Wednesday, 27 July 2016

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Ooh, yeah, you're amazing!

From the ever-wonderful Dangerous Minds:
Photographer Guido Harari... worked closely with Kate Bush in a strongly creative period stretching from 1982 to 1993, during which Bush released The Dreaming, Hounds of Love, and The Sensual World, among others, as well as her musical short film The Line, the Cross, and the Curve, an offshoot of her 1993 album The Red Shoes.

Harari has a new book coming out with dozens of never-before-seen pictures of the noted experimental pop singer... the bulk of which came out of official press photo sessions for Bush’s albums of that era. Many of the photos feature Bush hard at work with Lindsay Kemp, the choreographer who worked closely with the singer from the very start of her career.

The majority of the photos have never been published in any form, a group that includes test Polaroids, contact sheets, film outtakes, and personal notes from Bush.

The Kate Inside is expected to become available in September, and you can pre-order a copy via the Wall of Sound Gallery. The deluxe edition, personally signed by Harari and Kemp, (copies 1-350) is a hefty 390€ (around £325 at the moment), and the regular edition (copies 351-1500) is priced at 90 Euros (approx £75).

Hmmm. Maybe I'll put it on my birthday wish-list...

Sunday, 17 July 2016

Opera Queens, bathhouses and Vicky Edie, again

The fact that it would have been the 102nd birthday today today of the celebrated soprano Miss Eleanor Steber has prompted me to re-visit an ancient post of mine (originally from my MySpace years, and relocated with all the others to my other blog Give 'em the Old Razzle Dazzle) from 2008. The original was in the immediate aftermath of a literary event I attended called "The Lavender Library", at which Mr Paul Burston had enthused about one of my own favourite books of all time, Queens by Pickles, from which I had just rediscovered...
...a passage from the chapter Cruising at the Opera in which "The Opera Queen" - who is "wild about applause, always yelling 'Brava' whilst all about him bellow their ignorance of gender" - has a bitchy conversation at the opera house with his friend:
Friend: "Just look at those diamonds! Look at them! She must be rolling in it! She looks a bit like Margaret Dumont, don't you think?"
Geoffrey: "Some women are so camp, aren't they?"
Friend: "What! They're hysterical! Talk about camp, dear - just give me Eleanor Steber at the Continental Baths! Have you got that album?"
Geoffrey: "Oh, I've tried everywhere. Everywhere! Deleted now!"
Friend: "Oh God, yes! I found mine in New York, actually. Ten dollars. I can't remember when I was so thrilled! Shall we have a little troll upstairs? You never know what you're missing in this place!"
Geoffrey: "I love walking up this staircase. It's so Joan Crawford, isn't it?"
Well, apart from being a brilliant observation of the interplay between queens - it could be Madam Arcati and I and our friends chatting - this set me thinking. Just who is/was Eleanor Steber? And could it be true that an opera singer (if that is indeed who she was) actually performed at the most notorious of the sex-club bathhouses in New York in the 70s? The home of Bette Midler and Barry Manilow (who started out as an act there)? So off I went on a web search to find out more...

Eleanor Steber, who died in 1990, was indeed an American operatic soprano - one of the first major opera stars to have achieved the highest success with training and a career based in the United States. Before her, most of the biggest stars of opera were European. Noted particularly for her performances of Wagner, Mozart, Puccini and Richard Strauss, she rose to prominence in the 1950s with the Metropolitan Opera, and performed at Bayreuth.

A bit of a high-living party-loving girl, her voice suffered towards the end of her career, but not before she paid a tribute to some of her greatest fans - gay men - by performing at the Continental Baths in 1973. And to top the whole search, I have found a copy of the original recording online!

Laydeez and gentlemen! Parterre Box ("the queer operazine") presents "Unnatural Acts of Opera" featuring Eleanor Steber live at the Continental. Your host is La Cieca, cultural doyenne...

Download the whole album as an MP3

Or visit the podcast website

Eleanor Steber live at the Continental - track listing:
  • Mozart: Zeffiretti lusinghieri (from Idomeno), Ach, ich fuehl's (from Die Zauberfloete), Come scoglio (from Cosi fan tutte);
  • Charpentier: Depuis le jour (from Louise);
  • Puccini: Quando m'en vo (from La Boheme);
  • Massenet: Scene and Gavotte (from Manon);
  • Sieczynski: Wien, du Stadt meiner Traeume;
  • Kreisler: Stars in My Eyes;
  • Lehar: Medley from The Merry Widow;
  • Puccini: Vissi d'Arte (from Tosca).
Edwin Biltcliffe, Piano; Joseph Rabb, Violin.October 4, 1973.

It is strange listening to this very old and very camp recording of a bygone gay era - before AIDS and the hysteria it whipped up closed bathhouses like this forever.

In particular, I found it very interesting how much Ms Steber's speaking voice must have influenced Bette Midler when she created her character Vicky Edie (from whence came my own epithet "Dolores Delargo the Toast of Chicago!").

But those reflections aside, I most enjoyed finding this beautiful vocal performance intact and online. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did!
And, EIGHT YEARS on from the original post, I still hope you do...

More about Eleanor Steber

Sunday, 10 July 2016

A bit Orff

Today, that composer of tunes beloved of film soundtrack compilers and advertising executives everywhere Carl Orff would have been 99 years old.

As described on the Music and the Holocaust site, Herr Orff was a contradictory figure - at first condemned by, then overly ingratiating to the Nazi regime throughout its odious rule, he nevertheless also managed to survive the post-war blacklist with his reputation untarnished.

Regardless of his somewhat clouded status, the man wrote some remarkable music, some of it very dramatic indeed. They say "if a thing is worth doing, it's worth over-doing" - an epithet that could have been written for his O Fortuna, here worked rather theatrically (as is his wont) by the Netherlands' finest purveyor of "pop-classics" André Rieu, his orchestra and "chorus of thousands":

Again from Orff's masterwork Carmina Burana [which itself had a chequered history; at first condemned by the Nazis as "decadent", and later embraced by them], here is an utterly wonderful (and exceptionally camp) video of the late, great Lucia Popp and the simply beautiful In Trutina:

I am singing along as we speak...

Carl Heinrich Maria Orff (10th July 1895 – 29th March 1982)

Watch the whole 1975 televised Carmina Burana - from whence came the Lucia Popp clip - on YouTube.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

This tainted love you've given

Our Patron Saint of Trash, the master of the slightly-warped-torch-song, our adored'n'explored Mr Marc Almond is sixty years old today. [Gulp.]

All hail!

Happy birthday, Peter Mark Sinclair "Marc" Almond (born 9th July 1956) - long may you reign...
[For many years we have all been labouring under the impression the man was born in '57, but somehow the "truth" has emerged...]

Friday, 1 July 2016

Ensconced on a chaise longue

"I would prefer to live forever in perfect health, but if I must at some time leave this life, I would like to do so ensconced on a chaise longue, perfumed, wearing a velvet robe and pearl earrings, with a flute of champagne beside me and having just discovered the answer to the last problem in a British cryptic crossword."

The radiantly magnificent Miss Olivia De Havilland reached her centenary today.

All hail!

  • On the set of Gone With The Wind, George Cukor pinched her toes hard when she needed to simulate childbirth.
  • She secretly carried a torch for her long-term co-star Errol Flynn, and recently admitted to being jealous at the attention paid to a contingent of young women at a charity ball in 1957, the last time they met.
  • That famous feud (with sister Joan Fontaine, which lasted for seven decades till Joan's death) began when Joan was first to win an Oscar, at which ceremony she allegedly snubbed Olivia - who got the last laugh when she went on to win two.
  • She struck a blow for the rights of actors crippled by the "studio system", winning a landmark court case after WW2 that set a precedent for stars of the future to decide their own destiny.
Happy birthday, Miss De Havilland!

Read a rather lovely tribute to the lady in the Financial Times.

More Olivia.