Sunday, 31 March 2013

Oh, to have been there that night...

Freddie Mercury, Cleo Rocos and Kenny Everett dressed Princess Diana in an army jacket, cap and sunglasses for a night out at the Royal Vauxhall Tavern gay pub in London in the late 1980s.

"When we walked in... we felt she was obviously Princess Diana and would be discovered at any minute. But people just seemed to blank her. She sort of disappeared. But she loved it," said Rocos, who co-starred in Everett's television show.

She said she did not know whether Diana was propositioned in the bar in her guise as a male model, but added: "She did look like a beautiful young man."

The presence of Mercury, Everett and Rocos diverted revellers' attention and Diana was able to order drinks undetected, Rocos recalled.

She made the claim her book The Power of Positive Drinking serialised in the Sunday Times.

Read my previous blog about The Kenny Everett Video Show

Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Sweetly and beautifully mixed

Miss Gloria Swanson posing among the rubble of New York's Roxy Theatre, a venue in which she made her name.

For the full story, read this fabulous article by Philip Mershon at Felix in Hollywood blog.

It was apparently this particular photo that was the inspiration for Hal Prince and Stephen Sondheim's classic musical about the demise of old-style theatrical grandeur, Follies...

"Fame was thrilling only until it became grueling. Money was fun only until you ran out of things to buy."

"I didn't want to spend the rest of my life playing Norma Desmond over and over again."

"Life and death. They are somehow sweetly and beautifully mixed, but I don't know how."

Gloria Swanson (27th March 1899 - 4th April 1983)

Tuesday, 26 March 2013

I taught David to free his body

"I got a letter from the Sadler's Wells Ballet School saying they found me temperamentally and physically unsuited to a career as a dancer. I suppose that knocked me back for a couple of days, but then I went to see The Red Shoes at the cinema and I was up on my toes again. Blame Robert Helpmann." - Lindsay Kemp

At Saturday's We Love Bowie gala evening at the British Film Institute, among the delights with which our host Rupert Smith titillated us was a rarely-seen broadcast (by Scottish Television, of all unlikely places in 1970) of a typically camp, elaborate and incomprehensible piece by Lindsay Kemp, featuring Mr Bowie.

Mr Kemp is one of the most influential of all avant-garde performance artists, and many of our favourite artists have cited him as a source of inspiration - Kate Bush, Derek Jarman, Leigh Bowery, dancer Michael Clark and our very own Bette Bourne among them. But it was his collaboration with, and nurturing of (reputedly in return for sex) the young David Bowie for which we thank him most!

I found a rather marvellous article by Paul Gallagher on the esoteric blog site Dangerous Minds, which explains:
[In the 60s]...Bowie was shedding musical styles quicker than he changed his hair - from beat through Blues to Music Hall and Pop. With hindsight, you can see where his career was going, but by 1967, the teenager’s first recording career had come to a halt after the release of his oddment Laughing Gnome after which, Bowie didn’t release a record for another two years.

During this time, he fell under the influence of mime artist and performer Lindsay Kemp, who helped Bowie channel his unique talent towards Space Oddity and later Ziggy Stardust. As Kemp later told journalist Mick Brown for Crawdaddy in 1974:

“I taught David to free his body,” says Kemp, smiling wickedly.

“Even before meeting, David and I had felt the need to work together. I’d identified myself with his songs, and he’d seen my performances and identified himself with my songs. I was singing the songs of my life with my body; he was singing the songs of his life very fabulously with his voice, and we reckoned that by putting the two together the audience couldn’t help but be enthralled. In other words, one large gin is very nice, but two large gins are even nicer.”

The two large gins became Pierrot in Turquoise, which was filmed by Scottish Television in 1969, and broadcast in July 1970. How a small regional TV station like STV came to film this rather strange theatrical show is, no doubt, a tale in itself, but thankfully they did. Even if one cataloguer at Scottish Screen Archives “found this quite creepy,” it is still well worth watching.

It was filmed at the Scottish Television’s Gateway Theatre in Edinburgh, and was directed by Brian Mahoney. Now if only STV made programs like this today...
And here, for your delectation, is the entire thing.

[As it says on the tin:]
"Dangerous Minds is a compendium of oddities, pop culture treasures, high weirdness, punk rock and politics drawn from the outer reaches of pop culture. Our editorial policy, such that it is, reflects the interests, whimsies and peculiarities of the individual writers. And sometimes it doesn't. Very often the idea is just "Here's what so and so said, take a look and see what you think." I'll repeat that: We're not necessarily endorsing everything you'll find here, we're merely saying "Here it is." We think human beings are very strange and often totally hilarious. We enjoy weird and inexplicable things very much. We believe things have to change and change swiftly. It's got to be about the common good or it's no good at all. We like to get suggestions of fun/serious things from our good-looking, high IQ readers. We are your favourite distraction."
If this is an example of their type of feature, then I, for one, will be subscribing; and fully intend to make this Cabinet of curiosities one of my new "favourite distractions"...

Sunday, 24 March 2013

The Rajah of Rhinestones

Bob Mackie has led a charmed life - an outrageously camp man, he made his fortune designing outrageously camp frocks for a pantheon of divas, as well as for numerous Vegas burlesque extravaganzas, and even Carol Burnett's TV show (which was a huge hit in America but never made a dent here in the UK).

His client list reads like a roll-call of Patron Saints here at Dolores Delargo Towers: Judy Garland, Diana Ross, Liza Minnelli, Tina Turner, Shirley MacLaine, Mitzi Gaynor, Celia Cruz, Ann-Margret, Agnes Moorehead, Carol Channing, Bette Midler, Barbra Streisand, Chita Rivera, Joan Collins, and many, many more.

Of course, his most enduring - and possibly most outré - of all professional relationships is with Cher. And aren't we grateful for that?!

"If a woman is going to do an hour and a half onstage, and she’s just in a little black dress, she’d better be Judy Garland. You’re there to see her, you’re not just listening. So there needs to be something visual. At the same time, if you don’t make them look good, you’ve defeated the purpose of putting something on them. It’s all about making them look thinner and taller and fabulous. "

“We live in a jeans and T-shirt world but we all want to live in a palace ... We're not trying to attract the masses here. We're looking for a special person who's looking for something special.”

"I've been called the Sultan of Sequins, the Rajah of Rhinestones and the King of Glitz. I probably have more titles than any other designer."

Bob Mackie (born 24th March 1940)

Saturday, 23 March 2013

How life should be

Joseph Christian Leyendecker (23rd March 1874 – 25th July 1951)

Facts about J.C. Leyendecker:
  • He was renowned for his hunky menswear advertisements, famously pants and “long johns” for the Cooper Underwear Company, better known today as Jockey.
  • Charles Beach (1886-1952) was the original model for another of his clients "Arrow Collars" and became J.C.’s assistant, business agent and lover - a relationship that lasted for almost 50 years.
  • At his funeral, one of the pallbearers was was Norman Rockwell, who by that time had succeeded J.C. as the Saturday Evening Post cover artist and eventually America’s favorite illustrator.

Monday, 18 March 2013

And I'm just not satisfied

It is indeed a shame that the opening gala of the 27th Lesbian and Gay Film Festival (LLGFF) at the British Film Institute on Friday clashed with our cherished Polari.

For, as it says on the festival website: "kicked off in flamboyant style with the gala screening of I Am Divine, a new documentary about the legendary actor and drag queen Divine.

An LLGFF favourite following the screening of his film Vito at last year’s Festival, director Jeffrey Schwarz flew in for this international premiere, four days after the film was unveiled at its world premiere at America’s SXSW festival. Several friends of Divine were among the audience, including sculptor and performance artist Andrew Logan, record producer Pete Waterman and Mark Moore of S’Express.

The after-party was held aboard HMS President, in tribute to Divine’s legendary performance on a paddle steamer on the Thames during the Gay Pride parade in 1985."
Festival programmer Brian Robinson was there on the riverbank in 1985 and recalls Divine’s show:
"It was a very funny day, very busy. There were lots of stalls along Jubilee Gardens. You could hear the sound of Divine singing on the boat before you could actually see Divine. And when the paddle steamer hoved into view, you could see Divine gyrating. It was an extraordinary sight. In the middle of the river, even Divine looked small, but it was a great moment that I’ve never forgotten."
And neither have I - for I too was there!

One of the campest moments of my life...

Native Love (Step by Step)
Dance-ah feel the heat
Rock your body to the native beat

Step by step
Slowly I turn
Step by step
Come on

Well here I am I got the beat
I'm gonna rock to the rhythm of the body heat
Come on now let's have big fun
Rock to the rhythm let's get undone.

I've achieved my teenage dream
Cuz love was on my mind
This native love is restless
And I'm just not satisfied.

And I'll never get enough
Of that native love.

Step by step
Slowly I turn
Step by step
Come on

My car is my Ferrari and my body's Jack LaLanne
My clothes are by Armani and my hair is by Elaine
Tiffany and Cartier are telling me the time
This native love is restless
And I'm just not satisfied.

And I'll never get enough
Of that native love
Dance ride feel the heat
Rock your body to the body heat.

What it looks like
What it is
Say pungra, jungra
Say damn to the thungra

Step by step
Slowly I turn
Step by step
Come on

This native love is restless
And I'm just not satisfied
This native love is restless
And I'm just not satisfied

Hey GQ man, here I stand
For everyone to see
And if I'm not your type, well that's alright
Cuz that don't matter to me.

Got the rhythm and the rhyme
I'm right on time
I'm gonna blow your mind
This native love is restless
And I'm just not satisfied.

The Lesbian and Gay Film Festival continues until 24th March 2013.

Sunday, 17 March 2013


"The main thing is dancing, and before it withers away from my body, I will keep dancing till the last moment, the last drop."

"You live as long as you dance."

Rudolf Khametovich Nureyev (17th March 1938 – 6th January 1993)

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Cuba Libre

Casa de Julia Tarafa

Vestibule, Edificio Lopez Serrano

Mausoleum of Catalina Lasa, with doors by Lalique

Edificio Barcadi, former HQ of the rum distiller

Illuminated statuary, Cine-Teatro Sierra Mastra

For the first time, after ten years of lobbying, Cuba’s capital Havana is hosting the World Congress on Art Deco (14th to 21st March 2013), highlighting the wealth of 20s and 30s architecture the city holds.

Read more on the HabanaDeco website.

Tuesday, 12 March 2013

Don't listen to anyone who doesn't know how to dream

It's Liza's birthday, bitches! Pizazz!

"Anything is possible in this world. I really believe that."

"I'm not a very good singer. I just know how to present a song, and honey, I think I've been through enough to do it right."

"Dream on it. Let your mind take you to places you would like to go, and then think about it and plan it and celebrate the possibilities. And don't listen to anyone who doesn't know how to dream."

"Reality is something you rise above."

Liza May Minnelli (born March 12, 1946)

Miss Minnelli is on stage again with none other than Alan Cumming tomorrow (13th) and Friday (14th March) in New York! Read more.