“What a difference a day makes.” Dinah Washington really knew what she meant when she sang that. Like I said last time, the Valentine's night Dr Sketchy at The Old Queen’s Head was a bit of a stressful ordeal. Because it had sold out so far in advance, there was sufficient demand (and enough disappointed punters who couldn't get tickets) for Dr Sketchy’s glamorous promoter Clare Marie to quickly organise an extra Dr Sketchy (this time at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern) the following night – which also promptly sold out. (Yes, we’re on fire at the moment). And this one was one of the best Dr Sketchies ever. The whole night was one of those Dr Sketchies where everything flowed smoothly, felt relaxed (certainly DJ’ing this time felt as effortless as pissing. How elegant!), and was just fun to do (bear in mind I'd DJ'd two nights in a row plus got up at 7 am for the office job. I was feeling like a zombie) -- something Clare Marie and I agreed about afterwards.
Certainly the line-up was a bit of a dream team. The mistress of ceremonies was the irrepressible Ophelia Bitz. Last time I’d seen Ophelia was 9 February 2012, when I DJ’d at the triumphant finale of her ArtWank! residency. (ArtWank! is the “porn chic” cabaret night Ophelia organises). Reliably, Ms Bitz was on peak form (she came out wearing a micro-mini dress, apologising to the front row for the view. Don’t worry: she was sporting leopard print panties underneath. She wasn’t giving them that much of an eyeful! Ophelia did warn something about the "ferret's head" popping out. What a vivid image). For the performers/models we had not one but two members of burlesque aristocracy and long-term Dr Sketchy favourites, Cherry Shakewell and Marianne Cheesecake.
Marianne and Cherry both have very distinctive (and completely different) stage personas, so it was a fun challenge coming up with music appropriate for them. Marianne channels 1920s flapper glamour (think Anna May Wong or Josephine Baker), very louche and decadent. (Years ago there was a biography of Josephine Baker entitled Jazz Cleopatra; watching Marianne Cheesecake perform, the name could just as accurately apply to her). Musically, I aimed for high drama and elegance: Continental types (Serge Gainsbourg, Juliette Greco, Mina, the French Francoise Hardy huskily exhaling tragic German lyrics), some slinky instrumentals. I’d mentioned before how the bleak, alienated Weimar depravity of "Lazy" by San Francisco punk band The Nuns seemed to anticipate Nico’s majestic 1985 interpretation of "My Funny Valentine." I finally got to play these two black-hearted confessionals back-to-back: imagine the aural equivalent of someone handing you a bouquet of a dozen dead roses.
I've posted both of these before ... but fuck it!
Kitten with a whip Cherry Shakewell’s image, meanwhile, is brasher and more rock’n’roll: think 1960s go-go dancer in a cage, the sexploitation cinema of Russ Meyer, or Nancy Sinatra’s white lipsticked pout and leonine mane of teased blonde hair. For her poses, I cranked up the sleazy tittyshakers and paid a mini-tribute to Jayne Mansfield. I also worked in Bardot snarling over the 1960s garage-punk of “Harley Davidson”, and what for me should be Cherry’s theme tune (“Cherry” by doo-wop group The Jive Bombers, from the soundtrack to John Waters’ Cry-Baby). When the two of them posed together at the end, as per usual I reached for one of the Marilyn Monroe-Jane Russell Gentlemen Prefer Blondes duets (apt in this case, because Marianne and Cherry are a brunette and platinum blonde combo).
Marianne Cheesecake and Cherry Shakewell. Photo by the very talented Andrew Hickinbottom
Coincidentally, the very next night (16 February), Time Out Magazine held its first ever London Cabaret Awards to officially recognise just how vital, creative and exciting London’s bleeding edge cabaret / burlesque scene has grown in recent years. I’m proud to say that some of the performers who frequently grace Dr Sketchy stages won, and won big. One of our much-loved regular emcees, the perennially soignéDusty Limits won Best Host or Compere. Epicentre of fun The Royal Vauxhall Tavern (my all-time favourite place to DJ at, especially once I worked out how to stop turning on the dry ice machine by mistake. Ah, we can laugh about it now) was awarded Best Cabaret Venue.
And Kiki Kaboom won Best Burlesque Performer. I’ve only had the pleasure of working with showgirl deluxe Ms Kaboom once way back in September 2010, but it was memorably fun. Afterwards she and I liaised about potential music for her to use on the soundtrack of her showreel video. She wanted a sexy, upbeat instrumental. I proposed the ultra-twang-y, sexily grinding 1963 number "Boss" by Southern Californian surf band The Rumblers (they named themselves after the Link Wray classic “Rumble”). Driven along by blurting saxophone, “Boss” is two minutes and twenty two seconds of tense, haven't-been-laid-in-a-week sleazy urgency, and has long been one of my DJ’ing staples. (If the song sounds familiar, it’s because The Cramps swiped it as the basis for one of their most-loved “gravest hits”, "Garbageman" from their 1980 Songs the Lord Taught Us album). Anyway, Kiki used it. I’ve posted her showreel before, but here it is again.
Here's a more recent sampling of the wit and wisdom of Kiki Kaboom – gleefully puncturing some of the clichés surrounding the burlesque scene. (The music on the soundrack is "Rumble" by Link Wray, funnily enough!)
The Sneak - Jimmy Oliver When I Get Low, I Get High - Florence Joelle's Kiss of Fire One More Beer - The Earls of Suave Hurt Is All You Gave Me - Ike and Tina Turner Get Back, Baby - Esquerita The Stalk - The Giants Stranger in My Own Home Town - Elvis Presley (X-rated "blue" version) Like A Rolling Stone - Mamie Van Doren Wiped Out - The Escorts The Fire of Love - Jody Reynolds I Ain't in the Mood for Love - Helen Humes Revellion - The Revels I Stubbed My Toe - Bryan "Legs" Walker A Week from Tuesday - The Pastels Sweetie Pie - Eddie Cochran Fool I Am - Pat Ferguson Go Girl Go - Jett Powers Beaver Shot - The Periscopes Roll with Me, Henry - Etta James Cooler Weather is A-Comin' - Eddie Weldon Eager Beaver Baby - Johnny Burnette Miss Irene - Ginny Kennedy Pass The Hatchet - Roger and The Gypsies The Chase - Chaino Night Scene - The Rumblers Strange Love - Slim Harpo Sick and Tired - Lula Reed Blues, Blues, Blues - Hayden Thompson The Strangeness in Me - The Runabouts My Heart Goes Piddily Patter, Patter - Nappy Brown I Ain't Drunk, I'm Just Drinkin' - Jimmy Liggins A Cruise to the Moon - Lydia Lunch Some Small Chance - Serge Gainsbourg (Strip-tease soundtrack) Mon cœur n'était pas fait pour ça - Juliette Greco Turquoise - Milt Buckner Lazy - The Nuns My Funny Valentine - Nico Traume - Francoise Hardy Make Love to Me - June Christie Un ano d'amore - Mina Handclappin' Time - The Fabulous Raiders 8-Ball - The Hustlers Witchcraft - Elvis Presley Mack the Knife - Ann-Margret No Good Lover - Mickey and Sylvia Crawfish - Johnny Thunders and Patti Paladin Drummin' Up a Storm - Sandy Nelson I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield - The 5,6,7,8s That Makes It - Jayne Mansfield Boots - Nero and The Gladiators Cherry - The Jive Bombers Beat Party - Ritchie and The Squires Black Tarantula - Jody Reynolds Harley Davidson - Brigitte Bardot The Coo - Wayne Cochran I'm a Bad, Bad Girl - Little Esther Two Little Girls from Little Rock - Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell La Javanaise - Serge Gainsbourg The Pussycat Song - Connie Vannett Accentuate the Positive - The Bill Black Combo Chicken Grabber - The Nite Hawks All of Me - Mae West Chattanooga Choo Choo - Denise Darcel Blue Kat - Chuck Rio and The Originals So Long - Ruth Brown