As another series of RuPaul’s Drag Race draws to a close (with its highest viewers yet), RuPaul’s position as a titan of queer culture is cemented.
It can’t be easy being the best known drag queen in the world, and fans of Drag Race will be familiar, by now, with Ru’s very Zen way of handling the spotlight, as well as handling other people.
Which is why this candid interview with Joan Rivers is so very refreshing. Ru really spills the T, from his often-overlooked background as a punk rocker and a go-go dancer, to his long term relationship and its “open” status, his mother (who sounds great!), his make-up tips, and his musings on gay culture and its relationship with the mainstream, which makes for some of the most interesting, and insightful, conversation here. You also get to find out RuPaul’s real name, which may come as a bit of a surprise if you don’t already know.
Of course, Joan Rivers is no minnow in the sea of gay culture herself, so it shouldn’t be surprising that when these too get together it’s a real treat. Both are fountains of knowledge, both queer and straight, and to see them kiki with so much mutual admiration is great. There’s simply no way they couldn’t be fans of each others’ work, which probably explains the openness and ease of this interview.
RuPaul in bed with Joan Rivers really is worth a watch:
For a generation of gay British actors and performers, camp comedy was a way to promote queer culture, through media of television and radio, into the nation’s living rooms.
Up until homosexuality was decriminalized by an act of Parliament in 1967, being gay or, admitting to homosexual acts, was a crime punishable by imprisonment or chemical castration. The latter was used as sentence on the code-breaking genius and computer pioneer, Alan Turing—which gives an idea of the brutality and bigotry of Britain pre-1967.
For me, each of these men were revolutionary, and together with writers like Eric Sykes, Galton and Simpson, Marty Feldman and Barry Took, they were able to subtly change the public’s attitudes to sex and sexuality.
In her Notes on ‘Camp’, Susan Sontag describes camp as a means for promoting integration:
...Camp proposes a comic vision of the world. But not a bitter or polemical comedy. If tragedy is an experience of hyperinvolvement, comedy is an experience of underinvolvement, of detachment.
...The reason for the flourishing of the aristocratic posture among homosexuals also seems to parallel the Jewish case. For every sensibility is self-serving to the group that promotes it. Jewish liberalism is a gesture of self-legitimization. So is Camp taste, which definitely has something propagandistic about it. Needless to say, the propaganda operates in exactly the opposite direction. The Jews pinned their hopes for integrating into modern society on promoting the moral sense. Homosexuals have pinned their integration into society on promoting the aesthetic sense. Camp is a solvent of morality. It neutralizes moral indignation, sponsors playfulness.
Camp may have been a weapon for education and change, but it wasn’t the sole preserve of gay men. Comedians such as Dick Emery, presenters like Bruce Forsyth, actresses like the Late Wendy Richard and Lesley Joseph, and most importantly writers (in particular Marty Feldman and Barry Took, who created the inimitable Julian and Sandy for Round the Horne) helped promote camp comics as innuendo-laden revolutionaries.
What A Performance is a wonderful romp through the lives and careers of some of Britain’s best known and best loved Kings of Camp: Kenneth Williams, Frankie Howard, Larry Grayson, John Inman, Julian Clary, Lilly Savage and Kenny Everett. The documentary contains contributions from Matthew Kelly, Lesley Joseph, Clive James, Harry Enfield, Chris Tarrant, Jonathon Ross, Barry Took, Wendy Richard and Cleo Rocos.
I’ve had jury duty all last week and I’m returning again today. It sucks, but at least I’m not a juror in the really BIG trial currently ongoing in Los Angeles, the Jackson family vs. AIG. Last Monday when I reported to the court, there were dozens of news vans equipped with satellite dishes lining Grand Ave. My first thought was “Oh shit” and my second had to do with praying to a god I don’t even believe in to please, please please don’t let me get picked for that fucking Michael Jackson jury! I needn’t have worried as the jurors had already been selected. I saw singer Mark Lanegan on Grand Ave. yesterday. I wonder if he’s got jury duty, too? Hopefully he dodged the Jackson/AIG bullet himself.
One witness who will probably NOT be called to the stand in that high profile trial is Derek Acorah, a celebrity “medium” well-known to British TV viewers, Acorah held a televised seance on the Sky 1 network in 2009 during which he alleged that he was able to make contact with Michael Jackson from beyond the grave. With four teary-eyed Jackson mega-fans in attendance, Acorah was able to, um, “divine,” I guess, that Jackson was adjusting well to his spiritual life and spending time with his grandparents. However, Acorah did pass on MJ’s annoyance that he was not laid to rest beside his idol, actress Marilyn Monroe: “I wished to lie alongside her. I suppose it’s of no consequence.”
One of the Jackson fans who participated in the hysterically funny televised seance told Britain’s Daily Mail newspaper, “I looked into Derek’s eyes, and it was him.” [Emphasis added]
Rock and Roll taught John Waters how to annoy his parents, but it was the nuns from his local church, who inadvertently encouraged his interest in cheap, exploitation films:
‘The first thing I can remember rebelling about really, was when I was about 8-years-old and every Sunday we’d go to church. Once a year they’d read us this pledge that we had to take for the Legion of Decency, which was the Catholic Church rating the movies—what you could see and what you couldn’t—and the condemned ones were the ones they’d tell us you’d go to Hell if you saw these movies.
Well, I remember refusing to do this pledge and my mother was kind of shocked, but I was just a child, and she didn’t make a big deal out of it. And on Sundays, the nuns would read us this list, with this voice like the Devil, and you know, seeing this nun stand there saying, “Love Is My Profession, Mom and Dad, The Naked Night.” I thought “What are these movies?” I’d never heard of them—they didn’t play at my neighborhood, believe me—but I would go and see them, or read about them, and clip the little list and keep a record of all these condemned movies. The Mom and Dad poster is hanging right in my hall—it’s still that much of an influence. But it made me want to see these movies I’d never, ever heard of. So, in fact they encouraged me, [the nuns] encouraged my interest, without ever knowing it completely.’
Growing Up With John Waters is a fabulous Channel 4 documentary from 1993, where the notorious director of Pink Flamingos, Multiple Maniacs, Female Trouble and Hairspray talks about the childhood events that shaped his life.
Although today we tend think of Betty Boop as little more than a trademark seen on various consumer items, or in advertisements, at one time, Betty Boop, a creation of Fleischer Studios (who also came up with Popeye the Sailor) was looked upon similarly to the way we regard The Simpsons or South Park today, animations where much of the humor is aimed primarily at the adult viewer.
First of all, unlike Daisy Duck or Minnie Mouse, Betty was drawn with cleavage and frilly panties. And she was a human girl, not a duck or mouse girl. Modeled on the archetypal 20s jazz flapper, singer Helen Kane and the “It Girl” of the silent movie-era, Clara Bow, Betty Boop’s sex appeal was seen as somewhat upfront for a cartoon character. She was also seen, in the course of her adventures in certain less than savory situations, squalorous nightclubs and against run-down backdrops.
Barely disguised sexual innuendo is plentiful in Betty Boop cartoons and even images of gambling, drug paraphernalia and alcohol abuse are seen in one particular vivid nightmare sequence. One cartoon showed Betty and Koko the Clown getting high on Nitrous Oxide. Eventually the gas escapes outside and even the mailboxes have a giggle fit. In two others, she is topless. By 1934, Betty’s bohemian antics were toned down to appease the National Legion of Decency and the Production Code.
Some of the best-remembered Betty Boop cartoons are the ones featuring jazz legends like Louis Armstrong and Cab Calloway. In 1932’s (I’ll Be Glad When You’re Dead) You Rascal You, Armstrong appears in some of the earliest footage ever seen of the great musician as a menacing, disembodied floating head, chasing Betty, Bimbo and Koko the Clown through the jungle, and performing with his orchestra. (“The High Society Rag” is also performed).
Cab Calloway was featured in several Betty Boop cartoons such as the classic Minnie the Moocher, where he sings as a walrus surrounded by ghosts to a runaway Betty. In 1933’s Snow White, Calloway, in the guise of Koko the Clown, moonwalks and sings St. James Infirmary Blues. Koko’s dance moves came from rotoscoped footage of Calloway (Max Fleisher, in fact, invented the Rotoscoping technique). In The Old Man Of the Mountain, Calloway performs three numbers.
Dangerous Minds is a compendium of oddities, pop culture treasures, high weirdness, punk rock and politics drawn from the outer reaches of pop culture. Our editorial policy, such that it is, reflects the interests, whimsies and peculiarities of the individual writers. And sometimes it doesn't. Very often the idea is just "Here's what so and so said, take a look and see what you think."
I'll repeat that: We're not necessarily endorsing everything you'll find here, we're merely saying "Here it is." We think human beings are very strange and often totally hilarious. We enjoy weird and inexplicable things very much. We believe things have to change and change swiftly. It's got to be about the common good or it's no good at all. We like to get suggestions of fun/serious things from our good-looking, high IQ readers. We are your favorite distraction.