There are some things that enrich our lives so much upon learning of them, we wonder how we ever functioned without knowledge of their existence: Cross-dressing luchadors is one of those things.
In this video, we see “Pimpinela Escarlata” at her most fabulous, battling “Pasion Kristal” and “Yuriko,” alongside “La Braza.” I’m not totally up on every aspect of the gender politics of luchadors, but apparently cross-dressing is commonplace for wrestlers that are more charismatic than athletic, so to speak.
Like luchador culture in general, it’s very rooted in theater and spectacle, just with hefty dollops of added camp and the fabulosity of drag. Frequently, the drag wrestlers compete in women’s matches as well. Most recently, “Pimpinela Escarlata” lost to a woman wrestler called “Sexy Star,” which resulted in Escarlata’s head being shaved.
The joyful hedonism of the 1960s was in part a response to the trauma to the Second World War. The same way the twenties swung after the first great conflagration. And like that decade, it was primarily the white, upwardly mobile, metropolitan, middle class that enjoyed the sex, the drugs and the rock ‘n’ roll.
London may have been swinging in 1967, but for the rest of the country not a lot changed. It would take until the 1970s for most of the country to get a hint of what London experienced. The most important changes, apart from pop music and American TV shows, were the legalization abortion and de-criminalization of homosexual acts between consenting adults - both of which set the scene for bigger and more radical changes in the 1970s.
Yet, as so many of the media are Baby Boomers, the love of all things sixties ensures TV fills its schedules with documentaries on that legendary decade. 1967: The Summer of Love is better than most, as it covers the cultural, social, and political changes that the decade brought. With contributions form Germaine Greer, Donovan, Nigel Havers, Bill Wyman, John Birt and Mary Quant, together with some excellent color archive, this documentary is a cut-above the usual retro-vision.
There are people who love Halloween. Then there are people who LOVE Halloween. Like, really, really LOVE Halloween.
Brooklyn-based photographer Krys Fox is one of the latter. To show how much he loves the witching season, Krys has just completed the mammoth feat of of shooting 31 different photos shoots in 31 days—one for each day of October—with each shoot based around one of his favourtie horror movies. Now THAT is dedication to the Halloween spirit! I sent Krys some questions to find out what had inspired him to undertake this epic task, why invert the gender roles in these photos, and what got him in to photography in the first place…
THE NIALLIST: So, how are you handling Hurricane Sandy? That seems like a real horror movie. Has it affected your shoots?
KRYS FOX: Hurricane Sandy scared me last night. It got violent out there. Our building in Brooklyn was shaking and swaying. It sounded like a monster was out there in the wind. Very much like a scary movie. Luckily, we didn’t lose power. Just internet and cable… and I own a LOT of movies so we just had a movie marathon. Halloween, The Mist, Hide & Seek and Sleepy Hollow were our films… As far as my shoots go, I shot four on my last day, I finished the last shot for the series at 9pm on Saturday night. The subways and buses were already shut down by then (and still are) so, I walked a half an hour back home (with all my props, equipment and camera on me) while Sandy started getting windy. It was a bit freaky, but also pretty cool. It was eerie outside and fun to be in it before it got too serious. So, I lucked out. If the storm had started a day earlier, I wouldn’t have finished this epic project.
More photos, and questions with Krys, after the jump. Let’s see, can you name the horror movies referenced in his work?
By 1968, Dirk Bogarde thought his film career was drawing to a close, as his days as a matinee idol were long over, and the offers of work had slowed. With his partner Tony Forwood, he moved to France, and started a second career as a writer. Bogarde proved to be an exceptional writer, producing 15 bestsellers, including volumes of autobiography and fiction. He was also a dedicated correspondent, penning letters to his many friends and fans. Bogarde’s letters are filled with gossip and back-biting, sketches and scintillating tales of his life.
This first letter was written when Bogarde had finished work on Richard Attenborough’s A Bridge Too Far, with Sean Connery, Ryan O’Neil and Michael Caine, and was also re-dubbing his voice on Alain Resnais Providence.
Though Bogarde was a prolific writer, he could not spell (ahem…rather like Nigel Molesworth), and the following is presented as was written.
To Bee Gilbert, Clermont, 13 September, 1976
What a lovely long letter to cheer me up on my return, three days ago, from a hellish week of looping in Paris. I got there to find that I had to loop the entire fucking film… 200 loops. The sound engineers were dreadful (from Telly natch) and the birds, dogs and airoplanes which scattered across the locations screwd us up even more. Well… it is done now. Am home again for a couple of weeks before returning to Old Father Attenboroughs Disney-Arnhem. Which I dread. Ah well. It will make a bomb, with all those Stars how can it fail? Adored Sean C and worked very happily indeed with him… and made a surprising new mate in Ryan O’Neil who could not be nicer, jollier and brighter! That WAS a surprise. Tote says it was because he was so bloody respectful to me all the time… but I just liked the bloke. And he’s good too. And THAT was a surprise. Gene Hackman was a bit Methody and got cross if the camera operator was on the set while he was rehearsing… but was very pleasant to me and quite good, not more, when it came to the Acting.
Mike Cain pulled the Movie Star bit a bit much… the big cigar, black glasses and fat Cadillac… but he was pleasant if dull and has to have the ugliest voice in the business… and pop eyes. And that was a surprise too. I dont think I could go through it again for anything. Even the lolly. A woman from The New York Times ruefully mumbled that doing something as crappy for so much loot left ‘a kind of stain.’ I wonder if she was right. Holland was hell. Apart from the van Goghs, Rembrants and the Vermeers it is all a lot of crappy horror… We stayed in a ‘dainty’ little hotel in a wood where dinner started at 6.30pm and was off at 8.45. THAT went down like a cup of cold sick as you may imagine. Especially as the prices were identicle to the Lancaster in Paris! However we had three weeks there and flew back on a beastly Caravelle, which bounced all the way to Nice…
We have had, unlike you, a soaking summer… everything green and lush… while the great trees in the Luxumbourg Gardens are all dead. And now Tote is out mowing acres of white daisies and autumn crocus and I think I’d better go and help him… regretfully. I am so lazy and full of reaction… odd.
God bless you, pretty Sno… all love as ever for ever… as you know.
Bogarde did not have worry too much about his cinematic career, as the 1970s saw him working with Luchino Visconti on Death in Venice, Liliana Cavani on The NIght Porter, with Rainer Werner Fassbinder on Despair and Bertrand Tavernier’s Daddy Nostalgie.
In 1983, Bogarde’s partner Tony Forwood was diagnosed with Parkinson’s and cancer, which led the couple to leave France for England in 1987. Not long after their arrival Bogarde suffered a stroke, and the following year Forwood died. Bogarde was devastated, only his writing kept him from suicide. He maintained his various correspondences, including one to Penelope Mortimer, whom he had written to since 1971.
In this letter from 1991, Bogarde responds to Mortimer’s gentle cajoling, and gives a portrait of his life after Forwood’s death.
To Penelope Mortimer, Cadogan Gardens, 24 September, 1991
Bloody hell, you are difficult. I TOLD you that you would find my letter nausiating, people like you, those who see everything in dusk-tones, would. I AM a sort of Pollyanna… and after years of just keeping away from people on account of millions came to me to watch my cavorting, living a secluded life in my small-holding I suddenly got shoved into FULL LIFE with no protection and in a Foreign Land.
After a time of, shall we say reflection?, I decided that having had one stroke and not much liking the effects, I could very well have another, had to live in filthy UK… had to live in London… where better to be than where I started off at 16 as a Student at Chelsea Poly? Parents had been students there too. And the Slade. I felt ‘right’ in the area. Coming to terms was difficult. To terms with walking quite unprotected in streets jammed with curious people.
‘I think it is. Look!’
‘You ask him. Go on. He cant bite you?’
‘Were you Dirk Bogarde?’
‘Left France, have you?’
‘I remember your face but not the name? Humphry someone… ‘
I ducked into my anorak and tried to walk, as I told you, only at dusk or just when shops had opened. Fewer people. No standing with curious, autograph hunting, housewives in lines at the Check Outs. Sainsbury’s, Tesco, Waitrose were soon abandoned. People followed one.
‘He’s buying tinned tomatos.’
‘Thinner than I imagined.’
‘And balding… see?’
‘Pity. But after 50, you know… ‘
‘Could you sign this? Not for me, for my neice, grandmother, wife, son, sister, baby-sitter, cousin Agnes, Eileen, with two e’s please, Anne with an “e”...’
No one, ever, in France behaved like this. Not even in Paris… unless they were British. I felt, all the time, as if my cock was hanging out of my pants: I hunched my shoulders, wore a Purdy cap, scuttled (as far as I could scuttle with a wonky leg) and my doctor thought that it might be ‘obesessional’. Might it? I’d never had an obsession before, save for lizards, frogs, birds, and those kinds of things. So I decided to either go mad or face up to it. I faced up to it. Took off the cap… walk INTO the Check out… smile at everyone because they SMILE at me! Memory jogs them… of some time in which I must have figured in their private lives somewhere… at any age from 10 to 70. My films are always on TV on Sunday. I am counted as a friend. OK. I’ll settle for that. It is far better than hiding in this flat wondering what to do, how to die gracefully.
RAGE. Yes. You make the error of thinking that RAGE has to be manifest, that one shouts and screams with what you call ‘fury’. Balls. RAGE is sometimes inside. Heard of a Rage To Live?
You react to one puny sentence in my letter about 50 years and body-bags on a too small stair-case. But RAGE did’nt remotely come NEAR the thing. Acceptance, humility, fear of ‘what now’, relief that three years of almost unendurable suspense, of desperate distress physically, of loss but relief that it was over. Knowing is so much better, I promise you, than wondering: and hope is pretty hollow when it leaves.
No sense of injustice. Helplessness, yes. To a point. But one is forced by distress and need to rally. No fury. At all. Why? It happens; we are born to die. When Anna, the Night Nurse, and I tried to turn the patient [Tony Forwood] he said, and I could only hear by putting my head against his chest and ‘took’ the vibrations, ‘If you did this to a dog they’d arrest you’. Right. He was being ‘jokey’. But he was right. Which is why I am now the Vice President of VES… and sticking my neck out against Catholics and British Manners and Members of the BMA. IN public. But no Rage. I had the most wonderous 50 years of my life. So did my partner. WE both knew that we’d have to pay. And did. OK?
I have come to terms with my life, I only have an active 10 years reasonably left. Christ! Why waste them? I have just written to Radio Drama. TV [sic] and refused, politely, their kind offer to write a play, or a series, for them. I have quoted the things I watched for homework. ‘Tittmuss’, House of Elliot, Trainer and some dire thing, they adored, which starred my (once) deeply respected Tom Courtney. Impossible to believe any of them. Lowest-Common-Watcher. I’d rather stay with my Telegraph Readers. At least they write back intelligently. I’m off to do a bit of Auschwitch again: then there is RAGE. Then, my love.
Will that do? Hope that you are not vexed that I shoved R. Fox the Handle? It’s only a nudge of course. But he’s bright, clever, and very sharp. Also his track record is amazing, and his wife is to die [for,] she is so adorable, tough, beautiful and can act! Wow!
When it comes to alt-culture icons, they don’t come much bigger or more fabulous than Divine, who was born Glenn Harris Milstead 67 years ago today.
I shouldn’t need to explain to the readers of Dangerous Minds how important a figure Divine was, not just to gay people, drag queens or the plus-sized, but to freaks, misfits and outcasts anywhere and everywhere. I mean, you just gotta love Divine. Anyone who flaunts their flaws that proudly and boldly, turns them into cornerstones of their appearance in fact, should be held up as an inspiration to everyone.
Divine’s legacy has gotten stronger since Milstead’s death in 1988, and in a strange way Divine has come to represent a time when society was both more conservative, but oddly more liberal. What film star would gulp down real, live dog shit on screen these days and be called a hero? I think we need Divine now more than ever, so it’s no surprise to me how truly iconic she has become in recent years.
As today is Divine’s birthday, I contacted Lotti Pharriss Knowles, the producer of the upcoming feature documentary I Am Divine, to discuss the incredible performer, and to get the scoop on their film, which promises to be the definitive document of Divine’s life.
THE NIALLIST: How did this project come about in the first place?
LOTTI PHARRISS KNOWLES: Our director, Jeffrey Schwarz, has been kind of obsessed with Divine and John Waters since he was introduced to their films in college. Many years later Jeffrey interviewed Waters for SPINE TINGLER! THE WILLIAM CASTLE STORY, and many other Dreamlanders for the doc YOU CAN’T STOP THE BEAT: THE LONG JOURNEY OF HAIRSPRAY, and became inspired to make a definitive documentary about the immortal star that is Divine.
TN: How is the Kickstarter going? And when is the finished film due?
LPK: Kickstarter is going great—we made our goal of $40,000 earlier this week! But that goal was the bare minimum we needed to raise to help finish this film, so we are setting a new, “unofficial” goal of $50K to see how far we can get by Friday at midnight when the campaign ends.
We don’t have a specific due date, but we are applying to festivals where, if accepted, we’d premiere early next year. So time is definitely of the essence to make sure we polish the edit, get the soundtrack and graphics completed, and legally clear all the photos and footage we’ve included. And none of that comes cheap!
TN: What personally attracts you to the character of Divine?
LPK: I’ve always been an oddball and attracted to others who are, especially people who are fearless about being different. No one embodies that spirit of the in-your-face punk misfit more than Divine. I also love that while Divine was completely subversive, you always felt a tender heart beating underneath the wild persona—I think that combination is ultimately why Divine’s fans love him so fervently.
TN: Divine’s legacy has gotten stronger since her death - why do you think that is?
LPK: Well, we always seem to truly idolized those who leave us too soon: Marilyn Monroe, James Dean, Jimi Hendrix, Divine. They go out when they’re still young and beautiful, and they’re forever trapped in time… There’s something sentimental about that, because the fans are left to fill in the blanks of what might have happened had they lived longer. I also think there are always those new fans coming along, the next generation of folks seeing the Waters movies for the first time, and responding to those characteristics I mentioned. There are always going to be misfits and outsiders, and so there will always be a need for a role model like Divine.
Divine in Melbourne, Autralia in 1984, pic by Andrew Curtis
TN: Where do you think Glenn Harris Milstead would be today if he hadn’t died?
LPK: I think he’d be an accomplished actor with a wide variety of roles under his belt. He had so much talent, and was just about to enjoy a breakout role out of drag on “Married With Children” when he passed away. Wouldn’t it have been wonderful to have seen Divine live to play Edna Turnblad again in the Broadway musical??
TN: Indeed it would!! Do you think modern society/culture could produce another Divine? And who do you think is closest to that mantle now?
LPK: I think it’s possible but tough, because since the 1970s we’ve already kind of seen it all and done it all in our culture, and no one could truly have the shock value that Divine and the Waters movies did at the time that they were made. There is no one even close to Divine who exists now, but I see shades of Divine’s legacy in people from Lady Gaga to Sharon Needles [check out The Niallist’s interview with Sharon Needles here], Sacha Baron Cohen to the “Jackass” crew—I think Divine paved the way for them and others like them.
TN: What’s your favorite Divine song?
LPK: Maybe a cliche, but I gotta go with “You Think You’re A Man.” It’s classic, catchy, and totally fuck you. I love it.
TN: I have to admit I am a huge fan of Divine’s music, from “Born To Be Cheap” to the Bobby O-produced classics, all the way up to the Stock, Aitken and Waterman productions. For a complete non-singer, Divine really knew how to belt out a song, and by compensating for the vocal weaknesses with pure attitude made for a very compelling performer. I also like the music because it’s overtly gay but takes no prisoners, it’s very “fuck you” which “gay” music hasn’t been for a long time. My favorite Divine track is probably “I’m So Beautiful”, which actually IS beautiful, as well as cheap, nasty, funny, filthy, and funky as hell. Anyway, what is your favorite of Divine’s many looks?
LPK: God, there are so many… But I have to pick the one-armed green leopard print mini-dress from “Female Trouble,” just ‘cause I love how she STRUTS down the avenue in Baltimore in it, and the (real!) reactions from people on the street. That’s the spirit of DIVINE in her purest form!
TN: Thanks Lotti!
In the meantime, here’s a PSA on body image and self-esteem from the I Am Divine camp, featuring John Waters, Mink Stole, Sharon Needles and Latrice Royale, all set to the wonderful tune of “I’m So Beautiful”.
In the world of drag, no-one is hotter than Sharon Needles right now. In fact, you could say she is the undisputed queen of drag. Granted, this may have a lot to do with her winning season 4 of RuPaul’s Drag Race on Logo TV earlier this year, but, to give her her due, she’s been that show’s biggest break-out star ever, with a legion of adoring fans that have come from far and wide, and not just the gay and drag scenes.
Because, you see, more than just being a drag queen, Sharon Needles is a FREAK. She speaks to everyone who has ever felt outcast, for whatever reason, and in this era of dying conservatism (where anything different is labelled “wrong,”) she does a pretty damn good job of standing up for the outsiders. Her winning of the TV show against some fiercely talented and beautiful contestants felt like a victory for anyone who is different, for the bullied, the awkward, the bizarre and the downtrodden.
So I just had to interview to her. It took nearly six months, but I was finally granted an email interview with this underground superstar last week, and I’ll be damned if I was gonna waste it on bitching about the other Drag Race queens, or questions about drugs and shoes, or having a kiki with the Scissor Sisters. No, Needles’ is a brilliant, dangerous mind and I wanted to know more about the “serious” stuff.
THE NIALLIST: Something tells me you won’t be voting for Mitt Romney this year. Do you mind telling us how you will be voting? And how are you finding the political discourse in America in the run up this election?
SHARON NEEDLES: There’s definitely a severe polarization in politics these days. I blame this on the media, and big money. I find politics to be something quite personal, and something that I keep to myself. But as Snoop Dogg, now known as Snoop Lion, has recently said in an interview, you can either vote for Lucifer or Satan. He is choosing neither. True change comes from within, not a 3 piece suit.
TN: As a performer, I sense your work draws a lot from non-typical drag influences, ie a lot of stuff outside the world of drag. You’ve been forthcoming about your love of Marilyn Manson, and most of the interviews I have read with you tend to focus on your drag-spirations, but what non-drag artists have had an impact/influence on you?
SN: Willam S. Burroughs, Andy Warhol, serial killers, under-appreciated horror films, transsexuals, politics, rock ‘n’ roll, and an all around distaste for organized religion.
TN: Are you going to any of the “Twins Of Evil” tour? And what is your opinion of Marilyn Manson’s most recent work? Do you think there are any cultural figures from the last 5 years that could claim his level of influence and/or subversion?
SN: Marilyn Manson was my Backstreet Boys growing up. Though I’ve felt a disconnect with his body of work in the last decade or so, he was an inspiration to me in my developmental years. Anything after Mechanical Animals, I unfortunately think is downgraded… what went wrong?
TN: Guest question from Mark @ Tranarchy - what would you be doing if you hadn’t discovered drag?
SN: First of all, I’d like to say I love Tranarchy, I’ve been following their work. And if wasn’t doing drag I’d probably be writing, traveling, painting, or dead.
TN: Guest question from Lady Munter @ Menergy - how relevant do you think RuPaul really is to our generation (late 20s-early 30s)? Before Drag Race, he was out of the limelight for quite some time and was seen to be a bit of a naff 90s memory.
SN: So many people hold the responsibility for social relevancy. Pop culture took a much more boring twist in the early 2000’s, with such safe creations as ‘N Sync and Britney Spears. They left no room for the genius that is RuPaul. But unlike so many who have gone to the wasteland of reclusion, RuPaul has proved to be a true pop icon and underground survivor.
TN: After a recent mis-identification involving a dildo, Joshua Grannel described Peaches Christ as being “sex-negative”. Would you say Sharon Needles is sex-negative or sex-positive, and why?
SN: Sharon Needles is an example of American, consumeristic, exaggerated, inflatable beauty. She is designed to be considered sexy, but should never be considered as being fucked. So many drag queens use sexuality as a way of describing their characters, I distance myself from that, there are bigger fish to fry. But in terms of one’s personal sexuality, I’m game for anything. No one should be judged for something that no one sees, we tend to be publicly scrutinized for something that is the most private thing in our lives, our sex lives. Dead girls never say no.
TN: How was it working with Peaches Christ on Silence Of The Trans? If you two re-teamed to do a different movie and had an unlimited budget and a cast of thousands at your beck and call, what would you like to do?
SN: Working with Peaches Christ was a nightmare come true. It’s very refreshing to work with entertainers that have like-minded concept on drag performing, someone who prefers to frighten and enlighten people, before titillating them. Me and Peaches have discussed working on film projects, though I would prefer our film to have a low budget. Big budgets ruin horror film. If we were to make a film, I would call it “Methamphetamine Zombies.” If Meth can wake the living, then Meth can wake the dead. I smell a sequel.
TN: Speaking of the word “trans,” what is your view on the controversy that flared up a few years ago about the use of the word “tranny” on Glee, and the ownership/use of that word by different communities?
SN: There are real dangerous people doing real dangerous things in this big dangerous world to hurt people. Words only carry the merit that you give them. Intent trumps language. In my culture, language is twenty-six consonants and vowels swirled around to create dialog. Dialog can also be misinterpreted, but I’m the wrong person to ask. I love foul language, I love pushing barriers with my tongue. No one is safe. And I’m a tranny.
TN: You are no stranger to controversy yourself, in particular an incident involving the word “n****r” from earlier on this year. How has winning RuPaul’s Drag Race affected your performance, and have the reactions to, or the expectations of, your work changed since that particular incident?
SN: No. No one controls my art, and no one, and I mean no one, can say I have ever acted out, spoken out, or performed out of hatred. Do yourself some good, do some research, research Patti Smith, John Lennon, Yoko Ono, Marilyn Manson, and William S. Burroughs on this very controversial word. Is it shocking? Yes. Have I ever used it without thought? No.
TN: Guest question from Gregor @ Mutate Design - on RuPaul’s Drag Race you were quick to point out you weren’t a “singer,” and struggled with that challenge. What then was the motivation for making a Sharon Needles album? And what can you tell us about your album (which I hope is called “Punk Rock Sex Clown”) - what are your main musical influences?
SN: I’ve never considered myself a singer, though others have told me otherwise. I’m currently playing Dr. Frank-N-Furter in The Rocky Horror Show, and have since been applauded for my vocal range and talent. My “album”, set to be released at the end of January, is a total example of compromise. A compromise between me and the industry, a compromise between underground and pop culture, and definitely a compromise within myself. That is why this album is entitled PG-13. All PG-13 films are compromised R-Rated films, and I’ve learned in this roller coaster of a year that happiness and success come with a compromise between you and your detractor.
[The album also features] Jayne County from Jayne County & The Electric Chairs, she was a 1970’s New York Punk Trans goddess ,completely underestimated and underappreciated, but I’ve devoted much of my spare time promoting her past, present, and future. She will be a guest on one of the tracks of my upcoming album.
Happy Halloween, Hail Satan, kill your parents, and steal everything.
TN: Thanks Sharon!
In this brilliant interview from The Daily Freak Show, James St James interviews Sharon Needles (as Aaron) and the legendary Jayne County:
Surely you’ll know by now that we’re big fans of SSION at Dangerous Minds. The album Bent (which was originally released as a limited edition free download last year) was one of my favorites of 2011. It’s the kind of artful, emotional, electronic dance music that I always wished the Scissor Sisters sounded like, or that Madonna would make instead of chasing Lady Gaga’s crown.
Well, Bent has now been given the full, physical release treatment by Dovecote Records, and SSION are out on tour to promote it this autumn. That means they will soon be coming to a town near YOU and, godammit, I wish I lived in the States so I could catch one of these shows!
As someone whose music I greatly respect and admire, for the third Notes From The Niallist column I caught up with Cody Critcheloe (who, for all intents and purposes, is SSION), to ask him what he has in store for this tour, and how the album promotion is going:
The Niallist: You’ve stated that you plan on producing a video for each track on your album Bent - how is that going? Is there a narrative thread between these videos? I have noticed some slight stylistic similarities.
Cody Critcheloe: That is true, we’ve completed 5 of the 10 videos so far. We’re still waiting to release a few while we are on tour. The wait is killing me! Yes, there is a narrative thread between all of the videos… I’m not sure if everyone will pick up on it and i don’t know if it’s really important that they do… We will see, I guess.
TN: You put out Bent as a limited edition free download last year, and now it is being re-released physically. How do you feel the free download worked in your favor? Or did it?
CC: Well a lot of people are familiar with the songs, they come to shows and sing a long, and that’s cool. I think it worked in my favor for sure. I mean, do people even buy records anymore? i do sometimes but not like i did when i was a kid… I feel like things are on the uprise though, but then again I don’t have anything to compare it to. This is just they way it turned out.
TN: You put a lot of effort into your stage shows - what can we expect from Ssion on this tour? Any secrets you might be willing to give away?
CC: I think a lot of people have seen photos from shows we did 5 or 6 years ago and assume that they are going to get that, or they see the “Clown” video and think that’s who i am and what we do. That’s not the case. iId need some insane funding and the audience to put on shows that big! When we get the opportunity to do a lavish pop show I go all out, but when you’re touring in a van and sometimes playing to 100 people in a basement or dive bar you can’t really do that! And i actually sort of like stripping it down, i like forcing people to have to deal with it on a strictly musical level… For this tour it’s me and a live band, some visual elements but nothing really over the top. It doesn’t seem to bother people who come to the shows either. It’s still good. I’m a good performer and the band is tight. Also, we have House of Ladosha supporting us on the tour, they are my favorite band in NYC. Check them out!
TN: Who are your primary influences as a live performer? And musically and more generally, in terms of art and style which you poses a lot of, who has influenced you to do what you do?
CC: Courtney Love, The Cramps, Prince, Little Richard, Iggy Pop, Madonna, Queen, Sonic Youth, Darby Crash, the B-52s, and a lot more.
TN: Thanks, Cody!
Here’s the latest SSION video, an interview about the upcoming Live & Wet tour:
And here, for your diary, is the full SSION tour date schedule:
I ended my first Notes from the Niallist column by mentioning the collective I am a co-founder of, and performer with, called Tranarchy.
Frankly, it’s Tranarchy that has been taking up most of time, and distracting me from mining the cultural coal face for Dangerous Minds. But that’s the trade-off I guess, as Tranarchy is helping to create the diamonds people discover under all that dust.
As the name would suggest, Tranarchy is a drag-and-trans-heavy collective interested in subverting, and commenting on, normative gender roles. I know that all sounds very serious, but Tranarchy is dedicated to putting the fun first, and letting people discover the message for themselves, without having it rammed down their throats. There’s just too much hectoring in this world already, and not enough people willing to lead by example, i.e. living the life they want to live regardless of what society says. Sniff all you like at the supposed frivolity of drag queens and the “feminine” aesthetic, as historically has been the case with male-dominated, straight society, but always remember how much guts it takes to flaunt your otherness in public.
Besides the political aspect, however, there’s something almost magical going on with Tranarchy. And I mean “magical” in terms of seeing dreams and desires become a reality. We started the collective just over a year ago, and as we have grown at a surprising rate, we have managed to put on events and happenings that, just 18 months ago, we (literally) could only have dreamed of.
So far, we have hosted Manchester’s first ever vogue ball, called Vogue Brawl (now into its second year.) We’ve held a number of interactive film screenings in the style of the legendary Peaches Christ’s Midnight Mass in San Francisco (Showgirls, Zoolander, Mad Max: The Road Warrior with Empire Drive-In and Abandon Normal Devices.) We have created promo videos and photos shoots for our events that show off much of Manchester’s untapped talent, and these are beginning to get attention in the States and further beyond. Our most popular film so far is the promo for Vogue Brawl 2: Pride Is Burning, which can be basically summed up as “The Warriors in drag.”
The collective is very aware of gay and trans history and we want to celebrate that. We’ve held a few outlaw parties inspired by the original New York club kids James St James and Michael Alig, and documented them in the style of the sadly-missed pioneering NYC videographer Nelson Sullivan.
This is where it gets interesting, though. Our first outlaw party was a reclaiming of the Manchester tram system, which, as anyone who has ever used public transport will know, can get pretty hairy if you stand out in any way. Our last outlaw party was even bigger, in terms of execution and impact. It was an invasion of, and statement about, Manchester’s annual “Pride” festival of gay culture and awareness.
Every year, Manchester Pride is held in the city’s Gay Village and attracts up to 40,000 people, making it one of the flagship gay Pride festivals in the UK. However, the amount of money raised for charity as opposed to the amount of money raised for personal profit has been a major, running issue for a while, as has the fact that a festival celebrating gay visibility, and interaction with the wider, local community, is held in a walled-off compound that charges people to enter.
However, the one thing the Manchester Pride organizers don’t have control over is the large canal that runs right through the Gay Village, and along side Canal St, where much of the festivities take place. So, as a bit of a lark, Tranarchy took a barge down to the Village this year, and crashed the Pride party to perform a few numbers and make a basic point.
We have issued an official Tranarchy statement detailing some of the problems with Manchester Pride to accompany the YouTube video, and here is an extract from that:
Freeing Pride is not an attack on Pride as a party, and it is not just about the fences and the ticket prices. Its about setting Pride free from the businesses and individuals who seek profit before the well-being of our community. It’s about asking what the event is really about, who benefits from it who should pay for it, and remembering why we do it in the first place! Its about asking whats more important; extra cash for an organization reaching out to the most vulnerable among us, or getting to see Steps [90s pop band] one last time before they slip into room 101?
In short, we were all incredibly nervous about pulling this stunt, but it turned out better than we could have hoped. Check out the old voguing queen we encountered at the end of the video, in the Piccadilly basin, which is a well-known cruising ground:
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