Saturday, 30 June 2012

A sepia Hedy Lamarr?

"Always be smarter than the people who hire you."

"In my early days I was a sepia Hedy Lamarr. Now I`m black and a woman, singing my own way."

“It's ill-becoming for an old broad to sing about how bad she wants it. But occasionally we do.”

“It's not the load that breaks you down, it's the way you carry it.”

Lena Horne (30th June 1917 – 9th May 2010)

My tribute when Miss Horne died

Thursday, 28 June 2012

Every folly but vanity

"I may be no better, but at least I am different."

"Take the course opposite to custom and you will almost always do well."

"Provided a man is not mad, he can be cured of every folly but vanity."

Jean-Jacques Rousseau (28th June 1712 - 2nd July 1778)

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Sweet dreams...

A thing of beauty is a joy for ever:
Its loveliness increases; it will never
Pass into nothingness; but still will keep
A bower quiet for us, and a sleep
Full of sweet dreams, and health, and quiet breathing.
Therefore, on every morrow, are we wreathing
A flowery band to bind us to the earth,
Spite of despondence, of the inhuman dearth
Of noble natures, of the gloomy days,
Of all the unhealthy and o'er-darkened ways
Made for our searching: yes, in spite of all,
Some shape of beauty moves away the pall
From our dark spirits.

John Keats, Endymion

Friday, 22 June 2012

Racing Ladies, pt 2

The belle of the ball of Royal Ascot every year is the lovely Mrs Florence Claridge.

A veteran of the event for more than 25 years, Mrs C has been adopted as a form of "unofficial mascot" of the races - dressed as she always is by the maestro of big eye-catching hats David Shilling (whose mother Gertrude was a fixture of Ladies' Day for many years until her death in 1999).

Let us just stand back and admire this amazing woman and her oustanding headgear...

"It's Ladies' Day, isn't it? You have to stand out." is Florence Claridge's motto.

I think she succeeds!

David Shilling

Racing Ladies, pt 1

"Hats divide generally into three classes: offensive hats, defensive hats, and shrapnel." - Katharine Whitehorn

As ever, the milliners of Britain went completely overboard for Ladies' Day at Ascot Races yesterday.

The rain didn't hold off for long...

But the punters kept smiling.

Especially our favourite, Mrs Florence Claridge:

- but more of her in part two...

More Royal Ascot Ladies' Day hats

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

"I find beauty in the grotesque"

"I`m a loner. I don`t like beautiful people, but I find beauty in the grotesque. And in the sweet soul inside someone who has been able to get through their life without being a rat`s ass. Such people should be collected, should be swept up immediately and kept in a box of broken people. I`ve collected people my whole life. Sometimes it ends badly, but it`s absolutely never on my part. Because I know how fabulous I am. You`re just going to have to take my word for it - I`m an incredible person. I do good deeds, and I love people, but the only way I can do these things is to stay apart. Because you can just stand so much. But the people who you meet in your life, who cross your path, the ones who are decent, should be collected."
Sad news today of the death of a great artistic marvel - Miss Susan Tyrrell, actress, musician and camp cult icon, aged just 67.

From her solid grounding in theatre, Miss Tyrrell became a stalwart of many prime-time 70s TV series such as Baretta, Starsky and Hutch and Kojak. And she was soon making a name for herself on the big screen - even nominated for an Oscar for her role opposite Stacey Keach and Jeff Bridges in Fat City.

But is is for her even more "oddball" roles we remember her most, in movies such as Angel and Avenging Angel, John Waters' Cry Baby - and, most of all (probably in a large part thanks to YouTube), for the weird cult classic Forbidden Zone.

To where (once again) I take you now...

Quite possibly the campest, strangest clip from a movie as you will ever find...

Miss Tyrrell survived one of the greatest traumas that could befall a performer - the amputation of both her legs after a terrible blood disorder in 2000 - yet continued to work right up until her death.


[Acknowledgements to Mike at Deep Dish blog for breaking the sad news - read his remarkable tribute to Miss Tyrell]

Susan Tyrrell website

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Brazen irony, theatrical excesses and pleasure in satire

As always, we at Dolores Delargo Towers are delighted to discover a new diva, of any gender!

Paulo Poli, a drag queen and a pioneering out-gay man when such things were unheard of in a Catholic state, pioneer of the avant garde in austere post-war Italy, and reminiscent of Quentin Crisp in his defiance of the "norm" (and of gay rights campaigners' desire to embrace such "normality"). As this gem of an article encapsulates...

The unconventional man of 20th-century drama
Umberto Cecchi, Firenze Made in Tuscany, January 2008

There is a sentence often repeated by Paolo Poli which adds a hint of sadness to his sharp and ironic wit. “On stage we all are cardboard creatures”. And it is with this statement that he thinks back over his uninhibited youthful years which made him the nonconformist artist of twentieth-century drama. One wild and somehow bigoted century (conventional even in its violence) swiftly and totally changed by Poli even before the 1968 protest movement.

He brought back on the stage the fashion of male artists playing woman’s roles as it was in ancient Greece and in Europe in later centuries. Paolo Poli (being a self-professed homosexual in years when the rest of the gay world was still in the closet) was, after all, well at ease in a woman’s clothes. On stage he was a woman and free at last. The nights of his restless youth were often marked out by his search for occasional company at Florence’s railway station or by looking for working men on the streets but not on the stage! Poli’s pleasure on stage, if pleasure was to be, was playing the exquisite role of St. Rita of Cascia. It was the year 1967, at the time of Berkeley’s students unrest headed by Mario Savio, when the clamour began for gender equality, sexual freedom, free drugs and a free lifestyle. However, being Italian society and Italian laws still unprepared for such an upheaval, one eventful night the police stormed in the theatre and put an end to Poli’s extraordinary rendering of his St. Rita’s beautiful play. And that was that.

Years later, Paolo Poli used to laugh about such an occurrence: “What a farce! When I was playing Santa Rita, dressed as a nun, all were shocked. Then I played such a tearjerker like “La Nemica” by Dario Nicodemi: a story set in Italy during World War One. And when I, playing the role of the mother, was declaring “Yes, I hate you...I hate I won’t have to love you”, people were laughing their head off instead of crying”. The world is upside down!

I clearly remember the evening when Poli was playing Nicodemi. He started fishing, all of a sudden, and with a long fishing rod, among the audience and singing like a goblin out of a fairy-tale “come to me my precious tiddler, come to me..”, an extraordinary theatrical coup full of ironic wit at a time when all European stages were inundated with Sartre and Brecht’s existential plays.

Paolo Poli is indeed a genius of twentieth-century theatre. He is clever and irreverent, ironic and cutting as only a true Florentine blessed with greatness can be. He is not cowed by challenge and dares to be innovative at all times. He is a rebel in his life as on stage. And has always been since those times, in Rome, with Laura Betti when mere survival was ensured by whisky and peanuts makeshift meals. “I was a beauty, fair-haired and dressed in light blue!”. He was, then, in Genoa and had started, in a small theatre, at Via XX Settembre, called La borsa d’Arlecchino together with a small group of friends, a new approach to a brilliant and brazen kind of dramaturgy. The same brilliant and provocative style of today’s playing, richer in titles and themes, some of which I am remembering by heart: L’asino d’oro, Caterina de’ Medici, La Nemica and today’s works such as Sei Brillanti where, with his own sharp irony, and at the age of 78, he exposes to ridicule many of our society’s shortcomings, dressed as a cardinal or a cabaret singer.

Poli’s is a “countermelody”: when bigoted people make a fuss about an issue, he must surely play it down; when gay people clamour for the right to marry, he disowns them candidly: “It’s true that we “girls” do not understand about politics, but why should homosexuals be in need of an official acknowledgement?”. And he is quick to add that “gay pride” events make him sad, just like Viareggio’s carnival. He who, as a child, was in love with King Kong, the big ape, and had already a marked preference for hairy men and huge sailors to whom he might recite The Divine Comedy making them run away, he who knew since the age of seven about his being “different”, is today puzzled and vexed by the extremism of uncontrollable homosexuals made so restless by Zapatero’s proposals. “The need of parading, hand in hand, like two contented fags, calls for a shrink”, he tells Aldo Cazzullo during an interview.

Equally inexplicable to him is a theatre without the Italian Commedia dell’Arte’s rhythm and verve like Costantini, Gherardi and Bianchelli’s theatre whose last representative undoubtedly is Poli, blessed with the same creativity, the same wish to astonish with his brazen irony, his theatrical excesses and pleasure in satire. The same satire which cost “les italiens” of the Sun King’s Paris their expulsion from the Hotel de Bourgogne and cost Poli a charge for his supposed destruction of myths and harsh moral reprimands. However no critics can limit the lengthy applause bestowed upon him when on stage nor make him hold his tongue, sharp and loving at the same time. Laura Betti? "A wonderful, unrestrainable virago. We loved each other deeply because we rarely met”.

There! Paolo Poli, an extraordinary cardboard creature on stage and a great man in life states that love needs mutual independence, a healthy distance and sporadic meetings. His only exception, a Dutch love which lasted ten years: “but only because we were travelling much and each of us on his own”.
Paulo Poli (born 23rd May 1929)

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Wounded tigress

Over at Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle, my mind is on the magnificent Miss Dorothy Squires.

Idly trawling the web for more Dottie, I stumbled across this gem of an article by veteran journalist Donald Zec in The Sunday Mirror in March 1978:

It was the slanging match of the year, and I told them both they were like a couple of frisky cats on a hot tin roof.

I've now decided this was being unkind to cats.

For no self-respecting mog, pedigree or stray could have matched the loud and unscripted bitchery which involved Adrienne Corri and Dorothy Squires (and me) in that riot of a Thames TV show last Monday night.

Going for each other with forked tongues and blazing eyeballs, they transformed the cheerful Take Two chat show into as venomous a clash as you'd find this side of the average snake-pit.

"Phoney!" "You're only in it for the money and your horses." "Oh...rubbish!" and an unequivocal mutter of "Balls" were just a few of the felicitous exchanges which made anchorman Llew Gardner go pallid beneath his pancake, and his co-presenter Sandra Harris weak at the knees.

Seeing these two garrulous chicks giving each other the karate chop with their tongues certainly stunned the watching millions as it momentarily turned TV into an abattoir made for two. But actually to be there, as I was feeling their hot breath and prodding eyelashes on either side, gave me the best time I've had since World War Two...

Not that there was any hint of the blue murder to come when we all met for a pre-show drink. The ladies in question twittered sweetly, like nuns at netball. The theme of the programme was "Is there really no Business like Show Business?" Actress Adrienne Corri was down to defend the star game. Dorothy Squires was expected to take a less rosy view.

I was required to throw in anecdotal ballast.

But as an old student of the female animal, I had an instinct that blood was going to flow. The rising decibels of Adrienne's voice beat a warning tattoo on my ear-drums. Her eyes were like hot anthracite.

Miss Squires bore the icy calm of a hit-man lining up his sights.

"Good evening, ladies and gentlemen," began the amiable Mr Gardner, cosily disarmed by the as yet unruffled pussycats to his left and right.

Dorothy Squires purred quietly along at first. Then, suddenly, she arched her back, hissing at the way the media reacted to her career.

Bitterly she said nobody "has any friends in show business" and the only love was between her and her audience.

That put the devil in Miss Corri. She rose sinuously in her seat like a charmed snake. She grimaced. She huffed, she sniffed and she snorted, "Nonsense!", "Rubbish!" "Oh come on, you're only in it for the money and your race-horses!"

Mr Gardner's face shrivelled into a mortician's smile. Dorothy Squires, who could spit rivets into more daunting opposition than the sleek Miss Corri, reacted like a wounded tigress.

She tore into Adrienne. "You're a phoney; you shouldn't be in show business," and when that failed to demolish the lady, made the curt comment "Balls!" which does tend to bring things to a halt. Llew Gardner looked at his questions, decided hell had taken over and threw them away.

I mentally discarded half my anecdotes on the grounds that only a UN contingent was going to get between these two.

The studio audience sat rigid as if nerve-gassed.

The earpiece linking Gardner with the producer was oscillating with frantic instructions for emergency re-jigging. This was a rare moment in television and the producer wanted to broadcast every bite, scratch and clout.

I discarded another brace of anecdotes as Miss Squires wondered icily whether Miss Corri had ever seen one of her performances.

With a sweetness compounded of two parts prussic acid to one part strychnine, Miss Corri purred, "I'm sorry, I've never seen your show."

The interval arrived like all quiet on the Western Front. The presenter joked about getting the fight promoter Harry Levine to mastermind the contest.

After the interval comedian Jim Bowen told some good jokes but then he caught a glimpse of Adrienne Corri idly turning the pages of a trade paper.

"Don't read while I'm performing," he rasped. "I don't read when you're performing. Mind you, I can't find where that is."

I felt like the character who'd been invited to a party but nobody asked him to play. Finally they stuck a mini-mike in my lapel. I worked up some steam, but who do they put to my right? The unstoppable Dorothy Squires.

I opened my mouth but the words came from the former Mrs Roger Moore. However, when she took a breath, I did tell her that the media had been pretty helpful in her career. That, without the likes of us, her shows would be pretty light on audiences.

But by now we were in intensive care. And even when the hostilities ceased and the dust settled the ladies continued their separate harangues.

Dorothy said: "I was bloody furious with Adrienne Corri's attitude to show business. I would have belted her one, but I couldn't get near her. I earn £4,000 a week and she earns £200 - that's the difference between us."

Adrienne Corri snapped back: "The idea that there is no business like show business is a load of rubbish. It's all an ego trip we get paid for. In any other business we'd be locked up."

Llew Gardner staggered off the stage like the walking wounded.

I thanked Miss Corri and Miss Squires for being so... something or other. The studio audience went out giggling into the night.
I think I would have given my right arm to be in that audience!

Dorothy Squires (25th March 1915 — 14th April 1998)

Monday, 11 June 2012

Thought for the day

The Rain
by William Henry (WH) Davies

I hear leaves drinking rain;
I hear rich leaves on top
Giving the poor beneath
Drop after drop;
'Tis a sweet noise to hear
These green leaves drinking near.

And when the Sun comes out,
After this Rain shall stop,
A wondrous Light will fill
Each dark, round drop;
I hope the Sun shines bright;
'Twill be a lovely sight.

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Tears and laughter

“[I was] the only child in the audience that always wondered why Dorothy ever wanted to go back to Kansas. Why would she want to go back to Kansas, in this dreary black and white farm with an aunt who dressed badly and seemed mean to me, when she could live with magic shoes, winged monkeys and gay lions? I never understood it.”
John Waters

“I try to bring the audience's own drama - tears and laughter they know about - to them.”

“If you sit down for 20 minutes in this business now it's a comeback.”

“I believe in the idea of the rainbow. And I've spent my entire life trying to get over it.”

“Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.”

Judy Garland (10th June 1922 – 22nd June 1969)

The Judy Garland Museum