Thursday, 29 March 2012

Monday, 26 March 2012

Miss Ross

"You can't just sit there and wait for people to give you that golden dream. You've got to get out there and make it happen for yourself."

"I don't judge people by their sexual orientation or the color of their skin, so I find it really hard to identify someone by saying that they're a gay person or a black person or a Jewish person."

"I think a responsibility comes with notoriety, but I never think of it as power. It's more like something you hold, like grains of sand. If you keep your hand closed, you can have it and possess it, but if you open your fingers in any way, you can lose it just as quickly."

"Just because I have my standards they think I'm a bitch."

"Hair has always been important."

Diana Ross (born 26th March 1944)

More Diana Ross

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Wearing make-up, winking at respectable gentlemen

On Wednesday last week, we went to a fascinating talk (hosted by the Gay and Lesbian Humanist Society) at the Conway Hall. Queer London in the late nineteenth century, brilliantly delivered by Dr Matt Cook of Birkbeck College (University of London), was indeed a wonderful collection of rogues, show trials, rent boys and double-standards that were endemic in the Victorian era.

Dr Cook's book London and the Culture of Homosexuality, 1885–1914 - which has yet to find its way to our bookshelf here at Dolores Delargo Towers, to our shame - appears to be a hotbed of such salacious stories (and, given the excellence of the lecture, must be a good read).

Not least of these is a true story that has always fascinated me - that of the scandalous Fanny and Stella!

An excerpt from Fanny and Stella by Rictor Norton:
On April 28, 1870 Lady Stella Clinton and Miss Fanny Winifred Park — otherwise known as Ernest Boulton, age twenty-two, and Frederick William Park, a twenty-three-year-old law student — attended a performance at the Strand Theatre, London, in full evening frocks. The police had been keeping an eye on this pair since 1869, and they were arrested, together with another man, while two more of their associates escaped. All of the men lived at separate addresses, but they kept a house on Wakefield Street, off Regent Square, where they would dress up before going out of an evening, and where they stayed with friends for a day or two at a time. The police made an inventory: sixteen dresses in satin or silk with suitable lace trimmings, a dozen petticoats, ten cloaks and jackets, half a dozen bodices, several bonnets and hats, twenty chignons, and a variety of stays, drawers, stockings, boots, curling-irons, gloves, boxes of violet powder and bloom of roses. Their landlady described their dresses as "very extreme."

Boulton was very good looking, effeminate, and musical, with a wonderful soprano voice, and he and Park played female parts in amateur theatricals in legit theatres, country houses and elsewhere. Earlier that month Fanny and Stella, as "sisters," attended the Oxford and Cambridge boat race, dressed as women. They also frequented the theatres and Burlington Arcade dressed as men, but wearing make-up, winking at respectable gentlemen, which initially attracted the attention of the police.

The habit of cross-dressing - in particular for male prostitutes - was prevalent throughout the supposedly "values-driven" ultra-conservative Victorian era, especially in the urban theatrical heartlands, not least London's West End. Among the famous "Dilly Boys" were many working-class lads playing up the female role to the full. The boys of Oscar and Bosie's brothels often wore drag for fun as much as for the punters - following a long and proud tradition of "Molly Houses" that harked back several centuries.

It wasn't just the boys, either - in 1854 "John Challis, an old man about 60 years of age, dressed in the pastoral garb of a shepherdess of the golden age, and George Campbell, aged 35, who described himself as a lawyer, and appeared completely equipped in female attire of the present day, were charged with being found disguised as women in the Druids'-hall, in Turnagain-lane, an unlicensed dancing-room, for the purpose of exciting others to commit an unnatural offence." Shocking.

But what of Stella and Fanny?

From the New History Lab blog:
[Fanny and Stella] were arrested in April 1870 for intent to commit felony. In the courtroom, Boulton wore a wig, bracelets, make-up and a cherry-coloured silk evening dress trimmed with white lace. Park wore white gloves, a dark green satin dress, low necked and trimmed with black lace, and a shawl, his hair was 'flaxen and in curls.' They were let off because no actual crime had been committed, though they appeared before the dock twice more in May 1870, both times in full evening regalia again.

Boulton and Park managed to get away with all manner of 'larks' in this brief stint, including enticing men to pick them up as prostitutes before embarassing them by pointing out they were actually men.
The trial(s) fascinated the media of the day, and the pulp tabloid coverage was avidly consumed by the scandal-loving public.

Continuedly "getting away with it", it seems Fanny and Stella's notoriety and fame crossed paths with the great and the good of the late Victorian era:
One person connected with the scandal was Lord Arthur Pelham Clinton, MP, third son of the Duke of Newcastle (who unfortunately committed suicide before the case came to court). Boulton told others "I am Lady Clinton, Lord Arthur's wife," and showed the wedding ring on his finger. Lord Arthur lodged near him, paid for Stella's hairdresser who came every morning, and had ordered from the stationers a seal engraved "Stella" and even visiting cards printed "Lady Arthur Clinton." There are theatre posters of Lord Arthur and Boulton performing together in the play A Morning Call in which Lord Arthur played Sir Edward Arnold and Boulton played Mrs Chillington, and in Love and Rain, in which Lord Arthur played Captain Charles Lumley and Boulton played Lady Jane Desmond, a Young Widow.
They also encountered luminaries such as Simeon Solomon (the aesthete painter and sculptor whose own homosexual scandal was unfortunately his downfall), and the sexologist and campaigner George Ives (whose "Order of Charonea" I featured in the Museum a few weeks ago).

Unfortunately Neil McKenna's book on Fanny and Stella appears to be out of print. However, the girls' story features in Neil Bartlett's Who was that man?: a present for Mr Oscar Wilde and many other historical works about the era.

Read a fictionalised account of the Fanny and Stella scandal by Yvonne Sinclair, founder of the TV/TS Support Group that operated in Islington and Shoreditch from 1976 to 1992.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

A mere affair of weather

Literary lesbians Solita Solano and Djuna Barnes enjoy the outdoor life

Spring Song
by Robert Louis Stevenson

The air was full of sun and birds,
The fresh air sparkled clearly.
Remembrance wakened in my heart
And I knew I loved her dearly.

The fallows and the leafless trees
And all my spirit tingled.
My earliest thought of love, and Spring's
First puff of perfume mingled.

In my still heart the thoughts awoke,
Came lone by lone together -
Say, birds and Sun and Spring, is Love
A mere affair of weather?

Thursday, 15 March 2012

The half-million-pound dream

From The Guardian:

"A new record for the price of film memorabilia is expected to be set with the sale of a rare Metropolis movie poster – yours for $850,000."

That's £542,507 in proper money!

More record-breaking movie posters

The poster for Fritz Lang's Metropolis is indeed an object of great beauty. Here at Dolores Delargo Towers, it would look fab in the West Wing.

However, could we ever imagine having that kind of money to spend - on a poster?

These are the things that dreams are made of...

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Le Style Rothschild

The favourite interior designer of such luminaries as the Countess Rattazzi, Oscar de la Renta, Diane von Furstenberg, Lillian Bostwick Phipps and Diana Ross, Robert Denning was the perfect purveyor of the extravagantly excessive decor so beloved of the American wealthy in the 1980s.

Born into a poor Russian immigrant household, his desire to escape into a different, more luxurious world is a familar story to many queens of our acquaintance. Robert's chosen route was music, but while studying at the High School of Music and Art in Manhattan, he discovered other more earthy passions. It was during his time there in the early 50s he met Edgar de Evia, an aristocratic Mexican with tastes that mirrored his own (and the money to acquire them) and they moved into plush accommodation in Madison Avenue.

Denning & Fourcade

Having successfully entered the high society of New York, however, Robert left de Evia for another millionaire playboy Vincent Fourcade with whom he settled into a relationship that lasted five decades until Vincent's death from AIDS in 1992. The Denning & Fourcade partnership was both a personal and commmercial success, and provided the nouveau riche with a style of living that gave an impression, at least, of a sense of historical opulence - “Le Style Rothschild”.

From his obituary in the New York Times
By the 1980's, Denning & Fourcade was renowned for colorful rooms densely outfitted with rare 18th- and 19th-century antiques, museum-quality art and sumptuous fabrics that would not have looked out of place at the Vatican.

"Outrageous luxury is what our clients want," Mr. Fourcade once explained.
The designs and the outrageousness (Mr Denning's eccentricity and lifelong devotion to plastic surgery were legend) continued solo until his own death, and the legacy of his particular penache survives in the minds and mansions of his society and celebrity clients everywhere.

"I'll accept commissions from anyone who isn't frightened by my proposals."

Robert Denning (13th March 1927 – 26th August 2005)

Sunday, 11 March 2012


She-Bop-A-Lula is a celebration of female music photography. Showcasing the work of 47 photographers, it is the first time that so many female snappers have been exhibited in London.

Read the article in The Independent

In addition to the above, also on show are marvellous shots of Kylie, Madonna, Marianne Faithfull, Dusty Springfield, Dolly Parton, Ute Lemper, Patti Smith, Kate Bush, Annie Lennox, Billie Holiday, Nina Simone and many more of our beloved divas.

The She-Bop-a-Lula Exhibition is on at the Strand Gallery in London to 1st April 2012, and is definitely well worth a look!

Friday, 9 March 2012

A faun without nymphs

From his obituary in The New York Times:
"No factual account can quite convey the passions Serge Lifar engendered around him. These were rooted in his artistic ideas, not merely in his well-publicized escapades - challenges to duels with Leonide Massine and the Marquis de Cuevas, or his ballet for helicopters at the 1950 Paris air show. Nor should one focus on his penchant for creating roles for himself. In his version of 'Afternoon of a Faun,' he was a faun without nymphs."

The last remnants of one of the greatest private collections of Ballets Russes material goes on view in Geneva this week, prior to being sold on 13th March 2012.

The sale includes more than 300 drawings, paintings and prints by the likes of Picasso, Max Ernst and Juan Gris, 3000 vintage photographs of celebrities from Coco Chanel to Charlie Chaplin, and a rediscovered trove of drawings and manuscripts by Jean Cocteau; all owned by Serge Lifar, the principal dancer of Diaghilev’s Ballets Russes during its final years in the late 1920s.

Lifar and Diaghilev

A substantial amount of material came from [his lover] Serge Diaghilev either before or after his death in 1929. Lifar was an executor of Diaghilev’s estate, and took it upon himself to safeguard many of his possessions.

Read more about the Serge Lifar auction in The Telegraph