Robin Gibb passed away today (May 20) after a long brave struggle with cancer. While we all suspected it was only a matter of time, his death still hits hard. The fact that Gibb managed to keep death at bay as long as he did is testimony to the man’s inner strength and courage. It almost looked like he might beat the disease. After all, he had done it once before. But it was not to be.
Spirits Having Flown is a NBC TV special (named after the Bee Gees 1979 album) that was filmed during the height of their Saturday Night Fever fame. The show includes interviews with David Frost, the group at work in the studio and live performances, including guest appearances by Willie Nelson and Glen Campbell.
Spirits Having Flown is lightweight but energetic fun. It’s also been hard to find, having never been released on VHS or DVD. By no means a great document (it was produced by Robert Stigwood), it still provides enough moments of Bee Gee goodness, both on and off the stage, to please fans and admirers of the Bee Gees’ music - classic pop songs that transcend trends and will endure.
Holy shit! Here it is: The Patti Smith Group’s entire 1979 performance on German TV’s “Rockpalast.” While this has been readily available on the ‘web in bits and pieces, I’ve never seen it uninterrupted and looking this good (other than on a bootleg DVD I own). This is very very cool must-see stuff. Patti fans rejoice!
01 Rock ‘n’ Roll Star
03 Rock ‘n’ Roll Nigger
05 Dancing Barefoot
06 Redondo Beach
07 25th Floor
10 Pumpin’ My Heart
11 7 Ways Of Going
12 Because The Night
14 Jailhouse Rock
16 My Generation
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.
This is about 11 minutes long and only audio, so it’s only for when you have time ... and IF YOU ARE interested. If you are a super Bowie fan, you might be ... otherwise, forget it ... or pass on the link to anyone you know who may be. It’s me interviewing David in 1973, for my own education, in order to do interviews on his behalf at the time. It’s kind of sweet, because you can hear how young and shy we are, especially me ... sort of afraid he is going to make me feel like a fool any second. I’ve had it all these years, but am just putting it out there now ... like I say, for the super Bowie fans ... and there are a lot of them, it seems. Hard for me to believe it’s from 40 years ago!
Let’s get one thing clear before we go any further - this new Madonna single is AWFUL. It’s really is so terrible that I’m gonna call “Girl Gone Wild” Madonna’s Showgirls moment: it’s so bad, it’s good!
And that’s why this video is just perfect.
You’ll have seen the footage before, no doubt, as Tara posted it a few weeks back in its original form: “Skeletons Having Sex On A Tin Roof” by Orphic Oxtra. It works even better here, as Madonna’s insipid, wannabe-edgy lyrics (“girls just wanna have some fun” - er, okay) are juxtaposed by that cheerful-slash-insane-looking dancing lady. The overall half-assed vibe of the song’s production fits the video’s green-screen ethos like a glove. Madonna will have to go some way to top this with the official video.
Also, just for the record, no “808 drums” were used in the making of this song:
Madonna “GIrl Gone Wild” [Official Music Video - NOT!]
Other people’s homes movies, like their holiday snaps, can sometimes be terribly dull. But Roddy McDowall’s silent home movies are different, mainly because they have a cast list to die for - from Simone Signoret to Lauren Bacall, Ben Gazzara to Paul Newman, even Judy Garland and Dominick Dunne. Also, Mr McDowall was a film fan, and there’s a fine sense of his enjoyment and wonder at the Hollywood stars larking about at his Malibu beach home. These are fun artifacts, a last hurrah for a golden age of Hollywood.
The films were uploaded onto You Tube by soapbox, who was personally given the home movies by Roddy McDowall.
Jane Fonda, Tuesday Weld, Anthony Perkins, Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, Natalie Wood, Judy Garland, May 31, 1965.
Plenty more of Roddy McDowall’s Hollywood Home Movies, after the jump….
Watch as a nervous, real-life teenager comes out to his mother, who doesn’t know that she is being videotaped on a hidden camera. One of the more fascinating things I’ve seen on YouTube:
Finally got the strength to come out to my mom. My Mom has been extremely supportive. I could not ask for anyone else. Love you Every circumstance is different and you will know when the right time to come out is. Stay strong. Babz and I are here for you. Note: I decided to post this so that I could share my experience with you. Hopefully it will give hope to those who do not have such supportive families. Also, I know I am on my phone the whole time. My phone is my comfort blanket. I literally cannot put it down when I’m anxious. I do not mean any disrespect to the content or conversation. OH, and she didn’t know she was being recorded. I put the camera in a tissue box on top of the refrigerator.
The mother’s reaction is fantastic, but by the end, when it’s her son’s stubbornness that she wants to address, I was laughing out loud (“You have a choice, Daniel! You choose to be stubborn!”). She’s absolutely charming. If only it was as easy for all kids to come out as it was for YouTuber “Mallow 610.”
The most hilarious “coming out” story I’ve ever heard was when a friend of mine, then in his early 20s, came out to his parents, with his older brother (who told me the story) there for support. After the big revelation, the father paused and then wryly remarked:
“They say that 10% of the population is gay and that 10% are left handed. At least my son won’t have a problem with scissors!”
If that quip doesn’t deserve enshrinement in some sort of museum of great witticisms, I don’t know what ever would. Tis a line worthy of Groucho Marx, truly.
DJ Steve Lamacq premiered the new PIL song earlier today on BBC 6.
Our John may have lost his upper register, but it is nice to hear him strain at it in such a raw way over the type of back-to-basics reggae-rock bed that’s screaming for a remix/dub-out…
If you want to know what British TV was like in the 1970s, well, apart from watching the repeats on BBC4, this will give you a fair idea. Elton John and Michael Caine getting all “Knees-up Mother Brown” round the olde joanna on Michael Parkinson‘s show.
All this the same year The Sex Pistols released “Anarchy in the U.K.” on EMI, The Ramones singled “Blitzkreig Bop” and Patti Smith “Pissing in a River”. Cor blimey, guvnor.
Leonard Cohen’s new album Old Ideas is being released next Tuesday. The critical reception has been ecstatic. Which thrills me because I have loved Cohen from the moment I heard “Suzanne” when I was 15 years old. He’s been a massive influence on my own music. My debt to him is deep.
Here’s something to hold you Cohen fans over until Old Ideas release: a brilliant performance by Mr. Cohen on Austin City Limits from 1988.