Happy Valentine's Day, Darling: Sophia Loren having an orgasmic reaction to a bouquet of yellow roses
I’d been looking forward to the Valentine’s night Dr Sketchy at The Old Queen’s Head for ages. All the ingredients were in place: The night had sold out long in advance. The crowd was buzzing, rowdy and enthusiastic. The talent for the night was top notch: emcee Claire Benjamin (in character as Freuda Kahlo), two sizzling burlesque performers and models (and Dr Sketchy veterans), Sophia St. Villier and Honey Wilde.
Weirdly, for me (and I'm speaking excusively for myself!) the night wound up feeling anti-climactic, stressful, and not one of the more memorable or enjoyable Dr Sketchy nights in recent memory. For some reason the sound was murky and muffled and no one at the Old Queen’s Head seemed to know how to fix it (it improved somewhat later in the night). It got things off to a bad start for me and I stayed jangled the rest of the night. As per usual, I got one of the long-suffering Claire Benjamin’s musical cues wrong. Musically, I wasn't on top form - I suspect things sounded disjointed and abrupt rather than smooth and flowing, as I obviously prefer! In my head I had intended to go for a lush, romantic 1950s Cool Jazz-inspired set in honour of Valentine’s Day, but wasn’t feeling particularly on top of things so it didn’t wind up being that for the most part at all. (Like the 2011 Valentine's Day Dr Sketchy at The Old Queen's Head, though, I did make a point of dropping in three different versions of the Rogers and Hart standard “My Funny Valentine” at climactic moments: the Chet Baker instrumental, the Chet Baker vocal and finally Nico’s morbid dirge-like interpretation). Obviously, the main thing is, all three performers were brilliant and the audience seemed to enjoy themselves.
Sophia St. Villier with her favourite portrait of the night. To me, it evokes Ann-Margrock (aka that other red-haired vixen, Ann-Margret) from her guest appearance on The Flintstones -- but Ann-Margrock making the rude, universal pussy-eating gesture! Photo by Honey Wilde
Death, death, DEATH: this Dr Sketchy was after all called an “Anti-Valentine’s event”, so why not get ghoulish in this post? I recently posted about the demise of Jennifer Miro, icy platinum blonde chanteuse for pioneering San Francisco punk band The Nuns. Obviously music fans have been rocked by the recent deaths of soul legend Etta James and troubled superstar Whitney Houston since then. For me, 4 February 2012 represented two grim anniversaries: foaming-at-the-mouth Cramps frontman (front lunatic?) Lux Interior died 4 February 2009 aged 62. Snarling Russ Meyer leading lady and burlesque artist Tura Satana died 4 February 2011 aged 72. Between them these two pretty much defined for me not just timeless cool, but a whole realm (parallel universe?) of vital, lurid low-life sleaze-allure. Certainly both Tura Satana (and the films of Russ Meyer) and Lux Interior (and the music of The Cramps) shaped my worldview at an impressionable age. RIP.
Lux Interior and Poison Ivy of The Cramps: The much-loved Addams Family of punk. Or were they The Munsters of punk? Let's have a heated debate!
Tura Satana ... awesome
I never got to meet Ms Satana (although I know people who interviewed her). I did, however, have a wonderful encounter with The Cramps as a callow youth in 1990. They were touring in support of their Stay Sick! album (so it was the line-up featuring Bettie Page-tastic brunette Candy Del Mar on bass) and I interviewed them prior to their gig at The Rialto in Montreal for my university newspaper. I’ll never forget the heart-stopping spectacle of The Cramps arriving for their sound-check that afternoon: a zombie-pale fetish-y outlaw gang, a symphony of leopard skin, glistening black rubber and seriously insolent dark shades. These weren’t costumes or personas they wriggled-into for the stage – The Cramps lived it full-time! In fact I seem to recall the 6’3” Lux was already wearing a pair of women’s size 13 patent leather pumps when he arrived for the sound-check. Watching their sound-check gave me goose bumps, then afterwards I interviewed Poison Ivy alone. She apologized that Lux wouldn’t be joining us, but he wasn’t feeling well. I got the impression he had a thunderous hangover. Earlier I'd overheard an employee of The Rialto showing him the catering on offer. “There’s bagels, there’s doughnuts, there’s muffins ...” and Lux suddenly barked, “I just want coffee!” Sometimes only strong, black coffee (life's rich black blood) will suffice. Who amongst us can’t relate to that?
Anyway, interviewing the gracious Poison Ivy (a strikingly beautiful ageless enigma in a leopard skin coat and a pair of diamante-trimmed cat’s eye sunglasses) was a dream and a memory I treasure. I haven’t had a record player in many years, but I still have the Bad Music for Bad People and Stay Sick! albums Ivy autographed for me. The Cramps were one of those bands you assumed would be around forever. They formed in 1976; it was only Lux’s death in 2009 that split them up. Hmmm -- one of these days I should get my act together and post the interview as a blog on here.
The audio and visual quality isn't great (this is the only version I could find on Youtube), but "Bikini Girls with Machine Guns" is one of The Cramps's essential statements, and it dates from when I interviewed them in Montreal.
I Only Have Eyes for You - The Flamingos Life is But a Dream - The Harptones Willow Weep for Me - The Whistling Artistry Of Muzzy Marcellino Melancholy Serenade - King Curtis Dansero - Don Baker Trio Anytime - The Bill Black Combo Town without Pity - James Chance Sea of Love - The Earls of Suave Drive In - The Jaguars Wiped Out - The Escorts Train to Nowhere - The Champs Jungle Drums - Earl Bostick Pass The Hatchet - Roer and The Gypsies Dance with Me Henry - Ann-Margret Born to Cry - Dion Sweetie Pie - Eddie Cochran Follow the Leader - Wiley Terry Baby, I'm Doin' It - Annisteen Allen I Ain't Drunk - Jimmy Liggins Rockin' Out the Blues - Musical Linn Twins Green Mosquito - The Tune Rockers The Mexican - The Fentones Pretty Good Love - Big Maybelle I Love the Life I Live - Esquerita Are You Nervous? The Instrumentals Czterdziesci Kasztanów (Forty Chestnuts)- Violetta Villas Virgenes Del Sol - Yma Sumac Cherry Pink - Bill Black Combo Sexe - Line Renaud My Funny Valentine - Chet Baker (instrumental) Deep Dark Secret - Lizabeth Scott Lonely Hours - Sarah Vaughan You're My Thrill - Dolores Gray La Javanaise - Serge Gainsbourg Handclapping Time - The Fabulous Raiders Vesuvius - The Revels What Do You Think I Am? Ike and Tina Turner Here Comes the Bug - The Rumblers Khrushchev Twist - Melvin Gayle Drummin' Up a Storm - Sandy Nelson Fever - Timi Yuro Anasthasia - Bill Smith Combo My Funny Valentine - Chet Baker (vocal) You're Crying - Dinah Washington I'm Through with Love - Marilyn Monroe My Funny Valentine - Nico I Walk like Jayne Mansfield - The 5,6,7,8s Caterpillar Crawl - The Strangers Boots - Nero & The Gladiators Sick and Tired - Lula Reed The Flirt - Shirley and Lee The Girl Can't Help It - Little Richard
In conclusion: my good friend Sparkle Moore recently posted this video on my Facebook wall, suggesting the berserk operatic Austro-German diva Marika Rökk could be an alternative for much-missed berserk operatic Polska diva Violetta Villas (death -- again!). Watching this, Sparkle might have a point! It's from a 1958 German musical called Bühne frei für Marika (which translates as something like The Stage is Set for Marika -- so in theory she's playing herself!). Sadly, I somehow doubt this title is available on LOVEFiLM. This clip of Rökk as a sexy alien singing "Mir ist so langweilig" ("I'm So Bored", according to Google Translate), crash-landing her space ship on earth -- and then wrestling with a snake and cavorting with a group of spear-carrying Africans in the jungle is so trippy, bizarre and kitsch ... it's beyond words! You have to experience for yourself ...