Lucha VaVoom tonight at Webster Hall in NYC and the Park West in Chicago on Thursday. Miss them at your peril.
Lucha VaVoom combines burlesque and Lucha Libre-style wrestling with a post-modern spin. The wrestlers are experienced in the art of grappling as well as other things. In the words of Lucha Vavoom superstar Cassandro:
“I’m just a gay guy, and I wrestle in my hair and makeup and my feathers and the glamour — I’m like the wrestling Liberace. One of my moves is the lip lock. I like to kiss people, so you better watch it if you’re around there.”
“What do you call brunch and lunch, when they’re combined?”
I’ll admit to having a bit of a love/hate relationship with Steve Coogan. Of course, he’s an brilliant comic talent, don’t get me wrong, but Coogan’s hit to miss ratio is so bad that many lesser talents never would have gotten the second, third, forth, fifth, etc, chances that he’s had, career-wise. When Steve Coogan is great, like, say, whenever he plays Alan Partridge, in 24 Hour Party People or in the first series of Saxondale, he’s truly great. But when he’s doing almost anything else, it’s probably more likely to be shit than not (For instance, his current Michael Winterbottom-directed series, The Trip: sans the always likable presence of Rob Bryden and the beauty of the English countryside, well, that show would totally and utterly unwatchable.)
But I do come here to praise Steve Coogan, really, I do, because he’s returned once again to the character that’s brought him his greatest comedy success, inept talkshow host Alan Partridge, for a new web series and the results, as expected, are solid. And very, very funny. Fans of Alan Partridge you will not be disappointed, I can assure you. If the first two episodes are anything to go by, the standards are up to the original series.
The thirteen 11-minute shorts were written by Coogan and his long-time collaborator Armando Iannucci, along with Rob and Neil Gibbons. Alan Partridge’s career is now even further in the dumper. He hosts a radio show called Mid-Morning Matters on North Norfolk Digital (“Music and chat for the North Norfolk generation”). Alan’s co-host, Sidekick Simon is played by Tim Key, winner of the Edinburgh Comedy award in 2009.
The unforced podcast-conceit (the viewers see what someone tuning into the fictional radio station’s webcam would find) lends a seemingly improvisational looseness to the material, which Mid-Morning Matters with Alan Partridge uses to its full advantage. Truly this production also doesn’t feel like “low budget” Alan Partridge, it just feels like we’ve got Coogan firing creatively with all pistons once again. Put this man in a cardigan sweater and he’s a comic genius. Driving around LA in a sports car in a romcom with Rebecca Romijn, not so good. The key to a great Coogan performance seems to lie in the fact that he’s very good at playing comically repellent characters—he’s got anti-charisma down pat—but when he’s actually trying to be charming, he falls desperately flat. Awkward and inept he does well, but a Hollywood leading man, he will never be, Coogan’s best when working with his prodigious talents, not against them. Aha!
The Mid-Morning Matters with Alan Partridge web series is produced by Foster’s and can be viewed at Foster’s Funny.com, but the material isn’t licensed for American audiences, so look for it posted on Daily Motion, YouTube and elsewhere.
There is something about mash-ups that reminds me of the classic British children’s TV series Crackerjack, which ruled the winter airwaves from 1955-1984.
Crackerjack was broadcast live every Friday, from BBC TV Centre in London, and was a frenetic mix of sketches, games, quizzes and mini dramas (rather like pantomime), with each show opening with the lines, “It’s Friday. It’s five o’clock. And it’s Crackerjack!” Christ knows what drugs inspired the genesis of this series, but its effect on viewers, its studio full of hyper-active kids, and the state of British TV since has been immense.
One of the highlights of Crackerjack was its mini-drama or featurette, where chart songs were re-interpreted by the show’s stars Peter Glaze, Ed Stewart, Jan Hunt, Leslie Crowther, The Krankies, Don Maclean and co. What usually happened was the tune of one hit had its lyrics changed to fit in with the drama’s narrative, one regular choice for this was Queen’s ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’.
Mighty Mike’s mash-up of Van Halen’s ‘Jump’ with John Lennon’s ‘Imagine’ made me think of Crackerjack, as the mix of preposterous rock vocal with, what comedian Iain Lee once described as “a nursery song for hippies,” would have sat easily within Crackerjack‘s format. Mighty Mike has been making these kinds of mash-ups for a wee while, and his site has a varied selection including Michael Jackson and Queen, Free and Madonna, Alanis Morisette and B.O.B.. Now, if only the BBC would bring back Crackerjack...but then again, perhaps not.
Bonus Mighty Mike mash-up and clip of ‘Crackerjack’ after the jump…
Ms. Boyle has very good taste in music. One of my favorite Lou Reed songs nicely done. A strange combination that works. Whoever is handling Susan’s career is making some smart moves. What’s next? ‘Morning Morning’ by The Fugs?
According to news reports, Reed participated in some capacity in the creation of this video. The reports are conflicting, some saying he directed it, others that he merely suggested the concept of the video. My feeling is that he had nothing to do with this other than having written the song and giving Boyle his blessing. Who knows?
Update: Video was removed due to a copyright claim by Sony Music Entertainment. Here’s another version below. Update: According to Spinner, Lou Reed DID direct the video.
The saga of Lou Reed and Susan Boyle took another surprise turn on Sunday when the pair premiered a video for Boyle’s cover of Reed’s ‘Perfect Day’ on PopEater. Reed made headlines in September when he allegedly wouldn’t let Boyle cover his 1972 classic on ‘America’s Got Talent,’ causing the Scottish singer to cancel her appearance on the show. In reality, the ban on the cover was simply due to a publishing rights mistake, and Reed had no problem with the cover. Once that was cleared up, Reed asked to direct the video for Boyle’s orchestra-laden version of the song, which is on her new album ‘The Gift.’
“I wanted to create a beautiful and intimate piece shot in Susan’s native Scotland and she quickly agreed,” Reed told the UK’s Sunday Mail.
Boyle added, “I loved that Lou understood how much it meant to me to film in Scotland. I didn’t mind how much it rained or blew a gale—I enjoyed every minute.”
Before attending UCLA to study film, The Doors’ lead singer Jim Morrison was a student at Florida State University, where he studied art and psychology. It was during his stint at FSU that Morrison appeared in a promotional film, called Florida State University - Towards a Greater University. Even in this little clip, the teenage Morrison exudes the sullen charisma that would later make him a star.
GM: I was a film student at FSU. At that time, the department consisted of two people: myself and Werner Vagt who ran the operation. There were no formal classes. Werner made short films for the university and some outside clients. He had been a director in Germany. Jim Morrison appeared in a short we did for United Way. As I recall, he walked to a mailbox and mailed a letter.
Back in dear olde Blighty in 1975, the Observer Sunday supplement magazine published an article previewing The Rocky Horror Picture Show under the heading, “Something To Offend Everyone.” The thought of a musical focussing on a bi-sexual, cross-dressing, psychotic alien was enough to curdle the milk in Tonbridge Wells, and the article gleefully anticipated the shock the movie would cause. It didn’t. It was too far ahead of its time, and Rocky Horror would have to wait a year or so, until the Waverly Theater, New York, started the film’s slow, but relentless rebirth.
As a headline, “Something To Offend Everyone” could have been equally applied by copy editors to performance artist, fashion designer, dancer, actor, singer, style icon and all-round good egg, Leigh Bowery and his band Raw Sewage. The band was formed after Bowery’s 3-minutes of fame as a lip-synching backing singer to Felix on the BBC’s music chart show, Top of the Pops. The band consisted of Leigh, Stella Stein (Stephen Brogan) and Shelia Tequila, who together originally performed under the name The Quality Street Wrappers. In her biography Leigh Bowery - The Life and Times of an Icon, Sue Tilley described the band’s first gig:
Their first show was at the Iceni club in Mayfair. They sang the Donna Summer classic ‘Enough Is Enough’ to a live piano accompaniment. For their finale they stripped off naked and then walked around the club to receive the congratulations of all their friends. However, the management was not happy with this and asked them to put their gowns back on.
It was a start, and encouraged by the response, the band decided to cover a second song, Run DMC and Aerosmith’s ‘Walk This Way’:
“Leigh rehearsed endlessly, demanding that every step was right and that they learnt how to throw the microphones to each other so that there was an element of juggling involved. Leigh designed new costumes for the band which were big net petticoats with tartan taffeta dress on top… Underneath this costume they had their genitals strapped back between their legs so it looked like they didn’t have any, long black stockings and three belts wrapped around their torsos. They then teetered on top of two-foot-high platform boots that Leigh had specially made… The look was completed with minstrel-style black faces with the main features highlighted in white.”
Bowery was convinced the band would achieve chart success, but not everyone was so enthusiastic as Sue Tilley recalled:
“...Leigh asked me what I thought and if they might get chart success. He was devastated when I replied that I didn’t think the record buying public were quite ready for three freaks on platforms doing second-rate covers of songs. It made me realize that Leigh was removed from reality. He was so far ahead of the general public in what he accepted as normal he couldn’t see that his semi-naked, blacked up, genital-less band might cause a bit of a problem.”
Leigh was impervious to criticism and the trio continued with their outrageous performances, each more bizarre than the last - one at the Fridge in December 1992, saw a drunk spectator fellated and smeared with excrement. By 1993, performing as Raw Sewage, the shows lived up to the band’s name with a mix of confrontational theater and childish shock tactics:
“They still started with ‘Walk This Way’ but the next number involved Nicola and Christine Bateman dressing up as nurses and injecting neat vodka into the group’s bottoms (that is all except Stella who had a phobia about needles). They then rushed backstage and filled their mouths with vegetable soup which they vomited all over the audience while singing ‘Mickey’, the old Toni Basil hit.”
Raw Sewage carried on for a few months, even recording a video at the Tracadero, Picadilly, before the band fell apart. Bowery went onto form Minty with his wife, Nicola Bateman, which became notorious for their stage show, where Bowery gave birth to his naked wife.
It was not Leigh Bowery’s ability to shock and entertain that made him important and influential, rather it was his ability to subvert identity and image through the way he presented himself. As the art dealer, Anthony d’Offay once said:
“I tried to think what was it that changed one’s feelings about things, why (Leigh) was so important, the thing that I decided whether right or wrong was this: I felt Leigh did was to be a very bright shiny mirror to reflect very clearly one’s conscious and unconscious thoughts…Leigh’s presence allowed you to grow into the person you really were and face your real feelings at that moment.
“He allowed you to feel real. When I said he was a shiny mirror what I meant was he allowed you to see yourself in this strange shape that he took and that for me was his genius….He unlocked a key in you…”
Bonus clips of Leigh Bowery and Minty after the jump…
Most of these flyers were designed by Buddy Esquire and Phase 2. Drawn by hand and using Letraset, Xerox, Exacto knives, graph paper, stencils etc. these are artifacts of the days before Microsoft Word and Adobe photoshop, real cut and paste. Old skool.
You can check out more of these groovy nuggets of hip hop history at Toledo Hip Hop
R. Couri Hay talks with Divine, John Waters, Mink Stole and David Lochary at Anton Perich Studio, formerly ‘The Factory’, in 1975. This must be a promo outing for Female Trouble. The video quality leaves a lot to be desired, but this is 58 minutes of pop culture history and well-worth watching. Waters is amusing as always, Divine looks Garboesque, and it’s rare to see see David Lochary and Mink Stole being interviewed. Rich kid R. Couri Hay was a contributor to Warhol’s Interview magazine and gossip columnist for The National Inquirer in the mid-to-late 1970’s.