Monday, 16 July 2018

Reflections on ... Cindy Sherman Exhibit at Sprüth Magers


“In the large-scale colour portraits, the artist imagines herself as a cast of 'grandes dames' from the Golden Age of 1920s Hollywood cinema. Differing from Sherman’s earlier series, these actresses are presented outside of the filmic narrative, posing instead for what seem to be formal publicity shots. Despite their elaborate garb, coiffed hairdos and painted faces, the leading ladies are clearly in their twilight years, and the grave stoicism of their expressions gives way to instances of poignant vulnerability: fine lines emerge through caked-on make-up, and sinewy, aged hands seem at odds with the smooth polish of their owners’ faces. The actresses pose against digitally manipulated backgrounds that are suggestive of the film sets and backdrops of yesteryear. Skyscrapers, a busy café scene, manicured gardens and a classical landscape all feature within the series. One photograph created earlier this year, displays four actresses in different coloured tulle costumes. Seated together, they reference the historic popularity of sister acts in the entertainment industry.” 
From Sprüth Magers’ catalogue
“Some play with scarves to hide their wrinkles, others rely on a brave, haughty or mysterious expression. All could quite clearly carry off once more whatever roles they played on the silver screen until age edged them out of the system. But in each case there are a hundred more nuances, of doubt, pride, suffering, foolishness, survival, courage, learned from the life and irrepressible even in these supposed publicity shots for films that will never be made.” 
From The Guardian’s review


I visited the new Cindy Sherman exhibit at Sprüth Magers’ gallery in Mayfair on Saturday 7 July. In it, the masterful American artist and photographer completely transforms herself into a series of powdered and bewigged veteran show biz divas of a certain age in eerie, powerful and riveting self-portraits. The focus is on liver-spotted hands clutching chiffon and the whole arsenal of artifice: plucked-out eyebrows, scarlet lips painted into a cupid’s bow. The vibe is very ruined glamour, Kenneth Anger’s Hollywood Babylon, decaying Hollywood Mansions, Sunset Boulevard / Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? 

Looking at them, you can’t help but associate the photos with the doomed flapper Clara Bow, Mary Pickford’s reclusive alcoholic later years, or the botched face lift of Hedy Lamar. The show is about aging, but also about haughty defiance (or denial) towards aging, and a commitment to glamour at all costs despite aging. (And the show is inevitably about the aging of Sherman herself, who is now 64. Those unretouched liver-spotted hands belong to her!). The exhibit is free and runs until 1 September 2018.


Further reading:read my scene report from John Water's 2015 exhibit Beverley Hills John at Sprüth Magers here.

Thursday, 12 July 2018

Reflections on ... Lauren Bacall in Young Man with a Horn (1950)



Recently watched: Young Man with a Horn (1950).  Directed by Michael Curtiz (Casablanca, Mildred Pierce), it covers the rise and fall of an idealistic, uncompromising young jazz trumpeter Rick Martin (Kirk Douglas) in the hard-bitten, dog-eat-dog neon jungle of New York’s nightlife. Doris Day co-stars as Jo, the wholesome and sympathetic big band singer who’s in love with Rick. If he only he could see she’s perfect for him! The dramatic black and white film noir photography is spectacular and it gets wildly, pleasurably overwrought as it progresses, encompassing alcoholism, nervous breakdowns and pneumonia. Note: your enjoyment of Young Man with a Horn will depend on how much you can tolerate watching Douglas mime playing trumpet in the frequent musical sequences.

BUT mid-way through the film Lauren Bacall – that smoky-eyed Siamese cat-in-human form – rocks-up as Amy North, Douglas’ frosty, frigid rich bitch socialite wife and blows everything apart. Perennially wreathed in cigarette smoke and meant to represent the polar opposite of Doris Day, Bacall’s sleek and soignée appearance belies a roiling, wildly dysfunctional (possibly mentally ill) interior.  Amy is cultured and worldly, sexually ambivalent, independent, speaks Latin and is studying to be a psychiatrist: in the context of the film, her intellect is depicted as off-putting and unappealing. Worst of all – she admits she doesn’t actually like jazz! There are hints of repressed lesbianism: Rick and Amy are seen to sleep in separate single beds, and she’s subtly coded as queer recognizable to contemporary 1950 audiences in the way that characters played by, say, Peter Lorre or Sydney Greenstreet would also have been understood as gay. As Ian Scott Todd writes in his blog Primal Scenes:

“Amy is neurotic, withholding, passive-aggressive, and anal-retentive, to name only four of her "symptoms."  All of the other familiar lesbian signifiers are here, too, in her elegant but mannish suits, her stand-offish demeanor, and the sophisticated décor of her apartment.  Bacall’s Amy North is what Halberstam might classify as a predatory dyke: calculating, urbane, aloof.  She matches her interior space, with its hard, sleek, coldly elegant surfaces, off-set by touches of the bizarre, such as a pet cockatoo to which she refers—ominously—as her “best friend” … Amy is an example of the predatory dyke as femme fatale, trapped within the gilded cage of her own sexual “perversity,” someone to run away from, preferably into the arms of a “real” woman.  And yet, like all femme fatales, Amy’s dangerous sexuality makes her infinitely more attractive than the blandly chipper Jo, whose normality is, indeed, terrible.” 


Towards the end, Amy casually tells Rick, “I’ve met a girl – an artist. We might go to Paris together.” Here Bacall suddenly anticipates Cate Blanchet in Carol (2015). “You’re a sick girl, Amy!” Rick finally shouts as their marriage unravels. “I’m sick of you trying to touch me!” she screams.

The ostensibly unsympathetic but compelling and complex Amy represents the late Bacall’s strangest, most intense performance and she steals the film from Douglas and Day. I don’t recall her ever being asked about Young Man with a Horn in any interviews. I’d love to know how Curtiz and Bacall conceived and discussed the part. Did Bacall even know her character was meant to be gay? In any case, her portrayal should be included as at least a footnote in any discussion about LGBTQ representation in Golden Age Hollywood cinema.  



Thursday, 28 June 2018

Reflections on ... Female Jungle (1955) and Sheriff of Fractured Jaw (1958)





This Friday (29 June 2018) represents the 51st anniversary of Jayne Mansfield's death, so – as a timely tribute to the ultimate sex kitten-gone-berserk – I’m posting some Jayne-related content in her memory.

As a committed Jayne Mansfield completist, I’m still indiscriminately working my way through all the movies in her filmography I’ve not yet seen. This is challenging because 1) whole swathes of Jayne's oeuvre are unavailable in 2018 and 2) she featured in some of the worst films ever made. (I'm speaking as someone who sat through The Fat Spy in its entirety). 

In May I made my long-suffering boyfriend sit with me through ultra-low budget exploitation b-movie Female Jungle (1955). I did warn him beforehand that I couldn’t vouch for its quality! A would-be hardboiled film noir crime movie starring a frankly worn-out Lawrence Tierney, Female Jungle turned out to be almost stultifyingly bad and inept, almost like an Ed Wood Jr film. The running time is only 73-minutes long (it was meant to be seen as part of a grindhouse or drive-in double feature, clearly) but the pace was so plodding it felt like two hours! It’s a fascinating curio in the context of Mansfield’s career, though: Female Jungle represented her film debut! (Her early films flopped and it wasn’t until she triumphed on Broadway in Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? and returned to Hollywood as a hot property that her movie career took off). In Female Jungle, the then-unknown starlet’s signature sex-kitten-gone-berserk comedic persona wasn’t in place yet and it’s fascinating to see Mansfield play a “straight” conventional bitchy and unsympathetic nymphomaniac bad girl. On the plus side – in a glittery halter top and sensational pair of painted-on leopard print Capri pants – Mansfield certainly looks delectable!




More recently we watched the mildly funny 1958 comedy Western Sheriff of Fractured Jaw (also known as The Blonde and The Sheriff). It’s no great shakes by even the most generous stretch of the imagination, but it is of interest and not without fluffy retro charm. Considering it was released by 20th Century Fox, filmed in gleaming deluxe CinemaScope and directed by a prestigious filmmaker (Raoul Walsh) , Sheriff of Fractured Jaw must count as Mansfield’s last “reputable” mainstream Hollywood film. (From 1959 onward, she would mainly feature in low-budget Continental exploitation films – or what Neely O’Hara in Valley of the Dolls would call “nudies”). The film is set in the American West, but the interiors were shot at Pinewood Studios in London and the exteriors in Spain. Mansfield stars as frontier town Fractured Jaw’s tough and sensible saloon proprietress Miss Kate. (She plays her with a wandering Southern accent. Martha Saxton, author of 1975 biography Jayne Mansfield and The American Fifties, accurately concludes, "Jayne plays the role with a lot of gusto and an imperfectly thought-out accent which falls somewhere between Fort Laramie and Newark.”). Her incredibly wasp-waisted, tightly-corseted 1880s costumes (and Mansfield was pregnant at the time with her second child) are certainly noteworthy. As well as being saloon keeper, Kate multi-tasks as the saloon’s onstage chanteuse and these musical numbers provide Sheriff of Fractured Jaw’s most gloriously campy moments because Mansfield is clearly lip-synching along to another woman’s voice which bears no relation at all to her own (the singing is, in fact, via Connie Francis!). Watch for a cameo appearance from British character actor Sid James playing a drunk which anticipates his Carry On persona.




Tuesday, 26 June 2018

Reflections on ... Mansfield 66/67 (2017)


(I'm posting this particular blog entry  for several reasons: 1) I reviewed the documentary Mansfield 66/67 for queer art and culture website Hiskind when it had its theatrical release in May 2018. The piece is still online but I know from experience I'd better post it here as well in case it gets yanked down at some point. Loads of my online articles have vanished into the ether over the years! 2) Mansfield 66/67 was the Lobotomy Room film club's selection on 20 June, so this will serve as a bit of a "scene report" of that night, too. 3) This Friday - 29 June 2018 - represents the 51st anniversary of Jayne Mansfield's death, so it seemed like a timely valentine to her memory).




/ Did the devil make her do it? Jayne Mansfield and Anton LaVey /

Skulls. Pentagrams. Heart-shaped swimming pools. Chihuahuas. Mansfield 66/67 contains all the components essential for an irresistibly campy cult film-in-waiting. Think of Todd Hughes and P David Ebersole’s documentary as When the Sex Kitten met the Satanist. It speculates about just what happened when Hollywood’s doomed, bosomy platinum blonde starlet Jayne Mansfield (1933 – 1967) encountered charismatic young devil-horned founder of the First Church of Satan Anton LaVey (1930 – 1997) during the messy final year of her life – in particular, whether he placed a curse on Mansfield, causing her fatal 1967 car crash.


Even if you don’t buy into the central thesis about the satanic curse (Mansfield and LaVey were both voracious publicity seekers and self-promoters, and the film begins with the tongue-in-cheek disclaimer “a true story based on rumour and hearsay”), the wildly enjoyable Mansfield 66/67 plays out like a delirious hot-pink fever dream.  The story unfolds via vintage newsreel and film clips, animation, a twangy surf guitar soundtrack, the medium of interpretive dance and commentary from various talking heads. And what a roster of talking heads! The pundits are a kitsch / queer dream cast including John Waters (a life-long Mansfield devotee), drag performer Peaches Christ, underground filmmaker and occultist Kenneth Anger, Tippi Hedren from Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds, scary Warhol Superstar Mary Woronov, various Playboy playmates and Russ Meyer leading ladies and 1950s b-movie bad girl Mamie Van Doren (who at 87 gives a good indication of what Mansfield might have matured into had she lived to see old age). And for some reason Boy George’s 1980s gender bender pal and pop star manqué Marilyn. (Perhaps there’s a bit too much Marilyn, in fact).



The film works best simply as a celebration of Mansfield herself. Frequently dismissed by the unenlightened as a dime store Marilyn Monroe wannabe, today she looks modern and relevant. Mansfield approached her life and career like a twenty first century reality TV star. Her 1950s pin-ups are ubiquitous on Instagram, Tumblr and Pinterest. Fifty years after her death, Mansfield can be reappraised as the punk Marilyn, the drag queen’s Marilyn, the anarchist Marilyn and a vivid precursor to what we now call camp. She also has considerable queer diva value: there’s a reason Kenneth Anger put her on the cover of Hollywood Babylon instead of Monroe, and John Waters deliberately fashioned Divine’s persona as a hybrid of “Jayne Mansfield-meets-Godzilla.” In a particularly brilliant piece of editing towards the end, Mansfield cavorting in 1959 is juxtaposed with Madonna as a peepshow performer in the 1986 “Open Your Heart” pop video. Jayne’s gleeful exhibitionism lives on.





Mansfield 66/67 gives Waters the last word: “I never thought of Jayne’s life as tragic, never. Her ending had blood. Guts. Headlines. A dead Chihuahua. It’s what she would have wanted!”




/ The devil has all the best tunes: Anton LaVey with acolyte / 

Scene report: It was gratifying to see the FULL-to-capacity house enthusiastically embrace the shocking-pink, ultra-kitsch vision of Mansfield 66/67 at the Lobotomy Room film club on Wednesday 20 June! (The night actually coincided with the DVD launch of Mansfield 66/67 - it's available now from Peccadillo Pictures!). Watching the antics of Jayne Mansfield and Anton LaVey over cocktails in Fontaine's Bamboo Lounge proved to be a devil worshipin' good time! As you can see, we even had our own Jayne lookalike on the night!



/ The girl can't help it! Cheyenne as Jayne /




/ Above: Cheyenne as Jayne and I /


/  Above: Vadim and Fenella /

Next date for your Lobotomy Room social calendar: the boozy, punky Mondo Trasho dance party returns on Friday 29 June in the basement Bamboo Lounge of Fontaine's! Admission is FREE and there is one complimentary signature Lobotomy Room cocktail on arrival for the first twenty entrants! Full putrid details on event page!


Further reading:

Follow me on tumblr for all your kitsch, camp, retro vintage sleaze and fifties homoerotica needs!

Follow me on twitter!

"Like" and follow the official Lobotomy Room page on Facebook if you dare! 
 

Sunday, 3 June 2018

Lobotomy Room at Fontaine's 25 May 2018 DJ Set List



From the Facebook event page:

Revel in sleaze, voodoo and rock’n’roll - when incredibly strange dance party Lobotomy Room returns to the Polynesian-style basement Bamboo Lounge of Dalston’s most unique nite spot Fontaine’s! Friday 25 May!

Lobotomy Room! Where sin lives! A punkabilly booze party! Sensual and depraved! A spectacle of decadence! Bad Music for Bad People! A Mondo Trasho evening of Beat, Beat Beatsville Beatnik Rock’n’Roll! Rockabilly Psychosis! Wailing Rhythm and Blues! Twisted Tittyshakers! Punk cretin hops! White Trash Rockers! Kitsch! Exotica! Curiosities and other weird shit! Think John Waters soundtracks, or Songs the Cramps Taught Us, hosted by Graham Russell. Expect desperate stabs from the jukebox jungle! Savage rhythms to make you writhe and rock! Grainy black-and-white vintage erotica projected on the big screen all night for your adult viewing pleasure! 

One FREE signature Lobotomy Room cocktail for the first twenty entrants! 

Admission: gratuit - that’s French for FREE!

Lobotomy Room: Faster. Further. Filthier.

It’s sleazy. It’s grubby. It’s trashy - you’ll love it!

A tawdry good time guaranteed!




/ Kick-happy? Thrill-hungry? Always reckless? Do I have the club night for you! /

This month we were graced by two visitors from Hollywood – well, Palm Springs via the Cannes film festival! Possibly lured by this month’s featured cocktail (the Jayne Mansfield), P David Ebersole and Todd Hughes – the flamboyant film-making duo behind red-hot recent documentary Mansfield 66/67 - took a break from hustling their new project at Cannes to swing by and do the frug and the Watusi! (If everything goes according to plan, Mansfield 66/67 will be the June 2018 Lobotomy Room film club presentation. Read my online review of Mansfield 66/67 for queer art and culture magazine Hiskind here). Like any self-respecting Los Angeles punk, David and Todd jumped up to thrash and flail when I played a track by X! There was even a tense moment of high conflict when a big group of crusty punks arrived, were caught smuggling-in their own booze and Fontaine’s boss lady Ruby forcibly ejected them!




/ Ladies and gentlemen - the Jayne Mansfield! The pink cocktail contained strawberry-infused vodka, Chambord, cherry bitters and was topped with sparkling champagne! Served with homemade raspberry sherbet and a heart-shaped lollipop, it’ll get you cooing and squealing like a sex kitten! /

There was additional drama when I ran upstairs to go for a piss and misjudged the timing! (This is  a perennial problem for all DJs - especially those of us who play short'n'snappy 2 1/2 minute punk and rockabilly tracks!). The current song ended and Pal (my stoical boyfriend) nipped into the DJ booth and turned up another tune. But when I came down, there were TWO songs playing simultaneously! Pal is still doing imitations of me demanding, “What have you done? What have you done?!” 

A handful of pics from the night:



/ Ruby (Fontaine's sex kitten proprietress) and I /


/ Red-headed vixen Louise - a vision in animal print! /


/ Filmmakers P David Ebersole and Todd Hughes /


/ P David Ebersole, Ruby and Todd Hughes /


/ Ruby and Pal /

My set list:

Bullwinkle - The Centurions
Hey Little Star - Ann-Margret
Sugar Town - Lara and The Trailers
These Boots are Made for Walkin' - Mrs Miller
Fever - Edith Massey
Leave Married Women Alone - Jimmy Cavallo
Little Queenie - Bill Black's Combo
Sweet Little Pussycat - Andre Williams
Two-Headed Sex Change - The Cramps
8-Ball - The Hustlers
Handclapping Time - The Fabulous Raiders
Nobody But You - Mamie Van Doren
Save It - Mel Robbins
Mau Mau - The Fabulous Wailers
Kismiaz - The Cramps
Monkey Bird - The Revels
Little Darlin' - Masaaki Hirao
Dream Boy - The 5,6,7,8s
Adult Books - X
Train to Nowhere - The Champs
Mambo Baby - Ruth Brown
She Wants to Mambo - Johnny Thunder and Patti Palladin
Havana Affair - The Ramones
Steel Pier - The Impacts
Drive Daddy Drive - Little Sylvia
Rockin' the Joint - Esquerita
Don't Be Cruel - Bill Black's Combo
All You Gotta Do - Tracy Pendarvis
Jukebox Babe - Alan Vega
Atomic Bongos - Lydia Lunch
Wipe-Out - The Lively Ones
Beatnik - The Champs
Here Comes the Bug - The Rumblers
Let's Go, Baby - Billy Eldridge
Scorpion - The Carnations
Suey - Jayne Mansfield
Pass the Hatchet - Roger and The Gypsies
You're Driving Me Crazy - Dorothy Berry
I Can't Believe What You Say - Ike and Tina Turner
Krushchev Twist - Melvin Gayle
Bikini Girls with Machine Guns - The Cramps
I Don't Need You No More - The Rumblers
Riding with a Movie Star - L7
Hanky Panky - Rita Chao and The Quests
I Wanna Be Sedated - The Ramonetures
Batman Theme - Link Wray and His Raymen
Breathless - X
I'm a Woman - Peggy Lee
Funnel of Love - Wanda Jackson
Your Good Girl's Gonna Go Bad - Tammy Wynette
Muleskinner Blues - The Fendermen
Shortnin' Bread - The Readymen
C'mon Everybody - Sid Vicious
Whistle Bait - Larry Collins
Jim Dandy - Sara Lee and The Spades
I'm Not a Juvenile Delinquent - Frankie Lymon and The Teenagers
I'm a Juvenile Delinquent - Ronnie Allen
He's the One - Ike and Tina Turner
Party Lights - Claudine Clark
Lucille - Masaaki Hirao
Pedro Pistolas Twist - Los Twisters
Comin' Home Baby - The Delmonas
Gostaria de Saber (River Deep, Mountain High) - Wanderlea
Under My Thumb - Tina Turner
I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield - The 5,6,7,8s
That Makes It - Jayne Mansfield
The Girl Can't Help It - Little Richard
Wallflower (Roll with Me Henry) - Etta James
Jim Dandy - Ann-Margret
Bossa Nova Baby - Elvis Presley
Viva Las Vegas - Nina Hagen
Somethin' Else - Sid Vicious
Your Phone's off the Hook - X
Forming - The Germs
Do You Remember Rock'n'Roll Radio? The Ramonetures
Human Fly - The Cramps
Vampira - The Misfits
Surf Rat - The Rumblers
Wipe-Out - The Surfaris
Margaya - The Fender Four
The Swag - Link Wray
Year 1 - X
Boss - The Rumblers
Shake Appeal - Iggy and The Stooges
Strychnine - The Sonics
Lightning's Girl - Nancy Sinatra
Harley Davidson - Brigitte Bardot
Five Years Ahead of My Time - The Third Bardo
Touch the Leather - Fat White Family
Bad Boys Get Spanked - The Pretenders


/ This month’s birthday boy! Sex Pistols bassist and ultimate punk pin-up Sid Vicious (10 May 1957- 2 February 1979, born John Simon Ritchie) would have turned 61. As you can see, I dropped a few putrid Vicious tracks in tribute. Polaroid of Sid Vicious at the Mabuhay by Jim Jocoy from his essential 2002 book We’re Desperate /

Dates for your social calendar:



Lobotomy Room Goes to the Movies is the FREE monthly film club downstairs at Fontaine’s devoted to Bad Movies We Love (our motto: Bad Movies for Bad People), specialising in the kitsch, the cult and the queer! And boy, are we cooing and squealing in ecstasy this month to present MANSFIELD 66/67! In fact, the night will be the launch party for the DVD release! Wednesday 20 June!

Skulls! Pentagrams! Heart-shaped swimming pools! Chihuahuas! Mansfield 66/67 contains all the components essential for an irresistibly campy cult film-in-waiting. Think of Todd Hughes and P David Ebersole’s wildly enjoyable 2017 documentary (“a true story based on rumour and hearsay”) as When the Sex Kitten met the Satanist. It speculates about just what happened when Hollywood’s doomed, bosomy platinum blonde glamour queen Jayne Mansfield (1933 – 1967) encountered charismatic young devil-horned founder of the First Church of Satan Anton LaVey (1930 – 1997) during the messy final year of her life – in particular, whether he placed a curse on Mansfield, causing her fatal 1967 car crash. Featuring guest appearances from John Waters and Mamie Van Doren, a twangy surf guitar soundtrack, interpretive dance and animation, Mansfield 66/67 plays-out like a delirious hot-pink fever dream and is a suitably adoring valentine to Jayne Mansfield – the Patron Saint of Lobotomy Room!

Doors to the basement Bamboo Lounge open at 8 pm. Film starts at 8:30 pm prompt. Arrive early to grab a seat and order a drink! Dressing-up like Jayne is highly encouraged! A special-offer pink Jayne Mansfield cocktail will be available on the night! It’ll be a devil worshipin’ good time! Full squalid details on event page.


Next Lobotomy Room club: Friday 29 June 2018! 

Further reading:

Follow me on tumblr for all your kitsch, camp, retro vintage sleaze and fifties homoerotica needs!

Follow me on twitter!

"Like" and follow the official Lobotomy Room page on Facebook if you dare! 
 




Thursday, 10 May 2018

Lobotomy Room at Fontaine's 27 April 2018 DJ Set List


From the Facebook event page:

Attention, late night diversion seekers! Revel in sleaze, voodoo and rock’n’roll - when incredibly strange dance party Lobotomy Room returns to the Polynesian-style basement Bamboo Lounge of Dalston’s most unique nite spot Fontaine’s! Friday 27 April!

Lobotomy Room! Where sin lives! A punkabilly booze party! Sensual and depraved! A spectacle of decadence! Bad Music for Bad People! A Mondo Trasho evening of Beat, Beat Beatsville Beatnik Rock’n’Roll! Rockabilly Psychosis! Wailing Rhythm and Blues! Twisted Tittyshakers! Punk cretin hops! White Trash Rockers! Kitsch! Exotica! Curiosities and other weird shit! Think John Waters soundtracks, or Songs the Cramps Taught Us, hosted by Graham Russell. Expect desperate stabs from the jukebox jungle! Savage rhythms to make you writhe and rock! Grainy black-and-white vintage erotica projected on the big screen all night for your adult viewing pleasure! 

FREE cocktail for the first twenty entrants! 

Admission: gratuit - that’s French for FREE!

Lobotomy Room: Faster. Further. Filthier.

It’s sleazy. It’s grubby. It’s trashy - you’ll love it!

A tawdry good time guaranteed!




/ Cocktails - Lobotomy Room-style! /


The promise of a free cocktail makes all the difference! The April 2018 Lobotomy Room at Fontaine’s bar represented a bit of a re-launch. We’re now introducing a signature range of special Lobotomy Room cocktails exclusive to the club night (a new one is unveiled each month!) and the first twenty entrants to descend the stairs to the basement Bamboo Lounge received one free drink.This alluring offer seemed to do the trick as last month we had a buzzing, hip and sexy crowd of revelers! Special thanks in particular to Tara for bringing her vicious girl gang! Loud music, free-flowing alcohol and mean girls dancing ensures a raucous night! Booze party! Wild! Wild! WILD!  



For once, I actually have some photographic evidence from the night!


/ They are the hellcats no one likes / Man-eaters on motorbikes! Tara (in black catsuit) and friends with me - the host of Lobotomy Room! /

      
/ “The wild, weird world of the Beatniks! Sullen rebels, defiant chicks, searching for a life of their own!” Dalston After Dark! Pal and Tara /


/ We now have gorgeous Lobotomy Room loyalty cards! It gets stamped with each drink you buy, and then you win a free bottle of prosecco! /


/ Savage rhythms to make you writhe and rock! /

The night's musical soundtrack:

Scratchin' - The Fabulous Wailers
Steel Pier - The Impacts
Train to Nowhere - The Champs
Little Queenie - The Bill Black Combo
Beaver Shot - The Periscopes
Surf Rat - The Rumblers
Jukebox Babe - Alan Vega
Atomic Bongos - Lydia Lunch
Kismiaz - The Cramps
Monkey Bird - The Revels
Mau Mau - The Fabulous Wailers
Fever - Nancy Sit
I'm a Woman - Peggy Lee
Don't Be Cruel - The Bill Black Combo
Johnny Hit and Run Pauline - The Ramonetures
Riding with a Movie Star - L7
Bombora - The Original Surfaris
Three Cool Chicks - The 5,6,7,8s
Woo Hoo - The Rock-a-Teens
Ain't That Lovin' You, Baby? The Earls of Suave
Sweet Little Pussycat - Andre Williams
I Live the Life I Love - Esquerita
Goodbye So Long - Ike and Tina Turner
Adult Books - X
Ah Poor Little Baby - Billy "Crash" Craddock
Let's Go Baby - Billy Eldridge
Wild Wild Party - Charlie Feathers
Let's Have a Party - Wanda Jackson
Killer - Sparkle Moore
Goin' Down that Road - Ersel Hickey
Honky Tonk Hardwood Floor - Johnny Horton
What's Wrong with Me? X
Teenage Lobotomy - The Ramones
Harley Davidson - Brigitte Bardot
Lightning's Girl - Nancy Sinatra
Bad Boys Get Spanked - The Pretenders
Touch the Leather - The Fat White Family
Pillow Case - The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black
Shake Appeal - Iggy and The Stooges
Woodpecker Rock - Nat County
Love Me - The Phantom
Dames, Booze, Chains and Boots - The Cramps
Your Phone's Off the Hook - X
You're Driving Me Crazy - Dorothy Berry
Complication - The Monks
Pedro Pistolas Twist - Los Twisters
Forming - The Germs
These Boots Are Made for Walkin' - Mrs Miller
How Does That Grab You Darlin'? Nancy Sinatra
Gostaria de Saber (River Deep, Mountain High) - Wanderlea
Hanky Panky - Rita Chao and The Quests
Lucille - Masaaki Hirao
Be Bop A Lula - Alan Vega
Nothing Means Nothing Anymore - The Alleycats
I Wanna Be Sedated - The Ramonetures
I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield - The 5,6,7,8s
That Makes It - Jayne Mansfield
What's Inside a Girl? The Cramps
Wipe Out - The Surfaris
Margaya - The Fender Four
C'mon Everybody - Sid Vicious
Scorpio - The Carnations
Wiped-Out - The Escorts
Here Comes the Bug - The Rumblers
Suey - Jayne Mansfield
Pass the Hatchet - Roger and The Gypsies
Viva Las Vegas - Nina Hagen
Breathless - X
Rock Around the Clock - The Sex Pistols
Rockin' Bones - Ronnie Dawson
Whistle Bait - Larry Collins
Jim Dandy - Sara Lee and The Spades
Comin' Home, Baby - The Delmonas
Muleskinner Blues - The Fendermen
Shortnin' Bread - The Readymen
Surfin' Bird - The Trashmen
Batman - Link Wray and His Ray Men
Boys are Boys and Girls are Choice - The Monks
Peter Gunn Twist - The Jesters
Gunnin' for Peter - The Fabulous Wailers
Peter Gunn Locomotion - The Delmonas
Ultra Twist - The Cramps
Viens danser le twist - Johnny Hallyday
Twistin' the Night Away - Divine
Twist Talk - Jack Hammer
Johnny Are You Queer? Josie Cotton
Under My Thumb - Tina Turner
Big Girls Don't Cry - Edith Massey
Jailhouse Rock - Masaaki Hirao
Bossa Nova Baby - Elvis Presley
Heartbreak Hotel - Ann-Margret
My Way - Sid Vicious

Dates for your social calendar:



The next Lobotomy Room Goes to the Movies film club is Wednesday 16 May!

Lobotomy Room Goes to the Movies is the FREE monthly film club downstairs at Fontaine’s devoted to Bad Movies We Love, specialising in the kitsch, the cult and the camp! In May, the featured presentation is – Shanghai Express (1932)! 

The fourth of the seven sumptuously kinky films director Josef Von Sternberg and leading lady / muse Marlene Dietrich made together, Shanghai Express was the most commercially successful of their collaborations (it was the highest-grossing film of 1932) and widely considered their definitive masterwork. Set during the Chinese civil war, it stars impossibly sultry German glamour-puss Dietrich as “the notorious white flower of China” Shanghai Lily (“it took more than one man to change my name to Shanghai Lily!”). She’s described as a "coaster" or "woman who lives by her wits along the China coast" (1930s shorthand for prostitute). When her fellow passengers on the express train from Peking to Shanghai are taken hostage, Shanghai Lily – the woman who “wrecked a dozen men up and down the China coast” - seizes the opportunity to redeem herself. A shimmering Art Deco spectacle, Shanghai Express is the perfect film to watch over cocktails in the splendour of Fontaine’s Bamboo Lounge!

Doors to the Polynesian-style basement Bamboo Lounge open at 8 pm. Film starts at 8:30 pm prompt. Arrive early to grab a seat and order a drink! Event page


The next Lobotomy Room dance party is Friday 25 May! Remember: one complimentary Lobotomy Room cocktail for the first twenty entrants! Event page


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Friday, 27 April 2018

Reflections on ... Russ Meyer's Vixen (1968)


“Russ Meyer’s Vixen! The story of a girl who loves the joy of being alive and gives herself innocently to the merry chase of life! But like any other game, life has its rules – and if we trespass beyond them, the game can become deadly! Vixen! An adult motion picture experience which is rated X!” From the trailer for Vixen

“Basically, this is a woman that is a racist, a sex fiend, an incest partner, a lesbian … an all-American girl that saves a plane from being hijacked by the communists.” Actress Erica Gavin on the title character of Vixen

“Turn on the sex. Be voluptuous, evil, sinful. Look satanic. Conceive of yourself as a female animal.” Russ Meyer’s acting directions to Gavin

“The look of calculated lust with which she views every living thing is worth the price of admission, as striking in its own right as any of the more famous close-ups of Garbo or Dietrich.” Esteemed high-brow critic Kenneth Tynan on Gavin's performance in Vixen 



Lobotomy Room Goes to the Movies is the FREE monthly film club downstairs at Fontaine’s devoted to Bad Movies We Love (our motto: Bad Movies for Bad People), specialising in the kitsch, the cult and the queer!

Previous film club triumphs have included b-movie maestro Russ Meyer’s Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! and Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. On Wednesday 18 April 2018 the featured selection is Meyer’s 1968 sexploitation shocker Vixen! An exercise in bad taste! Rated “X” upon its release! Something to offend everyone! Vixen! Is she woman or animal? A study in nymphomania starring the voluptuous Erica Gavin!

Doors to the Polynesian-style basement Bamboo Lounge open at 8 pm. Film starts at 8:30 pm prompt. Arrive early to grab a seat and order a drink!


From my pre-film introduction:

Russ Meyer’s Vixen is a sensitive, thoughtful and tasteful examination of the psychological condition of nymphomania. Only kidding! This is probably the most offensive and filthy film we’ve shown to date! Trigger warning!

Rated “X” upon its release, Vixen is structured like a porn film with (almost) each scene culminating in a sexual encounter. In some ways it's comparatively tame by 2018 standards - but it still feels genuinely grubby and sleazy! 

Seen today, the most disturbing aspect is the race angle. Meyer was a white middle-aged WW II veteran with conservative social attitudes, but he would have been very aware in 1968 that the civil rights / Black Power movements were hot topics and he would have wanted to muscle-in on that action to appear current and “with it.” Which he does – in an entirely tasteless and insensitive way! He is, after all, an exploitation director! The racist character in question learns the error of her ways by the end, but in the meantime a lot of unpleasant racist language is used.

Vixen gets roughed-up and slapped-around a fair bit and there are some uncomfortable “rape-y” moments. Once again, that’s common for its time. Meyer helped create a strain of sexploitation films called “roughies.” But it wasn’t just Meyer: see also Meyer's contemporary, the female director Doris Wishman (1912 – 2002) with films like Bad Girls Go to Hell (1965).

Vixen was Erica Gavin’s film debut. She’d previously go-go danced at the same topless night clubs as Tura Satana and Haji from Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965) and they encouraged her to audition for Meyer. She was only 19 when she filmed this and admitted that seeing herself onscreen for the first time was so traumatic it led to her having a serious eating disorder for many years. She’s now 70 and is fine. Gavin made only one more film with Meyer – Beyond the Valley of the Dolls in 1970. She eventually drifted out of acting, but Vixen has ensured her b-movie cult status.

Finally: there is speculation that Divine’s performance as Dawn Davenport in Female Trouble was at least partially inspired by Erica Gavin in Vixen. The shout-y, snarling style of acting can definitely been seen as a clear influence.

Three final words: Erotic. Fish. Dance.





Further musings: I love how there is no “explanation” or justification for hot-pool-of-woman-need / cat-on-a-hot-tin-roof Vixen’s wild amorality. There is zero “back story” to how she came to be this way. She’s simply bad!



Vixen was filmed in six weeks, cost $72,000 and grossed $7 million in its first year. (Leading lady Gavin was reportedly paid $350 a week). Meyer estimated it eventually earned about $26 million! (It was this astronomical financial success that led Twentieth Century Fox to commission Meyer to make his next pop culture outrage Beyond the Valley of the Dolls for them – his first big-budget, major studio film). 



/ Artist at work: director Russ Meyer and leading lady Erica Gavin filming Vixen /



Gavin’s wild, slanting devilish eyebrows in Vixen demand special mention. “Vixen-era Gavin is fleshy in the most delectable way, lust personified, sporting a pair of thick, antennae-like eyebrows more appropriate for one of those disquieting translucent masks hanging by an elastic band on the joke shop wall,” is how Jimmy McDonough describes them in Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer (2005). Their precise origins are shrouded in mystery and subject to dispute. In his 1981 book Shock Value, John Waters ( a Meyer acolyte) raised the issue directly with Meyer. “I read an article where Erica Gavin says you forced her to wear those weird eyebrows in Russ Meyer’s Vixen.” Meyer retorted, “No, it’s not true. Erica is prone to make a lot of statements about what I forced her to do. I’m very indebted to her for what she did for that film, but hell I don’t know anything about makeup!” In McDonough’s biography at least, Gavin seems to take responsibility for them. He recounts Meyer and Gavin’s tempestuous working relationship: “At least at first, Gavin saw Russ as a father figure and when Big Daddy was pleased – as when Erica came up with the famous Vixen eye makeup – everything was groovy. “As soon as he said, “I love those eyebrows,” that was it. Anything to make him happy.””





Most of the factoids in this post have been gleaned from From Big Bosoms and Square Jaws: The Biography of Russ Meyer. Highly recommended!


Further reading:

Read my reflections on Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! here

Read more about the free monthly Lobotomy Room Goes to the Movies film club here

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