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.

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Have a wee with Pia Zadora


By Corinna 5,6,7,8 Tomrley

If someone told me that they didn’t understand the delicious irony of camp, I would probably show them a Pia Zadora clip. Pia is good and Pia is bad. Pia is a star and yet Pia is also ‘ordinary’. Pia was huge… for five minutes… but Pia endures because she still does goddamn dinner theatre all the time. And although the kind of camp performance that Pia is most magnificently loved for was actually prolific in its time (all the ‘cool’ kids were equally as unhip now and then. Cher, Marc Bolan, David Bowie, I’m looking at you…). It somehow suits someone like Pia more; we expect it of her because she is so hilariously wonderful.

This clip, sent to me by the wonderful Lobotomy Room honey, Graham Russell, sums it up just lovely.

The singing (though pre-recorded) is just adequate, the setting is bizarre. But the dancing, though giggle-inducing is actually – according to our wonderful terpsichorean expert Pal – spot on.

‘I can’t fault Pia. She knows her Stag jumps and her Flick Ball Changes’ – Pal Griffiths

But in a public loo?

Well, yes. Why the flipping heck not? Who HASN’T danced with their knickers around their ankles in a public toilet? And then had everyone else spontaneously joined in once they’ve wiped, zipped and flushed?

Let’s consider a few glorious highlights.

As Graham noted, the pants-at-the ankles bit is ‘in shockingly bad taste. One of them is unwisely wearing patterned panties that makes it look like they have skidmarks!’ One of them hasn’t bothered to pull her clothes down. One is naughtily not wearing any knickers, the tramp. The detail of bits of crumpled loo roll on the floor… wonderousness.

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Pia pushing one of the dancers forcefully into a corner (we’ve all done that, come on).

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The hair: if anyone is looking to actually style actual 80s styles hair for once, look at this. Long perms big and frizzy and vertical, crispy, back-combed within an inch of their lives fringes all the way, baby.

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Likewise, the fashion. Unflattering jumpers? Hot as fuck, darling.

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The graffiti: Mustangs Rule. OK? But what the fuck is that thing?

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Who doesn’t have a whizz in a cubicle that has a poster of a dreamboat taped to the door? The same one on EVERY door? I know it helps me to wee more to look at a hot, leather-jacketed, bare-chested, feather-haired honey.

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The kaleidoscopic video effects… and on and on.

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This thing is so great you can almost forgive Pia for leveling Pickfair because she thought it was haunted.

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Geist


I was anticipating very good things from Geist, Lover. You only have to watch some of the music videos to appreciate that as a postpunk performer, the creation ‘Alexander Geist’ is an amazing pop star. And the concept and the conceit… oh, I was very excited. And I was not disappointed. I just wanted more.

‘Alexander Geist’ is the fictional persona of genderqueer artist La JohnJoseph. From an undisclosed time (that feels very early 80s but seems to slip and slide around), perhaps from Berlin or perhaps from England, queer, marvelous, just… incredible… Alexander Geist is the ultimate star. A mask, a character, an image, a gesture. It is as if Marlene Dietrich, David Bowie, Marc Almond, Arletty, early 80s Annie Lennox, Jacques Brel, Grace Jones, and Ute Lemper all merged into one, magnificent entity. Alexander Geist may be made up but they are as real as any superstar persona ever is.

La JohnJoseph is the consummate performer. You can tell that they have worked on every word, every gesture, every brush stroke of makeup, every single detail to make this immaculate creation just perfection. But although there is a chill about Alexander Geist, they are not cold, 2D or false. You feel the pull of this charisma – is it La JJ? Is it Geist seducing us? Is it both, Lover?

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Geist, the show, ran for two nights at the Arcola Theatre in Dalston, London. One can only presume that this was a preliminary run ahead of something bigger later on. Because this show deserves to be seen by as many people as possible. It is compelling, fun, and has twists coming out the hoo-hah. The only frustration is that I wanted whole songs, to watch a Geist concert in amongst the storyline. I understand very well why that could not be the case… but it just goes to show how complete a creature Geist is. And how wonderful the music is.

I will not give away any spoilers. The synopsis, on its surface, is simple – Geist is dead and a documentary maker seeks to uncover the truth of their demise. She has found the tapes of the last concert Alexander Geist performed before their tragic end and thinks she has discovered the secret behind that fateful night.

As magnetic and superb as La JJ is in the lead role, they are not the only actor in this play. We hear the voice of the documentary maker and see the projected interviews of a biography writer and the executrix of the Geist estate. And it is the latter who becomes a major character in this tale and the actor Fran Lima manages to draw our eyes away from La JohnJoseph as the story unfolds… no small feat, Lover.

By Corinna ‘Merm’ Tomrley

Top image by Marco

Bottom image by Stevie Hanley

Shock Carpenters Revelation


 

Intrepid reporter Ethel can reveal that The Carpenters’ Estate is in damage control mode regarding shock revelations drunkenly revealed by none other than 70s horror supremo, John Carpenter.

Written out of the Carpenters’ history – with countless figures in their lives being paid off over decades – is the astonishing fact that the movie director is, in fact, Richard and Karen Carpenter’s brother. John Carpenter was a key figure in their early music career; that is until he was ousted for not wanting to comply to the pair’s squeaky clean public image.

During his confessional rant, John Carpenter revealed he is the middle sibling of the Carpenter clan and was part of the early Carpenters’ lineup, playing piano and keyboards whilst Richard was originally the vocalist with Karen, of course, famously on drums. Citing intense rivalry between the Carpenter brothers, John says he was pushed out by jealous Richard for his superior keyboard skills. According to the slasher director, Richard has early recordings featuring John in a sealed vault and refuses to ever hand them over to his younger brother.

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Songs such as ‘William Shatner’s Inverse Face’ and ‘Kill Me In The Fog’ have never seen the light of day, thanks to Richard Carpenter’s control over his group’s image.

Sources close to the director state that he has struggled with lifelong bitterness as he witnessed his sibling’s rapid rise to fame to become America’s sweethearts. Forced into his filmmaking career by his banishing, John Carpenter used his oeuvre to work through his ousting from the band and family.

‘His most famous film, Halloween, is all about it’, sources close to the director told Ethel. ‘The Jamie Lee Curtis character is Karen and the killer Jason is an amalgam of Richard and Karen’s anorexia chasing her to her death’.

Neither John nor Richard Carpenter could be reached for comment.

(Story revealed to Ethel by intrepid sources C Tomrley and P Gingell)

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Youtube Gold


By Corinna ‘Merm’ Tomrley

There are countless things on Youtube that are rather marvelous. There’s a handful, though, that are just so wonderful, so extraordinary, that we wonder why when we mention them to most people they’ve never seen them or even knew of their existence. These are videos we’ve even posted a lot but that for some reason still don’t get the attention and acclaim and cult status that they so deserve.

Ethel intends to put this right and give you – THINGS ON YOUTUBE YOU REALLY SHOULD KNOW ABOUT

 

  1. CHRISTOPHER WALKEN COOKING CHICKEN WITH PEARS

There is so much about this that is just really ace. Firstly, it’s Christopher Walken cooking chicken. It’s on shitty video in his kitchen. His hygiene practices are questionable (touching poultry and then touching your salt pig, Mr Walken? Salmonella City!). There’s his descriptions of things in that voice. There’s the cat.

Chris did go on to remake this with a proper TV crew and some bloke from that thing as his guest. We really wish he hadn’t because it takes away from the raw weirdness of the original. So don’t ever bother to watch that one but instead what this version over and over and over.

Best moment: the insipid, vile looking result that he produces.

 

  1. JOAN CRAWFORD IN THE SUPERMARKET

We were alerted to this treasure by the sublime Stargayzing. David Munk wrote so wonderfully about this bizarre ad that we won’t witter on ourselves too much. Suffice to say that the very idea of this film is enough to make the camp heart flutter. But the actuality of it surpasses anything you could imagine from such a concept. Warning: the opening music may make your ears bleed. But hopefully you’ll still be able to hear what comes out of Joanie’s mouth as she does her shop. Because it’s something else.

Best moment: Did she say ‘weirdo’?

 

  1. LEGO SILENCE OF THE LAMBS

As far as we’re aware, there was a plan for a full musical film of Lego SOTL, but this is all that got made. You may wish for more but it’s kind of great that this is all that there is. It’s enough. The concept itself is genius. The execution perfection.

Best moment: Put the fucking poodle in the basket

 

  1. MANDOM

Say it: ‘Mandom’. What a word. Who can we possibly get to advertise this ultra butch cologne? Who else but masc god Charles Bronson? The theme tune (one of the best ever, you’ll thank us for this earworm) tells us ‘All the world loves a lover’, but who exactly is Mr Bronson the lover of? For, although he has his Mandom shrine of products at home and he basically fucking showers in the stuff, there isn’t a single woman in this ad. There’s the piano player, there’s the creepy doorman and then in his apartment there’s… his pipe. Marvel at Mandom. We can only presume it stank to high heaven and could be used to remove varnish from the floorboards, just like all 70s perfumes.

Best moment: How Chuck takes off his shirt. There’s no chick to bitch about it strewn across the flat, after all.

 

  1. FAYE DUNAWAY EATS A BOILED EGG

It was informing our soul sisters Graham and Pal about Mandom brought the Dunaway egg film into our lives. Yes, the Bronson ad is extraordinary and funny but had we seen the egg advert? What? No. What? When Pal said ‘it’s Faye Dunaway eating a boiled egg’ he wasn’t exaggerating. Because that’s literally what it is. Actually, forgive us, it’s Faye Dunaway peeling and eating a boiled egg. Why is this sexy? Because it’s Faye Dunaway. Why is this weird? Because it’s a film star eating an egg. Why is it really weird? Because that’s all she’s doing in a beautifully lit black space. Why is it super weird? Because this egg eating activity is advertising a department store.

Best moment: Um… when she eats the egg? Actually, when she peels it and gives sexy cheekbones to camera. What is she going to do next? Oh she’s going to eat that bit of egg, the saucy minx!

 

Ethel Loves… Lou Papalas


When I wrote about the puntasticly, fabulously named Barber Streisand recently, it brought to mind a similar – but more Babtastic – wonder that I heard about some years ago: The Barbra Shop. A regular barbers by day (albeit with Babs stuff on the walls and Babs busts for sale) and a Streisand themed museum by night. I mean. You know? I tried to track down Lou Papalas, the fabulous man behind The Barbra Shop museum collection for that article, but didn’t manage to by deadline. When he got in touch after the fact I told him I simply HAD to interview him for Mermania. As a man with the largest Streisand memorabilia collection in the world, he’s Ethel Mermaids material through and through.

Corinna: How did your love of Babs begin?

Lou: In 1963, my Mom called me into the living room to watch this “kooky girl” on The Mike Douglas show.  I was drawn to her for many reasons—among them, her non-conventional looks and atypical candour as well as a plethora of what seemed self-confidence.

After that a friend gifted me with The Barbra Streisand Album – Barbra’s first… LOVED IT!  Then Barbra was in Funny Girl on Broadway. My buddy (he also loved Barbra) and I both purchased the Broadway Funny Girl album. Not only did we know all the songs, but we used lines (in falsetto) from the musical in our everyday conversations. We would always crack up at the applicability of those lyrics to situations in our lives.

C: How did your collecting begin?

L: I began collecting quite by accident. Initially I obsessively cut out any article I found in magazines or newspapers and stuffed them in my bedroom dresser drawer. If I went to the doctor or dentist and Barbra was on the cover or in a magazine in the waiting room, of course I would take it home with me when I left the office. Soon I began looking for articles, scanning periodicals in hopes of finding more.

Once Barbra starred in Funny Girl on Broadway, starred in her own one woman hour-long TV special, the movie magazines and tabloids chose Barbra as “the celebrity.”  It was so easy for me to collect, however, my collection quickly out grew my dresser drawer. I then purchased a foot locker to accommodate it. All through college, while others were listening to the classic rock beginnings, I had Barbra. My college fraternity brothers teased me about Barbra all the time. Fast-forward to the 90’s. EBay came into my life and collecting Barbra got a whole lot easier and a lot more expensive. I purchased thousands of items from around the world. I had many of them framed to preserve them—hundreds of them. My collection now occupies six 10 x 10 X 15 climate controlled storage units, 9000 cubic feet. My quest to have it all became a reality and fulfil my goal to open a non-profit Barbra Streisand museum/performing arts centre seemed a lot closer. With that in mind, as if my collection wasn’t large enough, I started attending auctions to purchase more Streisand items.

 

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C: What led to your setting up the museum above the Barbra Shop?

L: I retired from a management position at Ford Motor Company in February of 2002.  By that time my collection was an obsession totally out of control and had grown into the tens of thousands. I had also acquired thousands of duplicate and triplicate (and more) of the same item. Some of them were purposefully purchased, but most were purchased only because I kept no written inventory and could not remember if I already had one.  I figured that when I opened my museum, I could sell those duplicate items to raise funds to support it.

April 24 of 2002 was Barbra’s 60th birthday as well as the 50th anniversary of the Caucus Club in Detroit. I befriended the owner of the Caucus Club, the first of Barbra’s non-New York venues. I proposed taking over the décor of the restaurant for a half year which culminated with a Barbra Streisand 60th birthday party and for the anniversary of the Caucus Club. I displayed over 100 items. The rich cherry panelling was the backdrop for beautiful professionally framed Streisand posters, articles and mixed memorabilia. I even had the ladies room painted pink with rose floral accessories.  The owner purchased pink linen tablecloths. The restaurant and my Barbra display was featured in articles and front page stories

My wife and I purchased a winter residence in Palm Desert, California. I had all of the “Streisand stuff” relocated to California from Michigan. After seeing the enjoyment people experienced viewing the items at the Caucus Club, I wanted to create a smallish museum. I did just that and my first location was the “BARBRA SHOP” in Palm Springs California …the Castro of Palm Springs. It was a barber shop by day and a Barbra museum by night. The walls were entirely covered from floor to ceiling with framed posters and significant display items. Additionally, mannequins with different Streisand hairstyles from her career were placed throughout the shop. The barbers wore black Barbra Streisand T-shirts and to complete the mood, Barbra albums provided background music and the TV showed Barbra movies. This clever shop became an international Palm Springs tourist destination and during evenings, after the barbers departed, from 6pm to 10pm many display items were added and the barber shop was transformed into a Barbra Shop Museum.

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C: Why and when did that have to close?

L: Our landlord had legal problems and we needed to vacate. Initially the shop moved to a downtown location, not easily seen and seldom patronized. Therefore we closed for good…unless someone wants me to do a Streisand themed restaurant, museum, Barbra Shop in any U.S. tourist spot or European location for that matter.

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C: Tell me about your experience of the Barbra auctions?

L: Initially I attended a Barbra Streisand Christie’s auction in NYC. I purchased several gowns, one of Barbra’s Chinese antique lamps, some china and three large pieces of antique pottery.  I participated in three other NYC auctions, at one I was high bidder on Barbra’s first eight concerts in New York City.

In 2004, I volunteered my service to assist Julien Entertainment in identifying significant items from Barbra’s career as well as personal items when she started to let go of her career items. I even hosted a two week exhibit of extremely significant career gowns at Takishimaya on 5th Avenue in NYC. During that exhibit I decide that I wanted to become owner of Barbra’s most classic and historically significant and iconic “My Name is Barbra” gown. It was the last item offered for bid in the Her Name is Barbra 2004 auction and I was the high bidder. This gown and the eight contracts are the two most important/valuable pieces in my vast collection.

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C: What items were you most surprised about her selling at auction?

L: Actually, it was almost painful watching all of her beautiful career gowns being distribute to others and breaking up what would make a significant career exhibit. I made it a mission of mine to keep tabs on who purchased what by starting the Barbra Streisand Legacy Associates. I requested that new owners of her gowns or other significant items register as associates. Many of those registered items have been exhibited to provide funding for non-profits.

C: What was the thing that got away that you wished you had won?

L: Her Oscars see-through Scassi pantsuit. Scassi won it back for himself. He repurchased many of the items he designed for Barbra.

ASIB_Bust-203x269

C: I adore the busts that were in your museum.

L: Those items were actually on consignment for me to sell. They were and many still are owned by Ken Joachim, the curator of the 1996 Hello Gorgeous museum in the Castro of San Francisco. The unsold were returned to him when I closed my shop.

4

C: You’ve lent items to other museums and exhibitions toured with some of your Babs collection. Where is your collection now and how can people see it?

L: All of my collection is now in storage. My long term goal of establishing a Streisand Museum/Performing Arts centre becomes less pursuable as I am soon to be 70 and that goal is rapidly becoming a short term crisis. I do not want to die not having achieved all or part of my goal, leaving the thousands of items for my family to liquidate.

C: Have you met her?

L: Yes I have. After I curated a 1200 piece exhibit at the Hollywood Museum her manager, Marty Erlichman, called me and wanted to tour, film and photograph it. As a thank you he and Barbra invited me to her Arizona concert as a guest. Marty requested that I go backstage after the concert where I was one of very few guests – her sister Roslyn Kind , David Foster and girlfriend, Kris Kristofferson, Richard Jay Alexander, Renata, Jane Withers and Mrs. David Rose and of course Sammie.

Oh, I forgot the best part. When I met Barbra, she put her hand on her hip, looked me straight in the eyes and said in her Brooklyneese best “so wher’d ya’ get all my stuff?” I will always remember this as it is etched in my brain.

C:  We’re a little in love with Babs’ dog Sammie.

L: I have also met Jason and  his dog Eli when I again went backstage at the Hollywood Bowl

C: Lucky! What would you most like to see Babs do in the future?

Aside from Gypsy, I would love her to record a simply produced album of old favourites in the style of early Barbra, with a lot of drama and emotion without concern to be perfect and with minimal accompaniment. Purely classic Barbra.

When she and Bette Midler get a little older and before they retire from the screen, I would love to see them to star together in Whatever Happened to Baby Jane? (I am a little weird that way)

C: That would be the ultimate dream!

lou_in_front_of_FG

Ethel Loves… The Back Building



 This is an interesting time for music, pop, gay and queer* culture. Interesting times don’t always mean ‘good’ – while there are some exciting acts out there, there’s also a safe stagnation to some aspects of pop culture. But this is mainly in the mainstream. Interesting can simultaneously mean very good. We all know that ‘online’ has long been the thing. And DIY – with its roots in alternative cultures – is an active and powerful way to get stuff out there that is ignored or marginalised elsewhere. A lot of this work has a very queer bent (pardon le pun). It is prolific, it is diverse, it is thriving and it is quite often very exciting. While the gay and pop press that relies on revenue and circulation figures is suffering (think the recent demise of the LGBT section in the print version of Time Out London), online and offline, self-published and self-started is a positive and increasingly successful way to go. The creativity out there is astounding and promising. But that should be no surprise – we have quite the history of being super resourceful and making our own kind of music when pushed to the corners. One very lovely example of this has come to our glittering eagle-eyed attention: The Back Building. A blog collecting the work and points of interest of one Michael Turnbull, The Back Building is a giddy compilation of gay pop culture from a very determined and enthusiastic source. We mightily encourage you to take a wander round The Back Building and soak up the atmosphere; take a pew here and eaves drop on our chat-ette to find out all about TBB’s author and curator.

 

What is The Back Building?

Well, I’ve written for several publications over the years and I really wanted somewhere to act as an online portfolio. But I also got frustrated as there were so many people I wanted to interview but every time I pitched them I got knocked back. So I thought, ‘Fuck it, I actually want these interviews for myself.’ These are what I love most on The Back Building.

I’d like to think my blog is not determined by sexuality, but I think I’d be kidding myself. Looking at my stats and the popularity of photos of near naked men, my demographics are nearly all men in their mid to late 20s and in their 30s. There are also a few in their 60s which I get a kick out of.

The Back Building has actually inspired another project which is well under way, but it’s top secret for now….

 Tease. You describe TBB as ‘Music, Men, and more’, and your posts are mainly pop and beefcake related – how do these food groups intersect for you? What criteria do you have for your ‘mores’?

Well, I’m not going to lie, I was just going for alliteration there… haha…. it sounded good and I couldn’t think of any other Ms, hence ‘More’.

I do interview a lot of porn stars and the men are ‘beefcakes’, but the thing is I don’t see those kind of men as real. I love them. These kind of gods that get worshipped, stalked, obsessed over for their bodies and the way they use them. But they’re like cartoon characters to me. So visual. We rarely get their personality. In interviewing them I am giving them some depth I guess, but normally they are just 2D characters. So for me, pop music and porn stars kind of work on some kind of parallel. If we’re talking food groups then both are candy.

beef

What is queer pop culture to you?

Queer to me has always involved some kind of political stance. But then the idea of ‘pop’ culture cancels that out. Ha. I studied Film at Uni and I always loved Postmodernism the most. The idea of throwing everything in the mix, ripping up the rulebook (terrible cliche, sorry), it’s that clash that always excites me and something I see in being Queer. It’s an idealism, not something based around sexuality. Unlike Gay pop culture.

Being shallow for a second, I also think Queer Pop Culture is like a narrowed down hipster version of Gay Pop Culture. It’s less Kylie and more Hedwig…

You’ve interviewed tons of important queers – Who have been your faves?

Hmm….I have a few. There’s Andy Butler from Hercules & Love Affair, we bonded over musicals and he suggested a movie date. Two years later I’m still waiting for him to call back and arrange. RuPaul was pretty special. She offered me advice about how to deal with reading at my Grandma’s funeral the next day. Sia is another big one for me. I’ve loved her since her first album. So when we hung out and got to chat that was very special. Then discovering she was bi, part of the LGBT club, was even better. I’m not really a Pet Shop Boys fan, sorry, but Neil and Chris were so great. I kind of forgot to interview them and we just talked pop music. Oh and Peter Tatchell too because going to his flat, meeting him face to face was a real experience. He is a personal hero for sure.

Who would be your DREAM interview?

Well that would be a no holds barred interview with Mariah. I spoke to her once when I worked at her record label. I asked her about her new album. It was very businessy. I would want to ask about Tommy, her early demos that sound like Madonna, that JLO story…so much juicy stuff in there.

The *actual* phone that Michael used to call Mimi
The *actual* phone that Michael used to call Mimi

You’ve mentioned in your work that there’s a certain dislike-of/fear-of-camp in some areas of queer/gay culture – where do you think this comes from? And what are your thoughts on camp? 

Great question. I came out very late – aged 25. One reason was I was scared of getting HIV, the other was that I was scared of becoming super camp like the TV hosts and soap characters I was being presented with. Obviously I became better educated on the former as soon as I came out. But the latter has taken a little longer to be at peace with.

Only in the last year – I am 33 now – am I truly comfortable with being camp and who I am. Sometimes it comes out, sometimes it doesn’t. It depends on the situation. I know it is part of me and I embrace that, but like most characteristics they come out depending who I am talking to. I now find camp guys attractive as it shows to me that they have the strength to be who they are.

There is definite ‘campophobia’ in our community and the idea of ‘straight acting’ disgusts me.  I think what we need to realise is that being gay does not define a person. There are many different types of gay and that is fine. You wouldn’t say straight people are all butch, so it seems crazy that we are so wrapped up in being camp or not. Sure some gays are, but some are not. Let’s just concentrate on who we are and be happy with that.

Who are your fave divas?

Well obviously Mariah is there. She will always be #1. Beyonce for her music and performance. Grace Jones I love. Tina Turner I will always love. It’s interesting though because most divas I love have an element of strength, attitude, boldness. Whereas Mariah has always been soft, cutesy and girly. I think it was always about the voice with her. But even when she performs she looks in pain as opposed to these other women who command the stage.

tina

What most interests you from the past and how old school do your queer tastes go?

Hmmm…not massively if I’m honest. I think the 80s is my favourite decade. I love all the Warhol/Haring/early Madonna/Interview magazine era. I guess 80s New York is what I’m talking about. It’s always interested me. Warhol’s The Factory, just a collective of his favourite people.
Kind of like a real life The Back Building….

andy haring

What would your fantasy gig be?

Well my Mum always tells me about the time we lived in Australia and she and Dad went to see Tina in a little hotel showcase. That would be amazing.

Also back in 96, Mariah came over to support the Daydream album. She doesn’t tour much and I was gagging to see her, but it was a Sunday night and I had to go back to boarding school, Mum wouldn’t let me have the night off. I have never forgiven her. But to see Mariah in an intimate venue at the top of her game mid 90s would be incredible.

M vs W

Mariah or Whitney?

Oh gosh…I have and always will be camp Mariah. But I have come to appreciate Whitney as I get older. All The Man That I Need is one of my favourite songs of all time. But Whitney never had the material. She just had this incredible voice. When she sang it was like she couldn’t hold it in.

When they sang together it upset me as Whitney showed strength and although Mariah opted to show range, Whitney clearly won. She sounds great on that record. And I will always have love for The Bodyguard. Every song she sang on it was incredible.
R vs S

Miss Ross or Miss Summer?

I used to work at Donna’s label and one of the best things was hearing old stories about her. About how warm a person she was, how she gave someone a small writing credit on a song of hers, how she’d invited him to stay with her in Nashville. I do love her, but my love for Diana runs deeper. I mean The Boss album is flawless. Ashford and Simpson are genius. Although obviously so is Moroder. Oh God, do I have to pick?

No, we’ll allow equal love of both. What would be your ideal date?

It would involve food. Ha. There are a few places I love. Randall & Aubin on Brewer St. La Fromagerie just off Marylebone High Street. The Wolseley. But yes, food is always a winner.

You’re DJing at Debbie on the 8th Feb. We had a blast when we did a set there. How are you selecting your tunes?

I am very excited. I DJ a lot at more pop/dance clubs like Push The Button or Songs of Praise. So I am really excited about throwing some unexpected stuff into the mix. Stuff I think Debbie can handle. There is an old Agnetha song I cannot wait to play. I may have to pull some Stevie out for Sina. I also want to drop a Liza song which is important to me. But we’ll see what works on the night.

debbie 

We think this is quite an exciting time for women in pop – there are lots of distinct, colourful, strong, creative characters such as Gaga, Katy Perry, Rihanna, Jessie J, Beyonce, Nicki Minaj – what do you make of this era of pop? And where are the colourful boys?

I’ve been thinking about this and I guess we do have boys in pop, we have One Direction, Olly Murs, Rizzle Kicks, The Wanted. It’s just I’m not interested in them. If you are colourful then it is seen to emasculate you. And although One Direction fans love thinking the boys are gay I think that is an anomaly. I loved it when Kele Okereke came out because he was tough, his album was called The Boxer. It’s just a shame it didn’t do better. I also loved the brazenness of Nightwork by Scissor Sisters. The shocking album cover. But again the label had higher expectations and it was seen as a flop. Labels are seeing less and less return so I think they just want artists to play it safe and get that £££. We need more queer independent artists bringing their work to the mainstream. 

ru

If RuPaul put you in charge of collating a bunch of drag artists for a UK edition of Drag Race, who would you approach for the auditions?

Well I always love the fishy queens, but I’m not really sure we have many over here. Well at least I don’t know many. I think London has a great alternative drag scene with Johnny Woo, Ma Butcher and that crew. I love them. Gateau Chocolat….

But a lot of our drag queens are promoters or DJs. Jodie Harsh, Dusty O, Lady Lloyd, Munroe Bergdorf. I mean I love them, but I don’t think they would be up for doing Drag Race. It’s different.

What are your fave things about London?

It’s interesting. When I had the corporate job at the label, I had grown so tired of London. But having been away for three months, returned, changed career. I see a different side to it. I love our night life still. It would be nicer if it was closer together but there we go.

I love the mish mash of architecture we have. I think the fact that one minute you can see the stunning Natural History Museum and then see the gherkin is great. 

It think the best thing about London is the life it has afforded me. The gay lifestyle is incredible and when I talk to people on my shifts at Comptons who are from out of town, I realise how lucky I am.

Who would be in your dream Girl Supergroup?

One thing I know about girl groups is they don’t last for long. I am happy with my solo singers. I’d rather they focus on the music than the drama.

What secrets are in your hair?

When I worked at Universal, I was privvy to heaps of gossip on the biggest stars. So there are a fair few in there but they need to stay there till I write my autobiography and get that pension.

michael

*The Ethel Mermaids see queer as being many things. As well as its historical and political connotations, we see queer as being all encompassing of the LGBTI food groups. This is why it’s our label of choice. I would say that ‘gay’ can sometimes describe something a bit more mainstream, perhaps, or perhaps not… let’s say gay doesn’t always explain what we’re describing as well as queer does, in some specific contexts. That said, I do understand Michael’s distinctions between the two as defined and discussed by him in this piece. I just wanted to clarify this point as I use ‘queer’ and ‘gay’ throughout – interchangeably for us in this context. Here, I wanted to explain that our own view of queer is wider than that expressed by Michael in this interview. What we love about these conversations on Mermania is that there is a whole variety of opinions and definitions of our fabulous world and culture. It’s not always Ethel’s world view, but part of our project is to present and discuss the many and varied world views of our participants and Mermates. CM

thebackbuilding.com

facebook.com/TheBackBuilding

twitter.com/thebackbuilding

From the Desk of Ethel


January 14 1959

Hiya KIDS!

Gee but we all had a SWELL time at the Angela Lansbury Night that those Namesake Mermaids threw last week. GOLLY, what a blast. I don’t know Angela. Her Mama Rose is obviously inferior to MINE, but then – HELL – every actress in any role is inferior to The Merm – am I right kids? You bet your sweet fucking asses I am!

Anyway, this is all obviously an out of town tryout. You KNOW they’re just testing the waters and gearing up to doing a whole MONTH of events dedicated to YOURS TRULY. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! But they are, right? I’ll phone my agent and get the low down for ya on THAT! HAHAHAHAHAHA!

So, what else has been going on in the World of Merm? I know you’re all DYING to know, aren’t ya? Well, I hear that those crazy kids Rice and Webber are writing a show for yours truly called COOKED! and I’ll be playing Nigella Lawson. You can see it, right? Won’t even have to get a new hairdo! I told them that I am SHIT in the kitchen but that won’t matter, I’m pure SEX, just like Nige and that’s all that counts. Gonna paint her as the wronged but strong heroine, of course. I know that role by HEART. We’re Team Nigella over here in the office of The Merm and we’re gonna put the record straight. IN SONG!

Well, I gotta go now kids. I’m having lunch with my pal Benay Venuta and the simply GORGEOUS Judy Garland. God I fucking LOVE Judy. She’s a great kid and the only one who can turn the air bluer than YOURS TRULY. HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA! I just hope that crazy broad Jackie Susann doesn’t turn up again. That gal is gaga over me and Judy – can’t blame her, of course. But I just wish she’d CHOOSE who she wants to stalk. I can’t believe she’d choose anyone over me, even a SWELL gal like Judy. I’ll be sure to tell you all about it, kids, you know you can count on THAT.

Until next time, kids, MERM OUT!

 

Ethel Loves StreisBAND


 

The Ethel Mermaids were very excited to read a much shared ad earlier this year recruiting a drummer for a Barbra Streisand metal covers band. StreisBAND has now found its drummers (several for gigs in different countries) and has recorded an album. You can buy it from the StreisBAND Web page and for a limited period can get a StreisBAND t-shirt thrown in to boot. StreisBAND is the brainchild of artist Stephen Crowe, so always promised to be rather marvellous. We cannot wait to attend a gig.

The cover of Woman in Love got me thinking. I had read a few years ago that Babs didn’t like that song and never wanted to record it. When we saw her in concert she did an abridged version of WiL, prefacing it with an explanation as to why she never had sung it in her concerts before. She said she didn’t agree with the lyrics, that it was an ‘interesting time for women’ when she recorded the song. Presumably referring to women’s lib, it seems that her objections as a feminist are that the rights she’d like to defend over and over again are not to get a man into her world and hold him within. However, when she went on to sing My Man later on in the show with no critique of those lyrics, we couldn’t help but feel that Babs was a bit of a fickle fish… Perhaps we should give her a break though: My Man – despite its terrible victim lyric – is an amazing belter and one of her best songs. We adore it. Plus she was putting WiL in a particular historical, social and political context which lends support to her reasoning.

I LOVE Woman in Love. It’s one of my absolute fave Babs songs – perhaps top 3. It’s my ringtone because its slinky intro is perfect and I can’t imagine many people have used the song as such. I will defend my right to love Woman in Love over and over again. However, thinking about Babs, her discussion of the song and StreisBand’s cover, it suddenly occurred to me – just because Babs is straight and so singing it as a woman addressing a man doesn’t mean the song necessarily has to be read as straight. What if the woman in the song is a woman in love with a woman? What if the right she will defend over and over again is actually the right to love a woman? This would make sense in terms of gay lib if she wants to talk historical context. If there was a simple way to contact Babs and tell her of my thoughts on the song, I would. But she’s a hard celeb to reach. You can’t even msg her facebook page. Perhaps she’ll Google herself and come across our blog post. Yes. That’s what will happen. So Ms Streisand? Whaddaya think of my theory?

(Ms Streisand can contact Corinna ‘Merms’ Tomrley via The Ethel’s email: theethelmermaids@gmail.com. Ms Streisand can also ‘like’ the Ethel’s facebook page: facebook.com/ethelmermaids; and follow them on Twitter: @Ethelsmermaids)

stephencroweopera.org/StreisBAND

Ethel… Explores Jessica Fletcher’s Closet


 

We Ethel Mermaids bring a lot of different likes to the EM project and there are of course collective fandoms, loves where we are unanimous. We heart Murder, She Wrote and Angela Lansbury. We all came to MSW at different times in our lives and we all love it very, very hard. There is – not surprisingly – quite the camp, cult following for MSW. If you are unfamiliar, along with a recommended viewing any of the millions of episodes repeated on TV every 10 minutes, we would like to be your guides for all things MSW, Jessica Fletcher and Angela Lansbury. May we please direct your attention to (WARNING: explicit material) the sublime Positive Moves (extracts available on youtube)? That in itself could possibly be all you would ever need. But wait – there’s more.  There is Murder, She Blogged, which is pretty amazing with pretty extensive breakdowns of the episodes.   There is Murder, She Saw: a blog dedicated to the endurance test of one woman watching every episode in one marathon session.  There was one golden week in 2009 that cartoonist Timothy Winchester dedicated to MSW art and toonage, and it was so brilliant and so popular that he repeated the triumph in 2010.

Angela Lansbury's Positive Moves
Angela Lansbury’s Positive Moves

And then… (sigh) …and then there is something so fabulous, so perfect, so totally MSW in spirit and in thoroughness that when we discovered it we were floored. Then we picked ourselves up off the floor and ran – RAN to its author and said: talk to us. And what is this treasure trove? It is Exploring Jessica Fletcher’s Closet in which the wonderful Lau painstakingly catalogues the best outfits from each MSW and then researches where you can find matching items and BECOME Jessica for your very self. We did not need to ask ‘why?’ Such a question is unnecessary in the face of such beauty. But we did need to know more about Ms. Lau and her incredible blog…

murder_she_wrote_crossover_3_full

Do you remember the first time you saw MSW?

When I was very little we did not have a television. I never missed it, as we were always busy doing so many other things, but when we finally got one, the whole family quickly got charmed. My mum loved murder mystery books and was an avid fan of Agatha Christie. My first memories of MSW are episodes watched with her on our bulky colour TV. It was like opening a magic window to a world we never knew before and we liked it very much.

Jessica tries out the Virtual Reality version of her novel. Someone dies.
Jessica tries out the Virtual Reality version of her novel. Someone dies.

What is it about MSW that you love?

MSW’s success, in my opinion, is largely down to the brilliant portrait of Jessica played by Angela Lansbury. Of course the episodes are well written, and even if they always follow a similar pattern, they always manage to be surprising and original (something that many TV series today fail to achieve). All the characters are personable and lovable without being too cheesy, but needless to say, Jessica is the reason why people, still today, keep re-watching this series over and over again.

I think Jessica is loved by so many people of all ages, genders and sexuality because she is a flag-bearer for anyone who defies stereotypes. Any label you try to pin on her (OAP? Widow? Small town writer? Sleuth?) she manages to turn around and prove you wrong. I think the secret of her appeal is in her being so very human, her humanity expressed by the multifaceted aspects of her personality. She is clever, but not boring. She is classy but not snob. She is mature, but not old. She is obviously wealthy, but not spoiled. And she is sexy but not in the plastic way that models from magazines are trying to sell us as the only accepted canon: she has the charm of a real woman, a woman with brains and guts, as well as a creative mind and a humble spirit. I think this is what I like the most about her: she is fragile but fearless, and lives her life in her own terms. She is someone who has suffered and come through it, a woman who went on with her life even if things did not go perfectly to plan. She could have spent time at home crippled by her loneliness, missing her husband and regretting not having children of her own, but that would have been a very different show, and quite a depressing one! Instead, she makes the most of the cards that life handed her. She never lets anyone talk her down and is very confident, but in a world where standing up for yourself seem to be synonym of walking over others, she proves that treating people with kindness and respect does not necessarily makes you weaker. What attracted me to her fashion style, specifically, is that she always looks at ease with herself. She oozes confidence without being aloof, and yet her outfits are reasonably easy to put together and not necessarily expensive. My goal is to obtain that effortless style that comes from knowing what works for your body type and just feel that you can forget about looking in the mirror, because real class comes from the heart.

From Lau's brilliant blog
From Lau’s brilliant blog

How did the blog come about?

In January this year I was in between jobs and I stumbled upon reruns of MSW in the early morning slot. One day I saw Jessica wearing a beautiful dress and I went online looking for a website giving fashion tips inspired by the series. To my amazement I could not find any. I started to do some research for my own pleasure and then I thought: what if?

What is your process?

I usually watch every episode on my laptop, stopping the DVD to take screenshots when I see Jessica wearing a new outfit. I then research on internet, looking on dozens of websites – from high street stores to vintage and second hand stores – trying to find something as similar as possible to what she is wearing. Whenever possible, I try to identify the original brands. I then put all together and write the accompanying text. It is real fun but quite a time consuming task. Inexplicably the most mundane of items are usually the hardest to find. I think finding the right pieces is mostly down to patience and sheer luck, but I truly enjoy my research and I am honestly learning a lot about fashion in the process.

Scarves and shirts and gilets, oh my!
Scarves and shirts and gilets, oh my!

What has the response been like?

The response from readers has been overwhelmingly good and I am really humbled by all the lovely things that people wrote to me, both via email and on the blog. I am not on Facebook or Twitter, so I have not advertised the blog in any way: I did not even tell any of my friends about it until recently! That is why I am so happy that so many took the time to read it. I am really amazed by the amount of people who found out about it just by word of mouth and I am really happy if people have fun reading it as much as I have fun writing it.

If you had to pick one outfit that you’d most like to own and wear, what would it be?

I love the dress that Jessica wears in the cross-over episode with Magnum PI! I even put it in the header of my blog. I think it is so simple and yet so very elegant and I can’t wait to get to that episode to be able look for something similar. I love Jessica’s style in general, and since the beginning of this blog I started wearing scarves and belts, something I never really did before. Now when I go shopping I can’t help by thinking: Would Jessica buy this?

Magnum and JB: a rare scene not in the shower.
Magnum and JB: a rare scene not in the shower.

What has had the biggest response?

So far, definitely the fish cardigan. I was incredibly lucky to find the name of the original maker, as usually I really struggle to find perfect matches, let alone the real thing! It was also really great that Mary Maxim, the company that produced that original knitting pattern in the 80s, stumbled upon my blog and decided to make it available again for purchase. The response from readers has been amazing and I know of a couple of people who are in the process of knitting it as we speak. I really hope they will send me the photos once finished: I would love to publish them on the blog if they will allow me to do so!

The infamous fish cardigan
The infamous fish cardigan

What would you do if you got to meet Angela?

I have never had the luck to meet Angela Lansbury or even see her live in theatre. If I could meet her, I would probably be star-struck and unable to say a word, but a braver version of me would love to interview her to ask about her take on fashion. I would love to know how much say she had in deciding what to wear on MSW and what are her favourite style secrets. In a perfect world, I would then invite her for dinner at my home, together with my family and friends, as I think she would be the most interesting and charming dinner guest ever.

Do you prefer the Cabot Cove episodes or those set in the Big Cities and Exotic Locales?

The Cabot Cove episodes. Maybe just because they are the ones I have the most memories with my mum.

Hollywood comes calling...
Hollywood comes calling…

Do you have a favourite episode?

I thought about this very hard, and it is a difficult choice. I love that episode in two parts (in series 3, I think) where she dresses up with an improbable flashy outfit and puts on a fake accent to get into a circus where one of her relatives is hiding. I like to think I would have done the same and I can’t wait to blog about it! In the first series, I love the episode where Jessica has to fight an allegedly self-driving car. She even gets to play arcade games and it makes me giggle every time I see it. I am actually re-watching the series as I blog so I am sure there are many great episodes that I haven’t seen yet, or that I forgot all about, so maybe ask me again in a little while.

Cunning disguise
Cunning disguise

One of my fave things is the outfits that some of the guest stars wear – SO MANY SEQUINS!!! Have you ever thought about expanding and doing posts about other character’s outfits or the glam guest stars?

Yes, I definitely thought about it. I am planning to do a Grady Fletcher special and maybe also a ‘bad girls’ special, as two lovely blog’s reader suggested these ideas. Hopefully I will manage to find the time to put something together soon.

Tell us a bit about yourself outside of your MSW world

I just moved a couple of months ago from London to the Emirates, where I am currently overdosing on good food and trying not to go full-lobster in the heat. I have an amazingly supportive partner, brother and friends. I love animals, baking ugly cookies, travelling and taking photos of skyscrapers. Writing is my passion but it is a bit of a mirage most of the time. I never thought I would write about fashion, then Jessica happened and my life has not been the same since.

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What’s next?

This blog had a very positive impact on my life. I already consider it an incredibly successful venture, mostly because I met so many lovely people through it, but also because it made me more knowledgeable and more confident in my fashion choices: even if I haven’t obtained my goal yet, (‘becoming a classy lady!’), I still have 11 series and a half to get there!

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