Ethel Loves… Adrian+Shane


 

When Adrian+Shane appeared in the first issue of Loverboy Magazine I was instantly smitten. Their art continues to delight, seduce and intrigue. With Judy and Liza being subjects of their work and ideas of queerness and identity at the forefront I needed to discover more about this amazing art partnership.

Corinna: I’m going out on limb and presuming you are a romantic couple as well as an artistic partnership? If so, what came first love or art or did both crash together at the same time?

Adrian+Shane: Haha, yes, you’re right to presume we’re a couple. Love came first. The art was never planned. We met at Christmas 1997. Shane was studying at the Glasgow School of Art and I was still living in Ireland. A month and a half after we first met I visited him in Glasgow for Valentines weekend and bought a massive bottle of Absolut vodka in the airport on my way. One evening, we sat on the floor of his student flat listening to the Spice Girls and getting drunk on the vodka. I began doodling in a sketch pad, then I passed it to Shane and he painted on top of my drawing. We passed it back and forth. This was the beginning of our collaboration. Over the weekend we filled ten pages in the pad with drawings, paintings and collage. We’ve still never shown them to anyone. The following year we had our first Adrian+Shane exhibition

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C: How does your work life balance pan out?

A+S: After the gym every morning we drive to our studio. We usually have a brief meeting to decide what needs to be done and we spend the day working on it. We finish at around 7pm depending on what we’re working on. If we’re in the middle of a big project we’ll work until midnight. Then do it all over again the next day. We generally work 7 days a week. We get a break when we go on holiday.

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C: Do you have a pretty solid and consistent vision as Adrian+Shane or do you, as two separate artists, have differences where you have to drop an idea because it’s not where you both want to go?

A+S: In general we both know what Adrian+Shane is and we have very similar likes aesthetically. But every now and then one of us will have an idea that the other doesn’t like. When that happens we either make adjustments to the idea or we bin it and move on.

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C: Your piece ‘I Was A Gay Child’ is so stunning and resonates for so many queer boys, I am sure. Is this strictly a gendered piece though, do you think? I was considering it in terms of being a queer woman and wondering what I’d depict for my own gay childhood. I wasn’t a ‘tomboy’ (shudder at THAT word, but you know what I mean, I hope…). I think I’d have Lynda Carter, Daisy Duke and Cat Woman in the background for mine but I don’t know what toy I’d have in the foreground.  Probably a Barbie tbh because I coveted them and all I had was my sister’s hand me down flat footed Sindy who was horse-crazy and Sloany. I couldn’t relate. I craved the glamour of old Hollywood and girlie things that spoke to me from within my queerness. Or I’d have a Spirograph because I used to think of Busby Berkeley chorus girl formations as I twiddled it… What are your thoughts on my rambling explanation here in terms of queer formativity, childhood and gender? And I’m thinking of it all from outside the binary as well…

A+S: We love the way you think. When we make art it’s generally from our own perspective. We grew up secretly fantasising about other boys/men and sometimes wanting to play with girls’ toys. It might be interesting to do a version of it from a queer girl’s point of view.

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C: Can we talk about ‘Judy Fucking Garland’? I adore this piece and not just because I’m a card carrying Judy nut (in every sense, darlings). It encapsulates the deification of Judy – classically understood as The Gay Men’s Personal Diva. But also, for me, sums up the cultish deification by The Good Judy Fans – those who will not see her personified and portrayed as anything but fun, pure, happy, sexless. The fact that you have the word ‘fucking’ in there will piss off a lot of them and that makes me particularly happy… anyway, I digress (as I usually do on the topic of Judy). Your JFG is one of the best pieces of Garland art I’ve seen because it has a multitude of readings but is also simply joyous. What are you exploring through this and the related Liza piece?

A+S: We fucking love Judy. As little Irish gay boys we grew up watching her on TV every Christmas in The Wizard Of Oz. About a year ago we had the idea of using the line “Judy Fucking Garland” in a painting or T-shirt. After creating several designs we were dissatisfied with, we put the idea on the back burner and every now and then we’d return to it between working on other projects. Catholic imagery has always played a part in our work and combining the text with an image of the Virgin Mary gave it a whole new meaning. It’s powerful. The paintings were exhibited in a show in Dublin in June 2015 and caused a lot of controversy. The gallery received letters from life long customers demanding that the paintings be removed etc. Meanwhile the T-shirts we made depicting the same image have been flying off the shelves.

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C: Some – unimaginative – people might not quite see how pop art and pop culture can be used to explore social commentary but it’s there in your manifesto and I definitely see it in your work. I think the subversiveness of camp is very, very underrated and one of our main weapons and tools. Can you say something about how your art takes on social critique and explores identity? There’s a particularly powerful thematic blurring of catholic and queer iconology there, too.

A+S: Pop art and social commentary go hand in hand as far as we’re concerned. Pop art was always about reflecting what was going on in society. That’s what we like to do, hold a mirror up and show off the ridiculous. We like to burst bubbles, including our own and try to disturb what’s comfortable. People get set in their ways and don’t like change and anything different.

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C: Madonna is an artist who excels on stage: discuss (I used to work at the Astoria in the 90s. I can’t believe that they actually got Madonna for G-A-Y. Gutted I missed that. Adore your video piece that came from it). In your opinions, is she still as powerful up there on the boards as she was in her Blonde Ambition/Girlie Show heyday?

A+S: We love her. She still has plenty to say. We just saw her current tour “Rebel Heart Tour” and she has just as much energy as she’s ever had. People have been bashing her for years. It’s so ridiculous that she’s criticised for being 57 when in fact she should be celebrated. I guess it’ll take her death for the masses to examine her career and really appreciate how fucking incredible she is.

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C: Your work ‘It takes balls to be a fairy’ challenges the stupid anti-sissy mentality in gay culture and celebrates the nancy boy instead. Is this something that’s particularly relevant to your artistic voice and message?

A+S: Growing up in an environment where boys were boys, played football and were masculine. If you didn’t match that stereotype you were singled out. Even now within the gay community “feminine” guys are looked down on. We love embracing these words that are used to bash and humiliate gays. Words that have been used against us. Taking them back, owning them and using them in a positive way. Queer, fairy, homo, faggot, poof, queen. We love them. ’It Takes Balls To Be A Fairy’ is by far our most popular T-shirt.

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Interview by Corinna Tomrley

Read more about Adrian+Shane in Loverboy issue 1

 

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Split Britches


When I was a baby feminist, baby queer doing A level Theatre Studies back in the late 80s, I devoured anything I could find on feminist and gay theatre. There’d been a lot happening in the previous two decades and a lot going on (just out of reach of my geographic restrictions) at the time. It was exciting; it was mind-blowing; it was inspirational. I’d always wanted to be an actress but up to that point my ambition was to be on Dynasty. When I read about political theatre, my thespian world made a very different sort of perfect sense.

It was through my insatiable research into feminist/gay theatre that I first heard of Split Britches. To be honest, I pretty much fell in love with Lois Weaver and Peggy Shaw the more I read. I’ve always liked my art and activism to be as full of F.U.N. as it can be and Split Britches were taking the complexities and controversies of gender and sexuality politics and making them accessible to a broad audience. La SWOON, darlings.

In recent years Lois Weaver has been teaching at Queen Mary University, crowd sourcing for a book on her life’s work and living her alter-ego, the most GLORIOUSLY named Tammy WhyNot? I keep hearing of these endevours and my love just grows and grows and grows…

When I found out that Split Britches are to be performing a Retro(per)spective of their decades worth of fabulous work as part of the SACRED festival, well darlings, I just plotzed. For ONE NIGHT ONLY we get to experience these incredible, essential and marvellous performers at The Chelsea Theatre, London.

Astonishingly, there are still a few tickets available. Snaffle them while you CAN, honies! This is a once in a lifetime opportunity to see something very, very special.

By Corinna ‘Mermaid’ Tomrley

Get your tickets here for Split Britches at the SACRED festival, Chelsea Theatre

90210: Behind the Zip Code – Review of a Wonder


By Ethel Mermaids contributor Gareth of The Haus of Garvie, Earth

Growing up in a postmodern, post-ironic, Postman Pat era allows our generation to embrace high culture and low culture, the cheesy and the heartfelt, in equal measure. For me, one of the ultimate fusions of cheese and heart is Beverly Hills, 90210, an Aaron Spelling produced, Darren Star created, masterpiece of televisual schlock/wonder. 90210 could at times move you to tears of sadness (or happiness), it could make you want to throw your shoes at the TV screen in annoyance, or it could give you two sneezes worth of an orgasm at the sight of Tori Spelling falling over in a mermaid outfit. It was campy, classy, serious, fun, well-acted, badly acted and just an all-round entertainment giver.

It’s strange to think just how popular the ‘210 was in its heyday. The actors got mobbed at malls, the merchandise flew off shelves, repeats increased ratings in 29 out of 32 syndicated metered markets and it made Douglas Emerson a household name. Maybe the last one only applied to my house – your loss. 90210 is one of the longest running hour-long dramas ever made, an early season guest starred Debbie Gibson, and the last season had an appearance by Christina Aguilera; if that’s not a sign of longevity I don’t know what is. Of course 90210 is also part of Haus of Garvie’s religious texts – ‘90210 begat Melrose Place, Melrose Place begat Models, Inc and Models, Inc begat Carrie Anne Moss being sold to the white slave trade’.

It was a crisp late-summer morning when I decided to root through the bins of an ex-Swan’s Crossing starlet and discovered the joy you are about to witness. Upon seeing the glorious item within my hands, I knew I had to share it with the world or be forever regretful.

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An unauthorised video exposé of the show and its stars! This was one trash rooting / photoshoot that really paid off! I just hope the selfies of myselfsies covered in dirt don’t get out. Or do I? Maybe this video contains pictures of Jason Priestly covered in dirt? Could we be that lucky? Let’s stick this baby in the video machine and get the dirt dished…

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Things kick off with a neon logo and a Saved by the Bell-esque ringing. Some woman who sounds a bit like Eminem doing a ladyvoice tells us to pay attention as there will be a test later. The voice-over lady, who I think we’ll call Mary from now on, gives us an in depth socio-political deconstruction of what Beverly Hills means in the 1990’s.

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WA?!?!?!? Those cheeky tricksters at Maximum Image Video Magazine are playing a trick on us! Oh those cads! An 80’s rock guitar kicks in and scenes of early 90’s Rodeo Drive get mixed with some awesomely cheap video effects to stills of palm trees. If you remember the start of the 90210 pilot, it’s like that, but done in a college editing suite by a janitor who’s snuck in after hours to fulfil his creative dreams. I realise I may be the only person who remembers the start of the pilot, but to be honest, that’s just shame on you. By this point, Mary’s voice has changed to infomercial mode.

Stop.

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Menutime.

What sounds like, but is not quite, the 90210 theme kicks in and Infomercial Mary tells us about all the exciting info we’re going to be finding out about in the next hour. I’d go over it here too, but that would ruin the surprise and I know how much you like surprises. Surprises like this one…

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Mary, now in serious mode, tells us that Brian Austin Green (aka BAG) was already an accomplished actor by the time he started on 90210! By the way, is that a frog in the ocean? Or an old Star Trek toy? Either way, Mary tells us that Brian was on a show with Hayley Mills called Good Morning Miss Bliss (the show that eventually ditched Miss Mills, moved to Bayside and became Saved By The Bell), a couple of student films, three seasons on Knots Landing and a PBS television movie. Mary then shows us some pap shots of BAG, including one where he’s sporting a Melrose Place T-Shirt that I don’t have. Bastard. Mary tells us that Brian has no love for drugs or alcohol, but that he does have a big love in his life…

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His dog! Apparently all pictures of the dog had been seized by Interpol, so in their absence we get a lovely doodle and stock audio of some dogs barking. According to Mary, the dog is a Shitzu miniature named Teeko. Brian also likes to BAG it up with numerous sporting things and spending time with his family (with whom “he holds onto traditional values”). Fans like his character on 90210 because “he’s the most real guy, he’s not a fake, he’s real”. This was the character that got hooked on drugs, became an addict and managed to give it up all within the space of two episodes/weeks. That seems to be your lot for Brian Austin Green, maybe not the detailed biography we were after, but after the dog doodle, I don’t think we can complain. Next up, Mary’s going to tell us a little bit about the greatest comedy actress of our time…

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Candy’s Baby Girl! The one, the only – Miss Tori Spelling! Like an equine angel from Heaven, she’s come to grace the pages of this website. We are so not worthy. Even Mary sounds a little happier that she’s got to talk about someone interesting. There’s a wealth of Tori rumours to pick and choose from so I’m hoping Behind The Zip Code is really going to delve. I mean it’s not going to be some puff piece is it? Is it? Is it? IS it?

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Mary, sounding like someone who has a gun to her head but is still looking forward to tea and biscuits afterwards, brings out the often told story of Tori’s road to success – she auditioned under a pseudonym and didn’t tell the producers she was Aaron Spelling’s child at all. They had no idea! And there was me hoping this video would confirm that Jack Nicholson rumour, oh well, at least we get to hear Jason Priestly sarcastically tell the press that Tori works really hard. More investigative reporting from the folks at Maximum Image Video Magazine reveals that Tori originally wanted to be a manicurist but then changed her mind when she was “about 5”. Then we get to see some clips of Tori doing charity work, which seems to consist of her saying “organisation” and “involved” a lot. Mary tells us that “Tori has proved herself in a competitive industry, and done it on her own”. Mary breathes a sigh of relief as the gun is pulled away from her and moves onto the cover story…

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Lots of teenagers tell us they love watching 90210 because it’s so realistic and relatable, Tori tells us about their responsibility to teach children and to “keep it real”. Obviously, they all went to a school just like mine. Some of the fans seem exactly the sort of Blossom-esque people you’re expecting, but some seem like they just got out of jail. We’ll see some more of them later. We like them more than anything. Mary mentions that 90210 wasn’t always the success it is now and brings out some reviews. Howard Rosenberg, LA Times TV critic, called 90210 “a zip code for stereotypes and stock characters”, Mary’s voice actually shits with excitement (or the tape went funny – you decide!) as she tells us that no one listened to him and ratings went through the “ruuf”. At this point, I should mention that one of the major reasons this tape is rocking my suburb is due to the proliferation of Candy Spelling footage. Candy, darling, never talks, she just stands next to her husband and looks Hollywood. If only we were all so lucky. Oh fuck it, shall we have a picture of her and her paramour?

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Isn’t she fabulous? Candy Spelling – husband of Aaron, mother of Tori and Randy, owner of numerous present wrapping rooms and, more recently, a mega successful Broadway producer (you would know that if you watched ‘Oprah’s Where Are They Now”). Her obituary is going to be the envy of the shires.

The video moves on with some more red carpet clips of the stars and grubby teenagers saying such things as “it’s just great” and “he’s like my father, I mean, I have a real father, but y’know”. I think the point of the cover story got a bit lost here, as Mary starts yabbering about the Spelling Mansion and lists some Spelling produced shows. Regaining focus, Mary tells us that all the cast have become pin-up idols and puts up some pictures of numerous magazine covers with the 90210 kids gracing the pages. It made me nostalgic for Tiger Beat. That seems to be the end of the cover story as we get some radical 80’s guit-ar and yet another red carpet montage. Then this…

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It’s about 10 seconds before you realise what’s going on. Eventually Mary, sounding incredibly coy, divulges that it’s quiz time and asks viewers to match up actors with dead guys they have played. True fact: Douglas Emerson, who plays the above dead guy, was on an episode of Blossom I happened upon the other day on the youtubes, he played “guy #2”. Quiz time over with, it’s time for another profile…

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J to the E double-N I E! Mary reveals that Jennie Garth is not spoilt, annoying or diva-like, she is, however, down-to-earth and centred. Mary obviously wants to prove this point as she brings out a clip from The Joan Rivers Show (RIP GODDESS) with Jason Priestly saying “she’s sooooo sweet” whilst looking adorable yet furrowed. I’ve asked our house boy to edit that clip so it appears that JP is talking about me. Bless him. Back on the Garth tip, Mary dishes some dirt (finally) – Jennie *hated* the character of Kelly Taylor to start with and was pleased when writers saw her potential as an actress and managed to make Kelly more likable. Some reading of Jennie’s CV is followed by this fabulous picture…

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…which, quite frankly, is one of the best pictures I’ve seen in my entire life! It’s almost enough to make Jennie Garth my favourite 90210 actress, but then we get a whole segment about what a beautiful home-body she is, and how homely her beautiful home is and how she beautifully went home straight after the Emmy awards to her beautiful home. Mary slyly pulls away from Garth Gossip and the fans get to talk about their favourite episode. The fans at this point have become my favourite thing in the entire world – thanks Tramadol!

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This one, who we’ll call Jolene-Jolene, is the youngest fan and also the wisest. How do we know she’s wise? Well, her wisdom is demonstrated in her choice of favourite episode, an episode which also happens to be my favourite episode as well! The episode in question revolves around bad girl Emily Valentine tricking Brandon into taking drugs, I’m sure I’ll write about it eventually if only for an excuse to get some screencaps of Brandon in a state of Euphoria. If you spot the 90210 in-joke there, you’re a very glorious person. Oh sweet Traci Lords, how could you? I’ve just seen what’s next…

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BLAH BLAH BLAH. Phone interview from ex co-star. BLAH BLAH BLAH.

Mary follows Iron’s riveting profile with the worst piece of filler to ever hit an unofficial guide – 10 minutes of horoscope readings for the actors. To be fair, Mary gives it her best, alternating between bathos and pathos with panache.

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Next up on the profile list is Gabrielle Carteris, otherwise known as Andrea (or On-drea). You may be seeing a pattern between the titles of the profiles and their content, this one is no exception. Mary tells us that even though an agent told Gabrielle she was too ugly to be an actress, she carried on anyway. Mary tells us this in about 10 different ways. Each time with more passion and frustration than the last. Is it a coincidence that we only hear Mary? I hope not.

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Top marks to Mary for pointing out that Gabrielle was born in 1961, this means that even today I am friends with people younger than Miss Carteris was when she first played 16 year old Andrea. For some reason this gets me excited, but not as excited as Gabrielle gets over charity work – we get a 5 minute speech about how important it is, at one point there’s a shot where she looks a little bit like Robin Williams.

The fans then give their opinion on the hot topic of the day. Should Andrea let Brandon bone her? The general consensus seems to be “maybe”.

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*FLUNK* Even though he occasionally looks like a troll, and his experiments in facial hair are rarely successful, I would totally tongue wash him for like, no charge at all. So, what does Mary have to say about my favourite slice of Canadian Bacon? Well, apparently he likes hockey and “unlike a lot of boys, Jason was already an actor”. Good to know.

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Three top things about that picture:

  1. The cigarette
  2. Shannen’s expression
  3. The interviewer’s hair

We get some more Joan Rivers Show clips to give Mary’s voice a rest and to give us a slight hint of romance between Jason and Shannen, albeit mainly via subtext. Jason tells Joan a lame Burt Reynolds anecdote before hawking his latest film, Calendar Girl. A film which history has shown to rank quite highly in google image searches for “Jason Priestly Nude”.

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Mary better watch what she says about my idol, but at this point I think we can be fairly sure she’s not going to say anything scandalous. Reeling off the CV Mary is starting to sound a bit bored, until she mentions that Shannen once won Teen of the Year award, Mary goes APE over that information, but then gets bored as she mentions La Doherty’s charity work. Apparently Shannen is very anti-smoking. Although a quick internet search indicates that darling Shannen may not have held onto that belief for long.

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It’s Shannen with Arnold Schwarzenegger from that bit in Total Recall! Be careful a bomb doesn’t go off Shan-Shan – it might mess up your hair! Mary’s just commented that despite the glitz and glamour of Hollywood, Shannen has managed to remain down to Earth and humble. I’m beginning to think Mary doesn’t really know what she’s talking about.

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At least she picks good pics. If it wasn’t for the crappy VHS resolution this would so be my new wallpaper. Some fans talk about Dylan and Brenda and one of them looks a bit like someone I despise. Hmmm, who’s left to profile?

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Yes siree, Bob! It’s Luke Perry! The other 90210 man in my life. Mary reckons that part of his appeal is down to his small town charm, but a lot is down to his smile (or smell – it was hard to make out). Ah, bless. Mary thinks she’s got a chance. Whore! “Luke encourages the 90210 writers to concentrate on the real issues.”

Throughout this video there has been an abundance of cheap and cheerful digital transition effects, not content with regular wipes or fades, this production has gone all out using bouncing spheres, jigsaw shapes and the occasional extreme zoom between transitions. For some reason, Mr Perry’s biography has got extra special treatment with a range of 3-D cityscapes and superimposed baseball player silhouettes to change between static picture after static picture. He sure is one lucky boy! Mary just divulged that in High School, Luke once landed on the football field from a helicopter wearing yellow tights and webbed feet in his role as the team mascot. Was that it? No top or head mask? The thought is strangely alluring.

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Doesn’t he look young? The ol’ Jason P On Joaney R clips are called out again to really milk that license fee (I like thinking that Joan Rivers earnt enough for a bagel from this video) and Jason tells us that “Luke’s a great guy, really down-to-earth, he does a lot of charity work”. If I hear down-to-earth or charity work one more time on this video I swear I will kill Mary in a very hostile manner. I may wear white for the occasion.

Mary then gives us a quiz. One of the answers is “Tori is exactly 60 days older than Brian.”

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And that’s it. Our exclusive documentary is over. Oh wait, hold-up! It’s the early 90’s, so just before the end credits we get a list of charities mentioned throughout with their contact details. Wasn’t it great when people cared?

Overall I think 90210: Behind the Zip Code was a very unsatisfying experience. Where was the dirt? The secrets? The topless Preistly & Perry shots? I bet bloody Mary kept them all to herself that little good-for-nothing, down-to-Earth, charity worker! Looks like I’ll have to delve into the world of Reddit for some real 90210 dirt…

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Ahh, that’s better. Satisfaction is mine.

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Gareth is a founding member of Haus of Garvie, an intergalactic collective based on the writings of Jan Leeming. He likes niceness and Drag Queens

Read the Loverboy interview with The Haus of Garvie here

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Pay It No Mind – Marsha P. Johnson


Marsha P. Johnson.

She is said to have started the Stonewall Riots by throwing a shot glass at a mirror.

It has been called ‘The Shot Glass Heard Round The World’.

Marsha P. Johnson.

When a judge asked her what the P stood for, she replied: ‘Pay It No Mind’.

Marsha P. Johnson.

Drag Queen, queer activist, sex worker, Saint of Christopher Street, performer with The Hot Peaches, mental health survivor, co-founder (with Sylvia Rey Rivera) of S.T.A.R. – Street Transvestite Action Revolutionaries – and ran a house for homeless trans youth, and gave out food, blankets and clothes to the trans kids who were largely ignored and marginalised by the larger gay activist community.

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Marsha P. Johnson.

Found dead in the Hudson River. Either an accidental drowning (she believed her father was Neptune, that he lived in the bottom of the Hudson, and she would frequently throw offerings – such as all her clothes and the clothes of anyone else passing by if she could grab them off of them – into the water) or – more likely – she was murdered (she was seen being harassed at that spot, earlier that day. She had just marched in the Pride parade).

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Marsha P. Johnson.

Warrior, free spirit, changer of lives, survivor, fighter, light, queer angel.

When I see pictures of her, I get lost in her face. I am altered. I am lit. I am glad to have the privilege to gaze upon her beautiful image. I am absorbed. Head festooned by flowers or fairy lights or feathers, gowns bought for a few dollars from the thrift store, makeup applied to her own Marsha P. style. She grins, she shines. Her smile is everything. She is more than just one of the most important figures from our history, a transformer of our culture. She is Marsha P. Johnson. Lucky were those she passed by and greeted with a cheery hello in the street. Chastened were those who catcalled and got the brunt of her response – she spoke back, she didn’t ignore the hate: she faced it head on. Shot, beaten, she rose above the shit she faced every single day. She bore the scars – and a bullet lodged near her spine – and still she smiled. She changed all who crossed her path.

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‘Pay it no mind: Marsha P Johnson’ by Corinna Tomrley

Marsha P. Johnson. Know her name.

Marsha P. Johnson. See her.

She would not be ignored. She will not be ignored.

Marsha P. Johnson. Pay it no mind.

Written with love by Corinna P. Tomrley

Watch ‘Pay It No Mind: The Life and Times of Marsha P. Johnson’, a film by Frameline Voices

 

The Macaroni Club and The Pansy Craze


 

I love sissies, always have. Seeing sissies like Edward Everett Horton in Fred and Ginger movies, darlings,  gave me such a thrill as a kid. I adored his girlyboy best friend characters and would rather have hung out with him than boring old Fred any day. How I’d like to fraternise with Miss Ginger is perhaps the sordid subject for another blog post, another day… (With Miss Ginger Rogers, I’m a big fan of her early work and her later wigs…)

Back to the sissies.

In gay and queer culture there is a troubling anti-sissy stance that I abhor. I am so very, very glad that there are girlyboys out there who are queenie and perrrrrrrroud! And I welcome with big, fabulous open arms that there is a movement to reclaim sissiness. Think, ‘sissy that walk’ in drag. Glory at Alex Creep’s Nancy Zine, just for a coupla references off the tops of my campy head.

So to celebrate all things sissy, I’m gonna take you on a history tour of two points in the past where sissies were celebrated and found a home and a place to shine: The Macaroni Club and The Pansy Craze.

Macaroni and the Pansy Craze. Sounds like the best band name ever, right? Well, don’t nick it, it’s mine, darlings – © Corinna G. Tomrley. The G stands for Glamour. And Gorgeous. And Glitter.

Back to the sissies. Macaroni first.

Macaroni fashion

Yankee Doodle came to town

Riding on a pony

Stuck a feather in his hat

And called it Macaroni

Oh the screeching cry of a thousand ice cream vans! That childhood rhyme, shrilly yelled at playtime! But wait – called it macaroni?!?!?!?!?!? What the what now?

Well. Here’s a lil bit of trivia for ya. Yankee Doodle is a sissy. That’s right. Actually, he’s a buffoon and a sissy, the Doodle part being a dumbass. But we’ll ignore that part because we’re far more interested in the fact that this fella on a horse is a big ole sissyboy. Why? Well that’s where the macaroni comes in. Because the feather in his hat and his naming said bird bit Macaroni is a reference to the Macaroni fashion and The Macaroni Club, ways ways back in the 1700s. Oh my but that’s the olden times, ain’t it? Macaroni’s were dandys. Dandy, of course, is another name for a sissy. But a well-put-together, spiffing sissy. In 1772 a periodical was published called The Maccaroni Magazine: Or Monthly Intelligence of the Fashions and Diversions. Oh to have a subscription. There was the Macaroni fashion, especially very, very tall wigs and small hats atop very, very tall wigs. Actually this tricorn hat atop a wig was the actual Macaroni. The feather was just added flare. So Yankee Doodle called his hat Macaroni because he sissied it up with the feather. Other elements of Macaroni fashion included feathers (natch), flowers, multiple buckles, high-heeled shoes, handkerchiefs and smelling bottles. Those were some sharp sissies. In London there was The Macaroni club. More the collective (often derogative) name for the dandies in the capital it was never an actual fraternity or location. Pity. However, whatever: I’m opening a club and calling it The Macaroni Club. Free feather for your hat on entry.

My favourite sissies are probably the Pansies. The Pansy Craze at the Pansy Clubs was The In Thing for a short while in the 20s and 30s in the US, most specifically in New York, San Francisco and LA.

Pansy clubs were cabaret that was explicitly queer, with sissies, drag kings and queens entertaining gay and straight audiences with their comedy and song. These cats were cool and super gloriously talented. Just the thought of them makes this queer gal swoon! Known as ‘Lavender Spots’, ‘Queer Clubs’ or Panze Joints’, Pansy clubs were openly written about in the entertainment press: gives us some idea of the crossover these sissies (and kings and queens) had. Some of the more famous Pansy club performers were

Jean Malin

gene malin

Rae Bourbon

Rae Bourbon

Bruz Fletcher

Bruz Fletcher

Gladys Bentley

Gladys Bentley

and Karyl Norman

karyl norman

‘The Pansy Craze’ referred not so much to the performers themselves – they did their acts before and after the craze rose and fell – instead it referred mainly to the fashionable attraction to these joints by a straight audience. Het punters were drawn to the exotica of the queer performers, who were letting them into their world for a night. But what I love about the Craze is that the Pansy performers had all the power, often insulting any patrons who expressed outrage (sound familiar?) and dazzling those who appreciated the fabulous wit and expertise of the Pansy star. Their tunes were love songs to another boy or girl or, for drag performers like Rae Bourbon, were about being trans. They were pioneers of out, in your face queerness. Prior to the Pansy Craze, to be queer was to be hidden and to only socialise in secret with your own. The Pansy Craze temporarily allowed queer performers to be out and celebrated, expressing themselves in a way previously unheard of.

As if you needed another reason to love ‘em, another aspect of the Pansy scene were drag balls. Again attended by a mix of gay and straight patrons, the drag balls were an outright celebration of queerness. Where in the Pansy clubs the drag and cabaret was presented as pure entertainment and usually always comedy-based, drag balls were an elegant party, a space for queers to be explicitly queer in a fancy place at a fancy party celebrating THEM. And these balls were fancy schmancy, darlings. They were based on cotillions or debutante balls which are, of course, also known as ‘coming out’ balls. And – get this sister – there would be a parade on a stage. But these parades weren’t a cabaret act. These were displays parading pure fabulousness, honey. But alas the parade was just for the queens. Where in the Pansy clubs women patrons in drag would sit in the audience watching the drag king performers on stage, at drag balls women in drag only appeared as party revellers – as far as I can tell, drag kings did not parade. Drag balls’ loss!

These are – of course – only a couple of examples of sissy history, culture and fabulousness but they are pretty rad examples, yes? Now. The only question is: as host of The Pansy Craze Ball at The Macaroni Club am I going to go as a dandy flaneur sissy or as a hot, dapper drag king? Decisions, decisions, darlings.

Written, darlings, by Corinna Pansy Tomrley

Read more about LA’s Pansy scene in Willam J Mann’s sublime and vital Behind The Screen: How Gays and Lesbians Shaped Hollywood

Ethel Loves Jailhouse Judo


I can’t remember exactly how I first came across Jailhouse Judo but I am very glad that I did. I entered into an enchanted world where there was chat about coming out and Charlton Heston, there was 90s hiphop and Riot Grrl and Liberace. I felt like I’d found good friends I didn’t know but really, really should. The talk was compelling, silly, thought provoking and the music diverse and brilliant. I felt like I’d made some fab new mates and couldn’t wait to breathlessly tell everyone about them.

Jailhouse Judo is a weekly, one hour, online radio show by genderqueer geniuses Monx and Froogs (half of the team behind club Bad Reputation) and the occasional superduper guest host.

Jailhouse Judo is like finding a brilliant mixtape you made in your teens, that captures that perfect moment when you loved those songs with a purity that sprang from the depths of your churned-up soul. It’s like those conversations you have at 4 in the morning, after a long night of good chats and good company. The kind that are at once giggly and profound.

During the recent show with Rudy from Unskinny Bop, they discussed the Tales of the City books as part of a gay lit theme for LGBT History Month. As I nodded along enthusiastically I tweeted Armistead Maupin to tell him – you know, throwing it out into the ether, as you do. We unexpectedly got tweeted back that he ‘likes being talked about’. It was one of those giddy, glittery moments, a little capsule of meeping excitement that you’ve connected across multiple queer consciousnesses and made a little something to keep and smile about.  They did that. Such are the wonders of modern technology and great queer chat!

You can listen to Jailhouse Judo most Tuesdays, 3-4pm on Wired Radio and catch up with shows you’ve missed on mixcloud. You’re very welcome.

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@jailhousejudo