Wednesday, 27 May 2015

All about the Butterfly

In the words of the formidable Vogue editor-in-chief Anna Wintour: “The people who are responsible for the fashion images are the fashion editors. They have always been our secret weapon...”

Only three years too late for the magazine's 120th birthday party celebrations, we recently (and by chance, browsing Sky Arts channel) came across the most marvellous documentary In Vogue: The Editors Eye.

Taking as its concept not just the history of Vogue's growth from 1890s Gibson Girl covers to World War II pictures (of Buchenwald) to the rise of the "Supermodel" and celebrity obsession, but the first-hand accounts of the ladies who made it such an iconic tome, it had style and attitude oozing from every pore.

The interviewers reached into the homes and memories of editors like 100-year-old Babs Simpson (don't get her going on Lady Gaga), steely Diana Vreeland protégé Polly Mellen (who recalls the famed snake-with-a-nude-Nastassja-Kinski shoot), and outrageously French Carlyne Cerf de Dudzeele ("I meexed everyzeeng . . . put couture weeth ze jeans").

We got back-stories on famous shoots - the one with the Doberman that nearly sank its fangs into Christie Brinkley's ankle, or Liz Taylor nearly sinking hers into editor Jade Hobson during a clash of wills.

Insights from Miss Wintour herself as well as past and present fashion editors such as Grace Coddington, Tonne Goodman, Camilla Nickerson, Vera Wang and Phyllis Posnick, fashion journalist and European editor-at-large Hamish Bowles, fashion designers including Marc Jacobs, and cover stars including Nicole Kidman and Sarah Jessica Parker made this a most absorbing appreciation of an almost unique fashion bible.

There was even a rather clever "theme tune" made up of the ladies' own words - "It's All About the Butterfly" by Lucian Piane & The Pop Tarts:

In Vogue: The Editors Eye is a camp indulgence. And here it is in full, for your delectation...

HBO web page about the documentary

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Thursday, 14 May 2015

Where ya going?

Bobby: Where ya going?
April: Barcelona.
Bobby: Oh.
April: Don't get up.
Bobby: Do you have to?
April: Yes, I have to.
Bobby: Oh.
April: Don't get up.

April: Now you're angry.
Bobby: No, I'm not.
April: Yes, you are.
Bobby: No, I'm not.
Put your things down.
April: See, you're angry.
Bobby: No, I'm not.
April: Yes, you are.
Bobby: No, I'm not.
Put your wings down and stay.
April: I'm leaving.
Bobby: Why?
April: To go to-
Bobby: Stay.
April: I have to-
Both: -Fly
Bobby: -I know-
Both: -To Barcelona.

Bobby: Look, you're a very special girl,
Not just overnight.
No, you're a very special girl,
And not because you're bright...
Not just because you're bright.
You're just a very special girl...June!
April: April!
Bobby: April!
April: Thank you.

Bobby: Whatcha thinking?
April: Barcelona.
Bobby: Oh.
April: Flight Eighteen.
Bobby: Stay a minute.
April: I would like to.
Bobby: So?
April: Don't be mean.

Bobby: Stay a minute.
April: No, I can't.
Bobby: Yes, you can.
April: No, I can't.
Bobby: Where you going?
April: Barcelona!
Bobby: So you said.
April: And Madrid.
Bobby: Bon voyage.
April: On a Boeing.

Bobby: Goodnight.
April: You're angry.
Bobby: No.
April: I've got to.
Bobby: Right.
April: Report to-
Bobby: Go.
April: That's not to say...
That if I had my way...
Oh well, I guess, OK.
Bobby: What?
April: I'll stay.
Bobby: But...oh God!

We're not on a Boeing.

Neither Bernadette Peters nor Richard Chamberlain are going to be there.

Nor Sylvia Fine. Unfortunately.

Wednesday, 13 May 2015

In the Navy

You couldn't make it up...
Forget Britain’s Trident, or Israel’s Iron Dome – peace-loving Sweden has come up with a much more innovative, and inclusive, system of defence.

The Swedish Peace and Arbitration Society (SPAS) is to deal with encroaching Russian submarines in Swedish waters with a device emitting anti-homophobia Morse code.

The device – officially titled The Singing Sailor Underwater Defence System, but nicknamed the “gay sailor” – is a “subsurface sonar system”, which sends out the message: “This way if you are gay” in an attempt to deter apparently homophobic Russians.

Russia has come under fire since the Putin administration introduced homophobic laws in 2013 banning “propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations”, in a climate of increasing intolerance towards its LGBT population.

The design of the device features a neon, flashing sign of a dancing sailor, naked but for a cap and small white briefs, surrounded by hearts.

“Welcome to Sweden: Gay since 1944” is written in English and Russian, in a reference to the year of decriminalisation of homosexuality in the Scandinavian nation.

Sweden has cut its military budget in recent years but announced in March it would increase spending, as a result of alleged Cold War-style Russian aggression.

An operation involving helicopters, minesweepers and 200 troops was launched last October to search for a suspected rogue Russian submarine in Swedish waters.

Sweden is currently not a member of Nato. And thanks to the gay sailor defence system, it may never have to be.
[Source: The Guardian]

Wednesday, 6 May 2015

The Beautiful Gardener's Boy

On the occasion of the 120th anniversary of the birth of the World's first "screen idol" superstar, the gorgeous Rudolph Valentino - here's a fascinating (and little-known) story about the Great Man's "lying in state" after his untimely death at the age of 31, courtesy of Lawrence Quirk:
It was August 1926. The body of Rudolph Valentino lay in state at Campbell's Funeral Parlour, then at Broadway and W 66th St. in New York. Outside, in the broiling midsummer heat, on the steaming pavements, milled many thousands of the fabulous screen idol's female admirers (and more than a few male ones). Their voices were loud and raucous, the faces clammy with sweat. In their eyes could be read fascinating variations on the prevailing wild hysteria that had washed over New York since the news of Valentino's death of peritonitis at Polyclinic Hospital on W 50th St. on Monday, August 23rd.

Inside the chapel, swallow-tailed, wing-collared, grim-faced attendants pushed and shoved at the unruly fans, who refused to keep their places in the line as they filed by the flower-banked open casket. Some boldly leaned forward to touch the waxen face; others attempted to grab "souvenirs" - a coat button, part of a tie (some had even come armed with scissors), a lock of the greased-down black hair - whatever they could get.

Mortuary aides moved forward and pushed them roughly away, sometimes in the nick of time, and shortly other Campbell employees came rushing in with a glass cover for the bier, while nearby guards, newly deputized as reinforcements, hollered "pass on!",ignoring the pleas and wails of the tearful women who, hour after hour, over those hot August days, came to gaze and sob and pray - and all the while had not the slightest inkling that they were looking not at the body of the man who had been dubbed by the press Rudy Le Bien Aime (Rudy the Well-Beloved), but at a cleverly fashioned wax effigy...
In death, as in life, it appears Rudy would maintain an immaculate deception. The article goes on:
Shortly before his death, a Chicago newspaper had poked public fun at Valentino in the cruellest terms. It seemed that powder puffs had been installed in the men's room of a Chicago ballroom; the perpetrator claimed, loudly and shrilly, to the press that he had been inspired by Valentino's slicked-down, oily hair, then-novel wrist watches, slave bracelets, and other appurtenances of meticulous male grooming, 1926 style. Dubbed by the paper "The Pink Powderpuff" and "Rudy the Beautiful Gardener's Boy" (he had gardened in his obscure youth), Valentino had reacted with hysterical, defensive rage. He went about muttering, at times screaming, to all comers that the men of America had turned against him, that they were castigating him as a weak effeminate - and worse. Soon he was publicly challenging the unknown writer to a duel, determined as he was to "prove his manhood.."

...Valentino, of course, was unduly and obsessively concerned with public slurs against his masculinity because he was harbouring a secret that, if widely broadcast, could apply the coup-de-grace to his already shaky career. He had been humiliatingly impotent with both of his strong-minded wives, Jean Acker, the actress, and Natacha Rambova, the designer, ladies of eccentric cast who had buzzed busily among the Lesbian circle that surrounded the outré, sinisterly flamboyant actress Alla Nazimova of Camille and Salome fame. The marriages had been farces (once he had even been arrested for bigamy) and it was rumoured that he had used these unlikely ladies as "fronts" to obscure his bisexual bents.

Valentino had come a-cropper with the temperamental and tyrannical Natacha Rambova in a particularly lurid way, as her interference in his recent pictures (she was a filmic set designer and artistic consultant) had resulted in unpleasant comment on the effeminacy of his costumes and facial make-up in the ill-fated 1924 opus Monsieur Beaucaire, for which segments of the press had labelled him a "fop," "dandy," and "prancing popinjay".

Valentino in truth had been a passionate, and indiscreet, Adorer of the Male since his obscure beginnings in the small Italian town of Castellaneta ...which, at 18, he had been forced to leave because of one homosexual liaison too many. In America by 1913, he had been a tango dancer in New York cabarets, had "gigoloed" with both women and men, and had figured - and more than peripherally - in more than one domestic scandal, including the murder of a husband by his wife. Circa 1916, he had even been arrested in a house of prostitution in Manhattan. (After he became famous, the studio seized and suppressed the police records after some fancy bribery operations.)
The more I read about the man, the more I adore him...

Rudolph Valentino (born Rodolfo Alfonso Raffaello Pierre Filibert Guglielmi di Valentina d'Antonguolla, 6th May 1895 – 23rd August 1926)

Read our previous tribute to Rudy

Saturday, 2 May 2015

I never minded not being able to play the fluffy heroine

"I'm not a bit like my screen image. I don't bully. I don't shout. And if I do have a row with somebody it makes me ill for at least a week".

"I never minded not being able to play the fluffy heroine. I was always fat, never good looking. A producer once said to me: 'Peggy, you have a character walk, a character face and a character body. You will never be anything but a character woman as long as you live.' I resented it at the time, but within a month I realised he was right."

We celebrate today the centenary of possibly the greatest ever portrayer of that most British of acting traditions - The Battleaxe.

Miss Peggy Mount (for it is she) first had her moment in the spotlight as the fearsome mother (to Shirley Eaton) and mother-in-law (to the hapless Ronald Lewis) in Sailor Beware in 1956 (a part she had previously made her own in the West End). From then on, roles that called for a stentorian, terrifying matriarch in the "seaside-postcard" tradition were hers - from George and the Dragon alongside Sid James to You're Only Young Twice where she held sway over Pat Coombs and everybody else in their fictional retirement home.

As her obituary in The Guardian put it: "...[she was] equally at home in the broadest of farces or in Brecht. Her professional stock-in-trade as a stage and television actress was a voice that could have made a regimental sergeant major tremble and a figure, suggesting an ample corsage filled with concrete, that wordlessly and hilariously forbade the taking of liberties."

Many came after her - Violet Carson ("Ena Sharples"), Fanny Cradock, Mollie Sugden ("Mrs Slocombe"), Rita Webb, Patricia Routledge ("Hyacinth Bucket") - but few could match the ease in which she dominated her many over-the-top "Monster Auntie" appearances.

She was not like this at all in real life by all accounts, but to millions Miss Mount's on-screen persona leaves a lasting - and exceptionally camp - legacy. For this, we love her, and remember her.

Margaret Rose "Peggy" Mount OBE (2nd May 1915 – 13th November 2001)

Friday, 1 May 2015

Season of the Witch

Happy Beltane! - the day to celebrate fertility, fire, and abundance.


Have a good one, whatever you get up to...