It was summer, I was a young child sitting in the living room drawing pictures when I first heard her voice on the radio. It made me stop and listen to try and understand what it was I was hearing. Her voice was full of a power and emotion that I could feel but didn’t yet fully understand. It gave a hint to some secret, adult world I was still to discover. It was sensual and seductive. The voice was Dusty Springfield. The song, “The Look of Love.”
Dusty was described by Elton John “as the greatest white singer there has ever been.” Never one for understatement, Sir Elton is almost right - though he is a tad forgetful of quite a few others from Maria Callas to Elvis and beyond. Dusty was one of the greats, and certainly the greatest white soul singer there has ever been. No one comes close.
Shown as part of Melvyn Bragg’s always fascinating arts series The South Bank Show, this excellent documentary on Dusty Springfield was first aired in 2006, and contains interviews with Burt Bacharach, Billie Jean King, Lee Everett, Charles Shaar Murray, Neil Tennant, Chris Lowe, Camille Paglia, and Carole Pope.
My Dangerous Minds colleague, Niall O’Conghaile conducted this rather fab interview with the one and only Christeene, the legendary “drag terrorist” and “sexually infused sewer of live rap and vile shamelessness”, who is more than “capable of adapting amazingly well to all styles of music”. Very little is known about Christeene, who has famously seduced and outraged in equal measure an unforgettable career across the U.S.A., leaving broken hearts, devoted followers, and used bodies behind her. Now in an exclusive interview with Dangerous Minds, Christeene tells us all we need to know.
Who is Christeene and where does she come from / how did you meet her?
I met CHRISTEENE in the dirty backyard of a shit shack coffee shop here in Austin called Bouldin Creek during a queer gathering called camp camp. CHRISTEENE was wearing, only, a very messy black rabbit fur coat and a pair of pink junked out high heeled boots. It was love at first sight.
What would you say are the main differences between Paul and Christeene?
I’ll say that the differences are fewer and fewer these days, but the raunch and stank sexuality of CHRISTEENE is something that shifts when it comes back to me. There is a more gentle southern fella on the inside that carries a knife I’d say.
Does Christeene get on with Rebecca Havemeyer?
Only via snail mail, internet, and very brief encounters. They don’t do tea together or anything, but I’m sure it would be a helluva conversation if they did.
Christeene provokes some very strong reactions, good and bad, in both the LGBT press and the mainstream. How do you feel about those reactions? Is there anyone who gets it very well and anyone who gets it completely wrong?
I think that the reactions that come from this work are so very important and need to be heard. All of them. When it all first started with PJ Raval and myself releasing the video for ‘Fix My Dick’, there were a ton of negative comments…especially from this one person who I think of as a kind of internet comment bully….this lone typist who throws verbal missiles from the safety of their stank couch, ya know? This person was so very upset on so many levels…I was called racist, homophobic, transphobic, classist, and the next Shirley Q Liquor. Wowee! This is rough..I’m thinking. I’ve never experienced this kind of an attack before and it’s personal. It’s angry. It’s throwing labels at me. But at the same time it’s fuckin gorgeous and necessary. The stew has been stirred and hot sauce has been thrown in. Good. Very good.
The work being done here is an uncontrollable expression of something very heavy inside of me…it’s not created to merely shock, to splash dick and ass in your face for a laugh. It’s made to make you fuckin think about the state of things…the state of our interwoven communities in the LGBTQIA world and beyond.
CHRISTEENE is an electrically charged dangerous product of our times with a heart of gold, and is used as a very striking yet approachable communicator to the masses. Many fuckin amazing people understand this and attach themselves to the explosion that is taking place onstage with all they’ve got. Those people are wonderful. They offer solid criticism and conversation on what’s being delivered. But the attackers are just as important, and the conversations that come from them, if they have the brains to discuss their anger, are even more wonderful and exciting. Overall, though, the best is the smiling faces from people having the time of their lives with this shit…as we are.
Who are Christeene’s main inspirations? In terms of drag/performance and also musically?
CHRISTEENE is really nspired by the lineage of Drag in performance. The superstars of our day that keep the Drag street in good repair. I have to say that if there is one lady out there that blows my mind, it’s Lady Bunny. Complete adaptation to the times and an impressive hold on the social network. I admire that a lot. But what mostly inspires this work to come out of me is when I think of how I can contribute to all of the amazing forms of Artistic Drag that are out there now and have come before me. It is a beautiful and very historic art form, and I want to explore it and take it to a new level.
It feels like Christeene is an all-round multimedia experience, not just a singer, but a performer/video artist. How do you think she integrates into the performance, video and high art worlds?
I’ll have to say that because of the brilliance of PJ Raval, the work of CHRISTEENE has had the privilege of being put into video and showcased around the world. PJ and I started working together about 3 years ago and our relationship takes the same direction of exploring this new and dangerous creature that is CHRISTEENE with excitement and no restraint. Our videos have been granted access to film fests and art galleries around the world, causing so many people to experience our work who wouldn’t necessarily find themselves in the same room with such stank shit. And in terms of the live shows…they are raw, angry, intimate and real…real as you can get. It’s new, and it burns.
So what exactly is “African Mayonnaise”?
All I can say about African Mayonnaise is that it is a very strange state of mind/experience that we found ourselves in when we were performing at Folsom Street Fair in San Fran back in 2009 I think it was? A very gooood state of mind/experience.
And what exactly is this “new celebrity” and “new America” that Christeene epitomises?
CHRISTEENE isn’t necessarily epitomizing celebrity or America…CHRISTEENE is serving the new breed and brand of it. If this is what these people have become (the current state of things)...if this current state of things is what people have allowed into their living rooms and their states of mind, then this is what these people are going to fuckin get now. Eat it up and hold it in, fuckers.
The video for “African Mayonnaise” is, em, interesting - are there any out takes that didn’t make it in? And who was scarier, the Church of Scientology people who forcibly ejected you form their offices, or the Christians who harassed you on the street at the end?
PJ Raval had sooooo much footage in the end, and our god sent editor, Victoria Chalk was amazingly able to put it all together. She’s the absolute SHIT. There is so much fuckin material that didn’t make it into the video we could make a film out of it. Outtakes? Oh yeah. And by far, the Church of Scientology what the most dangerous place I’ve ever set foot in.
How is Austin at this time of year?
Weather is wonderful, and people are smiling because the devil summer hasn’t hit yet.
Tell us a bit about the Christeene shows coming up at SXSW…
We just performed a show called ‘Get off the Internet” which was created by Alyx Vesey, an amazing writer who gets our shit in all the best ways, and by Homoground and it was fuckin gorgeous. So many amazing bands and people up in the yard of a bar called Cheer Up Charlies here in Austin. And our Showcase was a stank hit as well.
The last thing we’ll kick in the puss is gaybigaygay..and if you are in Austin on Sunday the 18th, you’d be a damned fool to miss this event.
What does the near future hold for Christeene?
A ton of travel with my Boyz, T Gravel, C Baby, JJ Booya and PJ Raval I hope.
And now just a question from me - any plans to come to the UK??
The minute we find a plane that can hold our stank azzesssssssss…we therrrrr. Hold your breath, Hawt Man.
This 90-minute film is edited together extracts of the Divine David’s late 90s Channel 4 show The Divine David Presents, produced by World Of Wonder.
At the time this show originally aired was one of the most out-there things on TV, and you know what, it’s still pretty damn bizarre and hilarious. Thanks, of course, to the wonderful stylings of the Divine David himself, who now goes by his real name of David Hoyle and regularly performs in London and Manchester.
If any one person was responsible for kicking drag square on the backside and, erm, dragging it into the 21st Century, it was David Hoyle. You could even say his look goes beyond drag, as it’s an over-the-top parody of a form that is already a parody, and which coupled with his pissed-and-paranoid English gent persona can lead to belly laughs simply from a knowing glance or a flick of the wrist. It can be grotesque, yes, but I dare you not to laugh the laugh of wrongness.
‘Til this day David Hoyle remains criminally neglected outside of the UK, and under-rated even in his homeland (except to comedy nerds that is - Chris Morris and Charlie Brooker personally selected Hoyle for the older rock star character in Nathan Barley.) His strange comic genius is as relevant as ever, and needs more exposure - so please, PLEASE World Of Wonder, don’t yank this off YouTube!
She is currently fighting extradition to Russia where she faces open discrimination and probably death. Myself and 36 other underground artists contributed to a release for her. If you want to hear the music I urge you to read her own words first.
This is her story, her voice.”
My name is L., and I am a woman with a transsexual past (male-to-female, MTF). I have had gender dysphoria since my early childhood, so I always had a lot of problems with socialization.
I have never seen my father because he left my family before my birth. I grew up with my mother and grandmother, who were extremely transphobic and authoritative and did not pay attention to my mental difficulties. I had to hide my real self from everyone from when I was 11 years old. It wasn’t until I was 21, in 2007, that I decided to stop hiding, and took my first attempt to bring my appearance in accordance with my self-perception.
This gave me other troubles, and I’ll only give one example: in October 2007, I was stopped on the street by a police officer, who took my IDs and took me to a police station. So-called “state authority representatives” made me strip nude and began to beat me and to urinate on me, laughing and shouting “fags must die!” When they put my head into the toilet bowl and cried out, “Drink Russian water you queer,” I lost consciousness. Eventually I woke up in an unfamiliar yard, my clothes torn and dirtied with urine and faeces. After this, I attempted to commit suicide. Thanks to my friends with the same problems, they helped me to find strength to withstand. But, I was hiding my real identity again for almost a year, and this was a real torture. I couldn’t stand it.
I learned that Sex Reassignment Surgery (SRS) in the Russian Federation would require a conformance letter from the Moscow Scientific Research Institute of Psychiatry, and in order to obtain one, a psychiatric examination was necessary. My friend in the transgender community told me about terrible violations of human rights in such clinics (unsanitary conditions, mobbing, rape, tortures, etc). Nevertheless, I could not live ‘as-is’ anymore, so I began Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT) at my own risk. When my mother and grandmother discovered what I was doing, they threw out my female dress and hormones, but I continued with HRT secretly.
In September 2009, I met Anton, the man who totally understands me. Our relationship grew rapidly, but when my mother and grandmother found out they turned my life into hell. So, I left them for him, and we started living together.
Unfortunately, the problems connected with my transgender identity followed me through all my life in Russia. My boss – who was the head of the IT department of the local Federal Tax Inspection Office – told me (quote), “You have the choice – resign or face big problems. Fags are not welcome here.” I was forced to resign.
You can read the rest of L’s story after the jump…
The forced sterilzation of transgender persons and those with a transgendered past has now been abandoned by the Swedish authorities, but Russia still actively discriminates agains its LGBT community, as this video demonstrates:
For those of you who still believe that disco was nothing more than an music-industry creation dreamt up in a backroom by a bunch of coked-up suits and sold to passive, gullible consumers too high to know it was an empty fad (here’s looking’ at you, Em!) then you need to get your hands on this book. That goes for anyone else with an interest in the disco genre, particularly those who know the basics of the story but crave more. Because, believe me, it’s all here.
Opening with David Mancuso’s seminal “Love Saves the Day” Valentine’s party, Tim Lawrence tells the definitive story of American dance music culture in the 1970s - from its subterranean roots in NoHo and Hell’s Kitchen to its gaudy blossoming in midtown Manhattan to its wildfire transmission through America’s suburbs and urban hotspots such as Chicago, Boston, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Newark, and Miami.
Tales of nocturnal journeys, radical music making, and polymorphous sexuality flow through the arteries of Love Saves the Day like hot liquid vinyl. They are interspersed with a detailed examination of the era’s most powerful DJs, the venues in which they played, and the records they loved to spin - as well as the labels, musicians, vocalists, producers, remixers, party promoters, journalists, and dance crowds that fuelled dance music’s tireless engine.
TIm Lawrence may not have lived through this era, but his book is phenomenally well-researched and features interviews with all of the remaining key players, sketching the very earliest days of the movement: from David Mancuso’s Loft parties to Francis Grasso mixing records at the Sanctuary as far back as 1970 (the first dj ever to do so), from Nicky Siano opening The Gallery while still a teenager in 1972 to Steve Ostrow’s gay/mixed Continental Baths (home not just to performances by Bette Midler and Barry Manilow, but also the venue where future legendary djs Larry Levan and Frankie Knuckles cut their teeth.) all the way up through the decade to the opening of both Studio 54 and the Paradise Garage.
Love Saves The Day IS exhaustive (perhaps too exhaustive for disco newcomers) and while it can act as a great reference for fact-checkers, it’s also an entertaining read that spares little detail of the complicated drug-and-sex lives of these people. This was an era of radical social change and these folks (and this music) were right at the forefront of those changes. The first chapter of Love Saves The Day is available to read in full on Lawrence’s website, and it focuses on David Mancuso, the man whose Loft apartment-cum-dance-space gave birth to disco culture and who, to this day, remains the beating heart of “real” disco. It also makes clear the connection between hippie culture of the 60s and the emerging gay/black/female-centeric dance culture of the 70s:
When it came to public venues Mancuso’s preferred to go to the Electric Circus, which opened in June 1967, and the Fillmore East, which opened in the spring of 1968. Both of these psychedelic haunts were situated in the East Village — the Electric Circus was located in an old Polish workingman’s club on St. Mark’s Place, the Fillmore East, in the words of the New York Times, on “freaky Second Avenue” — and both hosted live entertainment 1. “I went to the Electric Circus at least once a month,” says Mancuso. “Everybody was having fun and they had good sound in there. It was very mixed, very integrated, very intense, very free, very positive.” The Fillmore East showcased some of his favourite artists. “I heard Nina Simone perform there. I went with my friend Larry Patterson. The Fillmore East would often be noisy but that night everybody was very focused. She was wonderful.”
Mancuso didn’t just go to the Fillmore East to listen to music. “That’s where I also first heard Timothy Leary. He gave a series of lectures backed by the Joshua Light Show.” The ex-Harvard academic was already an important figure for Mancuso, who had first taken Sandoz when he was twenty and the drug was still legal. An early trip coincided with a snowstorm (“each flake was like a universe”) and ten tabs later he came across Leary’s The Psychedelic Experience Based on the Tibetan Book of the Dead, which argues that psychedelics can provide a shortcut to enlightenment. “The book blew me away. It became my bible and I started getting involved with him.” The young acolyte met the acid guru at his LSD (“League for Spiritual Discovery”) headquarters in the West Village, went to his Technicolor lectures and became a regular at his private parties. “People were tripping but the parties were more social than serious. There was food and music. I knew we were on a journey.”
Mancuso’s personal voyage took a vital turn in 1965 when he purchased the key to 647 Broadway, just north of Houston, for two hundred dollars.
Like Soho, NoHo (as the north of Houston area was nicknamed) had historically functioned as a manufacturing district, drawing on New York’s immigrant population as its low-wage workforce, and when industry relocated to the cheaper terrain of New Jersey and beyond New York’s artists moved in, delighted to exchange their cramped Upper East Side apartments for a range of stunningly expansive lofts. The influx triggered off a sophisticated experiment into the relationship between art, space and living that apparently excluded the likes of Utica-born Mancuso, but he quickly established himself as a key player within this creative population, intent as he was on reintroducing art back into the party. “Everyone loved my space,” he says. “There might have been a hundred people living like this so it was very new. A lot of people would just come and hang out there. There were all sorts of activities going on.”
Some of these activities were influenced by Leary. “I would organise these intimate gatherings where we would experiment with acid,” says Mancuso. “There were never more than five of us when we did this. One person would take nothing, another would take half a tab and the rest would take a whole tab. It was all very new and we took it very seriously. We used The Psychedelic Experience as our guide.” Leary also had a bearing on the decoration of the loft space. “I built a yoga shrine, which I used for yoga and tripping. In the beginning it was three feet by five feet and it eventually grew to fifteen feet by thirty feet. As you walked into the loft you were immediately drawn to this area. It was gorgeous.”
Music — which was similar to LSD inasmuch as it could function as a therapeutic potion that “de-programmes” the mind before opening up a mystical trail that culminates in spiritual transcendence — was also introduced into the equation. “Leary played music at his lectures and parties and I went in the same direction. I bought a Tandberg tape recorder so that I could play tapes. The Buddha was always positioned between my two speakers.” That was the perfect position from which to hear the homemade compilations, which drew on a diverse range of sources and were structured to complement the hallucinogenic experience. “I made these journey tapes that would last for five hours. They drew on everything from classical music to the moody blues. They would start off very peacefully and the reentry would be more about movement, more jazz-oriented. Somebody might get up and start dancing around the room at some point, although they weren’t dance sessions.”
...and that’s just the tip of the iceberg!
I can’t stress enough how good this book is, and how anyone with an interest in disco, underground culture or the 70s should try and track down a copy. It features some invaluable dj playlists from specific spots and times, which act as a checklist for a whole world of great, under-valued music, but besides that, it’s just a great read. I dip in and out of it all the time, and still find amazement and amusement after many readings, so I guess it would be pretty fair to say that Love Saves The Day is my bible.
…or flip that headline around and it could read Purple Naked Ladies is the soul of Odd Future.
Purple Naked Ladies is the first album by The Internet, nom-de-artiste of Matt Martians and Syd Tha Kid. Syd is best known as dj and beat-maker for Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All and Tyler The Creator. And those guys are controversial, right? Notorious for their misogyny and homophobia, it’s hard to make those ideals square with an album that is co-written, performed and produced by an out-lesbian who sings songs that are explicity about relationships with other women.
OFWGKTA’s music is complex, bizarre, and most definitely not pop in any way. In contrast, The Internet is not so much a rap group as a modern soul outfit, one that lies closer to the breathy vocal sensuality of Erykah Badu and Aaliyah than the melismatic histrionics of Alicia Keys, but which shares with Tyler et al a kind of dizzy modern psychedelia that’s utterly divorced from the pastorailsm of the hippies and weened on a diet of Cribs and animal tranquillizers. It’s also the most musically-accomplished release from the OFWGKTA camp to date - dare I say it’s accessible, even?
There are two videos taken from the album that can be watched sequentially. Both are directed by Matt Alonzo and featuring Syd and her girlfriend/accomplice as they alternately rob diners á la Pulp Fiction or snort drugs at the fairground. The first is called “Fastlane” and is featured below. The second is “Cocaine” which is after the jump, where you will also find a 20-minute documentary/interview with The Internet. You can buy Purple Naked Ladieshere.
The Internet “Fastlane”
After the jump, “Cocaine” and The Internet interviewed…
Here’s a transcript of the idiotic robocall that the Santorum campaign tried to ding Mitt Romney with in Ohio prior to Super Tuesday:
“Hi, my name is Brian Camenker; I’m a Jew from Massachusetts. And this is Darcy Brandon; I’m a Christian from California. If you believe as we do that marriage and sexuality should only be between a man and a woman, please help us stop Mitt Romney. As Governor, Romney signed “Gay Youth Pride Day” declarations, promoted homosexuality in our elementary schools, and unconstitutionally ordered state officals to make Massachusetts America’s first same-sex marriage state. Romney supports open homosexuality in the military, the appointment of homosexual judges, and the ENDA law, making it illegal to fire a man who wears a dress and high heels to work, even if he’s your kid’s teacher. When you vote tomorrow, please vote for social sanity and Rick Santorum, not for homosexuality and Mitt Romney. Rick Santorum is the only candidate who can be trusted to uphold traditional marriage, a straight military, and the rights of American children to have both a mother and a father. This message paid for by JewsandChristiansTogether.org and not authorized by any candidate. To get the facts before you vote, visit Jews and Christians Together.org.” (You can listen to it at Gawker)
If I got a robo-call like that, I’d be fucking furious—I never will, I live in Los Angeles—but it almost becomes amusing when you look into the background of Brian Camenker, a longtime anti-gay activist in Massachusetts, as Sarah Posner did on Religious Dispatches.
Here’s how the “Jews and Christians Together” press release described Camenker’s views on Mitt Romney:
Brian Camenker, president of Mass Resistance and compiler of much of that Romney research and one of the robo-call voices said, “Mitt Romney would be the most liberal Republican ever nominated for the Presidency. Romney is so far left, he spoke against the right of the Boy Scouts to screen-out homosexuals. Mitt Romney proved during the January 8 Meet the Press debate that he’s still as far left on the gay agenda as always. He proudly announced, ‘a member of my cabinet was gay. I appointed people to the bench regardless of their sexual orientation.’ Asked when he last stood up and spoke out for increasing gay rights, Romney said ‘Right now.’”
At yesterday’s hearing of Joint Committee on Education, Brian Camenker of MassResistance in support of Bill S321—Parental Notification—spent his three minutes of allotted time to speak in support of this bill by claiming that homosexuals were not among the 6 million Jews, gypsies, Jehovah’s Witnesses and social outcasts killed by the Nazis in the Holocaust. Camenker went as far as to say that the whole “pink triangle” was made up in order to arrest Catholic priests.
And it gets worse, one of Camenker’s minions who testified twice agreed with Brian. In her testimony before the Joint Committee on Education, she said that it was the Nazis themselves who were the homosexuals and they gave pink triangles to and arrested only the “most flamboyant of their own people.”
Look, I think Mitt Romney absolutely sucks, but the idea that these appalling weirdos (and Rick Santorum) think they can get any traction with this kind of stuff is bloody preposterous, like Mr. Camenker himself, as seen in this hilarious Daily Show piece from 2008:
Last Friday I posted the new video from the band SSION called “My Love Grows in The Dark.” If you haven’t watched it yet, then go and do so right now. It’s a little bizarre and rather brilliant. The album that song is taken from, Bent, was available as a free download release for one month only last year, and it was one of my favorites. This year too in fact, as it is being given a physical re-release soon by the Dovecote label.
SSION, which has existed in various forms over the years, is essentially the brainchild of Cody Critcheloe. Cody is a visual artist and video director by day (he has directed clips for Peaches and Santigold) but by night he transforms into a gender-and-preconception bending performer whose live shows have been picking up a lot of acclaim. I spoke to Cody a short while back about SSION, and his decision to release such an excellent album for free. Here’s a little taster:
Bent is a great pop album. In fact, I’d say it is surprisingly great for a free download release. How did the idea to release it for free first come about?
I have always worked outside of labels, and the way it goes I’ll put out a record every four years. I’ll take a while to develop it and work out what I wanna do with it. At the time there’s wasn’t anyone anxious to put it out, so it seemed like the right thing to do. I thought if a label really wants to be a part of this they’ll figure out a way to go about this, because SSION is such a different kind of project. It seemed like a big FU to put it out and let people get it and listen to it, and I like the idea of people being able to get it, so people who aren’t even your fans can still get into it.
What has your fans’ reaction been to the download release?
It’s crazy ‘cos I think in the long term it’s gonna pay off. The shows we’ve played in New York have all been really amazing, and everyone knows the words to the songs already. It’s been instant, like this has already had an effect, an effect outside of any label being behind it to pump it up or publicize it. Everything that has happened to SSION is because of people who are genuinely interested and really into the music. I love the fact that there’s gonna be a physical release ‘cos I put a lot of work into the art work, but I could also take it or leave it. If it doesn’t work out I can still have a life. I still somehow survive off doing these things and other projects. I’m just into it as a very punk way of going about things.
But what about an effect on sales?
The thing about it is, the last record we had you can find it online for free, so why not make it available for everyone? And it’s crazy too because our other records are on iTunes and we still make money of them every month, even though people could easily get them for free.