Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Andrew Logan's Alternative Miss World 2014 - be a sponsor!

Poppets, if you wish to do your bit to create yet further confusion in the minds of literalists, fascists and UKIP, do make a financial contribution to Andrew Logan's Alternative Miss World, to be held in London in October.

Was it really five years ago that Madame Arcati attended the 2009 Alternative Miss World? Read all about it here. "Is that a vagina?" co-host Ruby wax wondered aloud as yet another drag interpretation wafted past her. Personal transformation is one of the major themes of our time and I cannot think of a more exotic event than Andrew's for bringing to life the full spectrum of artistic cross-dressing (or whatever the latest term may have been assigned).

I won't go on as I'm busy. But do visit this page and read all about the history of Alternative Miss World and how you can play your part in the furtherance of sartorial and cosmetic art.

Isn't it time Andrew Logan had a knighthood? I hope they don't keep him waiting as they did my delightful friend Sir Christopher Lee.

Andrew Logan's Alternative Miss World will be held at Shakespeare's Globe on October 18, 2014.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Doctor Who: Capaldi is only just short of Cappalling

Madame Vastra - not one for David Icke
Ooh, I don't know, poppets. The Arcati jury's out on Peter Capaldi as the new Doctor Who. A Scottish Doctor Who. And being Scottish entitles him to complain - according to the script. Was this a knowing contribution to the Caledonian Yes/No referendum? A sly allusion to the world of politics to which one Malcolm Tucker once contributed his foul-mouthed wisdom, so ably played by Capaldi? Doctor Who mustn't get too clever - Whovians are not ultra-smart people but obsessives with social limitations. Their one true calling is the history of Doctor Who. What they don't know about the sex lives of Daleks is not worth knowing. History (non-Doctor Who), to them, is a place like Wonderland where everyone's a bit cute  and sounds like Yvette Fielding - Hitler no exception.

Deep Breath unfolded slug-slowly, the more to make space for acting. Capaldi did a lot of acting - his soliloquy in his smelly rags before a tramp turned up with the desired coat may yet feature in a thesp master-class - how to work Waiting for Godot into BBC sci-fi. Fans are quite used to Doctor Who changing shape so we could have been spared the epic anguished struggle with identity. How it went on. Rather like this paragraph. I must move on and set an example.

The lady lizard, Madame Vastra (I do love a madame) who I guess must be male because she's the husband of a human female - or else a native of the Land of Lesbos - easily stole the show: I did love her fireman's pole slide in rescue mode. The only person this will have displeased is David Icke whose synonym for establishment is reptile. I also liked the Jeevesy butler alien who confused mouth with eyelids. This is more like it. More cheap whimsy please and then I can pretend Jon Pertwee is still Doctor Who - my personal fave.

I have no problem with middle-aged Whos. Time Lords should bear the ravages of time on their clocks. Young actors have ardently reported sex drives (Matt Smith's off-camera erections proved far too distracting) and I'm afraid Who must share a raft with Mother Teresa and, er, Cliff Richard. Additionally, what Whos must not do is emote too much or imagine Olivier's ghost is assessing.

At the moment Capaldi has only slightly dodged the rating of Cappalling. Room for much improvement.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Most Haunted: Empty space is engaged

Yvette Fielding
The new Most Haunted is to be found on the Really TV channel - or, Oh Really, as I prefer. Yvette Fielding bellowed at empty space she calls ghosts, "I'm not afraid of you - S-C-R-E-A-M!" She has dispensed with the clairvoyant medium bit - in which a psychic recited information gleaned from Google searches about the relevant property's history of ghosts - which perhaps took up too much face time at the expense of hers: seasoned MH followers will have seen this coming as the ex-Blue Peter presenter diversified into mediumship, exorcism and levitation. These days she presides over ouija board seances, showcases the latest lovely Hammer Horror velvety capes and orders empty space to engage in conversation with her: a tall order given her readiness to shriek at creaks. After all this, the dead simply can't get a word in.

Actually, last night she wore no velvety cape but a tidy ensemble of cross-dressing inspiration: man's jacket, crisp shirt and garish yellow tie, all last seen on the Maggie Thatcher Spitting Image puppet that desired to be Churchill. For this alone I would have sat through a TV charade. Indeed, Yvette's various manifestations offer a running narrative of an ego struggling with the challenges of sharing (camera time). She even shares camera duties now, striding about with a tiny portable, introducing her underlings and tall husband Karl who has aged markedly in recent times. Or else, that was a white misty nimbus about his thinning locks.

The troll-like woman I think called Kath, who produced most of the screams in previous shows and did Yvette's makeup, has been replaced by a pretty, non-screaming near-mute who now does Yvette's makeup (lay off the kohl, dearie). Various hairy hunks bearing camera cargo grunt concordance with Yvette's every word ("DID YOU SEE THAT?!" "Yes."). For welcome contrast, the bald man who I believe is nicknamed Pebbles by MH fans - because he's the suspected astral thrower of stones when empty space fails to fill - has survived Yvette's latest cull.

In place of a medium we glimpsed an aged beard billed as a demonologist. He looked pleasant enough. Sadly he had nothing to do, was quickly forgotten about but made up the numbers when Yvette required crowd shadow scenes.

Perhaps the most interesting new addition is the man at the end - the Ofcom-required sceptic - who resembles the late Syd Barrett, of Pink Floyd fame. Long rock star hair, pretty face; trailer-trash clobber. His monotone instructed that poltergeists may or may not exist - "it's all a matter of belief." May I be the first to announce that Syd Barrett is not dead at all. He lives. Despite appearances.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Roger Lewis - 'Iain Dale's egotistical desire to be morally superior'

I think we can all agree that Madame Arcati is a proven champion of polysexuality (ie anything goes provided it's legal), so I was stricken - yes stricken - when I learnt that a celebrated Arcatiste had been accused of homophobia. The man in the dock is Roger Lewis (author of the classic Seasonal Suicide Notes - get for someone's Christmas. Now) and his accuser is someone called Iain Dale, a droning right-wing radio and TV opinionist who makes executive decisions in publishing.

I recall Mr Dale back in 2013 receiving a police caution after scuffling with a pensioner on Brighton seafront. Apparently, the old codger had dared to wave an anti-nuke banner in the vicinity of Mr Dale's author Damian McBride, prompting the sort of behaviour that Theresa May roundly condemns when the cameras are pointing at her and she's thinking of life beyond the Home Office.

Plainly Mr Dale has no keen ear for humour, camp or otherwise: indeed, to observe him on news chat shows, hangdog face composed in stoicism, is to re-experience Clement Freud but without the jokes (and beard). Then one day recently his eye fell upon Roger's review of a Dusty Springfield book in the Spectator. He was so appalled that he withdrew his company's book contract offer to Roger.

I emailed Roger with my commiserations, asking him what he made of all this. Here's his (slightly redacted) reply, from Austria:

"I wrote a perfectly fine piece on Dusty Springfield, inter alia making the joke that lezzos all have big chins the better to go bobbing for apples - and this cunt Iain Dale, a man of whom I had never previously heard, comes out of the woodwork accusing me of all sorts! And me the biographer of Charles Hawtrey and the world expert on camp comics!

"What I hate about the man is his egotistical desire to be morally superior - no sense of humour, hence of proportion, like those Welsh language fanatics I always poke fun at and who foam at the mouth when teased.

Iain Dale has responded on his blog

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Hacked Off versus Private Eye: Now it's personal

The latest Private Eye's Street of Shame opens with an item on Joan Smith, the new Executive Director of Hacked Off. She promises to target companies that advertise in media signed up to the government-unapproved IPSO which launches next month and hopes to succeed where the PCC signally failed and regulate some of our newspapers. Private Eye is not IPSO-friendly but is Hacked Off-hostile while Hacked Off itself is IPSO-hostile but presently merely cool towards media that are 'unregulated' - such as the Eye.

No space was found to remind us that Joan's arrival in our post-Leveson world introduces a personal element to the ding-dong between the Eye and Hacked Off. Her former spouse is one Francis Wheen, Private Eye's deputy editor, who has much to do with Street of Shame and regularly froths in various places against Hacked Off's outrages (when he's not sulking over the existence of psychics, God, gods, aromatherapists, scented candle magic and anything else not sanctioned by white-coated geeks).

I wonder whether Mr W dispatched a congrats to Joan on her appointment. I do hope so. He strikes me as a gallant sort.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Lauren Bacall - and who was NOT heir to Bogie

In my glossy magazine days I was sent to interview Lauren Bacall. 30 mins had been allotted and she turned up 10 mins late. "I've a lunch date so let's get cracking," she growled. I surprised her with her horoscope, which she proceeded to pick apart because I'd made a basic error (my astro green days) in the calculations - she knew exactly to the degree where each planet and point was in her natal chart, inadvertently giving me a story. When I wondered which then current actor was heir to Bogie - I playfully suggested Richard Gere - she made a vomiting face, repeated his name over and over in a disgusted way ("Rich-hard GEEEre?"), giving me another story. On the 30th minute sharp she shot up and swanned out of the hotel on the arm of her lunch date companion who'd come to collect - John Gielgud.

Friday, August 08, 2014

Duncan Fallowell: Why he's given up on star interviews

Duncan Fallowell: The modern
approach to flogging books
In Duncan Fallowell's latest book, The Rise and Fall of the Celebrity Interview: A Personal Account - a long essay best read in one gulp - Tina Brown is blamed for... oh, let's start again. I'm getting ahead of myself.

I've had some personal experience of Mr F. In another age I feature edited the late IPC glossy Woman's Journal. In my first week in the post, following years as a jittery freelancer, I had to deliver on promises made (aka wishes expressed) to the grand editor-in-chief Laurie Purden MBE and produce big-name interviews by writers. Now. Not just hacks, not just "professionals", but prose naturals of the stylised kind. Of the sort likely to take Laurie by surprise. Because nothing bored her more than an expectation confirmed. She wanted to be taken unawares by an expert in seduction. Only people with a voice and a gift for animating their perverse reflexes in the written word would do. Byron Rogers could do it. I did not know DF but he'd already made an impact (on me and innumerable publications). He really did take one's breath away. He'd pissed off Gore Vidal big time. "He's lazy," bitter, angry Gore growled when I mentioned DF in an interview. "He said that I said writers are like cows - I am not a cow." I liked the way DF started his slebby pieces, as if idly picking up on a conversation begun sometime earlier or out of earshot. By some magic he seduced one into thinking that it was worth listening in on, to see what happened next. All an illusion, of course. All artifice. But this is what he calls a celebrity interview. An unfamiliar voyage into the familiar.

So, I made contact with DF from one of the top floors of IPC Towers and before I could say "lunch" he'd delivered the nightclub queen Regine to me from the sunny south coast of France. The piece enraptured Laurie, not normally given to orgasmic display, such was her intimacy with disappointment. I knew I was safe for a while. Yes, DF: you played your part in my survival.

So, let's start again. In his latest book, DF holds Tina Brown responsible (not solely, but majorly) for the destruction of his brand of celebrity journalism in newspapers and glossy magazines. She's to blame for his decision to give up on interviewing the stars. You'll have to read the book to find out how precisely, but the word "corporatism" is repeated. No matter Tina's glory at Tatler/Vanity Fair/New Yorker/Whatever she did not get DF at all. "She became a control freak," writes DF, of her immunity to his interviews that she'd commissioned. Her editorial expectations were narrow; she favoured the "girlie and conventional": she animated the corporate move against "authorial independence" (ie DF's). Her Vanity Fair became a "watertight plastic product which no writer was allowed to upstage with a personal voice." Tina B unleashed the infection of professionalism on a generation of underling and inferior editors anxious to copycat her success in their own name. Bitch.

That aside there's much yummy goss and much reflection on the pleasing by-product of celebrity meet-ups. I won't repeat the Germaine Greer sexual position that was novel even to DF. The John Osborne letters crackle with acid intelligence and guile. Wily Mick Jagger (probably) positioned a certain druggie book title on a table as a nod to DF's chemical treks. Oh, there's much to savour. And there's no malice. Of Tina B, DF remains fond. It's just she's put paid to his career as a celebrity interviewer. Bitch.

Of course, the celebrity interview is still alive and kicking, as cat litter trays everywhere testify. DF does not credit Hello! as another foe, with its seminally inane Q&As and PR-driven drivel, draped around pendants of posy pics of orange skin. The celebrity interviewer (epitomised by the ever self-regarding Piers Morgan) is now favoured, one half of a recorded collision of a double-barrelled marketing campaign to other media, pegged to book/film/whatever releases (as identified in italics at the end).

During my time at Woman's Journal, by far the most successful interview we ran - as measured by headlines generated all over the world - was DF's discourse with Germaine Greer in which she ended up rating lovers by nationality. British men - all homosexual! You can imagine the impact. All achieved by allowing two people of learning to do battle in and on their own terms. Laurie (bless her) felt no need to interfere though she did order me to strike out a "fucking" or two. We were a smart ABC1 glossy after all.

Student hacks (among others) should read this book to script the next retro-revolution in journalism. The online extravaganza of global readerships has scarcely begun - and these billions of the jaded and the seen-it-all will be seeking tit-hardening surprises. Q&As won't do. Mark my words, poppets.

DF's book can be downloaded here now at 99p