Tuesday, 18 September 2018

It's a look

Marta Jakubowski

Bora Aksu

Gareth Pugh

l-r: Pam Hogg, Ryan Lo, Delpozo

Matty Bovan



Yes, the complete madness of London Fashion Week has been and gone again, leaving a trail of nylon, leopardskin, frills, feathers, fouff and faff in its wake...

All the above styles are eminently wearable for a quiet day at the office, of course.

Wednesday, 12 September 2018

Sexual power is a very big power

Very sad news indeed today - the utterly fantabulosa Fenella Fielding, Patron Saint and icon here at Dolores Delargo Towers, is dead.

As the estimable Peter Bradshaw writes in The Guardian today:
...she was destined to be remembered for just one thing, and she good-humouredly accepted that: a sexy-campy-vampy cartoon persona. This was most obviously her slinky Valeria in Carry on Screaming (1966), in which she reclines languorously on a chaise-longue, asks Harry H Corbett’s uptight-but-tempted police inspector: “Do you mind if I smoke?” and starts to emit vapour from her whole body. “And I was trying to give up!” says Corbett, reaching eagerly into the fog. That deathless line became the title of her autobiography. Everyone agreed that Fenella Fielding was smoking hot.
She certainly was:

However, she was so much more than that - in her long career, she tackled Wilde, TS Eliot, Ibsen, Saki, Shakespeare and Sappho, as well as a musical adaptation of a Ronald Firbank tale (Valmouth); hers was the voice on the tannoy in The Prisoner, and also that of the "Blue Queen" in the psychedelic Magic Roundabout film Dougal and the Blue Cat; she scored a West End hit in a revue co-written by the unlikely combination of Peter Cook and Harold Pinter(!); and she became a familiar face on our screens, taking in her stride the anarchic comedy of Rik Mayall and Adrian Edmondson, the bitchy repartee of Kenneth Williams, and the more family friendly humour of Morecambe and Wise ["Fenella Fielding - one of the finest female impersonators in the business,” joked Eric].

It was for her luscious, husky voice (as well as her sultry looks) she was most famous, of course, and she put it to very good use on the couple of occasions we met her - at Polari in April 2011, when she was reading an extract from her friend Michael Menzies' autobiography Deeply Superficial, and just last year at The Phoenix Club, reading passages from her autobiography.

Confirmation (if any were needed) that the lady understood all too well her "camp icon" status, she famously lent her dulcet tones to an entire album - one of our most treasured possessions! - of covers of modern pop classics, The Savoy Sessions - although she apparently regretted it, and tried to stop its publication. Read more about all that (and listen to some of the tracks).

Miss Fielding certainly was eccentric. She co-presented one of Andrew Logan’s Alternative Miss World contests in a Pierrot clown outfit [and was guest of honour at the celebration of his life we went to at Stoke Newington Festival in 2016]. She was chosen to present the 2017 "Bad Sex In Fiction" award for Christopher Bollen's The Destroyers (he wasn't present). In her speech, Fenella said: "Sometimes it really is better to give than to receive." Just this year (at the age of 90), she told a friend she had decided to take up driving. “You’re blind as a bat,” the friend said. “Don’t worry, darling,” she purred. “I’m going to have the windscreen made of prescription glass.”

Then, there's MetaFenella, "an interactive video portrait offering guidance for life inspired by Fenella Fielding", created by the artist Martin Firrell and available here. Its collection of recorded musings by our dearly departed grande dame herself is simultaneously inspiring and funny, and also quite odd - but it throws up some gems of advice, including:
  • "Sexual power is a very big power."
  • "Short Men: half the trouble but twice the fun."
  • "The power of the breast is well-known."
  • "People are very free with their bad advice."
  • "Always make the most of yourself."
  • "Do not marry somebody evil (no matter how attractive)."
  • "People who are judgmental lose everything."
  • "Don’t make it too sexy."
  • "Spying is a rather dangerous career."
  • "Thinking of preserving your youth is a terrible waste of your present time."

RIP, Miss Fenella Fielding OBE (born Fenella Feldman, 17th November 1927 – 11th September 2018).

There will never be another.

Monday, 3 September 2018

On a hostile planet wearing a full-length white evening gown, pearls and impossibly high heels

"There is something you should realise. There are no women like me. I am unique. That makes me rather dangerous."

"It wasn't just the cropped hair or the maniacally arched eyebrows, it was the fact that whatever evil misdeeds Servalan, President of the corrupt Terran Federation, Ruler of the High Council, Lord of the Inner and Outer Worlds, High Admiral of the Galactic Fleets, Lord General of the Six Armies, and Defender of the Earth (phew), got up to, she did so decked out in sartorial creations which looked like they'd been dreamed up on another planet.

"She is, after all, the woman who crash-landed on a hostile planet wearing a full-length white evening gown, pearls and impossibly high heels. And, far from impeding her bid for planetary domination, this get-up, in fact, aided her dastardly plans. Move over Alexis Carrington, Servalan is the original power dresser."
- The Scotsman
Actress Jacqueline Pearce may well have felt somewhat typecast by the popularity of her character in Blake's 7, but she created one of the most memorable (and campest) screen villainesses in British television history - and for that, we will always be eternally grateful!

And then, there's this...

RIP Jacqueline Pearce (20th December 1943 – 3rd September 2018)

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

You're nothing but a railroad tramp. You're not fit to live among decent people!

"If you remember, McGyvers gave me 24 hours to close. I drew out my own money, paid off my boys... and I'm closed. You can't buy a drink or turn a card. I'm sitting here in my own house, minding my own business, playing my own piano. I don't think you can make a crime out of that."

"That's a lot of man you're carryin' in those boots, stranger! You know, there's something about a tall man makes people sit up and take notice."

"A man can lie, steal... and even kill. But as long as he hangs on to his pride, he's still a man. All a woman has to do is slip - once. And she's a "tramp!" Must be a great comfort to you to be a man."

"There's only two things in this world that a 'real man' needs: a cup of coffee and a good smoke."

"Never seen a woman who was more of a man. She thinks like one, acts like one, and sometimes makes me feel like I'm not."

Emma: "I'm going to kill you."
Vienna: "I know. If I don't kill you first."

Continuing a month of birthday celebrations, John-John's treat was for me, he and Madam Arcati to go to the British Film Institute on the South Bank yesterday (Tuesday) to see a rare big-screen showing for the Joan Crawford classic Johnny Guitar - and what a masterpiece of over-emoting, garishly-coloured, camp melodrama it is!

Arch-critic Roger Ebert described the film thus (and who are we to disagree?):
No money was lavished on the production. The action centres on a two-story saloon "outside town," but we never even see "town," except for a bank facade and interior set. So sparse are the settings that although the central character (Joan Crawford) plays the tavern owner and goes through a spectacular costume charge, we never see her boudoir - she only appears on a balcony above the main floor, having presumably emerged from the sacred inner temple.

A cheap Western from Republic Pictures, yes. And also one of the boldest and most stylized films of its time, quirky, political, twisted. Crawford bought the rights to the original novel, Nicholas Ray signed on to direct, and I wonder if they even openly spoke of the movie's buried themes. One is certainly bisexualism; Crawford's tavern-owner Vienna is, it is claimed, in love with "Johnny Guitar" (Sterling Hayden), but has not seen him in five years. She effortlessly turns tough hombres into girly-men, and her bartender observes to Johnny, "I never met a woman who was more man."

Her arch-enemy Emma (Mercedes McCambridge) is allegedly in love with "The Dancin' Kid" (Scott Brady) and is jealous because he is allegedly in love with Vienna ("I like you, but not that much," Vienna tells him). But there is hardly a moment when Emma can tear her eyes away from Vienna to glance at the Kid. All of the sexual energy is between the two women, no matter what they say about the men. Crawford wanted Claire Trevor for the role, but the studio, perhaps having studied the script carefully, insisted on McCambridge, who was not a lesbian but played one, as they say, in the movies.

That casting led to more Crawford bitch legends, as on the day when she threw McCambridge's costume in the middle of a highway. The chemistry of loathing is palpable, as it was between Crawford and Bette Davis in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane. Both women wear fetishistic black leather, silk and denim costumes that would have been familiar enough to students of 1954 pornography: The tightly corseted waists, the high boots, the long shirts, the tight bodices, the lash of lipstick; give us Meg Myles in Satan in High Heels.

McCambridge, said to be a "cattle baron" (not baroness), dominates her posse of cowboys and lackeys, standing before them in a wide, challenging stance. She's shorter than they are, but is always strutting in the front while they almost cower. Crawford often appears from above on her balcony, worshipped by the camera in low-angle, adored by her loyal employees, ordering Sam, her croupier, "Spin the wheel. I like the way it sounds."

Unkindly, but understandably, some of our audience at the BFI sniggered at the more preposterous moments. As another critic observed:
Just watching the sparring between Crawford and McCambridge is enough to send you over the moon. As for the movie, it’s an absurdist’s dream — in one scene in which guns are drawn and tensions are high, the strapping Hayden enters the bar with a delicate tea cup in his hand. You watch the scene thinking, “Oh, no he didn’t.” But he did.
Everyone in this film is larger-than-life - apart from the cowering "menfolk" of the mysteriously otherwise invisible town. Miss Crawford gives the performance of her life, acting for all the world as if she were in a top-billing George Cukor or Carol Reed masterpiece rather than a cheap Western; Miss McCambridge practically chews the scenery as she quivers and grimaces, spitting her venomous lines with relish; Mr Hayden barely suppresses a laugh as he assumes the "romantic cowboy hero" role normally reserved for John Wayne or Randolph Scott; and Ernest Borgnine is, well, Ernest Borgnine, really.

We tittered ourselves at the plastic rocks, the wonky sets, the "homing horse" that leads the posse to the "magic" waterfall behind which the gang's hideout is located, the name "Johnny Logan" [famously shared by the unashamedly MOR two-time winner of Eurovision], the shonky acting of the minor villains, the complete bewilderment of the real-life redneck Ward Bond at being cast as an emasculated brute in what was obviously a carefully-crafted cinematic dig at his beloved McCarthyites and their "witch-hunts", and, of course, the least convincing band of "outlaws" in Western movie history - a "Dancin' Kid", a Borgnine, a sickly and bookish Royal Dano, and... a character called "Turkey" with the face of Debbie Reynolds?!

There was plenty to titter at, to be sure. But, absurdist or not, we loved every single moment of it!

Especially the piano scene:

...and, of course, the sublime theme tune by Peggy Lee [the "best" version of which, incidentally, we heard performed - sorry, ululated - by the house band at the Etap Hotel in Luxor in Egypt; but that's another story!]:

Play the guitar, play it again, my Johnny
Maybe you're cold but you're so warm inside
I was always a fool for my Johnny
For the one they call Johnny Guitar
Play it again, Johnny Guitar

What if you go, what if you stay, I love you
But if you're cruel, you can be kind, I know
There was never a man like my Johnny
Like the one they call Johnny Guitar

There was never a man like my Johnny
Like the one they call Johnny Guitar
Play it again, Johnny Guitar

Johnny Guitar on IMDB

Some crazed fans inspired geniuses even created a musical based on the film. I don't think it got very far. Shame. Such is camp, I suppose...

Saturday, 25 August 2018

Blame Robert Helpmann

"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."
Farewell to one of the most influential people in British popular culture, Lindsay Kemp - the man who mentored David Bowie and taught Kate Bush to dance, studied art with David Hockney and mime with Marcel Marceau, appeared in The Wicker Man, Sebastiane and Velvet Goldmine, collaborated extensively with Spanish composer Carlos Miranda, lent his support to the ongoing campaigns against the "gentrification" of Soho, and co-ordinated productions of various operas across Italy (his adopted homeland, where he died).

A remarkable man. As another longtime collaborator David Haughton says: "He was one of a kind. There won't be another like him."

RIP Lindsay Kemp (3rd May 1938 – 24th August 2018)

Read my previous tribute to the great man, and his collaboration with Mr Bowie.

Sunday, 19 August 2018

Beauty, what a weapon!

"Elegance does not consist in putting on a new dress."

"Fashion is architecture: it is a matter of proportions."

"A woman who doesn't wear perfume has no future."

"How many cares one loses when one decides not to be 'something' but to be 'someone'."

"Adornment, what a science! Beauty, what a weapon! Modesty, what elegance!"

"Fashion is made to become unfashionable."

Gabrielle Bonheur "Coco" Chanel (19th August 1883 – 10th January 1971)

Friday, 17 August 2018

This weekend, I am mostly dressing casual...

...like today's birthday girl, Our Patron Saint of Innuendo Miss Mae West!

Not bad for a 125-year-old.

"You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough."

Mary Jane "Mae" West (17th August 1893 – 22nd November 1980)