The Legend of Leigh Bowery is a brilliant documentary about a brilliant man.
Directed by Charles Atlas, the film covers Bowery’s life and times from his suburban beginnings in Sunshine, Australia, to his fame on London’s club scene in the 1980s and his success as one of the most influential and daring fashion designers in the past thirty years.
The Legend of Leigh Bowery has incredible archive footage and excellent contributions from Michael Clark, Sue Tilley, Michael Bracewell, Richard Torry, Donald Urquhart, Damien Hirst, Boy George and Leigh’s wife, Nicola Bowery.
Julien Temple directed Mantrap, an under-rated and often considered “lost” featurette starring 1980’s New Romantic group ABC. Like a lot of Temple’s work it’s full of quirky originality and style, which compensates for the lack of script. Mantrap can be best summed-up by its Wikipedia entry:
Martin Fry is asked to join [a] band as they embark on tour heading east through Europe. But at the height of their popularity the band tries to secretly replace Fry with a Russian spy in order to sneak him back behind the iron curtain. It is then up to Martin to battle his doppelganger and make the world safe for New Romantic Synth Pop.
Temple is a true maverick, who has more than a touch of genius about him. His films always deliver great visual imagination as disguise for a weak script (Absolute Beginners), but when Temple has a good script, like Frank Cottrell Boyce’s Pandaemonium, or is working with straight non-fiction narrative Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten, the superb documentary on Dr Feelfgood, Oil City Confidential, or The Filth and the Fury, his talents soar.
Though slight, Mantrap is well worth watching for 101 reasons, from its classic soundtrack by ABC, its style, its visuals, its concert footage, Martin Fry’s good looks, its silliness, its joie de vivre….etc.
Seminal New Romantics ABC and punk filmmaker Julien Temple pay homage to 50s espionage flicks in this hour long folly from 1983. Martin Fry has the look of a Hitchcock protagonist, but by his own admission, his acting was a little “mahogany”. Temple captures the isolation and paranoia of the former Communist Bloc, but forgets to tell a story in the process.
Nonetheless, this curiosity from the naive dawn of pop-video has enough to keep fans and casual viewers entertained. The 6th form script about some Cold War double dealing will occasionally make you wince, but is padded out with some wonderful footage of ABC’s (sadly never repeated) World Tour.
B-Movie regulars and wannabes try their best amidst the ensuing nonsense - but it’s pretty much in vain, so don’t expect John le Carré! But do delight in a soundtrack taken from arguably the greatest debut album of all time - “The Lexicon of Love”.
Out of the ashes of Punk came the New Romantics, rising like a painted phoenix over London’s club scene. From clubs like Billy’s and Blitz, where Steve Strange and Rusty Egan played Bowie, the Velvets and T.Rex, and Boy George was the coat-check guy, came the New Romantics. Clubbers known as the Blitz Kids, who were made-up and beautiful, and knew imagination was more important than money when it came to having fun.
The Blitz Kids were Steve Strange (Visage), Rusty Egan (The Rich Kids), Boy George (Culture Club), Tony Hadley, Martin Kemp, Gary Kemp, John Keeble, Steve Norman (Spandau Ballet), Tony James, James Degville (Sigue Sigue Sputnik), Siobhan Fahey (Bananarama), Marilyn, Princess Julia, Isabella Blow, Stephen Jones and Michael Clarke, and together they were the generation of New Romantics.
Last year, in the Guardian, Priya Elan talked to some of the “movers and shakers behind the scene that spawned the New Romantics.”
STEVE STRANGE, BLITZ CLUB HOST, VISAGE FRONTMAN: By 1977 I’d gotten very bored by punk. It’d become very violent. The skinheads and the National Front had moved in.
RUSTY EGAN, BLITZ DJ, VISAGE MEMBER: The punk venues got invaded by football hooligans wearing Le Coq Sportif clothes. They’d call us “poofs” because we weren’t dressed in a normal way. Hence why we formed the club. It was for those ex-punks who liked Lou Reed, Bowie and Iggy.
SS: It was about being creative, we wanted to start something that didn’t have anything to do with punk.
RE: It was a horrible time of recession. Covent Garden was isolated and badly lit. But then you’d walk into the club and it was like “Ta-da!” Everyone was drinking and taking poppers. The atmosphere was like Studio 54.
SIOBHAN FAHEY, BLITZ CLUBBER AND BANANARAMA MEMBER: We’d spend the whole week preparing our outfits for the club. We’d go and buy fabrics, customise our leather jackets, make cummerbunds, find old military things and throw them together in a mix of glam, military and strangeness. It was all DIY because we didn’t really have any money to properly eat. We lived off coffee and cigarettes, really.
RE: The song that became the anthem of the club was Heroes by Bowie. “Just for one day” you could dress up and be more than what Britain had to offer you.
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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