Sunday, 30 June 2019

Reflections on ... Blaze Starr Goes Nudist (1962)

Recently watched: Blaze Starr Goes Nudist (1962), also known as Blaze Starr Goes Back to NatureBlaze Starr Goes WildBlaze Starr the Original and Busting Out.

Blaze Starr is frazzled! In fact, her nerves are shot from the high-pressure rigors of being a famous sought-after actress. Flame-haired and buxom sex goddess Starr (1932 - 2015) plays herself and was of course one of the top striptease headliners of the post-war era (billed as "The Hottest Blaze in Burlesque”), but weirdly, her occupation throughout the film is referred to as “actress” rather than dancer. Happily, the stressed-out Starr unexpectedly finds ecstatic serenity in nudism - naked as nature intended! - at the Sunny Palms Lodge retreat, a sun-kissed nudist camp in Homestead, Florida. To paraphrase Starr herself: she swaps the hot lights of the film studio for fresh air and sunshine, heavy make-up for suntan lotion and the hectic social whirl of glitzy show biz cocktail parties for al fresco picnics! (As the film’s trailer exclaimed: “Yes, it’s finally happened! One of the most beautiful women in the world let’s down her hair and finds relaxation at a nudist camp! In blazing Eastman colour!”). But how will Starr’s suavely-moustached fiancé and manager respond to this new lifestyle choice? Will she lose her film contract if the studio finds out? And is she developing romantic feelings for the nudist camp’s bronzed and hunky director?

Understandably, director Doris Wishman (1912 -2002) is often likened to her b-movie contemporary, boob-fixated trash maestro Russ Meyer (1922 - 2004). Thematically and stylistically their careers overlapped during the atomic-era while both were working in the disreputable realm of low-budget grindhouse and drive-in sexploitation titillation. But by any standards Meyer was a virtuoso filmmaker: his absolute mastery of composition and editing ensure his films zip-along fast and are always exquisite to look at.  By comparison, the endearingly clunky and pedestrian style of Wishman – responsible for lurid titles like Bad Girls Go to Hell (1965) and Another Day, Another Man (1966) - is more like “the female Ed Wood Jr.” Like Wood, I’d describe Wishman as a genuine naïve outsider low-brow artist. (Note: Wishman makes a fleeting cameo appearance as one of Starr's agents. Her acting ability pretty much equals her directing ability). Wishman's approach to storytelling and film-making is painfully literal and plodding.  Wishman’s insistence on never “cutting away” when any other sane and competent director would is borderline avant-garde. (If you’re feeling generous, you’d describe it as “attention to detail”). Starr does loads of uninterrupted walking back and forth. For example, we repeatedly see Starr drive up to her mid-century moderne bungalow, get out and walk to the front door in real time. My boyfriend Pal pointed-out her house has a perfectly good paved driveway – why does she park on the curb and do the lengthy pointless journey? On plus side, this means we get to see Starr do her ultra-femme Jayne Mansfield-style hip-swaying, mincing bombshell sashay – breasts thrust forward and hobbled by her skin-tight clothing - over and over.

About that clothing: because of the film’s el cheapo budget, I suspect Starr is wearing her own personal wardrobe onscreen. And what a wardrobe! Think extreme fetishistic silver stripper heels, mink stoles, conical bullet bras, waist cinchers, sheer peignoirs and negligees, painted-on cocktail dresses with plunging necklines and best of all, a sensational pair of gold lamé  Capri pants – in fact, seemingly the exact same pair Starr wore when Diane Arbus photographed her in that famous 1964 portrait.

/ Burlesque entertainer, Blaze Starr, in her living room, Baltimore, 1964 by Diane Arbus / 

The stark early 1960s interior décor is gorgeous too. And once again, due to budgetary restraints this would have inevitably been filmed on location in someone’s actual home rather than in a studio. Watch for the curving wrap-around sofa and kidney-shaped Formica coffee table in the living room, and Starr’s powder-blue boudoir. At one point a fraught Starr calms herself by mixing a stiff drink and the ultra-desirable swanky cocktail bar (with a mural on the wall behind it) will make you gasp. 

/ Check out Blaze's minimalist living room. Is that a Klaus Nomi doll on the bar stool? /

Blaze Starr Goes Nudist belongs to the “nudie cutie” school (a genre which John Waters has affectionately reminisced about, a precursor to porn), but like most nudist films of its period, seen today it is resolutely un-erotic. The ultra-tame antics at the nudist colony include picnics, archery, splashing and frolicking in water, picking fruit and wildflowers, playing chess, sunbathing and the inevitable volleyball game. There is seemingly one man for every ten women at the Sunny Lodge: Wishman clearly knew that her target audience (horny hetero men hungry for female nudity) had zero interest in viewing naked flesh of the male variety. For example, Andy the camp director keeps his shorts on throughout.  (Bob Mizer of Athletic Model Guild had the homoerotic baby-oiled beefcake / posing pouch market sewn-up anyway). Female boobage and buttage abounds, but no full-frontal, pubic hair or reproductive organs – which means everyone must always unnaturally contort their bodies to ensure there is never a fleeting glimpse of genitals. 

And to make the film feel even more stilted and weird, Wishman’s technique was to film without audio and then “dub” dialogue in afterwards. (To compensate for this, one of her trademarks is to cut to the person being spoken to during dialogue scenes rather than the speaker, which presumably made dubbing easier. In one hilarious instance, Starr makes an urgent telephone call and angles the phone to conceal her mouth while she talks the entire time.  The effect is jarring).

/ Hell-o? Yes, this is Blaze speaking! /

Voluptuous showgirl deluxe Starr (whose measurements at the time were reportedly 38-24-37) is undisputed burlesque royalty, possesses star quality and charisma, and certainly looks gorgeous (albeit a bit heavy-handed with the powdered blue eye shadow). Like her peer Liz Renay, Starr resembles a Frederick's of Hollywood catalogue illustration come to life. It’s a pleasure to watch her disrobe (her flesh has the texture of white marshmallow), swivel her hips, pout and luxuriate in bubble baths. But as an actress she is gloriously wooden and inept. Called upon to emote, she grimaces, rolls and bulges her eyes in the broad style of a particularly pungent early silent movie star. Things reach a kind of zenith (or nadir, depending on your point of view) in a scene where Starr and two female fellow-nudists stop to “converse” at a clothesline. Except none of them bother to even pretend to talk or even mumble “rhubarb, rhubarb” in the accepted style, so Wishman cuts back and forth between the three of them standing and smiling at each other awkwardly and silently for an interminable amount of time. The purpose of this sequence is for Starr to indicate how joyously abandoned and liberated she feels at the nudist colony, worshiping the sun naked. Starr expresses this by throwing her head back, roaring with life-affirming laughter, and stretching her arms outward. You must see it for yourself! Suffused with innocence, Blaze Starr Goes Nudist is an oddity with genuine charm. 

Postscript: Starr was long synonymous with The Block (Baltimore’s gritty neon-lit red-light district) since the 1950s. In 1968 she bought The Two O'Clock Club where she regularly performed until retiring in 1975. John Waters has spoken and written with great fondness about skipping school to sneak-in with Divine when they were both still underage teenagers to watch Starr’s routines (when I attended Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender this April, Waters emceed the Burlesque Showcase and in his introduction he reminisced about being fortunate enough to have seen old-school legends like Lily St Cyr, Irma the Body and Blaze Starr perform in the 1960s).  Starr was a beloved figure in Baltimore (in her obituaries Waters described her as "the best tourist attraction Baltimore ever had"). Asked later in life if she regretted anything, Starr concluded "Not a thing. I would just do a lot more of it and try a lot harder – and seduce a lot more men."

/ Note: all of the screen grabs above are via

/ Below: the trailer for Blaze Starr Goes Nudist /

In August 2018 I spoke my brains to To Do List magazine about the wild, wild world of Lobotomy Room, the monthly cinema club – and my lonely one-man mission to return a bit of raunch, sleaze and “adult situations” to London’s nightlife! Read it - if you must - here. 

Follow me on twitter!

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

I have serious issues with the frankly homophobic, puritanical, hypocritical and censorious Tumblr these days, but you can follow me on there.

And I'm now spreading my message of filth on Instagram!

Sunday, 23 June 2019

Lobotomy Room DJ Set List at Fontaine's 26 April 2019

From the Facebook event page:

Wilder than you can imagine! Explicit beyond belief! Revel in sleaze, voodoo and rock’n’roll - when incredibly bizarre dance party Lobotomy Room returns to the basement Bamboo Lounge of Dalston’s most unique nite spot Fontaine’s! Friday 26 April 2019!

Lobotomy Room! Where sin lives! A punkabilly booze party! Sensual and depraved! A spectacle of decadence! A Mondo Trasho evening of Beat, Beat Beatsville Beatnik Rock’n’Roll! Bad Music for Bad People! 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 vintage black-and-white erotica projected on the big screen all night for your adult entertainment!

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!

To start with, the bad news. You may have noticed I vanished from the blogosphere for quite some time (or may not have noticed – I’m not presumptuous!). As of beginning of March 2019, I’ve been struck down with mysterious chronic pain radiating from my neck, down my right shoulder, back and arm, with constant pins-and-needles in my hand. It’s been a grim, distressing and life-changing period. I’ve had an x-ray and blood tests (an MRI scan is still impending) but not been given an official diagnosis yet. The x-ray revealed some damaged discs in my neck and the vague expression “skeletal wear-and-tear” has been thrown around. The worst side effect is the tingling and throbbing in my right arm and hand: the single most agonizing thing I can possibly do is sit at a desk, type and click a mouse – which is precisely what my office job entails all day long! I’ve been on a series of powerful painkillers to try to cope with this. Tramadol to start with (I don’t recommend it. The side effects include waves of nausea and mood swings a-go go) followed by Pregabalin (which is also used for treating epilepsy and anxiety, bizarrely! I've been warned it's extremely habit-forming. Just call me Neely O'Hara!). Not working isn’t an option, but it means blogging is pretty much out of the question for the time being, so I’m massively behind with the stuff I want to post. (Like my scene report from Viva Las Vegas Rockabilly Weekender 2019 over Easter – I doubt I’ll be able to remember much of it when I ever get around to writing about it! It already feels like a distant memory). On the plus side, I’ve started seeing a local osteopath and an NHS physiotherapist, who both suspect I’m suffering from nerve pain. The osteopath’s (expensive!) treatments in particular seem to be making a difference (I’ve seen him twice so far). Let’s hope normal service resume relatively soon. In the meantime, I’ll inevitably be posting less, and the blog entries will probably be significantly shorter!

I arrived back in London from Las Vegas on Tuesday 23 April (brutal journey with tediously lengthy stopovers in Mexico City of all places! The cheapest deal I could get was via Aero Mexico) and reported straight back to work on Wednesday morning. So, I was a jetlagged zombie for the Lobotomy Room club on Friday 26 April. Fortunately – like the March dance party – it was another great night! It was a pleasure to DJ for such a stylish, sexy and appreciative crowd. And for once, you can see them for yourself! In between expertly shakin’ up cocktails, Fontaine’s fearsomely glamorous platinum blonde German bartender Justyna whips out her camera and expertly snaps pics of the attendees. Here is a mix of them. (Some of these are from March 2019 – I didn’t get them in time for the March blog post). Look at them - with your eyes!!

/ Above: the vivacious Sophia (with buxotic Cherry Knight visible on the screen behind her!!) /

/ Above and below: girls gone wild! /

/ Above: Helen (a devilish redhead in the tradition of Ann-Margret!) /

April seems like a lifetime ago at this point, but let’s celebrate some notable birthdays relating to beloved icons in the Lobotomy Room pantheon! These people are my role models for life! 

/ The fabulous Liz Renay (14 April 1926 – 22 January 2007) – burlesque performer, B-movie actress, naive outsider artist / self-portraitist, gangster’s moll, jailbird, authoress of trashy volumes of memoirs and all-round super vixen. She’ll forever be remembered as the petulant lesbian murderess Muffy St Jacques in the 1977 John Waters punk masterpiece Desperate Living. Renay’s essential literary canon includes My Face for the World to SeeHow to Attract MenMy First 2000 Men and Staying Young /

/ Ultimate atomic-era sex kitten-gone-berserk and “the punk Marilyn Monroe”, Jayne Mansfield (19 April 1933 – 29 June 1967). Amazing to think Mansfield would be 86 this year if she hadn’t perished in that car crash en route to New Orleans – younger than her 88-year old sex goddess contemporary Mamie Van Doren, who’s still very much alive and posting sassy selfies on social media on a daily basis! Mansfield is and will always be the sacred patron saint of Lobotomy Room /

/ Streetwalkin’ cheetah with a heart full of napalm / runaway son of the nuclear A-bomb / world’s forgotten boy / chairman of the bored Iggy Pop (born James Newell Osterberg Jr, 21 April 1947) turned 72.  Aside from Joe Dallesandro, did anyone have a more beautiful torso than Pop in his prime?! He was like a punk version of Michelangelo's David. Pictured: Iggy performing at Max’s Kansas City in 1973, captured by Lynn Goldsmith /

/ Bonus naked clip of Pop onstage. He certainly is blessed! /

/ The spiritual father / filth elder / role model of us all - John Waters (born 22 April 1946) - turned 72. Where would we be without “the peoples’ pervert” and his deliriously twisted worldview? It doesn't bear contemplating! If you haven't already, read my wide-ranging epic 2010 interview with sinema's sleaze king here

/ Finally, yet another atomic-era sex-kitten-gone-berserk celebrated a birthday in April: Ann-Margret (born 28 April 1941) turned 78! Here is the young starlet and red-headed vixen on the cover of her 1962 single “Jim Dandy” (a song I regularly drop when DJ’ing at Lobotomy Room!) – when she was quite possibly The Prettiest Girl in the World. I've screened two Ann-Margret films at the monthly Lobotomy Room film club so far (Viva Las Vegas and Kitten with a Whip). Both times everyone in the audience filed out with a crush on her afterwards! Read my account of seeing Ann-Margret's cabaret revue at The Stardust Casino in 2005 here /

Playlist for April 2019:

Beat Guitar # 2 - The Fabulous Wailers
Let's Go Trippin' - The Lively Ones
Teardrops from My Eyes - Ruth Brown
Adult Books - X
Twenty Thousand Leagues - The Champs
Katanga - Ike Turner and His Kings of Rhythm
Kismiaz - The Cramps
Mau Mau - The Fabulous Wailers
Monkey Bird - The Revels
I Learn a Merengue, Mama - Robert Mitchum
Go, Go Calypso - Mamie Van Doren
Dona Wanna - Wanda Jackson
Aw! Shucks Baby - Tiny Topsy
Jukebox Babe - Alan Vega
Crawfish - Johnny Thunders and Patti Palladin
The Flirt - Shirley and Lee
What Do You Think I Am? Ike and Tina Turner
No Good Lover - Mickey and Sylvia
Three Cool Chicks - The 5,6,7,8s
Woo-Hoo - The Rock-A-Teens
Train to Nowhere - The Champs
Killer - Sparkle Moore
Scorpion - The Carnations
Papa Oo Mow Mow - The Rivingtons
Bop 'Til You Drop - The Ramones
Little Queenie - The Bill Black Combo
Bikini Girls with Machine Guns - The Cramps
Your Phone's Off The Hook - The Ramonetures
I Don't Need You No More - The Rumblers
Vampira - The Misfits
She Said - Hasil Adkins
Let's Go, Baby - Billy Eldridge
Love Me - The Phantom
The Swag - Link Wray
Lucille - Masaaki Hirao
Let's Have a Party - Wanda Jackson
Wild Wild Party - Charlie Feathers
Surf Rat - The Rumblers
Hanky Panky - Rita Chao and The Quests
Bombora - The Original Surfaris
Club Delight - Jack Jolly
Garbageman - The Cramps
Esquerita and The Voola - Esquerita
96 Tears - Big Maybelle
Cha Cha Twist - The Detroit Cobras
Riding with a Movie Star - L7
Atomic Bongos - Lydia Lunch
Be Bop A Lula - Alan Vega
Viva Las Vegas - Nina Hagen
Margaya - The Fender Four
Wipe Out - The Surfaris
That Makes It - Jayne Mansfield
I Walk Like Jayne Mansfield - The 5,6,7,8s
Somethin' Else - Sex Pistols
Heartbreak Hotel - Buddy Love
Jailhouse Rock - Masaaki Hirao
Breathless - X
Funnel of Love - Wanda Jackson
Devil in Disguise - Elvis Presley
Rip It Up - Little Richard
Whistle Bait - Larry Collins
Jim Dandy - Sara Lee and The Spades
Rockin' Bones - Ronnie Dawson
Action Packed - Ronnie Dee
Dance with Me, Henry - Ann-Margret
Rock Around the Clock - Sex Pistols
I Wanna Be Sedated - The Ramonetures
Wiped-Out - The Escorts
Comanche - The Revels
I'm a Woman - Peggy Lee
Comin' Home Baby - The Delmonas
How Does That Grab You Darlin'? Nancy Sinatra
These Boots Are Made for Walkin' - Mrs Miller
Shake Appeal - Iggy and The Stooges
Aphrodisiac - Bow Wow Wow
Under My Thumb - Tina Turner
My Way - Nina Hagen
One Night of Sin - Elvis Presley

Revel in the strange’n’sleazy sounds of Lobotomy Room! I’ve knocked-together a playlist on Spotify based on my DJ set list at the April 2019 Lobotomy Room dance party for your listening pleasure. (For the full “you-were-there” experience, disable shuffle and play it in sequence!). Some major caveats: this playlist is only an approximate reflection of what I DJ’d. Sure, Spotify is a valuable resource and in many ways a treasure trove - but loads of stuff I play simply isn’t available on there! (How can “Bop ‘Til You Drop” by The Ramones not be on Spotfiy?!). And aggravatingly, since I last compiled a playlist on Spotify, they’ve seemingly had a major purge of tracks which used to be on there (essential Lobotomy Room staples like “My Way” by Nina Hagen, Ann-Margret’s “Dance with Me, Henry” and Tina Turner’s 1975 cover of “Under My Thumb”), presumably for legal or copyright reasons! I’m not sure I’ll bother with these Spotify playlists moving forward! 

Further reading:

In August 2018 I spoke my brains to To Do List magazine about the wild, wild world of Lobotomy Room, the monthly cinema club – and my lonely one-man mission to return a bit of raunch, sleaze and “adult situations” to London’s nightlife! Read it - if you must - here. 

Follow me on twitter!

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

I have serious issues with the frankly homophobic, puritanical, hypocritical and censorious Tumblr these days, but you can follow me on there.

And I'm now spreading my message of filth on Instagram!

And the next installment of Lobotomy Room lunacy is Friday 12 July. Note: the dance party is now second Friday of every month, not the last Friday of every month! Read full sordid details on the event page here.