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80s punks remind us that sometimes punks were petulant little idiots
12.03.2012
08:34 am
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Cherubic Pat Smear of the Germs, and later Nirvana… he hit girls
 
I am as guilty as any young punk of romanticizing the youthful energy of scenes and eras that I was never a part of, so it’s nice to be smacked in the face with reality once in a while. Of course it’s important to cut these kids a lot of slack as they navigated particularly ugly aspects of adolescence, many times through a lot of adversity. However, dear sweet baby Jesus, I hope I was never that much of a sulky, self-righteous, little ass (I know, I know—I probably was) as the youngsters on display in first installment of Penelope Spheeris’ legendary LA punk/metal trilogy The Decline of Western Civilization.

Through thick, grating, under-bitten LA accents, we hear classics such as “I’m a total rebel—I rebel against everything,” and “Everyone shouldn’t be afraid to be as different as they wanna’ be,” followed almost immediately by the same girl saying, “Everyone’s hair should be blue.” And of course, there are the racial epithets, gratuitous use of “poseur,” and various affected attempts at portraying cynicism and apathy.

Regardless, the angst and alienation these kids felt is palpably legitimate; you can’t help but wish you could pinch their bratty little cheeks and tell them that someday they’ll escape, and that it isn’t always going to be this bad. Mainly, however, I’m just happy no one recorded me at sixteen years old, and that I’ll never have to be sixteen years old again.
 

Posted by Amber Frost
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12.03.2012
08:34 am
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Bing Hitler: Craig Ferguson long, long before ‘The Late, Late Show’
09.15.2012
03:56 pm
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This is Craig Ferguson long, long before The Late, Late Show, performing as his stand-up comedy alter ego, Bing Hitler, at the Pavillion Theater, Glasgow, on October 14th, 1987.

This is 2 years after Bing’s famed gig at the Tron Theater Gong Night, which led to column inches and a variety of shows, ranging from a-one-off at Cul-de-Sac Bar to the legendary Night of the Long Skean Dhus in 1986. Back then, the Cul-de-Sac in Ashton Lane, was an important watering hole for artists, writers, musicians and performers, to meet and share ideas, gossip and alcohol. Of an evening you could find Ferguson at the bar with musicians like Bobby Bluebell, the late Bobby Paterson, James Grant, and writers like Tommy Udo. Even the bar staff had talent like the artist Lesley Banks. These were fun times.

At times in this concert, Bing comes across like a shouty cousin to Rik from Young Ones. Craig has always been a confident, talented and assured performer, but here he was just a wee bit rough around the edges - part of the character - but it’s all good fun, and a great look back.
 

 
Bonus clip of Bing Hitler performing at Bennet’s, from 1987, after the jump…
 

READ ON
Posted by Paul Gallagher
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09.15.2012
03:56 pm
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‘Bongo Man’: Superlative documentary on Jimmy Cliff
09.15.2012
02:44 pm
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Some of the bloodiest violence in Jamaica’s history took place in the lead-up to the country’s 1980 elections. The battle for political leadership between socialist Prime Minister Michael Manley’s Peoples National Party and Edward Seaga’s Jamaican Labour Party, brought the country to the verge of civil war. The conflict started in 1976, and arose out of the PNP’s plan to form closer links with Cuba. The JLP wanted to bind Jamaica closer to the USA and a free market. Both parties used gangs (posses) to enforce their will within Kingston - Seaga accessing weapons via America. This violence culminated in the 1980 elections that left 800 Jamaicans dead, as Seaga was elected Prime MInister.

It was against this background, the documentary Bongo Man was filmed. Bongo Man told the story of Jimmy Cliff, as he traveled across Jamaica to Kingston, in an attempt to unite the country through the power of Reggae.

Cliff’s philosophy was simple: ‘Politics divide, Music unites’. The legendary Cliff is a fascinating character and this is an exceptional and engrossing documentary, containing excellent concert footage and some of Cliff’s best songs.
 

 

Posted by Paul Gallagher
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09.15.2012
02:44 pm
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Happy (Belated) Birthday to Lady Bunny
08.15.2012
08:11 pm
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We couldn’t let the occasion of Lady Bunny’s birthday pass without doing a post to mark it (even if it was yesterday.) She ain’t no spring chicken, but she’s as rulin’ as ever.

And here’s the proof, some seldom-seen footage of Lady Bunny performing in 1986, filmed by New York nightlife chronicler, and friend of DM, Nelson Sullivan. The “psychedelic disco” act is called SHAZORK and also features Sister Dimension and DJ Dmitry (later of Deee-Lite.) Who knew Bunny could sing this well? And I love Sister Dimension’s smurf-like outfit!

Here’s to you Bunny!
 


 
Previously on Dangerous Minds:

‘The Ballad Of Sarah Palin’ by Lady Bunny
Lady Bunny’s ‘West Virginia Gurls’
Nelson Sullivan: pioneering chronicler of NYC nightlife in the 1980s

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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08.15.2012
08:11 pm
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Dream Queens: ‘Voguing and the House Ballroom Scene of NYC 1989-92’
01.09.2012
12:57 pm
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Now here’s something that was sure to be found in the more fabulous Christmas stockings this past festive seasons. Published by the respected London-based record label Soul Jazz, Voguing: Voguing and the House Ballroom Scene of New York City 1989-92 is a collection of photographs by Chantal Regnault documenting the titular scene just as it gained worldwide attention thanks to the likes of Malcolm McLaren and Madonna.

Don’t be fooled if you think that voguing was a mere fad that came from nowhere to disappear just as fast as it sprung up 20-odd years ago. Yes, Madonna brought the dance form to the public consciousness, but if you think she invented it, then child, you need educatin’. Voguing started in Harlem in the 60s, where black and latino drag queens and transexuals had started to host their own balls (beauty pageants) outside of white society, and pioneered a new form of dance based on poses copied from Vogue magazine.

But the history of the drag and gay ballroom scene goes back much further than that - by about another hundred years, as explained by noted author and disco historian Tim Lawrence, in his foreword to this book:

Harlem’s Hamilton Lodge staged its first queer masquerade ball in 1869, and some twenty years later a medical student stumbled into another ball that was taking place Walhalla Hall on the Lower East Side. He witnessed 500 same-sex male and female couples ‘waltzing sedately to the music of a good band.

How things have changed - the modern voguing ballroom scene is/was anything but sedate! Lawrence goes on to put into context the concept of a “house” (in effect a surrogate gay family or gang), which has long been a central aspect of vogue and drag culture:

Referencing the glamorous fashion houses whose glamour and style they admired, other black drag queens started to form drag houses, or families that, headed by a mother and sometimes a father, would socialise, look after each other, and prepare for balls (including ones they would host and ones they would attend).

...

The establishment of the houses also paralleled the twists and turns of New York’s gangs, which flourished between the mid 1940s and the mid 1960s as the city shifted from an industrial to a post-industrial base while dealing with the upheavals of urban renewal, slum clearances and ethnic migration. As historian Eric Schneider argues, gangs appealed to alienated adolescents who wanted to earn money as well as peer group prestige.

Despite the faddish nature of Madonna’s daliance with this scene, voguing and ballroom documentaries like Wolfgang Busch’s How Do I Look and Jennie Livingston’s Paris Is Burning (not to mention performers like the late Willi Ninja and his extant House of Ninja) have done much to establish the history of this world and inspire new generations to take part. And it’s not hard to see the appeal - in a recent interview with The Guardian, Chantal Regnault eplained how voguing and its culture helped re-invigorate New York’s nightlife at the peak of the AIDS crisis:

...the Ball phenomena kind of revived New York nightlife, which had shrunk drastically as the first wave of AIDS related sicknessses were decimating the community. The Queens became the stars of the straight New York clubs, and began to be recognized, appreciated and photographed. They appeared on TV shows and were interviewed by TV icons. The voguers also became a big attraction and soon everybody wanted to emulate their dancing style. Two figures were instrumental in launching the trend in the awakened downtown clubs: Susanne Bartsch and Chichi Valenti, two straight white females who both had a knack for the new and fabulous and a big social network.

Why 1989-1992? What happened next?

1989-1992 was the peak of creativity and popularity for the ballroom scene, and when the mainstream attention faded away, the original black and Latino gay ballroom culture didn’t die. On the contrary, it became a national phenomena as Houses started to have “chapters” all over the big cities of the United States. But I was not a direct witness to most of it as I moved to Haiti in 1993.

As Regnault states voguing is still going strong today, with balls in many of America (and the world’s) largest cities, and this book is a perfect introduction to a compelling, not to mention often over-looked, aspect of gay and black history. Regnault managed to capture some of the most recognisable faces from that world showing off in all their finery, while there are fascinating interviews with some of the key players like Muhammed Omni, Hector Xtravaganza, Tommie Labeija and more. Voguing And The House Ballroom Scene of New York City 1989-92 is quite simply an essential purchase for fans of underground culture.
 
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Avis Pendavis, 1991
 
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Cesar Valentino (right), Copacabana, 1990
 
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RuPaul, Red Zone 1990
 
Voguing: Voguing and the House Ballroom Scene of New York City 1989-92 by Chantal Reignault (with an introduction by Tim Lawrence) is available to buy from Soul Jazz Records.

With thanks to Legendary Ballroom Scene for the scans.

Previously on Dangerous Minds
‘Paris Is Burning’: Vogue Realness

Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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01.09.2012
12:57 pm
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‘Streetwise’ - excellent 1984 documentary about homeless kids
05.15.2011
10:01 am
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Last week I posted about a new series of videos by the band In Flagranti, one of which (”On The Fringe”) features some great footage of street kids from the 1980s. Well, thanks to commenters Mister D and Steve Lafreniere I now know what that film is - not only that but I know it’s on YouTube and I have seen it. And so should you. It’s brilliant.

It’s called Streetwise. Directed by Martin Bell and shot by his wife Mary Ellen Mark, it was inspired by an article on homeless youth from Life magazine written by Cheryl McCall. At times it’s harrowing, but it’s really very good, and was even nominated for an Academy Award for Best Documentary in 1984.

It follows the exploits of a few different children living on the streets of Seattle, at that point apparently the States’ “most livable city”. There’s the tough, smart Rat and his older mentor Jack, who live in an abandoned hotel, sell drugs, scam pizzas and raid dumpsters. There’s teenage prostitutes Kim and Erin, waiting to get picked up off the kerb by older johns and discussing which local pimp is better to work for. Erin is also known as “Tiny” and has a troubled relationship with her alcoholic mother, who knows she is a prostitute but describes it as a “phase”. She thinks she may be pregnant after having unprotected sex with a john - that’s her in the picture above. Like Paris Is Burning this film deals with people society regards as the lowest of the low - and what on paper looks like being a major celluloid bummer is actually funny, insightful, tender and at times uplifting. Surprisingly a lot of these kids are still alive, though not kids anymore.

Mary Ellen Mark was also the photographer for the original Life magazine article, and has built up a large portfolio of stunning photographs of these kids, like the one above. She and her husband still see them occasionally too. From Steve Lafreniere’s excellent interview with Mark for Viceland (well worth reading as she’s a brilliant photographer who’s had an extraordinary career):

I’m still in contact with Tiny. A few years ago, Martin and I went back to Seattle and we updated her life. And I’ve been photographing her—I haven’t been back there in three years—but I have been photographing her. I photographed her after she had her ninth baby but we couldn’t make it out there for her tenth.

Here is part one of Streetwise:
 

 
Streetwise parts 2-11 after the jump…

READ ON
Posted by Niall O'Conghaile
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05.15.2011
10:01 am
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The Hook ‘n’ Pull Gang
11.09.2010
06:47 pm
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Some bands just slip through and are never caught by the audience they deserve. I was reminded of this tonight by dear Tommy Udo, who refreshed the aging memory cells with a superb clip of The Hook ‘n’ Pull Gang. In the words of Mr Udo:

Another of the greatest bands you’ve never heard of. One single, a few gigs that I was too out of it to fully appreciate. Actually, no, I appreciated them like fuck. Just cannae remember them. The guitarist/singer formed Die Cheerleader after this. They were great too.

The Hook ‘n’ Pull Gang were Eileen McMullan (drums/vocals), Rita Blazyca (guitar/vocals) and Alan McDade (bass), who were part of Edinburgh’s late 1980’s indie scene.  Described as “a cross between the Sex Pistols and the Ronettes,” they sang about The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, released only one single Gasoline, rarely gave interviews, were a great act live and appeared on FSd  - BBC Scotland’s up-its-own-arse music show, which made some amends by premiering bands such as The Dog Faced Hermans, The Blood Uncles, and, of course, The Hook ‘n’ Pull Gang.
 

 
With thanks to Tommy Udo
 
Bonus clip ‘Gasoline’ after the jump…
 

READ ON
Posted by Paul Gallagher
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11.09.2010
06:47 pm
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