Frau Welt


 

You can tell at once that Peter Clements has been honing this character over the past few years. Frau Welt is executed precisely, the performance is tight, the gestures and facial expressions exquisite. Frau may be a large character but there is depth and pathos here. We laugh but we feel more than mirth.

From the moment of her entrance we are captured in her spell. Frau Welt tales the life story of a diva of the theatre (or tee-ay-ter, as Frau says it). Years in the Berliner Ensemble as Mother Courage and Brecht’s mistress; ambitions of Broadway stardom by way of a glomming friendship with one Angela Lansbury… it is also a tale of lost love and secrets. We are captivated, we are won.

Everything about this production is perfection. The sparseness of the stage and props. The deliciously and flawlessly chosen music (including my favourite Judy Garland song, ever), the costume and the wigs. Even though what they have chosen to dress her in must be hotter than hell under those lights.

When Frau Welt makes her entrance in the second act we are faced with a stunning vision, strutting towards us through smoke and techno. Looking spookily like Alla Nazimova in Camille, dressed in silver lurex, this is an image I won’t forget. When I think back on the great theatre I’ve seen in my life, this will be what I remember.

Hackney Showroom was a project launched on a mere 20k, a dream that became a reality of a space for collaboration, development and opportunity for performers and artists and community. It is glorious. Frau Welt is their first in-house production of a full piece of theatre and what a debut. All involved should be rightly proud of this gem. The new Big Space is wonderful. Stark yet welcoming, a classic non-proscenium stage. I fell in love with it at first site. And it’s perfect for such a piece; intimate, comfortable. There’s not a bad seat in the house.

Hackney Showroom have supported and presented countless queer performances and workshops in its short life. This is the kind of space we desperately need and deserve. Be sure to support them by attending performances and other events. You can even pledge donations if you want to contribute even more to this valuable piece of London arts and community life.

Frau Welt runs until 21st October. So, plenty of time to catch it. You will be grateful that you did.

Image by Holly Revell

Jinkx Monsoon & Major Scales


Unwrapped

Review by Corinna Tomrley 

Oh. I knew we were in for a special treat with Jinkx Monsoon and Major Scales because their last show, The Vaudevillians, was so bloody amazing. They work together flawlessly, their timing is impeccable, and they know how to pitch their laughs. And we, the audience, lap it up and beg for more. They are doing a Christmas show at Soho Theatre in London right now. Oh yes, I know, it’s still sodding November and so too early for a Xmas thing. But… this is pretty much an anti-Xmas show so if you are already gagging at this end of year nightmare being stuffed down our throats and dreading that enforced holiday or, like me, avoid it all together, this is actually our show.

After all, half of this double act is Jewish. This holiday is not for her. And Jinkx riffs on this immaculately throughout the show. Major Scales, a delightful foil for Jinkx, is as usual faultless in his craft.

jinkx2

Both Unwrapped and The Vaudevillians are shows that have been honed over time and so the fact that they are exquisitely perfect makes sense. But this is also because they are stunning performers who are at their absolute best doing cabaret in front of a devoted, lucky, lucky audience.

They’ve put on extra dates. Go see this. (I’ve got a massive crush on the pair of them, can you tell?)

Jinkx Monsoon & Major Scales Unwrapped is on at The Soho Theatre, London until 10 December

Vampyres


Vampyres 1974
Review by Corinna Tomrley

This is gonna be full of spoilers blah blah blah. Don’t say I didn’t warn ya.

Vampyres is one of those films that I came across and could not believe I had never even heard of it, let alone seen it. How the hell had this passed me by? Dunno.

A British film – originally distributed by Rank, no less – it’s of the soft soft soft porn genre that sprung up in the early 70s on the back of the collapse of censorship. The studios basically needed to make money, and sex and gore – previously creatively and/or prudishly presented – was all the rage and all over the place. Tits and orange blood, basically.

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This one is more porny than the Hammer films; that probably explains why the acting is so shit. It’s often billed as an ‘erotic horror’.

Props must go to a great credit sequence of slomo flying bats and a great score by James Clarke.

Starring Marianne Morris, a Mayfair centerfold, as Fran and Anulka, a Playboy Playmate, as Miriam, the women simulate lez sex fairly well considering the constraints, ie they’re not going to actually show mouth-to-puss but they do suggest it in rather lovely angles. It’s more than the usual above the waist mouth and neck kissing with the occasional boob peck that we come to know and love in Hammer. When they do simulate going downstairs, as was usual with early lez sex scenes, it’s ‘handless’. But the eroticism (yes, eroticism is actually there and it’s possibly more erotic than porny if we’re being nuanced about it) comes from the mix of sex and blood lust. Drinking blood comes on the back of sex with their male victims, either alone or together as they drink and fuck. Yummerz.

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They’re not traditional fangy vampires, they cut and stab and drink from the wounds. This almost makes it sexier in that it’s more ‘real’, I guess, and certainly amps up the horror. And their victims are suitably terrified (apart from the one who is almost passed out each time it happens to him so he wakes up clueless with a sore arm and strangely lacking a lot of his blood). The vamps’ turn on isn’t from a seductive neck bite but their frenzied attacks fuel their sexual appetites as much as their supping from the wounds.

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Still, these are no mortal vampires. And here’s the thing. It seems to be a straightforward story with a bit of a twist. But I couldn’t quite get the link between the opening scene with what is revealed as a twist. So, this is what happens. It opens with the ladies getting it on in their bedroom of this big house. Just sex, no blood. A strangely dressed man enters and shoots them. This bit is never explained in any way. Was he a husband avenging their lez affair? Who the fuck knows. Is he weirdly dressed to suggest olden days (cuz they basically look like two seventies chicks doing soft porn)? Again, WTFK.

So when we cut to a bloke called Ted turning up at a nearby hotel and an old guy saying he remembers him from years ago and Ted is like, no, don’t know what you’re talking about mate, it kind of plot point infers that he’s the guy who shot them..? You’d think…

It’s even more confusing as to whether Ted actually knows what hotel man is talking about when Ted meets Fran and he says she reminds him of someone he knew long ago. So, you wonder if he knows who she is and if he’s enacting revenge or if he’s having a déjà vu thing. But he never brings it up again, so… what the actual is going on with that plot line? There’s a sort of possible reference to it in the final vaguely twisty scene but we’ll come to that.

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It should be mentioned that there’s this through plot involving a couple in a caravan, John and Harriet. They see Fran standing by the roadside. But the woman also sees Miriam hiding behind a tree. John doesn’t spot Miriam and thinks Harriet is imagining things. She becomes obsessed with the women and why one was hiding. He is really patronizing and a dick about it.

They park their caravan up near the house, which does little to dampen Harriet’s fixation on the women. She starts to see and hear things (male screams, a bloody hand on the window). He’s a bigger asshole about it all.

Although the couple are kind of central to the plot in that they interact with Ted when he comes to them for help (not telling them that his wounds are from sex with his new gf up at the house) and Harriet’s obsession and voyeuristic fascination with the women and their house draws the audience in (except we know what’s happening up there, she doesn’t) it doesn’t really go anywhere either. Fran and Miriam come across her once and Fran suggests they’ve been waiting for her but that doesn’t really lead to anything. For a lot of the film we forget about the couple and then, oh there’s a shot of the caravan or them having it off or her walking around in a woolly hat, nosing about. I expected her to happen upon Ted enslaved and bloodless on the bed. But she doesn’t nose that closely. Instead, she does a painting of the house.  All this vagueness makes it even more shocking when the couple are killed. When John’s killed, sure, that’s a convention. It makes her terror greater. And he deserved it, the dick. But when Harriet is slaughtered, it becomes reminiscent of the kind of killing you’ll see in later period horror than that of the early 70s. One of the ‘innocents’ usually survives, especially a woman. Her death is really full on ‘real’ too. Still can’t quite get over it.

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This brings me to the other murders and blood drinking in the film. Bodies of men are being found all over the place and even though the police are obviously involved we don’t see them investigating. You know, is it a coinkidink that all these men are found on a stretch of road where two birds are hitchhiking every day. For that’s why Fran and Miriam are hanging about on the side of the road, you see. Sometimes Fran will get picked up on her own (with Miriam lurking behind the tree), Miriam will pick someone up or they both will. It has to be said that this makes the tree-lurking even weirder. Why don’t they both always do it together or maybe the other one have a lay-in? What guy is going to be put off by two hot chicks wanting a ride? Yeah, sure, you can get in but your nubile lesbian gf with her tits showing will have to walk…

So, anyway, they pick them up and smile at them and, not surprisingly, by the time they get to the house the guys are up for sex and wine. Cuz the girls have a cellar full of amazing wine. If hot chicks won’t pull you, then a nice vintage will. They get the men so drunk that by the time the girls are thirsty for blood the men have no chance. Perhaps it makes the blood nicer, too. You know, like with a stew.

Fran picks up Ted and takes him to their house. Ted asks if she does this with all of her ‘dates’ inferring she’s a sex worker but he basically becomes her bf or bleeding sex and blood slave for the rest of the film. Because this one she doesn’t kill. He wakes up with a massive gash on his arm and blood on the bed, feeling really weak. But instead of going, oh shit what happened I must get away, he hangs around. He waits for her all day (she’s nipped off to bed in the graveyard), sitting in his car. He’s pissed off and moody when she returns but she’s like, oh shit sorry I had to nip out, and he goes alright and goes back in the house with her. They did seem to have pretty hot sex (even if his wet tongue was quite gross to watch), so no wonder really. But I assumed he was hanging around because he’s onto who she is and he’s like a Van Helsing or something. Oh no. He just goes back for more and more, getting weaker and weaker and gets pissed off with her disappearing and bringing other blokes back – one of whom he sees dead in his car on that stretch of road – but still he stays. But then she’s a vamp and she’s hot and he’s getting some and in the end he can hardly move anyway.

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There’s a bit where Fran and Miriam are having a shower together, washing off the blood before they nip back to their grave. Again, not trad vamps as running water is a definite fatal no-no, btw. Instead, they have sex with Miriam going down on Fran. The camera POV is as if they’re being watched through some plants and I thought we were to assume that it was Ted. But we don’t get a shot of him and if it was he’d know what their game was. So it would seem that this bit of camera work suggests that the voyeurs are us. I think this is probably just a porn trope because we’re voyeurs for the whole bloody film and the camera’s not suggesting lurky peepers for the rest of the movie.

Miriam (whilst going downtown) admonishes Fran for not killing Ted outright and it’s never really explained why she doesn’t. Is it cuz she’s getting good sex? Is she relishing weakening him and having a play toy on hand? Is it because he’s the male lead and we get to see them having it off a lot and it is after all an ‘erotic’ film? And one is usually bled dry whilst the others die outright in a vamp film plot…

Ted somehow finds the strength to leave the house and goes to the couple for help. They get killed and he drives away. But the sun is coming up so the vamps have to get back to their graves. It’s either they perish in daylight (presumably, though the film is playing fast and loose with vampire tropes and they hitch in the day time so who the fuck knows anymore?) or he gets away.

He’s found by an estate agent almost passed out in his car with an empty bottle of wine. TWISTY TIME!!!!!!! The estate agent is showing an older American couple around the estate. It’s empty and up for sale; DUH DUH DUHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH! They ask about ‘the rumours’. Estate agent is like, oh yeah two women were brutally murdered and it’s made it hard to shift the place. There’s fear the killer will return and their ghosts are said to haunt it but it’s obviously bullshit, of course. The older couple are delighted. How cute to have an English pile with a ghost! Oh, how lucky for them that two chicks were shot to death there. Fun!

And that’s it. Bloke gets away but who’s gonna believe him, I guess? Despite the tons of dead bodies everywhere. Although will he tell? He hasn’t before. AND WAS HE THE ONE WHO SHOT THEM AT THE BEGINNING? WHO THE FUCKING HELL KNOWS????? Is that the inference to the killer returning? It’s so vague and, really, this is so hit you over the head with everything else that I don’t think vagueness is part of the aesthetic.

Btw – the lady of The American Couple is Bessie Love who goes back to silent days, pretty much worked up to her death in the 80s when her last film was another lez vamp flick – The Hunger. This is my fave picture of her.

bessie-love

So, yeah, Vampyres.

Great lez sex and blood drinking film though so this film gets a very bloody vampy thumbs up from me despite plot holes and shit acting. Actually, that adds to it all really. Two bloody thumbs up.

Mariah Carey’s Lyrics


By Corinna Tomrley aka Lezzer Bangs 

Whenever I tell non-Lambily members that Mariah Carey is one of the best lyricists ever they almost universally say, ‘she doesn’t write her own songs, does she?’ or ‘are you sure it’s HER writing the lyrics?’ Eyeroll. Yes and very yes. I always wonder whether if it was a man pop star if the doubt would be so strong as with women who write their own lyrics. Anyway. She DOES. And if you paid attention to Mimi you would know that she does because she doesn’t bloody shut up about it. However, if I was her and every time my lyric authorship was mentioned it was doubted, I wouldn’t bloody shut up, either.

If you’re non-Lambily you’re probably saying, wait there, Lezzer, what the hell is Lambily? And I will again roll my eyes and sigh and condescendingly explain.

Mariah calls her fans her Lambs. So, we are in the Lambily. There. You’re welcome.

There’s many reasons to love Mimi’s lyrics. There’s inventiveness, there’s wit, there’s tons of pop cultural references and she doesn’t give a shit if they’re dated or will date. And there’s words that you would never find in anyone else’s songs. She can turn a phrase that sums up getting cheated on or fancying someone in a club and wanting to get on that and falling in love and having loads of money and bragging about it like no one else even comes close to. She is a fucking lyric genius and should be acknowledged as such.

So, no longer be surprised that Mariah Carey writes her own lyrics. Accept the fact, bitches. And then listen and worship at the alter that is Mimi’s oeuvre and her extraordinary poetry.

Here are some of my faves.

Heartbreaker

I first noticed Mimi’s lyrical prowess when I was singing along to Heartbreaker and I suddenly cried out, ‘hang on. Who would think to use the word incessantly in a song?’ And it works so well musically. So not only is it an unusual lyric choice, it is the most appropriate choice for the tune. I have to reiterate – GENIUS, darlings.

See also: I was oh so acquiescent, but I learned my lesson – It’s A Wrap

I get kind of hectic inside – Fantasy

I no longer live in your dominion – The Art Of Letting Go

Conspicuous consumption

Yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s kind of assholey to brag about your wealth, especially with so many of us with nothing. But when Mimi does it she’s simultaneously cute, endearing, and hilarious af. And at least she’s not pretending like she doesn’t have all that, she is no Jenny from the block (she, after all, doesn’t know her).

Behold the following examples.

In Get Your Number our girl picks up Jermaine Dupri in a club and asks, ‘tell me a little something about you’ but before he can answer she offers, ‘here’s a little something about me’ and informs him

‘I got a house in Capri and my own G4 and that Benz with the doors that lift up from the floor’

Then for the next verse she slays with

‘I got a pimp penthouse with a sick hot tub, we can watch the flat screen, while the bubbles fill it up’

And that is perhaps my second favourite Mariah Carey lyric.

And the thing is that this is a gender swap. Men are expected to brag about what they’ve got to women to pull them. Here’s a red hot chick who doesn’t need to brag or even open her mouth to speak. But she will. She will speak and be heard and what she is saying is she’s got it all, darling. Listen to her. And what you have to say better measure up to her stuff.

Then there’s the appropriately named Money. Actually called Money ($*/…)

‘Money, this, that, the other

Don’t mean nothing other than

Jets for holidays and

Chefs with hollandaise

Expensive lingerie, cuz I come home to you’

Although I did think it was ‘don’t need nothing other than…’ which would be funnier…

And for Shake It Off she tells the cheating a-hole she’s leaving that

‘See I grabbed all my diamonds and clothes

Just ask your momma she knows’

It’s a Wrap

There is SO much lyric magic in this song. OMFG. Pretty much the whole thing. Even ‘so just scoo da doo da doot, baby’. So where to begin? How about ‘know you seen me calling and calling, I should crack you right in your forehead’. ‘Ain’t no donuts, ain’t no coffee, see ya’. ‘Let me take a breath and regain my composure. Told you one more time if you f-ed up it’s over’. ‘Been sitting here all night, leave me alone. Since one o’clock a.m. been drinking Patron’. Oh. Sigh. And for the filmmakers among us she riffs on the ‘it’s a wrap’ theme and tells him, ‘boy, I ain’t checking the gate’. I mean.

The second verse deserves to be fully recognized:

If I ever misrepresented

My self-image

Then I’m sorry

I was oh so acquiescent

But I learn my lesson

Boy, you’re sorry

Buh buh buh

All out in the open

Don’t make me go call Maury Povich

I had to look up what acquiescent meant. And I’m a PhD. And a Maury Povich ref? I love you Mimi, so frikkin much.

Heck, while we’re here let’s look at the last verse:

Put all your shit in the elevator

It’s going down like a denominator

Trying to keep holding on, holding on

Boy, let me go

You gon’ wake my neighbors, get away from my door

That was your last shot, you ain’t coming back

It’s the martini I mean it baby

It’s wrap

Fyi, the martini refers to the ‘martini shot’, which is the final shot of the day on a film set. Let’s look at what else is going on there. ‘It’s going down like a denominator’. Wonderful. Tell me another who would put that word in a song lyric. ‘You’re gon’ wake my neighbours get away from my door’. We’re there, we’re in the scene. That bitch is gone from Mimi’s life. She means it, boy. Get away from her door or you’ll have us to deal with. You would prefer that to Mimi when she’s mad at you, believe us… Especially as she’s been on the tequila all night. That’s why there ain’t no donuts. No donuts for you, baby, ever, ever again.

Product placement

Mimi isn’t afraid to make cultural references in her songs and she does like to call on some brand names to help her out. These are some of my top choices.

Just like a Calgon commercial I really gotta get up outta here and go somewhere – Shake It Off

Seeing right through you like you’re bathing in Windex – Obsessed

He’s all up in my George Foreman – Obsessed

Boy you’re acting so corny like Fritos – Infinity

Pull down them Tom Fords and act like you see’

And then there’s the talk show refs. We’ve already had Maury Povich in It’s A Wrap but there’s also Betcha Gon’ Know

‘This is for real, for real, for real

Oprah Winfrey, whole segment, for real, for real

20/20, Barbara Walters, for real, for real

60 minutes for real

And for Touch My Body

Cuz baby they be all up in my business, like a Wendy interview

Mimi’s also on it with social media refs, in Touch My Body she warns

If there’s a camera up in here

Then I’d best not catch this flick

On YouTube

And in Thirsty she says

So you stunting on your Instagram

But that shit ain’t everything

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Cheating and breaking up

So we’ve had It’s A Wrap, which is a break up song and as he’s not been taking her calls we may assume it’s cuz he was with someone else. Well, there’s a fair old few catching him cheating songs in Mimi’s catalogue. And she captures it like no one else. Well, until Bey’s 90 Lemonade writers came along and made it a manifesto of catching someone cheating, that is.

Mentioned above is Betcha Gon’ Know and this song is about cheating, it’s about catching them in the act and they still fucking deny they’re doing anything. I mean. We’ve been there, Mimi darling, and we’re in that moment with you in Betcha Gon’ Know. It’s a two parter. The first (The Prologue) she catches them and runs off and he doesn’t know she knows. The second she catches him and confronts him. In the second part, we have ‘his’ side when she has (shudder) R Kelly as the ‘she drugged me and took advantage honey honest’ male protagonist caught literally with his pants down and a naked chick in her robe in her bedroom. These tracks are from Me I Am Mariah The Elusive Chanteuse which was her post being cheated on by husband Nick Cannon album so there’s a lot of heavy shit here. Is this what happened? We presume so. Oh hang on, she opens with ‘welcome to a day of my life. The memoirs of an imperfect angel’. So yeah, it is then.

In the prologue she sees them at it and drives away trying to get her head around what she’s found.

So I pulled to the side of the road to fix my face

But I can’t cover with makeup what my tears want to make

Then we have one of the great, extraordinary pieces of lyricism in this song (which is laden with greatness), when she’s come back into the apartment not knowing whether to acknowledge that she knows what happened.

I creep into the driveway

Tip toe through the door

But you’re there wide awake

You’re like ‘where you been?’

I’m like ‘sorry but I fell asleep on Jasmine’s sofa

I could have swore to Ray-Ray

I called you and told ya’

You like, ‘you ok?’

I’m like, ‘Mm, alright. Go to sleep and I’ll be fine’

And it’s that ‘Mm, alright’ that is a perfect simulation of a verbal moment in speech and SHE HAS IT IN THE LYRICS.

Ok, so next we have another example of the extraordinary breaking up song, from the same album: The Art Of Letting Go. It’s beautiful, it’s epic yet understated at the same time. It deserves a full sharing of the lyrics of the song because they are amazing. And it ends with the best Mariah Carey lyric ever. Behold:

I’m making a statement of my own opinion

Just a brief little reminder to help myself remember

I no longer live in your dominion (no, no, no, no, no, no ooh)

You’re just trifling, nothing more than a liability

Got up and laid all your possessions

Outside the kitchen window right now

 

Letting go, letting go ain’t easy

Oh, it’s just exceedingly hurtful

Cuz somebody you used to know

Is flinging your world around

And they watch, as you’re falling down, down, down

Falling down, baby

 

Evidently your words were merely lies

Reverberating in my ears

And the echo won’t subside

There’s a deep deep loss of hope

And the anger burns in me

I hope you don’t get no ideas ’bout re-uniting baby

Cuz that’s the last thing I truly need

Your audacity is too much to be believed, so

Go to Mimi on your contacts, press delete

 

See also: Infinity (the whole thing) and ‘We went round for round til we knocked love out’ – H.A.T.E.U.

Also, X-Girlfriend – If Mimi can write a poisonous song to a lover or ex lover she also knows how to tell off the ex-girlfriend of a new lover. You know, the kind who have not learned the art of letting go.

Seduction and getting it on

As she’s one of the hottest women on the planet and she knows it, Mimi can spin a lyric like nobody’s business about fancying someone, knowing they fancy her and that they’re gonna do it.

My personal favourite is from one of my favourite Mariah tunes, Say Something (with Snoop Dog)

She says:

I am over here, looking at you

You are over there, watching me too

Both painting pictures of

Of how we’ll kiss and fuck

So what we gonna do?

I mean. Amirite? Yeah? Yeah.

Tell me why we’re standing here

The moment’s fresh and so sincere

You got my mind blown

And baby I’m ready to go

So they’ve pulled Mimi. But wait… not so easy, partner

But, uh, if it’s worth your while

Then say somethin’ say somethin’

If it’s worth your while then say something good to me

And isn’t that all we really want when we pull? Sure I want you and I can see you want me. But it won’t hurt to use the words. The words. Goddamn how many times I’ve just wanted some words. Words are miraculous. Words are wonderful. Yeah actions, body language, looks are great. But words are sometimes the best thing. Tell me how you feel. Tell me what you want. Say something good to me. Cuz if you do, you might just get to shag Mariah in the loo as happens in this song. Just sayin’ (something good to me).

Another great example is her duet with Miguel, #Beautiful, and her part is great but his first verse and chorus is so hot and sexy and respectful. Again with the words. Oysh.

Hop on the back of my bike

Let the good wind blow through your hair

With a ass like that

And a smile so bright

Oh you’re killing me you know it ain’t fair

Ride on through the middle of the night

Let the moonlight kiss your skin

When you dance like that

With your cheeks so tight

Oh you’re killing me

Baby do it again

You’re beautiful

And your mind is fucking beautiful

And I can’t pretend that that doesn’t mean a thing

To me to me

You’re beautiful

Good lord you’re fucking beautiful

And I can’t pretend that that doesn’t mean a thing

To me to me

He loves her body and her mind and that’s just the most fucking beautiful thing

 

See also: Get Your Number (see example above for how to pull Mariah when she’s bragging about all the stuff she’s got); and I’m That Chick

Da Brat

Finally, my actual favourite lyric in a Mariah Carey song is not a Mariah Carey lyric but comes from a rap by her sometime gf (yes, really. It was in The National Enquirer and everything), Da Brat, in the remix of Loverboy.

brat_mariah-carey

I first heard Loverboy when my ex-bf (who is responsible for getting me into Mimi’s music. I was already a fan of her ass, see here for details) bought the enhanced CD. Remember, those kids? It had the video on it! Why you would ever play the audio single when you had that to look at, I have no idea. Unfortunately, there doesn’t appear to be a decent version of that video on Youtube, just blurry ones. Someone get an enhanced CD from ebay and rip it and upload it, will ya? Thanks. Anyway, I was smitten. And Loverboy became my favourite Mimi song, by miles. It is an absolute coinkidink that I ended up working for a glorious, queer magazine called Loverboy, named after that same song. Well, perhaps it was fated, if you believe in that sort of thing. So, there’s Mimi with a kerchief for a top and short short shorts and there’s racing cars and blah blah blah. It’s magnificent. But it’s not just the visuals actually, I promise. The song is AMAYYYYYYYZING!!! And, of course lyrically it’s stunning.

I got myself a lover, who knows what I like

When he invites me over I come every time

So so so so so hot. When you get one of them, keep ‘em.

And when my sugar daddy takes me for a ride

Everywhere we go is delirium time

Delirium time!!!!!! I love delirium time! It’s my favourite time!

And also

I’ve got myself a lover, and he’s so sublime

It’s quite a bit of heaven to feel him inside

This song is filthy and it’s wonderful.

So, anyway, there’s an inevitable remix and on it Da Brat raps the best thing ever.

Banana split my dairy queen

Butterfinger my tangerine

And there we have it: a food metaphor lyric which pretty much sums up bisexual sex. How perfect is it? Very, very perfect, darlings.

banana-split

And I am going to have a tramp stamp tattoo (reclaiming the slut shaming of the concept of tramp stamp) of that lyric with a Dairy Queen logo, a stylized banana split, the Butterfinger logo and a cute anthropomorphic tangerine fluttering her eyelashes. And the kickstarter to fund that will be up shortly. Tattoo artists, please get in touch. Especially if you want to do it for free and I don’t have to try to do a failed kickstarter for it. Go on, you know you want to have that as the prime example of your work. And to mark me.

The end.

mariah-carey-jeans

 

 

Shoot The Sissy


Nando Messias’ powerful theatre piece The Sissy’s Progress drew on the artist’s own experience of a homophobic attack and was one of the most profound things I have ever seen. Stunning, emotive, challenging; Nando is a compelling performer producing essential queer work. His new show Shoot The Sissy continues to confront homophobic violence and living visibly queer. Corinna Tomrley spoke to him about the piece.

Your work is confrontational, beautiful, moving and empowering but you dont shy away from the real lived pain of being queer in a homophobic world. Why do you think it is important to address queer violence through your art?
Confrontation, beauty, emotion and empowerment are things I hope to evoke in an audience when creating work so I feel flattered to have you describe it like that. As a subject, queer violence is important but I don’t see addressing it as a choice. Dealing with it is, rather, a responsibility, a moral duty for me. That is not to say that speaking of violence is an easy endeavour. It isn’t. By no means. Looking at violence can be quite painful at times, especially when I am so deeply ensnared in its mechanisms. What moves me to develop new work is a sense that I have something to say about queer violence, perhaps some insider information that might give insight to others who, like me, are its captives or to those who are not necessarily targets of violence but who are, nevertheless, committed to fighting against it or ameliorating its destructive effects. Shying away from this lived pain is, again, not a choice. I feel lucky to have the creative and artistic tools that I have. They allow me to face the negative aspects of living as a queer person with enough critical distance to be able to transform them into something productive and, hopefully, even beautiful.

Nando Messias: The Sissy's Progress17.3.16

©Richard Eaton 07778 395888
Nando Messias: The Sissy’s Progress Image by Richard Eaton ©Richard Eaton 07778 395888

The Sissys Progress was one of the most powerful pieces of theatre Ive ever seen. With Shoot The Sissy you are further exploring the idea of the vulnerable queer body. Will we see The Sissy in more works in the future?
I’m glad you enjoyed it! And, yes, Shoot the Sissy also explores the vulnerability of the queer body. Whereas in The Sissy’s Progress I was making a public statement about visibility and ownership of my own body by reclaiming my space on the streets, with Shoot the Sissy the mood is more introspective. It began with a series of questions: Am I a freak? What makes me a freak? What are the ideological similarities between ‘queer’ and ‘freak’? Can I use this alliance between queer and freak as a theatrical ruse to explore questions of vulnerability, visibility, ridicule, spectacle? Why do people stare at me? As a performer, do I like being stared at? Can I make it stop when it gets too much or too dangerous? I was aware that the freak show was a delicate subject so I approached it with caution. This I did by trying to remain true to my own story, hoping that what is deeply personal becomes, when placed in front of an audience, universal and therefore effective in ways that I cannot predict. Shoot the Sissy is the third in a series of performances with the word Sissy in the title. The first one was simply Sissy! (sic, with an exclamation mark, like a shouted insult). In it, I developed a duet in collaboration with Biño Sauitzvy where my effeminate body became even more so in contrast with his more masculine, muscular one. The second was The Sissy’s Progress, which you’ve seen and now we have Shoot the Sissy. My intention is to continue developing work based on the Sissy but of course my understanding of Sissy is also changing.

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Youre not afraid to make the audience uncomfortable in presenting how it feels to live queer and visible in a hostile society. I kept expecting you to fight back in The Sissy’s Progress. It’s a very Brechtian approach not to allow the audience that catharsis, and therefore has its own active power, doesnt it?
 I feel I would be doing myself a disservice if I held back on the representation of some of those issues. The point of the piece was to expose the daily abuse suffered by queer subjects. My efforts to go out onto the streets in a ball gown and with marching band in tow paid off in the end. The work activated the kind of dynamic I wanted the audience to witness. Various things were hurled at me during the parade section: from insults to threats to tins of energy drink. In a way, the performance simply framed what is already out there on the streets but remains hidden to most or unseen. I also wanted to avoid the ‘me against them’ discourse. This is perhaps why I chose not to fight back. I wanted the audience to find a resolution to this story for themselves without me steering their opinion in one direction. The hope is that the work then becomes multi-layered in meaning. I was also careful not to romanticise this terrible attack that happened to me by creating a happy ending narrative because, sadly, the reality is that it doesn’t always end well.

Who are some of your favourite sissies?
NM: Quentin Crisp, Oscar Wilde, Truman Capote, Noël Coward, Cecil Beaton, James Baldwin, Oliver Button…

I love the idea of the freak show element to Shoot The Sissy. We are enfreakened as otherby straight society, but to own freakis very powerful. Will you play with this in the performance?
Yes, I do. Shoot the Sissy was directly inspired by the sideshow attraction, Shoot the Freak, where a carnival barker invites passersby to shoot a human target by using paintball guns. I was also thrust into action by the Orlando shootings of June 2016, where 49 queer people lost their lives and another 53 were wounded in a mass terrorist attack/hate crime. I had just finished a tour of a piece that questioned the conditions under which queer people live when this happened. I felt that there was work yet to be done. In researching the subject of freak shows, I connected with this idea of a theatricalised, exaggerated version of difference that is presented to the audience. Freaks often invented a highly elaborate biography to heighten their otherness in the eyes of an audience. They used costumes, props, music and other theatrical elements to construct an artificial image. This created a context where real life and imagined life began to blur. All this artifice transformed their real bodies into a spectacle, an invitation for the audience to gaze. I wondered if the fascination to stare at the body of the other, which these shows promoted, was in certain ways a form of asserting one’s own ‘normality.’ Perhaps that is what is going on when I am stared at on the streets: men and women gawk, point at and ridicule me because that is their way of trying to prove to themselves that they are normal, cis-gendered and therefore not sissies like me.

Shoot The Sissy is at Chelsea Theatre 18th and 19th October 

Main image by Holly Revell 

Jason Mecier


We’ve long loved the art of Jason Mecier. Made from found objects including pills, candy, foodstuffs, and trash, his work puts him at the forefront of the queer celebrity portrait movement. I’ve not actually seen anyone else recognizing this as a movement but I tell you it is. Along with Jason, Wayne Hollowell, Rocky Helminski, Kev Clarke, Sina Sparrow, Wayne Moraghan, Mari Kasurinen – and, ehem, me – are all working with stars/celebrities as our subject, most if not all of us are queer. It’s a movement, darlings.

Jason’s had commissions from the stars themselves and used their own trash in his work. He’s also produced pieces where the medium was appropriate to the subject such as his seminal Kevin Bacon made out of bacon.

Jason Mecier’s latest exhibition is in one of Ethel’s favourite art mediums: marvel, darlings, at The Real Housewives of Macaroni.

Even the goddamn FRAMES are made out of noodles!

Jason has portrayed some of our fave hysterical, surgeried ladies in pasta and they look good enough to eat. Plus, his exhibition coincides with National Noodle Day (6 Oct) and National Pasta Day (17 Oct). What a way to celebrate.

So, if you’re San Francisco way, get yourselves down to Dog Eared Books Castro from 13th October through December. Now… Ethel’s got to go and get herself a big old plate of mac and cheese…

Real Housewives of Macaroni

New portraits by Jason Mecier

October – December 2016

Artist Reception Thursday Oct 13, 7- 9pm

Dog Eared Books Castro

489 Castro St.

San Francisco, CA 94114

Open Every Day 10am – 10pm

415-658-7920

 

 

Magnificent 7


Review by Corinna Tomrley

Hmmm. So, westerns have always been, or had the potential to be, pretty problematic. Or to put it another way, basic and/or offensive in their treatment of race, morality, women, oh I dunno, pretty much everything. Later ones did tend to address or even overturn some of this. Genres, after all, aren’t static. And I know I know we can look at the westerns from the beginnings of cinema to, what the 70s, even the 80s perhaps and say ‘they have to be viewed in their historical context’. But in 2016?

I am pretty baffled, actually, by what I’ve just watched. And also about the experience of watching it in a massive West End IMAX cinema with a bunch of predominantly critical people. I’m gonna make a sweeping assumption that lots of these people will (or should) be clued in that laughing at racist ‘jokes’ isn’t ok. There are quite a few aspects of The Magnificent Seven remake that are iffy and it totally obliterated any of the qualities that the film has underneath all of that.

Now, confession time: I’ve not seen the original (or Seven Samurai). Although, to be honest, I kind of want to now despite westerns being one of the genres that does little for me. But despite not being a fan, I’ve seen westerns, believe me. I grew up having to sit through the spaghetti ones again and again and again. Watched some in film school. And then had a boyfriend who liked the Leone ones and I can appreciate their majesty. Red River is also one of my favourite films, despite me hating John Wayne. But then Monty Clift is in it and the juxtaposition between him and Wayne is fascinating. And there’s that homoerotic gunplay scene with Monty and John Ireland. But, on the whole, I wouldn’t really choose to see most of them.

Yet I know that they can be done well and casual racism and Native-Americans-as-evil tropes are addressed and overturned in more modern ones. And you might get a ‘strong woman’ in there too.

So here’s the thing. In The Magnificent Seven, there’s seven of them (natch) and three of the seven are white.

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We have the unusual blockbuster occurrence that the majority of the heroes are people of colour. Wow, amazing. Pretty wonderful. But then it’s not so great. On the whole, they are ‘types’ that are somewhat clichéd depictions their racial identities: the martial artist Asian character (Lee Byung-Hun), the lone wanderer Native-American character (Martin Sensmeier). With the Mexican character (Miguel Garcia-Rulfo), it’s not him that is the stereotype. No, something much worse happens; that I’ll come to in a minute. But whilst you have all of these characters whose race is addressed, the main character, Chisolm, the big boss of the 7, is black. And no one mentions it. And it’s, what? Late 1880s? When I am pretty sure his presence wouldn’t have been automatically accepted by all and sundry. I have no qualms with Denzel Washington’s casting as the lead role. I love him and he’s good in it and that should happen much more often. But this isn’t a ‘colour blind’ film and so it can’t be a ‘colour blind’ character. It was just very odd. And in a way made the stereotyping of the other non-white characters even more shit.

SPOILER ALERT: I did wonder if the reveal at the end was a reference to his race. As a result of Bad Man Bogue’s greed, Chisolm’s mother was raped, his sisters killed and Chisholm was strung up and bears the scars. Yes, rape, murder etc is something that Bogue’s men do to everyone, but the mention of lynching cannot help but evoke specific racist violence. Still, this doesn’t explain why a whole town – although suspicious when Chisolm first arrives – is totally accepting of him (and indeed the multicult of the whole gang).

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But not all the characters are beyond being racist. Oh no. I was flabbergasted when  Faraday (Chris Pratt), did a ‘lazy, drunk Mexican’ impression to take the piss out of Vasquez and it was not overturned, questioned, or anything. In fact, horrifyingly, the audience I was in laughed. I blurted out, ‘yeah, cuz racism is so funny, isn’t it?’ Why was that  supposed to be funny? It’s not. It’s childish and awful.

Oh but Corinna, I hear you cry, you can’t one minute complain that racism isn’t depicted and then complain when it is. Except it’s not that simple. Up to this point in the film, Faraday has been the jovial, conceited yet charming one. It’s Chris Pratt ffs. So I assume we’re supposed to find this, what, endearing? Are we supposed to laugh with him? I was waiting for the moment later on when this would be addressed in some way, making that incident one that Faraday learns from. But, nope. There’s just more egotistical joshing from Faraday, the lovable, racist cutiepie.

The next problematic character is Jack Horne, played – it has to be said – magnificently by Vincent D’Onofrio. Now, I’ve always thought D’Onofrio is one of the best actors of his generation and despite getting some acclaim, is pretty much underrated considering his chops. He should be being spoken of as the Brando of our time. No, not quite that because he doesn’t do the messy, self-destructive showboating of a Brando. D’Onofrio is so good. And in this, he is, by miles, the strongest of all the cast. He’s so great, though, it’s almost like he’s in a different film. His characterization is just compelling. But his character is a former ‘scalp hunter’ made redundant when the government stopped paying for the slaughter of the indigenous people. Oh, there’s a smidge of ‘tension’ between him and Comanche Red Harvest and a joke is made that Red is nervous about Horne checking out his hairline… cuz genocide is fucking hilarious too, right? So he’s a hideous character with a horrific past. But what do they make fun of? Oh, he’s fat. And he stutters a bit and his voice is high. If Jack Horne had not been a mass murderer of indigenous people I could have fallen in love with him and watched a two hour film just about him as Vincent D’Onofrio played him. Fuck you Hollywood for making the worst of the bunch the most sympathetic and fully rounded. Although I suspect in anyone else’s hands he’d have been as 2D as the rest of them.

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But – racism out of the equation – the shallow, two-dimensional can be ok in a cliché-ridden genre. And I actually liked that director Fuqua pays homage with a gun fight that has a stuntman falling from a saloon balcony, another ‘thrown’ through a window etc, etc. But the casting alone is surely supposed to be addressing race in some way? No, why do that, silly. It would make all the white people in the audience uncomfortable. We’re just there to see all the ‘bad guys’ being shot, right? Because the men the 7 are there to fight are the really evil ones. A genocidal guy is ok, really, because he wants to hang out with the gang and help the poor folks of the town. And those tomahawky, slashy skills are gonna come in real handy when the shit hits the fan.

There’s a female character, played by Haley Bennett who is ‘tough’ but she’s so by-the-by, a cliché in herself as the tough woman in a western and wheeled out at a few key moments and then forgotten so that I couldn’t really care about her. Which, you know, as a chick and a feminist, I should, right? I was more distracted as to why this ‘good wife’ of the town was dressed so that her tits kept showing. Was that for the boys in the audience? So that when the gun fighting and machismo weren’t quite enough for them they had something to look at as the woman shot people and cried? Yeah, she’s got moxie but don’t get threatened because look she’s also got blood spatters on her cleavage. She’s tough but you can think about her tits and her tears.

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The showdown is ok. I was there, I was pulled into the desire for revenge and slaughter of the ‘bad’ army of baddy baddies. But it went on forever and I lost focus and interest part way through it. And, as is my bugbear with most action films, I lost the plot with what I was actually watching. Perhaps sitting front row of an IMAX isn’t a good idea after all. But I have a feeling that even if I watch it on telly it will still be too fast, too much cutting and I’ll start thinking about something else. Like, why are we supposed to care about this again?

The Magnificent Seven is in UK cinemas from Friday 23rd September 

Don’t Breathe


… Or, confessions of a scary movie wuss.

Review by Corinna Tomrley 

I’ve got a really weird relationship with scary films. I generally declare that I don’t do horror films, that I can’t take scary. And, on the whole, it’s true. But then I’ll mention a film I love and someone will say ‘that’s terrifying!’ Or I’ll say I can’t watch something and I’ll get a look of ‘my kid could take watching that’. So I’m contrary. But on the whole, I try to avoid it.

When I was a small kid and we got our first video player my family rented a lot of horror films. I kind of had to watch them so I’d lay there right in front of the TV with my hands beside my face so that no one would see that I’d close my eyes at the terrifying parts and take the piss out of me. But you don’t always have to see to absorb fear. And I heard and saw enough.

I also grew up watching stuff on TV and some of that was Hammer Horror. It developed my burgeoning sexuality and because it was more campy than truly petrifying, I could deal with that. But then there’s things like I adore Carrie, The Exorcist, Amityville Horror. But I cannot cope with Amityville 2: The Possession (it’s all about the POV of the demon. Fucking hell, just writing that…)

But in the last year I’ve been trying to challenge myself a bit when it comes to scary things. I watched The Blair Witch Project for the first time ever. And by myself. At night. (*Proud face) Perhaps not a great idea for someone who has nightmares virtually every night but I did it. And survived. I’m currently editing a horror novel and even though there’s been moments (when I’ve been generally glad it’s day time and not the middle of the night that I got to that bit), I’m dealing with it OK.

And when I got the invite to a press screening of Don’t Breathe I thought, hell. I’m gonna do this.

I couldn’t get anyone to go with me but I still decided to attend. I did prepare myself by watching part of the trailer beforehand, just to make sure that it wasn’t too hideous. There are some topics and scenes that I still won’t put in my head. But it seemed like something I could do. I told a friend and he said ‘I’m immune to horror and I found that trailer terrifying’. This kind of made me more determined to go.

I say I watched part of the trailer and that’s because I prefer to know as little as possible before I go and see a film. It’s more ‘pure’ an experience that way. But because I needed to make sure I could potentially do this I watched a bit. But not all because I didn’t want too much given away. Trailers can be assholes.

When I got there something happened to me that has never happened before at a press screening. Someone talked to me. It turned out he could be scared too and as he has served in Afghanistan it made me feel less wussy that I can get scared. There’s good reasons why this stuff shits us up. It’s not a weakness. He did say that he tends to laugh inappropriately when he’s scared. I said I sometimes did too but was more likely to be heard exclaiming ‘Shiiiiiiiiiiiitttttttttttt!’. Both those things happened. I was glad he was there in the cinema with me. It somehow made it better. As if I had an ally.

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Don’t Breathe is part thriller part horror. I don’t want to give stuff away so I’ll just tell you that it’s about a group of young things breaking in to a house to do a robbery but they get more than they bargain for with the house’s occupant. The villains become the victims and vice versa. I thought I might find it hard to side with the kids but their characters are drawn so that most of them are very likable and you can’t help but put yourself in their shoes. (And then take them off again when you get into the house)

The film is most magnificently shot. It cleverly sets up signposts that at first appear like bleeding obvious exposition but you realize it’s like a game where you have to recall under pressure the clues they gave you. The camera work and editing are gorgeously seamless as well as rightfully showy and it makes this creepy house seem almost beautiful. The acting is really excellent. David Shepherd from Lost has really come into his own. And Jane Levy is good as the woman protagonist – equally savvy, tough and victimy without it being hard to watch as a fellow chick. There’s a bit of squirm misogyny but it does work within the story. I didn’t find it too exploitative and I don’t think it will give me PTSD (I’m not exaggerating here. I don’t think I’ll ever get over the torture scene in Wolf Creek). I did worry that the guy in the house being blind (and being called Blind Man in the credits) would be disablist but it was incorporated rather than being spectacle. There’s always going to be tricky balance issues with both these points. The same with the war-vet as psycho trope.

On the whole the characterization and filming of this story is excellently executed, full of tension, jump scares and tight pacing. The score is creepy as fuck and I was compelled from the first till last shot. I think all these things – as well as watching with an audience instead of scarily at home – made this film one I could handle and certainly one I recommend people checking out. Am I a horror convert? No. I’m still a weirdo about what I can and can’t do. But I’ll keep pushing that bloody envelope, be assured.

Don’t Breathe opens in UK cinemas 9 September 

Carrie


By Corinna ESP Tomrley

I just found out that The ICA are having a 40th anniversary screening of Carrie on 24th September. I squealed and bought a ticket (I’m going to the prom, mama, and you can’t stop me). It’s being presented by feminist film collective The Final Girls and there is going to be a panel discussion. The blurb said something about De Palma’s films being problematic and I get that, when you consider his oeuvre and how women are often helpless victims etc. But – Carrie? Really? They call her a ‘divisive female protagonist’. I can’t wait to hear about that. Divisive how? Surely everyone loves her, roots for her, cheers on her revenge. No?

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For me, Carrie is one of the most powerful women ever to have graced the screen. And, actually, when I was just thinking about it, the character doesn’t even have to be a woman. I’d love to see a version where it is a queer kid (of any gender) who is our hero. Maybe I’ll write that.

Because Carrie is my hero. She has been since I was a kid and first read the novel by Stephen King. And read it over and over and over and over and over. I think I read the novel before I saw the film but can’t swear by that. The experiences probably wouldn’t have been far apart; both incredibly formative. I became a massive Sissy Spacek fan and would watch whatever she was in (they showed loads of great films on tv back then) and can’t remember her ever being in a dud. She has made some amazing films and should be hailed as one of the screen’s greatest ever actresses.

I was also obsessed with ESP, the supernatural, anything like that. ESP was so much a part of our popular culture when I was a kid that, for me, it was totally feasible, totally real. I was terrified by, but enraptured by, films such as Carrie, The Fury (another De Palma), Amityville Horror (I also read the terrifying book of this). I got books and magazines that showed poltergeists at work, spontaneous human combustion, stigmata. This was the world. I believed everything. And, to be honest, even though I’m an ex-sociologist who thinks that everything is social construction and myth is about control, power and self-delusion, I still kind of believe some of this stuff could be true. I still really, really want to be able to move things with my mind. I frequently dream that I can. Oh the crushing disappointment when I wake up and I can’t…

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For anyone who has been bullied – at home, at school, at work, wherever – the revenge film can be an incredible catharsis. Carrie is that. The ultimate revenge movie.

Carrie is a hero and a positive character because she has to find her power. It’s all about the powerless becoming the most powerful and that being her triumph over the adversity she faces. Her power is metaphorical of the power we find when we dig inside ourselves, finding the power within to survive. And the brutal truth of Carrie is that the power we find is often destructive and self-destructive.

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Carrie is the bully-victim’s hero. She is tortured. And doesn’t want to destroy but she has no choice in the face of such day-to-day horror. Because that’s what being bullied is. It’s day-to-day suffering, stress, torture, horror. A day that ends is a day survived but you know you’re going to have to face it all again when you wake up. I didn’t go to school for ages at a time. I got away with it. I missed huge parts of my 4th and 5th years. I have no idea how I passed any GCSEs. (Yes, I’m incredibly intelligent and that must have helped, but I could be awful at exams, especially when I hadn’t been there for half the syllabus)

When you have that torture at home too, you have nowhere physical to run away to. So you run away to the inside of your mind. We somehow find tools to help us escape and survive. Mine was Hollywood, old Hollywood, all films really. And books. Tons and tons of books. And music, singing. I’d sing all fucking day. And I’d fantasize about being a star. And there are other tools too, tools that are destructive but you use them anyway. Like romanticizing thoughts of suicide as the ultimate escape. Marilyn Monroe was another of my heroes. It’s horrific, but I’ve realized through therapy that the shit things are just as much a part of survival as the positive, healthy survival techniques.

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I had a handful of books that I would read as a kid over and over. Valley Of The Dolls (still my favourite novel), Love Story (I can recite the first page and a half by heart, I’ve read that thing so much), a 50s pulp novel called Tomboy, and Carrie. No wonder I grew up to be a camp, queer, weirdo… and have a romantic view of tragic love.

I remember that each time I would re-read Carrie I would be surprised by her description. She’s fat and spotty in the book and that’s part of the reason why she’s bullied. I wasn’t spotty but I was fat. But I wasn’t actually bullied because of that. And, actually, there not being a ‘reason’ why screen Carrie is bullied (the girls never mention her looks) apart from the fact that she has a ‘wacko’ mom and is shy, is more poignant. Yes, if you’re in one of the bullied-victim prime food groups – fat, queer, spotty, nerdy – you’re more likely perhaps to be a target for the lazy bullies, but if you’re not and you’re attacked anyway… it is somehow scarier. Anyone can become a target at any time. Hell, I was bullied by my ‘friends’ when they decided one day they didn’t like me anymore. Talk about bewildering ‘reasons’. And when your home life almost simultaneously shifts to become unsafe… you’re gonna be fucked up and have to find ways to survive. God, if only my hours of trying to move stuff with my mind had paid off and I could do that shit. How much fun would it be to be able to make something fly at someone’s head? Or just to freak them the fuck out? Oh… sigh…

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I’ve watched film Carrie countless times too, including going to see it in the cinema a few years ago. Oh god, it’s a perfect film. The whole cast is sublime. I always get confused because I know I should hate Chris as the prime bully in the film but I fancy Nancy Allen so much. I believe Tommy Ross actually likes Carrie and is glad he gets to squire her to the prom. Amy Irving is wonderful as the bully who has a sudden awakening to how awful her actions are and tries to right her wrongs. This film and these characters are so nuanced. So complex. So real. We know about Sissy. She’s glorious. And Piper Laurie, oh my god. Again, has there ever been more perfect acting? Did the woman win any awards for that? She bloody should have done.

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Amy went on to do The Fury, De Palma’s other ESP film. I saw it again a year ago and it was far more magnificent than I remembered. I knew there was a film I’d seen with a scene where they are testing ESP powers in a lab and when I realized it was The Fury, my kid-fascination with the whole supernatural genre came hurtling back like a thing that Carrie is chucking at someone. It’s kind of silly, kind of terrifying, all wonderful. Amy is the one with powers in that one and she is wonderful as the bewildered teen trying to cope with her ‘gift’. Someone should put on a double bill of Carrie and The Fury. And invite me to come and talk about them. And maybe one day I’ll start a band called Carrie & The Furies and do songs all about ESP and bullied-victims revenge.

On a side note I recently saw Carrie 2: The Rage and I was surprised that I actually really liked it. The telekinetic heroine was stronger than Carrie, but she had that slightly ‘odd’ look that really worked as to why she was picked on. I liked the revenge apocalypse ending. The tattoo thing was rubbish, though. Telekinesis is real. That tattoo thing would never happen.

 

Lesbian Vampires: Vampyros Lesbos


By Corinna ‘Gaze This’ Tomrley

As part of the series on lesbian vampire films I analyze one of the more notorious of the genre, the wonderous Vampyros Lesbos. WARNING: THIS THING IS FULL OF SPOILERS! IF YOU HAVEN’T SEEN IT AND DON’T WANT TO KNOW THE PLOT, STOP READING. THEN QUICKLY GO AND WATCH IT AND COME BACK. THANKS!

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Vampyros Lesbos (1971) stars Soledad Miranda and Uwa Stroemberg. Both are solid, wonderful, magnificent to look at lesbian vampire stars and both would go on to make other horror films with the director, Jesús Franco. Franco himself has an uncredited cameo in the film as the super creepy torturer and killer of women, Memet. It’s a good example of that movie animal – the European co-production. It’s a Spanish-German film shot and set in Turkey, the script in German, the stars Swedish, Spanish and English (old Ealing stalwart, Dennis Price crops up as the doctor). Miranda plays a Hungarian Countess  and Stroemberg an American. Fun fact: Price, bankrupt by the late 60s by gambling and drinking, would star in 5 of Franco’s films. He also made a few Hammers, including lez vamp film, Twins Of Evil.

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Vampyros Lesbos is one of those films that has an almost mythical status. Many have heard of it without seeing it. When a compilation of music from the director’s horror films was released in the 90s as Vampyros Lesbos – Sexadelic Dance Party, the film became a further cult on the back of the success of the CD’s sales. A trippy, psychedelic jazz score (co-written by Franco), the soundtrack is one of the best things about Vampyros Lesbos. It’s actually incredible. But even though the film itself tends to get less than favourable reviews, I would argue that it’s actually a really decent example of the lesbian vampire genre. If taken as it was presumably intended – a European soft porn art film – it is actually great.

I first saw this film in the mid 90s, like everyone else after hearing the soundtrack (that a boyfriend had), and then I simply had to get the video. And oh, my, but that was a very pleasant viewing experience. I hadn’t seen it since and watched it almost fresh for this review. I have to say, I really love this film. It’s right up there with other great lesbian vampire movies.

It looks stunning, it’s compelling and although I’ve read the acting being described as ‘wooden’, that’s a whole part of the genre! Get with the programme, people. Embrace these things for what they are. Are you entertained? Yes. Are you titillated? Hells, yeah. Well then. What more can you ask for?

What’s more, even though I can hear the screams of ‘male gaze’ from the ghosts of feminist film critics past (and present, let’s face it) –  as I will for most of the lesbian vampire films I review for Ethel – I argue that there is a queer subversion to these films that while they were undoubtedly produced for the pervy male gaze, can be reclaimed by a queer agency. Shock announcement: women look too.

And there is no better example of this than in the opening to Vampyros Lesbos. No, not the trippy titles with Soledad Miranda on her back gesturing towards the camera as guttural, demonic psychedelic jazz blasts out. Although she is inviting us and holding our gaze. It’s only presumed that this is for men.

Because, no, I’m referring to the first scene is in a club. Is this a strip club or progressive dinner theatre? We’re not sure but what we watch is more than a little on the ‘arty’ side as much as it is on the porny side.

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A woman, who appears to be imitating a mannequin (and who at times is very convincing. Only they’re not built like that) stands naked at the side of the stage. Another woman (our vamp antihero) looks into a mirror (she has a reflection!) and dances a bit and caresses herself a bit. She rolls around on the floor (nice ass) and then approaches the ‘mannequin’. The dance becomes a strip and reverse strip as the vampire dresses the mannequin in her own lingerie, caressing the mannequin’s body as she does so. When her object of lust is fully dressed the vamp embraces the mannequin who jerkily/animated mannequinly embraces her.

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All the while we focus on one couple in the audience who are watching. This is a usual vampire movie trope – the young, beautiful, seemingly hetero couple. We see that the woman is compelled; her subtle eye widening and mouth twitches suggest arousal. And, actually, wooden my arse; this is the most convincing bit of being turned on by watching that I’ve seen in one of these things.

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Her boyfriend is not aroused: he’s perplexed by her response and very unnerved by it. This is the first subversion of the male gaze. She is the one getting erotic pleasure from this spectacle.

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Although the audience is fully mixed of men and women, mainly couples (and weirdly look like they’ve come out for a nice meal in a bistro and are slightly amused by the show), she is the one who is the most obviously affected here.

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The two dancers fall to the floor and the vamp symbolically bites the mannequin’s neck.

The performance is symbolic, period. It is the dance of a lesbian seducing a ‘straight’ woman and of a vampire seducing a mortal. She appears as a mannequin because she is hypnotized to respond; perhaps we cannot see her going willingly or that would really upset the hetero state of things. She has no choice but to succumb to the succubus. But succumb she does. As does our blonde, watching heroine, Linda.

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We next learn that Linda has been dreaming about this dancer night after night. She tells this to her therapist. But she had never seen the dancer in waking life before the night she saw the show. She’s been having intense erotic dreams that she’s called by the mysterious woman and as they embrace, Linda wakes up, cumming. Her therapist dismisses it as sexual frustration and suggests she get herself a lover. ‘A better lover.’ Bitch, please! Was that therapy in the 70s? Hmmm, actually, maybe they were on to something. No one mentions the bizarre coincidence that her dream woman happened to appear in a strip show Linda got to see, where she seduces a woman on stage. It’s one of many occurrences of a man dismissing what she’s saying. We even see that instead of making notes about her session, he’s doodling stick people and box animals.

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But we will know that what she’s saying is valid. We’ll always know. It is the men who are ignorant, dismissive, unwilling to face what is happening to the woman who is asking for help and support. Fuck me, this could almost be argued to be a feminist film!

It turns out that Linda (who, incidentally looks like a cross between Diana Dors and Geri Halliwell. It’s uncanny, darlings) works for an insurance company and has to go to see a Countess about an inheritance. Guess who that is? And we will find out that the inheritance is bequeathed to the Countess by the estate of Count Dracula; twist!

As she goes to the island to visit the Countess Nadine Carody, Linda sees things that were in her dream:

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a red kite in the sky,

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a trapped butterfly,

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a scorpion,

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mauve and red (paint/blood?) dripping down glass.

It seems the dreams were premonitions of this visit. We will be battered over the head by that bloody symbolic white butterfly and the scorpion. I’m surprised they didn’t give the scorpion a little brunette wig to really hammer the point home.

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Anyway, when Linda sees the paint/blood, she freaks and goes to run away. But with a simple ‘hello/guten tag’ this is reversed and the butterfly is caught in the net.

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Within seconds of meeting the hot countess convinces her to skinny dip. Well, it would be impolite not to.

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When they do, they are watched by a man. This is a familiar trope; the lesbian frolic being observed by a man, unseen by them. In this way, it can be argued that this is all for the male gaze, for men to watch, whether the women know it or not. It happens in a similar way in Lust For A Vampire, but in that case it is the controlling male vampire who is watching. It turns out the watcher here is a minion to the Countess, Morpho.

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But we will learn that Countess Nadine hates men. She gave her neck to Dracula but that was all. She craves women. So Morpho may serve her, but she’s a full on homo and he is made impotent. He can only watch.

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After a drink of ‘wine’, Linda gets an instant headache then passes out. The Countess helps her to ‘recover’ by stripping her, having a bit of a go, then bites her neck.

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Here we see the offspring of Diana Dors and Geri Halliwell.
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Here in the seduction, Nadine mirrors the straddling that the mannequin did in the dance; is this an indication that the ‘victim’ is as powerful as the ‘attacker’? Or that roles are slippery when it comes to lesbian vampire seduction?

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And I have to say, bright scarlet aside, this is one of the best blood drinking scenes I’ve ever witnessed. She really seems to be gulping it down and pulls away leaving a convincing trail of blood and spit.

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Linda wakes to find Nadine floating in the swimming pool with blood on her face.

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She presumes she is dead and faints, waking in a ‘private clinic’ where another blonde, female patient raves about a woman who possesses her and who will return to be inside her. She won’t reveal the name of this woman to her doctor but we know who she means. This woman is at once like Renfield and Lucy in the Dracula story. Oh and she has this weird wooden clown doll thing that looks like a horrific dildo.

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Nadine tells Morpho about how Dracula made her a vampire and that she then went on to possess and take over women victims. Only now Linda has really got to her and she feels like she’s the possessed one. Oh shit, we’ve all been there, right? Jeez, I know I have. ‘I must initiate her into our circle,’ says The Countess. The sewing circle, perchance?

In a reverse of the hetero watching the lez sex, Nadine and Morpho visit Linda’s hotel and watch her being fucked by her bf. Nadine isn’t enjoying it though.

Linda ‘recovers’ but is simultaneously drawn to Nadine and tries to resist her. They share a drink from a big vase and Nadine says, ‘you know that’s blood, right?’

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Then they have sex, with Linda taking the lead.

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Linda goes to the clinic doctor for help. He’s kind of like Van Helsing but confusingly called Dr Seward who is another character in Dracula. Wow, they’re messing with the referencing a lot. Is Linda Jonathan or Meena? Is her boyfriend either or both? Anyway, Doc comes clean that he’s not a psychiatrist but he’s actually a vampirologist and that if she doesn’t want to give in to Nadine she must kill her. No steak through the heart though – she is to be killed by an axe splitting the brain or a spike stabbing it. Bloody hell, that stake is sounding pretty damn good right about now, eh?

Linda’s bf goes to watch the show again and we see a longer version of the stripdance with a groovier bit of the weird score. Instead of symbolically biting the mannequin’s neck she actually goes for it, killing her. But somehow she manages to leave the gig without being arrested. And the bf just stands there watching and smoking. So it’s all a bit redundant. And we don’t even have a good explanation as to why Nadine killed the girl. If she needed blood, why do it publicly? But, hey-ho, we got to see the dance again so I am not complaining.

Nadine turns up at the clinic where the doctor says he actually wants to be a vampire but when she refuses he gets all Latin-god-spouting and so she gets Morpho to kill him.

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Linda goes to Nadine’s house and walking under this AMAZING red tassel chandelier thing on the ceiling (the art direction in this movie is fucking stunning). She finds The Countess laying on a modern modular bed couch deal saying she’s dying and that drinking Linda’s blood is the only thing that will save her.

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We want Linda to give her the drink, don’t we? But we know she won’t because, as with all femme fatale films of certain periods, the vampire must die. Linda tells her that she can’t have her.

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But instead of just straight out killing her Linda at first drinks Nadine’s blood and then stabs her through the eye with a spike.

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Morpho kills himself with the spike but when Linda’s bf and psychiatrist turn up, Nadine and Morpho’s corpses have vampirically disappeared. Bf tries to convince her it was all a dream but she knows better. We know better.

However, what is unclear to us is the answer to this question: is Linda actually a vampire now? After all she drank from the blood of a vampire before she killed her. Isn’t that how it works? Is this supposed to be ambiguous or is it a plot hole? Whatever, I’m going to take it that she is a full-on, card-carrying vamp now and she will find herself a little vamp gf and leave the boring, non-believing stupid bf who can’t make her cum and she’ll have centuries of happy life sucking blood and having lesbian vampire orgasms, the end.

And, you see, I can do this because I am not paralyzed by the male gaze. I can watch and absorb and identify. Part of my sexual formation was watching lesbian vampires. Women on screen who were created to titillate men titillated me instead. And helped me to realize that I’m queer, like femmes and have a penchant for blood and vampires. And because I have this agency as a viewer, like Linda watching the show, I can watch and get turned on, I can then choose whether to go along with the story or, like Linda, make my own. This trippy, porny narrative can actually allow that.

And anyway, women are the ones with all the power in this film. First The Countess, to seduce and possess and to evade capture and finally Linda, to choose her own fate. And the power shifts constantly between the women. They have the gaze for each other and we have the gaze for them.