Wednesday, 28 December 2016

A rather dusty icon

“I think there is an accepted way that a face should be, and I’m not like that.”

“It’s what turns up, quite honestly. When I started out I didn’t have any of this in mind. Not a scrap of it. I just thought it was going to be all theatre and wonderful.”

"Old, old mad women... they seem to be the one thing I can do now. You know, it's funny to be pigeonholed so late in life, but there we are."

“If you have been around long enough you are an icon. A rather dusty icon... or a national treasure.”

Dame Margaret Natalie Smith, CH, DBE (born 28th December 1934)

Tuesday, 27 December 2016

Glamour is assurance

"Glamour is assurance. It is a kind of knowing that you are all right in every way, mentally and physically and in appearance, and that, whatever the occasion or the situation, you are equal to it."

"It takes too much time to be a well-dressed woman. I have watched others. Bags, shoes, hats. They must think of them all the time. I cannot waste that time."



These are a few of my favourite things.

Marie Magdalene "Marlene" Dietrich (27th December 1901 – 6th May 1992)

Saturday, 24 December 2016

A Camp Diva Xmas

Cheers from Jean Dawnay, Princess George Galitzine, last of the 50s "supermodels" (22nd March 1926 - 21st December 2016).

Seasons Greetings from Cher (and the Lennon Sisters):

...from the marvellous Noele Gordon:

...from Signorina Raffaella Carrà:

...from Conchita Wurst (with a little help from Dame Shirley Bassey):

...from Miss Mitzi Gaynor:

...and from Miss Bette Davis [actually 'Miss' Jimmy James, but we shan't quibble]!

Now that's what I call a carol service!

Wednesday, 21 December 2016

Light squibs

The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays;
The world's whole sap is sunk;
The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed's feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr'd; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compar'd with me, who am their epitaph.

- John Donne

Winter Solstice - the longest night - is today.

Roll on Spring...

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

I think today should be...

Giacomo Lauri-Volpi (11th December 1892 – 17th March 1979)

...a "Say Something Hat" day! Don't you?

Dan Leno (born George Wild Galvin, 20th December 1860 – 31st October 1904)

Yvonne Arnaud (20th December 1890 – 20th September 1958)

Irene Dunne (20th December 1898 – 4th September 1990)

Alicia Alonso (born 21st December 1921)

Monday, 19 December 2016

Goodnight, 'dahling'

"How many husbands have I had? You mean apart from my own?"

"I never hated a man enough to give him his diamonds back."

"I don't remember anybody's name. How do you think the 'dahling' thing got started?"

"I am a marvellous housekeeper. Every time I leave a man, I keep his house."

"I want a man who's kind and understanding. Is that too much to ask of a millionaire?"

RIP Zsa Zsa Gabor (born Sári Gábor, 6th February 1917 – 18th December 2016).

Sunday, 18 December 2016

The girl with the million-dollar legs

Another centenary to celebrate today - the "girl with the million-dollar legs", Miss Betty Grable.

"I'm a song-and-dance girl. I can act enough to get by. But that's the limit of my talents."

"The practice of putting women on pedestals began to die out when it was discovered that they could give orders better from there."

"You're better off betting on a horse than betting on a man. A horse may not be able to hold you tight, but he doesn't wanna wander from the stable at night."

"It's loud, it's cheap, it's gaudy. It's like everything I've ever done - I LOVE IT!"

"There are two reasons why I am successful in show business and I am standing on both of them."

Elizabeth Ruth "Betty" Grable (18th December 1916 – 2nd July 1973)

Friday, 16 December 2016

A thing of strange beauty

“In his glory days of the 1920s, he entered the vaudeville stage or circus ring like a Ziegfield showgirl, swathed in ostrich feathers, stunningly gowned, bejewelled and bewigged. He then removed his headdress, cape and gown, and garbed in as little as possible to suggest near nudity but not run afoul of the law, Barbette began the acrobatic part of his act. He walked a tight wire, slack wire, and performed on the rings and the trapeze. He was a master of the dramatic, seeming to fall only to catch himself by a last second hook of his foot. He kept his audience aghast and amazed until he left the stage. When he returned to acknowledge the sustained applause, he doffed his wig, revealing his bald head and reminding all that they had marvelled at a man playing a woman.” [from Old and New: An Encyclopedia of Variety Performers by Frank Cullen]

“I’d always read a lot of Shakespeare…and thinking that those marvellous heroines of his were played by men and boys made me feel that I could turn my speciality into something unique. I wanted an act that would be a thing of beauty - of course it would have to be a strange beauty” - Vander Clyde, aka the great Barbette.
In 1923 Vander Clyde took to the stage of the Folies Bergère in Paris dressed in full drag as Barbette. During the show Clyde performed incredible acrobatic stunts such as walking a high wire and dangerous trapeze-related tricks. Clyde’s appearance was so convincing that it left people to ponder the ambiguous performer’s true sexual identity.

Members of the French avant-garde community were captivated by Clyde’s portrayal of Barbette including one of France’s most influential creative minds the great Jean Cocteau, who was allegedly linked to Clyde romantically. Cocteau was so taken with Barbette that he commissioned surrealist photographer Man Ray to take a series of photographs showing Clyde’s metamorphosis into the ethereal, androgynous Barbette.

Ill-heath forced Barbette to hang up her trapeze in 1938, but she went on to provide inspiration for up-and-coming performers as well as collaborating with with some of Hollywood’s greatest stars – Orson Welles, Vincente Minnelli, Judy Garland, Jack Lemmon, Tony Curtis and the legendary producer and director Billy Rose.

Judy stole this "look"

More on Barbette at Dangerous Minds, and also (of course) at the marvellous Queer Music Heritage archive.

Sadly, after years of dealing with chronic pain, Barbette committed suicide on 5th August 1973. RIP.

Wildflower: The Dramatic Life of Barbette is a biography of the great showgirl by Kyle Taylor.

Saturday, 10 December 2016

This weekend, I am mostly dressing casual... today's birthday girl, the glorious Miss Dorothy Lamour (10th December 1914 – 22nd September 1996)!