Sunday, 12 August 2012

25 July 2012 Dr Sketchy Set List

Kim Novak's Pussy: Kim Novak and Siamese companion in the 1958 film Bell, Book and Candle

For this Dr Sketchy, it was my first time back at The Royal Vauxhall Tavern in over a month. (The last time was 13 June 2012). The two guest performers / models were red-hot burlesque artistes on the ascent (and Dr Sketchy veterans) Slinky Sparkles and Choco Lat the Extraordinaire. Unfortunately, it was also a night of mondo technical glitches run amok!

Funnily enough, initially things were all smoothly functioning, organised and efficient. For once, I managed to sort out the stage lights myself, like a proper grown-up. The cordless microphone for the emcee was tested and ready to go. Choco Lat had arrived early, sound checked her CD and rehearsed one of her numbers (she did two). Then Slinky arrived and informed me the music for her number was on her iPod rather than burnt onto a CD. This always makes my heart sink: the scope for things going wrong when you’re grappling with someone’s unfamiliar iPod is high (my own iPod is the third generation shuffle – a completely different kettle of fish). And also, the volume on them is usually just never loud enough. Worryingly, when I tried to test the audio for Slinky’s iPod, I was getting no sound coming out of the decks at all. Eventually I called over The Royal Vauxhall Tavern’s manager and we both spent some sweaty, anxious moments trying to coax audio out of her iPod with no success. Finally, he had to call someone not on duty that night to work out what we were doing wrong! (Something to do with: the red light was on, when it should have been the green light. I must remember that!). When we finally got Slinky’s music resolved it felt like we'd averted a crisis. But there was more to come ...

(I’ve mentioned before that the decks at The RVT are the most complex of anywhere I’ve ever DJ’d. They really do look like the control panels of a helicopter and I have no idea what 60% of the buttons and knobs actually do. They’re really intended for dance DJs who beat mix, and obviously the venue is also used for full-scale performance art, cabaret and theatrical productions. My friend Christopher Raymond was there that night and he’d never been in the RVT's DJ booth before. Looking at the decks, he said they made him feel like Karen Black in Airport 1975 – the one where the she plays the hysterical, panic-stricken stewardess who has to land the plane herself when the pilot dies of a heart attack mid-flight).

Behind the scenes, there was another drama brewing that I wasn’t even aware of. Ophelia Bitz was scheduled to emcee that night, but texted Dr Sketchy promoter (the glamorous and unflappable Clare Marie) at the last minute to say she couldn’t make it – which left Clare frantically trying to find a speedy replacement! Luckily, burlesque starlet Hotcake Kitty (who I’ve worked with at Dr Sketchy once before) stepped in and saved the day. The show was running late while this was being sorted out, but eventually when things were ready I gave Clare the cordless microphone to pass backstage to Kitty so show-time could start. Clare returned asking, "What’s wrong? The mic’s not working!" So I had to call over the long-suffering RVT manager again while we desperately tried to work out why there was suddenly no audio coming out of the mic we’d already sound checked earlier (and simultaneously keep DJ’ing)! That felt like it took ages and we were contemplating a mic-free night when finally it started working. Who knows why? We never got to the bottom of what happened there.

Later on, Slinky was due to go straight into her burlesque performance right after the break. Clare was standing next to me in the DJ booth. I’d noticed earlier the little battery symbol on Slinky’s iPod was indicating the battery was low. By now, just before her act, it was virtually dead! Clare swung into action, stretching the break out longer while she located a charger and we re-charged it as best we could – we only needed it to spark to life long enough for Slinky’s number and not die midway through! Mercifully, it worked: Hotcake Kitty announced Slinky, I hit “Play”, the iPod worked, and her number was absolutely seamless. By then I pounded back several pints of beer just to get my blood pressure back to normal. I had some friends in attendance that night and they said afterward no one in the audience was aware of any technical hitches going down, which was a relief. It actually felt exciting to salvage the night from all these potential disasters – it got the adrenaline pumping and kept me on my toes. It was a triumph against adversity!

Musically, I began with some finger snapping noir-ish and art-y No Wave / post-punk skronk courtesy of Snatch (aka Patti Palladin and Judy Nylon), death kitten / harridan Lydia Lunch and Chet Baker of punk James Chance, eased into some exotica and then luxuriated in full-blown, greasy vintage sleaze for the rest of the night. For Slinky’s poses, I decided to go for a different approach rather than the usual grinding tittyshaking instrumentals. Slinky’s image recalls classic 1950s Hollywood blonde actresses like Marilyn Monroe – but also haunting and enigmatic "Lavender Blonde" Kim Novak. I tried to opt for eerie, delicate music that evoked the idea of the archetypal Alfred Hitchcock cool blonde: pristine and poised on the outside, roiling with neuroses on the inside. Think of ice maidens like Grace Kelly, or Tippi Hedren in The Birds and Marnie. Hell, January Jones as the frosty, troubled trophy wife Betty Draper in Mad Men qualifies as an honorary modern equivalent of a Hitchcock Blonde-type, as does Catherine Deneuve in Belle de Jour. And, towering above them all is the fragile and doomed Novak in Vertigo. The latter choice is actually quite timely: on 2 August, Vertigo was officially declared “the greatest film of all time” (usurping Citizen Kane) in a poll by The British Film Institute’s Sight and Sound magazine. Anyway, the section of music between “Moon Mist” and Chet Baker’s “Petit Fleur” was for Slinky’s poses. Francoise Hardy (crooning in wispy German), Jennifer Miro of the Nuns, Marilyn Monroe and film noir siren- turned-chanteuse Lizabeth Scott represented the gloomy, conflicted voices in Slinky’s head.

Kim Novak in Alfred Hitchcock's Vertigo (1958)

I’ve almost certainly mentioned this before, but having Clare Marie, Slinky, Choco Lat and I all assembled in one room is a bit of a mini-What Katie Did reunion. All three of us used to work at the deluxe faux-vintage lingerie emporium in Portobello when it first opened its doors in 2007. None of us work there now, but we were the original “dream team” in the early days. Clare used to be the manager, I was the semi-regular “Saturday Boy” and Slinky and Choco Lat were sales assistants.

What Katie Did Staff Christmas 2008 Portrait!
The way we were! Photo taken at the in-store What Katie Did Christmas party in 2008. Left to right: me, Slinky Sparkles, Clare, Choco Lat and What Katie Did founder/ proprietor Katie Halford

Slinky and Choco Lat are consistently amazing performers. Sadly, I haven’t come across any photos taken on the night (if I find any I’ll add them later), but someone filmed a video of Choco Lat’s dazzling first number (a fan dance). If you watch carefully, you catch a glimpse of me tip toeing from the DJ booth to the men’s room during her act! (One of the advantages of DJ’ing at The RVT is that the men’s room is conveniently situated right next to the DJ booth!).

Shopping for Clothes - Snatch
I Love How You ... Lydia Lunch
Town without Pity - James Chance
Simba - Les Baxter
Virgenes del Sol - Yma Sumac
Beauty is Only Skin Deep - Robert Mitchum
Cocktails for Two - Cliff Duphiney
Vesuvius - The Revels
Madness - The Rhythm Rockers
Don't Blame it On Me - Ike and Tina Turner
Pass the Hatchet - Roger and The Gypsies
Baby Blues Rock - Carl Simpson
Oo Ba La Baby - Mamie Van Doren
Good and Bad - The Gauchos
The Mexican - The Fentones
Jim Dandy - Sara Lee and The Spades
Elle est terrible - Johnny Hallyday
When I Get Low I Get High - Florence Joelle
Don't Be Cruel - Bill Black Combo
Club Delight - Jack Jolly
I Ain't in the Mood - Helen Humes
This Thing Called Love - Esquerita
Wiped Out - The Escorts
Love Potion # 9 - Nancy Sit
Scorpion - Jimmy McConville and The Shamrocks
It Ain't to Play With - Sheryl Crowley and Lorenzo Holden's Orchestra
Blockade - The Rumblers
Fever - The Huntsmen
Work Song - Nina Simone
Strollin' After Dark - The Shades
Miss Irene - Ginny Kennedy
Beavershot - The Hollywood Hurricanes
My Goodness - X
Last Night - Lula Reed
Night Walk - The Swingers
Chicken Grabber - The Nite Hawks
Kruschev Twist - Melvin Gayle
Peter Gunn Locomotion - The Delmonas
Peter Gunn Twist - The Jesters
Tall Cool One - The Wailers
Run - Jeri Sothern
Moon Mist - The Out Islanders
Traume - Francoise Hardy
Lazy - The Nuns
Lazy - Marilyn Monroe
Can't Get Out of This Mood - Lizabeth Scott
Petit Fleur - Chet Baker
Hand Clappin' Time - The Fabulous Raiders
Beat Party - Ritchie and The Squires
Suey - Jayne Mansfield
Don't You Feel My Leg - Blue Lu Barker
C'est Si Bon - Eartha Kitt
Shangri-La - Spikes Jones New Band
The Good Life - Ann-Margret
Boss - The Rumblers
The Whip - The Frantics
No Good Lover - Mickey and Sylvia
Devil in Disguise - Elvis Presley
Mighty Good Love - Big Maybelle
The Girl Can't Help It - Little Richard
Chop Suey Rock'N'Roll - The Instrumentals
The Bee - The Sentinels

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