They’d only just met a second time in 1985, but within a week, Robert Fripp asked singer/actress Toyah Wilcox to marry him. They did so on Robert’s 40th birthday in 1986, when the pint-sized “force of nature,” to hear him describe his wife, was 28.
That they are still very happily wed decades later—and the fact that they’re both famous, of course—qualified them for an appearance on All Star Mr & Mrs, the ITV game show where celeb couples compete for charity. In this episode, which aired on May 8th, 2013, Toyah and her crafty guitarist hubby squared off against BBC sports presenter Gabby Logan and her husband and EastEnders actor, Jake Wood, who is best known on these shores as the voice of the GEICO gecko and his wife.
I can’t imagine that this was Robert’s idea, but it’s absolutely adorable that he went along with it. Who would have thought the fiercely intellectual Fripp could be this cute???
His adoring wife, obviously. This IS cute, make no mistake about it, and it shows a side of Robert Fripp—quite a big part of his personality, I’d say, from the looks of things here—that few outside of his immediate circle are likely to have seen before.
Across the world tonight, millions of people are tuning-in to watch the Eurovision Song Contest. There will be the usual twinkly, pant-suited, satin-draped performers, with an excess of dry ice, singing about love, broken hearts, world peace and the weather.
While I like the idea of Eurovision, I doubt I’ll be watching, as I’ve always thought this fun competition tends to overlook better songs by greater artists, who know how to write an unforgettable tune.
The first that comes instantly to mind is “Mr Eurovision” by that great musical genius, Neil Innes.
Is there any other tune that gives the best of what Europe has to offer (in assorted cliches) with such a ludicrously catchy tune? I am still flummoxed as to explain how the UK never took up this work of unparalleled brilliance.
“Mr. Eurovision” originally appeared on The Innes Book of Records, which was one of the great high points in TV history, and now deserves to be repeated.
As punk rock was throbbing in the clubs downtown, Manhattan cable TV was experiencing its own kind of anarchy. D.I.Y programs from cats like Efrom Allen were offering some demented and surreal stuff to get us energized before hitting the clubs or to soften the crash as we wound down from a night on the Bowery. The coaxial pipeline was sending signals into our decrepit little apartments that were raw, spontaneous and often exhilarating, punk rock’s cathode equivalent.
In this episode of The Efrom Allen Show (1978?), a 12-year-old Brooke Shields does a fashion shoot with Stiv Bators while discussing her career with the wisdom of an ancient soul. Stiv seems to enjoy just going along for the ride.
Efrom, a Realtor these days, should try to clean this video up and release it, along with his footage of The Ramones and Marilyn Chambers, on DVD. This is pop culture history and there’s so little of Manhattan cable programming available for viewing. Someone should do a book on this wild era when the TV eye was bloodshot and beautiful.
Ken Russell had thought about making a film on Debussy for some time. He was ‘hovering on the feature film fringe,’ having just made his first movie French Dressing, in 1964. But it had sadly flopped and he had returned to work as a producer and director for the BBC’s arts series Monitor.
Making a feature film had encouraged Russell’s ambitions, and he now had a revolutionary idea for a new kind of documentary arts film, but he wasn’t quite sure how best to achieve it. This was when Russell met Melvyn Bragg, a young Northern writer, who was also working in the Monitor office.
At twenty, Bragg had decided to become a writer, but thought ‘quite rightly as it turned out,’ that he wouldn’t be able to make a living from it. So, he got a job, to support his literary ambitions.
‘I got a BBC traineeship when I was twenty-one,’ Bragg told me in 1984. ‘Went into radio, which I liked an awful lot. Worked in Newcastle. Worked in the World Service, Bush House. Then I worked in Broadcasting House, in the Features Department. I was going to stay there—I didn’t like television, except for Monitor—and I said I’d only go into television if I could get an attachment onto Monitor. Eventually, one came up, and I got it.’
Russell wanted to share his idea with Bragg. He met him in a cafe, and told Bragg about Debussy and his plan for a new kind of arts documentary—a film-within-a-film. Together they wrote a script, and Bragg turned it into a screenplay.
‘When I did Debussy, Ken’s first talkie on television, nobody had done that before I did that as a screenplay as a way to make it work. The real problem you’ve got with biopics about people is that there is no structured drama in anybody’s life. You’ve got to make it.
‘What you’ve got are pits, which are very good, all over the fucking shop, and you’ve got to have that bit because [they’re] terrific, and you’ve got to have that bit because there’s hardly any relationship between them. Where, if you write a play, or write a book, there is a relationship because you’ve written it like that. But in people’s lives, something happens there, and 7 years later, something else happens. This enables us to dip in-and-out.’
It was a lunchtime in May, and I was interviewing Bragg in his office, at London Weekend Television, where he worked as editor and presenter of the (now legendary) arts series, The South Bank Show. Bragg sat behind his desk, dressed as usual in a suit (‘Another way to get people to forget about me and concentrate on the person that I am talking to’), eating an apple for his lunch.
Bragg said he thought Russell ‘a very brilliant, eccentric and erratic talent, he can be marvelous.’
The Debussy Film was the first of several highly successful collaborations between Russell and Bragg—as director and writer. A partnership that lasted until The Music Lovers (‘I had a big row with [Ken] on that which is fairly public. I hated it.’) The pair later worked together again on several documentaries for The South Bank Show .
It was also Russell’s first collaboration with actor Oliver Reed, who later described the director as:
Jesus is not Christ, only Russell.
Reed was a rare talent, who had been slightly over-looked by film producers because of a scar on his face, which he had received on a drunken night out. But Reed was more than just a feared Hell-raiser, he was a brilliant actor who brought an incredibly complex and emotional depth to the role of Debussy.
‘Debussy was an ambiguous character,’ Russell told one of his biographers, John Baxter in 1973.
...and I always let the character of the person or his work dictate the way a film goes. Also, one was a bit critical of artists like Debussy and I thought the time had come to ask questions, and the natural way for me to ask questions was to have a film director [Vladek Sheybal] talking to an actor [Oliver Reed], because an actor always asks questions about the character he’s playing and the director usually had to answer them, or try to, often to keep him happy. And when I found Debussy was friendly with an intellectual named Pierre Louys from whom he derived a lot, it seemed an analogous relationship to that of a film director and an actor. There are some points in the film, I think, where it doesn’t matter if it’s the director talking to the actor or Louys talking to Debussy—passages of intentional ambiguity.
Born in his music and his life, Debussy was a great sensualist. There’s a line of his in the film: “Music should express things that can’t be said,” which simply means to me that music is something which, the moment you talk about it, disintegrates and becomes meaningless. That’s what I mean by sensuality—something that’s felt rather than reasoned.
Ken Russell directing ‘The Debussy Film’ (1965)
While The Debussy Film may at first appear a film that is “felt rather than reasoned,” it has to be understood that every element of it is based on fact, taken from letters and personal details of the main characters. Also, by presenting inter-linking narratives, Russell was able to question, examine and comment on Debussy’s creative life, and the damage it caused him to those he loved.
With Debussy I felt it was important to say something about his music and attitudes to it as well as relevant facts of his life. A good example of this is his relationship with his mistress Gaby, and her inability to understand either him or his art. There’s a scene where the actor playing Debussy goes to a party with his girlfriend (playing Gaby) and puts on a record of Danse Sacre et Danse Profane. He wants to listen to it, to be immersed completely; he sees in it images of art nouveau. But everyone else in the room, instead of carrying on talking, or dancing to it, or giving it half an ear, all become silent and listen to the music with a mixture of duty and piety, which is all too often the case. His girlfriend, who just sees him as being perverse, does a strip-tease to it and ridicules both the man and his music. People are very wary of the heightening of experience, and want to knock it down. It’s fear as much as anything that makes her do the strip dance, fear of something she doesn’t understand and so can only get level with by ridiculing. A lot of people still do that, not just with art but with life.
I wasn’t totally on Debussy’s side; in a sense he had no right to disrupt the party. But artists are dogmatic and pig-headed, and they over-ride people. Most of the people I’ve dealt with in films have quite dispassionately sacrificed someone in their way who understood them. It’s not nice but that’s how it works. The end of the film, the music from his unfinished opera The Fall of the House of Usher, with Debussy alone in the castle and his ghostly mistress—whom he drove to attempted suicide—rising up, was an analogy of the lost romantic ideal he had destroyed by his disregard for people. You can be an egomaniac up to a point but in the end it can destroy you, or your work, or both.
The Debussy Film is Russell developing the style and technique that would make him internationally recognized as one of the greatest directors of the twentieth century. His approach was revolutionary and brilliant, and The Debussy Film changed television and cinematic biography for good. It also revealed another side to Oliver Reed (who is quite brilliant) and Vladek Sheybal, who was usually typecast as KGB agents. The film also contains cameos form artists Duggie Fields and Pauline Boty.
It’s surprising that one of the most cherished of all of David Bowie’s American TV performances hasn’t been posted to YouTube in better quality—pristine digitally-sourced bootlegs are easy to find that even include outtakes as DVD extras—but this truncated version (which cuts off the dancers forming the show’s title and omits most of the guests) for now, is as good as it gets. (It’s also surprising that Bowie himself hasn’t seen fit to release it on DVD, but apparently he doesn’t really like it that much.)
Taped in the tiny Marquee Club on Wardour Street over the course of three days in October of 1973, the idea was to do a sort of artsy/futuristic variety show with Bowie’s first performance since “retiring” onstage at the Hammersmith Odeon earlier that year. The 1980 Floor Show featured guests Marianne Faithfull (junked out of her skull and dressed as a nun dueting with the Dame on “I Got You Babe), The Troggs and Spanish flamenco glam act—yes, you read that correctly—Carmen. Amanda Lear introduced some numbers and Bowie serenaded her with a magnificent version of “Sorrow” in one of the show’s highlights.
The 1980 Floor Show was originally aired on The Midnight Special on November 16, 1973. I didn’t see it the first time it ran—I was but seven years old then, so being up that late was not much of an option for me—but by the time it was repeated the following year, I was already a budding Bowie fan and owned the 45rpm of “Space Oddity” and the “Rebel Rebel” single (the ultra loud US-only alt version that was quickly withdrawn).
To say that The 1980 Floor Show totally blew my young mind would be an understatement. I simply could not believe what I was seeing. It all seemed so glamorous, so smart and so cool. And this Amanda Lear character, she was really pretty, but what was she?
Yes, indeed, 1974 was an excellent year to discover David Bowie. I was able to consume Diamond Dogs shortly after it came out, the back catalog up to that point (The Man Who Sold the World was probably the second album I got my hands on) and then came the steady parade of towering artistic genius that was Young Americans, Station to Station, Low, Heroes and Lodger. During the 1970s, Bowie was touched by the gods. Like The Beatles, Bob Dylan and The Rolling Stones had in the previous decade, it was like he was holding live wires in his hands, his body channeling the electricity of his age and creating a cultural feedback loop that he also benefited from artistically. Bowie’s influence cannot be overstated. It’s only fitting that his life’s work is now the subject of a major museum retrospective. It’s a justly deserved honor.
In my never so humble opinion, David Bowie was perhaps the single most important cultural avatar of that entire era. The man could simply do no wrong… well, at least up to Let’s Dance...but on to the The 1980 Floor Show, shall we?
The Zygons’ cellulite Hell. The Cyber-shock secret—Botox! Vajazzle the Alien way. And the shame of Doctor, who? Are the headlines to a supermarket tabloid version of Doctor Who Magazine, as imagined by the talented Red Scharlach, who writes:
To commemorate the supposedly surprise-filled season finale of Doctor Who, I thought I’d give Doctor Who Magazine a scandalmongering makeover. But I can’t decide whether I’d like to read this version or would simply be too scared to open the cover
I’d certainly be more happy to read Red Sharlach‘s wonderfully made-over mag than watch the increasingly smug and irrelevant TV series.
Dennis Hopper plays a George Lincoln Rockwell-like neo-Nazi in this creepy 1963 episode of The Twilight Zone.
Written by Rod Serling and directed by Stuart Rosenberg (Cool Hand Luke), “He’s Alive” is Serling at his preachiest but it’s a message that when it aired in January of 1963 was particularly relevant. At the time, The American Nazi Party and its psycho leader George Lincoln Rockwell were getting International attention. The roots of the White Power movement were beginning to take root and plenty of people were both repelled and drawn to Rockwell and his goose-stepping racist followers.
Hopper’s jittery intensity suits the role perfectly.
Francis Bacon indulged the myths about his life. All those tales of Bacchanalia were always far more preferable to the hushed reality of his rising at 6am and working till early afternoon, while his drinking buddies slept-off hang-overs in the watery, morning light. Bacon was no slacker, but he tended to hide his industry and discipline behind endless tales of excess. As for the drinking, well, I have been told that often while out boozing Bacon would pay a visit to the gents, where he would tip the contents of his glass down a sink. Bacon preferred to watch others disintegrate, rather than fall apart himself.
That’s not to say he wasn’t reckless, no, Bacon was often debt to casinos, and painted pictures at express speed to pay off his losses. His studies of Vincent Van Gogh in the late 1950s, were rushed out to help pay his massive gambling debts. The canvases were still wet when first exhibited, and it was claimed by Bacon’s friend and biographer, Dan Farson, that at the exhibition’s preview, as the drink flowed and the legs stumbled, some became so drunk that they leant against the canvases and left with fresh Bacon’s imprinted on the back’s of their jackets.
It’s worth pointing out that most of Bacon’s canvases are exhibited behind glass, though this may have only started after he joined the Marlborough Gallery in the 1960s. Whether true or not, it’s the kind of tale Bacon would have enjoyed. Yet, Bacon was incredibly serious about his art, which can be seen from this documentary Francis Bacon: Fragments of a Portrait, from 1966, which gives an excellent insight into Bacon’s working processes, obsessions and influences, as discussed by the artist with writer and critic, David Sylvester.
This surreal lost Dragnet episode was made by Frank Conniff of Mystery Science Theater and former Mr Show and Chris Rock Show writer Mike Upchurch as a presentation pilot for Adult Swim. They’ve digitally inserted popular alt-comedians into the 1967 cop show Dragnet, and turned it into a story about bad cops trying to eradicate a powerful strain of medical marijuana. It’s technically stunning, exceeding Forrest Gump and Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid in both ambition and outcome, while being produced in a living room for only $200.00. (NSFW due to language.)
Dangerous Minds is a compendium of oddities, pop culture treasures, high weirdness, punk rock and politics drawn from the outer reaches of pop culture. Our editorial policy, such that it is, reflects the interests, whimsies and peculiarities of the individual writers. And sometimes it doesn't. Very often the idea is just "Here's what so and so said, take a look and see what you think."
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