Wednesday, 21 September 2016

Baby Lame's Shit Show at The Glory on 9 September 2016

Baby Lame's Shit Show at The Glory

I was recently honoured to guest DJ at Baby Lame's first anniversary Shit Show at The Glory in Haggerston. As I posted on Facebook:

Punky alt-cabaret doesn’t get more twisted than Baby Lame's Shit Show! On 9 September sewer-mouthed hog princess extraordinaire Baby Lame celebrates the first anniversary of her residency at The Glory with this birthday extravaganza! Won’t you come and join us? It promises to be a rancid cavalcade of perversion! There won’t be another Lobotomy Room club night at Fontaine’s now until Friday 30 September, so in the meantime come and catch me DJ’ing in The Glory’s basement “pit” / sex dungeon afterwards! I’ll be playing all your sentimental classicks! Autumn 2016 just suddenly got a lot more putrid!

In case you’re unfamiliar with the oeuvre of drag terrorist Baby Lame (darling, where have you been?), when I profiled her for Beige website in 2015 I described Baby’s act as “twisted black comedic punk-drag-horror performance art a-go go, marinated in the bad taste midnight movie sensibility of John Waters.” If anything, since then with her raunchy monthly Shit Show club night at The Glory (the reigning epicentre of gay Bohemia in London’s East End), Baby Lame has gotten even filthier.  And for this special first anniversary celebration, Baby assembled a glittering selection of perverted and exhibitionistic special guests. Pal and I arrived in time to see the big finale featuring the notorious Mouse. If you’ve never seen Mouse in action before (I’ve only ever seen her perform once before at The Amy Grimehouse’s John Waters Filth Fest in March 2014 but it’s scorched on my retinas), let’s just say her act involves total stark nudity, dog food, a birthday cake, an enema kit and that the front row needs to protect themselves by holding up a clear plastic tarpaulin. The spirit of Leigh Bowery and The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black lived in the basement of The Glory!

Baby Lame's Shit Show at The Glory

/ Tara and I at The Shit Show /

This is only the second time I’ve DJ’d at The Glory. The first time was at their Easter Sunday 2016 bank holiday Barn Dance. That time went down a storm, but I have to admit I was apprehensive wondering if a packed Friday night crowd at The Glory would respond favourably to what I was laying down. I am quite niche after all. People do dance to my music but it certainly doesn’t qualify as most peoples’ idea of “dance music.” What if I had a steady stream of people requesting Britney or Beyonce? Or worse – complaining to the management! I needn’t have worried: at various times I had a virtual mosh pit slamming by the DJ booth! People at gay venues are definitely hungry for more aggressive, punkier and confrontational music when they hear it – they maybe just don’t know it ‘til they encounter it. I pretty much played my standard abrasive Lobotomy Room set encompassing punk, rockabilly, surf, rhythm and blues and tittyshakers with maybe a campier emphasis on diva worship for The Glory. It’s just that my pantheon of queer icon divas includes the likes of Nina Hagen, Jayne Mansfield, Ann-Margret, Lydia Lunch, Edith Massey and Mrs Miller! (This may have been the only time anyone ever sequenced hi-NRG disco-era Eartha Kitt next to Fat White Family, or followed Tina Turner with The Germs).  Anyway, the night was a triumph for Baby Lame and I was glad to be a part of it. Long may her Shit Show reign!

Baby Lame's Shit Show at The Glory

/ The Shit Show in action at The Glory on 9 September 2016. Pic swiped from Facebook! /

Here's what I played:

Do You Remember Rock'n'Roll Radio? The Ramonetures
Universal Radio - Nina Hagen
Wipe-Out - The Surfaris
Blitzkreig Bop - The Ramonetures
I Wanna Be Sedated - The Ramones
Hangin' On the Telephone - Blondie
Road Runner - The Fabulous Wailers
I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield - The 5,6,7,8s
That Makes It - Jayne Mansfield
Year One - X
Peter Gunn Locomotion - The Delmonas
Peter Gunn Twist - The Jesters
Gunnin' for Peter - The Fabulous Wailers
Be Bop A Lula - Alan Vega
Viens danser le twist - Johnny Hallyday
Twistin' the Night Away - Divine
Cha Cha Heels - Eartha Kitt
Touch the Leather - Fat White Family
Harley Davidson - Brigitte Bardot
Batman theme - Link Wray and His Wraymen
Shortnin' Bread - The Readymen
Muleskinner Blues - The Fendermen
Human Fly - The Cramps
Little Girl - John and Jackie
Viva Las Vegas - Nina Hagen
C'mon Everybody - Sid Vicious
Breathless - X
Funnel of Love - Wanda Jackson
Rock Around the Clock - The Sex Pistols
Surfin' Bird - The Trashmen
Juke Box Babe - Alan Vega
Atomic Bongos - Lydia Lunch
Margaya - The Fender Four
Dance with Me Henry - Ann-Margret
Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad - Tammy Wynette
Lucille - Masaaki Hirao
Gostaria de saber (River Deep, Mountain High) - Wanderlea
Under My Thumb - Tina Turner
Forming - The Germs
Surf Rat - The Rumblers
Hanky Panky - Rita Chao and The Quests
Three Cool Chicks - The 5,6,7,8s
Jailhouse Rock - Masaaki Hirao
You Sure Know How to Hurt Someone - Ann-Margret
Johnny Are You Queer? Josie Cotton
Fuck Off - Wayne County and The Electric Chairs
Big Girls Don't Cry - Edith Massey
I'm a Woman - Peggy Lee
Suey - Jayne Mansfield
Pass the Hatchet - Roger and The Gypsies
Vampira - The Misfits
Nausea - X
Intoxica - The Centurions
Aphrodisiac - Bow Wow Wow
Bossa Nova Baby - Elvis Presley
Shout - Johnny Hallyday
Contact - Brigitte Bardot
These Boots Are Made for Walkin' - Mrs Miller
Meu Bem Lollipop - Wanderlea
Fever - Nancy Sit
Somethin' Else - Sid Vicious
The Girl Can't Help It - Little Richard
Sweetie Pie - Eddie Cochran
The Swag - Link Wray
Jim Dandy - Sara Lee and The Spades
Whistle Bait - Larry Collins
Boss - The Rumblers
I Wish I Was a Princess - Little Peggy March
My Way - Sid Vicious

In related outsider art drag news: I touched visiting American skank goddess Christeene’s dick at The Soho Theatre on Saturday 17 September! It was a profound and religious moment! I was up-front with my friend Tara and her mother Paula. During one song early in her set Christeene made scary direct eye contact with me with those glowing ice-blue Children of the Damned contact lenses, reached out to me, I grabbed her hand – and she guided my hand straight to her crotch and squeezed. The whole night (the culmination of Christeene’s glorious two-week residency at The Soho Theatre) was pretty damn spectacular – grubby, sleazy, freaky and punky. It opened with him jumping up and dangling from a ceiling pipe above the stage doing flawless pole dancer moves and ended with the sentimental favourite “African Mayonnaise”, punctuated with deep stripper squats, crotch-thrusting dance routines, glimpses of genitalia, multiple costume changes, copious spitting and onstage rimming. And as an added bonus, doyenne of punk fashion Dame Vivienne Westwood was in attendance! (Westwood looked great: very chic with platinum blonde hair, approachable and friendly; Tara and Paula had their photo taken with her). Afterwards we were all standing around outside and Christeene was circulating through the crowd talking to people. I managed to tell him: I’m old enough to have seen artists like Lux Interior of The Cramps, Iggy Pop, Grace Jones and Jayne County perform multiple times and you are carrying on in their tradition. He replied, “Everyone you just mentioned is like family to me” - and kissed me on the lips. In fact Tara, her mother and I all got kisses on the lips from Christeene. Swoon!

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/ Sadly, none of the photos taken Saturday night turned out terribly well. This shot of the radiant Christeene and I was snapped in summer 2014 the legendary night he and David Hoyle performed together at Vogue Fabrics in Dalston.  Please don’t judge me for the unsightly sweat patches on my t-shirt: it was packed in that basement and hotter than hell! Condensation was dripping from the ceiling! /

And finally: my next Lobotomy Room club night is coming up soon!


Wilder than you can imagine! Explicit beyond belief! 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 30 September! With sensational special offer cocktails on the night!

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 wall for your adult viewing pleasure! Come for the £6 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!

Event page

Friday, 9 September 2016

Buy Ike and Tina Turner's Old House!

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Yes! You can now buy Ike and Tina’s Turner’s former residence! 4263 Olympiad Drive in Los Angeles neighbourhood View Park (once nicknamed “the Black Beverley Hills”) is on the market for $999,000. The current owners bought it from the tempestuous rhythm and blues royal couple in 1977 (Tina left Ike in 1976, so after their stormy marriage imploded).  Miraculously – they kept it almost entirely intact as the Turners left it! Koi fish no longer swim in the living room’s water feature and the erotic murals on the wall appear to be painted-over but otherwise the living room’s curved sofas and the circular bed in the master bedroom (worthy of a brothel) are still in place.  In fact the house is such a perfect time capsule it was used as a location for the 1993 Tina Turner biopic What’s Love Got To Do With It? (Judging by the photos in this link, even the avocado-green rotary phone from the seventies is still in use!).  As an Ike and Tina obsessive (I can't imagine DJ'ing at a Lobotomy Room night without dropping a few tracks by the Ike and Tina Revue) I need to make a religious pilgrimage to this place before the next owners completely renovate it!

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\ The living room sofas were originally upholstered in red velvet \

From what I can gather, Ike and Tina moved into the Olympiad Drive address in the late sixties. The despotic Ike – then at the height of his cocaine psychosis - took charge of the decor. His lurid, wildly kitsch nouveau riche decorating flourishes are worthy of comparison to Elvis’ Graceland or Jayne Mansfield’s Pink Palace.  As Tina’s biographer / ghost writer Kurt Loder vividly describes it in her 1986 volume of memoirs I, Tina“The place looked like a bordello in hell, a Las Vegas nightmare of deep-pile red carpeting, flocked walls, and some of the most bizarre decorative appointments (Tina) had ever seen: a custom-made blue velvet couch with arms that turned into tentacles, a coffee table in the shape of a bass guitar, a waterfall in the family room. Televisions were now housed in cabinets carved to resemble giant snail shells and there was a mirror on the ceiling of the master bedroom. In fact there mirrors everywhere and lots of stained glass, red and gold velvet, eggshell-white wood, plastic plants, burbling aquariums – all of it screaming splendour.”  

As an aghast Tina herself recalled, “The colours surrounded you. One room was all blue. The kitchen was green. (Ike) thought I’d be happy because, yeah, I did like green. But not necessarily in my kitchen. In that way, everything had been done first class, custom-made at the house – I mean, it cost a fortune. But it was poor taste.”  Or should that be gloriously bad taste! 

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/ At home with Ike and Tina (with flocked wallpaper as described above in evidence). Where is that exquisite naive outsider art folk portrait of Ike and Tina now? I'd kill to get my hands on that! /

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/ Ike and Tina's dining room - preserved in amber. Note the vintage avocado green phone /

To save you the hassle, I've scoured the internet looking for photo documentation of Ike and Tina at home in the Olympiad address in the seventies. I didn't come up with much, and none of it is in colour, sadly. But at least we can do some "then and now" comparison:

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/ Phone call for Miss Turner ... the deluxe well-appointed bar. The tropical fish aquarium is now empty /

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/ In the kitchen with Tina. This room is comparatively drab and functional. The kitchen was obviously not a priority for Ike /

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/ Below: Rhythm and blues royalty Ike and Tina in the seventies, their baroque / high rococo phase/

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Read all about the house and see more eye-popping photos here.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Reflections on ... La Dolce Vita (1960)

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/ The glorious Anita Ekberg (1931 - 2015) as Sylvia in La Dolce Vita (1960) /

From the Facebook events page for the Lobotomy Room Goes to the Movies film club on 28 August 2016 at Fontaine's:

Attention, jaded Continental sophisticates! Embrace the spirit of Eurotrash hedonism (and pretend we’re still in the EU) when Lobotomy Room presents a FREE special decadent Bank Holiday Sunday [28 August] screening of Federico Fellini’s carnival-esque and hallucinatory epic masterpiece La Dolce Vita (1960)! You know that iconic image of voluptuous Swedish sex bomb Anita Ekberg frolicking in Rome’s Trevi Fountain? That’s from La Dolce Vita – one of the most stylish movies ever made! It captures the acme of Italian glamour: the cars, the clothes, the nightlife (no one films debauched nightclub, party and orgy scenes like Fellini in his 1960s pomp) and most of all – the sunglasses! While you watch the film, take the edge off your hangover with negronis or glasses of Prosecco! Needless to say it’s illegal to smoke in the Bamboo Lounge, but feel free to keep your shades on!

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Because of the film’s running time (three hours!), the film starts earlier than usual at 6 pm. Arrive circa 5:30 to order your drinks and grab the best seats downstairs in the Bamboo Lounge. (I’ll be down there playing music and screening vintage “nudie cutie” blue movies before the main feature). The film is FREE and seating is limited. If you’re feeling proactive, contact Fontaine’s to reserve a seat in advance: email or call 07718 000546.


The love-hungry, pleasure-chasing international sin set is coming – to Lobotomy Room’s FREE screening of Federico Fellini’s La Dolce Vita THIS Sunday! In the basement Bamboo Lounge of Fontaine’s! It promises to be an orgiastic Bacchanal! See the film condemned by the Catholic Church as blasphemous and banned in Spain until 1975! (By the way: in 2016 keeps deleting this photo saying it violates their standards! La Dolce Vita is still freaking out the squares all these decades later!) /

This represented the first time Lobotomy Room ever presented a serious art film with subtitles! In fact, I warned the attendees: "Do you realise you’ve signed-up for a three-hour black-and-white foreign-language film with subtitles? The doors are now locked – you aren’t going anywhere!" When I first proposed La Dolce Vita to Ruby (Fontaine’s glamorous boss lady), she expressed doubts whether anyone would actually want to sit through it. In fact we pulled-in a more than decent house and everyone sat rapt and intoxicated by Fellini’s vision. His filmmaking is so fluid, swirling and seductive, the three hours flew by.

As usual, before the film I stood up and blurted-out a garbled, half-assed introduction. (My public speaking style can definitely best be described as “blurted”). I definitely mentioned that in the spirit of La Dolce Vita, I had a thunderous hangover that Sunday. Anyway, here is a summary of the points and fun facts I spewed (obviously I've expanded considerably here):

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/ See the world's most handsome man (Marcello Mastroianni in La Dolce Vita) suffer a profound existential crisis! /

Federico Fellini (1920 – 1993) had already made a few great films by this point (I particularly love 1957’s Nights of Cabiria), but the international success of La Dolce Vita really catapulted him to worldwide fame.

The film was sizzling and scandalous for its time. Perhaps inevitably the Catholic Church hated La Dolce Vita, considering it blasphemous (it was banned in Franco's Spain until 1975!). The film lets Fellini have his cake and eat it too: it’s a critique or exposé of the moral bankruptcy and hollowness of “the sweet life” (fame, wealth, celebrity and hedonism) – but we still get to enjoy watching the lengthy lurid scenes of orgies, nightlife and the beautiful people cavorting at length. (Dolce Vita is an “art film” but that’s the template for pretty much all “cautionary” sexploitation films since too!).

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La Dolce Vita takes a state-of-the nation overview of Rome’s post-war upheaval. The themes of alienation and the collapse of conventional morality are personified by the existential angst of its anti-hero Marcello (played by Marcello Mastroianni), torn between art (writing the Great Novel; the world of poetry, philosophy and spirituality espoused by his intellectual friends) and commerce (his job as a sensational tabloid journalist writing about the superficial realms of cafe society and show business).

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To contrast against the tawdry Roman nightlife centred around Via Veneto, mid-way through the film we see Marcello and his fiancée Emma attend his friend Steiner’s intellectual high-toned salon full of poets, artists and the literary set (complete with a sari-clad Asian woman seated on the floor strumming the guitar and singing folk songs and guests reciting poetry aloud).  No doubt I’m missing the point entirely, but the final climactic orgiastic party (where the divorcee does a striptease writhing on the floor) looks far more fun! (Bear in mind this film was made in 1959, so these are orgy scenes where everyone remains fully clothed! See also: Michelangelo Antonioni’s The Red Desert).

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/ One of my favourite party scenes in La Dolce Vita, set in the crumbling ruins of a castle (the gorgeous blonde in the centre of the dissolute aristocrats is Nico!) /

An interesting side note is the presence of clearly-identified gay and cross-dressing characters in several of these nightclub and party scenes.  Fascinating as it is to see frank and overt LGBT representation in a film made in 1959, what’s problematic today is that Fellini seemingly employs them to depict how low Marcello has sunk! (If you’re at a party surrounded by pretty chorus boys frolicking in drag, you’ve basically reached Dante's inner circle of hell).

Seen today, La Dolce Vita is incredibly prescient in its anticipation of the relentless celebrity and gossip culture we are now saturated in and - for better or for worse - take for granted as a constant backdrop to our daily lives.  (This is, famously, the film where the expression “paparazzi” for celebrity photographers came from: Marcello’s sidekick and photographer friend is called Paparazzo).

The film also works as a time capsule of the late fifties period when international film productions started flooding Rome's Cinecittà Studios (leading to it being nicknamed "Hollywood on the Tiber").  A lot of terrible gladiator, sword-and-sandal and Biblical epics were made at Cinecittà during these years, but so too were parts of the mega-budget 1962 Liz Taylor version of Cleopatra. Weirdly, almost all of La Dolce Vita itself was shot within the confines of Cinecittà as opposed to “on location.” (For example, Fellini painstakingly recreated Via Veneto  in the studio). Sadly, the particular studio of Cinecittà  where most of La Dolce Vita was made was destroyed in a fire in 2012

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La Dolce Vita is loosely structured around Marcello’s fleeting encounters with a series of beautiful women. The most fondly-remembered and iconic of these is probably the truly statuesque Anita Ekberg as visiting Hollywood starlet Sylvia, in town to make a film at Cinecittà. (I love it when - during Sylvia’s sensational publicity stunt arrival at the airport - one of the reporters turns to Marcello and admiringly declares her a “magnificent chunk of woman!”). Ekberg is probably essentially playing a cartoonish version of herself, but it’s nice to think Sylvia’s characterisation (especially the campy, cooing little girl delivery) is a bit influenced by Jayne Mansfield.  Like Sylvia and her insecure boozy actor husband (played by Lex Barker), certainly sex kitten-gone-berserk Mansfield and her muscle-bound former Mr Universe husband Mickey Hargitay spent a lot of time stirring up trouble and making terrible movies in Rome in the early sixties. One bit does feel like an explicit tribute to Mansfield: the party scene where Frankie (one of the visiting Hollywood actors working in Rome) hoists Ekberg over his head and twirls her around  – that was one of Mansfield and Hargitay’s favourite attention-seeking party tricks.

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/ Mickey and Jayne in action /

(By the way: the famous Trevi fountain scene was shot in the middle of winter.  Mastroianni wore a wet-suit under his clothes and slugged vodka to keep warm. Fellini recalled that Ekberg didn’t complain about the cold at all).

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Who’s that girl? The mystery blonde with Marcello Mastroianni is – Nico! Yes, that Nico – long before the eternally enigmatic singer was discovered by Andy Warhol and joined the Velvet Underground as husky-voiced chanteuse, German fashion model Nico memorably appeared in La Dolce Vita as one of the series of beautiful women Marcello encounters on his nocturnal jaunts through Roman nightlife. And the role was a real stretch for her – she’s playing a fashion model called Nico!/

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/ Fellini and Nico during the filming of La Dolce Vita /

Still in her early twenties, Nico was then what we now would call an in-demand, international “supermodel." I’m probably not very objective (the gloomy German diva is my all-time favourite singer), but I think her performance in La Dolce Vita is adorable, natural and – perhaps surprisingly considering Nico’s later icily-serious, gravely-composed, heroin-ravaged tortured artist image – very funny.  If you’ve read Richard Witt’s 1993 biography Nico: The Life and Lies of an Icon or seen the 1996 documentary Nico: Icon, you’ll know La Dolce Vita really captures what Nico was like at that period in her life: still un-corrupted, insouciant and childlike, jet-setting around the world on modelling assignments. 

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/ See Anouk Aimee as the most elegant wealthy nymphomaniac in film history! /

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/ The fabulous Anouk Aimee in La Dolce Vita /

The most complex and inscrutable of Marcello’s women is Anouk Aimee as the bored, haughty heiress Maddalena. I’ve already written at length about Modigliani-faced French actress Anouk Aimee’s performance as Maddalena, but seeing La Dolce Vita again I was struck by two things:  1) her voice is dubbed throughout by an Italian actress (having another actor dub someone’s voice was routine in Italian cinema at the time but feels weird today. Aimee’s own distinctive whisper-soft voice is notably different), for most of her screen-time she keeps black sunglasses clamped-on and I suspect the bouffant hairstyle she sports is a wig. So Anouk Aimee is essentially in disguise! But Maddalena’s alluring sense of remote, Garbo-like inscrutability and melancholy is entirely Aimee’s own.  2) Aimee is so thin in La Dolce Vita, she’s almost wraith-like (her waist is worthy of comparison to Vampira’s). Also: virtually all of La Dolce Vita’s main players are dead now.  Aimee is still alive (she’s a very stylish 84-year old).  So is Yvonne Furneaux (now 88), the French actress who plays Marcello’s neurotic and suicidal fiancée Emma.  Furneaux appeared in some pretty distinguished European art films in addition to La Dolce Vita, like the early Antonioni film Le Amiche (1955) and as Catherine Deneuve’s sister in Repulsion (1965). Furneaux really excelled at playing mentally unstable women! 

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If you’ve never watched La Dolce Vita before, anticipate being taken aback by just how troubling the film is. (Afterwards I spoke to one of the attendees who’d never seen the film before. She was surprised by how dark La Dolce Vita was: she was expecting something sweeter and more Audrey Hepburn-esque. ) The film is fondly-remembered as a sentimental classic of mid-century European cinema, but Fellini’s vision is deeply un-consoling, unexpectedly incorporating suicide and infanticide.  (Even religion is depicted as just another cynical form of show business. No wonder the Catholic Church hated it!). La Dolce Vita begins as Marcello’s existential crisis and concludes with his permanent journey into darkness. Bravely, Fellini makes Marcello become progressively more unsympathetic and misogynistic as the film proceeds. (Women get casually slapped around and roughed-up a lot in La Dolce Vita). An enduring masterpiece of style and substance, La Dolce Vita deserves its status as one of the most chic films ever made (the nightclub scenes! The cha cha music!), but it’s the uncompromisingly bleak ending that lingers in your memory.

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/ I love this candid shot. Lunch break on the set of La Dolce Vita! The people assembled here are like European art cinema royalty of the fifties and sixties: Marcello Mastroianni, Anouk Aimee, Federico Fellini and Pier Paolo Pasolini (the controversial queer filmmaker and poet collaborated on La Dolce Vita’s script). Note that they are being serenaded by an accordion player while they dine – the sweet life indeed! /

Tuesday, 23 August 2016

Bow Wow Wow at The Garage on 20 August 2016

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/ The original 1980s line-up of Bow Wow Wow: guitarist Matthew Ashman. bassist Leigh Gorman, vocalist Annabella Lwin and drummer David Barbarossa  /

The last time I saw Bow Wow Wow was in 2012 at The Islington Academy and the line-up featured two of the original members: singer Annabella Lwin and bassist Leigh Gorman. Since then, Annabella and Gorman have clearly fallen-out (Bow Wow Wow was always a rancorous band) and she’s now doing her own incarnation of Bow Wow Wow in which she is the sole originator and is backed by entirely new musicians. (Her version of the band is called Annabella’s Original Bow Wow Wow.  Confusingly, Gorman is continuing with his own edition. Seriously, that would be like Blondie touring without Deborah Harry or The Banshees minus Siouxsie). For all I know a lawsuit has been involved at some point between Gorman and Annabella over ownership of the name. In her between-song banter Saturday night at The Garage Annabella said something along the lines of, “If there are any of my original musicians in the crowd tonight, I hope you understand why I need to do this ...”

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Much as I enjoyed Saturday night, the 2012 gig was infinitely better in musical terms. Bow Wow Wow’s best New Wave-era tunes are catchy and minimalist but deceptively complex and sophisticated with African and Latin polyrhythms and surf guitar influences. It felt like the newbies in the band were loud and powerful, but steamrolled over those nuances.

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The 2012 concert really was a definitive greatest hits performance and I couldn’t complain about the track selections. Last night’s set list was weird and patchy. On plus side: essential stone-cold classics like “C30, C60, C90 Go!”, “Louis Quatorze”, “Mile High Club”, “Aphrodisiac”, “WORK”, “I Want My Baby on Mars”, “Baby Oh No”, “See Jungle (Jungle Boy).” They sounded as sexy, funny, punky and exotic as ever. On the downside: no “Uomo Sex Al Apache” (a 2012 concert highlight), “Elimination Dancing”, “Sexy Eiffel Tower”, "TV Savage" or “Chihuahua”. (To be fair, they seemingly never play “Chihuahua” live. I’d argue that song is Bow Wow Wow’s magnum opus.  I suspect this is because Malcolm McLaren forced Annabella to sing lyrics like “I can’t dance / And I can’t sing / I can’t do anything ...  I’m a rock’n’roll puppet in a band called Bow Wow Wow .. I’m a horrid little idiot / can’t you see ...” etc). They treated “I Want Candy” as the climactic big finale – understandably, because it was their biggest chart hit but it’s not their best song by a long shot (I bet Annabella is secretly sick to death of it).

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Annabella is presumably calling the shots now and she displayed a strange lack of confidence in her own back catalogue. They padded things out with a cover of Nancy Sinatra’s “These Boots Are Made for Walkin'” (an interesting experiment to hear that given a Burundi beat / tribal make-over but hardly essential) and then she introduced a brand new song. And with the best will in the world, it wasn’t good. They really tried to sell it, with Annabella delivering it enthusiastically and grinning hard for the duration (and urging us that “it’s available on iTunes and”) and the bassist giving the thumbs-up (cringe!). But it was frankly mediocre, with  a tired eighties slapped-bass funk sound (Pal said it sounded like the Red Hot Chilli Peppers).

Bow Wow Wow 20 August 2016 at The Garage

The charismatic Annabella herself was on great form. At 49 she’s still gorgeous (killer cheekbones, shapely legs), still kinetic (she dances hard the whole time – she’s like a whirling dervish) and her voice is still an alluring girlish punkette coo. Why isn’t Annabella celebrated as one of the great punk frontwomen just a few notches below Siouxsie and Deborah Harry or the equal of Poly Styrene and Ari Upp? I suspect the rockist Mojo generation simply don’t rate Bow Wow Wow.

Bow Wow Wow 20 August at The Garage

Anyway, something was clearly riling Annabella because a few times between songs she demanded, “Am I too old? Do you think I’m too old? I’ve been told I’m too old.” I’d love to know what that was about. (For what it’s worth: considering she was only 14 when she joined Bow Wow Wow, Annabella is substantially younger than most of her post-punk peers).  Her stage-wear was disappointingly lacklustre:  she was wearing one of her own tour merchandise t-shirts! She’d customised it (shredding it up and wearing it backwards) – but still! This is someone who used to wear head-to-toe Vivienne Westwood pirate gear! And her hair was a shiny, jet-black 100% acrylic wig. In 2012 she sported her own hair in long cornrow braids tied with ribbons. The wig was an odd touch. If Annabella was worried about her hair, she should just resurrect her trademark early eighties Mohawk: no woman ever looked more beautiful with a Mohawk than Annabella.

Bow Wow Wow 20 August at The Garage

Similarly, the crowd was a mixed bag: it’s been a while since I’ve been to a gig where the audience was predominantly older first or second-generation punks. Life had clearly been tough on some of these people. As I hoped, some looked great in vintage Vivienne Westwood. But there was a dismaying amount of older guys wearing anoraks, dad jeans and trainers! You’re letting the side down, people!

Playing us out: classic-era Bow Wow Wow captured onstage in 1982.

Sunday, 14 August 2016

Reflections on ... Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)

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/ The leading ladies of Russ Meyer's Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965): Haji (as Rosie, seated atop Porsche), Lori Williams (as Billie, in white hotpants) and the mighty Tura Satana (as Varla) /

From the 27 July 2016 Facebook events page:

“Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to violence, the word and the act. While violence cloaks itself in a plethora of disguises, its favourite mantle still remains: sex. Violence devours all it touches, its voracious appetite rarely fulfilled. Yet violence doesn’t only destroy – it creates and moulds as well! Let’s examine closely, then, this dangerously evil creation, this new breed, encased and contained within the supple skin of woman… the softness is there, the unmistakable smell of female.  The surface shiny and silken.  The body yielding yet wanton. But a word of caution – handles with care and don’t drop your guard! This rapacious new breed prowls both alone and in packs, operating at any level! Any time! Anywhere! And with anybody! Who are they? One might be your secretary! Your doctor’s receptionist! Or a dancer in a go-go club!”

Yes! The Lobotomy Room Goes to the Movies film selection this month is ultimate sexploitation B-movie Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1966). Perhaps cleavage-fixated director Russ Meyer’s defining masterpiece, it follows a trio of vicious thrill-hungry go-go dancers going on a homicidal rampage in the desert.  As cinema’s sleaze maestro John Waters argues, “Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is beyond a doubt the best movie ever made. It is possibly better than any film that will be made in the future!”

Waters also describes butch, black-clad gang leader Varla “one of the best villains in screen history.” Varla was, of course, portrayed by the late, great tassel-twirling burlesque queen turned snarling Russ Meyer leading lady Tura Satana (1938-2011). The truly Amazonian Satana’s fierce, exotic beauty and powerful screen presence in Faster ensured her perennial cult status. Satana’s birthday would have been this month (10 July). So let’s celebrate all things Tura in an evening of dames, booze, chains and boots! It will leave a taste of evil in your mouth!

As usual: arrive circa 8 pm to order your drinks and grab the best seats. The film starts at 8:30 pm prompt. The film is FREE and seating is limited. If you’re feeling proactive, contact Fontaine’s to reserve a seat in advance: email or call 07718 000546.

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"If you want wild living FAST! And if you want to end up giving your all / That’s because pussycat is living reckless / pussycat is riding high / If you think that you can tame her / Well just you try!”

Spontaneous outbreaks of frantic go-go dancing are encouraged at the FREE 27 July 2016 Lobotomy Room presentation of Russ Meyer’s vicious 1965 sexploitation cult classick Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! downstairs in The Bamboo Lounge of Fontaine’s!

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This was the most successful and rammed Lobotomy Room Goes to the Movies club yet. About 31 attendees were crammed into the Fontaine’s basement Bamboo Lounge – our biggest crowd to date. That may not sound like much, but as far as I knew the place only seated twenty-odd people! I actually had to post an update on Facebook the night before announcing if you hadn’t reserved a seat in advance, not to come to avoid disappointment as we’d reached maximum capacity. Pal and I had to watch the film standing in the DJ booth because there was no seating left!  It’s a real testament to how beloved Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill!  remains well into the twenty-first century. Russ Meyer’s fifty-one year old twisted vision about homicidal go-go dancers running amok in the desert is still enflaming (warping? Corrupting?) peoples’ imaginations.

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As usual, I stood up to give a garbled, blurted introduction to the film, incorporating the following fun facts:

The film premiered in Los Angeles on 6 August 1965. Early working titles included The Leather Girls and The Mankillers.  This was veteran sexploitation maestro Russ Meyer’s fourteenth film. At the time Pussycat came and went without making much of an impression:  just another trashy low-budget B-movie for the drive-in and fleapit grindhouse circuit. (Pussycat was one of the rare Meyer films to lose money at the box office). Seen today, Tura Satana’s ferocious performance as Varla is so sensational and screen-scalding it should have heralded film stardom (even if restricted to the realm of B-movies). Instead, she simply resumed her burlesque career and only made a few more scattered minor film appearances. Lori Williams (who plays blonde sex kitten Billie) admitted that when she was getting lots of TV work in the seventies she deleted Pussycat from her résumé because it was embarrassing to be associated with it.

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Pussycat wasn’t properly re-discovered and reappraised until circa the late seventies and early eighties as scabrous young punk Baltimore filmmaker John Waters rose to prominence and began championing it in his interviews. (Waters first saw Pussycat as a teenager at a Baltimore drive-in. Intoxicated, he then dragged Divine with him to see Pussycat again). In Big Bosoms and Square Jaws (Jimmy McDonough’s essential 2005 biography of Russ Meyer), Waters would succinctly nail Pussycat’s weird allure as “a redneck lesbian killer drama, and because it was black-and -white, somehow arty”. In particular, Waters devoted a whole chapter to his to Meyer (and another of his key influences, Herschell Gordon Lewis) in his 1981 book Shock Value: A Tasteful Book about Bad Taste. Waters’ acclaim – plus The Cramps covering The Bostweeds’ theme tune and the advent of home video in the eighties – is when Pussycat’s status as a much-loved cult film revered by punks, gays, trash-hounds and feminists alike truly began.

Satana and Haji were already friends in real life before Pussycat, having worked together as exotic dancers since the early sixties. The explosive opening scene of the three women frantically go-go dancing was filmed at an actual Los Angeles burlesque club called The Pink Pussycat where Haji and Tura worked (the leering, sweaty-faced men shouting, “Go, baby! Go!” were members of the crew).

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Satana was a burlesque dancer for about 18 years, beginning when she was just 15. By all accounts Satana (real name: Suvaki Yamaguchi) endured a tough childhood and spent time in a reform school. Her ancestry was a spicy mixture of Japanese, Filipino and Cheyenne (American Indian) hence her exotic jasmine-scented looks and why she routinely billed herself as “Miss Japan Beautiful” when she was headlining strip clubs. (Tassel-twirling was her speciality).  Reading some of Satana’s more outrageous interviews, you get the impression she never let the truth get in the way of a good story. For example she claimed to have had a lengthy romance with Elvis Presley and that he proposed marriage. Who would know? Is this romance documented in any of the many Presley biographies? (Not that I begrudge her: great stars like Satana are allowed to embellish and self-mythologize as much as they like).

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/ Above: "Miss Japan Beautiful": Young Tura Satana in her striptease days /

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Of the triumvirate, only Lori Williams is still alive: Satana died in 2011 aged 72. Haji died in 2013 aged 67. Williams is now 70.

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“Billie (Lori Williams) is the femme of the group, the main things on her mind being sex and alcohol. In her white short-shorts, halter top and knee-high patent leather go-go boots, Billie is forever breaking into torrid go-go steps whenever trouble arises.” From John Waters’ 1981 book Shock Value: A Tasteful Book about Bad Taste /

For anyone interested: Satana’s bra size at the time of Pussycat was 38DD. Later in life she was 38FF. Unsurprisingly, the bra Satana wears in Pussycat is from Frederick’s of Hollywood – purveyors of glamour wear for the discerning starlet.

Satana made no secret of genuinely loathing Susan Bernard, the 16-year old actress who played perky cry-baby kidnap victim Linda.  For her part, Bernhard admitted she was actively terrified of the imposing Satana. Bernhard’s panic-stricken, tearful reactions are not acting!

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It’s unfair that Satana’s performance sometimes overshadows those of Lori Williams and Haji, who are both excellent. In particular I love Haji’s depiction of tempestuous Rosie and her thick Mexican “Spanglish” comedy accent. (In real life Haji was French-Canadian and hailed from Quebec – the same part of the world as me).  This is also Haji’s original nose in Pussycat and she was never more beautiful. In subsequent films it was dramatically whittled-down to the standard issue “electric plug socket” starlet nose job ubiquitous in the sixties.

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“(Varla’s) girlfriend Rosie (Haji) is a mean Mexican with a weakness for switchblades who emphasises her many moments of disgust by spitting or picking her teeth with whatever is handy.” From John Waters’ 1981 book Shock Value: A Tasteful Book about Bad Taste /

One thing I intended to mention in my introduction but completely forgot: the implied lesbian relationship between Varla and Rosie, which definitely contributes to Pussycat’s reputation as a LGBT favourite.  (Meyer himself would later – accurately - exclaim about Pussycat’s cult followers: “Lesbians and fags are crazy about it.”). Haji would later relate being surprised when Meyer instructed her to look stricken with jealousy and start to cry when she catches Varla making out on in the hay with a man (Paul Trinka as Kirk). Why? Meyer had never once explained to either actress they were meant to be portraying lovers. And that was mid-way through filming! Haji had no objections to playing a lesbian character, she explained - she just would have approached certain scenes differently had she known. In fact maybe Meyer not telling them was a stroke of genius. As a result, the way Varla and Rosie’s relationship is hinted-at as no big deal rather than spelled-out seems coolly nonchalant and modern. I particularly love it when Rosie snaps to attention and lights Varla’s cigarillo for her like a good submissive. No doubt who is the “top” in that couple.

Also intriguingly queer is Meyer’s appreciative filming of muscle-bound Dennis Busch as the simple-minded, childlike brain-damaged brother known as The Vegetable.  Seemingly an equal opportunity perv, Meyer’s camera lingers over Busch’s sculpted beefcake brawn almost as lovingly (lecherously?) as it does over the women’s décolletage in a surprisingly homoerotic manner. (The scene of The Vegetable pumping weights shirtless wouldn’t look out of place in an Athletic Model Guild film. I was curious if the actor Busch had done any homoerotic physique modelling in the fifties or sixties. Surely Bob Mizer would have swooped on him? A Google search didn’t reveal anything (he may have used a different nom de porn for beefcake modelling). In fact, Google revealed virtually nothing about Busch at all. His IMDb bio, for example, consists of precisely one sentence: “Dennis Busch is an actor, known for Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)”. Who was he?). This is interesting because the ultra-conservative Meyer’s treatment of gay, bisexual and transsexual characters is frequently problematic (they usually end up luridly and brutally killed at the end!). But to be fair, he was pioneering for routinely including such characters in the sixties at all when it was far from the norm. And it’s also nice how Meyer allows Billie in that sequence to frankly and unapologetically ogle The Vegetable’s physique and take the lead initiating sex. Take that, “male gaze” theorists!

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I hadn’t actually watched my Pussycat DVD in many few years so it was a great opportunity to re-visit it. This is surely Meyer’s magnum opus. It holds up beautifully: like John Waters has argued, Pussycat “ages like fine wine.” This is exciting virtuoso filmmaking by any standards. Not a single wasted shot, everything stark, primal and minimal. It’s still as intense, perverse, gritty and kinky as the first time I saw it, probably at London’s Scala cinema in the early nineties. (The Scala regularly held Russ Meyer double bills – bliss!).  The terse, hardboiled but campy dialogue is endlessly quotable. I love the opening strip club sequence of the scantily-clad trio frantically doing the Watusi and later how Meyer films them from looming low angles so that they look truly towering, Amazonian and menacing in the stark desert setting.  Pussycat’s influence on Waters’ sensibility is obvious, especially the perfectly-judged broad acting and the way everyone shouts / snarl their lines. (Satana’s sneering, abrasive delivery definitely anticipates Divine as bad girl dawn Davenport in Female Trouble (1974). Not to mention the black liquid eyeliner).

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“She's a cold one, alright… more stallion than mare. Too much for one man to handle.” /

Varla would be Tura Satana’s only major film role. What a powerful presence! And what a performance: Satana goes from initially sexy to monstrous by the conclusion when she’s become an utterly implacable killing machine. Meyer would later admit that he regretted not engaging Satana for more film roles. Maybe other parts would have been anti-climactic anyway? (I have to admit I’ve never seen Satana’s subsequent films The Asto-Zombies (1968) or The Doll Squad (1973)). Ultimately it probably doesn’t really matter: Satana’s one starring role in Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! ensured her immortality as cinema’s greatest bad girl.

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Further reading:

I highly recommend you track down Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer by Jimmy McDonough on Amazon.

The Miss Meyer blog is devoted to Russ Meyer, sexploitation, horror, cakes, wrestling and other musings. Check it out here.

On a related note, read my interviews with John Waters and Poison Ivy of The Cramps

My next Lobotomy Room Goes to the Movies film club in  the basement Bamboo Lounge of Fontaine's in Dalston is Federico Fellini's swirling decadent masterpiece La Dolce Vita (1960)! Bank Holiday Sunday (28 August). Full details here.