Sunday, 12 July 2015

Lobotomy Room at Fontaine's 26 June 2015

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/ Flyer cover girl: Jayne Mansfield and chihuahua. Artwork by Ego Rodriguez Illustration /

From the Facebook events page:

Leave all sense of shame and propriety at the door - when LOBOTOMY ROOM returns to its new home, the subterranean Bamboo Lounge of opulent Art Deco vice palace Fontaine’s!

At last - a club night for the hillbilly beau monde! LOBOTOMY ROOM! Where sin lives! A punkabilly booze party! A spectacle of decadence for the permissive Continentally-minded! A Mondo Trasho evening of Beat, Beat Beatsville Beatnik Rock’n’Roll! Rockabilly Psychosis! Wailing Rhythm and Blues! Twisted Tittyshakers! Punk Cretin Hops! 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!

Lobotomy Room: Faster. Further. Filthier.

A tawdry good time guaranteed!

Lobotomy Room 26 June 2015 at Fontaine's

This represented the debut Lobotomy Room at what should hopefully be its permanent new home - the bijou Art Deco surroundings of Fontaine’s cocktail lounge in Dalston! (OK, the Dalston/Stoke Newington border if you want to be pedantic).  The place is exquisite: so frou frou and chi chi it feels like you’re inside a silver-and-blue 1930s jewellery box. Glancing around, you half expect Jean Harlow to sashay in at any moment and order a Tom Collins at the bar.


Bestival 2012 008

/ A shot I snapped of Emerald Fontaine in action at the Time for Tease tent at Bestival in 2012 /

The boss woman behind Fontaine’s is Miss Ruby Martin, who I first encountered in the Dr Sketchy days when she used to bump and grind as a burlesque showgirl under the show biz name Emerald Fontaine. (We bonded over our shared mania for everything John Waters). Ruby has a great eye for luxe details: who knew I’d ever wind up DJ’ing at a place with candles, fresh flowers and silver-painted palm trees? She even provided me with my own lit-up pink flamingo in the DJ booth for extra-filthy Divine inspiration. If everything goes according to plan, I’ll be there in the air-conditioned darkened womb of Fontaine's basement Bamboo Lounge the last Friday of every month for the rest of 2015. Watch your step coming down those steps after a few drinks! Just think – I’ll be dragging this impeccably elegant cocktail lounge down to my level!

Lobotomy Room 26 June 2015 at Fontaine's

/ DJ'ing isn't a terribly photogenic thing: me at work /

The Lobotomy Room re-launch was a bit more low-key (as in: sparsely-attended!) than I ideally would have liked. It coincided with the weekend of Pride and Glastonbury – who knows? But the elite group of Lobotomy Room stalwarts (and some new faces) present were hip, enthusiastic - and most importantly danced to my putrid selections of musical vintage sleaze. Onwards and upwards! The latest incarnation of Lobotomy Room is off to a promising start.  


Lobotomy Room 26 June 2015 at Fontaine's

/ The bartenders in the Bamboo Lounge - intoxicating in more ways than one /

Lobotomy Room 26 June 2015 at Fontaine's

/ Christopher (aka Christophina) and Abigail /

Lobotomy Room 26 June 2015 at Fontaine's

/ The Portuguese contingent /

Lobotomy Room 26 June 2015 at Fontaine's

/ Dance-floor revelers /

Lobotomy Room 26 June 2015 at Fontaine's

/ Sarah, Lauren, Christophina and Abigail /

Lobotomy Room 26 June 2015 at Fontaine's

/ The Chet Baker de nos jours - Danny Mcvey /

Lobotomy Room 26 June 2015 at Fontaine's

/ Charlie and Sarah /

Lobotomy Room 26 June 2015 at Fontaine's

/ Lauren /

Lobotomy Room 26 June 2015 at Fontaine's

/ Bad Girls Go to Hell: Lauren and Sarah - The Women of Lobotomy Room /

Lobotomy Room 26 June 2015 at Fontaine's

/ Me (and pink flamingo) behind the DJ booth /

Lobotomy Room 26 June 2015 at Fontaine's

/ Sarah, Lauren and Christophina /

Lobotomy Room 26 June 2015 at Fontaine's

/ Lauren and Christophina - aka blues-punk duo Spanking Machine /

Taboo - The Shangaans
Der Karibische Western - Lydia Lunch
High Wall - The Fabulous Wailers
Tough Chick - The Rockbusters
La Sorella Di Cristina - Andrea Tosi
Voodoo Dreams / Voodoo - Les Baxter
Xtabay (Lure of the Unknown Love) - Yma Sumac
Misirlou - Bob Kames
Monkey Bird - The Revels
Kismiaz - The Cramps
Quiet Village - Martin Denny
Fever - Edith Massey
These Boots Are Made for Walkin' - Mrs Miller
Mamie's Place - Bing Day
One Mint Julep - Sarah Vaughan
Mama Looka Boo Boo - Robert Mitchum
Go Calypso - Mamie Van Doren
One Monkey Don't Stop No Show - Big Maybelle
Ain't That Good? George Kelly and Orchestra
Twist Talk - Jack Hammer
Boots - Nero and The Gladiators
Egg Man - Edith Massey
Beatnik - The Champs
I Will Follow Him - Little Peggy March
Intoxica - The Centurions
Bombora - The Original Surfaris
Fever - Nancy Sit
Jailhouse Rock - Masaaki Hirao
That's Why I'm Asking - Carl Dobkins Jr with Lew Douglas, His Orchestra and Chorus
I Want Your Love - The Cruisers
I Got Stung - Elvis Presley
Adult Books - X
Wiped-Out - The Escorts
I Live the Life I Love - Esquerita
Johnny Lee - Faye Adams
Raging Sea - Gene Maltais
Poor Little Baby - Billy Crash Craddock
Let's Have a Party - Wanda Jackson
Deuces Wild - Link Wray
Bop Pills - Macy Skipper
One Hand Loose - Charlie Feathers
Love Me - The Phantom
Woodpecker Rock - Nat Couty and The Braves
She Said - Hasil Adkins
I Stubbed My Toe - Bryan "Legs" Walker
Whistle Bait - Larry Collins
Jim Dandy - Sara Lee and The Spades
C'mon Everybody - Sid Vicious
Breathless - X
Do You Remember Rock'n'Roll Radio? The Ramonetures
Comin' Home, Baby - The Delmonas
Motorcycle Maniac - Bobby Warren
Harley Davidson - Brigitte Bardot
Hot Pearl Snatch - The Cramps
Lightning's Girl - Nancy Sinatra
Cretin Hop - The Ramones
Woo-hoo - The Rock-A-Teens
I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield - The 5,6,7,8s
That Makes It - Jayne Mansfield
Here Comes the Bug - The Rumblers
Muleskinner Blues - The Fendermen
Shortnin' Bread - The Readymen
Surfin' Bird - The Trashmen 
Rock Around the Clock - The Sex Pistols
Johnny Hit and Run Pauline - The Ramonetures
Nausea - X
Margaya - The Fender Four
Woman - Peggy Lee
Lucille - Masaaki Hirao
The Girl Can't Help It - Little Richard
Sweetie Pie - Eddie Cochran
Fools Rush In - Ricky Nelson
Devil in Disguise - Elvis Presley
Dance with Me, Henry - Ann-Margret
What Do You Think I Am? Ike and Tina Turner
Wipe-Out - The Surfaris
How Much Love Can One Heart Hold? Joe Perkins and The Rookies
Killer - Sparkle Moore
Money, Money - Big John Taylor
Where's My Money? Willie Jones
Welfare Cheese - Emanuel Laskey
Party Lights - Claudine Clark
Heartbreak Hotel - Buddy Love
Female Trouble - The Melvins
Last Call for Whiskey - Choker Campbell
Breathless - Arlie Neaville
Cocktails for Two - Cliff Duphiney
My Way - Nina Hagen

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Further reading:

Read about all the previous Lobotomy Rooms to date hereherehereherehereherehereherehere and here.

Follow me on tumblr for all your rancid kitsch and homoerotic vintage sleaze needs!

See the rest of the photos from this Lobotomy Room on my flickr page.

Read some rave reviews for Fontaine's here and here.

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Remember: the next Lobotomy Room at The Bamboo Lounge of Fontaine's is Friday 31 July 2015. Carve the date into your flesh!







Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Reflections on ... John Waters' Role Models (2010)

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(In preparation for swapping my creaky 8-year old PC for a gleaming new laptop, I'm combing through and sorting old files of ancient photos and documents and deleting crap. I came across this review I wrote of John Waters' 2010 book Role Models. It appeared on the alternative art and culture Nude website at the time, but that was yanked down a few years ago now, so I'm posting it here for posterity). 

There’s an illuminating anecdote in Prince of Puke John Waters’ new book. In 1957 aged 11 he shoplifted a Little Richard record.  Sneaking it onto the hi-fi at his grandmother’s house, Waters felt a spasm of pleasure at the horrified reaction when The Bronze Liberace started wailing “Lucille”: “In one magical moment, every fear of my white family had been laid bare: an uninvited, screaming flamboyant black man was in the living room.” His impulse to épater le bourgeois was already seething even in childhood.

Role Models profiles the various personalities who've warped the wworld-view of cinema’s trash virtuoso, encompassing people from fashion, music, pornography, literature – plus a former member of the Manson Family. Most interesting are the freaks from subterranean Baltimore who anticipate the gallery of grotesques from Waters’ films:  a teenage drag queen called Pencil (“rabidly enticing despite his repellent packaging”); Zorro the alcoholic stripper who’d stumble onto the stage already naked snarling, “What the fuck are you looking at?”

Waters shares his thoughts on modern art (“Isn't that the job of contemporary art? To infuriate?”), his ideal death (spontaneous combustion), a social history of his favourite squalid Baltimore dive bars, his philosophy of success (“True success is figuring out your life and career so you never have to be around jerks”),even his beauty tips (his signature moustache is augmented with Maybelline Expert Eyes in Velvet Black eyeliner).

For Waters, reading Tennessee Williams revealed, “There was another world ... a universe filled with special people who didn't want to be a part of this dreary conformist life that I was told I had to join.” For many of us, Waters himself has served a similar role. Trenchant but generous, Role Models reads like missives from a wise uncle for the maladjusted who counsels, “Make friends with your neuroses.”



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All of the above photos are swiped from the current issue of i-D magazine. It's a must-have, featuring a lovingly-done interview and fashion spread / homage (by Alasdair McLellan) to cult cinema king and “the peoples’ pervert” John Waters shot on location in Baltimore. It incorporates portraits of Waters, his great regular character actress Mink Stole, a shot of Divine’s tombstone and a fashion model clad in Miuccia Prada’s spring/summer 15 Miu Miu range (inspired by Waters’ 1974 masterpiece Female Trouble) and styled to evoke bad girl Cookie Mueller (1949-1989). The hair and make-up people nicely capture Mueller’s tousled beehive hair-do and winged Brigitte Bardot-style black liquid eyeliner – but the model is considerably softer-looking than the actual tough-as-nails Cookie, and doesn't have Mueller’s home-made tattoos.

Read my epic 2010 interview with Waters here.


Thursday, 11 June 2015

Cockabilly DJ Set List 10 June 2015

Rare Color Photo Of Brando on the set of The Wild One

/ The human face of Cockabilly: Marlon Brando in The Wild One (1953). Brando and his biker gang The Black Rebel Motorcycle Club in juvenile delinquent flick The Wild One remain the absolute visual / sartorial ideal for male rockabillies today in the way that, say, Bettie Page or Mamie Van Doren do for female rockabilly kittens. Considering the film dates from 1953, it’s actually pre-rock’n’roll (in the cafe where the bikers hang out, the jukebox blares loud, frantic bebop jazz). Brando in this film anticipates punk, when it still meant someone who was raped in prison. Plus: for me surly young Brando in his biker cap and leather jacket is one of the most (homo) erotic images of all time / 

As promised / threatened on Cockabilly’s Facebook group page:

Drag a comb through your quiff, swallow a fistful of bop pills and rock around the cock – at COCKABILLY!
COCKABILLY returns to the louche surroundings of The George & Dragon in Shoreditch on Wednesday 10 June 2015! Leather boys, gay greasers, cry-babies, prison wives and juvenile delinquents of all ages are welcome at Cockabilly - London’s only regular queer rockabilly night! With DJ Mal Practice (aka Mal Nicholson) and I spinning all your favourite rancid vintage sleaze classicks! Think rockabilly, rhythm and blues, surf, punk and tittyshakers!
The George & Dragon: 2-4 Hackney Road London E2 7NS
8-midnight
FREE

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This was the first Cockabilly since April (right after I got back from the annual Viva Las Vegas rockabilly weekender). It felt great to be back behind the decks at The George & Dragon. Here’s what I played in my hour-long set:

Do You Remember Rock'n'Roll Radio? The Ramonetures
Wailin' - The Fabulous Wailers
Killer - Sparkle Moore
Beat Girl - ZZ en de Maskers
Money Money - Big John Taylor
Woo-Hoo - The Rock-A-Teens
I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield - The 5,6,7,8s
That Makes It - Jayne Mansfield
It's a Gas - The Rumblers
Jailhouse Rock - Masaaki Hirao
Funnel of Love - Wanda Jackson
Let's Go, Baby - Billy Eldridge
Poor Little Baby - Billy "Crash" Craddock
C'mon Everybody - The Sex Pistols
Deuces Wild - Link Wray
Johnny Hit and Run Pauline - X
Your Phone's off the Hook - The Ramonetures
Ring of Fire - The Earls of Suave
Lucille - Little Richard
Jim Dandy - Ann-Margret
Fools Rush In - Ricky Nelson
Wipe Out - The Surfaris
Tina's Dilemma - Ike and Tina Turner


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Further reading:

Read all about the sordid antics at previous Cockabillies hereherehereherehereherehereherehereherehere,  here, herehereherehere and here.

Follow me on tumblr for all your retro, kitsch and homoerotic vintage sleaze needs! 


Most urgently: scrawl the date Friday 26 June 2015 in blood! It's when LOBOTOMY ROOM (my semi regular Mondo Trasho punkabilly booze party club night) returns - at its new home, the basement Bamboo Lounge of Fontaine's in Dalston!


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Monday, 1 June 2015

Vip Vop DJ Set List 3 May 2015

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Since getting back from my US trip to Viva Las Vegas and New Orleans, I’m a good ten “art projects” behind. So I’m only just now getting around to blogging my set list from my DJ’ing guest spot at Vip Vop, DJ Gavin A GoGo’s vicious little rock’n’roll honky tonk night at The Stag’s Head in Haggerston.

Sunday 3 May 2015 fell on a bank holiday – bliss! That meant I could properly party and let it all hang out without worrying about having a hangover at work on Monday. And boy, did I! The festivities started at The Glory in Haggerston – London’s new epicentre of gay Bohemia and definitely one of my “happiest places” in London these days.  The Glory celebrated Bank Holiday Sunday with a trashy, boozy afternoon hillbilly barn dance. The proposed dress code was red and white gingham shirts (I dutifully wore mine!). Think people drinking beer while sitting on bales of straw, the DJs playing kitsch country and western music (as Pal and I entered, the first song I heard was by the sublime Bobbi Gentry; I just about jizzed), line dancing and the reliably anarchic and sewer-mouthed host John Sizzle dragged up as Dolly Parton.  

The most glamorous attendee was veteran New York cabaret artist Justin Vivian Bond, who I’ve revered since the Kiki and Herb days. It’s been a good few years since I’ve seen Bond perform and v [the pronoun Bond prefers over "him" or "her"] looks pretty sensational these days, with a long straight mane of blonde hair reminiscent of Nico on the cover of her 1967 Chelsea Girl album. After a few beers I plucked up the liquid courage to approach Bond and tell v about the first time I ever saw v perform: it was 1999 at the sadly defunct queer punk club Squeezebox in New York. Bond sang Marianne Faithfull’s “Broken English.” Bond’s eyes lit up at the memory of Squeezebox and asked, “Was I any good?”

From there, considerably refreshed after several hours at The Glory, Pal and I walked around the corner to The Stag’s Head for Vip Vop.  DJ Gavin AGoGo has an absolutely killer night and it was a pleasure to be a part of it. As you can see from the berserk photos, the night descended into a total rockabilly booze party bacchanal. (There’s no way I could have made it to work the next day). I played two sets alternating with Gavin. At one point the barmaid was threatening to close the place at 11 pm. Gavin found the manager and persuaded him to let us continue to play until midnight. That explains my second shorter set. I think I’ll let the photos do the talking now.


Vip_Vop_3_May_2015 (2)

/ Bad Girls Go to Hell: The Women of Vip Vop

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/ Pal and I /

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/ These people are bad news /

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/ The adorable Sarah /

Vip_Vop_3_May_2015_16

/ DJ Gavin A GoGo /

Vip_Vop_3_May_2015_17

/ Christophina wearing the Cramps t-shirt I bought him at Viva Las Vegas /

Here Comes the Bug - The Rumblers
Let's Have a Party - Wanda Jackson
Ah! Poor Little Baby - Billy "Crash" Craddock
Goin' Down That Road - Ersel Hickey
Let's Go, Baby - Billy Eldridge
Motorcycle Maniac - Bobby Warren
Beat Girl - ZZ en De Maskers
Vampira - Bobby Bare
Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! The Bostweeds
Your Phone's off the Hook - The Ramonetures
We're Desperate - X
Esquerita and The Voola - Esquerita
Tough Bounce - The Fabulous Wailers
It's a Gas - The Rumblers
Like a Rolling Stone - Mamie Van Doren
Lucille - Masaaki Hirao
How Much Love Can One Heart Hold? Joe Perkins and The Rookies
The Girl Can't Help It - Little Richard
Jim Dandy - Ann-Margret
Rock-A-Bop - Sparkle Moore
I've Told Every Little Star - Linda Scott
Little Miss Understood - Connie Stevens
I Will Follow Him - Little Peggy March
Devil in Disguise - Elvis Presley
Fools Rush In - Ricky Nelson
Domino - Roy Orbison
Love Me - The Phantom
Whistle Bait - Larry Collins
Jim Dandy - Sara Lee and The Spades
Rawhide - Link Wray

Set 2

Blitzkreig Bop - The Ramonetures
Tina's Dilemma - Ike and Tina Turner
I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield - The 5,6,7,8s
That Makes It - Jayne Mansfield
Pass the Hatchet - Roger and The Gypsies
Breathless - Arlie Neaville
Muleskinner Blues - The Fendermen
Shortnin' Bread - The Readymen
Surfin' Bird - The Trashmen
Chicken - The Cramps
Chicken Walk - Hasil Adkins
Run Chicken Run - Link Wray
Chicken Grabber - The Nite Hawks

Further reading:

The next Cockabilly - the first since April! - is Wednesday 10 June 2015.

My next Mondo Trasho punkabilly Lobotomy Room club night - at its new home, opulent Art Deco vice palace Fontaine's - is Friday 26 June 2015.


LOBOTOMY_ROOM photo LoboFont-Lo_res_zpsmmxaqguf.jpg

For all your putrid retro, kitsch and vintage sleaze homo porn needs, follow me on tumblr!





Saturday, 30 May 2015

The next LOBOTOMY ROOM ... Friday 26 June 2015 at Fontaine's!

LOBOTOMY_ROOM photo LoboFont-Lo_res_zpsmmxaqguf.jpg



Leave all sense of shame and propriety at the door - when LOBOTOMY ROOM returns to its new home, the subterranean Bamboo Lounge of Dalston's opulent Art Deco vice palace Fontaine’s!

At last - a club night for the hillbilly beau monde! LOBOTOMY ROOM! Where sin lives! A punkabilly beer blast! A spectacle of decadence for the permissive Continentally-minded! A Mondo Trasho evening of Beat, Beat Beatsville Beatnik Rock’n’Roll! Rockabilly Psychosis! Wailing Rhythm and Blues! Twisted Tittyshakers! Punk Cretin Hops! 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!


Lobotomy Room: Faster. Further. Filthier.

A tawdry good time guaranteed!

Admission: £5.00

9 pm - 1 am

Scrawl the date in blood: the debut of Lobotomy Room at Fontaine's is Friday 26 June 2015! The putrid social event of summer 2015!


Flyer cover girl: Jayne Mansfield and chihuahua. Artwork by Ego Rodriguez Illustration 

Read about all the Lobotomy Rooms to date herehereherehereherehere,hereherehere and here.  

Saturday, 23 May 2015

New Orleans After Dark: A Journey Into Southern Decadence

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“This decaying city has a hypnotic aspect that leads me through its streets ...” City of Night. John Rechy, 1963

“I was drawn to New Orleans’ decaying beauty, ripe with overgrown vegetation which both blossomed and rotted in the very same breath ... spellbound by the decadent architecture, the elaborate sprinkling of wrought iron balconies ...” Paradoxia: A Predator’s Diary. Lydia Lunch, 1997

A riot of revelry, romance and roaring laughter seen mid historical hotspots in the city that care forgot - New Orleans! (Note: this blog represents the second installment of my April 2015 US trip, picking up the action from my earlier Viva Las Vegas 2015 posting) 

Monday 6 April 2015

I arrived in the torrid voodoo realm of New Orleans ‘round midnight, sun-baked, dehydrated, chap-lipped and hung-over. My friend Kevin met me at the airport and drove me to his place in Mid-City. My first glimpse of New Orleans was by night, the car zipping past ghostly Southern Gothic architecture, weeping willows and moon-lit tombstones. I crashed-out on Kevin’s sofa and slept like a corpse straight through until Tuesday morning.

Tuesday 7 April 2015


New Orleans ... After Dark!

Kevin shares my affection for Liz Renay - burlesque performer, B-movie actress, naive outsider artist, gangster’s moll, authoress of trashy volumes of memoirs like My Face for the World to See and My First 2000 Men and all-round super vixen. She’ll forever be remembered as the petulant lesbian murderess Muffy St Jacques in the 1977 John Waters film Desperate Living. Kevin has her full literary canon. (Check out his atomic-era chrome and formica kitchen table!) /

During the day Kevin took me sight-seeing by car, exploring neighbourhoods Mid-City (where he’s based), the Treme, Faubourg Marigny, Garden District, Uptown and the French Quarter. New Orleans’ humidity made me swoon like a southern belle. (Rest assured I channeled the demented melancholy of a Tennessee Williams heroine the whole time I was there).

Sampling New Orleans’ unique regional cuisine was a priority. The first thing I ate in New Orleans was dense, smoky Cajun jambalaya (with a side of fried pickles – as addictive as hits off a crack pipe) at local diner Liuzza's by the Track in Mid-City. I was practically purring with pleasure. (One of the waitresses was drinking a Tab. I haven’t seen a can of Tab since the 1980s).  


New Orleans ... After Dark!


From there we drove past the stately, gracious old-money historic mansions in St Charles Avenue and Esplanade Avenue. Some even had pillars in the front, like Tara in Gone with the Wind. But even New Orleans’ more modest architecture is distinctive and fascinating: I want to live in a lavender, sea shell pink or sea foam aqua house. Even the shotgun shacks looked alluring to me.


New Orleans ... After Dark!

/ Me gurning amidst the crypts of Lafayette Cemetery. (In every single photo taken there, I'm chewing a wasp. Seriously. This was the best one) /

What else to wear when prowling amidst decaying crypts but a Vampira t-shirt? (Ed Wood’s working title for Plan 9 from Outer Space was Grave Robbers from Outer Space, after all). This is the historic Lafayette Cemetery No 1 in The Garden City - famous from the LSD hippie freak-out scene in the film Easy Rider (1969). (A quick Google search now verifies I’m wrong and that scene was filmed at another New Orleans graveyard, St. Louis Cemetery No 1. I was invoking the spirit of Karen Black nonetheless). Kevin pointed out to me the “voodoo offerings” left on some of the graves. How fascinating! Authentic voodoo rituals in twenty first century New Orleans! When I asked who actually practices this, his disillusioning reply was, “Mainly white women” – which conjured images of fried Courtney Love or Steve Nicks-style hippie mamas with perms wearing tie dye sundresses.


New Orleans ... After Dark!

/ Catholic kitsch at Lafayette Cemetery No 1 /

Speaking of voodoo, back in Mid-City, I bought some candles at F&F Botanica, an authentic Puerto Rican voodoo emporium. I will be officially converting to the Santeria religion next.  (My Brazilian ex-boyfriend used to tell me about Candomblé, the Brazilian variation of Santeria). I yearned to take a photo of the spectacular display of giant kitsch plaster of Paris statues of Our Lady of Guadalupe and Yemoja that greet you as you enter, but was afraid of seeming disrespectful. This is a place for genuine voodoo practitioners, after all. The friendly sales assistant behind the counter complimented my Vampira t-shirt and he and Kevin quickly established they both know horror author (and long-time New Orleans resident) Poppy Z Brite (who now lives as a trans man, re-named Billy Martin). In retrospect, he probably would have let me take a photo.


New_Orleans_After_Dark_Voodoo_Candles

/The voodoo candles I bought at F&F Botanica in New Orleans on the left. The skull glass is a Viva Las Vegas souvenir from a few years ago (everything tastes better drunk from a skull) /

Afterwards we knocked-back late-afternoon beers at Pal’s Lounge, a nicely atmospheric and laid-back little Mid-City dive bar. At one point the sassy female bartender referred to me as "sweet tits” (while asking me to flip the sign in the front door from “Closed” to “Open”). Thus christened, I felt like I had truly arrived in New Orleans.


New Orleans ... After Dark!

/ Exterior of Pal's Lounge just before it opened for the day /

New Orleans ... After Dark!

/ The men's room of Pal's is entirely papered in vintage Russ Meyer-esque Playboy centre-folds. I liked Miss October best! /

That night we had dinner and cocktails at the mondo exotica BeachbumBerry's Latitude 29 Tiki lounge at The Bienville House Hotel in the French Quarter. My potent Mai Tai arrived with a sprig of mint and a hibiscus flower floating on top.


New Orleans ... After Dark!


En route to Latitude 29 we cut through the tourist trap end of Bourbon Street which the travel guides urge you to avoid. Talk about squalor! I caught a glimpse of a wino with a sun-dried scabby face weaving down the street towards me. He was shirtless and had scrawled on his stomach with a black Sharpie “Can you suck this?” with an arrow pointing crotch-wards. Hey, sometimes the direct approach works. Vive le sleaze!

We explored the French Quarter on foot, Kevin pointing out the apartment building where Tennessee Williams once lived. (Williams called New Orleans his “spiritual home” and of course many of his plays are set there). We downed more beers at punk-y bar and music venue One Eyed Jacks. I loved the black velvet “nudie cutie” paintings in gilt frames, flocked crimson wallpaper and vintage brothel-style decor.


New Orleans ... After Dark!

/ Above and below: bordello decor at One Eyed Jacks /

New Orleans ... After Dark!


From there we well and truly sampled New Orleans low life at The Double Play and The Corner Pocket (both known to be personal favourites of John Waters when he visits New Orleans – is there any higher recommendation?). Sampled? “Luxuriated” or even “wallowed” would be more apt. I like my low life low and both places lived down to my expectations. The Double Play is a stark, hard-edged dive bar straight out of an Edward Hopper painting.  Its clientele is primarily trans prostitutes, junkies, teenage male hustlers in the Joe Dallesandro Trash tradition and the chicken hawk older men who love them.  Try to imagine where the present-day versions of Tralala or drag queen prostitute Georgette from Hubert Selby’s Last Exit to Brooklyn would cadge drinks. In a jaw-dropping understatement the website Gay New Orleans.com describes The Double Play as “a rather "wild" neighbourhood bar that is frequented by every kind of person imaginable. Whatever is your scene, you'll find companions here.” Sweetly, the mature white grandpa making out with a mocha-skinned black kid straight out of his teens had certainly found his kind of companion. The tough-as-nails characters and anything-could-happen atmosphere at The Double Play was enthralling. If I lived in New Orleans, I’d be there soaking up the ambiance every weekend.


New Orleans ... After Dark!


The Corner Pocket was reportedly the inspiration for the squalid gay bar The Fudge Palace in Waters’ 1998 movie Pecker. If you've seen that film you’ll know what to anticipate: a stable of cute rough trade gay-for-pay / heteroflexible tattooed go-go boys in their underwear “dance”, crotch-thrust and twerk on the bar-top with their candy jiggling right at your eye-level.  The tradition is to cram $1 bills down the waistband of the dancers’ underwear and enjoy a quick grope in the process. (It’s bad etiquette to sit at the bar and not do this). I didn't actually witness any tea-bagging, but I wouldn't be surprised if it was on the menu.  A hardboiled Corner Pocket regular seated next to me filled me in on the ropes: the boys’ shifts finish at 3 am. If you want one of them to leave with you before then, slip the bartender $30. The going rate to spend the night with a Corner Pocket go-go dancer is $200. You can find their online profiles on rentboy.com. Anyway, the semi-naked guys (a wide variety of types, some perhaps a bit stoned) were friendly and adorable (why oh why hasn't Bruce Weber swooped down to shoot these beauties for an edgy homoerotic L'Uomo Vogue fashion shoot or a Boys of The Corner Pocket calendar? I would buy it!) and The Corner Pocket is a deliciously rancid good time. Photography is understandably strictly verboten there but check out the Corner Pocket’s regularly-updated Facebook page for shots of the dancers.


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/ Typical view from the bar of The Corner Pocket: I swiped this pic from their Facebook page. I definitely remember this diminutive Mohawked heartthrob from when Kevin and I visited /

At both The Double Play and The Corner pocket I felt like I was living John Rechy's novel City of Night and I reveled in it. The French Quarter gay bars Rechy cites by name (The Rocking Times, Les Petits, Sandy-Vees’s, Cindy’s, Les Deux Freres) are lost to the mists of time, but otherwise the New Orleans gay scene is remarkably unchanged since he chronicled his restless beatnik bar-hopping, S&M hustling misadventures and transvestite encounters in 1963.  In 2015 in London every last vestige of sleaze have been well and truly stamped-out. It was gratifying to see proper old-school filth still thrives in modern vice city New Orleans.

Wednesday 8 April

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/ I suspect this Eric Stanton illustration depicts documentary realism of what New Orleans looks like during Mardi Gras /

On my second full day in New Orleans I wilted in the sun and got fed-up with throngs of slow-moving, mouth-breathing bovine tourists in the French Quarter. (Yes, I know I'm a tourist, too - but a fast-walking and impatient one!). Kevin warned me the annual French Quarter Festival would begin while I was in town and to anticipate a crush of people arriving. He wasn't kidding: when I got on the streetcar on Canal Street it was groaning with people and the Quarter was much more difficult to negotiate.  The French Quarter Fest is relatively small-scale – I can’t imagine how New Orleans residents cope during Mardi Gras or the Jazz Festival.


New Orleans ... After Dark!

/ French Quarter architecture /

New Orleans ... After Dark!

/ Above and below: ultra-kitsch window display at Head Quarters on Dauphine Street in the French Quarter. (Think: The Lipstick Beauty Salon in the John Waters film Female Trouble). Kevin gets his hair cut here /

New Orleans ... After Dark!


I’d intended to eat lunch at the historic Napoleon House in the French Quarter, but it was packed-solid (a coach load of senior citizen tourists arrived just moments before me) so I gave up. Starving and annoyed, I backtracked to The Clover Grill to drink some black coffee and eat French fries to tide me over in the meantime. A kitsch Jayne Mansfield-sugar-pink-hued retro diner (operational since 1939), Clover Grill is open 24-hours and a regular haunt for drunk and hungry late-night gay clubbers craving grease and carbs.  The list of requests in menu - “We don’t eat in your bed; please don’t sleep at our table”. “No talking to yourself.” “Keep both hands on the table” - hints at the raucous behaviour of their average patron.  Sadly, there were no tipsy drag queens still wearing last night’s make-up while I was there: just an average mid-Western looking family at the next table.


Clover Grill

/ The Clover Grill on Bourbon Street. (I didn't take this shot myself! Got it via ) /

A friend recommended I drink at Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop in the French Quarter. The history of the tavern is certainly fascinating: the building – a low-ceilinged brick cottage – dates back to the 18th century,  is one of the oldest surviving structures in New Orleans and is reportedly one of the oldest operating bars in the US.  It was cool and dark in there, but the ultra-straight crowd wasn't terribly inspiring and the loud 1980s mainstream rock music (U2, Guns’N’Roses) meant I couldn't finish my beer and depart fast enough.


New Orleans ... After Dark!

/ Interior of Lafitte’s Blacksmith Shop /

Next I sank another beer just a few doors away at the much more simpatico Cafe Lafitte in Exile. It’s a pretty unexceptional middle-of-the-road gay bar today, but it’s also an LGBT historical landmark: the oldest continuously operating gay bar in the country. The likes of Tennessee Williams and Truman Capote were regulars in the 1950s. Apparently the balcony is beautiful, but when I was there it was daytime and it was shut, unfortunately. Big video screens above the bar play pop videos: judging by the content (“No More Drama” by Mary J Blige, Whitney Houston’s “My Love is Your Love”) the playlist hasn't been refreshed in at least fifteen years. No matter: the bartender was friendly, the patrons were boozy and mellow and the beer was frosty.

Re-tracing my steps, I finally managed to eat my first muffuletta (to a soundtrack of soaring classical music) at the elegant shabby-chic Napoleon House. It was orgasmic and worth the wait. When I was paying the bill the waiter clocked my accent and asked where I was from. Weirdly, when I explained I was Canadian but a long-term UK resident, he suddenly turned lascivious and started aggressively inquiring what Canadian girls and British girls are like. Yikes! I politely made my excuses and split.

New Orleans ... After Dark!


/ Muffuletta sandwich (a New Orleans delicacy) at the historic Napoleon House in the French Quarter /

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/ Hoochie mama! Chris Owens in her youth /

Burlesque showgirl, chanteuse, nightclub proprietoress and plastic surgery enthusiast Chris Owens – still sporting hot- pants and kinky boots and crotch-thrusting  onstage at 83-years old – has been a local celebrity and fixture in New Orleans since the early 1960s. Kevin and I contemplated going to Owens’ club in The French Quarter where she still regularly performs but didn't make it unfortunately. Her website (which looks like it hasn't been updated since the 1990s) shrieks in upper-case some pretty remarkable claims:  “CHRIS OWENS is a SINGING AND DANCING INTERNATIONAL SENSATION! Her performance is the MOST ELECTRIFYING ONE-WOMAN SHOW ON THE ENTERTAINMENT SCENE today, set to such musical genres as jazz, blues, rock, country western, top 40 variety and international, to name a few. She is a DAZZLING, TALKING, SINGING, DANCING, SPARKLING, EXPLOSION OF PERPETUAL MOTION. Her glowing personality and high-energy performance sweep the audience right into the tempo of the show. Those that have been entertained by CHRIS OWENS never tire of her and KEEP COMING BACK FOR MORE, NIGHT AFTER NIGHT, WEEK AFTER WEEK!” Who could possibly resist that? Apparently Owens sprinkles her Vegas-style lounge act with covers of Lady GaGa, Shania Twain and Jennifer Lopez songs to keep contemporary. I’ll make investigating it a priority if I return to New Orleans. But I did snap this wildly idealised statue of a maracas-wielding La Owens at the New Orleans Musical Legends Park. She’s in good company, surrounded by statues of luminaries like Louis Prima and Fats Domino.


New Orleans ... After Dark!


That night Kevin and I went to Snake and Jake’s Christmas Club Lounge in Uptown. We were joined by Pete, the brains behind superb vintage homo porn tumblr blog Cultural Dictionary of Dick (do not click this link if you're at work!). When I learned he was based in New Orleans I grabbed the opportunity to hang out with him (and pour some beers down his neck). Snake and Jake’s is surely one of the world's greatest dive bars. For one thing - it's located in a dilapidated shack! It's permanently pitch-black inside, lit only by red fairy lights. (In fact they’re Christmas tree lights. There are Christmas decorations up all year, hence the name). Snake and Jake's looks just like something out of Mortville, the derelict criminal shanty town in John Waters' 1977 lesbian punk film Desperate Living.  (Snake even boasts a raspy-voiced, swear-y butch female bartender in the Mole McHenry tradition). It's actually situated in quite a nice and affluent residential area - the neighbours must be horrified by it. The smoking ban is only just now taking effect in New Orleans so that means Snake and Jake’s patrons will basically be standing around and smoking right in residents' front yards until the early hours - which might prove awkward. As you can see from above pic, the exterior looks tiny (and bear in mind I'm only 5'6"!).  But once you're inside Snake and Jake's it doesn't feel exceptionally cramped or low-ceilinged. The graffiti-scrawled men's room was like something out of CBGBs.


New Orleans ... After Dark!

/ Me outside Snake and Jake's Christmas Lounge by daylight (before it had actually opened) /

New Orleans ... After Dark!

/ Me inside Snake and Jake's - truly one of the happiest places on earth /


New Orleans ... After Dark!

/ Canine customers at Snake and Jake's /

Thursday 9 April

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/ Atomic-era vintage sleaze on Bourbon Street. I would love to have caught "The Cat Girl" Lilly Christine's act! /

By my last full day in New Orleans I had indulged in so much day-time bar-hopping in the French Quarter I was starting to recognise the faces of the winos, wizened barflies and rent boys when I passed them on the street. (I spotted one particularly cute scruffily-bearded, sandy-haired young hustler I'd seen playing pool at The Double Play on Tuesday night walking past Cafe Lafitte in Exile holding hands with a man old enough to be his grandfather- truly another City of Night moment).

Committed to ticking New Orleans culinary specialties off one-by-one, I ate gumbo at Eat New Orleans on Dauphine Street. It was heavenly. (By then I'd already devoured a shrimp po'boy. I left New Orleans having never managed to eat red beans and rice or a beignet or drink a Sazerac - another reason to come back!).

Afterwards I sank a beer at trashy compact gay bar The Golden Lantern (dubbed “The Golden Latrine” by locals).  It’s known for hosting drag performances by night. Of course I was there in the daytime – but I did pass the sparkly little stage en route to men’s room. I also paid one last visit to the Double Play – nicely shabby and peeling by daylight.

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/ Above: this campy homoerotic poster hangs in the men's room of The Golden Lantern, probably intact since the 1970s or 80s. Weirdly enough, this picture cropped up on my tumblr feed a few weeks later / 

That night Pete and I went to Paulie’s Pub and Restaurant, a weird little queer punk bar where they were blasting surf music at ear-splitting volume. (In my dreams Paulie's would have made an ideal Lobotomy Room venue).

Friday 10 April

I flew back to London that afternoon.  En route to the airport the affable cab driver confided his life story. He came to New Orleans from Pakistan thirty years earlier and now couldn't imagine living anywhere else. He was displaced by Hurricane Katrina but returned as quickly as he possibly could. He swore to me I’d revisit. “Once you've been to New Orleans, you’ll definitely come back.” He may well be right.