Saturday, 29 June 2013

Gay Senoritas on Pride Day

Gay 'Senoritas' ballet of the minstrel show at the Capitol Theatre, Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, April 1931.

The Halifax Daily Star for 27 April 1931, carried this photograph and reported that:

"Here we have the ballet of the minstrel show to be presented at the Capitol Theatre tonight by the Commercial Club of Halifax under the direction of Miss Frances Foster. According to the press agent, these 'girls' will be a riot. They are garbed as senoritas, an old Spanish custom with Commercial Club minstrels. Left to right, they are: Ald. W.E. Donovan, F.G. Balcom, C.E. Dowden, H.M. Laurence, Murray Ryan, W.R. Moore, J.E. Hudson, R.O. Cutler, E.A. Young, W.E. Godding, H. Montgomery."

Ay, Caramba...

Happy Gay Pride!

Friday, 28 June 2013

It's Gay Pride eve

...we're taking our "three steps to instant loveliness"...

...and we're almost ready to go!

Happy Gay Xmas Eve!

Gay Pride in London 2013

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Saturday, 22 June 2013

A Little Gay History

The Warren Cup

From the BBC website:
The British Museum has launched a guide focusing on elements of homosexuality to be found in its collection.

A Little Gay History draws on objects ranging from ancient Egyptian papyri and the erotic scenes on the Roman Warren Cup to images by David Hockney.

Written by curator Richard Parkinson, it explores artistic portrayals of what it means to be gay and the difficulties in finding records of same-sex desire.

Antinous, lover of the Emperor Hadrian
Timed to tie in with the London Gay Pride festival, which takes place next week, the podcast - which also features artist Maggi Hambling and writer Kate Smith - discusses a number of key objects in the Museum's collection from ancient to modern times.

"Museums have always been very important spaces for people to consider their own sexual identity," explained Mr Parkinson - curator in the ancient Egypt department - in the guide.

"Most museums have collections of Greek and Roman statues which show men looking very naked, so for men who desired other men it was one of the few spaces where they could look at naked male bodies in a culturally respectable sort of way."

The project began with Same-sex desire and gender identity, launched as part of LGBT History Month in 2010.

It has since been developed into Mr Parkinson's book, and recognises the importance of gay role models throughout history.
The guide is accompanied by an audio trail featuring Simon Russell Beale:

If the player doesn't work, click here for the audio stream.

A Little Gay History, £9.99 from the the British Museum shop

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Any suspicion of effeminacy was completely banished

“Mon Dieu! George Mallory!” - Lytton Strachey

His tutor at Cambridge A.C. Benson* described his face thus: “Its shape, its delicately cut features, especially the rather large, heavily lashed, thoughtful eyes, were extraordinarily suggestive of a Botticelli Madonna, even when he had ceased to be a boy - although any suspicion of effeminacy was completely banished by obvious proofs of physical energy and strength.”

During the 1924 British Mount Everest Expedition, the intrepid George Mallory famously disappeared somewhere high on the North-East ridge during an attempt to make the first ascent of the world's highest mountain. His ultimate fate was unknown for 75 years, until his body was discovered in May 1999. Whether Mallory and his climbing partner Irvine reached the summit before they died remains a subject of speculation.

Prior to this feat of derring-do, however, Mr Mallory had created quite a stir among the artistic community at Cambridge (led by Rupert Brooke; Virginia Woolf called them "the Neo-Pagans"), some of whom went on to become known as "The Bloomsbury Set":
"Mallory's muscular beauty attracted both men and women. Duncan Grant painted him a number of times, as did the French artist Simon Bussy. The extent of Mallory's homosexuality is much discussed."
According to many sources, he had relationships with James Strachey [brother of Lytton] and with Duncan Grant (who took the portfolio of nude photographs of George). Regardless, after leaving Cambridge he married (Ruth) and fathered three children. It is said he carried a photograph of his wife to the summit of Everest, but it has never been found.

On being asked why he wanted to conquer Everest, Mallory famously said “Because it's there.”

George Herbert Leigh Mallory (18th June 1886 – 8th or 9th June 1924)

[* Arthur Benson was one of the three gay Benson brothers (the others being the cleric and scholar R.H Benson, and E.F. Benson of Mapp and Lucia fame); he famously composed Land of Hope and Glory.]

Sunday, 16 June 2013

In the Corner

Mrs William Rhinelander Stewart

Igor Stravinsky

Gypsy Rose Lee

Marcel Duchamp

Martha Graham

Salvador Dali

Marlene Dietrich

Truman Capote

Wallis Simpson

"A good photograph is one that communicate a fact, touches the heart, leaves the viewer a changed person for having seen it. It is, in a word, effective."

"I myself have always stood in the awe of the camera. I recognize it for the instrument it is, part Stradivarius, part scalpel."

Portraits "in the corner" by Irving Penn (16th June 1917 – 7th October 2009)

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

It's curtains for his critics!

Forty years ago, the film genre known as "horror" - in Britain particularly, with the predominance of Hammer Studios - was booming. Low-budget, high-gloss, and extremely camp movies starring the likes of Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing and a bevy of busty girl victims including Dawn Addams, Caroline Munro, Judy Geeson and Adrienne Corri, they were about to face some even more camp competion, with the arrival of one of our favourite movies here at Dolores Delargo Towers, Theatre of Blood.

And that magnificent cornucopia of one-screen memorabilia TV Cream pays it an excellent tribute:
Horror comedy is never an easy gig, combining two genres that are mutually exclusive at best, at worst actively pulling against each other. Add to that the fact horror films have, from Bride of Frankenstein onwards, exhibited a healthy knowledge of their own daftness anyway, and the task of the horror parodist becomes Herculean.

Theatre of Blood, a prime cut of United Artists folderol, is well up to the challenge. That grand master of borderline self parody, Vincent Price, is Edward Lionheart, a classical actor of the declamatory old school miffed at constant desultory notices and the incursion of trendible ‘Method’ types on what he sees as his turf. Eddie sets out to off the eight members of the London Critics’ Circle who’ve served up his most crushing reviews. Being a Bardhead, he themes each death after an on-stage coil-shuffling in each of the Shakespeare plays he’s been slagged off for being shite in, making it up when the plot doesn’t quite fit his purposes.

This leads to some memorable vignettes indeed – Robert Morley choking on his own poodles and Arthur Lowe’s severed head are the most famous, but there’s also the brilliant death-by-perm for Coral Browne, Dennis Price being dragged behind a horse, Ian Hendry facing an ocular dagger mechanism straight out of The Perils of Penelope Pitstop, and the, er, singular spectacle of Price in a white suit humping away at Diana Dors before Jack Hawkins bursts in and strangles her.

But it’s more than a series of Sellotaped-together bumpings-off, as Eddie’s tragic backstory is gradually revealed, and there’s a nicely gruesome technique of using the body (or bits thereof) of the previous victim to hound the remaining nerks. It was reputedly Vinny’s favourite of all his films, and it’s not hard to see why: a green light for unrestrained fruitiness, umpteen costume changes, bizarre make-up, action scenes aplenty, a suicide, the chance to electrocute his future wife while impersonating Princess Margaret’s hairdresser, assorted camply wonky European accents and eight separate Shakespeare recitals. Handed the opportunity of a lifetime, Price inevitably runs riot, but as well as providing fantastic entertainment all along the line, his singular ability to make the ham look convincing as a ham, and not just an actor’s hammy idea of a ham, helps the club-footed logic of the baroque serial killer film no end.

The rest of the cast bulges with notables. Diana Rigg is Eddie’s daughter-cum-partner-in-crime. On their tail are the regulation blundering plods, senior detective Milo O’Shea (silver-haired, bluff, one step behind but doesn’t like it pointed out) and dogged sergeant Eric Sykes. The critics vary from the shamefully underused (Michael Hordern, Arthur Lowe) to the brilliantly overdone (Harry Andrews and Morley), and a well-judged ‘main victim’ performance from the always-reliable Ian Hendry. Then there’s Joan Hickson being repeatedly injected in the arse, Madeline Smith as a secretary, and Stanley ‘Bungle off Rainbow‘ Bates reviving a drowned Price with a Mazola bottle half-full of meths.

Blood takes place in real ’70s London, in and around real landmarks, with real knackered old police Ford Zephyrs to boot. Consequently, it all looks grand. Director Douglas Hickox pulls off enough fantastic little moments to put Kubrick worshippers in the ‘Eight Idols or Less’ queue. Thrill as Michael Hordern is vertically stabbed against a sheet of polythene! Marvel at the incredibly complex horse-in-a-make-up-mirror shot! Swoon as the camera follows Price from balcony to balcony of reciting Hamlet! And stare open-mouthed at the use of wide-angle lenses in general, coming to a head when Hendry faces off with Vince in a trampoline-boosted fencing tournament. No other horror film – no other film, come to that – varies so wildly in tone.

Anthony Greville-Bell’s script perfectly balances on the point of pastiche, yet it’s serious enough within its own daft world to deliver some genuinely chilling goods – Hordern’s violent death in particular is not easily expunged from the memory. This is how to do horror parody: first, take horror itself seriously, then let daftness reign as you extrapolate a warped version of it, but make sure you turn the seriousness back up when it comes to the characters.

Camp Lionheart may be, but he’s clearly deadly serious.

Besides, you have to love a film that credits a ‘Meths-Drinker Choreographer’.
Indeed. Here's the scene with Coral Browne (soon to be Mrs Price), and her Joan of Arc-inspired demise (although Shakespeare didn't actually mention an electric perm device in Henry VI, part 1!):

Theatre of Blood on Amazon

Monday, 10 June 2013

GQ, sixteenth-century style

Creating fashion history is not something you would normally expect from an accountant.

But in an extraordinary undertaking spanning 40 years a style-obsessed accountant from Augsburg in Germany recorded in detail what he wore, creating what historians now think is the world's first fashion book.

Interested in clothes from a young age, Matthaeus Schwarz started commissioning watercolour paintings of himself at the age of 23 and continued until he was 63. No other pictorial record like it exists, say experts.

He started to record his appearance in 1520, initially commissioning 36 images to retrospectively cover his appearance from childhood up until the age of 23. Over four decades he commissioned a total of 137 original watercolour images of his outfits, painted by three principal artists.

He would diet to get the fashionable body shape of the time and dressing wasn't a quick or easy affair either. He would have needed servants to help him and often they would have sewn him into his clothes.

"A lot of time was spent arranging garments so everything looked perfect. Often a servant would have gone out with him to make sure the outfit was properly arranged at all times.

"It challenges the cliche that everyone who didn't attend at a royal court went around dressed in grey rags and sack cloth."
- Jenny Tiramani, theatre designer and principal of the School of Historical Dress.

"The book changes our sense of looking at the past. It shows that fashion cannot be considered a modern phenomenon and spread down from the top social elites as early as the Renaissance." - Ulinka Rublack, author of Dressing Up: Cultural identity in Renaissance Europe.

But there is another reason Schwarz's book is so groundbreaking. He included two naked images of himself, one from the back and one from the front. He was 29 when they were painted.

Exactly why Schwarz embarked on his book of fashion remains a mystery. It could have been purely a vanity project or he may have wanted to hand down a record of contemporary fashion at the time.

Read the fascinating (and highly camp) story of the Schwarz Book of Clothes on the BBC website.

Read more about the book (with more illustrations) at Res Obscura blog.

Friday, 7 June 2013


[with Frederick Ashton and Leonide Massine]

On her 100th birthday, John Walsh (interviewing her in a Thamesside pub for The Independent) described her thus:
"...older than the century, older than the Queen Mother, older than the house in which she sits and older than the whole history of English ballet. She was alive when Victoria was on the throne. She was performing on the London stage before Archduke Ferdinand was shot in Sarajevo. She was taken up by Diaghilev and congratulated on her common sense by Lilian Baylis. She discovered Margot Fonteyn, Rudolph Nureyev, Robert Helpmann and Frederick Ashton. Her choreography was scored for orchestra by Ralph Vaughn Williams and Constant Lambert who, like everyone else who came into her regal presence, addressed her as 'Madam'."
"It was like holding hands with God." - David Bintley, ballet dancer and director.

The grandest of grand dames of English ballet, Ninette de Valois's creative influence was matchless from the early days of the 20th century to her death a mere twelve years ago, and continues to be felt today. She founded the Royal Ballet, masterminded the worldwide success of the Sadlers Wells Ballet Company, provided a platform for the most remarkable and most remembered ballet performances in history, and only retired when she was in her 70s.

She created a legend, and became one.

"Somebody must always be doing something new, or life would get very dull."

Dame Ninette de Valois, OM, CH, DBE (born Edris Stannus, 6th June 1898 – 8th March 2001)

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Sing-a-long of the day

"During the twenties Fred was arrested (and later sentenced to one month in jail) for driving while drunk, in a dangerous manner and without a licence. Following the arrest, Fred, deemed a "menace to His Majesty's fighting forces" (almost certainly because of the topless sailor who had been travelling with him at the time of the accident), was banned from attending the Royal Tournament; yet he returned each year and each year successfully evaded discovery. It is for these reasons rather than his musical achievements (he only made ten recordings during his career), that only two biographies exist."
Fred Barnes (21st May 1885 – 23rd October 1938)

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Saturday, 1 June 2013

She conquered

Marilyn by Phil Stern

"I don't mind living in a man's world as long as I can be a woman in it."

"Give a girl the right shoes, and she can conquer the world."

Marilyn Monroe (1st June 1926 – 5th August 1962)