Monday, 14 October 2019

Unlikely conversations, #548 in a series...

Elsa Lanchester and Ruth McDevitt

Kim Novak and Vampira

Albert Einstein and Charlie Chaplin

Dolly Parton and Henry Kissinger

Joan Collins and Liz Taylor

...wouldn't you just love to have been a fly on the wall?

Friday, 4 October 2019

Ciao, Miss Dominique Devereaux

"If you're not invited to the party, throw your own."

"For each and every performance, I was always on time, always prepared, and always, always coiffed and dressed."

“You cannot be a legitimate nightclub performer, as far as I’m concerned, in sensible shoes. To me, high heels have always been symbols of sensuality... I like the way I feel in them. And when you become a senior citizen, there’s great pleasure to be had in the fact that even when the tummy isn’t as taut as it used to be, the legs are still shapely and slender. They really are the last things to go, you know.”

"I like to think I opened doors for other women, although that wasn't my original intention."

"All I ever wanted to do was sing. What happened was more."

RIP, Diahann Carroll (born Carol Diahann Johnson, 17th July 1935 – 4th October 2019)

An inspiration.

Tuesday, 1 October 2019

Remember me, remember me, but ah! forget my fate

“The immensity of her voice struck like a thunderbolt... It was like an eruption of primal power.” (Jerusalem Post)

"...a huge, dark, rich, glorious voice that can roar like thunder one moment and whisper like a zephyr the next. It is a voice of many colours, many facets, many inclinations.” - Martin Bernheimer (LA Times, 1992)

The black armbands have been dusted off again, with the sad news of the death of one of the world's greatest ever operatic sopranos, the glorious Jessye Norman.

There are few words to express our feeling of loss. Let us instead wallow in all her magnificence:

And finally, I make no excuses for playing this again - one of my favourite videos, ever:


  • Miss Norman made her debut in 1968 as Elisabeth in Wagner's Tannhäuser in Berlin, and from that point she was in demand all over Europe throughout the 70s - with leading roles in Covent Garden in London, La Scala Milan, Maggio Musicale in Florence and more - yet did not star in an operatic production in her native USA until 1982.
  • She studied the languages of the music she sang, and was acclaimed for her performances of Mussorgsky songs in the original Russian, the German Romantic lieder repertoire, and French music from Berlioz to more modern composers.
  • Anmong her many honorary doctorates and awards, she received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, National Medal of Arts, Kennedy Center Honor, Royal Philharmonic Society Gold Medal, the French Légion d'honneur, and was a member of the British Royal Academy of Music.

RIP Jessye Mae Norman (15th September 1945 - 30th September 2019)

Sunday, 29 September 2019

This weekend, I am mostly dressing casual... today's birthday girl, the lovely Miss Greer Garson, born one hundred and fifteen years ago today!

Eileen Evelyn Greer Garson, CBE (29th September 1904 – 6th April 1996)

Saturday, 28 September 2019

Museums, mummy love, Moses, mythology, the mysteries of the mind and Auntie Maureen

Eighty years on from his death, people are still fascinated by Sigmund Freud - his theories on human behaviour and sexuality, and his influence on modern secular thinking - but a lesser-known fact about the man was his fascination with collecting antiquities, from the Greco-Roman world, the Orient and, inevitably, from Ancient Egypt.

It was, of course, the latter connection that was behind the event to which Madame Arcati, Hils, History Boy and I went on Thursday evening - Egyptomania in the time of Freud & Petrie - at our beloved Petrie Museum. In a variety of talks, exhibits and artefacts, the event explored the way a century of excavations of Egypt (from Napoleon to Lord Caernarvon) gripped the world, influenced its culture, and captivated even the "father of psychology" - whose life was coincidentally contemporaneous with that of "the father of archaeology" Flinders Petrie himself.

Two items from Freud's collection - a gilded mummy and an amulet of Mut.

The talks were fascinating, as one would expect. Our "maestro" of all things theatrically Egyptological, John J. Johnson, opened proceedings with an overview of how hieroglyphs [as the young Freud discovered illustrating the pages of his own family's Jewish bible], mummification [and public unwrapping of mummies] and the myriad archaeological artefacts that were constantly being uncovered and displayed in the grand museums of that imperial age [not least in the opulent Kunsthistorisches Museum in his native Vienna] contributed to Freud's own intellectual development, and his psychoanalytic methodology of uncovering the dreams, demons and inner fears of his patients. Then, in conversation with the Freudian scholar Professor Miriam Leonard, the "analysis of the analyst" continued.

In his lifetime, Freud collected around 600 Egyptian items, many of which he insisted on taking with him wherever he travelled. Indeed, he described collecting such antiquities as his own "obsession". Significantly, he only started doing so after the death of his own father, and among his most revered items were representations of Mut [the "mother goddess", often represented as a vulture, a creature who had appeared in young Freud's own early nightmares], of the phallic god of creation Min, and of the Sphynx, a creature that was identified mostly in mythology as the embodiment of a "man-eating" female - all philosophies that featured heavily in his work.

Oedipus Explaining the Enigma of the Sphinx by Ingres; a copy of which hung above Freud's psychoanalytic couch.

The culmination of Freud’s fascination with Egypt was his last major work, Moses and Monotheism, published in the year of his death 1939, which caused controversy with his argument that Moses was not a Jew but an Egyptian follower of the monotheistic Akhenaten, whose religion Moses transmitted to the Jews. And here, the overlap with Petrie really became clear - for it was his unearthing of Akhenaton's myriad treasures at Amarna from 1891 that drew the world's attention to this most revolutionary of all the pharaohs. Of course, the theory was somewhat flawed by investigating the actual timescales in which Amarna flourished and the ostensible date when Moses was supposed to have lived, but the ideas were, our expert pair agreed, worthy of examination.

It all sounds quite dry and dusty, but was actually a very entertaining evening. All the speakers [including the museum's curator Dr. Anna Garnett, who explained how Petrie pioneered the method of gauging timescales in archaeology by examining the evolutionary development of pots, a system still used today] have an entertaining way with words; a necessary skill when presenting difficult topics to a non-scholastic audience - and of course being in the atmospheric surroundings of this wonderfully quaint museum, furnished especially for this evening with rugs and (of course) a reproduction of that couch, helped immensely. The closing session was a world premiere of scenes from a new "dramatic work in progress" by Michael Eaton, in which he and actor Giles Croft imagined an actual meeting between Freud and Petrie [something that never happened in real life, of course]. Despite the Freudian theme, however, we all avoided getting our dreams analysed by the on-site "expert", artist Nikki Shaill [imagine!].

Most of the staff and volunteers were dressed, Downton Abbey-style, in glorious fin de siècle and Twenties frocks, beads and furs [hello, Helen!] - there was plenty of booze at the two pop-up bars, and the DJ "Auntie Maureen" was delightful, playing a selection of early 20th century numbers. And, fortuitously, she's published some of her Freudian output on the new-fangled interwebs for our delectation: well as some Egyptian music:

The main exhibition Between Oedipus and the Sphinx: Freud and Egypt, of which this evening was part, continues at the Freud Museum in Hampstead until 27th October 2019.

Thursday, 19 September 2019


From Marie-Claire:
For her first ever catwalk show in 1981 Vivienne presented Pirates – a collection that kick-started the new romantic look and dominated 80s sub-cultures. It was anti-Dynasty, shock-and-awe styling, a whole mix of historical references mashed together in a single outfit. Fans from Boy George to Adam Ant loved her work.

From the V&A museum website:
Vivienne Westwood's designs were at the forefront of the early 1980s Neo-Romantic movement in fashion. This movement led to a wave of nostalgia featuring colourful masquerades of highwaymen, pirates and other characters. Westwood expressed her philosophy in an interview in Harpers & Queen magazine (April 1983): "I'm very anarchical and perverse about what I do with clothes but what I drive at is simplicity... The great thing about my clothes - the way they make you feel grand and strong - is to do with the sexy way they emphasise your body and make you aware of it."

Some people wore the complete Pirate Outfit, while many took elements from the collection and freely mixed them with other clothes. The tunic, with its powerful meandering print, and the fall-down stockings were particularly popular.

Yes. You guessed it - today is International "Talk Like A Pirate Day".

Why just talk like one, when you can dress this way as well..?


Monday, 9 September 2019

Tuesday, 27 August 2019

And oh... the... twiddley bits he used to play when all alone with me

Very sad news. One of my all-time favourite all-round entertainers, the actress and comedienne Sheila Steafel has departed to join the merry throng in the the eternal Variety show of Fabulon.

Miss Steafel was, quite simply, "always there" - I remember her mischievous, almost-but-not-quite-giggling personality from way back when I was quite young. She emerged into the spotlight [from a long career as a jobbing actor, an émigré from South Africa] as one of the stalwarts of The Frost Report (Mr F's successor show to the legendary That Was The Week That Was) alongside John Cleese, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett - and she was a regular on The Two Ronnies Show over many years. She popped up as a comic "foil" for just about every comedian on British TV - including Peter Cook and Dudley Moore, Bernard Cribbins, Eric Sykes, Jimmy Tarbuck, Arthur English, Frankie Howerd, Tommy Cooper, Kenny Everett and Spike Milligan - starred in an adaptation of Diary of a Nobody, and had a lengthy stint in the children's show The Ghosts of Motley Hall, as well as a long and varied stage career. Along the way, she was married to Harry H Corbett ("Harold Steptoe") for six years.

It was, however, for her stupendous regular appearances on The Good Old Days we loved her the most! I need no excuse to play these two gems, both of which are embedded in the very fabric of our being here at Dolores Delargo Towers:

We went to see the great lady in her one-woman show Victoria Plums back in 2005, in which she featured many of her favourite (and mostly obscure) Victorian Music Hall songs - as collected in a CD of the same name, which forms a treasured part of our collection to this day. It was on this occasion that we were fortunate to meet her after the show, and she signed a photo for us, which has pride of place among our gallery of the great and the good...

I am wearing a black armband as we speak.

RIP, Sheila Frances Steafel (26th May 1935 - 23rd August 2019)

Friday, 23 August 2019

This weekend, I am mostly dressing casual... today's birthday girl, star of Psycho and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance - Miss Vera Miles, 90 years old today!

The secret of her long life might be revealed by her most famous quote:
"I love young men, lots of them, your ancient masculine double standard."
Amen, sister.