Wednesday, 18 October 2017

I'd like to put you in a trance



Timeslip moment again...

We've beamed down in this week 25 years ago, in 1992: HM the Queen's annus horribilis (with the divorce of Ann and Cap'n Mark, the scandalous split of Andy'n'Fergie, the separation of Charles and Di and the near-destruction of parts of the historic Windsor Castle, her favourite palace); the year of Boris Yeltsin, the BCCI banking scandal, Steffi Graf, the Barcelona Olympics, Damien Hirst's "shark", PM John Major (who won the general election), the Maastricht Treaty, Betty Boothroyd, Euro Disney, the Lost Gardens of Heligan, Nigel Mansell, the dismantling of Yugoslavia, the Los Angeles riots, the election of President Bill Clinton, and the births of Miley Cyrus, Cara Delevingne - and Ab Fab.

In the news in October 1992: the fallout from so-called "Black Wednesday" (the UK's withdrawal from the European Exchange Rate Mechanism) continued, fuelling a continuing recession; protest rallies were held in Washington to challenge the Bush administration's lack of action on AIDS (and the AIDS Memorial Quilt was born); there were protests, too, in the UK about the planned closure of a string of coal mines and over 30,000 job losses; the Mozambique civil war finally ended after sixteen years; a huge earthquake in Cairo killed 543 people and injured more than 6,500; in the ascendant were Lithuania (which held a referendum on its first democratic constitution since it seceded from the former Soviet Union), the Cartoon Network (the world's first TV channel devoted to animation) and Sinéad O'Connor (who ripped up a photo of Pope John Paul II on Saturday Night Live); but we bade our sad farewells to the multi-talented actor Denholm Elliott. In our cinemas: Patriot Games, Beauty and the Beast and Strictly Ballroom. On telly: Later... with Jools Holland, Gladiators and The Big Breakfast.

And in the UK charts? At the top of the heap at #1 was "one-hit wonder" Tamsin Archer with Sleeping Satellite; also present and correct in the Top Ten were Bizarre Inc, Boyz II Men, The Shamen, Dr Alban, Simple Minds, Prince, Take That, Undercover and Doctor Spin (whooo?). But, just landed - and about to cause a media shit-storm - was Our Glorious Leader Queen Madge, with this all-time smutty classic...


Can it really be a quarter of a century since we first met "Dita"...?

Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Michael Rennie was ill the day the earth stood still, but he told us where we stand



Yesterday's weird weather over London and much of the UK - the skies turned an eerie yellow early afternoon, it went quite dark for several hours, and the sun was fetching shade of vermilion - was apparently due to a load of dirt, smoke and Saharan sand being sucked up into the atmosphere by the actions of Hurricane Ophelia.



Of course, that isn't quite how some people wanted to interpret it, and the inevitable "social meejah frenzy" was whipped up by the press - phrases such as "apocalypse", "the end of the world" and "Nibiru" were being bandied about, just about overtaking the words "me", "Taylor Swift in a kebab shop" and "Trump" as topics of conversation by teatime.

Well, if you want an apocalyptic vision, what could be better than that 1950s Cold War-Sci-Fi mastwerwork of paranoia The Day The Earth Stood Still? And who better to present this classic than the "Tired Old Queen" himself, Steve Hayes?


Red skies over London

Monday, 16 October 2017

Time is Tic, Tic, Tac-ing



Oh dear, another weekend is over. Our much-lauded "heatwave" was very pleasant in parts - we were sat outside in short sleeves in the extensive gardens here at Dolores Delargo Towers till long after the sun went down last night - and I managed to get a load more bulb pots planted and a lot more pottering done besides. Unfortunately, the UK is expecting the tail end of Hurricane Ophelia to hit this week (fingers crossed, only in the West - we may not experience its worst here in London), so heaven only knows when the next opportunity may arise - and meanwhile, the foxes are playing merry hell, digging holes all over the place, so there are plenty of battles ahead to try and defeat the vermin before they undo our good work...

Hey ho, as we sense the encroaching darker, mistier mornings enveloping us, to cheer ourselves up on this Tacky Music Monday we're off to Brazil (I wish!) - in the bizarre company of Banda Carrapicho:


Ay Caramba! I wouldn't want to bump into him on a dark night...

Have a great week, dear reader!

Sunday, 15 October 2017

“Keeping the British end up, sir.”



Today, the best of all "James Bonds" Sir Roger Moore would have been 90 years old.

By way of a little tribute, here are some of his "best bits" from that long (twelve-year) tenure in the role...


Shaken, not stirred, indeed.

Sir Roger George Moore, KBE (14th October 1927 – 23rd May 2017)

Read my blog on the occasion of Sir Roger's death

Saturday, 14 October 2017

Diving into memories, prostitutes and profiteers, gangland jeopardy, a prize, a pansy, a wide Homburg hat and a long blue coat



I made a welcome (and long overdue) return visit to "London's peerless gay literary salon" Polari last night, and I'm so pleased I did - a truly top-class evening of thought-provoking literary gems [right at the start of the London Literature Festival, appropriately], and Sophie Ellis Bexter's mum presenting the prestigious prize pictured above, to boot!



Although the room (our usual 5th floor function suite, rather than the cavernous and character-free Purcell Room where previous Polari First Book Prize ceremonies have been held) was packed out, I was surprised that apart from or hostess-with-the-mostest Paul Burston, some of our readers, plus stalwarts Suzi Feay (at whose table I sat), VG Lee, Anny Knight and sexy Lexi Gregory, I hardly recognised anyone. It could be "the curse of Friday" I suppose; so many people have other plans that probably don't involve gay literature...

...but for those of us who love writing, it was a joy.



Opening the show - admittedly in a rather dark way - was the surprisingly cute Roelof Bakker [I always find Dutch men sexy], who is a regular contributor to the Unthology series of collated short stories, now on volume #9. The review on The Short Story website described it thus:
The last short story in the anthology, Yellow by Roelof Bakker is a touching work exploring loss... the story follows the narrator as he comes to terms with the death of his partner, Marek [who drowned]. Loss is a popular subject, but Bakker offers precise prose that avoids cliché, giving us original lines that bubble up beautifully through the paragraphs and are full of emotive veracity: ‘I’m only happy when I swim. Bits of Marek live on in the water, traces of his DNA remain wherever he’s done the butterfly, the breast-stroke. When I dive in, I delve into the past, back into his arms. Memories bob to the surface.’
Truly beautiful...



An equally tragic theme was to follow - as feminist writer and journalist Julie Bindel (thankfully injecting some of her wry humour into an otherwise alarming subject) gave us an insight into her research findings behind her new book The Pimping of Prostitution: Abolishing the Sex Work Myth. From a synopsis she wrote for The Spectator:
We’ve become accustomed to thinking of prostitution as a legitimate way of earning a living, even ‘empowering’ for women. We call it ‘sex work’ and look away. We should not.

For the last three years I’ve been investigating prostitution worldwide to test the conventional wisdom of it being a career choice, as valid as any other. I conducted 250 interviews in 40 countries, interviewed 50 survivors of the sex trade, and almost all of them told me the same story: don’t believe the ‘happy hooker’ myth you see on TV. In almost every case it’s actually slavery. The women who work as prostitutes are in hock and in trouble. They’re in need of rescue just as much as any of the more fashionable victims of modern slavery.

One of the most disturbing discoveries I made was that the loudest voices calling for legalisation and normalisation of prostitution are the people who profit from it: pimps, punters and brothel owners. They have succeeded in speaking for the women under their control. The people who know the real story about the sex trade have been gagged by a powerful lobby of deluded ‘liberal’ ideologues and sex-trade profiteers.
She went on to emphasise how those very same "liberal" voices who defend prostitution as a "life choice" - an oppressed form of sexuality which deserves "freedom" from legal restrictions, akin to the struggle for LGBT equality - are actually further repressing and endangering the lives of the very people they appear to represent. Powerful stuff.



Completing our "triumvirate of terror", the erudite Veronica "V.A" Fearon took to the stage with her customary swagger and her disarming smile, to read from her newest novel featuring the "fearless" gangs negotiator Dani, The Thirsty Stranger. She opened with a suitably "in-character" extract in which our "anti-hero" attempts to seduce an equally sassy woman, a photographer who has no time for her smooth-talking chat-up lines. In the second we were given an insight into a side of Dani that might be less expected; as the maelstrom of dangerous situations she has got herself into bring her an unfamiliar sensation: fear.

As ever, Veronica's work is completely engrossing, and I was very glad to be able to take a breath when "half-time" arrived. After a nip to the bar and a fag, it was time for part two - ding ding!



Without further ado, it was time for our Suzi to take the stage to introduce the Sixth Annual Polari First Book Prize. She read a synopsis of each of the titles on this year’s shortlist "which brings together three male and three female writers hailing from Kuwait to Cardiff, whose eclectic body of work offers a range of perspectives on the LGBT experience":
  • Expecting – Chitra Ramaswamy (Saraband)
  • Guapa – Saleem Haddad (Europa Editions UK)
  • We Go Around In The Night And Are Consumed By Fire - Jules Grant (Myriad)
  • Straight Jacket - Matthew Todd (Bantam)
  • The Vegetarian Tigers of Paradise – Crystal Jeans (Honno)
  • Jerusalem Ablaze – Orlando Ortega-Medina (Cloud Lodge)
Then she handed over to the adorable Miss Janet Ellis to announce the prize winner. After some encouraging and apposite words of support and encouragement for everyone who took part she opened the envelope and welcomed the rather buff Saleem Haddad to accept the prize.



He looked thrilled!



Our next reader Paul Harfleet simply exudes charm. The pioneering campaigner [he was one of the keynote speakers at 2010's "Say No To Hate" rally that I attended] behind The Pansy Project - which encourages victims of homophobia to plant a pansy at the site of their abuse, photos of which he collates along with a description of the incident on the website - he has latterly turned his estimable talents to education, by way of a semi-autobiographical (and beautifully illustrated by the author) children's book Pansy Boy. And here is a video introduction to it (which, last night, he narrated for us):



Lovely.



And finally, it was time for our "star turn", Diana Souhami - the erudite researcher and biographer of many a famous lesbian, and dryly witty reader - to entertain us with a faboo audio-visual overview of the life, loves and work of the artist Gluck ["Gluck: no prefix, suffix or quotes."], who was the subject of Ms Souhami's earliest published work, and who was celebrated most recently in a retrospective exhibition at The Fine Arts Society during LGBT History Month in February 2017 (with another exhibition to come this autumn in Brighton). Here is a little snippet:
Throughout her adult life she dressed in men’s clothes, pulled the wine corks and held the door for true ladies to pass first. An acquaintance seeing her dining alone remarked that she looked like "The Ninth Earl", a description that she liked. She had a last for her shoes at John Lobb’s the Royal bootmakers, got her shirts from Jermyn Street, had her hair cut at Truefitt gentlemen’s hairdressers in Old Bond Street and blew her nose on large linen handkerchiefs monogrammed with a G. In the early decades of the twentieth century, when men alone wore the trousers, her appearance made heads turn. Her father, a conservative and conventional man was utterly dismayed by her ‘outré clobber’, her mother referred to a ‘kink in the brain’ which she hoped would pass, and both were uneasy at going to the theatre in 1918 with Gluck wearing a wide Homburg hat and long blue coat, her hair cut short and a dagger hanging at her belt.

She did several self-portraits, all of them mannish. There was a jaunty and defiant one in beret and braces – stolen in 1981 – and another, now in the National Portrait Gallery, which shows her as arrogant and disdainful. She painted it when suffering acutely from the tribulations of love. A couple of others she destroyed when depressed about her life.

She dressed as she did not simply to make her sexual orientation public, though that of course she achieved. By her appearance she set herself apart from society, alone with what she called the ‘ghost’ of her artistic ambition. And at a stroke she distanced herself from her family’s expectations, which were that she should be educated and cultured but pledged to hearth and home. They would have liked her to marry well, which meant a man from a similar Jewish background to hers – preferably one of her cousins – and to live, as wife and mother, a normal happy life. By her ‘outré clobber’ Gluck said no to all that; for who in his right mind would court a woman in a man’s suit? Her rebelliousness cut her father to the quick and he thought it a pose. But however provocative her behaviour there was no way he would cease to provide for her, his concept of family loyalty and obligation was too strong.

Courtesy of her private income she lived in style with staff – a housekeeper, cook and maids – to look after her. She always kept a studio in Cornwall. In the 1920s and 30s she lived in Bolton House, a large Georgian house in Hampstead village. After the war she settled in the Chantry House Steyning with Edith Shackleton Heald, journalist, essayist and lover of the poet W.B.Yeats in his twilight years. Both residences had elegantly designed detached studios...

...Mercurial, maddening, conspicuous and rebellious, she inspired great love and profound dislike. Perhaps what she most feared was indifference – the coldest death. Her dedication to work was total, even through her fallow years. Her severance from gender, family and religion, her resistance to influence from any particular artist or school of painting, her refusal to exhibit her work except in ‘one-man’ shows were all ways of protecting her artistic integrity. She desired to earn her death through the quality of her work: "I do want to reach that haven having a prize in my hand… Something of the trust that was reposed in me when I was sent out…" In reaching her destination with her paintings as her prize she took a circuitous path – unmapped, thorny and entirely her own.
Gluck's romantic entanglements were many and varied, including Romaine Brooks, society florist Constance Spry, and "the love of her life" the American socialite Nesta Obermer, with whom she appeared in her most famous portrait in the Art Deco era, Medallion (which she referred to as the "YouWe" picture):



Utterly, absolutely brilliant.



Thus, with the resounding applause for our assembled readers ringing in our ears, it was sadly the end of another great evening.

Next month's outing (on Friday 24th November, and part of the "Being a Man" festival season) will be the official Tenth Birthday(!) celebration of Polari, and promises to be another corker - with Jonathan Harvey, Topher Campbell, J Fergus Evans, Alexis Gregory and Carey Wood all announced. I can't wait!

I love Polari.

Friday, 13 October 2017

Hold it



We're cruising gently towards another weekend, and - starting with my first visit in a while to "London's peerless gay literary salon" Polari (in its tenth birthday season) tonight - there's lots to celebrate!

Leading the way in that department, to get the party started with a bang is an old fave here at Dolores Delargo Towers - Miss Celi Bee and her incredibly energetic safety gays.

Thank Disco It's Friday (the thirteenth)!!


Keep on twirling, daaahlings!

Thursday, 12 October 2017

Escapism...



We're getting up in the dark, and soon it'll be dark as we head home from work. I hate Autumn.

I think we need to indulge ourselves once more in the impossibly glamorous Jet-Set world of Soft Tempo Lounge...

[...even if the featured movie is yet another of the soft-porn variety, Emanuelle in America...]


Ah, that's better.

[Music: Pierre Sellin - Trumpet on a Beach]