

She also has a lot to say about style...
  • I never care much what people think. I honestly don’t; I don’t pay any attention to the fashion police.
  • I don't do minimal.
  • Clothes are not frippery. Properly done, they can be an art form... They are a great vehicle for explaining who you are.
  • I’ve never tried to be a rebel or upset anybody. I just figured if I pleased my husband, and my mother didn’t get upset, then I was okay.
  • People with a lot of money don’t dress as well as people who have to make do, who have to be inventive. Those are the people who are always more interestingly dressed, I think.
  • Diamond necklaces don’t appeal to me at all. I prefer fun jewellery with big stones - so large they would be untouchable if they were real.
    Now, don’t get me wrong. I do appreciate Daddy Warbucks-size stones, like a big, flawed emerald. I love stones that are inherently flawed: rock crystal, turquoise with big veins.

In September 2011, she launches her own jewellery line Rara Avis ("Rare Bird" - a nickname of hers), which we look out for with trepidation...

A fascinating woman indeed, and a worthy exhibit in the Museum of Camp!

Iris Apfel’s Exuberant Apartment in The Architectural Digest, June 2011.

The book Rare Bird of Fashion: The Irreverent Iris Apfel is available now.

Wednesday, 8 June 2011

"You are the one"

The young Cole Porter (8 June 1891–15 October 1964) was almost hurled in the direction of a musical career by by his doting (and rather influential in small-town America) mother. She apparently financed his school orchestra in exchange for guarantee that he would get to play the violin solo, ensured his musical compositions were published and performed, and used her influence on the local media when they reviewed his performances. It is safe to say he may well have been a bit of a spoilt child...

Emerging from the finest schools, including Yale and (briefly) Harvard, Cole Porter had an impeccable education. And, like many other privileged young gay men, Mr Porter kept up a proper front for his family while clandestinely indulging his burgeoning sex life. Perhaps the number of football fight songs he wrote in Yale and his post-college sexual preference for large strong men were not entirely coincidence.

During the First World War (in which he did not actually fight, despite his stories to the contrary) he lived in Paris, a city renowned for its free-and-easy attitude towards sex and sexuality even then. The parties he attended (and hosted) were apparently fabulous, with guests from the elite of European (and US) society including members of the Italian nobility, gay orgies, cross-dressing, music, champagne and recreational drugs. [Sounds fab!] There he met wealthy American socialite Linda Lee Thomas, who was to become his wife and muse.

Miss Thomas, eight years older than him and one of Mr Porter's financial as well as emotional supporters, was more than happy to overlook his sexuality in exchange for his erudite and entertaining company and a share in his glamorous life. In return he was more easily able to concentrate on making a successful musical career. Despite their obvious long-standing adoration for each other (they stayed together, on and off till her death in 1954), their marriage was entirely sexless. According to the New York Times, however, "Marriage did not diminish Porter's taste for extravagant luxury. The Porter home on the rue Monsieur near Les Invalides was a palatial house with platinum wallpaper and chairs upholstered in zebra skin."

Cole Porter also carried on his constant pursuit of affairs with men (one of them ballet star Boris Kochno) for the rest of his life. He seemed to specialise in trysts with "rough trade" such as sailors and rent boys, often going cruising with his old friend the actor Monty Woolley. Allegedly one night, a young sailor they drove up to on the street asked outright, "Are you two cocksuckers?" Wooley smiled and said, "Now that the preliminaries are over, why don't you get in and we can discuss the details?"

It was Hollywood, however, that really catered to Mr Porter's hedonistic tastes, and his pool parties and gay affairs were the stuff of legend.
"Porter became a centre of the social whirl wherever he went, particularly among the homosexual elite. He was the only person who ever threatened director George Cukor's pre-eminence in Hollywood's gay circles. In George Cukor: A Double Life, biographer Patrick McGilligan writes that these competing world-class egos were called "the rival Queens of Hollywood," but concedes that "Porter's was perhaps the more privileged invitation."
Linda felt so left out of Cole's life that she packed her bags and left for Paris. She only returned when a horse riding accident shattered Cole's legs, and she supported him as he rebuilt his career.

And what a career!

Cole Porter's musicals include Anything Goes, Broadway Melody of 1940, Kiss Me Kate, High Society, Can-Can, Panama Hattie, and the tantalisingly-titled Gay Divorcee and Something For The Boys.

Among the hundreds of songs that he gave us as his legacy are: What is This Thing Called Love?, Let's Misbehave, Night and Day, Love for Sale, Let's Do It, I Get a Kick out of You, You're the Top, My Heart Belongs to Daddy, De-Lovely, You'd Be So Easy to Love, Do I Love You?, Well, Did You Evah!, In the Still of the Night, It's All Right with Me, At Long Last Love, I've Got You Under My Skin, Begin the Beguine, Too Darn Hot, Always True to You (in My Fashion), Ev'ry Time We Say Goodbye, True Love and Just One of Those Things (among so many more).

An amazing man.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Dirty Gertie from Number 30

Gertrude Lawrence

Gertrude Lawrence, photographed by Cecil Beaton, 1930.

From an article in The Daily Mail:
Yes, it was a spectacle the star's daughter was never to forget. As Pamela Clatworthy opened the door of the Number One dressing room at New York's St James Theatre on an April afternoon in 1951, she encountered a scene that froze her in her tracks.

Her mother, the legendary musical star Gertrude Lawrence, was in flagrante.

Her oyster-pink hooped satin ball gown was over her head like an inverted circus tent. Burrowing beneath it with dedicated zeal was a man of whom Pamela could see only his bare feet and equally bare buttocks.

'When they noticed I was there, and he emerged, his head was as bald as his backside, and I realised it was Yul Brynner'.

That was the first intimation Pamela had that her mother was involved in a passionate affair with her co-star in the hit Broadway musical, The King And I, a married man 17 years Gertie's junior, who owed to her his ascent to stardom.

'It was a closely guarded secret,' says Pamela. So secret that it has eluded every biographer of Lawrence and Brynner.

'It makes me laugh when I keep hearing stories about my mother supposedly being a lesbian. She was the complete reverse. Her appetite for men verged on nymphomania.'
Gertrude Lawrence on Wikipedia

Friday, 3 June 2011

La bella figura

“The expression ‘Made in Italy’ has become a global codeword for an embodiment of style, conveying Italy’s position at the forefront of international trends, inspiring and influencing the designers of tomorrow as it has done for over half a century”.

To mark the 150th anniversary of Italy’s unification, a new exhibition Masters of Style: Celebrating the Stories behind Italian Fashion is at Somerset House this summer (1 July – 14 August).

It brings together six of Italy’s most influential fashion houses to celebrate the stories behind Italian fashion. Looking at defining moments from their advertising campaigns, Armani, Dolce & Gabbana, Ferragamo, Gucci, Missoni and Prada will showcase a personally hand-picked selection of images from their collections and archives, bringing to life iconic style moments and offering an insight into the passion and influences behind their work.

This exhibition is curated by Peroni Nastro Azzurro in partnership with fashion commentator Colin McDowell.

Masters of Style