Thursday, August 30, 2012

Nesta Wyn Ellis letter: The return of The Bonker's Daughter!

Nesta Wyn Ellis: the biographer of John Major at home

Dear Madame,

Just enjoyed that YouTube piece with Barbara [Hulanicki]. She figures in my upcoming memoirs - we don't know when the world economy will up perk but I'm waiting - as the woman I interviewed in a jacuzzi in Miami Beach and who introduced me to my editor (the late and much lamented) Susan Hill at Sidgwick and Jackson, who commissioned The Banker's Daughter.

The latter is shortly to be reincarnated as a kindle edition under the imprint "Lioness Books." Those who can't wait to read the sex scenes should buy up one of the few remaining hard copies still available on the Internet if you Google for Nesta Wyn Ellis.

From your Paris Fan Club

Nesta Wyn Ellis

Darling Nesta

So delightful to hear from you! When you mentioned Susan Hill, I thought for a moment you meant that dreadful Aquarian writer who awaits her damehood for services to ghosts - if there's one thing I can't stand is a ...

But I must not permit unpleasantness to intrude on our pleasurable intercourse.

I can't wait to read your memoirs! Among other things, I hope that you will at long last deal with those hissed whispers (which blight London longueurs) on the precise nature of your relationship with former Prime Minister John Major. 

Your biography of him - all the better for the huge access you enjoyed to Number 10 - was by far the best of that genre; and I'm certain 'waspish' AN Wilson (whose voice can be heard on Nicky Haslam's debut 'pop' album) would concur: after all, he described your book as an 'accidental masterpiece'; or something like that. The image of Norma throwing crockery at bespectacled John has never left me.

(Still to be decided among Arcatistes is which PM had the biggest cockerdoodle - John Major or Gordon Brown) 

As for The Banker's Daughter - I wonder which 'Westminster wit' insolently retitled it 'The Bonker's Daughter'. A former political colleague I suspect - and I feel sure that your memoirs will insert a welcome micro-camera into the orifices of yesteryear's body politic.

Have to rush - keep in touch -

Madame Arcati x

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Martin Amis and The Guardian: Asbo savaged not quite by all in the US

Click to enlarge
'Most of the US reviews for Lionel Asbo, Martin Amis' latest novel, are in. And they're not pretty,' wrote someone called Emma Brockes on a Guardian blog last week.

Pure schadenfreude then attended her re-heating of the most vitriolic and quotable assessments  culled from various US reviewers, each name-checked in the first instance only because of the tyranny of media branding (eg New York Observer, Wall Street Journal, et al). But a grande dame must be careful of the company she keeps: as true at the Guardian as anywhere else, in an age of reflexive conformity.

In addition to relishing the fall of a once literary hero, Brockes also had a personal tale to tell: she had actually got off her arse and seen Amis at a recent books signing in the Hamptons - and was struck by a 'certain pathos' about him, there cloud-like because of all the horrible US critiques, following all the 'Amis-bashing' in the UK. More probably he was just hung-over - rarely a happy sight, especially on Amis' fallen features.

But perhaps not all is lost for Amis. He need not check into the Dignitas Literary Skip just yet. His publisher. Alfred A Knopf/Vintage Books, has posted an ad on Facebook (above left) which sings with nothing but praise for Asbo ... from various US reviewers.

A selective sample for sure but a reminder that we should be wary of sexy-sounding commentary pitches, made to excitable commissioning editors, which get to see the light of day. As true at the Guardian as anywhere else.

And should we doubt this, we need only read the top line of the ad: 'A masterclass' - The Guardian.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Barbara Hulanicki: The Brighton Biba show, and Hurricane Isaac

Barbara Hulanicki.
Visit her website here
I do hope that Miami resident Barbara Hulanicki survived Hurricane Isaac - I hear a rumour she bravely stayed at home despite attempts to shoe-horn her out to safer climes, while other ever-greens outside (OK, trees) gave their best Exorcist impressions. She'd better have survived because she's scheduled to head to Britain shortly for the 'Biba and Beyond: Barbara Hulanicki' exhibition in Brighton, which starts September 22 and runs through to April 14, 2013. Details here.

In the 60s Hulanicki founded the seminal Biba store which helped revolutionise fashion and style. By the mid-70s, what had started as a mail-order business had metamorphosed into a vast departmental store in the old Derry & Toms building in South Ken, drawing a million 'post-war baby' shoppers a week, as well as stalwart style queens like David Bowie, Mick Jagger and Marianne Faithful. 

Biba: The Musical (2009) gives an endearing flavour of Biba-world, even if not countenanced by her - watch the video below. Hulanicki explains how the past inspired her creative work in this fascinating 'My V&A' video, here.

I've had the pleasure of meeting Barbara on two occasions - at the launch of a film about her at Kensington Roof Gardens and then at Molly Parkin's 80th at the Chelsea Arts Club in February. Behind her huge shades she's quite an enigma - I was quite convinced she's Scorpio; but Google says Sagittarius. 

Incidentally, she is not connected to the reincarnated Biba; and now designs for, among others, George, Asda - click here to see her collections.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Nicky Haslam turns pop star love god, with Greta Garbo and Rupert Everett

At the age of nearly 73, party Zelig and society interior decorator Nicky Haslam is about to make his debut as a pop star with forthcoming album Midnight Matinee, produced by David Ogilvy.

For a sample, catch Nicky's first single release from the collection, Total Control. It's easy-listening fare paced sedately to the many slow-mo moments in the accompanying video which I generously feature below. 

Among its many surprises is a sultry young woman dancing with herself in a glittery blue cocktail dress, seemingly lost in an auto-erotically charged vague de tendresse for absent Nicky, who at one point defies the laws of spatial separation and joins her in a bedside waltz. His hand runs down her back, as it might once have done in pre-copulatory preparation. His countenance bears signs of a grim determination. 

It's enough to put you off regular, romantic cock-cuntery. But one must persevere, I suppose. The video ending is a happy one. He retires to his bed in his red jimjams, alone, but with a smile on his face. No deflating pillow-talk horrors in the morning. 

The hawk-eyed will not fail to notice Nicky's personalised alphanumeric car licence plate - 'LIBRAS', a knowing reference to his star sign.

Nicky has proved to be quite a draw to other icons and singers. Cilla Black (friends again with Nicky), Bryan Ferry, Bob Geldof and others feature on the album. There are spoken passages by Rupert Everett, Tracey Emin, AN Wilson, et al. Even the late Greta Garbo and Noel Coward live again on vinyl (or download) for Nicky, making a nonsense of mere death.

The album is out 'soon'.

Monday, August 20, 2012

The Pope and 'messages of guidance' from Mary Beard's fortune-telling trick

Prof Mary Beard
Back in the spring, Madame Arcati drew your attention to Prof Mary Beard's party fortune-telling trick.

To find an answer to a question, she opens a book at random and blindly sets her finger down on a sentence. Quite often the chosen words - usually unrelated to the topic in hand - appear to offer a solution or forecast. The 'trick' is called bibliomancy - and to read more about her divinatory experiences (and mine, using the Bible), click here.

If you don't know who Mary Beard is - oh dearie dear! She brought us BBC2's masterly Meet The Romans series. The Cambridge don channelled the voices of Ancient Roman chavs, not by seance but by translation of Latin bio-inscriptions on their tomb stones. We also learnt of the rent boys who serviced the paunchy elderly men of the empire.

Now, here's a funny thing. I'm reading a little-noticed book about Pope Benedict XVI; or Pope Ratzi as I call him. It's called God and the World and is based on extensive interviews with Ratzinger by German journalist Peter Seewald from 10 years ago when Ratzi was just Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger, then Prefect of the Vatican Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

Turn to p158 and what do we find? A conversation on bibliomancy, though the word is not used. Seewald reminds the Cardinal that St Francis 'did not just read the Bible, he played a kind of roulette with it. When he was founding his order... [he] opened a page at random and said: "This is how we'll do it!"'

I expected Ratzi to denounce this pagan practice. But how wrong was I! Instead he virtually gossips about the topic.

'That's a very old way of doing it,' the Cardinal says matter-of-factly. He describes St Francis' biblical answer as a 'message of guidance'. Then: 'The King of Belgium, Baudouin, once told me that he used to do that sometimes and that it was incredible how it helped him and amazing how it gave him just the message he needed. In one serious cabinet crisis, when he could hardly see any way he could get another government formed, he went into the chapel, took his Bible in his hand, and found a text  that suddenly told him what he had to do. So it does happen.'

While the Cardinal sniffs at the risk of 'turning Scripture into an oracle', he concedes that the practice works 'to a certain extent.'

What interesting company Prof Mary Beard and Madame Arcati find ourselves in.

Mary Beard's TLS blog, here

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Duncan Fallowell and Andrew Logan: Prize-winning memoir seeks a home!

Party pasodoble: Andrew Logan and Duncan Fallowell
Two of my favourite men - y'know, the two mentioned in the caption - were snapped in friendly embrace at the launch party for Duncan Fallowell's latest book, How to Disappear: A Memoir for Misfits. Andrew Logan is in 'praying mantis mode' (according to DF) while Duncan himself asks Arcatistes 'how I might tighten my neck - I'm doing well elsewhere but the neck needs a tighten.'

I deplore any kind of cosmetic intervention, except for the most gruesome accidents and war injuries. Failing that injunction, 90-year-old Jackie Stallone's recent attempt to claw back time must stand as my graphic advisory - click (best not to eat first) here. 

On other matters, Madame Arcati finds herself more than a little surprised to learn that How to Disappear is not due a second edition or re-issue, either by original publisher Ditto Press or anyone else. This despite the title winning Duncan the PEN/Ackerley Prize for Memoir 2012, the UK's only literary prize for autobiography/memoir genres - as heralded here.

As things stand, your best hope of acquiring a copy is to find £5,000 to snap up the one used copy at that price on Amazon. Actually, for £5,000 you could bankroll a 3000-hard copy reprint even before consideration of much cheaper e-publishing options for all those juicy Kindles. Penguin, where are you, poppets?

And don't forget, Andrew's 'Phenomenal Elizabeth Taylor Portrait' can still be yours for an amazing £22,250 (+ £500 postage) on eBay - details here.

Come to think of it, both book and portrait offer substantial returns on outlay. Surely there's a European Lottery winner out there with vision.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Steve Strange and Sam Fox to record new song in Dover

Called Dirty N Flirty apparently. Weekend after next.

Meeks inherits... Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple

Dearest, dearest Madame,

I hope you're peachy. It's been a long time since last we spoke. 

I thought you'd be interested to know, if it has not yet come to your attention (a phrase which now reminds me of those silly, vulgar yet absolutely delicious parodies of Chloe Sevigny that now litter the internet, click here) that the sainted Ms Rutherford is now the subject of a play which is doing rather well up in Edinburgh.

It's called Murder, Marple and Me (click here) and by a gentleman called Philip Meeks who I think you'd adore - if you haven't already crossed paths as he used to be a rather good publicist. His wit manages to be both warm and cutting, which is a rare gift. He's on Twitter as @PhilipMeeks. You should speak about your mutual passion.

With all best wishes as always.

C x 

Darling C

Thank you so much for your recommendation - I do adore any attempt to impersonate me, especially since I started the trend of impersonating me, whoever that is. I shall have to check this Mr Meeks out.

May I also thank you for staying true as an Arcatiste. Certain fickle types have swanned off in hot pursuit of literary awards, imagining that their presence on Twitter and Facebook marks a new age in social media at the expense of blogging. However, posting holiday snaps and details of latest doings - vain toil to create a virtual salon of lapdogs and other creeps - is no substitute for what a blogger can offer, as your timely letter reminds us.
Margaret Rutherford as Philip Meeks' avatar

But for my selfless regard for others, would I now be in possession of the knowledge you have imparted? Would I now know of Mr Meeks and his promising show about me had I merely posted a photo of a mini-me on Facebook? I merely ask the question.

Much love as ever

MA x

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Molly Parkin and Gill Manly: Jazz duo undress the lies of handsome men

Molly Parkin and Gill Manly. Photo by Andrew Logan
Alternative Miss World founder Andrew Logan took this exclusive pic of Molly Parkin and singer-songwriter Gill Manly for their Sept 5 London jazz gig, 'The Lies of Handsome Men' (which is also the title of Manly's latest album) at Pizza Express, Dean St, Soho.

Accompanied by Simon Wallace, jazz goddess and torch diva Gill Manly sings Moll's newly-written poems set to music as well as her own work, exploring the 'tricky and complex role of women as lovers, wives and mistresses.' I shouldn't be surprised if Moll also performs on stage as reader.

Moll Telexes me:





 T 0845 6027 017.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Andrew Logan: Time to honour the man who's 'shitting glitter'

'Andrew Logan Phenomenal
Elizabeth Taylor Portrait'
Some time ago I wondered (very) aloud why venerable actor Christopher Lee had not yet been knighted, when just about anyone garlanded with a sporty medal is honoured by the age of 30. It took awhile for comprehension to sink in, but one day I awoke to the news that Sir Christopher had arrived.

I now turn my attention to Andrew Logan. Not merely founder of Alternative Miss World, he is a celebrated sculptor, jewellery-maker, performance artist, painter and portraitist - a fine example is his Elizabeth Taylor, currently on sale on eBay for a modest £22,250 - 'postage' is an extra £500. Buy here.

Andrew Logan's Red Bracelet: £280
His international influence is without question - no object may be saved from conscription into his multi-media fantasies and bling; and Los Angeles, Monterrey and St Petersburg have hosted his exhibitions, among other places. Not one celebrity has so much as grazed their moist, perfumed flesh on the jagged glass framed in his pendants, necklaces or bracelets: to turn a stellar ego into a looking glass for other stellar egos to gaze into for auto-erotic delight is itself a subversively amusing phenomenon, an irony lost on many of the mirror dolls in their showbiz get-ups, perhaps. Even planets have a part to play in his artistic vision - so naturally, I am a fan.

When our dreadful leaders have quite sated themselves on the persecution of the poor, unemployed, disabled and anyone else perceived as economically vulnerable for a cheap slash, perhaps they might like to consider honouring Mr Logan (a Libran btw, born 1945) and demonstrate to the world that British talent does not start or end in the fucking Olympic Village.

If you want to learn more about Logan I recommend you see the 2011 movie documentary, The British Guide to Showing Off, which explores and celebrates his glittery and anarchic world, and features the 'shitting glitter' observation (by gorgeous Grayson Perry, I think). Here's the trailer....

Friday, August 10, 2012

Julien Temple's London Babylon flick - catch it (and Molly Parkin) on BBC2

I recently mentioned Julien Temple's homage-collage-documentary film of our Olympics metropolis, London - The Modern Babylon, which features many talking heads including that of permanent fiancee and Chelsea cheerleader, Molly Parkin. I now see that it will be shown on BBC2, August 11, 21:20-23:25: it'll soon be on iPlayer, too. The trailer can be viewed here.

Babylon (which was better titled 'BabyLon(Don')) zips you through the sundry manifestations of what passes for the city's street life and history, courtesy of the BFI archives, starting from about the 1890s to the present day, to the soundtrack of various pop and rock anthems. Secular hedonism is the primary organic motive in this celluloid gospel - and it may be correct. Reviewers generally adore the flick - I particularly like The Arts Desk's critique, here.

Sunday, August 05, 2012

The Mars rover Curiosity mission: what has astrology to say?

The Mars robot Curiosity. But will it land? [NASA/JPL-Caltech]
At around 5.30am GMT (6.30am BST in the UK), on August 6, we should know whether the nuclear powered Mars rover Curiosity Lander has arrived safely on the planet after a 350m-mile trip. Its mission is to find signs of life. So what does astrology have to say about its chances of landing safely - given that many Martian adventures have ended in tears.

It's a tricky question because horoscopes do not speak in plain headlines. They require interpretation - this is as much an art as methodology. And do you know anyone who's infallible - such as your doctor, lawyer or particle physicist? No. Nonetheless, I have asked the question; so, here we go.....

The Placidus chart is drawn up for 26 November 2011, Cape Canaveral, Florida, 10:02am (local time; 15:02 UT): the place and time of Curiosity's launch. This places the mission's Sun in Sagittarius (expansion and exploration) in the 11th House - the house of space technology, among other things.  Mercury retrograde (communication and travel) is also in the 11th while Uranus (science) sits in the 3rd (ruled by Mercury) along with a generally strong Jupiter.

These are very constructive and promising positions notwithstanding Mercury retrograde which at the very least may indicate delay of some sort - but the precise effect of retrogrades is still uncertain.

Other indicators are also positive. I like Mars in Virgo in the 8th: this describes the huge energy and exacting detailed work poured into this project: Mars is also part of an Earth Grand trine to Pluto and Jupiter, symbolising the dogged, delving practical application of knowledge in pushing back frontiers.

With this set-up I would be surprised if the mission is a failure.

There are problems in the chart. Mars is opposite Neptune, but the orb is very wide (9 degrees) which may simply denote the necessity of unclouded intellect. This opposition apexes in the 11th House Sun in a mutable t-square - perhaps repeating the point I've just made: science rules energy and aspiration. Saturn (limitation, responsibility) in the 9th house (exploration; long-distance travel) may be taken as a bad omen by some, but since this is not an accident-prone chart, the planet here may tell of the mission's huge undertaking and dedication to expanding knowledge.

So, Curiosity should land safely. And what of the mission itself, to find life? Saturn sextile Mercury could suggest that the short trips the lander embarks on will be successful if not productive. Pluto (sub-surface investigation) linked to Mercury by stellium, also sextiles Saturn - another good sign. Sun trine Uranus in Aries is excellent for broadening knowledge.

Friday, August 03, 2012

Molly Parkin: 'Cunts' at Harpers & Queen and her London Olympics movie

Molly & Sophie Parkin
I'm not entirely certain that I have returned to blogging but while I'm here, an opportune moment to catch up on the doings of permanent fiancee Molly Parkin.

Today is launched Julien Temple's collage-documentary movie London: The Modern Babylon (or, 'BabyLon/Don', my preferred title, still on Imdb), pegged to the Olympics. One of its stars is Molly who sheds aesthetic light on the filthy capital and its sulphur glamour. The film is Time Out's flick of the week so it must be good. Certainly the Guardian's Peter Bradshaw thinks it's brilliant, so hopefully it will get national distribution beyond the limited number of London flea pits, and help counter the insidious influence of the latest Batman movie, starring a certifiable psycho who hates his mother and was rude to his grandmother.

I would link the film but some jobsworth has decided the trailer can only be viewed on YouTube, so you can find it yourself if you can't shift up to the metropolis.

Molly is also to be viewed in the delightful movie linked below, in conversation at the Soho Theatre the other night with daughter, writer Sophie Parkin, currently working on a book about the infamous, seminal Soho Colony Room, out in December. What both have to say about Soho is almost as fascinating as the edgy interplay between mother and daughter. Remind me not to fall out with either of them. Moll reports that in the 50s, when she was a virgin and an art teacher, it was not uncommon, as she made her way along Soho thoroughfares, for her to be taken for a French tart, and 'a Degas ballet French tart' at that, by lowlife doorway club urchins.

We learn more about Colony queen Muriel Belcher, too, who was only a bit lesbian apparently. 'Come here, cunty,' she'd say to Moll. Apropos of Moll's glittery employment history, 'I did have an awful gruelling time on Harpers (& Queen), what a bunch of cunts there....'

To view the encounter, click here

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Gore Vidal - and that dreaded Anaïs Nin horoscope

Gore Vidal in the 1940s
Now that he's dead at long last - 86 is not bad for a prodigious boozer - I can't think of much to say of him. He (mainly) said it all. By 1989, when I interviewed Gore Vidal in a London hotel, he was already spreading rumours of his imminent death, and publicised an exotic-sounding likely cause called Epstein-Barr. References to this ME-type illness had dropped off by the early 2000s as the dilatory grim reaper paid visits to other parts of his person. Mainly via a whisky glass so far as I could tell.

A fussed and fussy short, thickset man (his long-term 'companion' Howard Austen) had answered the hotel door and ushered me into a sitting room where GV joined me promptly. A fat edited manuscript of his poor novel Hollywood lay on a table. We soon fell out. I made the mistake of mentioning the horoscope his one-time close friend Anaïs Nin had cast for him, with its very acute character analysis. Oh deary me. GV didn't sulk but he bitched big-time. The cold, sharp comments fell as if an ice bucket had been upturned on the hotel's creamy coloured shag.

Despite this, in my subsequent write-up I found myself observing that Great Britain did not have a Gore Vidal: no equivalent figure ticked all his boxes - a literary star with the Hollywood-imported glamour who was also a TV talking-head and gossip column favourite - all rendered shinier by the Kennedy and other aristocratic family connections, the Ravello swallow's nest palace and the self-reported 1000 fuckees (a few women, mostly men) by the age of 25. (He had a taste for small male dancers, apparently.)

The nearest non-American GV-simulacrum was a composite of Martin Amis, Clive James, Germaine Greer and Duncan Fallowell. But no one else had all that he had. They were facets of his self-crafted diamond.

So, what of Anaïs Nin and her horoscope? To discover her and it, seek out The Journals of Anaïs Nin (Volume Four 1944-1947) and head for pp 132-133. In her non-astrological character sketch of GV, then just around aged 20 and already on the cusp of writer-celebrityhood, she describes a man largely unchanged 60 years later: 'He mocks his world,' she wrote, 'but draws strength from being in the Social Register, from his friends' high position.... I was saddened by his vanity, his display of position. He was partly dependent on worldly attributes. Terribly in need of glorification. I saw his persona in the world. It was another Gore.'

The horoscope analysis is worth reading, too. A brief gist: 'He is not satisfied with power... what balances him is the power to rebel against authority. Emotional rebellions offset the power-loving side. Mystical unconscious.'

I recall Duncan Fallowell's shrewd observation of GV - blessed with a tremendous sense of mischief, unusual in a successful man. I don't think Anaïs picked up on that.

For further reflection on GV, go to Ms Baroque's rather glorious site. Click here.

Lively interview with Gore Vidal at his old villa in Ravello, La Rondinaia (Swallow's Nest) with some lovely interior snooping