Saturday, 26 July 2014

Objets de désir






"High-end" jewellery that was on display at the recent Paris Couture Fashion Week.

My birthday is in a couple of weeks. Hint. Hint.

Thursday, 24 July 2014

Miss Showbusiness

And so farewell to the marvellous Miss Dora Bryan, comedienne, actress, singer and stalwart of British light entertainment for many decades.

Miss Bryan was probably most famous worldwide for her award-winning performance as the harridan mother in Tony Richardson's adaptation of Shelagh Delaney's gritty drama A Taste of Honey. Here's a great clip of Dora in full flood:

However, her showbiz career was hugely varied - from the aforementioned light entertainment of TV shows alongside the likes of Bruce Forsyth, radio episodes with Tony Hancock, parts in Ab Fab and Dinnerladies, and film series such as St Trinians and the Carry Ons, to (remarkably) serious dramas by Ibsen, Pinter, Shaw and Shakespeare.

She was the star of West End musicals such as Show Boat (with Dame Shirley Bassey! - a copy of the soundtrack of which we proudly hold in our collection alongside Dora's eponymously-named first album), Hello, Dolly!, Sondheim's Follies and Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. From the latter, here she is singing Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend:

Dora was adored in the entertainment industry; so much so that that she was afforded a glittering star-studded West End charity fundraising gala in her name back in 2009. She even has an entire exhibition dedicated to her in the local museum close to her adopted Brighton home - and this footage from its launch is possibly the great lady's last public appearance:

Yet again - in what is turning into a bit of a bad week for losing treasured divas, following so closely as her death does after the loss of Stritchy - we mourn the fact that we will never see her like again. RIP, another important lady in our lives...

Dora May Broadbent OBE, known as Dora Bryan (7th February 1923 – 23rd July 2014)

Dora Bryan, Miss Showbusiness – A Celebration! runs at The Grange Art Gallery & Museum, Rottingdean, East Sussex until April 2015.

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Never alone

[with Rosie Clooney]

She collected gay icons...

[with Agnes Moorehead]

[with the Tilton sisters, the King sisters, Jo Stafford and Peggy Lee]

...and gays!

[with former "fiance" William Eythe]

[with husband - and gay porn star - Jack Wrangler]

[with Charles Pierce]

Dear Margaret Whiting would have been 90 years old today.

More of Miss Whiting over at Give 'em the old Razzle Dazzle - here, here and here

Thursday, 17 July 2014

Here's to the Lady Who Lunched

“I find it easier to abstain than do a little bit of anything. I’m not a ‘little bit’ kind of dame. I want it all, whatever I do.”

“I don’t think there’s any thrill in the world like doing work you’re good at.”

“I never found anyone who could look after me as well as I could look after myself.”

“I have not had any of that surgical stuff. I am too curious to find out exactly how I progress every day of my life naturally. That is what fascinates me.”

“I could have made a lot of money doing 'Golden Girls,' and I would have been good. But the image of it! And for me to work with Betty White every day would be like taking cyanide.”

"These performers that go on about their technique and craft - oh, puleeze! How boring! I don't know what 'technique' means. But I do know what experience is."

“I’ve looked my worst, I’ve seen myself photographed badly, goodly, whatever. I’m not afraid of anything like that any more. That’s dumb, to be afraid of that. ‘Ohh, no make-up! Wait, my hair!’ Please. You know what I mean? I’m not scared of that any more in life.”

“I am not influenced by other human beings. But I am inspired.”

RIP one of the most incredible, most energetic, most inspiring women in the business we call "show" - Elaine Stritch!

We are very sad indeed.

Elaine Stritch (2nd February 1925 - 17th July 2014)

Monday, 14 July 2014

Une étoile qui explose dans le ciel

Folies Bergère costumes by Erté

Clare Luce in one of Mistinguett's outfits

"In spite of the conventions of the time, a woman of spirit could easily make an interesting life for herself if she did not waste too much time visiting, attending fittings at her dressmakers, or engaging in love affairs.

"These demi-mondaines loved making theatrical entrances... in very light dresses standing out clearly from the dark suits of their admirers massed behind them and over whom they towered with their plumed hats or lofty sprays of feathers. If every head did not turn on recognising her flourishing soprano laugh, her entrance had failed.

"This is the moment when the Champs Élysées, from the Place de la Concord to the Étoile, and especially around the Rond-Point, gradually awaken[ed] to a night life quite different to the daytime."

- extracts from La Belle Époque: An Essay by Philip Jullian.
In 1895, at the height of La Belle Époque, a young Jeanne Bourgeois made her début as Mistinguett at the Casino de Paris - and the legendary era of the Parisian Folies began in earnest.

Facts about Mistinguett:
  • At the pinnacle of her fame she was the highest paid female entertainer in the world.
  • It was she who first popularised the "showgirl look" of massive feather headdresses, and the art of entering her stage down a glittering staircase - a look upon which many early Hollywood musical numbers by Busby Berkeley relied heavily for their impact.
  • Her early cabaret partner (and lover) went on to eclipse her fame when he landed parts in Hollywood - Maurice Chevalier.
  • She became notorious worldwide when, during argument with her American dancing partner Earl Leslie, she shot at him twice but missed him both times.
  • Her signature song Mon Homme was destined to become a torch song standard when it was given English lyrics and became My Man, a hit for Fanny Brice that was immortalised by Barbra Streisand in Funny Girl.
  • Mistinguett died, aged 80, in 1956.
"There have been greater comediennes, greater singers, greater dancers - but all in a single package, there has been only one Mistinguett. Complete shows were built around her, she would carry an entire revue on her lovely shoulders, the spirit of the whole evening. Truly, there is no one like her now - and if another great personality like hers should come along, she would be a star exploding across the sky. - Maurice Chevalier.

Joyeux Quatorze Juillet!

Mistinguett on Wikipedia

Friday, 11 July 2014


Officially the most successful Italian designer ever (his fortune is estimated at five billion pounds!), Signor Giorgio Armani celebrates his 80th birthday today.

As famous for underpants, watches and accessories as for his sharp suits, his has been the style of choice for generations of stars of music, sport and the silver screen, politicians, dignitaries and even the Milanese police force.

Facts about Signor Armani:
  • He was born in the northern Italian town of Piacenza, of Armenian and Italian descent.
  • After military service as a young man, he became a window dresser at La Rinascente department store in Milan.
  • Having worked on a freelance basis for myriad designers including Zegna, Cerruti and Loewe, the first pieces he designed under his own name were a series of leather bomber jackets in 1970.
  • While building his fashion empire, he also designed costumes for more than one hundred films including American Gigolo and The Untouchables.
  • When in 1975 he brought out a womenswear line using men's fabrics, he set the wheels in motion for the "power dressing" look that became synonymous with the 80s.
  • Among his many commissions, he designed the costume worn by Spanish bullfighter Cayetano Rivera Ordóñez, the suits for the England football team (twice), and the cover of a book of gospels for the Pope.
So world-famous is Giorgio Armani, he's name-checked in loads of songs, from rap to pop to musical theatre. Not least, this one (continuing our tribute to another celebrant of a milestone birthday this week, Mr Neil Tennant), Pet Shop Boys' Paninaro:

Giorgio Armani (born 11th July 1934)

Thursday, 10 July 2014

Couture woman

“I always say that beauty is difference and Conchita has shown us all that she is unstoppable. And she looks great in couture; she is a real couture woman.” - Jean-Paul Gaultier

Conchita Wurst makes her catwalk début

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

The years have been fairly kind

Youth has gone
I heard you say
It doesn't matter

Don't hide the photos
Or turn off the lights
I'm quite sure we've both seen
Funnier sights

Sleep in a deep deep deep
Beauty is skin deep

Youth has gone
Though we're still young
It's hard I know to believe
That I was somebody's son

The memories
Of what you once were
The memories of what
We both were

Sleep in a deep deep deep
Beauty is skin deep

Youth has gone
Though don't think
I don't cry
We let ourselves slip

And now
I ask myself why
I'm on my own
And don't think I really mind

When after all
The years have been fairly kind
Sleep in a deep deep deep

Beauty is skin deep
Sleep in a deep deep deep
Beauty is skin deep
Youth... Youth... Sleep!

Peter Mark Sinclair "Marc" Almond (born 9th July 1957)