Wednesday, 29 July 2015

We had more fun

"We had individuality. We did as we pleased. We stayed up late. We dressed the way we wanted. I used to whiz down Sunset Boulevard in my open Kissel, with several red Chow dogs to match my hair. Today, they're sensible and end up with better health. But we had more fun."

"The more I see of men, the more I like dogs."

Clara Gordon Bow (29th July 1905 – 27th September 1965)

Sunday, 26 July 2015

I hear leaves drinking rain

I hear leaves drinking rain;
I hear rich leaves on top
Giving the poor beneath
Drop after drop;
'Tis a sweet noise to hear
These green leaves drinking near.

And when the Sun comes out,
After this Rain shall stop,
A wondrous Light will fill
Each dark, round drop;
I hope the Sun shines bright;
'Twill be a lovely sight.

- "The Rain"

WH Davies, author of this paean to the weather - famous for his Autobiography of a Super Tramp, and for his most renowned poem Leisure - was born and brought up in the same street as my maternal grandmother in Newport, South Wales.

He described his childhood home (to Osbert Sitwell, of all people - how fortuitous was his journey from tramp to society poet) thus: "an imbecile brother, a sister, a maidservant, a dog, a cat, a parrot, a dove and a canary bird." I don't think my Nan had any of those (except sisters) - but then again, nor did she go "adventuring" across Britain and America, sleeping rough and losing a leg, until being "discovered" and lauded as a poet by such luminaries as George Bernard Shaw and D.H. Lawrence...

Both she and "WH" would no doubt have been more than used to the unseasonably "Welsh weather" we are experiencing here in London at the moment, however.

William Henry Davies (3rd July 1871 – 26th September 1940)

Friday, 24 July 2015

Halston, Gucci...


Farewell to another of the "creators of the 70s", Studio 54 stalwart and friend to the famous and infamous, including Andy Warhol, Keith Haring and Madonna, Elio Fiorucci.

From his obituary in The Telegraph:
Fiorucci stores were fun...[the] flagship on Manhattan’s East 59th Street near Bloomingdale’s was known as the “daytime Studio 54" not only because it had its own resident DJ, but because of all the clubbers who met there to drink (free) espresso and trade gossip before the evening got going.

Jackie Onassis, Cher, Lauren Bacall and Elizabeth Taylor shopped there – as did Terence Conran and Marc Jacobs. Andy Warhol was a regular and launched Interview magazine at the store in 1980. The New York drag artiste Joey Arias (who then wore his hair punk-style) was the store manager and occasional star of Fiorucci’s “live” window displays – which also featured such crowd-pleasing attractions as a model reclining in a zebra-striped bathtub, reading smutty paperbacks and blowing bubbles at passers-by.
Divine decadence...

Elio Fiorucci (10th June 1935 – 20th July 2015)

Thursday, 23 July 2015

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Pain and Pleasure

As Kathryn Hughes says in her review in the Guardian: "...many of the shoes in this exhibition manage to be both legitimate and wayward, serious and slutty at the same time."

From ancient Egyptian stilt-shoes through Baroque masterpieces of extreme ornamentation and "Arabian Nights-style" foot-long pointy-toes, to Victorian buttoned "streetwalker" boots, Disco platforms, Manolo Blahnik/Christian Louboutin stilettos and modern cantilevered monstrosities, the exhibition Shoes: Pleasure and Pain that we went to see at the V&A yesterday had them all. Shoes worn by Marilyn Monroe, GaGa, Daphne Guinness, Naomi Campbell, Kylie and Imelda Marcos, shoes for royalty and shoes from Hollywood movies (including Moira Shearer's doomed ballet pumps from The Red Shoes, of course) - footwear in its endless variety was here.

This is an exhibition about obsession more than practicality, of course, and some of the items on display were remarkably beautiful and desirable, as one might expect. Others, such as the tiny Chinese "bound-feet" slippers, were simply horrifying. Displays of components (such as wildly beautiful heels), designs and private collections amassed over decades were as revealing as the shoes themselves.

And, judging by the crowds of people attending, pointing and gasping at the items on display - men as much as women - the obsession is still very much alive...

Shoes: Pleasure and Pain is on at the Victora & Albert Museum until 31st January 2016.

Thursday, 16 July 2015

Get another girl

"I'm a tough old broad from Brooklyn. Don't try to make me into something I'm not. If you want someone to tiptoe down the Barkley staircase in crinoline and politely ask where the cattle went, get another girl. "

"I don't give a damn what people think of me, as long as I'm doing something I think is right."

"What the hell, whatever I had... it worked, didn't it?"

Barbara Stanwyck (born Ruby Catherine Stevens, 16th July 1907 – 20th January 1990)

Sunday, 12 July 2015

This weekend, I am mostly dressing casual... today's birthday girl (born 110 years ago) Kirsten Flagstad - possibly the most remarkable Wagnerian soprano the world has ever known.

And there's nothing quite as camp as a bit of Wagner in full battledress!

  • Long before the high dramatic roles that made her world famous came her way, she specialised in operetta, Mozart (translated into Norwegian) and lieder; and later was chosen (by the composer) to perform the première of Richard Strauss' Four Last Songs.
  • Her big break came at her début for the New York Metropolitan Opera in 1935 - the concert was broadcast on syndicated radio, and so overwhelmed was the show's host and former Met star Geraldine Farrar that she apparently discarded her prepared notes and breathlessly announced that a new star had just been born.
  • Unfortunately Kirsten's decision to return to Norway during the Nazi occupation, and her husband's post-war arrest as a collaborator, tainted her reputation in the USA for a significant period; but by the 1950s (as she neared her official retirement from the major stage) her popularity appeared undimmed - as she said her major farewells at the Met, the London Festival of Britain and in her native Oslo.
  • She has a museum dedicated to her memory in Hamar, Norway.
Kirsten Malfrid Flagstad (12th July 1895 – 7th December 1962)

Thursday, 9 July 2015

Shine a light onto this boy's bed

From Dangerous Minds, news about a new photographic "coffee table book" on the life of today's birthday boy, Marc Almond:
Back in March, when the book was first announced, Almond remarked:

“Putting a book like this together is very difficult because it brings up all kind of emotions. But it’s important to me to paint an honest picture, which means that as well as the many wonderful memories, working on the book has also forced me to resurrect certain things I’d rather hoped had been consigned to history. But that’s great. It would be too easy to fall into the comfort zone of nostalgia. The book goes much further than that. The whole process has been bittersweet and yet cathartic. I’ve really enjoyed working on it and it looks fantastic.”

It does... the perfect companion to his hilariously bitchy autobiography, Tainted Life (Ever the diva, Almond settles a score in every chapter! Highly recommended if you like pop star tell-alls.)
"Marc Almond" will be limited to 1300 copies worldwide, hand numbered and bound in purple fabric. There will be 300 copies of the standard edition priced at £40 and 1000 copies of a limited special edition for £60 that includes unreleased songs on a 7” single. The first 500 copies sold of the limited edition will also be signed by Marc.

The book will feature over 200 images from international photographers and Almond's personal archives, interwoven with stories and text co-authored by Almond and author Mark Paytress. Including these...

"This was our preferred cover for Non-Stop Erotic Cabaret but the record company thought it too menacing and subversive. Dave looks quite convincing in the role of switchblade-carrying psychotic!"

"I always knew Soft Cell had a limited shelf life, that in order to create a longer, more lasting career I’d have to alienate the mums and dads and commit a kind of commercial suicide. 'Torment and Toreros' took that idea a lot further; I always call it the document of a nervous breakdown. But through my blurred vision, that sprawling, flamenco-influenced Gothic opera in red and black was definitely the birth of me as an artist."

"What I like about this cover image for 'Stranger Things' is that it looks like the album feels. It was a much more filmic sounding record, with loads of samples and a late-night trip-hop feel. Producer Jóhann Jóhannsson had a fantastic library of musical references in his studio in Iceland, and made a great-sounding record. It was my second album away from a major label, and I was enjoying the freedom of making a record without having a record company bigwig standing behind me interfering."

"I instigated bringing Soft Cell back because I wanted to work with Dave again. We’d written some songs together for 'Tenement Symphony', and there’d never been any animosity between us. I wanted to know what we could do 17 years on. But as soon as it became a Soft Cell project, the old ghosts returned. Stevo owned the songs so we had to bring him back if we wanted to play them live. Dave didn’t have a manager so Stevo stepped in. But when we were writing and recording in the studio, it was great, the chemistry was still there. Dave could still write effective songs with fabulous hooks. I liked a lot of 'Cruelty Without Beauty'. It sounded like a 21st century Soft Cell record. [But] by the time we toured America, it had gone horribly wrong. Dave and Stevo seemed to bring out the worst in each other and animosity and sourness crept in. It was a shame. We’d had a lot of fun making the 'Monoculture' video a few months earlier. Our last gig, in some club in Thessaloniki in Greece, was ghastly. It hadn’t been advertised, so hardly anyone turned up. Things had gone badly wrong. It was just like the old days. I thought, I can’t do this any more."
With or without Dave Ball, many happy returns to the god-like Peter Mark Sinclair "Marc" Almond (born 9th July 1957).

And just in case anyone (could they ever?) doubts his camp credentials, here's Ruby Red for your delectation:

The book "Marc Almond" is available via First Third Books.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

He probably wore boxer shorts

So whose denim-clad crotch did grace the infamous Warhol cover for the Rolling Stones' 1971 Sticky Fingers album cover?

From the New York Times in 2003:
"Of course, I always thought it was Mick Jagger. I had to wait until the grand old age of 15 to find out it was Joe Dallesandro," said designer Michael Kors.

"Not so", said Glenn O'Brien, the writer who was working for the Warhol magazine 'Interview'. "Joe wasn't up to it or something, or they wanted someone skinnier." Mr. O'Brien said it was he who posed for the inner sleeve photo, in his Carter's briefs. As for the cover star, he said it was Jay Johnson, the decorator, then a model.

"It's not me," Mr. Johnson said, pointing the finger at Corey Tippin, a 'Factory' habitué, now a photo stylist. [Mr Tippin] said that, yes, the jeans and their contents were his, and he thought, but was not positive, that the inner sleeve was him as well. Both he and Mr. O'Brien were photographed, he said, but in his recollection, "Glenn O'Brien seemed like he probably wore boxer shorts."

Corey Tippin

And so, twelve years on from this article (and many decades of debate and conjecture after the album was first released) - do we now have the truth at last?

Radio Base Camp seems to think so...

Wednesday, 1 July 2015

Being hot never hurts

"The only place left for rock to go is toward more girl stars. There's nothing left for men to do. There's bound to be more male stars, but they can't express anything new."

"How can one be a woman and not be a feminist? That's my question."

"Being hot never hurts!"

"I could be a housewife... I guess I've vacuumed a couple of times."

"I thought I'd live to a ripe old age, because I always felt there was a lot to do. I had a driven feeling. I always thought in the present."

"Regardless of what I say about trying to be better at what I do, I rely on looks a lot. Women’s calling cards, unfortunately, are based on their looks. As far as ageing goes, it’s rough."

"The only person I really believe in is me."

"I wish I had invented sex."

Our Patron Saint Miss Deborah Ann Harry is seventy years old today.

That is a scary thought...