Sunday, 26 June 2016

Inspired by Dolores Delargo Towers...

"Show Girl"

"Hollywood Affairs"

"Hollywood Hassle"

...these rather marvellous creations are the work of Robert "Bobby" Woods, a pop artist from London now residing in South Africa.

A little while ago I received a private message via my YouTube account from him: "I came across your blog Dolores Delargo Towers - Museum of Camp, as I am working on a new piece using Bette Midler as Deloris Delargo. I was having trouble trying to make this work until I saw your blog, it has lots of fabulous old star glamour. I would like to feature you and your blog in the tag.."

Of course, I said yes - and these are the result. I am flattered! They are gorgeous.

Visit Bobby's pages on Instagram for more.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Clust’ring Summer?

The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust’ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather’d clouds strew flowers round her head.

– William Blake

It's the Summer Solstice, dears! Midsummer's Day.

All downhill from here on, I'm afraid...

Sunday, 19 June 2016

The Voice

"People may say I can't sing, but no one can ever say I didn't sing!"

From her American National Biography entry:
...Undiscouraged by the uniform criticism of her inability to carry a tune, her uncertain sense of rhythm, and her complete failure to reach the upper registers in pitch, [Florence Foster Jenkins] vigorously undertook a professional career, staging the first of a series of annual recitals in the foyer of the Ritz-Carlton hotel in New York City in 1912. Her mother died in 1928, giving her control of a considerable family fortune and freeing her to expand her range of performance venues to regular concerts... She also became active in cultural affairs in New York City: She chaired the Euterpe Club's yearly tableaux-vivants, served as president of the American League of Pen Women, and founded the Verdi Club, whose annual Ball of the Silver Skylarks she financed.

Mme. Jenkins, as she styled herself, became a byword for artistic ambition and self-delusion. The author Stephen Pile ranked her "the world's worst opera singer," asserting: "No one, before or since, has succeeded in liberating themselves quite so completely from the shackles of musical notation". She nevertheless performed the most challenging arias and lieder, specializing in work by Mozart, Verdi, and Brahms. She occasionally lightened her repertoire with her own modest compositions and those of her accompanist McMoon, and a favourite encore was Joaquín Valverde Sanjuán's Clavelitos, a Spanish song about carnations, after which she would throw handfuls of rosebuds into the crowd. An additional source of amusement for the audience was the ornate self-designed costumes she wore for her appearances, the most famous being an elaborate confection of tulle and tinsel with huge golden wings attached, in which she identified herself as "the Angel of Inspiration."

Apparently she never doubted the excellence, and indeed the continuing improvement, of her performances...[and] the enthusiasm of her audience, including professional musicians, supported her confidence in her ability. The journalist Brooks Peters wrote that Cole Porter never missed one of her concerts and even composed a song for her; Jenkins's other ardent fans included the opera stars Lily Pons and Enrico Caruso and the British conductor Sir Thomas Beecham.

Between the late 1930s and early 1940s, Jenkins made, at her own expense, five 78 rpm records containing nine operatic arias for Melotone, a New York label that ordinarily issued discs of popular music. Intended for sale to her friends at $2.50 apiece, her recordings were avidly collected as humorous novelty items and quickly became collector's items. Time described a recording she made of an aria from Mozart's Magic Flute, stating that her "nightqueenly swoops and hoots, her wild wallowings in descending trills, her repeated staccato notes like a cuckoo in its cups, are innocently uproarious to hear"...

On 25th October 1944 Jenkins achieved national prominence with the climactic event of her musical career, a recital she arranged at Carnegie Hall... [which] was said to be the fastest sold-out concert in the hall's history. The success of the concert was widely noted in the press; Newsweek reported that two thousand ticket seekers were turned away. The magazine's sardonic review stated: "Howls of laughter drowned Mme. Jenkins's celestial efforts. Where stifled chuckles and occasional outbursts had once sufficed at the Ritz, unabashed roars were the order of the evening at Carnegie". A month and one day after her performance at Carnegie Hall, Jenkins suffered a heart attack and died at her residence, the luxurious Hotel Seymour in New York City.

And so it was that a little gaggle of "our gang" eagerly entered the cinema on Friday to see Stephen Frears' brand new biographical (and eponymous) film about the divine Miss Jenkins' life, starring Meryl Streep and Hugh Grant.

It is beautifully done - much in the manner of her own all-too-knowing real-life audience, we are encouraged not so much to laugh at the terrifying vocal ineptitude of Miss Jenkins, but to laugh with her. So utterly ingenuous and charming a woman is she - as reverently portrayed by Miss Streep in a sublime performance - and how sincere her efforts to please (and the love she engendered in return, particularly that of her "husband" [theirs was a platonic and never legally-bound relationship; she feared consummation due to a legacy of syphilis she contracted from her first husband, and he had mistresses on the side throughout their life together] St. Clair Bayfield, the "ham" actor-manager played with phenomenal precision by Mr Grant), that one genuinely empathises with her.

What could easily, in lesser hands, have ended up as a bit of a "freak show" piss-take, despite its comedic moments (the sheer stifled horror-mixed-with-giggles on the face of her long-time pianist Cosmé McMoon, played brilliantly by Simon Helberg, for example; or the hysterical laughing-fit the the tart-with-a-heart Agnes Stark (Nina Arianda) has on first hearing her), is actually made into a heart-warming and very enjoyable story.

Having long been "admirers" of Florence Foster Jenkins - her compilation The Glory (????) of the Human Voice adorns a prime position in our CD collection here at Dolores Delargo Towers, and way back in 2005 we went to see Maureen Lipman's stage turn as the lady herself in Glorious - Madam Arcarti and I absolutely adored the film.

A highly recommended experience...

Here, for your delectation, is Mme. Jenkins herself doing what she did - with Mozart's Queen of the Night aria (Der Hölle Rache):

...and here, the official trailer for the film:

Florence Foster Jenkins is playing up and down the UK as we speak, and is released in the US on 12th August 2016.

Monday, 13 June 2016

Pin Ups

A small sample of the "unseen" photos of David Bowie by his long-term favourite lensmen Denis O'Regan, Chalkie Davies and Tony McGee (who Paul and I met when we went along last week; a fascinating man) on display at an appropriate site - Heddon Street in Mayfair (site of the iconic Ziggy Stardust LP cover).

Curated by the V&A team behind the David Bowie Is extravaganza, the (free) photo exhibition David Bowie: Fame, Fashion, Photography is in aid of the Cancer Research Campaign [all the photos are on sale] and is on at The Hub gallery until Sunday 19th June 2016. So be quick...

Monday, 6 June 2016

An outsider doing his own thing

From an article by Ben Walters in Run-Riot online magazine:
"Andrew Logan occupies a strange position, in many ways an outsider doing his own thing, but not without institutional or establishment credentials. Educated at Oxford, his work has been shown in the US, Mexico, Singapore, Australia and Russia, and acquired by collectors as diverse as the National Portrait Gallery, the Queen Mother, Bono and Larry Hagman.

His studio also contains an array of outlandishly spectacular thrones and a spanking new set of crown jewels encrusted with brightly-coloured numerals. These are fruits of Logan’s other magnificent obsession: as well as making art, he is the creator of the Alternative Miss World, the sensational pageant conceived in 1972 that has become an institution.

At once a grand-scale celebration of polymorphously perverse creativity and a gazette of the most exciting spirits animating London’s underground scene, it’s equal parts Dada, Warhol, Pepys and Versailles, and was inspired as much by Crufts as the original Miss World tournament.
His partner Michael Davis, an architect and craftsman who created the their home, studio, and Andrew's Museum of Sculpture in North Wales, near Powys Castle, says: “He’s like the Pied Piper. He just seems to attract interesting people.”

Indeed. Andrew's many friends over the years include Derek Jarman, Duggie Fields, Zandra Rhodes, Fenella Fielding, Brian Eno, Jenny Runacre and Molly Parkin; participants and/or judges in the aforementioned Alternative Miss World (which is about to celebrate its 44th year) have encompassed a huge swathe of the "great, the good, and the notorious" - Divine, Leigh Bowery, Angie Bowie, Steve Strange, Lionel Bart, Rula Lenska, David Hockney, Amanda Barrie, Sian Phillips, Richard O'Brien, Janet Street-Porter, Marilyn, Jill Bennett, Muriel Gray, Judy Blame, Zoe Wanamaker, Norman Parkinson, Julian Clary, Marie Helvin, John Maybury, Suggs, Joan Bakewell, Little Nell, Pamela Stephenson, Simon Callow, David Bailey, Naim Attallah, Sam Taylor Wood, David McAlmont, Anita Roddick, Rachel Auburn, Grayson Perry, Le Gateau Chocolat, Trindy, Michael Cashman, Maggi Hambling, Jonny Woo, Nick Rhodes, Amy Lamé and Ruby Wax among them.

Trained originally in architecture, not design, nevertheless Mr Logan always instinctively veered towards the avant garde - one of his earliest commissions was from Barbara Hulanicki to create oversized flowers for her legendary 70s boutique Biba's rooftop garden. He was an original part of the "Butler's Wharf" collective of artists who (almost-but-not-quite) became known as London's answer to Warhol's "Factory", sharing creative space with Mr Jarman - and it was at their creative warehouse that Malcolm McLaren and Viv Westwood threw a ball in 1976 at which the Sex Pistols (notoriously) played an impromptu set, putting the wheels in motion for the Punk "explosion".

And so it was with all these admirable qualities in mind that John-John and I ventured to the launch event for the Stoke Newington Literary Festival on Friday to attend what promised to be a "spectacular" - a celebration of the life of a man who has variously been described as "the ultimate maximalist", "a true original" and "effortlessly loopy". The audience was full of stylishly-clad, terribly-arty types, those who actually accompanied Mr Logan on his "journey" and those who have been inspired by the man. We were overjoyed to bump into our friend and fellow former "Blitz Kid"/Alternative Miss World aficionado Miss Eve Ferret.

Speaking of "effortlessly loopy", the event was opened in the campest of all possible camp manners by none other than the delightful (and benignly oblivious) Miss Fenella Fielding! She was helped to the stage by Mr Logan himself (who, despite being the evening's subject, appeared to do an awful lot of the "ushering" and stage-management duties), sang his praises, then looked confused (as a helluva lot of the evening's guest were, as there were no obvious clues what came next), sat down in one of the on-stage comfy chairs, but was then gently steered off again - and still managed to get the most tumultuous applause!

Libby Purves, broadcaster and all-round fab lady, was our host for the (first half, as it turned out, of the) evening - a series of personal reminisces and panegyrics to the man who inspired so many artistic types - including milliner Piers Atkinson, legendary punk photographer Sheila Rock and and one of the original "Blitz Kids" Scarlett Cannon.

Unfortunately, there appeared to be very little in the way of stage management (Miss Purves was more "lost" than one might have expected her to be, probably because no-one had given her a proper "steer"), and technical problems with both sound and visuals dogged the proceedings the whole evening.

Just before the half-time break, Miss Purves announced she had some pressing family commitments and had to leave prematurely. And so, our friend the ever-willing Eve Ferret stepped up to the mark, ran off to her car to retrieve her peignoir, and gathered herself to host part two...

Ad-libbing superbly, Eve introduced the second set, which was intended, in addition to more anecdotes from Andrew's friends and family (including his sister Janet Slee), to highlight what was purported to be a parade of Alternative Miss World contestants, past and present. It was opened by an appearance by "Oberon" and "Titania", who were then supposed to act as hosts for the "catwalk". Unfortunately, nobody had given anyone a microphone. So the audience could see lots of people in fantastical costumes parading up and down but had no idea what was what, who was whom, or why they appeared.

The grand finale - Andrew Logan's Alphabet - was a mass of colours, as all the "catwalkers" and guests assembled in their bejewelled splendour behind him. The spectacle was somewhat undermined by the fact that whoever the venue had got to be "in charge" of the projector had decided that a blank blue screen with a message "no power source detected" was an appropriate back-drop for such a grand tableau. Shoddy, we thought.

Regardless of the technical annoyances, I'm very glad we went. Andrew Logan is, and always will be, an absolute icon.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

Madness is genius

Marilyn would have been 90 years old.

“When it comes down to it, I let them think what they want. If they care enough to bother with what I do, then I'm already better than them.”

“Imperfection is beauty, madness is genius and it's better to be absolutely ridiculous than absolutely boring.”

“I don't know who invented high heels, but all women owe him a lot!”

“If you can make a woman laugh, you can make her do anything.”

“I'm not interested in money, I just want to be wonderful.”

“If you're gonna be two-faced at least make one of them pretty.”

Marilyn Monroe (born Norma Jeane Mortenson, 1st June 1926 – 5th August 1962)