Tuesday, 10 June 2014

30 May 2014 Cockabilly DJ Set List

/ Nice ass: James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) /

The May 2014 Cockabilly (London’s only regular queer punkabilly beer blast, last Friday of every month at epicentre of hip, The George and Dragon) was reliably divoon, to quote Saint Jayne Mansfield. As usual, Mal Nicholson (the brains behind Cockabilly) and I DJ’d our most putrid vintage sleaze selections to an eye poppingly sexy crowd. In fact, I was looking around like this from the DJ booth.

A while back in an older blog I posited, Was Billy Fury gay? It turned out to be pretty popular. This time (in the continuing spirit of Homer Simpson's maxim, "If celebrities didn't want people pawing through their garbage and saying they're gay, they shouldn't have tried to express themselves creatively"), let’s play: Was cinema’s bongo drum-playing archetypal 1950s bad boy James Dean (1931-1955) gay? Or bisexual? Hetero-flexible?  When asked, Dean himself reportedly replied, No, I am not a homosexual. But I'm also not going to go through life with one hand tied behind my back.” Let's go there!

/ James Dean obliging us with a tantalising glimpse of the waistband of his white boxers /

The persistent rumours of Dean’s conflicted ambivalent sexuality add to rather than detract from his tormented, sensitive and brooding “rebel male” allure. When I was an old movie-addicted kid I would dutifully snap up and devour each new James Dean biography as fast as they appeared (and there have been loads; Dean ranks alongside fellow mid-century pop culture icons Marilyn and Elvis as catnip for biographers. My first was definitely 1974's Mutant King by David Dalton).  

/ James Dean at home in his tightie whities /

Justifies the invention of Photoshop: Fellow traveler Montgomery Clift and James Dean get intimately acquainted. From the 1997 Mark Rappaport film The Silver Screen: Colour Me Lavender. (I love how Monty looks so into it). Alongside Marlon Brando, Clift was one of Dean's essential influences. In her 1978 book Montgomery Clift: A Biography, Patricia Bosworth recalls director Elia Kazan telling Clift about upcoming rival Dean: "He's a punk and a helluva talent. He likes racing cars, waitresses - and waiters. He says you're his idol." Clift’s assessment: “Dean is weird.”  /

/ Masterpiece of Photoshop, part two: Dean also hero-worshiped Brando. When director Elia Kazan (again!) introduced them during the making of East of Eden, a tense Dean “was so adoring that he seemed shrunken and twisted in misery.” (James Dean: Boulevard of Broken Dreams by Paul Alexander) /

The subject of Dean’s sexuality has definitely been reappraised over the decades.  As most recent Dean biographer Val Holley notes, “There's been quite an evolution in the thinking since Dean's death in 1955, moving from "James Dean was straight" to "Dean had sex with men but only to advance his career" to "Dean had sex with women but only to advance his career.””

It’s interesting to compare the different slants Dean’s various biographers have taken on the issue. For example, everyone agrees a key influence on Dean’s proto-beatnik sensibility growing up in Indiana was his teenage friendship with local Methodist minister Reverend James DeWeerd.  Initially this was depicted as innocuous: it was older bohemian, unmarried mentor DeWeerd who encouraged young Dean’s non-conformity and interest in high culture. According to James Dean: Little Boy Lost (1992) by Joe Hyams, the relationship was more sinister: DeWeerd sexually molested him. In James Dean: Boulevard of Broken Dreams (1994), meanwhile, Paul Alexander argues Dean and DeWeerd were consensual lovers and it was more akin to an affair.

If so, it set a pattern. Dean’s sugar daddy liaisons with older men are well-documented and beyond dispute. Like many a female starlet before him, calculating and opportunistic Dean was seemingly agreeable to sleeping with influential male show biz figures who could further his career. (See also heartthrob of 1960s European art cinema, French actor Alain Delon.  The “protégé” of Italian director Luchino Visconti was widely perceived to have slept his way to the top – something the present-day ultra-conservative elderly Delon would probably prefer everyone to forget). In particular the hungry young actor was the “kept boy” of New York ad executive Rogers Brackett. “The fan magazines spoke of their father-son relationship,” Kenneth Angers writes in a typically acid aside. “If so it was touched by incest.”

/ Homoerotic tension: Dean and cute chicken co-star Sal Mineo in Rebel Without a Cause (1955) /

This brings us to Anger’s gleefully malicious book Hollywood Babylon II, the 1984 sequel to his legendarily scabrous original Hollywood Babylon. Anger’s chapter on Dean (“The Trouble with Jimmy”) begins, “During production of Rebel Without a Cause James Dean was host to a colony of crabs. He acquired the critters from a binge of sleeping around” and just gets more sordid from there. The origins of “The Human Ashtray” legend can probably be found here:
“Dean had taken to hanging out at the Club, an East Hollywood leather bar. The predatory night prowler, who dug anonymous sex, had recently discovered the magic world of S&M. He had gotten into beating, boots, belts and bondage scenes. Regulars at the Club tagged him with a singular moniker: the Human Ashtray. When stoned, he would bare his chest and beg for his masters to stub out their butts on it."
“After his fatal car crash,” Angers continues, “the coroner made note of the “constellation of keratoid scars” on Jimmy’s torso.” Much as I revere Angers’ underground art films and treasure both volumes of Hollywood Babylon for his deliciously bitchy writing style, his stories should always be taken with a heaping grain of salt: Angers never let the truth get in the way of a juicy sin-sational good story. One by one many of Anger’s assertions have been disproven over the years: Frances Farmer never had a lobotomy. Jayne Mansfield wasn't decapitated in her 1967 car accident. Lupe Velez didn't drown face-down in her own toilet. Clara Bow never had an orgy with the entire USC football team. Certainly Dean was frequently filmed and photographed bare-chested throughout his career with no obvious disfiguring third degree burn scars visible. I suspect the utterly amoral Angers enjoyed spreading these lurid urban myths out of sheer perversity.

/ James Dean on the set of his last film Giant (1956) /

A few years ago I was very briefly involved with a gloomy Dutch quasi-rockabilly guy. I hate national stereotypes, but he definitely conformed to Dennis Cooper’s appraisal of Dutch guys in his 1991 novel Frisk: “Dutch guys are impossible, even the hustlers. They have these childishly beautiful faces that lead you to think they’ll be open and sweet and so on, but it’s a fluke because they’re actually closed, repressed, insecure arrogant people ...” Anyway, he definitely had a James Dean fixation (a bit adolescent for a 35-year old, you might argue). In particular he really embraced the Human Ashtray story. When I told him my theory it was probably wishful thinking on Anger’s part, I suspect that’s the moment he decided he really didn't want to pursue things with me. (Having said that, considering what we know of his proclivities, Angers almost certainly would have been au fait with the underground gay bondage scene of 1950s Hollywood – so maybe the Human Ashtray rumour is true!). 

Anyway, as Angers ultimately concludes, “Jimmy may have had crabs, but he also had durable charisma.” That no one can dispute.

/ Modern biographers now acknowledge Jack Simmons (left) as one of Dean's key boyfriends /

/ In the 1970s this famous grainy black and white nude photo supposedly of Dean surfaced in The Advocate magazine.  “A couple of years ago (the) alleged photo of Dean was selling in New York like hotcakes, purported to be a scene from a gay porno movie that Dean made before he became a star,” the caption leered. Paul Alexander, author of Boulevard of Broken Dreams, argues that if it is Dean, it probably dates from 1952. I’d ask: does it really look like him, or is it the power of suggestion? /

 photo vintage_beefcake_cockabilly_zps7952e7f8.jpg

/ As usual, if you read this far down you're rewarded with a totally gratuitous nude vintage beefcake pin-up. Find more like this here /

Mau Mau - The Wailers
Rocket in My Pocket - Jimmy Lloyd
Little Darlin' - Masaaki Hirao and His All Stars Wagon
I Want Your Love - The Cruisers
Chicken Grabber - The Nite Hawks
Khrushchev Twist - Melvin Gayle
Viens danser le twist - Johnny Hallyday
Peter Gunn Twist - The Jesters
Peter Gunn Locomotion - The Delmonas
Twistin' the Night Away - Divine
The Swag - Link Wray
Harley Davidson - Brigitte Bardot
I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield - The 5,6,7, 8s
That Makes It - Jayne Mansfield
Whistle Bait - Larry Collins
Rock Around the Clock - The Sex Pistols
Jim Dandy - Sara Lee and The Spades
You're Driving Me Crazy - Dorothy Berry
Margaya - The Fender Four
Save It - Mel Robbins
Muleskinner Blues - The Fendermen
Shortnin' Bread - The Readymen
Boss - The Rumblers
Let's Go Sexin' - James Intveld
Handclappin' Time - The Fabulous Raiders
My Boy Lollipop - Rita Chao and The Quests
Drummin' Up a Storm - Sandy Nelson
Cry-baby - The Honey Sisters
I'm Not a Juvenile Delinquent - Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers
Juvenile Delinquent - Ronnie Allen
Beat Guitar - The Fabulous Wailers
Human Fly - The Cramps
Breathless - X
I Got Stung - Elvis Presley
Oo Ba La Baby - Mamie Van Doren
The Girl Can't Help It - Little Richard
Ooh Look-a There Ain't She Pretty? Bill Haley and His Comets
Pink Champagne - The Tyrones

Further reading:

Read about the squalid proceedings at previous Cockabilly nights hereherehereherehereherehereherehereherehere and here

If you don't already, follow my sensual and depraved tumblr page - for all your kitsch, retro and vintage homoerotic needs! NSFW and never will be!

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