Wednesday, 26 January 2011

19 January 2011 Dr Sketchy Set List

/ Sweater Girl: A sultry, hair-hopping young Violetta Villas working the projectile bullet bra look /

The second Dr Sketchy of the New Year: It was great to be back at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern where the sound system is loud and powerful, and I’m finally getting to grips with setting up the decks myself and working the stage lights (seriously, all the buttons in the DJ booth looks like the control panels of a helicopter!). And I didn’t once turn on the dry ice machine by mistake this time, which definitely represents progress. The only screw-up was the wrong music got played for our burlesque performer Annette Betty’s performance. I was told to play track one and I did, but it turned out it was the wrong song (there was more than one song burnt onto the CD). Fortunately, Betty is such a consummate pro that when she realised it was the wrong music, she just did the routine meant for that song, it looked spectacular and no one was any the wiser!

Annette Betty's Showreel:

As per usual, the emphasis musically was on creating a vibe somewhere between desperate vintage sleaze and punk lounge. Midway along the set list you may you notice a glut of sex-wracked female singers like Sparkle Moore, Ann-Margret and Mamie van Doren wailing about how they’re desperate for a man/boy/daddy, etc -- that was background music for our male model Luke’s pose.

Beaver Shot - The Periscopes
Baby, Scratch My Back - Slim Harpo
Intoxica - The Centurions
Bikini with No Top on the Top - Mamie van Doren & June Wilkinson
Vesuvius - The Revels
The Deacon Moves In - Little Esther
The Whip - The Originals
Fujiyama Mama - Annisteen Allen
Bewildered - Shirley & Lee
My Daddy Rocks Me - Mae West
Baby Come Back - Esquerita
Where Yo Is? Fat Daddy Holmes
Stop Talking, Start Walking - Annie Laurie
Hot Licks - The Rendells
Unitar Rock - Willie Joe & His Unitar
Honky Tonk - The Bill Black Combo
Harbour Lights - Dinah Washington
A Cheat - The Earls of Suave
Fever - Nancy Sit
Mack the Knife - Ann-Margret
Trash Can - Ken Williams
Suey - Jayne Mansfield
Blockade - The Rumblers
Crawfish - Johnny Thunders & Patti Paladin
Tall Cool One - The Wailers
Dansero - The Don Baker Trio
Tuxedo Junction - The Bill Black Combo
Tico Tico Samba - Don Swan & His Orchestra
Tiger - Sparkle Moore
Big Man - Carl Matthews
Jim Dandy - Ann-Margret
Daddy Daddy - Ella Mae Morse
I Need a Man - Barbara Pittman
Oh Honey - Gloria Wood
Seperate the Men from the Boys - Mamie van Doren
I Want a Boy - Connie Russell
Tony's Got Hot Nuts - Faye Richmonde
Her Love Rubbed Off - Carl Perkins
No Good Lover - Mickey & Sylvia
Chicken Grabber - The Nite Hawks
Boss - The Rumblers
Champagne Taste - Eartha Kitt
Lonely Hours - Sarah Vaughan
Harlem Nocturne - Martin Denny
Blondie's Strip - John Barry (Beat Girl soundtrack)
Do It Again - April Stevens
You're My Thrill - Chet Baker (instrumental)
Love Me or Leave Me - Lena Horne
Blues in My Heart - The John Buzon Trio
The Flirt - Shirley & Lee
Little Girl - John & Jackie
Intoxica - The Revels
That Makes It - Jayne Mansfield
Don't You Feel My Leg - Blue Lu Barker
Honey Rock - Barney Kessel
Kiss - Marilyn Monroe
Willow Weep for Me - The Whistling Artistry of Muzzy Marcellino
A Guy Who Takes His Time - Marlene Dietrich
Chattanooga Choo Choo - Denise Darcel
The Girl Can't Help It - Little Richard
Torture Rock - Rockin' Belmarx

/ Below: astonishing Polish diva Violetta Villas /

An artist who I didn’t play, but who’s become something of an obsession recently is the demented Polish diva Violetta Villas. I first read about her on the reliably excellent The Homoerratic Radio Show blog, was intrigued and did some Googling – and uncovered a treasure trove! Violetta Villas (nee Violetta Élise Cieślak, born 1938) is a real find and surely a cult figure (and kitsch gay icon?) in waiting. In the 1960s Villas was an international singing sensation, acted in Hollywood films and headlined at casinos like The Dunes in Las Vegas, where she did duets with the key superstars of the era: Frank Sinatra, Paul Anka, Barbra Streisand, Charles Aznavour, Sammy Davis, Jr., Eartha Kitt, Dean Martin. (Please God let there be footage somewhere of Villas and Kitt duetting!) But (outside of Poland) Villas seems almost completely forgotten today. Because of her astonishing operatic vocal range Villas is routinely and understandably described as the Polski Yma Sumac (she’s also been called "the singing toast of the continent", "a voice like French champagne” and my personal favorite, "the voice of the atomic age": Vallas certainly is explosive) – but that only hints at her strange allure. Judging by some of the clips on Youtube, Villas is a berserk outsider artist; a wild low-budget Eastern European hybrid of Jayne Mansfield/Anita Ekberg in La Dolce Vita / Brigitte Bardot / Charo; a punk (her image and un-hinged performances can suggest Nina Hagen or Jayne County); and a self-parodic possessor of a camp /kitsch drag queen sensibility (is it deliberate or naive? Certainly her persona evokes the films of the Kuchar brothers and John Waters. There’s something wonderfully grotesque about how Villas deliberately buries her own natural beauty under the matted bouffant wigs and thick transvestite/ clown-like make-up).

/ The divine Violetta at her make-up table: "the natural look?" Bollocks to that! /

/ This jaw-dropping video represents Violetta Villas (a vision in red chiffon) in full-throttle sex kitten mode. It’s from a 1971 Polish film called Dzieciol. The song she’s singing is “Oczy czarne”: I’ve been reliably informed it’s Russian, not Polish and it translates as something like “Black Eyes” or “Dark Eyes." Note: this essential video keeps getting deleted from YouTube. I'll replace it as frequently as I can! /

Wait! It gets even better. I work with a Polish woman called Marta and she’s been filling me in on what Violetta Villas is up to today. It turns out Villas actually lives in Marta’s village! According to Marta, Villas lives in a mansion with a menagerie of something like 70 dogs and 40 cats. Villas seems to have taken Brigitte Bardot as a role model: certainly in her youth Villas obviously styled herself to look like Bardot (or a parody of Bardot?), and now she’s an animal rights activist, too. Marta is obviously based in London now but visits Poland frequently; she says she hasn’t seen Villas in several years but every time she does, even when Villas is just going out to buy groceries, she’s always the diva, dolled up with her signature thick showgirl false eye lashes and long tousled bouffant wigs (or extensions or weave, whatever she’s got going on up there: it doesn’t look organic to any human scalp). I imagine the 72-year old Villas now as an Eastern European hybrid of Baby Jane Hudson / Barbara Cartland / Zsa Zsa Gabor – which may sound cruel, but I mean it with affection. Like many a show business diva, apparently over the years Villas has had issues with drugs, alcohol and romantic and career disappointments. Let's hope she's found serenity back in Poland surrounded by her pets.

Viva, Violetta Villas!

/ A tired and emotional Violetta Villas - perhaps after a few too many glasses of Polski Wodka? /

To end with, a lovely softcore clip of burlesque legend Blaze Starr having a bubble bath. I love how she inspects herself in the mirror afterwards, and how straight out of the tub her cotton candy bouffant hair and thick make-up are immaculate .


  1. Amazing! Thanks for all the extra info and insights about know, I think see a little Karen Black in there too. hope you don't mind if I add that crazy/fantastic video for "Oczy Czarne" to my post. Please tell Marta to give Violetta my best the next time she sees her at the store, and to let her know that she has at least two enthusiastic new fans all around the globe.

  2. Oh my God -- now I know what I'll be doing on my sabbatical: applying thick layers of mascara, pancake and frosted lipstick, and writhing around the floor of my faux-pine-paneled den in red chiffon!

  3. I am a big fan of VV.

    A few notes on Marta's note:

    1. VV didn't take drugs. She was addicted to pain killers from 1967 to 1979. She stopped abusing them when she entered the convent for about a year or two.

    2. She was always an animal lover. She had two dogs in 1967, about seven dogs in 1977. In the 80s she had about 15 dogs. And in the 90s she had about 100 sogs, 150 cats and 15 goats. They were taken away from her and put to sleep in 2006 when she wasn't able financially to help them. Now she had 5 dogs. It wasn't her fault that she was never able to not-help an animal. People started to throw unwanted animals on her possession. When there started being too many, they were taken away and she was put into a hospital.

    3. She is alcoholic, but as her second husband said "she drank a lot but was never drunk". She was always an easy target for people who manipulate. That's why she struggled through her whole career since 1970.

    4. She was always hated by the music business, only baceuse she became quite rich after her successes in Las Vegas. She made 1200$ a week, which was enough to feed a family of four for a year back then. In 1975 she was robbed from her jewelry, furs and most of her money.

    5. In 1969 her contract withe Dunes, the casino she performed in ended. She came back to Poland with her son. She said she was offered a TV contract for 8 years and was supposed to come back to USA. But Polish authorities told her that "she can go to USA if she'll spy, or she can forget about having a career". She stayed in Poland and suffered from hatred. TV didn't offer her much, radio didn't play her songs. She was doing small recitals all over Poland. When she was offered something bigger, like the main role in a Oscar nominated movie "Ziemia obiecana" she resigned from the role just a few days before the filming was set to start. At some point she was lazy, but she also needed a manager (having a manager was prohibited back then, a singer had to her own manager, stylist, make up artist back then). She always said that she loves her country, when in 1969 she was performing in Australia she was introduced as a French singer, she always corrected that she's Polish [which wasn't positively received after March 1968].

    I have all of her (possible to get) recordings. I've read a lot about her. You can ask me anything :)

    A few photos:

  4. And here's a link to her 1970 TV 30 minute spectacle.

  5. Thanks, Anonymous. Villas has certainly led a fascinating life. I've read that her official last concert was on Valentine's Day 2011 and she's now retired from performing. I've definitely watched clips from her 1970 TV special on Youtube and it's wonderful stuff.