Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Lobotomy Room at Fontaine's 31 March 2017 DJ Set List



From the Facebook events page:

“It’s just what you need when you’re down in the dumps / One half hillbilly and one half punk …”

Revel in sleaze, voodoo and rock’n’roll - when incredibly strange dance party Lobotomy Room returns to the Polynesian-style basement Bamboo Lounge of Dalston’s premiere Art Deco vice den Fontaine’s! Friday 31 March! 

Lobotomy Room! Where sin lives! A punkabilly booze party! Sensual and depraved! A spectacle of decadence! Bad Music for Bad People! A Mondo Trasho evening of Beat, Beat Beatsville Beatnik Rock’n’Roll! Rockabilly Psychosis! Wailing Rhythm and Blues! Punk! Twisted Tittyshakers! White Trash Rockers! Kitsch! Exotica! Curiosities and other weird shit! Think John Waters soundtracks, or Songs the Cramps Taught Us, hosted by Graham Russell (of Dr Sketchy and Cockabilly notoriety). Expect desperate stabs from the jukebox jungle! Savage rhythms to make you writhe and rock! Now with vintage erotica projected on the big screen all night for your adult viewing pleasure! Come for the special offer cocktails - stay for the putrid music and dirty movies!

Admission: gratuit - that’s French for FREE!

Lobotomy Room: Faster. Further. Filthier.

It’s sleazy. It’s grubby. It’s trashy - you’ll love it!

A tawdry good time guaranteed!




/ Twist like Jayne Mansfield - at Lobotomy Room! /

This installment of Lobotomy Room got off to a nerve-shredding, nail-biting start. For the first tortuous ninety minutes, I was entirely alone in the Bamboo Lounge! Even after several years now of club-promoting, that fear (“no one is coming!”) is agonising. It never gets easier. So, when the first group of three people came down the stairs, I was ready to kiss them. And then later a whole gang (mostly female) who’d been drinking in Fontaine’s main-level bar all night ventured down and pretty much instantly started raucously dancing and screaming. This is pretty much what all DJs yearn for; I kept them whipped-up in a frenzy with surf instrumentals and punk. So yeah - heartfelt gratitude to all the Lobotomy Room attendees! The night was salvaged. And when I played Bow Wow Wow’s “Aphrodisiac”, one of them rushed up to me and exclaimed, “Yass bitch!” Probably the nicest thing anyone has ever said to me in all my years of doing Lobotomy Room.


Dream Boy - The 5,6,7,8s
Little Darlin' - Masaaki Hirao
Town Without Pity - James Chance and The Contortions
Be Bop A Lula - Alan Vega
Atomic Bongos - Lydia Lunch
Do You Remember Rock'n'Roll Radio? The Ramonetures
Vampira - The Misfits
Viva Las Vegas - Nina Hagen
Solitary Confinement - The Weirdos
We're Desperate - X
Love Me - The Phantom
People Ain't No Good - The Cramps
Surf Rat - The Rumblers
I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield - The 5,6,7,8s
That Makes It - Jayne Mansfield
Twistin' the Night Away - Divine
Wiped-Out - The Escorts
Hanky Panky - Rita Chao and The Quests
Whistle Bait - Larry Collins
Action Packed - Ronnie Dee
Jim Dandy - Sara Lee and The Spades
Margaya - The Fender Four
Wipe-Out - The Surfaris
Bombora - The Original Surfaris
Surfin' Bird - The Trashmen
Shortnin' Bread - The Readymen
Muleskinner Blues - The Fendermen
You're Driving Me Crazy - Dorothy Berry
What Do You Think I Am? Ike and Tina Turner
Roll with Me Henry - Etta James
Boss - The Rumblers
Meu bem lollipop - Wanderlea
Viens danser le twist - Johnny Hallyday
Harley Davidson - Brigitte Bardot
Intoxica - The Centurions
Carbona Not Glue - The Ramonetures
Teenage Lobotomy - The Ramones
Aphrodisiac - Bow Wow Wow
Breathless - X
Rock Around the Clock - The Sex Pistols
The Girl Can't Help It - Little Richard
Lucille - Masaaki Hirao

Other upcoming events - for all your Lobotomy Room needs! Scrawl the dates in blood!


Lobotomy Room Goes to the Movies film club on Wednesday 26 April: 

“I’m a thief and a shitkicker and - uh – I’d like to be famous!” Divine as Dawn Davenport

Lobotomy Room Goes to the Movies is the FREE monthly film club downstairs at Fontaine’s devoted to Bad Movies We Love (our motto: Bad Movies for Bad People), specialising in the kitsch, the cult and the queer! Cinema’s Sleaze Maestro (and Patron Saint of Lobotomy Room) John Waters turns 71 in April. To celebrate, this month’s presentation is Waters’ definitive trash epic Female Trouble (1974) on Wednesday 26 April! See freaky 300-pound hog princess Divine in his greatest role as unrepentant bad girl and criminal Dawn Davenport!

In his 1981 book Shock Value, Waters himself outlines Female Trouble as “the story of a headline-seeking criminal named Dawn Davenport (Divine). The film traces her life from teenage years as a suburban brat to her untimely death in the electric chair.” As Jack Stevenson eloquently argues in his essay on Female Trouble in issue number five of Little Joe Magazine: “Waters’ films have been called comedies but this one is full of horror … the chemistry of the cast sets this film apart and makes it Waters’ most collaborative and yes, spiritual work. It was the film they were all put on earth to make, the culmination of a collective vision. The unjustly more celebrated Pink Flamingos is lifeless in comparison and was really just a dress rehearsal for Female Trouble. For Female Trouble Waters functioned more as a psychic medium than a movie director, populating his all-American disaster story with a large movable feast of cast, crew, friends and oddball “discoveries”, tapping into the spirit of the times as well as the spirit of a specific rebel milieu in Baltimore. Then he spiked it with energy, attitude and weirdness, and zapped it to life.”

The film is FREE but seating is limited (we can seat about 30 people in the Bamboo Lounge). Contacting Fontaine’s in advance to reserve a guaranteed seat is highly recommended: email ruby@fontaines.bar or call 07718 000546. Doors to the Bamboo Lounge open at 8 pm. Film starts at 8:30 pm. You won’t want to miss John Water’s putrid masterpiece! Now repeat after me: “Liquid eyeliner …” 



Lobotomy Room Dance Party on Friday 28 April 2017:

“It’s just what you need when you’re down in the dumps / One half hillbilly and one half punk …”

Revel in sleaze, voodoo and rock’n’roll - when incredibly strange dance party Lobotomy Room returns to the Polynesian-style basement Bamboo Lounge of Dalston’s premiere Art Deco vice den Fontaine’s! Friday 28 April!

Lobotomy Room! Where sin lives! A punkabilly booze party! Sensual and depraved! A spectacle of decadence! Bad Music for Bad People! A Mondo Trasho evening of Beat, Beat Beatsville Beatnik Rock’n’Roll! Rockabilly Psychosis! Wailing Rhythm and Blues! Twisted Tittyshakers! Punk! White Trash Rockers! Kitsch! Exotica! Curiosities and Other Weird Shit! Think John Waters soundtracks, or Songs the Cramps Taught Us, hosted by Graham Russell (of Dr Sketchy and Cockabilly notoriety). Expect desperate stabs from the jukebox jungle! Savage rhythms to make you writhe and rock! Now with grainy flickering black-and-white vintage erotica projected on the big screen all night for your adult viewing pleasure! Come for the special offer cocktails - stay for the putrid music and “blue” movies!

Admission: gratuit - that’s French for FREE!

Lobotomy Room: Faster. Further. Filthier.

It’s sleazy. It’s grubby. It’s trashy - you’ll love it!

A tawdry good time guaranteed!


Further reading:

Read about all the previous antics at Lobotomy Rooms to date hereherehereherehereherehereherehereherehere , hereherehere, hereherehere, herehere, here, here and here. 

Follow me on tumblr for all your kitsch, camp, retro vintage sleaze and fifties homoerotica needs!


Follow me on twitter!

"Like" and follow the official Lobotomy Room page on Facebook if you dare!

Thursday, 6 April 2017

Reflections on ... Multiple Maniacs (1970)


[I reviewed Criterion's new Blu-ray release of John Waters Multiple Maniacs for gay arts and culture website HISKIND in March 2017. Read it here.  Disappointingly, they edited the hell out of it, deleting all my efforts to put the film into context – so I’m posting it here in its uncut / uncensored original version!]

It’s looking increasingly unlikely cinema’s high potentate of trash John Waters will ever make another movie following 2004’s commercial flop A Dirty Shame. (In recent years, the 70-year old “peoples’ pervert” has successfully diversified, spreading his joyous message of filth via books and spoken word tours instead of films). 

But happily for Waters’ legions of fanatics ravenous for a lurid sensationalism fix, they get to rediscover one of his freshly-exhumed obscure classicks (sic). For decades, Multiple Maniacs (1970) - which Waters himself calls his “celluloid atrocity” - has been virtually impossible to see.  A grainy, scuzzy VHS was issued in the eighties, then it occasionally surfaced as a poor-quality pixelated bootleg (Waters’ legal team promptly deletes it every time it crops up on YouTube) - but until now it’s never officially been available on DVD or Blu-ray. And now Criterion has handled Multiple Maniacs like it’s a prestigious art movie, giving it a loving deluxe digital remaster treatment. Watching this crystalline deep velvety black-and-white revival of Multiple Maniacs is like experiencing a whole new film.


/ Divine as Lady Divine in Multiple Maniacs

Forty-seven years later, the restored, reviled and revolting Multiple Maniacs hasn’t lost its capacity to startle. It still feels insanely raw, nasty, punk and queer. And it’s essential to understanding Waters’ subsequent films (Multiple Maniacs suggests a preliminary sketch for his next film, 1972’s more famous Pink Flamingos). In her first starring role, Waters’ 300-pound hog princess drag queen leading lady and muse Divine portrays Lady Divine, the cruel and amoral proprietoress of traveling freak show “The Cavalcade of Perversions” of assorted sluts, fags, dykes and pimps. (The sensational revue incorporates vomit eaters, bicycle seat lickers, a junkie writhing in withdrawal and “two queers actually kissing on the lips like lovers”). When we first encounter Lady Divine, she’s lounging stark naked on a bed and barking orders at her minions – think Liz Taylor as Cleopatra. Upon learning her carnival barker boyfriend and criminal accomplice Mr David is leaving her for another woman, a homicidal Lady Divine embarks on a berserk rampage.  The film concludes with a cannibalistic blood orgy (Multiple Maniacs – made in ’69 – was Waters’ response to the Charles Manson Family murders in same way Beyond the Valley of the Dolls was for Russ Meyer). Oh and – spoiler alert – a giant lobster is involved.


/ David Lochary as Mr David in Multiple Maniacs /  

Sure, in technical terms neophyte Waters’ filmmaking is frankly amateurish (which makes Multiple Maniacs feel like a lunatic home movie) and the actors sometimes stumble over the verbose script. But there is much here to make a Waters devotee swoon in frenzied ecstasy. The cast features Waters’ familiar stable of regular actors at their most heartbreakingly youthful and fresh-faced, like David Lochary and Mink Stole (Raymond and Connie Marble, the villains of Pink Flamingos), Mary Vivian Pearce, Cookie Mueller as Divine’s hard-boiled lisping (frequently topless) juvenile delinquent daughter and – in her film debut - the beloved snaggle-toothed outsider actress and punk granny Edith Massey.  The vicious dialogue is predictably quotable (“I love you so fucking much that I could shit!” “And all at once she inserted her rosary into one of my most private parts …”) while the soundtrack encompasses ominous rumbling surf instrumentals and twangy rockabilly. Thematically, Multiple Maniacs sees Waters lashing out at his Catholic upbringing:  the “rosary job” Divine receives from perverted religious whore Mink Stole and the blasphemous re-enactment of the Stations of the Cross still feel taboo and sacrilegious. 


/ Edith Massey as The Virgin Mary in Multiple Maniacs

Best of all, Multiple Maniacs captures iconic freak diva Divine-in-embryo, still a fleshy young starlet or ingénue on the ascent.  Mincing around like Jayne Mansfield in a skin-tight leopard print pencil skirt and brunette wig, snarling her lines and sometimes actually foaming at the mouth in excitement, this represents early Divine at the height of her monstrous beauty.


The promotional tagline for Multiple Maniacs screams, “Better than amyl nitrate! Better than Carbona! Better than heroin!” What other film could live up to those claims? It’s like an intravenous jolt of bad taste. For long-term Waters aficionados, the Blu-ray release of Multiple Maniacs is the equivalent of Christmas day. For newcomers to Waters’ oeuvre, it offers an excellent introduction. Get corrupted!



MULTIPLE MANIACS - available to buy on Blu-ray from 20th March 2017 from the Criterion Collection 

Further reading: Read my epic 2010 interview with John Waters here

Sunday, 26 March 2017

Lobotomy Room at Fontaine's DJ Set List from 24 February 2017











































From the Facebook event page:

“It’s just what you need when you’re down in the dumps / One half hillbilly and one half punk …”

It’s back! The first Lobotomy Room of 2017!

Revel in sleaze, voodoo and rock’n’roll - when incredibly strange dance party Lobotomy Room returns to the Polynesian-style basement Bamboo Lounge of Dalston’s premiere Art Deco vice den Fontaine’s! Friday 24 February! 

Lobotomy Room! Where sin lives! A punkabilly booze party! Sensual and depraved! A spectacle of decadence! Bad Music for Bad People! A Mondo Trasho evening of Beat, Beat Beatsville Beatnik Rock’n’Roll! Rockabilly Psychosis! Wailing Rhythm and Blues! Twisted Tittyshakers! Punk! White Trash Rockers! Kitsch! Exotica! Curiosities and other weird shit! Think John Waters soundtracks, or Songs the Cramps Taught Us, hosted by Graham Russell (of Dr Sketchy and Cockabilly notoriety). Expect desperate stabs from the jukebox jungle! Savage rhythms to make you writhe and rock! Now with vintage erotica projected on the big screen all night for your adult viewing pleasure! Come for the special offer cocktails - stay for the putrid music and dirty movies!

Admission: gratuit - that’s French for FREE!

Lobotomy Room: Faster. Further. Filthier.

It’s sleazy. It’s grubby. It’s trashy - you’ll love it!

A tawdry good time guaranteed!













































/ No sin too great ... no lust too degrading ... at Lobotomy Room! /

Good lord! I’d better post this unblushing revoltingly candid scene report / exposé about last month’s Lobotomy Room because soon it will be time for this month’s! (The March instalment of Lobotomy Room at Fontaine’s is Friday 31 March. Read the full squalid details here).

February’s incredibly strange dance party was a bit different because the Polynesian-style basement Bamboo Lounge was booked for a private party, so Lobotomy Room had to re-locate upstairs to the main bar. That meant I couldn’t project my usual flickering, grainy black-and-white vintage erotica on the big screen, but it worked out OK. We just had to work a bit harder to generate our own ambience of sleaze instead!

This Lobotomy Room was also noteworthy because it represented the “hen party” of my friend Rachael, who’s getting married in the beginning of April. (North American readers: you would call it a bachelorette party). The bridezilla (sorry, bride-to-be) looked radiant in a vintage dress. 

For once, I have some photo documentation from the night.


/  Christopher and Pal /


/ Stylish ginger trio /


/ Rachael and I /


/ Rachael and I /


/ Rachael and I. Rachael is seemingly channelling Divine as Babs Johnson in Pink Flamingos? This is a rare shot that gives you an indication of Fontaine's beautiful Art Deco-style decor (note the golden palm tree) /


/ Yorkshire's finest: Rachael and Christopher /

Anyway, here's what I played:

Handclappin' Time - The Fabulous Raiders
Little Queenie - Bill Black's Combo
Fujiyama Mama - Annisteen Allen
Treat Me Right - Mae West
Intoxica - The Revels
Fever - Edith Massey
Three Cool Chicks - The 5,6,7,8s
I'm Blue - The Ikettes
Mau Mau - The Fabulous Wailers
Monkey Bird - The Revels
Wimoweh - Yma Sumac
Kismiaz - The Cramps
Beauty is Only Skin Deep - Robert Mitchum
Dona Wanna - Wanda Jackson
Go Calypso - Mamie Van Doren
Blockade - The Rumblers
How Much Love Can One Heart Hold? Joe Perkins and The Rookies
The Flirt - Shirley and Lee
She Wants to Mambo - Johnny Thunders and Patti Palladin
I Was Born to Cry - Dion
Little Darlin' - Masaaki Hirao
I've Told Every Little Star - Linda Scott
I Wanna Be Sedated - The Ramonetures
Fools Rush In - Ricky Nelson
Devil in Disguise - Elvis Presley
Be Bop A Lula - Alan Vega
My Baby Does the Hanky Panky - Rita Chao and The Quests
Saber de gostaria - Wanderlea
You Sure Know How to Hurt Someone - Ann-Margret
Shout - Johnny Hallyday
Woman - Peggy Lee
Treat Me Right - Mae West [played in error!]
Boss - The Rumblers
What Do You Think I Am? Ike and Tina Turner
Tornado - Dale Hawkins
I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield - The 5,6,7,8s
That Makes It - Jayne Mansfield
Wildwood - Sil Austin
Big Bounce - Shirley Caddell
Woo-Hoo - The Rock-A-Teens
Let's Go Baby - Billy Eldridge
Savin' My Love - Wanda Jackson
Wild Wild Party - Charlie Feathers
Hillbilly Surfer - Whitey White
Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad - Tammy Wynette
The Swag - Link Wray
Lucille - Masaaki Hirao
Jim Dandy - Laverne Baker
Wiped-Out - The Escorts
Your Phone's off the Hook - The Ramonetures
Breathless - X
Rock Around the Clock - The Sex Pistols
Heartbreak Hotel - Buddy Love
You're Driving Me Crazy - Dorothy Berry
He's the One - Ike and Tina Turner
Whistle Bait - Larry Collins
Action Packed - Ronnie Dee
Jim Dandy - Sara Lee and The Spades
Somethin' Else - Sid Vicious
Viva Las Vegas - Nina Hagen
Atomic Bongos  - Lydia Lunch
Jukebox Baby - Alan Vega
Batman Theme - Link Wray
Shortnin' Bread - The Readymen
Muleskinner Blues - The Fendermen
Surfin' Bird - The Trashmen
Margaya - The Fender Four
Wipe-Out - The Surfaris
Surf Rat - The Rumblers
Suey - Jayne Mansfield
Pass the Hatchet - Roger and The Gypsies
Chicken Grabber - The Nite Hawks
Vesuvius - The Revels
Dance with Me Henry - Ann-Margret
Here Comes the Bug - The Rumblers
Bikini Girls with Machine Guns - The Cramps
C'mon Everybody - Sid Vicious
Johnny Hit and Run Pauline - The Ramonetures
Year 1 - X
Teenage Lobotomy - The Ramones
Lightening's Girl - Nancy Sinatra
Vampira - The Misfits
Salamander - Mamie Van Doren
Touch the Leather - Fat White Family
Harley Davidson - Brigitte Bardot
Viens danser le twist - Johnny Hallyday
Peter Gunn Locomotion - The Delmonas
Peter Gunn Twist - The Jesters
Khrushchev Twist - Melvin Gayle
Twist Talk - Jack Hammer
Twistin' the Night Away - Divine
Ultra Twist - The Cramps
Sweetie Pie - Eddie Cochran
Hoy Hoy - The Collins Kids
Bossa Nova Baby - Elvis Presley
Beat Girl - Adam Faith
Jim Dandy - Ann-Margret
Roll with Me Henry - Etta James
I Love the Life I Live - Esquerita
Goodbye So Long - Ike and Tina Turner
Rock-A-Bop - Sparkle Moore
These Boots are Made for Walkin' - Mrs Mills
Big Girls Don't Cry - Edith Massey


Further reading:

Read about all the previous antics at Lobotomy Rooms to date hereherehereherehereherehereherehereherehere , hereherehere, hereherehere, herehere, here and here.

Follow me on tumblr for all your kitsch, camp, retro vintage sleaze and fifties homoerotica needs!


Follow me on twitter!

"Like" and follow the official Lobotomy Room page on Facebook if you dare!





































Scrawl the date in blood! The next Lobotomy Room punkabilly booze party at Fontaine's is Friday 31 March 2017! Details here. 







Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Reflections on ... Sentimental Eartha (1970)



A few days ago, I scored the obscure oddity Sentimental Eartha (1970), widely regarded as sultry atomic-era chanteuse Eartha Kitt’s strangest album. In her case that’s really saying something: Eartha Kitt (1927 - 2008) was a strange woman who made strange records. The CD version released on an independent label in the nineties is long out of print and now ultra-pricey. On Amazon it routinely goes for between £75 - £400.  Miraculously, I nabbed a used copy for only about £3 from Germany!

By 1970 Kitt was still in-demand on the glitzy cabaret circuit but the hits had well and truly dried up. Sentimental Eartha showcases the slinky feline temptress’conscious effort to update and reinvent her image and sound “with it” by embracing modern rock trends. Many of the other post-war pop and jazz divas of Kitt’s vintage were also experimenting with a more contemporary “groovy” direction. Around this time, Peggy Lee re-interpreted songs by the likes of Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding and Sly & The Family Stone. On Julie London’s unintended camp classic Yummy, Yummy, Yummy (1969) she applied her breathless sex kitten coo to “Louie Louie” and “Light My Fire” by The Doors as if they were Cole Porter standards. A few years later saw Miracles (1972), on which Peruvian high priestess of exotica Yma Sumac explored trippy fuzzed-out acid rock.

Sentimental Eartha bombed upon release and is pretty much forgotten today. It deserved a kinder fate. As her biographer John L Williams would later assert, “The innocuous title gives little indication that this would turn out to be far and away Eartha’s most experimental album and one of her best.”

Sentimental Eartha’s cover features Kitt lounging in a woodland setting amidst autumn leaves clad in an animal-print maxi-dress, floppy black hat and the long straight wiglet familiar from her stint as Catwoman on TV's Batman. On the psychedelia-tinged music within, Kitt gamely tries on the unfamiliar roles of hippie maiden, soul sister and earth mother by tackling Herman’s Hermits “My Sentimental Friend” and three songs by singer-songwriter Donovan: “Wear Your Love Like Heaven”, “Catch the Wind” and best of all, “Hurdy-Gurdy Man”, on which Kitt cackles like a witch and suggests a sorceress casting a spell.





On some of the more delicate songs Kitt seems to deliberately and audibly mute some of her signature purring mannerisms. On others (like the ultra-dramatic opener “It Is Love”), she roars in full feline attack. And when “The Way You Are” ends with campy ad-libbed comedy Spanglish, it could only be Miss Eartha Kitt.

In his 2013 biography America’s Mistress: The Life and Times of Eartha Kitt, John L Williams interviewed the producer of Sentimental Eartha, Denny Diante.  (The album was recorded in Los Angeles for a British label). The producer recalled Kitt as enthusiastic: “She was thrilled to death; she couldn’t thank me enough for pushing the more contemporary stuff. She was very contemporary herself, very progressive in her thinking.”

Kitt promoted her new material with a German TV special. It was obviously produced on a shoestring budget. Check out that frugal set (decorated with office furniture? Hotel lobby furniture? What’s the deal with the coat stand? And why during “Sentimental Friend” does it repeatedly cut away to photos of spaghetti western actor Franco Nero?). But durable pro Eartha belts out the songs with style, sex appeal and conviction. And while the band may look square in their tuxedos, they’re tight, dramatic and swing hard. 

Thankfully there are plentiful clips from Kitt's 1970 TV special on YouTube. I've tried to assemble them all here:



/ Above: "Hurdy Gurdy Man" and "Catch the Wind" /



/ Above: "It Is Love", "My Sentimental Friend" and "The Way You Are". The dramatic spoken intros are something else! Kitt also seems to be doing some intense Method Acting with her performances. Check out her smouldering eye contact during "The Way You Are" and the way she moodily smokes and sips champagne  /



/ Above: "Genesis". Eartha at full-throttle tigress assault mode. Like Nina Simone, the volatile Kitt was the mistress of abrupt mood swings /



/ "Once We Loved": fierce! /



/ "Wear Your Love Like Heaven": Eartha Goes Psychedelic, Baby  /



/ "I remember what you said about me. You said I was a very beautiful brown Helen of Troy ..." An epic performance of that world-weary anthem "When the World Was Young" - which also featured in the Marlene Dietrich songbook /



/ One of the few nods to the old days: "C'est Si Bon", one of Kitt's first and biggest hits in the fifties /

As Williams argues, the TV special’s high-point is Kitt’s impassioned performance of the ballad “Paint Me Black Angels” (a Mexican song she’d already recorded in the fifties as “Angelitos Negros” with its original Spanish lyrics). Kitt delivers it in extreme close-up with a stark simplicity and a few tears rolling down her face. What a mesmerising presence she was!



Nonetheless, Sentimental Eartha bombed in the UK and was never even released in the US.  Kitt never pursued modern rock music again. It was a doomed but noble effort. As with Peggy Lee and Julie London, Kitt’s experimentations baffled her existing mature fans and failed to engage with a new younger audience.

Saturday, 25 February 2017

Reflections on ... Sid and Nancy (1986)



/ Top: Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb as Sid Vicious and Nancy Spungen. Bottom: the genuine articles. Just to confuse things, I'll be alternating photos of Oldman and Webb and the real Sid and Nancy throughout this post! / 

From the Facebook events page:

Lobotomy Room Goes to the Movies is the FREE monthly film club downstairs at Fontaine’s bar in Dalston devoted to Bad Movies We Love (our motto: Bad Movies for Bad People), specialising in the kitsch, the cult and the queer!

Considering February is the month of Valentine’s, we’ll be embracing a romantic theme with … Sid and Nancy (1986)! Hey! It’s a love story! (Well, director Alex Cox himself describes the film as “a horrific love story”. Its original title was going to be Love Kills). It outlines the doomed tragicomic “amour fou” between punk’s Romeo and Juliet: Sex Pistols’ bassist Sid Vicious and his heroin-addicted groupie girlfriend Nancy Spungen … and let’s just say it all ends messily.

So – why not throw on a black leather jacket, stick a safety pin through your nostril and join us on 22 February for a quiet night with Sid and Nancy?

Added incentive: in honour of Valentine’s Day, Fontaine’s is being sponsored all month by the fancy French raspberry liqueur Chambord! So there will be special offer cocktails on the night – and they will be pink!

Doors to the basement Bamboo Lounge open at 8 pm. Film starts at 8:30 pm prompt. Grab a cocktail and come down early! I'll be playing punk music and vintage erotica on the big screen before the main feature.




/ "I'll never look like Barbie. Barbie doesn't have bruises." Chloe Webb as Nancy Spungen /

Happily, we had another full house downstairs in the Bamboo Lounge of Fontaine’s on 22 February for my presentation of Alex Cox’s confrontational 1986 biopic covering the whirlwind, drug-fuelled and ultimately homicidal 19-month love affair between Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious (10 May 1957 - 2 February 1979) and downtrodden groupie Nancy Spungen (27 February 1958 - 12 October 1978). It was great to see so many new faces. And the screening was appropriately rowdy and boozy! Well, until the film’s despairing closing scenes – when everyone was so rapt and hushed you could hear a pin drop.

Sid and Nancy was a key film for me as a teenager (I taped it from cable TV onto VHS and watched it so many times I could probably recite screeds of dialogue from memory!).  Until Wednesday night, it had been a good twenty years since I last re-visited it. How great to see it’s as powerful, scabrous and disturbing as I remembered! Thirty-one years later, Sid and Nancy still packs a nasty punch. The film is like staring into a raw open wound.



/ The real Sid and Nancy (I love Sid's engineer boots) /

The early scenes set in London – covering the rise of the Sex Pistols and Sid and Nancy’s burgeoning romance – are brash, rowdy in-your-face bad taste black comedy. Once the Sex Pistols acrimoniously implode and an increasingly heroin-addicted Sid and Nancy find themselves adrift in New York (especially once they check into their squalid room at The Chelsea Hotel), the tone turns progressively, almost unbearably bleak and claustrophobic. (Bizarrely, one of the most common criticisms levelled at Sid and Nancy upon its release was that it irresponsibly glamorised heroin use. Which raises the question: what film did they watch? It depicts addiction as a nightmare!).

I love maverick director Alex Cox's weird flourishes of romantic, art-y magic realism or poetic realism or whatever you want to call it. I think that aspect confused people at the time who expected something more straightforward. For a brief period, he was a genuinely distinctive and vivid original voice in British cinema. Sadly, like leading lady Chloe Webb, in recent years Cox seems to have entirely vanished off the radar.

Not that Cox doesn’t make some jarring false notes, and Sex Pistols fans could certainly pick holes with the accuracy of certain segments. We catch a glimpse of a band meant to be X-Ray Spex belting out “Oh Bondage Up Yours” and they look wrong, wrong, WRONG. What a disservice to Poly Styrene! The fictional glam rock star Rock Head who crops up in a few scenes (who is he meant to be? Iggy Pop? Johnny Thunders?) feels terribly ersatz and unconvincing. 

To be fair, though, Sid and Nancy was never meant to be a documentary: it’s Cox’s idiosyncratic interpretation of their story, with artistic license. When it was released in ’86, Vicious had only been dead for seven years and his story was still fresh in peoples’ minds. More than thirty years later, we can watch Cox’s film more objectively and appreciate it on its own merits.


/ Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb as Sid and Nancy /

On a purely superficial level, for aficionados of punk fashion, Sid and Nancy offers a bonanza. Sure, Sid and Nancy were stoned, destructive and barely-functioning hot messes, but boy did they have outlaw style. Their wardrobes encompass studded leather bondage belts and wristbands, black leather biker jackets, the unravelling mohair sweaters synonymous with Vivienne Westwood and McLaren’s SEX shop, green nail polish, tartan, laddered fishnet tights and painted-on skinny black Levis. (Special mention must go to Nancy’s sensational gold leather micro-mini skirt. In real life Nancy Spungen seemed to sport a distinctive “gun” necklace in every photo ever taken of her; it’s weird Cox didn’t get Webb to wear a replica). I love the padlocked chain around Sid’s neck (a gift from Nancy. When Nancy lovingly puts it around his neck and clicks the lock shut, Sid says, “Cool! Where’s the key?” Nancy replies, “What key?”). 



Sid’s best accessory, though, is his starved-to-perfection skeletal body straight out of an Egon Schiele painting or Giacometti sculpture. (In later scenes Oldman pretty much entirely abandons wearing shirts. To achieve Sid’s emaciated physique, Oldman reportedly undertook such a drastic diet he was diagnosed with malnutrition at one point).



/ The real Sid and Nancy /

All these years later, the performances of Oldman and Webb still astonish. Both are hilarious in perhaps my favourite scene when Nancy takes Sid home to meet her horrified suburban family. Black tragicomedy at its finest! This was one of the early roles that launched Oldman as one of the best and most versatile Brit actors of his generation. Poor Web was every bit as exemplary as Oldman, but she never seemed to catch another good break after this and seemingly disappeared into obscurity. Read any book about punk history and Nancy Spungen is perhaps the most reviled figure of the whole era. She was profoundly troubled: diagnosed with schizophrenia at 15, expelled from multiple schools.  At 17 she’d run away to New York, supporting herself via stripping and prostitution and embraced groupie-dom (she was already "affiliated" with bands like the New York Dolls, Aerosmith, The Ramones and the Voidoids by the time she met Sid). Webb portrays the damaged Spungen with humanity and compassion. For me, Webb’s two finest moments are her junkie freak-out shouting at her mother in a phone booth ("he loves me more than you do!") and then later Nancy’s rambling, croaky monologue about a dream she’d had, delivered to an unconscious Sid next to her bed. She rasps something about “we had a little dog and we loved it … but it died and we didn’t know where to bury it … so we ate it.” It sums up their toxic love and it’s like an eerie premonition about what lies in store.  



/ Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb as Sid and Nancy/

Anyway, to introduce the screening I quickly Googled and compiled some “fun facts” about Sid and Nancy. Here are a few!

Daniel Day Lewis was short-listed for role of Sid before Oldman got it.

A young unknown Courtney Love unsuccessfully auditioned for the role of Nancy. As consolation Cox gave her a supporting role. It’s fascinating to see Love’s almost unrecognisable original pre-plastic surgery face.

Sid and Nancy was originally intended to be filmed in black and white but the financiers vetoed that idea. I think it would have felt even harsher in grainy black and white!

Cox’s original choice for the title was Love Kills right up until the time of release - when he was advised someone else owned the legal rights to that name and would sue. Calling it Sid and Nancy was a last minute compromise, but I think it works: it’s terse and it evokes Bonnie and Clyde. When it was released on video in Mexico, the Spanish title translated as Two Lives Destroyed By Drugs. My own alternative title would be Baked Beans and Champagne: The Sid and Nancy Story.




/ Gary Oldman and Chloe Webb as Sid and Nancy /

Further reading:

Read more about the Lobotomy Room film club here

Loverboy magazine ventures into the wild, wild world of Lobotomy Room 

Follow me on tumblr

"Like" and "Follow" my Facebook page for all of your Lobotomy Room needs!



Monday, 13 February 2017

Joey Arias at Brasserie Zédel 12 February 2017



































Any time Joey Arias – veteran performance art / cabaret legend, toast of Mondo New York and all-round fabulous creature – breezes into London, attendance is freaking obligatory! So, a big gang of us assembled to see his gig last night (Arias is doing a residency at Brasserie Zédel inSoho 11-14 February 2017).

Arias’ speciality is his evocation of doomed jazz diva Billie Holiday in all her earthy, ravaged foul-mouthed hedonistic glory. This isn’t a conventional “tribute act”, though – Arias is freakier, raunchier and far more original than that. And the Art Deco opulence of Brasserie Zédel provided the perfect backdrop, creating a sense of mid-century café society.



































Arias himself was a compelling spectacle in fetish-y black Frederick's of Hollywood-style lingerie and full Vampira make-up. His voice is a soulful smoky, scratchy rasp alternately lewd and awash with heartbreak (my friend Louise admitted afterwards she cried several times during Arias’ set). As well as samplings from the Billie Holiday songbook ("You’ve Changed", "God Bless the Child"), Arias also answered the musical question: what would unlikely other songs by the likes of Cream or Bob Dylan sound like given the Holiday torch song treatment (with added Yma Sumac-like bird noises and punctuated by deep stripper squats)? The answer – hilarious, dramatic and exquisite!



































Between songs, Arias gave a swear-y but elegant masterclass in audience participation, shuttling between seduction and aggression just because it amused him. Mingling through the crowd, flirting outrageously, he stopped and asked a woman’s name. “Ann-Marie? That’s a whore’s name.” He implored two (platonic) female friends at another table to kiss on the lips. When they hesitated, Arias snapped, “I’m not saying eat her pussy! Just kiss her on the lips! It’s love!” More pointedly, he turned his full laser beams on a rude heterosexual couple who arrived late then proceed to check their mobile phones and talk amongst themselves. “Sarah! Look at me!” Joey hissed. “Focus!” (Who were those two and what were they doing there?)



































For the night’s emotional high-point, Arias demanded all the venue’s lights be extinguished (even the neon sign behind the bar) so that he was illuminated by just a single blue spotlight. Then he crooned an eerie, spine-tingling “I Cover the Waterfront”, transforming the jazz standard into an anguished prostitute’s lament. Devastating!



































/ Afterwards we ambushed Arias in the lobby for an impromptu red-hot camera session! L-R: (back row) Chris and Pal. Front: Louise, Joey Arias, Nell and me /

































































/ Above: (Back) Chris, Joey, Nell and Pal. (Front) Louise and Alex /

Further reading:

See the full set of photos from Joey Arias at Brasserie Zédel here

See my photos of Joey Arias performing at London's Institute of Contemporary Art in 2014 here

Read my account of seeing Arias perform in 2013 here