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Lou Reed and John Cale’s soundtrack to Andy Warhol’s ‘Hedy,’ 1966
12.22.2016
08:45 am

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Art
Movies
Music
Queer

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Andy Warhol and Mario Montez filming Hedy (via Continuo)
 
On the night of January 27, 1966, the actress Hedy Lamarr was arrested for stealing $86 worth of merchandise from the May Company department store in Los Angeles. She was not driven to crime by a condition of need: police told reporters she had $14,000 in checks when she was arrested.

Andy Warhol and screenwriter Ronald Tavel knew a good story when they saw one, and Hedy (1966)—with Lupe and More Milk, Yvette, part of the “Hollywood trilogy” about movie actresses Warhol made that year—advanced down the Factory’s film production line. The lovely Mario Montez starred in the title role, while on the soundtrack, Lou Reed and John Cale dramatized Hedy’s inner life with an ominous, bottomless noise.
 

via Toronto International Film Festival
 
Richie Unterberger’s authoritative White Light/White Heat: The Velvet Underground Day by Day files the Hedy soundtrack under February 1966:

Only Lou Reed and John Cale are heard on the soundtrack to Hedy, a Warhol film inspired by press reports of the arrest for shoplifting of 30s and 40s actor Hedy Lamarr. None of the Velvets appear in the film, but the cast does include the two most celebrated dancers of the Exploding Plastic Inevitable – Gerard Malanga and Factory newcomer Mary Woronov – as well as another EPI dancer, Ingrid Superstar, and Cale’s old friend Jack Smith.

The Hedy score is closer in spirit to the avant-garde recordings Cale and Angus MacLise appeared on during 1963-1965 than anything The Velvet Underground are currently playing. The music builds around an instrumental storm of shrieking, rumbling viola, guitar, and a rickety piano that sounds like it hasn’t been played since doing time in a 19th century saloon, while Cale’s ‘thunder machine’ – the sound made by the head of a Vox Super Beatle amp being dropped on the floor – occasionally cuts through everything else with hair-raising, high pitch bursts of feedback. This might be the closest approximation of how the nascent Velvet Underground sounded when they played, with Angus MacLise, behind the screen at Piero Heliczer’s ‘happenings,’ but those days are rapidly becoming a thing of the past.

Hear ‘Hedy’ after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
Wigs, waxing and song: Meet the drag pioneers of the 1920s ‘Pansy Craze’
12.21.2016
10:55 am

Topics:
Heroes
History
Queer

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Francis Renault, famous female impersonator from ‘The Pansy Craze.’
 
Some of the most popular stage shows in New York and San Francisco in the 1920s and early 1930s routinely featured a wide variety of talented representatives from the gay community. In addition to live vaudeville house performances there were also a large number of extravagant soirees that featured drag costume competitions and attendees, regardless of their sexual orientation, would often arrive decked out in gender-bending fashions. It also wasn’t unusual for these kind of affairs to be covered by mainstream newspapers and wasn’t particularly considered to be an unacceptable practice. As a matter of fact, one of the era’s biggest stars, the great Mae West was an avid supporter of homosexual actors and in addition to penning the controversial play The Drag (which attempted to define the role of a homosexual man in society) she actively often provided roles to them in her productions. West’s shrewd timing of The Drag also played upon a popular movement that was a part of this wonderful time in New York and San Francisco known as “The Pansy Craze.”

Men who enjoyed bringing their inner drag queen to life during The Pansy Craze were called “Pansies” (as well as “fairies”). The Pansy Craze was HUGE and shows featuring female impersonators were attended by thousands of people who packed into bohemian clubs in Greenwich Village and drank like sailors despite the fact that prohibition was then in full effect. One of the city’s highest paid performers during the 1920s was Gene Malin who also went by the name “Jean Malin.” Malin also put out a couple of albums and had a bit of a hit with his tongue-in-cheek tune “I’d Rather be Spanish than Manish.” He was a champion of the gay community as well as one of its most celebrated members. Sadly, Malin was killed in a freak car accident after errantly putting his car into reverse sending it plunging into the water off a pier in Venice, California at the age of 25.

Another star of the Pansy Craze was “Rae Bourbon.” Born Hal Bardell, Bourbon was once a part of the boozy-sounding drag stand-up duo “Scotch and Bourbon.” Rae spent a lot of time in the slammer on charges of “lewdness” and “impersonating a woman” during his career and would often write to Vanity Fair magazine asking the publication to send him money in order to make bail. Toward the tail end of the Pansy Craze, Bourbon stepped away from the stage and did modeling work for Weill’s, a department store in Bakersfield, California. In the ad for Bourbon’s appearance he was billed as “Mr. Rae Bourbon” a “popular actor and female impersonator.” Apparently in the 1920s nobody thought it was that weird or that controversial to have a man modeling women’s clothing in the window of a department store on a Saturday. (And that’s because it really isn’t.) Bourbon also produced a number of racy albums before ending up in prison after being convicted of being an accomplice to murder after falling on hard times in the 1960s.

Though I could probably break this post into a series as there as quite a few notable historical “pansies” I’d like to jaw about, I’ll leave you with a few interesting tidbits on Francis Renault, a female impersonator who had a penchant for pricey clothing and jewellery. Born Antonio Auriemma (or perhaps Auriema) in Naples, Italy in 1893 his family moved to the future gay-friendly east coast destination of Providence, Rhode Island when he was young. Renault would perform in 43 different countries as “Francis Renault” and his drag image of Francis even appeared on the cover for the 1913 sheet music to Irving Berlin’s At the Devil’s Ball. As I mentioned, Renault was a huge connoisseur of designer duds and in a magazine ad for a show featuring a performance by him it was said that he would be wearing $5000 dollars worth of costumes straight from the couture houses of Paris. It’s probably important to note that this kind of figure was astronomical for the time and this kind of stocked closet would be worth somewhere in the range of $65K in modern times. Zowie. I’ve included numerous photos of the famous pansies I’ve featured in this post as well as some of their recordings for you to check out below.
 

 

Rae Bourbon (far right) and Mae West (center).
 

Rae Bourbon.
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Fabulous ‘Mermen’ Christmas ornaments to make your tree gay & bright this year!
12.20.2016
10:24 am

Topics:
Amusing
Queer

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‘Bear Merman’ glass ornament. Get it here.
 
If you’re still looking for the perfect holiday gift I have good news for you. While I was finishing up my own shopping I came across these absolutely fabulous ‘Merman” tree ornaments that totally made my day.

Made by a Florida-based company called Diamonds of the Sea there is a nice variety of glass Mermen for you to choose from such as a Lumberjack carrying some (ahem) wood, a cop, and a my personal favorite a “bear” complete with a hairy chest, mustache and beard. If this all sounds good to you then I have even better news because many of the Mermen can still ship out in time to be the greatest Christmas gift ever.

I’ve posted loads of pictures of the adorable, shirtless Mermen for you to consider below along with links to where they can be purchased. Because if you don’t know anyone that would appreciate a gay Merman ornament then you’re probably hanging out with the wrong people. Merry Christmas!
 

‘Lumberjack Merman.’ Get it here.
 

‘P-Town Merman.’ Get it here.
 
More merry Mermen after the jump…

Posted by Cherrybomb | Leave a comment
Finland has made a movie about Tom of Finland—and it looks pretty good
12.19.2016
12:47 pm

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Art
Movies
Queer

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Dome Karukoski, one of Finland’s most successful movie directors, has completed a biopic of one of the country’s most distinctive exports, a man whose name isn’t just synonymous with Finland, it IS Finland. That’s right, Karukoski has made a movie about the life of Tom of Finland, the erstwhile Touko Laaksonen, whose bulging drawings of muscular sailors and leather enthusiasts did so much to define the gay aesthetic of the 20th century.

Playing the role of Tom is Pekka Strang, a Finnish actor who has been the artistic director of Lilla Teatern in Helsinki since 2005. The movie, which is simply titled Tom of Finland, tells the story of his days as a soldier in the Winter War against the Soviet Union and his later artistic career, with emphasis on the success his work would find in the United States.

Of course, Laakonsen’s wartime experiences not only exposed him to men in uniform, which would become one of his major fetishes, but it also placed him in close proximity to Nazis, which would also become a significant motif in his work. Years later, Tom of Finland would be quoted as follows: “The whole Nazi philosophy, the racism and all that, is hateful to me, but of course I drew them anyway—they had the sexiest uniforms!”
 

 
The movie appears to make the case that after tussling with the Soviets and the Nazis (and even the prudish Finns), Tom had a hard time developing any particular fears of the censors that would threaten him with imprisonment. As the movie depicts him saying (referring to Finland), “I would have an easier time publishing these in the Vatican.” The movie also has Tom saying of his work, “If I have a hard-on, then I know it’s good.”

It’s safe to say that this is one of the few biopics that has ample justification for combining the World War II movie genre with coke’d-up and sexy scenes from the swinging ‘70s that would be at home in Boogie Nights.

More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
Sassy political buttons from the frontlines of the fight for LGBT rights
12.12.2016
06:10 pm

Topics:
Activism
Queer

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“NOT TONIGHT, DEAR ... IT’S A FELONY” pinback, c. 1990
 
One of the most invigorating struggles of our time has been the fight to secure dignity and legal protection from the law for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and trans (LGBT). In the modern era, the history of gay awareness can be said to start with Oscar Wilde, and the progressive engagement for human rights has had many ups and downs, the rambunctious disco/bath-house 1970s followed by the harrowing advent of AIDS in the early 1980s.

The last 12 years or so has seen AIDS somewhat corralled by the medical community as well as the institutionalization of gay marriage in the federal legal code. A wide array of figures played key roles over the decades, including Quentin Crisp, Harvey Milk, Rock Hudson, Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner, Divine, Brad Davis, Martina Navratilova, Andy Warhol, Ron Vawter, Ellen DeGeneres, Ru Paul and Keith Haring.

The LGBT History Archive keeps active accounts on Instagram and Tumblr, and even the briefest perusal of either yields an emotionally resonant wave of memories and associations. Only a small percentage of the images posted there are buttons, but over time it adds up—there are many more where these came from

The struggle continues to this day, as legal rulings are issued addressing the right of trans people to use restrooms of the appropriate gender (unfortunately largely as backlash to the progressive position). As I say, the fight continues.
 

“BATMAN & ROBIN” pinback, design by Randy Wicker, c. 1969
 

“FUCK YOU I’M GAY” pinback, c. 1974
 
More after the jump…

Posted by Martin Schneider | Leave a comment
This web oracle cuts up text and audio of William S. Burroughs’ ‘Naked Lunch’
12.08.2016
09:56 am

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Books
Literature
Occult
Queer

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Collage by William S. Burroughs and Brion Gysin, c. 1965 (via Print)
 
What’s that, friend? You say you’d like to consult the I Ching, but it doesn’t have enough erotic hangings, aftosa infections, hot shots, or horrible “schlupping” sounds to speak to your personal situation? Well, the internet might have fucked up a few other things you could name, but it’s “got your six” this time.

Every time you visit this page, it displays 23 randomly selected paragraphs from William S. Burroughs’ Naked Lunch. Press the “play” button at the top and you’ll also hear Burroughs read 23 randomly selected sentences from the novel. Here’s what the oracle just told me:

1 “Don’t look so frightened, young man. Just a professional joke. To say treatment is symptomatic means there is none, except to make the patient feel as comfortable as possible. And that is precisely what we attempt to do in these cases.” Once again Carl felt the impact of that cold interest on his face. “That is to say reassurance when reassurance is necessary… and, of course, suitable outlets with other individuals of similar tendencies. No isolation is indicated… the condition is no more directly contagious than cancer. Cancer, my first love,” the doctor’s voice receded. He seemed actually to have gone away through an invisible door leaving his empty body sitting there at the desk.

2 “They say somebody pushed him.”

3 The boy shied. His street-boy face, torn with black scars of junk, retained a wild, broken innocence; shy animals peering out through grey arabesques of terror.

4 “‘Doc, she sure is a dry hole…. Well, thanks for the paregoric.

5 “Brilliant chap Schafer… but…”

6 “Jesus! These ID’s got no class to them.”

7 “And I say unto you, brothers and sisters of the Anti-Fluoride movement, we have this day struck such a blow for purity as will never call a retreat…. Out, I say, with the filthy foreign fluorides! We will sweep this fair land sweet and clean as a young boy’s tensed Hank. …I will now lead you in our theme song The Old Oaken Bucket.”

8 “We sure did. And you know those citizens were so loaded on that marijuana they all wig inna middle of the banquet…. Me, I just had bread and milk… ulcers you know.”

9 The Embassy would give no details other than place of burial in the American Cemetery….

10 CAMPUS OF INTERZONE UNIVERSITY

11 “Oh say do that Star Spangled Banner yet wave…”

12 The old junky has found a vein… blood blossoms in the dropper like a Chinese flower… he push home the heroin and the boy who jacked off fifty years ago shine immaculate through the ravaged flesh, fill the outhouse with the sweet nutty smell of young male lust….

13 “Know Marty Steel?” Diddle.

14 Marvie does buy himself a shot glass of beer, squeezing a blackened coin out of his fly onto the table. “Keep the change.” The waiter sweeps the coin into a dust pan, he spits on the table and walks away.

15 All streets of the City slope down between deepen-ing canyons to a vast, kidney-shaped plaza full of darkness. Walls of street and plaza are perforated by dwelling cubicles and cafes, some a few feet deep, others extending out of sight in a network of rooms and corridors.

16 He paces around the boy like an aroused tom cat.

17 “With that milk sugar shit? Junk is a one-way street. No U-turn. You can’t go back no more.”

18 “Just two seconds,” I said.

19 “So long flatfoot!” I yell, giving the fruit his B production. I look into the fruit’s eyes, take in the white teeth, the Florida tan, the two hundred dollar sharkskin suit, the button-down Brooks Brothers shirt and carrying The News as a prop. “Only thing I read is Little Abner.”

20 Pigs rush up and the Prof. pours buckets of pearls into a trough….

21 Hauser had been eating breakfast when the Lieutenant called: “I want you and your partner to pick up a man named Lee, William Lee, on your way downtown. He’s in the Hotel Lamprey. 103 just off B way.”

22 “And all them junkies sitting around in the lotus posture spitting on the ground and waiting on The Man.

23 More and more static at the Drug Store, mutterings of control like a telephone off the hook… Spent all day until 8 P.M. to score for two boxes of Eukodol….

 
More after the jump…

Posted by Oliver Hall | Leave a comment
‘Jean Cocteau speaks to the year 2000’ (or Jean Cocteau is dead, long live Jean Cocteau!)
11.30.2016
03:50 pm

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Art
Movies
Queer
Thinkers

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Prior to his death in 1963, Jean Cocteau, the great French artist, filmmaker, novelist, playwright and poet, made his cinematic last will and testament, a time-capsule titled Jean Cocteau s’adresse… à l’an 2000 (“Jean Cocteau speaks to the year 2000”). Cocteau, seen seated in front of his own work at Francine Weisweiller’s Villa Santo-Sospir (where his Testament of Orpheus was shot), offers advice and perspective to a generation just being born. Cocteau gives his definition of genius and of the poet, “an intermediary, a medium of that mysterious force that inhabits.” He also discusses the technical progress of science and how it must not be impeded by intolerance and religion.

In his Cocteau biography James S. Williams wrote:

Just a couple of months before his death, in August 1963, he made one last film: a 25-minute short entitled Jean Cocteau s’adresse à l’an 2000 (Cocteau addresses the year 2000). The film comprises one still and highly sober shot of Cocteau facing the camera head-on to address the youth of the future. Once recorded, this spoken message for the 21st century was wrapped up, sealed and posted on the understanding that it would be opened only in the year 2000 (as it turned out, it was discovered and exhumed a few years shy of that date). If in The Testament Cocteau portrays himself as a living anachronism, a lonesome classical modernist loitering in space-time in the same buckskin jacket and tie while lost in the spectral light of his memories, here he acknowledges explicitly the irony of his phantom-like state: by the time the viewer sees this image, he, J. C., our saviour Poet, will long be dead.

Temporality is typically skewed: speaking from both 1963 and 2000 Cocteau is at once nostalgic for the present that will have passed and prophetic about the future. There is thus both a documentary aspect and projective thrust to the film, another new configuration of ‘superior realism’ and fantasy enhanced by Cocteau’s seamless performance as himself and his now ‘immortal’ status as a member of the Académie Française. He reiterates some of his long-standing artistic themes and principles: death is a form of life; poetry is beyond time and a kind of superior mathematics; we are all a procession of others who inhabit us; errors are the true expression of an individual, and so on. The tone is at once speculative and uncompromising, as when Cocteau pours vitriolic scorn on the many awards bestowed upon him, which he calls ‘transcendent punishments’. He also revels in the fact that he can say now what he likes with absolute freedom and impunity since he will not be around to suffer the consequences.

The status of Jean Cocteau s’adresse à l’an 2000 remains ultimately unclear. Is it a new testament or confession, or a heroic demonstration of the need for human endurance, or a pure ‘farce of anti-gravitation’ as he puts it? Or everything at once? It is entirely characteristic of Cocteau to leave us hanging on this suspended paradox. What is certain, however, and what we have consistently seen, is that Cocteau’s life and body are his work, and his work in turn is always mysteriously alive. This is Cocteau’s final gift to his fellow human beings. Let us retain and celebrate the force of that gesture. He is resurrected before our eyes, ever-present, defiant and joyfully queer.

Jean Cocteau is dead, long live Cocteau!

If you are a Cocteau aficionado, the film is a delight. Here are a few transcribed moments:

We remain apprentice robots.

I certainly hope that you have not become robots but on the contrary that you have become very humanized: that’s my hope.

But I have no idea who you are or how you are thinking, or what you are doing. I don’t know the dances you are dancing.

The dance of our time is called “The Twist.” Maybe you have heard
about it.

You most certainly have your own dance.

I wonder what Cocteau would have made of The Beatles, hippies, gay liberation, punk, Internet pornography, Facebook, the iPhone, Barack Obama and now Donald Trump, but this we’ll never know.

More after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Love Saves the Day: An interview with the legendary NYC club pioneer and DJ David Mancuso
11.18.2016
07:02 am

Topics:
Dance
Music
Queer

Tags:


 
As if 2016 didn’t suck enough already, Monday night saw the passing of one of the most influential (yet unheralded) figures in late 20th century popular culture. That man’s name was David Mancuso, and if you’ve ever danced to great records on a great sound system in a room full of smiling people and thought “could Heaven ever be as good as this?” then David Mancuso is the person you have to thank.

Mancuso, a one-time follower of LSD guru Timothy Leary structured his parties into three stages, and borrowing from The Tibetan Book Of The Dead (as Leary had for his guided LSD sessions) he termed them “Bardos”:

“The first Bardo would be very smooth, perfect, calm. The second Bardo would be like a circus. And the third Bardo was about re-entry, so people would go back into the outside world relatively smoothly.”

The parties Mancuso started throwing in his Manhattan home in 1970–which eventually picked up the moniker “The Loft”—are the absolute ground zero for dance culture as we know it today. This isn’t some hyperbolic statement: practically every one of the great NYC DJs who emerged during the 1970s and 80s—from Larry Levan to Frankie Knuckles to Danny Krivit to Kool Herc to Afrika Islam to David Morales to Junior Vasquez to Danny Tenaglia—are indebted in one way or another to Mancuso’s work (many being regular attendees at his Loft parties). And that’s just the DJs. Plenty of club owners were inspired to open their own nightclubs after visiting The Loft, often with the same shared values as Mancuso’s: peace, love, unity and diversity. While music was the main focus, socially the Loft was incredibly mixed. From day one the majority of the patrons were both homosexual and non-white. The freedom that could be found on The Loft’s dancefloor helped attendees fully express their (often marginalized) personalities, bond with people from both their own social circles and further afield, and helped them shape a vision together of the kind of world they would like to live in once the party had ended and they had left Mancsuo’s home. All to a spellbinding soundtrack carefully chosen by Mancuso himself, music that would later be classified as “disco,” but which was, in reality, simply the very finest in funk, soul, jazz, rock and electronica.

I was lucky enough to meet and interview David Mancuso, for my Discopia fanzine, back in 2003. He had recently come out of a period of relative inactivity, and was touring the world, trying to set up each and every venue he played in to be as close as possible to his New York home. I met him in Glasgow’s CCA, in between testing out the specially-hired audiophile event PA and beginning to blow up the hundreds of balloons that would become his party’s’ signature decoration. What follows is an abridged version of that interview, and while I would have liked for there to have been a happier occasion for digging this talk out and dusting it off, it’s still a fitting tribute to a man who changed not just my own life, but the lives of countless others. Rest in peace, David!

Dangerous Minds: You’ve been DJing for a long time. What is it that makes you still want to do it?

Mancuso: Well, actually, that was the last thing I wanted to do! And to this day it’s the thing that scares me the most.

What, DJing?!

Mancuso: Yeah. I mean it’s not something I fantasized about or wanted to do. But as I started doing my own parties I sort of found where I could be the most help. Also I was into sound systems, so there was a whole relationship there. But the DJ part of it really, and not to be vague, but the music really plays us. Really it’s an opportunity where one can shed their ego. Sort of like having an out of body experience. So I feel there’s a responsibility with the sound, with certain aspects and so forth, that I can contribute to.

Is it still going in New York?

Mancuso: Yeah, I’m about to do my 33rd anniversary. I don’t do it as frequently, as I don’t have a permanent location. The last four or five years the rents and things have gotten so astronomical and the parties are not designed to make a lot of money, okay? And I’m not into having a bar. It’s a very private, very personal thing that’s me and my friends. That’s what this is all about, it’s not about being a club. It’s not out there in the commercial world. The music relates to all these situations, yes, but it’s a very personal thing.

Can you tell me a bit about the sound system and how it is set up?  

Mancuso: Well basically it’s set up around the fundamentals of physics, of sound. And this is not magic, some kind of formula for having, you know, a really great sound system. It’s not about that at all. It is set up and designed to be honest and respectful to the music. You wanna hear the music not the sound system. Usually what happens is, you’ve probably seen this yourself, they put four stacks up, then face them toward the middle.

Right.

Mancuso: Well that’s just not how things work. Your voice is coming from there, my voice is coming from here… You get my point? It’s not coming from [over there], there’s not two more of us. But that’s a formula people have used and in some cases they just don’t know, but it’s got nothing to do with music standards. I mean if you take two flashlights and you switch two beams at each other they cancel.

So you start with the centre ‘cos there’ll be three speakers. The centre channel is mono. It has a lot to do with the vocals. You come down the room, and there’s two more, one in each corner. Then two on the sides which are delayed, but reinforce the sound. So whatever the artist is doing [it replicates], just as my voice is travelling from this point down that room as if you were sitting down there and vice versa. You relay exactly what’s happening. It’s all mathematics. So it’s set up to be as though there people, standing there playing instruments.
 

An action man styled as David Mancuso by Reggie Know
 
Over here [UK] we get told a lot about certain clubs and the Loft is one of them…

Mancuso: Correction, it’s not a club, please! Sorry, I got a little out of hand…

That’s okay.

Mancuso: ...but once you start going in that direction you start getting away from what the Loft is all about. I mean I’m here on a tour, but this is not the Loft. First of all the Loft is a feeling. While there are certain aspects that reflect the Loft and how it develops, it’s not the same. The name “The Loft” itself is not a name I gave it, it’s a given name. People eventually started saying that, ‘cos what is it? Oh, it’s my house! This is not about the club scene. I find some of them are really good, but that’s not what this is about. Sorry, I’m not trying to give you a hard time.

No that’s cool, it is a distinction that need to be made. But in terms of the clubs that people hear about over here, especially the New York stuff like the Paradise Garage and the Gallery, did you go to any of them?

Mancuso: Yeah, of course. I mean, I know Nicky [Siano] very well,  I knew Mike Brody very well, I knew Larry [Levan] very well, and the bar for quality as far as a sound system goes was much higher. Part of what the Loft did was contribute to that. People started, in about ’73, opening up other lofts and things, and they had to have a good sound system ya’know. So that’s one of the things the Loft has done. But these days the quality has gone down, in a lot of situations.

In terms of general quality?

Mancuso: Yeah, be it musical, or less musical. I mean you ever go into a place and you can’t make out the words, or you can make out some of them? It should be very precise.

Continues after the jump…

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile | Leave a comment
‘Trials of Eyeliner’: The massive new 10 CD Marc Almond box set is best of the season
11.15.2016
03:29 pm

Topics:
Music
Queer

Tags:


Photo: Damien de Blinkk

Let’s imagine, for the sake of argument, that there’s been a recent national (or even international) event so seismically disturbing that your entire worldview has crashed on the rocks of Reality Beach, a well-tended waterfront property under the maintenance of a bunch of mean-faced racist and xenophobic rich old white men in their 70s with much younger wives.

More than once, during particularly stressful times in my life, I’ve gone into a well-stocked record store to ask someone whose opinion I respected to recommend something by a non-mainstream artist who I might’ve missed, but whose work would blow my mind and draw me deep into its mystery, to move my head from the place it was in to someplace else. It almost doesn’t matter where. Makes sense, right? The power of music. A therapy of sorts. A diversion. A solace. A form of self-medication. Prayer, even.

Can’t be anything frivolous. It has to transport you. Change your mood. Change your mind. Transform you. It must be magical. Holy. It’s got to move you from here to there.

The “correct” response to my record store query might be something like “Well, have you gone through a Sun Ra phase yet?” “Do you have the Faust box set?” or recommending both of these Big Youth anthologies.

My prescription for what psychically ails you? Do take me up on this sage advice, I promise you my rock snob reader that it will work: Trials Of Eyeliner: Anthology 1979-2016, the newly released and truly magnificent 10-CD, 189 track anthology of the life’s work of Marc Almond.

Trials of Eyeliner, I reckon is one of the most essential box sets of the day, an all-killer, no-filler jam-packed to the bursting point celebration of one of our greatest living vocalists, a singular talent who will never be equaled or topped in the niche that he created for himself as the ultimate gay torch singer/diva. And this is the definitive study of Marc Almond’s work, chosen by the artist himself, with singles, deep cuts and unreleased numbers from his collaborations with David Ball in Soft Cell, the Marc and the Mambas/Willing Sinners/La Magia period with Anni Hogan, solo work and duets with the likes of Siouxsie Sioux, Saint Etienne’s Sarah Cracknell, Jimmy Sommerville, Gene Pitney and PJ Proby. Packaged in a slick, glossy box with a copiously annotated hardback book, it’s a luxurious item, but one with a very reasonable price (around $80-90). Want something to lose yourself in musically? This is it.
 

Photo by Pierre et Gilles

I’ve been a massive Marc Almond fan for pretty much the span of his entire career, from the first Soft Cell album onward and I have to say that there are few disappointments, in terms of tracks not included on Trials of Eyeliner, although I can still think of a few dozen off the top of my head. These 10 CDs make a very, very clear—and as far as I am concerned unequivocal and definitive—musical argument that Marc Almond is one of the greatest artists of our age, a one-of-a-kind vocal talent who will probably be ranked alongside of Frank Sinatra, Nick Cave, Scott Walker, Jacques Brel, Edith Piaf and even Judy Garland by future generations of musical historians for a unique ability to breathe life, but also unutterable grief into a sad song. His decidedly homoerotic artform also compares to French poet and revolutionary Jean Genet, but I believe Marc Almond will ultimately achieve a stature far greater than Sartre’s “Saint Genet” as a pioneering gay artist of the 20th century when all’s said and done.

And I gotta say, I can only imagine what Marc Almond himself thought when he got his own copy of Trials of Eyeliner. He must’ve been fucking pleased. All in one place like this? It’s a staggering accomplishment.

Here’s a sampling of some of my favorite things on Trials of Eyeliner. Truth be told, I love pretty much everything on it.

The quintessance of Marc Almond’s artistry is on display here in his heart-breaking performance of Charles Aznavour’s “What Makes a Man a Man?”
 
Much more Marc after the jump…

Posted by Richard Metzger | Leave a comment
Kinky erotic portraits of Yukio Mishima
11.11.2016
10:00 am

Topics:
Art
Books
History
Literature
Queer
Sex
Unorthodox

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In 1961, a young photographer named Eikoh Hosoe was asked by writer Yukio Mishima to take his portrait picture. It was a humbling yet surprising commission. Mishima was then Japan’s greatest living novelist—the author tipped to one day win the Nobel Prize. Hosoe was relatively unknown. The commission made Hosoe deeply curious as to why the great Mishima had chosen him.

When they met in the small garden at Mishima’s house, the author anticipated Hosoe’s question:

“I loved your photographs of Tatsumi Hijikata. I want you to photograph me like that, so I asked my editor to call you.”

“Mr. Mishima, do you mean I can photograph you in my own way?” I asked.

“Yes, I am your subject matter. Photograph me however you please, Mr. Hosoe,” he replied.

All my questions and anxiety faded.

The photographs Mishima so greatly admired were the ones Hosoe had taken of the dancer Tatsumi Hijikata. 

Hijikata was an originator of Butoh—an apocalytpic dance form developed in Japan after the Second World War in opposition to western influence. Mishima had similarly broken away from the prevailing western influence that had altered Japan after the war and during the 1950s. Mishima wanted a return of the Emperor and the ancient samurai traditions.

Mishima had been a puny kid. As he matured he changed his body through rigorous exercise and weight-lifting to become toned and highly athletic. His books often deal with the theme of the split between intellectual ambitions and the man of action.

His first novel Confessions of a Mask examined the “reluctant masquerade” between the perceived and actual life. Mishima was bisexual. He was married with two children but had an intense and active gay life. He was a sadomasochist, who believed in the living of a life through force of will. A life that he claimed adhered to the strict codes of the samurai. His books were fixed in this tradition—though his subject matter was preoccupied with sex and death. This led many critics in the west to misunderstand Mishima. One of my collegues here label him as a cross between “Proust and Jeffrey Dahmer.”

That fine day in September 1961, Hosoe quickly realized Mishima did not want a banal author portrait:

In offering himself as the “subject matter” of my photographs, I thought he might have wanted to become a dancer himself. I was still in my twenties then, so I was naïve. I did not make the distinction between an international literary figure and a dancer.

Mishima’s father happened to be watering the garden, so I grabbed his hose, and I wrapped Mishima’s entire body in the hose and kept him standing in the center of the zodiac, where he was planning to erect a statue of Apollo.

I asked him to look up and concentrate on my camera, which I was holding from a ladder above. I shouted, “Keep looking at my lens very intensely, Mr. Mishima! Okay, that’s great, keep going . . .” He never blinked while I shot two rolls of 35mm film. “I am proud of my ability to keep my eyes open for minutes,” said Mishima.

“I have never been photographed like this,” he said. “Why did you do it in this way?”

“This is the destruction of a myth,” I replied.

“You should wrap the hose around Haruo Sato,” he laughed. Haruo Sato was considered to be a literary giant at that time. But what I really meant was that I wanted to destroy the preconceived ideas about Mishima’s image in order to create a new Mishima.

After the shoot, Hosoe thought he may have gone too far. Two days later, Mishima phoned him to say he loved the photographs and wanted to collaborate with Hosoe on some more.

Over a period of six months Hosoe worked with Mishima on a series photographs which he hoped would capture the writer’s soul. These were eventually published as a book—with text by Mishima—called Ba-ra-kei or Ordeal by Roses.

In November 1970, Mishima together with four members of his secret army attempted a military coup. They broke into the eastern headquarters of Japan’s Self-Defense Forces taking the commanding officer prisoner. Mishima demanded 800 soldiers gather outside the offices to hear a speech and a list of demands he had written. Mishima hoped this speech would inspire the troops to rebel against the corruption of western influence and join his rebellion. Mishima wanted an end of democracy and a return of the Emperor. His rebellion was a literal union of the artist and man of action changing history.

The troops laughed and jeered as the author spoke. The coup failed. Mishima returned inside where he committed seppuku (self-disembowelment) before one of his soldiers attempted to decapitate him. After several blows failed to remove his head, another of his soldiers eventually managed to decapitate Mishima.

Mishima’s biographer John Nathan suggested this military coup was only a pretext for Mishima’s ritual suicide—something he had long dreamed about. In his short story “Patriotism” Mishima described an idealized seppuku where the central character pulls a blade across his abdomen cutting himself open:

The vomiting made the fierce pain fiercer still, and the stomach, which had thus far remained firm and compact, now abruptly heaved, opening wide its wound, and the entrails burst through, as if the wound too were vomiting. . . . The entrails gave an impression of robust health and almost disagreeable vitality as they slipped smoothly out and spilled over into the crotch. . . . A raw smell filled the room.

Hosoe’s photographs of Mishima taken in 1961 and 1962 capture the author’s terrible beauty, eroticism and conflicted sadomasochistic nature.
 
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More of Hosoe’s photographs of Mishima, after the jump….

Posted by Paul Gallagher | Leave a comment
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