Love & Pride

Yesterday was London’s annual Gay Pride Parade and in usual tradition, me and twenty friends (gay and straight) dressed up to the nines in a common theme.  Last year at “World Pride” we were all dressed in Regency outfits, much to the positive reaction of the press, judging by the number of publications we appeared in after the event!

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This year the theme was “1920s monochrome”.  The theme is usually chosen democratically and decided upon at the Proms gig, each year.  This years theme was chosen well before The Great Gatsby was this year’s summer blockbuster, so it was quite fortuitous and timely that we’d decided to go with this theme.

As soon as I heard which theme was decided I started to plan my outfit in my mind… 1920s to me, meant “flapper” and I usually keep an eye out on my old stalwart in such occasions, eBay!  I already had a beautiful heavily beaded jacket which would be perfect, and I knew I wanted a fringed flapper dress probably in forgiving black.  With my pale Celtic skintone, white is *so* not my colour!  The white props would, I decided, be embellishments rather than the main colour of the theme.

I was lucky enough to find the perfect dress in my size for just £10 on eBay!  What a bargain!  The only “downside” was that when it arrived, it was *very* short.  I decided to go with it anyway, wear fishnets and shimmy with my fabulous fringing regardless.  Others bits and pieces of my outfit were acquired (namely my Louise Brooks-esque wig courtesy of author and friend, Vg Lee), other props and accoutrements bought along the way to finish off my outfit.   1920s make up tips were gathered from YouTube and some of the items were things I had already.  After watching The Great Gatsby, I had some ideas to further embellish my outfit.  As my friend Jon advocates “nothing exceeds like excess” and what better time to exceed than at Gay Pride!?

As the day approached I had two dress/make up/wig rehearsals to ensure I was happy with my chosen combination of items.  My main concern was the wig; it was very short dark hair and my natural hair is very long blonde!  Last year I was wearing a blonde Marge Simpson-esque Regency hair piece under which I could have fit my lunch… this year was going to prove more of a challenge as it was very short and close fitting to the head.  I bought clips and a wig cap to ensure no stray blonde locks made an unsightly appearance so I was prepared as I was ever going to be.  I had woken that morning feeling more nervous than on my wedding day however, I needn’t have worried because, on the day, it all came together like a dream!

We met, as usual, at Sal’s pub, The Shaston Arms in the centre of London just off Carnaby Street to finish off getting ready, partake of our first glass of champagne of the day, and generally greet people as they arrived.  After the traditional photo session outside the pub in glorious sunshine, and our first photos with strangers who admired our look (an older couple from California being the most appreciative) we made our way along Carnaby Street towards our usual position on Bond Street outside Gap.

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We arrived at our pitch and were immediately asked for photographs from many passing tourists; at the last count they were from Pakistan, Dubai, France, Spain, Brazil, Australia, Canada and the USA… A truly global affair!  We also were papped by many a freelance photographer, mostly of Sal and I; her in her white outfit and me in my black one.  The challenge now is to spot ourselves in some of the many publications post-Pride.  We did quite well last year! 😉

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I love my Pride days with my friends, we always have such an amazing time all dressed up!  The anticipation, the getting ready, the pre-Pride drinks and gossip, the photo calls, the shouts of “you look amazing” from total strangers, then joining the Pride procession and the admiration along the way, going to the pub after the event and catching up with dear friends, and even going home afterwards, seeing all the photos and comments afterwards.  I love it all!  Our one day of the year we can truly be in the spotlight!  I wonder what next year’s theme is going to be….?!

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Visiting the Masquerade Macabre

Last night, a contingent of Polari regulars and others schlepped northwards to the leafy borough of Highgate, to see Marcus Reeves perform his new album “Quicksilver – The Masquerade Macabre” at Jackson Lane as part of their season of cabaret artistes.  This series also included Mat Ricardo, juggler and raconteur, who I first saw at the Edinburgh fringe last year in the Voodoo Rooms and who performed at Jackson Lane last Saturday.

I met John-John first and so in typical tradition we found the nearest pub, where Tony and Paul joined us later.  It was a very nice pub, but then again Highgate is a very nice area.  In the ladies I was astounded to see a chandelier which wouldn’t look out of place in a top class nightclub in Central London!
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We decided to make our way to the venue to bag a decent seat.  It was delightful to see Lauren (aka Rebecca Chance) there with some other Polari regulars.  As it happens, June’s Polari had been scheduled for the same evening and unwittingly we had booked to see Marcus first before the Polari dates had been released. 

Marcus’ show was a testament to his talent.  He had put a lot of hard work into bringing this show to life, and quite frankly, it showed.  All five musicians, plus backing singers made for an impressive accompaniment to Marcus’ act.  The centre of the stage was adorned with a massive glittery faced mask, Marcus’ trademark look, behind which he appeared resplendent in a headpiece which would put any Rio-carnival babe to shame. 

The show took us through a journey, with monologue narratives spoken before each piece and linked all the songs together to form one continuous daisy chained theme of love, lust, and loss.  Themes of temporary love affairs, the reality behind our own masks, and the sometimes fleetingness of love and all its fickle ways.  At the end of the show you felt like you’d been taken on a glittery, dark journey, and back again.  Superb stuff!
 
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As we made our way out to the foyer, I was surprised and delighted to see my friend, and singer David McAlmont.  I haven’t seen David since his Hippodrome show back in November (where I also met Adamski and record producer Guy Sigsworth who has just produced Alison Moyet’s wonderful album “the minutes” and has worked with the likes of Kylie and Madonna in the past, but, I digress!) so it was fabulous to see him and catch up.

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After a few photographs and collecting our CD’s in digipack format, which are equally professionally produced with stunning artwork and lyrics (I hate it when albums don’t have these things!) we said our goodbyes and made our way to our respective homes into the warm London night.

If “nothing exceeds like excess”, then by the same reasoning “nothing succeeds like success” and Marcus deserves tonnes of this commodity, with respect to his new album.  Good luck Marcus, and thanks for a brilliant show!

 

 

The Day I Met John Paul Gaultier

To say that this weekend has been one of contrasts in a bit of an understatement.

On Saturday it was my birthday… one notch closer to the fearsome 5-Oh! but thankfully still quite a bit of time to go before I meet that particular milestone!

I celebrated it in a low key way on Saturday itself.  I’d always wanted to go to Borough Market, and being complete foodies we imagined ourselves to be in foodie heaven.  When we arrived out of London Bridge station, we were faced with the biggest erection in London… The Shard.  Tourists were stood directly outside the station blocking the way and generally doing what tourists do!  We manouvered our way past them and found the market right next door… a couple of fruit and veg stalls selling the freshest looking strawberries, asparagus, cherries etc.  We pointed out some of the more unusual fayre to our son.  He definitely knows that chips come from potatoes which grow in the ground, and not from McDonalds in a cardboard cup!

The market was beginning to get busy.  We bought our boy a sausage on a bun, freshly cooked with Cumberland sausages, fried onions and tomato ketchup.  He wolfed it down and we each had a bite too.  It was very tasty.  Wandering thru the market there were lots of tasting opportunities which delighted me no end.  Some delicious paella here, Comte cheese there, and Black Pudding over there (which I bought although it was in a most unusual terrine shape… when I asked the seller why that was, he shrugged his shoulders and said “I don’t know”… so much for a plethora of knowledgeable individuals who cared about the wares they were selling!!  Myth exploded….)  We found a stall selling Portuguese Tarts, a delicacy we had enjoyed very much on a family holiday 3 years ago, to the Algarve.  The snappy seller bit my head off when I pointed out the particular tarts we wanted.  Needless to say she got short shrift from me for that outburst, which I felt was completely unnecessary! 😉  This visit was turning out to be quite disappointing; not the friendly bunch of fellow foodies I was imagining.

After wandering around for a bit more, we bought some fresh seasonal asparagus and a punnet of cherries.  Some of the terrine shaped black pudding completed the total of our haul.  Quite pitiful really as we were planning to spend lots of money!

We decided to have a wander around the vicinity; London is great for stumbling up on places you didn’t know existed, once you scratch the surface and explore.  We went into Southwark Cathedral, which was very nice inside; much as you’d expect any Cathedral to be with the exception of “purchasing a permit to photograph”.  Even the Church of England has cottoned on to commercial savvy-ness!

Walking away from the Cathedral and towards the Thames we found the Golden Hinde, nestled between the buildings, “The Clink” (a prison museum), and on the Southbank itself, The Globe Theatre, not far from Tate Modern.  We sat on the bench outside the art gallery where a young accordion player was setting up.  I was delighted to listen to his accordion music, and when he sang, he sounded just like a Russian Patrick Wolf!  I loved him and showed my appreciation in the international way of thanks…. by giving him some money.

We went home and ordered a delicious traditional Chinese meal (no takeaway usual fayre for us… my hubby is Chinese, so it has to be good, and it has to be authentic!) and after putting our boy to bed, chilled out on the sofa.  Comfortable, cosy, low key and lovely.

The next day, Sunday, I had been invited to see Boy George by my Facebook and Twitter friend Stu Powell.  In usual social networking style, we’d exchanged many messages and even sent each other cards and gifts in the post, but hadn’t yet met as Stu lives in North Wales, and me, just outside London.  Our paths hadn’t crossed in “real life” and I was delighted that I would be getting to meet not only Stu, but also Debs, and Monique who were also attending the gig.

The Boy George community is pretty much like the Marc Almond one in that all the fans seems to know each other, and some had traveled far and wide; Canada, USA, France, even Singapore, just to see their hero sing.  Marc also has fans who travel equally mind- boggling distances, such is their love for him.

I offered to be chief photographer for a lot of Stu’s friends who wanted their picture with him.  One such French fan (who shall remain nameless) was talking to me.  We also sat behind them in the Queen Elizabeth Hall.  So I was even more curious to know why this person, who I had had ‘just’ encountered, had blocked me on Twitter two weeks beforehand!  People are strange. and social networking is even stranger!

George himself was fabulous.  He performed lots of new material which his fans sat and absorbed intently.  A few old favourites were thrown into the mix; a new arrangement for “Do You Really Want to Hurt Me” which I remember watching on TOTP back in 1982, “Victims”, “Karma Chameleon” and “Everything I Own”.  Most of the arrangements on George’s songs were reggae-based and this seems to be the direction he is maintaining with his new material.  There was one country-based song thrown into the mix (a song which George said his mother likes very much).  All in all he gave a good performance but I feel that the mix of old and new songs which a bit disjointed and the audience didn’t know how to react; listen and enjoy the new songs, then go wild for the old favourites (which in hindsight might have been better lumped together so the audiences could get up and stay standing/dancing for a block of songs rather than just the odd one or two…)

After the show I saw that Simon Calder (the travel journalist) who was sat two rows behind us.  He bolted off to the exit, never to be seen again.  In the foyer I saw my new BFF Wayne and his new bf Michael, who is also very nice!  I also saw my lovely friend BeN, and we agreed that a proper catch up was in order… Hope to see him properly again very soon!  I then saw Monique, Deb and Fiona and was telling them about Simon Calder.  “John Paul Gaultier is over there” said Fi.  I looked across the foyer and such enough was the internationally renowned, and famous fashion designer himself.

I thought to myself “I’m never going to get the opportunity to talk to this man again” so I sauntered over and politely touched his arm to gather his attention.   I introduced myself and said hello.  He asked me if I enjoyed the show and we chatted briefly.  His companion Constantinos told me that JPG was putting on an anniversary show/exhibition at the Barbican next year.  That’s definitely one to look out for as I’m a big fan of his designs.

In hindsight I should’ve asked for a photograph with him!  Why didn’t I do that?  I suppose I didn’t want to intrude on his privacy too much, although five minutes later tonnes of people were having photos taken with him.  I cursed my politeness and felt I’d missed my opportunity as the crowds hoarded round him desperate for a shot committed to digital image… ah well… I was thrilled enough to have met him an talked to him…. something to tell the grand-kids, about the day I met John Paul Gaultier.

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The Goddess Returns

Last night I went to see Siouxsie Sioux of famed punk/goth/alternative band the Banshees at the Southbank Centre as part of Yoko Ono’s Meltdown Festival.

The ticket was very kindly procured on my behalf by my Marc Almond friend and Southbank Member, Lisa from Bristol, ensuring that I had a ticket and a good seat, to boot. I was located in Row BB, which is the first row in the rear stalls just behind the mixing desk.  I was located centrally just to the left of the desk, ensuring I had the most wonderful view.  I have since learned that the chap dancing enthusiastically in front of me is a friend… but I could only see the back of his head so didn’t know it was him!

I arrived at the Southbank Centre around 7pm and was greeted by the wonderful sight of middle aged goths, just like me!  Magnificent hair, interesting clothes and lots of laughter… I was almost transported to my goth-hey days of the mid 1980’s… Lord knows I was wearing enough eyeliner!

I met up with my friend Fabrizio and we discussed the array of styles of the mixed crowd, before making our way into the hall to watch the support, Viv Albertine, ex-lead singer of The Slits.  I only know a couple of their back catalogue, but heard neither of these songs.  What I did hear was a mixed bag, but perfectly listenable.

During the interval, I hooked up with Fabi again and amid a mini drama concerning his lost concert ticket, we enjoyed a quick drink before making our way back into the concert hall.  There were still a few minutes before the main attraction was due on stage, and I idly glanced around to see if I could see anyone else I knew.  Lauren and Jayne shouted me from behind (it took a couple of seconds for me to realise it was my attention they were trying to attract!)  I then saw Marc Almond fans Tracy, and Garry and frantically waved across the Festival Hall.  I got chatting to the bloke sat next to me, a Northerner from Middlesborough.

Moments later the hall lights dimmed and the crowd stood, eager to greet the goddess that was to appear on stage.  After the band took their places, Siouxsie shimmied onto the stage wearing a white PVC outfit with fitted bodice and flared full-length skirt.  It was contrasted by a black harness, around her waist and shoulders.

The heavy music filled the air, and the crowd started to go crazy.  Siouxsie sang  “Happy House”, one of the Banshee’s earliest singles and the crowd bobbed along appreciatively to the familiar tune.  Next song, was “Trophy”, then “Tenant”.  I could see a pattern emerging here but did anyone else guess what was happening?!  “Kaleidoscope” is one of my favourite SATB albums and the song “Desert Kisses” has unexplainedly been on my mind during this past week, so I played the album during the week and enjoyed listening to the old classics.  Little did I realise, that Siouxsie would re-create the album, track for track on the Southbank stage!  I was besides myself with happiness and tingles of excitement were literally playing along my spine like a glockenspiel!  “Clockface”, “Red Light” and the rest of the songs from “Kaleidoscope” followed to a highly appreciative audience…. Unfortunately the two women stood to my right weren’t quite so appreciative, and I wondered what they were doing at the gig, as they were stood motionless like showroom dummies amidst the rest of the crowd who were going crazy, not least of all, me!  I screamed, whooped, cheered and flayed my arms about with relish.  At one point “misery number 1” actually had her fingers in her ears!  I desperately wanted to ask her what the hell she was doing there, when so many of my friends would have killed to be in her position.  The gig was a sell-out, so much so that a second date was added for Monday, and there they were, unmoved by the exciting music and putting their fingers in the ears!

Somewhere along the line, the long skirt from Siouxsie’s outfit was removed to reveal a pair of knee high boots an white PVC leggings forming part of a jumpsuit!  Sioux left the stage after the “Kaleidoscope” section of the gig ended and returned to sing some old classics such as “Israel”, “Arabian Knights” “Dear Prudence”, “Cities in Dust” and “Face to Face” which was used in one of the old Batman films about 14 years ago, accompanied by Bat Lights being shone on the ceiling of the Festival Hall.  There were a few tracks from Siouxsie’s solo album, “Mantaray”, namely “Loveless” “Here Comes That Day” and “Into a Swan” which sat very nicely along the old classics.

All in all it was an amazing gig.  It would have been nice to have seen Siouxsie perform a duet with Yoko Ono, or something similar.  In fact Lennon’s widow didn’t even make an appearance which I found slightly strange, as it was “her” Meltdown!  I would have also liked to have heard a Creatures track, or two.  But given the goddess’s estrangement from Creatures partner and ex-husband Budgie, I guess the painful memories were too strong.

I’m being extremely picky and self-indulgent here…. I was just very grateful to see her perform live again, and was left wondering whether this would be the last time I would see her doing so.

I hope, for all our sakes, it is not.

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