Sunday, 30 September 2012

Yma Sumac: The Art Behind the Legend



/ Operatic Enchantress Yma Sumac /

Make mine a Blue Hawaii! I’ve been in an exotica-drenched frame of mind lately. Trace it back to me buying the Ultra-Lounge CD Mondo Exotica (“Mysterious Melodies and Tropical Tiki Tunes”) at Amoeba Records when I was last in San Francisco in April 2012 (it’s been a staple of my DJ’ing sets ever since).  In my last post I wrote about the elusive turbaned 1950s heartthrob Korla Pandit; this time I wanted to pay tribute to another icon of exotica, the wondrous Peruvian soprano Yma Sumac (13 September 1922 – 1 November 2008).

Controversial pop culture theorist Camille Paglia has rhapsodised about the impact of Sumac’s 1950 debut album Voice of the Xtabay on her imagination and sensibility as an impressionable child, especially its sensational cover:

"The cover image of  Voice of the Xtabay with a glamorous Sumac in the pose of a prophesying priestess against a background of fierce sculptures and an erupting volcano, contains the entire pagan worldview and nature cult of what would become my first book, Sexual Personae, published 40 years later. Thank you, Yma!"




I’ve loved Sumac’s ululating voice,  regal persona and tempestuous musical vision since the 1990s when her old albums began being reissued on CD at the height of the lounge music revival vogue (especially her classic 1954 album Mambo! -- never was an exclamation point more deserved). Lately I feel like re-discovering Sumac, and delving deeper into her back catalogue.

In the Winter 2008 print issue of Nude (the sadly now defunct alternative arts and culture magazine) I reviewed the biography Yma Sumac: The Art Behind the Legend by Nicholas E Limanksy (YBK Publishers Inc).  (Weirdly, the issue of Nude featuring this review virtually coincided with the news of Sumac’s death – an eerie coincidence). Anyway, here it is below:
Of all the pre rock’n’roll singers unearthed in the 1990s lounge revolution, the strangest and most exotic was Yma Sumac.  In the 1950s the operatic Peruvian diva was a genuine pop culture phenomenon, boggling the minds of international audiences with her berserk four octave vocal range and mystical Incan high priestess image.   A lovingly researched new biography argues that Sumac (dubbed the “Voice of the Earthquake”) was both one of the first beneficiaries and casualties of record company hype.
Nicholas E Limansky charts the journey of the former Zoila Augusta Emperatriz Chavarri del Castillo from her modest roots as an authentic Andean folk singer wearing traditional Peruvian costume to her emergence as the enigmatic Yma Sumac, bejewelled ersatz princess supposedly descended from Emperor Atahualpa, peddling a Hollywood-ised interpretation of what purported to be ancient Incan music.  Sumac’s “career (was) in a constant state of compromise”, Limansky argues, characterised by “corruption of musical and ethnic innocence; of artistic ideals.”


 In hindsight Capital Records’ public relations spin was not particularly adroit (Limansky notes they persistently scrambled Incan and Aztec imagery on Sumac’s record covers) but initially it was massively successful: in 1950 her debut album Voice of the Xtabay went to number 1. The absurd publicity overdrive led to a backlash, though. Her parasitic manager-husband Moises Vivanco alienated many. The arrival of Elvis heralded the end of her chart topping days. And by The Beatles Sumac was a relic.
Obscurity beckoned until her albums were reissued on CD in the 1990s. Sumac’s rise had coincided with the fascination for all things exotic after World War Two: Latin, African and Polynesian music; Tiki lounges; tropical cocktails. When a new generation of hipsters embraced this pagan and taboo strand of Exotica lounge music its proponents Les Baxter and Martin Denny became cult figures – and Yma Sumac rehabilitated as the scene’s high empress.   


While the pleasure in listening to Sumac’s intoxicating music is analogous to donning a Hawaiian shirt or drinking a Mai Tai, she shouldn’t be dismissed as purely kitsch or camp. Heard today Yma Sumac’s remarkable voice still inspires awe.  



/ In 1954 Sumac made her film debut in the Hollywood adventure film Secret of the Incas, starring Charlton Heston. You can watch the film in its entirety on Youtube, but be warned – it’s pretty stultifying.  It does, however, capture Sumac in the supporting role of Kori-Tica at the height of her haughty, raven-haired beauty and in full nostril-flaring cry -- all in glorious 1950s Technicolour. Here are her best bits: /
 




Bonus track: the eerie and otherworldy "Chuncho": Yma Sumac at her witchy best.


Further reading:

The Yma Sumac biography The Art Behind the Legend was published on demand by YBK Publishers Inc. You can always contact them via their website

Yma Sumac's entry on Allmusic Guide website

Yma Sumac on Wikipedia

The official Yma Sumac website is a thing of great beauty

Sunday, 23 September 2012

20 September 2012 Dr Sketchy Set List

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Bettie Page demonstrating how to fill out a pair of fishnet tights

This Dr Sketchy (held at the ever-dissolute and nicotine-stained Royal Vauxhall Tavern) represents my first time DJ’ing since 1) Bestival and 2) getting back from my long weekend in Paris. (I might well do a separate blog on my Parisian misadventures). I’d gone straight into work on the Monday morning after getting back from Paris late Sunday night, and had a really draining week. So I was pretty dead on my feet and mellow at this Dr Sketchy.

For this night, Dr Sketchy’s own glamorous promoter / stage manageress Clare Marie was on emcee duties. The burlesque performer was curvaceous redhead Violet Strangelove (who doesn't appear to have a website for me to point you towards, sadly). And as an added bonus, the bill included a special musical guest: Gracie and The G-Spots. With effervescent blonde Gracie on smoky vocals (she can really belt it out!) accompanied by keyboardist and saxophonist, they tore through some great jazz and cabaret standards (“Whatever Lola Wants”, “Stormy Weather”, “Perhaps, Perhaps, Perhaps”) plus some more raunchy material I assume was original compositions (songs about lesbian sex, and how to not lose your page in Fifty Shades of Grey while masturbating!).

Early on when the RVT was still filling up and I was easing my way into things with exotica and lounge music, I played “Misirlou” by Martin Denny and “Les amours perdues” by Serge Gainsbourg. Just to be perverse, am posting videos for two different interpretations of these tracks!


Korla Pandit performing "Misirlou" on his TV Show Korla Pandit's Adventures in Music in the 1950s

I’ve got to thank Moses Longpiece for turning me onto Korla Pandit (I have no CDs by him, which I clearly need to rectify). Eerie, sensual and hypnotic, the enigmatic Pandit was one of the pioneering godfathers of exotica, to be mentioned in the same breath as Denny, Les Baxter and Yma Sumac. In the early 1950s he created a sensation on American TV with his own daily 15-minute programme Korla Pandit’s Adventures in Music. Every episode featured Pandit (sporting his signature jewelled-turban) seated at his Hammond organ (often playing piano simultaneously), inscrutably silent but wielding his dreamy liquid doe eyed-gaze at the viewer while he played. Apparently the sight and sound of this mysterious Indian musician cast a potent spell on his audience, especially love-struck housewives. It’s not hard to see why: in surviving clips, the dusky and androgynously pretty Pandit packs a genuine erotic charge. (Thankfully, an amazing amount of Adventures in Music seems to have survived; you can find a treasure trove of Pandit in performance on Youtube).

All of this is already fascinating enough. In 2001, though, Los Angeles Magazine published an article entitled “The Many Faces of Korla Pandit” which tore the lid off the facade Pandit had scrupulously maintained until his death in 1998. The piece revealed that Pandit was in fact a light-skinned African-American born John Roland in Missouri in 1921. To bypass the racism of the period, he re-christened himself as the Mexican “Juan Rolando” and played Latin music. Later on, he found fame by adopting the jasmine-scented persona of New Delhi-born Indian organist Korla Pandit – and kept his secret intact for decades, even from close intimates. How incredible! In this regard, Pandit has much in common with Anglo-Indian Hollywood actress Merle Oberon, who denied her mixed race origins and would pretend her dark-skinned sari-clad Indian mother was her maid, or notorious literary hoaxster JT LeRoy.

In 1994, not long before his death, Tim Burton cast Pandit as himself for a memorable cameo appearance in Ed Wood. (The only Tim Burton-Johnny Depp film I’ve ever liked). It makes for a nice epitaph for Korla Pandit.
 

Read more about Pandit here, or on his own official website.


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My reverence for quintessential French beatnik chanteuse  Juliette Greco is pretty well-documented. Here is the high priestess of French chanson in 1959, at the height of her witchy Morticia Addams beauty, singing the great Serge Gainsbourg song “Les amours perdues” while reclining on a giant slowly-revolving record, her drowned Ophelia hair spread out like long black seaweed beneath her. Exquisite!


Juliette Gréco - Les amours perdues (1959) by sylvainsyl




Finally: I posted this blog using the new blogger.com interface. What a nightmare! Like Facebook with Timeline, the change to the new interface had long been threatened and wasn’t optional. It was simple, elegant, functional and user-friendly before. Creating this post took about five times longer than normal – ugh! I’d be curious to hear how other bloggers on here are finding it.

Moon Mist - Les Baxter
Xtabay - Yma Sumac
Misirlou - Martin Denny
Monkey Bird - The Revels
Les amours perdues - Serge Gainsbourg
Run - Jeri Southern
Cocktails for Two - Claude Duphiney
I Remember You - Chet Baker
Smoke Gets In Your Eyes - The Mallet Men
Drive-In - The Jaguars
Fever - Nancy Sit
The Mexican - The Fentones
Little Ole Wine Drinker Me - Robert Mitchum
One More Beer - The Earls of Suave
When I Get Low I Get High - Florence Joelle's Kiss of Fire
Frenzy - The Hindus
Madness - The Rhythm Rockers
Jim Dandy - Sara Lee and The Spades
Wiped-Out - The Escorts
You Done Messed Around and Made a Mean Woman Mad - Julia Bates
Screwdriver - Luchi
Night Scene - The Rumblers 8 Ball - The Hustlers
La valse des si - Juliette Greco
The Immediate Pleasure - John Barry (Beat Girl soundtrack)
Willow Weep for Me - Nina Simone
Night Walk - The Swingers
Is You Is Or Is You Ain't My Baby? Ann Richards

The Beast - Milt Buckner
Love for Sale - Eartha Kitt
Margaya - The Fender Four
Caterpillar Crawl - The Strangers
Oo Ba La Baby - Mamie Van Doren
Scorpion - The Carnations
Sick and Tired - Lula Reed
I Walk like Jayne Mansfield - The 5,6,7,8s
That Makes It - Jayne Mansfield
Baby Blues Rock - Carl Simpson
Are You Nervous? The Instrumentals
Dance with Me, Henry - Ann-Margret
The Flirt - Shirley and Lee
Yogi - The Bill Black Combo
He's The One - Ike and Tina Turner
Let's Twist Again - Johnny Hallyday
Sweetie Pie - Eddie Cochran
Strollin' After Dark - The Shades
Mack the Knife - Hildegard Knef
Begin the Beguine - Billy Fury
One Mint Julep - Sarah Vaughan
I Was Born to Cry - Johnny Thunders and Patti Paladdin
Ain't That Lovin' You, Baby - Elvis Presley
Dragon Walk - The Noble Men
Beat Party - Ritchie and The Squires
Get Back, Baby - Esquerita


Monday, 10 September 2012

I Survived Bestival 2012!

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The Agony and The Ecstacy ...

I got back from Bestival earlier than originally scheduled on Sunday afternoon (all will be explained below!). On Wednesday 12 September I split for a long weekend in Paris, so am rushing to screw my head on tight and get everything down before too much time has passed. I’m exhausted as hell from the whole Bestival experience, so this blog will probably read like a series of urgent, disjointed bullet points. Think of it as a telegram from hell!

Thursday 6 September 2012

We travelled from London to the Isle of Wight on Thursday afternoon. My travelling companions were Nicola and burlesque artists Honey Wilde and Crimson Skye. The ultra level-headed and coolly serene Nicola (aka frequent Dr Sketchy model Bomb Voyage, who I also used to work alongside at What Katie Did years ago) drove us in her black Audi. She was working at Bestival as Time for Tease and Dr Sketchy promoter Clare Marie’s assistant / co-stage manager; Honey and Crimson would be featured Time for Tease performers. All three were hardened Bestival veterans and thought it hilarious I was still a festival virgin who hadn’t gone camping in decades. On the ferry to the Isle of Wight we drank celebratory cans of beers.

It was already dark when we reached the campgrounds of Bestival. The crowd was still relatively sparse, as the vast majority of people were arriving the following day. After accreditation (getting the wristbands that gave us access to various areas) we were directed to where we would be staying. We were camping in in the relatively more luxurious (very relative) “Duckie” camping field reserved for production team. On the plus side, this meant access to better toilets and shower facilities than the regular festival attendees. On the down side, the Duckie field was miles away from the main stages where all the action was: better for sleeping as it was comparatively quieter (somewhat!), but it was an epic journey every day to get to the Bollywood field, where the Time for Tease tent was situated.

Like I’ve mentioned before, I may hail from rural Quebec and did used to go camping fairly frequently as a child, but as an adult urbanite I found roughing it camping sheer torture. For the first night Honey and I shared a two-man tent; the next day Clare provided me with my own one-man tent. Nicola, Clare and Chocolat the Extraordinaire shared another two-man tent nearby. By the time we reached the Duckie field I was happy just to crash out. I was drained from the trip and humping heavy bags across fields, plus I I needed to be really focused on Friday to do five shows.

I’ve got to admit, the first night was pretty hellish. It was virtually impossible to get to sleep. The field (and the tent) was coated in cold wet dew. During the night condensation dripped from the roof of tent. It was like rain drops splashing you in the face. At one point I realized the sleeping bag had a wet patch, and that I was in fact sleeping in puddle of water! Then the temperature plummeted and it got incredibly cold around dawn. I woke up shivering so hard it was like having a seizure! On Thursday night there were already tents playing thudding dance music until early in the morning. Endless thumping bass from dance tests would be the constant audio backdrop to Bestival. It was audible even in the Duckie field, like constant distant explosions. On Friday I’d discover the Time for Tease dressing room tent was right next to a pumping dance music tent; it was like the aural torture they use on the prisoners of Guantanamo Bay! The bass made your fillings rattle. Anyway, Thursday I managed to get only a few brief snatches of sleep and woke up the next day feeling like a corpse.

Friday 7 September 2012

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Hotcake Kitty and Ophelia Bitz

By 11 am I dragged myself to the Time for Tease tent at the distant Bollywood field to report for work and familiarise myself with equipment; show time was 1 pm and the audience would start being ushered in circa 12.45 pm. Time for Tease has been held at Bestival every year since 2007 and apparently entertained over 5000 people every year. The Time for Tease tent was genuinely dazzling, an impressively frou-frou and chi-chi setting: think decadent Belle Époque Parisian brothel (complete with chandeliers) plonked in the centre of a 21st century music festival. The premise of Time for Tease is the audience enjoys traditional English high tea, served by an army of waitresses in fetish-y black and white French maid uniforms (at least one of them was a cross-dressing boy at Bestival) while watching burlesque performances. It’s a debauched tea party. Or “tits and cake”, as emcee Ophelia Bitz succinctly summarised it.

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Ava Iscariot in her Time for Tease staff uniform

Clare had assembled the crème de la crème of burlesque and cabaret talent for the weekend's line-up – it really was an all-star revue. I’m relieved to say every single show went off smoothly, with no glitches or screw-ups. DJ’ing in the Time for Tease tent all weekend was a genuine blast. So was hanging out with the gals in the dressing room tent between shows.

On Friday Ophelia kicked things off with a filthy song. There were also two gender-fucked drag king performances on Friday: Crimson Skye in her male persona of Duncan Donuts and Fancy Chance doing a tribute to Prince. It gradually became apparent that the two front tables were destined for lots of audience interaction from the performers. It was fun at the beginning of each show to see what poor bastards would wind up at a ringside seat, not realising what was in store. Eventually Ophelia purred to one group, “You might as well have wrapped yourself in steak and thrown yourself into a bear pit ...”

Re: my playlist. At Time for Tease gigs I DJ’d as the crowd arrived, then during the break and again at the end (in between I was cueing and playing the performers’ music for their numbers). For most of the weekend I decided to start with mondo exotica as the audience members arrived and were ushered to their seats, perfuming the air with Martin Denny, Les Baxter and the bird of prey screams of Yma Sumac, hopefully creating a sense of otherworldly drama. Then I’d plunge them into rhythm and blues and tittyshaking raunchiness. Clare requested music for when all the artists return at the end for their curtain call; I settled on Little Richard’s “The Girl Can’t Help It”, which is why it appears at the end of every set list.

Re my photos. The DJ decks were tucked in the corner by the side of the stage, not ideal for taking photos (I mostly got the performers’ backs and profiles) – but here are some shots I managed to snatch. I was also trying to use available light, so some of the photos are pretty blurred – but at least they’re documentation. At one point, I went to take Clare's photo and she screamed, "NO!" She looked great, so needn't have worried. Anyway, if you want to see the rest of my Bestival photos they are on my flickr page

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Emerald Fontaine's John Waters-inspired Cry-baby act

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Tallulah Tempest's Le Carnaval act. Her musical backing is Lotte Lenya crooning "Alabama Song"

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Honey Wilde's Margaret Thatcher act. They forgot to include this bit in the recent Meryl Streep biopic

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Chocolat The Extraordinaire's Black Widow act

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Vivacious emcee Ophelia Bitz

Dr Sketchy at 8.30 pm that night was a scaled-down version of our regular show. It lasted just an hour, and featured only one model (but what a model: Fancy Chance, still in Prince drag). It has to be said, the Friday Dr Sketchy was pretty sparsely-attended, possibly because the big headline shows were beginning to start and everyone was at those. Particularly noteworthy was the freaky gurning drug-addled middle-aged couple in the front row (virtually toothless man in a hooded sweatshirt with eyeliner and glitter on his face, woman with pigtails and a murderous glare. They were like escapees from an especially sleazy Harmony Korine film). Dusty estimated they were on crystal meth, while Fancy opted for MDMA. They were certainly hypnotic to watch.

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Little Richard! No, Prince! No, the brilliant Fancy Chance dragged up as Prince

Afterwards: Man, was I exhausted. “Beat” as in tired, as well as the Kerouac sense. I was so busy all day I ate only once (an excellent vegetarian burrito) and drank just one beer. It was a tortuous voyage through throngs of drunk and stoned revellers while lugging my heavy DJ bag and my new one-man tent back to the Duckie field. It had been blazingly hot during the day (the daytime weather all weekend was heavenly and sun-drenched), but the temperature turned Baltic by night time. Needless to say I’d left my jacket back at the camp!

Luckily, the tent Clare loaned me was one of those pop-up models that spring-open as soon as you remove it from the bag, so even I could manage to pitch it – although once I attached it to the pegs, it listed slightly to one side, like the leaning tower of Pisa. Still, it was functional and I appreciated that it was a butch military shade of camouflage khaki green. I set it up in total darkness and promptly collapsed inside it. Unfortunately, it was pretty much a re-run of Friday night: violent teeth-chattering shivering in the early hours, a soundtrack of banging techno music, then waking up in a tropical heat wave, drenched in sweat.

Time for Tease Friday 7 September 2012

Performers on Day 1 (not necessarily in the order they went on!):

Emerald Fontaine, Crimson Skye, Tallulah Tempest, Rose Thorne, Honey Wilde, Bettsie Bon Bon, Fancy Chance

Emcee: Ophelia Bitz

Show 1
Xtabay (Lure of the Unknown Love) - Yma Sumac
Simba - Les Baxter
Monkey Bird - The Revels
Mambo Miam Miam - Serge Gainsbourg
Love for Sale - Hildegard Knef
Turquoise - Milt Buckner
I Remember You - Chet Baker
Cocktails for Two - Claude Duphiney
One Mint Julep - Sarah Vaughan
Honey Rock - Barney Kessel
Madness - The Rhythm Rockers
Mambo Baby - Ruth Brown
Blockade - The Rumblers
Jim Dandy - Sara Lee and The Spades
Intoxica - The Centurions
The Girl Can't Help It - Little Richard

Show 2
When I Get Low, I Get High - Florence Joelle's Kiss of Fire
Intoxica - The Revels
Scorpion - The Carnations
Hanky Panky - Rita Chao and The Quests
Dragon Walk - The Noble Men
Get Back, Baby - Esquerita
Don't Be Cruel - The Bill Black Combo
Margaya - The Fender Four
Mamma Look A-Boo Boo - Robert Mitchum
Go Calypso - Mamie Van Doren
The Girl Can't Help It - Little Richard
Ooh! Looka There, Ain't She Pretty - Bill Haley and His Comets

Show 3
Virgenes Del Sol - Yma Sumac
Camel Walk - The Saxons
Bali Hai - Tak Shindo
Misirlou - Laurindo Almeida featuring The Bossa Nova All Stars
Beat Girl - Adam Faith
Hand Clapping Time - The Fabulous Raiders
Chattanooga Choo Choo - Denise Darcel
Beat Party - Ritchie and The Squires
Eight Ball - The Hustlers
Beaver Shot - The Hollywood Hurricanes
Jim Dandy - Ann-Margret
The Girl Can't Help It - Little Richard

Show 4
Xtabay (Lure of the Unknown Love) - Yma Sumac
Caravan - 80 Drums Around the World
Run - Jeri Southern
Tall Cool One - The Wailers
Elle est terrible - Johnny Hallyday
Little Girl, Little Boy - John and Jackie
Torture Rock - The Rockin' Belmarx
That Makes It - Jayne Mansfield
I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield - 5,6,7,8's
Boss - The Rumblers
The Girl Can't Help It - Little Richard

Dr Sketchy model for Day 1: Fancy Chance. Emcee: Dusty Limits

Town without Pity - James Chance
Shopping for Clothes - Snatch
I Love How You ... Lydia Lunch
Kuwaya (Inca Love Song) - Yma Sumac
Moon Mist - The Out Islanders
Esquerita and The Voola - Esquerita
Strollin' After Dark - The Shades
La Bamba - Eartha Kitt
Cherry Pink - The Bill Black Trio
He Can Be Your Baby - Bobbi Staff
The Coo - Wayne Cochran
Chicken Grabber - The Nite Hawks
He's The One - Ike and Tina Turner
Love Potion # 9 - Nancy Sit
Ain't That Lovin' You, Baby - The Earls of Suave
The Beast - Milt Buckner
Mack the Knife - Ann-Margret
Anasthasia - The Bill Smith Combo
Give Me Love - Lena Horne
Witchcraft - Elvis Presley
Boots - Nero and The Gladiators
Mama Look-A Boo Boo - Robert Mitchum

Saturday 8 September 2012

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Ophelia Bitz and Tallulah Tempest "backstage"

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Cheesecake shot of Fancy Chance, Tattooed Lady

On Saturday morning, I joined the queue for my first shower at the festival, and the first since leaving home on Thursday. By then I was feeling like a skanky tramp. It was just a thin trickle of warm water, but it was sheer bliss. From there, I trudged back to the Bollywood field, but this time I was savvy enough to be armed with 1) a flashlight (so I could more easily find my tent in the pitch black later on!) and 2) my jacket.

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The serene view behind the Time for Tease tent. This is what I could see when I turned around while DJ'ing

For these Time for Tease shows, Dusty Limits opened proceedings with a musical number: “Whatever Dusty Wants” (basically “Whatever Lola Wants” with kinky changed lyrics). The drag kings were banished on Saturday: Crimson was in high femme mode for her "Foxy Lady" routine, while Fancy Chance performed a song costumed as a melancholy panda contemplating its non-existent sex life (“Everybody’s Fucking But Me”).

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Fancy in her panda costume, waiting to go onstage

The overall theme for all of Bestival on Saturday was animal fancy dress (which made Fancy’s Panda act thematically appropriate). At one of the shows there was an audience member in what appeared to be blackface, which sparked a bit of a debate amongst the performers; Chocolat threatened to throw water at him. Ophelia went to investigate; I loaned her my camera. When she went to take his photo, he put his headdress on, and we realised his “blackface” was actually part of a brilliant spider costume!

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It turns out there was a Guardian journalist in the crowd for one of the Saturday Time for Tease shows – and they gave us a brief but lovely online review:

“ ... Anyway, we have a booking at Time For Tease, the burlesque tent in which cakes come in towers, the compere Dusty Limits displays a vocal range and comedic sensibility worthy of headliner status and we witness sights that will stay with us until death – a woman in a panda costume singing “everybody’s fucking but me”, a sexy Elephant Man and Margaret Thatcher stripping to EMF’s Unbelievable.”

(Panda = Fancy Chance, sexy Elephant Man (Elephant Woman, to be precise) = Rose Thorne, Margaret Thatcher = Honey Wilde)

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Tallulah Tempest's Maltese Falcon act (this is one of the best photos I got all weekend! Check out the guy in the Sonic the Hedgehog costume)

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Crimson Skye's Foxy Lady act

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Honey Warne as a stern Margaret Thatcher and Bettsie BonBon as sexy alien girl

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Bettsie Bon Bon's Outer Space Pin-Up act (think sexy alien, like Barbarella)

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Tallulah Tempest

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Rose Thorne's David Lynch-ian Elephant Woman act, part 1

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Rose Thorne's Elephant Woman act, part 2 (after the big reveal)

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Chocolat the Extraordinaire's English County Garden act

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Fancy Chance's casual daywear

There was another positive surprise development on Saturday. We were all scheduled to do another full day of shows on Sunday (the last day of the festival). It was understood that Nicola, Honey and I were to catch the last ferry on Sunday night, which was at 10.30 pm – but the Dr Sketchy would be finishing around 9.30 pm – which made that seem unlikely. The thought of spending another night camping was pretty despairing! And leaving on the Monday – when everyone else was also leaving – was meant to be a chaotic exodus to be avoided if possible. And anyway, I was turning feral by this point. Much longer, and I would get all Lord of the Flies. Nicola’s day job is working at a tattoo parlour. She was due to start her tattooing apprenticeship on Monday, and wanted to get an earlier start back to ensure she was feeling rested and prepared – and Clare approved it. So the three of us were OK’d to leave Sunday morning, and skip working the Sunday Time for Tease and Dr Sketchy shows. Much as I regretted not DJ’ing at those, I was euphoric to be going home!

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Nicola (Bomb Voyage) and Dusty Limits. Nicola looked immaculate all weekend

Dr Sketchy that night was much better attended, with lots of curious people wandering in, catching a glimpse of the Folly Mixtures onstage in various states of undress and deciding to stay. One of them was Glen Matlock, the original pre-Sid Vicious bassist of the Sex Pistols. Spotting him in the audience virtually made me jizz with excitement. For me, the Sex Pistols are the Holy Grail, the band that originally turned me onto punk as a callow teenager when an older boy at school dubbed Never Mind the Bollocks, Here’s the Sex Pistols onto a cassette for me. I was going to introduce myself and maybe even demand he pose for a photo with me (!), but I looked up at one point and he’d left. He was there for maybe 35 minutes, so at least I can say one of the Sex Pistols heard me DJ’ing!

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The Folly Mixtures at Dr Sketchy


Time for Tease Saturday 8 September 2012

Performers on Day 2 (not necessarily in the order they went on!):

Hotcake Kitty, Crimson Skye, V J Spankie, Tallulah Tempest, Rose Thorne, Honey Wilde, Bettsie Bon Bon, Fancy Chance

Emcee: Dusty Limits

Show 1
Cyclone Bop - The Bill Black Combo
Fever - Nancy Sit
Revellion - The Revels
Suey - Jayne Mansfield
Pass the Hatchet - Roger and The Gypsies
Comin' Home - The Delmonas
Delilah Jones - The Thunderbirds
Jim Dandy - Sara Lee and The Spades
Khrushchev Twist - Melvin Gayle
Margaya - The Fender Four
Salamander - Mamie Van Doren
The Girl Can't Help It - Little Richard

Show 2
Xtabay (Lure of the Unknown Love) - Yma Sumac
Misirlou - Martin Denny
Monkey Bird - The Revels
She Wants to Mambo - Johnny Thunders and Patti Palladin
Mambo Baby - Ruth Brown
laisse-moi tranquille - Serge Gainsbourg
Moi je joue - Brigitte Bardot
Roll with Me Henry, Etta James
Good and Bad - The Gauchos
The Girl Can't Help It - Little Richard

Show 3
Sous les ciels de Paris - Juliette Greco
Shangri La - Spike Jones New Band
Kansas City - Ann-Margret
Sexe - Line Renaud
I Was Born to Cry - Dion
One Mint Julep - Sarah Vaughan
Tall Cool One - The Wailers
Little Miss Understood - Connie Stevens
When I Get Low, I Get High - Florence Joelle
One More Beer - The Earls of Suave
The Girl Can't Help It - Little Richard

Show 4
Beat Girl - Adam Faith
Boss - The Rumblers
I Live the Life I Love - Esquerita
Hand Clapping Time - The Fabulous Raiders
Uptown to Harlem - Johnny Thunders and Patti Palladin
Are You Nervous? The Instrumentals
I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield - 5,6,7,8's
That Makes It - Jayne Mansfield
Dragon Walk - The Noble Men
Beat Party - Ritchie and The Squires
Viens danser le twist - Johnny Hallyday
Dance with Me Henry - Ann-Margret
Chicken Grabber - The Nite Hawks
The Girl Can't Help It - Little Richard
You Can't Stop Her - Bobby Marchan

Dr Sketchy model for Day 2: The Folly Mixtures. Emcee: Dusty Limits

Intoxica - The Revels
Trashcan - Ken Williams
Bombie - Johnny Sharp and The Yellowjackets
Beat Generation - Mamie Van Doren
Rompin' (The Natives Are Restless) - Jerry Warren and The Tremblers
Sea of Love - The Earls of Suave
Save It - Mel Robbins
Get Back, Baby - Esquerita
Blues in My Heart - John Buzon Trio
Black Coffee - Julie London
Love for Sale - Eartha Kitt
You're My Thrill (instrumental version) - Chet Baker
Sexe - Line Renaud
Give Me Love - Lena Horne
The Stripper - John Barry (Beat Girl soundtrack)
Lovin' Spree - Ann-Margret
Pussycat Song - Connie Vannett
My Pussy Belongs to Daddy - Faye Richmonde
Beaver Shot - The Periscopes
Black Tarantula - Jody Reynolds
Let's Go Sexin' - James Intveld (Dirty Shame soundtrack)
The Whip - The Frantics
Mighty Good Love - Big Maybelle
Peter Gunn Locomotion - The Delmonas
Peter Gunn Twist - The Jesters

Sunday 9 September 2012

Nicola, Honey and I got up early and helped each other collapse and pack our tents (no mean feat. Pop-up tents are easy to set-up, a bitch to pack. The instruction diagram shows one man doing it. In our experience, it takes three people: one to read the instructions and watch to make sure we’re doing it right, and two to wrestle the damned tent into submission). Then one last trek across fields to the parking lot, weighed down with luggage and tents.

On the way back to London we zipped past verdant green countryside, with tranquil cows and gambolling sheep in fields, glistening water and some spectacular views. The Isle of Wight is beautiful, but I definitely prefer to admire nature whipping past from the window of a moving vehicle rather than experiencing it directly!

In conclusion:

Cons:

This definitely includes camping -- even doing basic things like brushing your teeth or having a shower feel like a triumph against adversity. Camping at a festival is like doing what people used to endure when they were fleeing Nazi persecution, or escaping from ethnic cleansing or corrupt dictatorships to an asylum seekers’ internment camp -- for pleasure! By choice! I knew this already, but I’m a hot water and soap junkie. No amount of babywipes or alcohol hand gel will suffice.

The vast majority of attendees at Bestival were well posh! If you were to call out, “Orlando!”, “Rupert!” or “Tarquin!” a dozen heads would have turned.

In fashion terms, lots of girls at the festival went for a twee pre-Raphaelite look, with garlands of flowers encircling their heads (and in some horrendous cases, angel wings on their backs). I blame the influence of rock's reigning irksome hippie maiden Florence and The Machine (or Flomax, as I call her), who was one of the Bestival headliners this year. (Happily, I didn’t hear a single note of her foghorn voice the night she played).

The chemical toilets: at the Duckie camp, we had proper flushing normal toilets, but anywhere else (like at the Bollywood field) it was ultra-basic portacabin-style ones. While it was convenient having one stationed just behind the Time for Tease tent so I could quickly dash out for a slash mid-set, by Saturday afternoon the stench was so overwhelming, I would swoon and almost faint like a Victorian lady when I had to enter one. Someone get me a handkerchief drenched in cologne!

Pros:

I definitely discovered that one of the perks of working at Bestival is the sheer quantity of buff male eye candy to lech over. It was like a landscape of tattooed and sculpted torsos. And they kindly obliged by going shirtless! By Saturday and Sunday, the guys were all bronzed from the sun and had grown a hint of scruffy beard. My knees were buckling with lust every time I turned around! Dusty Limits and I would stand by the DJ area and ogle the crowd, picking out the guys we fancied. If you’re a connoisseur of firm male flesh, Bestival is the festival for you.

The audiences at the Time for Tease tent were amongst the most open, appreciative and enthusiastic I’ve ever had the pleasure to DJ for. All weekend, everyone seemed up for a laugh and got into the spirit of things. It was a gratifying ego-boost to look up and see people jiggling and responding to the music I was playing.

Best of all, it was great to work with absolutely everyone on the Time for Tease crew. It sounds corny, but there was a genuine sense of camaraderie (special thanks to affable sound engineer Chris).

Anyway, immediately upon getting in my door Sunday afternoon, I stripped off all my clothes, emptied out my duffle bag and stuffed everything into the washing machine! Then I had a long exquisite hot, soapy shower. So the festival stench has been banished!






Sunday, 2 September 2012

Mixed Bag O'Shite: Updates!

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Gloria Graham’s Pussy: Sullen Gloria Grahame, dubbed the “fallen-blonde, pouty lipped sinful-eyed angel” of film noir by John Kobal. She certainly enlivened every film she ever appeared in. One of the most popular photos I’ve ever posted on my blog is Grahame wearing an ultra pointy bullet bra under a tight sweater. Thanks for all the traffic, Gloria.

The blog has been a bit quieter than usual because I’m DJ’ing less these days. Dr Sketchy is winding down a bit: it will take a sabbatical and be (hopefully!) triumphantly re-launched around December 2012 or maybe the new year. Before that, though, we’re taking our show on the road and will be doing our own Dr Sketchy tent at the music festival Bestival in the Isle of Wight on 6-9 September 2012. But Dr Sketchy’s glamazon stage manager Clare Marie is also organising the burlesque club Time for Tease, and I’ll be DJ’ing there as well – FOUR shows a day! So I’ll be DJ’ing five shows a day for three days. I’ll be the hardest-working man in show business! I’m drained already just thinking about it.

It’s surprising how anxious I am about Bestival! I never go to either music festivals or go camping, so I will be totally out of my comfort zone. Clare is providing me with a tent, and a woman at work has loaned me a sleeping bag. I may originally hail from rural Quebec and I did used to frequently go camping when I was a kid, but I’ve been living in concrete jungle London for twenty years now and am a total hard-bitten urbanite. The good news is the Dr Sketchy crew will be situated in the relatively deluxe VIP performers’ area, so will have decent shower and toilet facilities. As a self-confessed borderline OCD control freak, it’s hard not to worry about the things I have zero control over – i.e. totally unfamiliar decks, the logistics of DJ’ing somewhere unfamiliar to a bigger than usual crowd, the security of my DJ bag (if it ever got stolen, I would be abruptly retired!), the fact I couldn’t erect a tent if my life depended on it!

Anyway, am sure it will be a blast and it will be a fun challenge to keep things focused and fresh doing five shows a day. And it’s a great opportunity to DJ outside of London to a whole new audience at a prestigious event. Needless to say I’ll be posting my set lists and photos when I get back.

Some other updates:

A few months ago I blogged about the birth of my “nephew” Dorival. I saw Petra, Rob and baby Dorival last Sunday. I see them about once a month on average. At Dorival’s age you can see him develop dramatically each time you see him. His demeanour is usually mellow and sweet; his hobbies these days are mainly looking around noticing things, cramming his fists into his mouth and drooling (boy, can he drool).

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Mutter und Baby: Beautiful recent shot of Petra and Dorival

Last Sunday I was sitting next to Petra on the couch, with Dorival on her lap, and he was staring at me wide-eyed and unblinking with real curiosity. At one point, Petra need to go to the bathroom and quickly handed Dorival to me and set him on my lap as she left the room. The previous time I visited he let me hold him and was totally calm about it. (When you hold Dorival, he snorts and wriggles the whole time. It's like holding an adorable baby piglet). This time, seeing me extremely up-close he stared at me, he either touched my face or I put his hand on my face (I can’t remember), paused and thought about it for a moment -- and then started to howl! Rob quickly came over and picked him up and tried to soothe him, but Dorival continued to scream for about seven minutes! So it properly freaked him out. He’s at the “making strange” stage. Obviously to see Petra and Rob’s faces in close proximity is very soothing and reassuring for him – to see my unfamiliar face was alarming! So I have the kind of face that makes baby cry – it’s official!

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Dorival and I in happier days in July 2012, when he would still let me hold him. His tendril of hair curling under my nose makes me look like I have a moustache

Later, Petra’s elderly female cat Mamba was sitting on the arm of the couch, and I was crouching down next to her and saying to Dorival, “Look! Mamba lets me kiss her and she likes it!” He watched us, paused to reflect (he does the classic baby slow reaction to things, which is so funny) and then his whole face crumpled and he started to cry again! He didn’t like seeing me kiss anything! Petra is taking him with her to visit relatives in Germany for 18 days and said, “This doesn’t bode well.” They will all want to hold and kiss Dorival and she hopes he won’t be screaming the whole time!

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Dorival in August 2012, hoping I keep my distance. Monitor Dorival's progress on my flickr page

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In an ideal world, this would’ve been my Spring/Summer 2012 look – Continental Style for Men circa 1957. I love the Navy/White striped denim (or DENIM if you prefer) Capri shirt and the jeans rolled-up clam digger-length. His hair and sunglasses are perfection. He is the personification of La Dolce Vita (the photo is presumably taken in London’s Soho; you’d think he was in Rome). Cold day in hell I would ever wear espadrilles, though. I love the emphasis that Vince Man’s Shop is situated in the corner of Soho – whatever that means. Presumably his main clientele were gigolos?

My talented and glamorous friend Jirral Darmoise (I’ve known her on the rockabilly scene since the 1990s) makes exquisite handmade reproduction vintage chalkware that would look great on your wall! Check out her website Beatnik Blonde. These two pieces are my personal favourites:

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Sophia Loren

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Brigitte Bardot

Me!
Jirral and I circa Spring 2003. Could there be more leopard skin in this photo?

Read about this in The Guardian recently: someone found a book of police mug shots of Newcastle criminals from the 1930s in a junk shop. The photos have been loaded as collection onto flickr and are now being published as a book, too. Wow: Depression-era criminals sure had style! (Great nicknames, too: Cocky, Doggy, the Sunderland Kid). ALL of these criminals have style and elan -- but check out the mugshot of a grinning Michael Lavery ("General thief and shopbreaker"). He's defiance personified. John Dodgson ("A general thief and bad character. Works alone", with "extensively tattooed forearms and hands") has a haunting quality. He looks like Rimbaud.

My favourite, though, is George Coulson (below). This smouldering thug could’ve leapt from the pages of a Jean Genet novel. (And he's only 5'3". At 5'6", I would've towered over him. It's true what they say: good things come in small packages. Check out his dreamy profile, and the elegant way he's tied the scarf around his neck. And has anyone ever looked better in a flat cap?).

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Read more about these photos here

Some Youtube finds:

My reverence for Ann-Margret is well-documented. Here is ultra-talented and chameleonic Kristen Wiig imitating sex kitten-gone-berserk Ann-Margret circa Viva Las Vegas / Kitten with a Whip on a recent episode of Saturday Night Live. Brilliant!

(If video won't play, watch it here)

How amazing is this? 1956 TV footage of teenage kids dancing - with the original soundtrack (presumably of 1950s rock'n'roll) replaced by fierce, angry punk music! It’s an interesting experiment: I know that when in clubs or parties someone projects old 1950s burlesque DVDs like Teaserama or Varietease against a wall, no matter what music the DJ is playing, the swaying hips of Bettie Page or Tempest Storm somehow magically manages to synch with the rhythm. I love how the punk songs contrast with the wholesome 1950s Iowa teens (girls in pencil skirts and cardigans, boys in horn-rimmed glasses and flat top crew cuts) – a good two decades before the birth of punk. (It’s worth remembering that in those days, the term “punk” still meant someone who was raped in prison). The opening of the teens dancing to "Run Run Run" (one of my favourite non-Nico Velvet Underground songs) works perfectly. Later, when it’s "Warm Leatherette" by The Normal, “Too Many Creeps” by Bush Tetras or “Why Can’t I Touch It?” by The Buzzcocks playing on the soundtrack, their dancing suddenly looks more aggressive, twitchy, sex-wracked and alienated! The music implies that underneath they're all bristling, seething juvenile delinquents. Read more on the perennially excellent Dangerous Minds blog.



Finally, Jackie Shane will sing us out with “Walking the Dog”, captured in grainy black and white in 1965 from the TV show Night Train. I’d never heard of this obscure rhythm and blues singer until this weekend, when Joe Pop (impresario of club night Wild Thing) posted this intriguing Youtube clip on Facebook. What. A. DISCOVERY! Originally from Nashville, Tennessee, Shane was an androgynous African-American (male) soul singer and drag queen who created a risqué sensation performing in the nightclubs and cocktail lounges of a more tolerant Toronto, Ontario in the 1960s. She even scored a minor pop radio hit with the bluesy and bittersweet "Any Other Way" in 1963. Amazing to think that such a transgressive outsider artist could find such widespread mainstream acceptance (it certainly makes me proud to be Canadian!).

Or perhaps not so amazing: judging by this clip (apparently the only surviving visual fragment of Shane performing), she was a genuinely great R&B chanteuse by any standard. (By the way: both vocally and visually, Shane “passes” as a woman, as far as I’m concerned. If I hadn’t told you already, would you have “read” Shane as a drag queen?). Backed by the suave Johnny Jones & The King Casuals, Shane’s languid delivery is at once tough and biting but restrained and coolly nonchalant. What style! What insouciance! And Shane looks great, too: chic in her sequined cocktail dress, cardigan and bouffant wig. Shane has been described as a hybrid of Eartha Kitt, Prince and Little Richard, which seems apt. She certainly shares Kitt’s feline sultriness (and penchant for thick black eyeliner), and apparently in the 1950s and 60s Shane used to party with Etta James and Little Richard – so she certainly moved with a debauched and kinky rock’n’roll crowd.

By the end of the 1960s Shane left Canada and vanished into deep obscurity. There was an urban myth that she’d come to a violent end in Los Angeles. Happily, in recent years she has been rediscovered and it’s come to light that Shane (now in her 70s) is still alive and residing back in Nashville. There are some fascinating accounts of Shane’s life and what she’s doing now online you can easily find in a cursory Google search. This account is particularly interesting: the author got to know Shane and her elderly aunt when he was based in Nashville in the 1990s and they needed help moving house. As far as he was concerned Shane was just a middle-aged local woman (so she obviously still "passes" well), but when he went to help them pack, he discovered this treasure trove of wigs, fur coats, gowns and old records that hinted at an interesting show business past.

Judging by online comments from people who know the present-day Shane, she emerges as a pretty fragile and reclusive figure with mental health issues (in particular agoraphobia), so any kind of return to performing is obviously out of the question. Still, let’s hope someone corners her with a tape recorder and get her memoirs down before she dies, because Shane probably has some eye-popping stories to tell about her low life in high heels. In the past I’ve blogged about how the likes of Little Richard, Esquerita and Bobby Marchan represent the subterranean queer, black history of rhythm and blues and rock’n’roll. The enigmatic and regal Jackie Shane clearly belongs in this pantheon.