Sometimes Republicans get it right. Clint Eastwood on gay marriage:
These people who are making a big deal about gay marriage?” Eastwood tells the magazine. “I don’t give a fuck about who wants to get married to anybody else! Why not?! We’re making a big deal out of things we shouldn’t be making a deal out of ... Just give everybody the chance to have the life they want.”
Nikolai Alekseev, a Russian gay rights activist arrested during a 2010 Moscow protest (picture above) has been convicted of spreading “gay propaganda” by a court in St Petersburg, making him the first to be convicted under the city’s new anti-homosexuality laws. From Pink News:
Mr Alekseev was said to have been fined 5,000 roubles, just over £100, by a court in Russia’s second city for the promotion of homosexuality among minors, AP reports.
The law was approved in February; this is the first time a citizen has been successfully prosecuted under it.
Mr Alekseev had held up a sign reading “Homosexuality is not a perversion” outside the Smolny Institute in April in public view.
A former journalist, Mr Alekseev turned his attention to full-time gay rights campaigning in 2005, setting up the gay rights advocacy group GayRussia.ru.
He has appeared regularly on Russian television and has been honoured for his work by LGBT organisations worldwide.
He has been arrested on numerous occasions for holding illegal Pride marches and gay rights demonstrations and launched lawsuits against Moscow authorities for banning the events and had announced his intention to retire last year.
Curtain up on a starry night. Comets fire across the sky. Center stage, one star shines more brightly than the rest, its spotlight points towards a globe of the earth as it spins form a thread. Glitter falls, as a white screen rises, the lights glow brighter filling the stage.
Single spot tight on a woman’s face
We are unsure if she is in pain or ecstasy. No movement until, at last, she exhales, then pants quickly, rhythmically. Her face glistens. The spot widens, revealing 2 nurses, dressed in starched whites, symmetrically dabbing her face.
The woman is Mrs. Kemp, and she is about to give birth. 3 mid-wives are guided by house lights through the audience to her bedside. Each carries a different gift: towels, a basin of hot water, and swaddling.
It’s May 3rd 1938, and Lindsay Kemp is about to be born.
Though this maybe a fiction, it is all too believable, for nothing is unbelievable when it comes to Lindsay Kemp.
Lindsay Kemp has agreed to give a telephone interview. He is to be called at his home in Italy, by Paul Gallagher from Dangerous Minds, who is based in Scotland. We never hear the interviewer’s questions, only Kemp’s answers and see his facial expressions as he listens to questions.
Photographs of Kemp’s career appear on screens. We hear a recording of his voice.
I began dancing the same as everybody does, at birth. The only difference was, unlike many other people, I never stopped. In other words, you know, I love movement. Movement gave me such a great pleasure, such a great joy.
Dance is really my life. I’ve always said for me ‘Dance is Life, Dance is Living, Dance is Life and Life is Dance’. I’ve never really differentiated between the two of them. It’s always been a way of life, a kind of celebration of living.
Kemp is an exquisite dancer, a fantastic artist, and a brilliant visual poet. No hyperbole can truly capture the scale of his talents.
In the 1960s and 1970s, his dance group revolutionized theater with its productions of Jean Genet’s The Maids, Flowers and Oscar Wilde’s Salome.
He shocked critics by working with non-dancers. At the Traverse Theater in Edinburgh, he often cast his productions by picking-up good-looking, young men in Princes Street Gardens - good looks, an open mind and passion for life were more important than learned techniques, or a classical training. His most famous collaborator was the blind dancer, Jack Birkett, aka The Great Orlando – perhaps now best known for his role as Borgia Ginz in Derek Jarman’s Jubilee.
Kemp was the catalyst who inspired David Bowie towards cabaret and Ziggy Stardust. He taught him mime, and directed and performed in Bowie’s Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from mars. He also taught Kate Bush, and choreographed her shows.
As an actor, he gave outrageous and scene-stealing performances in Jarman’s Sebastiane, Ken Russell’s Savage Messiah and Robin Hardy’s The Wicker Man.
“I’ve never really differentiated between dance and mime and acting and singing. I’ve always loved all aspects of performing, though I still can’t play the trumpet, but I’d like too. Well, it’s never too late to learn.”
He has performed across the world, from department stores in Bradford, through the Edinburgh Festival, the streets and cafes of Italy, to London’s West End and Broadway.
Kemp is a poetic story-teller, and his performances engage and seduce as much as the words that spill from tell such incredible tales. His voice moves from Dame Edith Evans (“A handbag!”) to a lover sharing intimacies under the covers.
A house in Livorno. A desk with a telephone. A chaise longue. A deck chair and assorted items close at hand. Posters and photographs of Kemp in various productions are back-projected onto gauze screens.
Kemp makes his entrance via a trap door.
The phone rings once. Kemp looks at it.
Rings twice. Kemp considers it.
Rings three times. He answers it.
Lindsay Kemp is on the ‘phone.
Hello. (Pause.) Where are you in Scotland?
My grandparents are from Glasgow. I always pretend to be Scottish because I was born accidentally in Liverpool when my Mother was saying bye-bye to my Father, who was a sailor, and he was off to sea from Liverpool’s port, you see.
Well, I don’t quite know where that came from, unless I said it one drunken night, maybe when I chose to be more romantic than Birkenhead, where I was in fact born. I was born in Birkenhead on May the 3rd, 1938, but my family hailed form Scotland, between Glasgow and Edinburgh, and for many years I lived in Edinburgh, when I returned there for the first performance of Flowers, that show that put me on the map, you know.
Lindsay Kemp> debuts his new production Histoire du Soldat (‘A Soldier’s Tale’) by Stravinsky on 5th May, in Bari, Italy. You can buy tickets for the World Premiere here.
Lindsay Kemp – The Last Dance is a film currently being made by Producer / Director Nendie Pinto-Duschinsky – check here for more information.
Antony Hegarty of Antony and the Johnsons is joining past Meltdown Festival curators like David Bowie, Morrissey. Nick Cave, Jarvis Cocker and Patti Smith, as he announces the line-up for this year’s prestigious event to be held in London, August 1-12.
Antony discussed the predominantly female performer selection, his ideas about “future feminism” and how these artists are pushing towards something completely new for society, with Pitchfork:
Hegarty: Kembra Pfahler is like my leader, basically. She’s such a seminal or feminal influence on so much of us in New York City. Just because she’s so fierce, ferocious and her creativity is so pure, and her vision of the world is so unrelenting. And she’s so unrelenting in her willingness to deliver a sense of truth. That has political ramifications.
Laurie Anderson is the same way: she’s named and framed her sense of apocalyptic culture for 25 years. Ferociously named it. Joey Arias is so hardcore. He’s a very hardcore queen. Marc Almond is also a super hardcore pioneer. There’s David Tibet from Current 93 and Cyclobe. They are on the frontier of English, queer, hallucinogenic paganism. And they sort of sit on the spiritual frontier in terms of trying to articulate or embody in their work a vision that they have of the world that’s very different from a typical patriarchal, sky god, Christian crap that even a lot of indie musicians in America are turning out. Christian chud. They’re pretending they’re alternative artists, but they are just confirming this patriarchal chud that we desperately need to rid ourselves of.
CocoRosie has been very controversial, especially in America, just because they take so many risks, and most guys in the boys club don’t take even them. In Europe they’re very embraced. Amongst artists, they are celebrated around the world, but there’s obviously been a lot of people that can’t take the frontier that they’re pushing. To me, they are amongst the most important young artists in American today. I think it’s intergenerational. There’s a lot going on in the festival.
Pitchfork: Every artist, in their own way, seems to have an uncompromising vision.
Hegarty: It’s not even just within art that they’re uncompromising. I think for me, it’s the next step that’s interesting. Since the early 2000s, a lot of straight boys created bands that are about, like, nurturing this pastoral inner life—these colorful psychedelic lives and nurturing their sensitivity as straight boys. And that’s great and everything, but we need to start participating in the bigger picture because this whole ecology of our world is going to start collapsing in the next 50 years, and if there’s going to be a validity to anything, in 50 years’ time just like the way they were, people are going to be asking what the kids of today are thinking, what the artists of today were thinking. Were they just checking out? Were they just, like, hugging a couple of cuddly bears or feel-good pillows? What is the point of music at this point? Is it just a beer swill at Coachella? Is it a few sensitive guys getting up there having a circle jerk while all the girls and all the other people have to sit around and try and find their experience within their opaque song styling? We could be participating, and that’s what I aspire to do, and so I wanted to create a vivid festival that had some teeth to it.
Antony’s Meltdown line-up:
Elizabeth Fraser of the Cocteau Twins in her first live performances (she’s doing two shows) since 1998
William Basinki: “Disintegration Loops”
Marina Abramovic doing a rare lecture.
Hal Willner’s"Freedom Riders”
Charles Atlas’ Antony and the Johnsons tour doc Turning.
Planningtorock + Light Asylum
The Voluptuous Horror of Karen Black + Tenderloin
Kembra Pfahler + Claywoman
Joey Arias channeling Billie Holiday in his “Strange Fruit” review
Marc Almond performing his classic Torment and Toreros album in it’s entirety
Myrninerest + Cyclobe + Derek Jarman Films
As someone who has seen most of the acts on this year’s Meltdown bill, I have to say that this is one of the very best curated music festivals I’ve ever heard of. There’s a real vision here and I think it’ll be an amazing experience for attendees.
Meltdown Festival tickets will go on sale next Tuesday, May 8th at noon for Southbank Centre members only, and then on Thursday 10th at noon for the general public.
Below, a stunning performance of “Cripple and the Starfish” at Amsterdam’s Theater Carré Amsterdam, June 21, 2009:
AS IF they needed any encouragement, Mitt Romney’s cynical hiring of openly gay Richard Grenell to sharpen his foreign policy message (and provide some cover for all of the anti-gay stuff Mittens has pledged to support) has “let the dogs out” of the Christian Right.
With Grenell stepping down before he even got started, now anti-gay rights activists like the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer and hateful jackass Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association are crowing about their success in pressuring Romney to get rid of him.
You can, of course, easily make the argument that Republicans, on the whole, are hardly a bunch you could describe as “gay-friendly,” so there becomes the secondary side-issue of why tin-earred pol Romney felt that stirring up a hornet’s nest like this—the prominent hiring of an openly gay man—would benefit him politically with the mouth-breathing GOP base. It’s fucking ridiculous on the face of it, but in doing so, Romney has inadvertently exposed the men behind the curtain who are REALLY pulling his strings: Some of the most extreme Christianist bigots in America!
Last week Bryan Fischer declared that if Mitt Romney wants to win in November, he’d “better start listening to me.” Most of the rest of the week, Fischer discussed firing Grenell and lashed Romney repeatedly for having the audacity to hire an openly gay man as his foreign policy and national security spokesman. Coincidence that Grenell stepped down? I should think not.
“It’s sometimes hard to explain to outsiders what level of principle is required to withstand the personal cost of being an out gay Republican. I’ve only ever been a gay conservative (never a Republican), and back in the 1990s, it was brutal living in the gay world and challenging liberal assumptions. I cannot imagine the social isolation of Grenell in Los Angeles today, doing what he did. And his reward for such loyalty, sincerity and pugnacity? Vilification. I mean: what do Republicans call a gay man with neoconservative passion, a committed relationship and personal courage? A faggot.”
The Stonewall Democrats had this to say:
Mitt Romney sat silently and let the bigoted wing of his party control his personnel choices. Either Mitt Romney is a coward who is afraid to stand up to the anti-LGBT bullies in his party, or he is fine with an America where LGBT people can have a career only if they’re willing to work quietly from the confines of the closet. Gay Republicans should be outraged and must demand that the organizations that represent them refuse to support Mitt Romney’s presidential aspirations in any way.”
The Human Rights Campaign’s statement:
From the moment Richard Grennell signed on as Mitt Romney’s Foreign Policy and National Security Spokesman, he faced a torrent of unfounded criticism from the far right. Not once did the Romney campaign condemn these attacks and support Grennell. Mitt Romney capitulating to the demands of extremist anti-gay groups is nothing new. He has donated to the rabidly anti-gay National Organization for Marriage and the Massachusetts Family Institute. He has even signed a NOM vow that binds him to appoint only anti-gay judges and establish a McCarthy-era commission to investigate the activities of those who support LGBT equality. The fact that Grennell is gone so quickly after a right-wing uproar is a troubling harbinger of the kind of power that anti-gay forces would have in a Romney White House.
Actually, I believe this is a big win for progressives and for gay journalists and commentators as well. We drew out the conservative leaders in addition to Fischer, like Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, Gary Bauer and other commentators on National Review and Daily Caller, by bringing forth and continually highlighting the true facts about Grenell, which, to most Americans, are completely acceptable, but which, in the eyes of the evangelical right, make him a radical homosexual. As I wrote in a post last week, Grenell isn’t just gay, like some other gay Republicans who stay quiet about their homosexuality. He’s a gay man who very publicly expressed that he wants to get married to another man and who believes President Obama isn’t adequate on LGBT rights.
Why is it this a win? Because Grenell was being used for cover by a candidate with abhorrently anti-gay positions, a man who has promised to “propose and promote” a federal marriage amendment if elected president. I don’t buy the argument made by some that it was a measure of progress that Romney hired a gay man as his foreign policy spokesperson when he’s using that gay man to make himself appear moderate to independents while he’s promising the GOP base that he’ll make gay people into second class citizens. Actual progress in the GOP will come when their presidential candidates stop bowing to bigots and refuse to sign their extremist pledges. Otherwise, it’s all window dressing.
He’s 100% correct on this matter. During the second hour of Fischer’s radio show yesterday, the news broke about Grenell’s resignation from the Romney campaign. Watch as a gleeful Fischer declares it a “huge win” for Christian conservatives because A) they forced Romney’s hand to get rid of Grenell and B) they taught him what his boundaries are!
Boots Sex Dread is the name of an anonymous reggae act (is it a band or just and MC? or two MCs?) who brought out a one-off single in 1980 that became instantly notorious. Both sides of the release feature heavy dub riddims coupled with explicitly gay toasting. Like, REALLY explicit.
One side is titled “Rinka” and features an MC coming out: “Mi black and mi proud and mi a Rastafari/And mi a ‘omo-sek-shual”. There then follows an hilarious list of anal sex euphemisms. The flip is titled “Prenton Pressure” and features a different, coarse voiced MC regaling us with the story of how he met his Asian boyfriend, and how their sexual relations in a cornership store room (involving lots of bizarre condiments - Brillo Pads?!) were interrupted by the boyfriend’s mother.
Information on this record is scarce, but rumors about who the authors/vocalists may be have been rife since it was first written about in the NME on its 1980 release. The theory that has gained most credibility is that Boots Sex Dread is the work of the British comedian and actor Keith (father of Lily) Allen. An anonymous source close to Dangerous Minds can semi-confirm this:
It was rumored to be Keith Allen. And Rinka was supposed to be named after Norman Scott’s dog who was shot by the hit man hired by Jeremy Thorpe. [Background: Jeremy Thorpe was the leader of the British Liberal party from ‘67-‘76. Norman Scott claimed to be his gay lover, and Thorpe was aquitted on charges of conspiring to murder Scott in 1979.]
But this was the story running the rounds when Julie Burchill banged on about it as being gay Reggae. Not convinced, but it sounds like it could be him. He is an accomplished pianist, as I found out when I spent 3 nights on the batter with him, whilst he was filming Shallow Grave.
Keith had a character he played on Channel 4 late night back in the early 80s, where he played a gay miner, who’s dad was gay and his father before him, etc. Led to religious people saying he shouldn’t be allowed on TV etc, as they thought Keith was genuinely gay.
There a bit more info on this story over at the Uncarved blog. Here are sides A and B of Boots Sex Dread (even the names have been confused over time):
Boots Sex Dread “Rinka” NSFW
Boots Sex Dread “Penton Pressure” NSFW
Boots Sex Dread is rare as hens’ teeth, but it was re-issued not too long ago, so keep an eye out and you might find it.
I’ve said it before and I will say it again, RuPaul’s Drag Race is THE best reality show on TV right now. No, wait, let me rephrase that: RuPaul’s Drag Race is THE best reality show in the history of TV. Yes, I’m fucking serious.
It feels a bit like coming out all over again, to admit an obsession with a show so frivolous and outrageously camp as RDR. But I’m not ashamed, no siree. I couldn’t give two hoots what any of the detractors say, Drag Race is fun, funny, glamorous, touching and educational. It delivers on so many levels that it puts the bigger, mainstream reality shows to shame, a fact acknowledged by Pamela Anderson, who has stated that the talent on Drag Race easily outclasses that on American Idol.
And I’m not even a reality TV fan. I hate it! You know how these competition shows seem like such a fucking lie cos all the contestants are MOR dweebs hand-picked for their inanity, and the judges spew out bullshit platitudes when the truth is they have no clue how to control the market forces of the entertainment industry? That has always bugged me, as has the premise that somehow a mystical team of background operatives can bestow superstar status on an individual of their choosing. Well, Drag Race is different. Very different. First off, it’s a show about competing drag queens. Case closed. But in case you’d like me to explain further, don’t worry, I fully intend to…
Right away, out the window goes that hypocritical, bullshit false humility that stinks up reality TV. Being a show-off is always frowned upon on these shows, and a confident extrovert is generally framed as being “arrogant.” It’s a fundamental mythos of the entire reality genre (you know the score, the loveable loser who would still be lingering in a factory or waiting tables if it wasn’t for the grace of Simon Cowell to descend from his throne and bestow fame upon them.) Realistically the judges and producers need someone who is easy to manipulate and control, but they also need someone who is comfortable in front of an audience and a few cameras yet who knows their place and won’t outshine the real stars, the judges themselves.
Drag Race contestants are not random losers plucked from the braying horde to be made famous, these girls have been picked to compete because they are FABULOUS, and they are not scared of showing it off! RuPaul herself actively encourages showing-off, with a peacock-parade at the end of each show, and a lip sync competition between relegated queens to see who stays on. These are goddam drag queens after all, and showing off is in their bones, their genes, their very make-up. Seriously, who’s ever heard of a shy drag queen!?
RuPaul doesn’t promise these performers the world on a plate. No, she offers them a slot performing on a cruise liner. That and princely sum of $100,000. The queens are expected to bring their own talents to the table and to show us how hard they can work them, rather than having to bow to the judges nit-picking advice and barely-hidden agendas.
But it’s not even that that’s got me hooked. It’s Sharon Needles herself.
Here’s the other major lie of reality TV, one that is getting thinner and more see-through as the years go by, and turning off more and more fans of the genre. The lie that they actually produce stars. Seriously, in the ten years now that reality TV has dominated the airwaves, it has yet to produce one genuine superstar. One performer or personality that you can tell will still be around and claiming the spotlight once the promotional budget has run out or the new series has started. Well, step forward Sharon Needles.
Needles (real name is Aaron Coady) is a 31-year-old performer based in steely-grey Pittsburgh, a punk-rock goth queen who exudes wit and warmth and always looks simply phenomenal. Aaron describes Sharon as being “beautiful, spooky and stupid” and she quickly went from being Drag Race‘s rank outsider to head of the leader board, winning a record four challenges with a style that is equal parts Donatella Versace and Lux Interior (Sharon quotes Amanda LaPore and GG Allin as her drag idols.) She is television gold. Seriously, this is the first time I have ever watched anything like this and actually thought “Wow - this person really does deserve to be superstar.” It’s a slightly strange sensation, and is exactly what has made this season of RuPaul’s Drag Race so captivating.
Needles is not a queen without controversy, either. Within the world of drag Sharon is seen as a freak because she does not conform to “fishy” standards (looking convincingly sexy as a female) and even though she looks fantastic she has had to struggle to prove her worth to the other Drag Race contestants, not to mention to audiences and venues in her native Pittsburgh. But Sharon’s outsider/underdog status has actually worked in her favor. In the insular, catty scene of drag and female impersonation, it’s easy to lose sight of the fact that to the straight world grown men dressing as girls is always going to be seen as freaky, no matter how fishy they are. Sharon’s open embracing of her own beautiful freakishness has endeared her to audiences both gay and straight alike.
Sharon’s outsider status has also brought to the fore stories of Aaron’s childhood bullying and social exclusion, from not only the straight world but also the gay scene itself. Aaron is an eloquent speaker against discrimination and bullying of all kinds, and Sharon’s warm acceptance of all of nature’s little oddities is a refreshing change from mainstream gay society’s focus on the shallow beauty of the image. In an era of institutionalised discrimination against homosexuals, where the battle for our basic human rights is still very much happening, Sharon Needles is the unlikely hero that we need. That we ALL need, regardless of gender, orientation, color or any of that. If you’ve ever felt even a little bit at odds with society and its relentless conformity, Sharon Needles is the fierce bitch for you.
A genuine one-off with charisma, uniqueness, nerve and talent to burn, Sharon Needles is a true star. In fact, she’s exactly the kind of contestant you don’t see on reality TV shows because they are just too good! And that’s why we here at Dangerous Minds would like to throw our full support behind her in the race to become America’s Next Drag Superstar.
VOTE NEEDLES 2012.
This video is a compendium of Sharon Needle’s best moments in the earlier stages of Drag Race, mixed with performance footage from the streets and bars of Pittsburgh:
RuPaul’s Drag Race airs on Logo TV, and the winner of Season 4 is announced on Monday.
I still don’t really know what to make of this - it’s a 10 minute music video-cum-short film for the British band Spiritualized, trailing their upcoming album Sweet Heart Sweet Light which is released on Fat Possum Records next week. Directed by AG Rojas, who has also worked with Jack White, Gil Scott-Heron and Earl Sweatshirt, the video follows a day in the life of a drag queen prostitute raising two young children. It doesn’t end very well.
The violent and sexual clip has already caused a bit of a stir since it was released last month. Stereogum seem all in favour of “Hey Jane”:
[It’s about] a transwoman who attempts to raise kids while turning tricks, stripping, and — in one unforgettable long tracking shot — getting into an absolutely brutal fight. There’s probably a term paper to be written about the video’s treatment of race, class, gender, sexuality, and violence. This is a good one, folks.
While on Collapse Board, Lucy Cage writes a scathing review of the Sweet Heart, Sweet Light album (definitely worth a read in its own right) and points out that:
‘Hey Jane’ wears its NSFW like a smug little badge … I don’t like what it appears to be saying about people. I don’t like that said whiney, white, self-pitying, copyist, imagination-free, privilege-flaunting cisman from England [Jason Pierce of Spiritualized] has used this story and these characters from waaaaaaaaaaay outside his experience, knowledge or culture as entertainment, however much Art has given him a hall pass to do so.
To be fair on Pierce, some of this heat needs to be taken by the director Rojas. The video is definitely slick and very well made but does it tell us anything we already didn’t know, or even desperately need to? Is it shock or titillation?
Hats off to the main actors though, who do a great job. The prostitute is played by Tyra Sanchez, winner of the second season of RuPaul’s Drag Race—easily one of the best reality tv shows ever and I’m totally serious, if you have not seen this you are missing out—she does a great job.
Musically the song is pretty much what you’d expect from Spiritualized, who have been doing this kind of laidback-but-overwrought white-psych-soul thing for over 20 years now. I have to admit a bit of a soft spot for these guys though, who I used to love back in the mid-Ninteties before I delved further into their pool of influences while also gravitating towards more electronic music. The Spiritualized sound, which has barely changed in all these years, is like big, warm, fuzzy blanket. You know where it is coming from and you know where it’s going; it is inherently safe.
And that’s something this video tries very hard not to be: