Sunday, 31 October 2010

"She had more than taste. She had audacity."

“São wanted to astonish,” says her best friend, the American philanthropist Deeda Blair. “I don’t think it ever entered her thinking to be concerned about how other people perceived her. She was never afraid of being wrong.”

"She thought nothing of turning up at Studio 54 after a black-tie party wearing an evening dress and major diamonds or rubies from Van Cleef & Arpels."

"She had more than taste. She had audacity."

Recently Vanity Fair had a full-length feature on one of the most eccentric of all the 20th Century society hostesses, the late, great São Schlumberger. With her extravagant parties, her outrageous choice of interior design and fashion, her patronage of modern art (installing pieces by Dali and Warhol alongside priceless baroque furniture), rivalries with other grande dames of Paris, and not least her numerous public affairs with much younger men (with the apparent blessing of her millionaire husband), she certainly set the gossip columns ablaze!

Right up to her dotage she knew how to shock the establishment and when she unveiled her masterpiece, her newly designed apartment, in 1992 the fashionable mavens did not know what to make of it:
...nothing shocked Paris - a city where taste is everything - more than her over-the-top new apartment, on Avenue Charles Floquet in the Seventh Arrondissement. Conceived as a neo-Baroque fantasyland by the London decorator Gabhan O’Keeffe, it set São’s contemporary art and 18th-century furniture in a series of rooms that combined France with Portugal, Scotland with Persia, and Egypt with Hollywood. The pièce de résistance was the Andalusian-style terrace, with the Eiffel Tower rising directly above it. Dinner-party debates over whether O’Keeffe’s creation was “innovative” or “abominable” got so out of hand that at one soirée a pair of socialites had to be pulled apart before they came to blows. “It’s simply hideous,” said one visitor, “but totally fabulous!”
Here at Dolores Delargo Towers, we hope one day to have similar reviews. In the meantime, however, it is sufficient just to indulge oneself in reading about this magnificent lady... Enjoy!

Read the Vanity Fair article, "The Wow of São"

Read more on the sublime House of Beauty and Culture blog

Saturday, 23 October 2010

The Turkish Liberace

Ah, the joys of curating the "Museum of Camp"! Let us open our doors to the salivating public with this fantabulosa discovery...

Who would have thought that in a macho, largely Muslim country such as Turkey there would ever be such a flamboyant megastar as Zeki Müren?

Mr Müren, a classically trained singer and musician in the traditional Turkish style, developed a huge fan base over his 45 year career in entertainment from the mid 1950s as a movie heart-throb, balladeer and poet. Affectionately known as "Pasha", he defied the conventional image of his Anatolian heritage by becoming the Near East equivalent of Liberace!

Looking for all the world like a cross between Dorothy Squires and Montserrat Caballe, he sparkled on stage in his sequinned jackets, huge gemstone rings, heavy make up, coiffured hair and exaggerated mannerisms. In doing so Zeki Müren cultivated a fanatical following of ladies d'un certain age, often performing to female-only gatherings and lunch clubs.

In his own way he was a pioneer. For in embracing such a distinctive character as he, Turkish society learnt to become more accepting about homosexuality - despite this being the only Muslim country in the world where it is not illegal to be gay, there is a continual struggle between secular and fundamentalist attitudes. Without him, many younger flamboyant artists would never have got a foothold. Today, drag artists such as Bulent Ersoy and Huysuz Virgin ("Naughty Virgin") enjoy massive success - the latter even has a prime-time Turkish TV spectacular!

Zeki Müren's health declined in his latter years, as his weight ballooned (in proportion with his hairdo, perhaps?). He died, much as he had lived, while on stage. Apparently in 1996 the government decided to recognise his contribution to Turkish culture, music and the arts live on TV. They presented him with his original microphone from the outset of his career, appropriately mounted with a plaque. It was so heavy that when Mr Müren tried to lift it he dropped dead of a heart attack on the spot! A suitably dramatic end for a dramatic character - live on TV, in front of millions.

Let us celebrate the talents of this remarkable man...

And finally, his rather good version of Jaques Brel's classic:

Zeki Müren official website - although in Turkish, there are loads of pics and videos.

A fascinating insight into Turkish gay life

Friday, 22 October 2010

The Museum of Camp

One of my great hobbies is a love of all things camp - and by that we don't mean bitchy, anorexic trolly-dollies getting off their tits at the "Lady GaGa 2-for-1 drinks offer" at G.A.Y Bar in Compton Street.

I mean real, genuine Camp. Susan Sontag in her famous (infamous?) Notes on Camp tries to define the concept thus:
"...there are other creative sensibilities besides the seriousness (both tragic and comic) of high culture and of the high style of evaluating people. And one cheats oneself, as a human being, if one has respect only for the style of high culture, whatever else one may do or feel on the sly.

"Camp is the consistently aesthetic experience of the world. It incarnates a victory of "style" over "content," "aesthetics" over "morality," of irony over tragedy...even though homosexuals have been its vanguard, Camp taste is much more than homosexual taste. Obviously, its metaphor of life as theatre is peculiarly suited as a justification and projection of a certain aspect of the situation of homosexuals.

"Camp taste is, above all, a mode of enjoyment, of appreciation - not judgement. Camp is generous. It wants to enjoy. It only seems like malice, cynicism. (Or, if it is cynicism, it's not a ruthless but a sweet cynicism.) Camp taste doesn't propose that it is in bad taste to be serious; it doesn't sneer at someone who succeeds in being seriously dramatic. What it does is to find the success in certain passionate failures. The ultimate Camp statement: it's good because it's awful!"
Here at Dolores Delargo Towers we do indeed aspire to a "consistent aesthetic experience", and we appreciate knowing what makes such disparate things as the Ethel Merman Disco Album, Lalique glass bowls decorated with budgerigars, Joan Collins's acting career, Bollywood musicals, Christopher Isherwood's 'Berlin Stories' and Klaus Nomi all fall into the Camp genre.

So I have begun a long-cherished project - to start to sort into some semblance of order all the various articles, pictures, links and other ephemera we hold on the PC, on CD and on our bookshelves. I call it our "Museum of Camp". And what an exercise it is turning out to be!

As I continue the task, I felt it appropriate to share some of the little joys that quite clearly are destined to enter the hallowed halls of the Museum...