Had my weekly session today with the college mentor. It’s a kind of student-friendly therapy, checking I’m coping okay with deadlines, adapting to the campus world and so on.
Bumped into Clayton L & Clair W in the ’34b’ cafe on the corner of Old Compton St and Frith St. Like Bar Italia nearby, it’s one of those tiny old fashioned cafes in Soho that somehow always has a free seat, or rather a free stool.
Other cafe haunts today, while reading my set texts for college: the basement cafe in Waterstones Piccadilly (usually after I’ve been to the London Library), the crypt in St Martin’s (a perfect place in central London for meeting one’s parents), and Bar Bruno in Wardour Street, where Sebastian Horsley used to eat; very much a part of Old Soho.
Tonight: saw the new Stewart Lee show, ‘Carpet Remnant World’ at the Leicester Square Theatre. Lots of the usual deconstruction of his own comedy and attacking sections of the audience for not being quick or clever enough. What’s new is that he ends with a poignant piece of surreal storytelling, the kind he’s not done since the ‘Pea Green Boat’ show some years ago. His best show yet, I think.
Clayton L showed me the cover of his new book, Goodbye To Soho. It features a portrait of Sebastian H by Maggie Hambling. Deliberately unfinished, as if he’s melting into the ghost world:
, Clayton Littlewood
, Sebastian Horsley
, stewart lee
Last Friday I was kindly invited to the press night of the play ‘Dirty White Boy: Tales Of Soho’, at the Trafalgar Studios in Whitehall.
It’s based on Clayton Littlewood’s book about the various colourful and sexually graphic characters he encountered when he ran a shop on the corner of Dean Street and Old Compton Street, the Dirty White Boy of the title. He kept a diary, which became a MySpace blog (this being 2006), a newspaper column and finally a book. Then he teamed up with the actor David Benson and turned it into a series of sketches, with Mr L as himself, and Mr B as everyone else. I was fortunate enough to see the duo perform at the Colony Room – a suitably iconic Soho venue – just before it closed.
So now they’ve expanded it further, this time into a full-length stage show. The sketches have become scenes, the characters have dramatic arcs and follow-ups, there’s as much tears as there are laughs, and the scenes are punctuated by songs from a talented young third player, Alexis Gerred. Being not exactly ugly, he also doubles up perfectly as one wealthy character’s rent boy. I’m not so keen on the use of hits by Blondie, Petula Clark, and the Pet Shop Boys as illustrations to the action (though a few years ago I would’ve been; my tastes have changed). But there’s a rather good original number at the start, and his rendition of the Mae West song, ‘My Old Flame’ is absolutely stunning.
Otherwise, it’s as it was in the Colony, with Mr Benson on convincing form as a Quentin Crisp-esque old queen, a pensioner who blows his income on thongs (‘what else is a pension for?’) a motherly transsexual, and even a black drag queen from Chicago.
One aspect of the show that occurred to me is how people in real life often present themselves as types, if not full-blown stereotypes, as a way of dealing with the world. Once you get to know the person, the assumptions dissolve. It’s been said before that camp can be a defence mechanism, but no more so than any other parameter of mannerism or appearance. Choice of hairstyle or clothes, too, will put you into one tribe or another.
Even those who don’t think they’re a type can find themselves ticking boxes unconsciously. I recently saw a photo of people campaigning to save BBC 6Music and noticed their shared similarities: band t-shirt, jeans, thirtysomething stubble, knowledge of Wire box sets, both Wire the band and The Wire TV series. It’s social type as interface. (Radio-wise, I’m equally mindful of jokes about the stereotypical Radio 4 listener being stuffy and out of touch with youth culture, while the joke about Radio 3 for years was that all the presenters wore black polo neck jumpers.)
‘I am much more than I appear’, we say in our choices of self-presentation. ‘But at least you have somewhere to start. And it’s a comfort. And sometimes, something to cling to.’
It could be argued that Mr L has the hardest job of the night, having to play himself throughout, and – as he says right at the start – he’s no actor. However, his gentle, even-toned, unassuming style of speaking is what holds the show together, and keeps it both original and personal. Had he been replaced with a proper actor, the show would be a lot less special. I hear it’s selling out, and rightly so.
Sunday sees me at the Arch Hotel near Marble Arch, for afternoon tea & cake with Ms Alex Paynter and friends. The hotel specialises in eclairs, and I get my introduction to the savoury incarnation. I suppose it’s not far from a kind of stretched vol-au-vent or a canape with extensions.
High Tea at the Arch comes with Bruce Weber coffee table books to peruse, over artisan bread with gentleman’s relish. I gingerly try an Earl Grey-flavoured martini (billed as a ‘MarTEAni’, groan), which turns out to be absolutely delicious, if a little potent.
Not only are the prices reasonable, but they throw in – o joy of joys – their limited edition Election Eclairs.
I’d been envious of my American friend Jennifer’s Barack Obama chocolate bar, and wished UK elections featured more edible merchandise. At the Arch, I’m delighted to report, faces of the party leaders have been printed in edible ink onto marzipan squares, with which to decorate various appropriate flavours of eclair. For David Cameron there’s Blueberry & Coconut, for Gordon Brown there’s Rose with Raspberry & Champagne Jelly, while Nick Clegg’s flavour is Grapefruit & Champagne.
I love this photo of Ms P caught devouring one of the Gordon Browns.
It should be pointed out that her choice of eclair in no way reflects the way she might vote on May 6th.
(Photo by Chris Amies)
Tags: afternoon tea
, Clayton Littlewood
, David Benson
, dirty white boy
Pose With Wine
Bit of a gap in my diary, but I’m back now. So what have I been up to?
I’ve just written the phrase, ‘days of wine and poses’ by way of a response and as a title for the entry. Then I realised it’s the Wrong Kind Of Pun. Puns can make you sound like a matey fake-everyman playing to an imagined gallery (the literary equivalent of a corny wink). I am not that kind of writer. At least, I like to think I’m not.
If I’m worrying about a pun, it’s probably a sign I should take it out. Rewrite it. Fiddle with it. Try reversing it. Poses And Wine? Sounds too much like a Cliff Richard song. Poseur With Wine? Too hard on myself. Pose With Wine could be the title of a painting, like Figure With Meat by Francis Bacon.
You see, these are the things that bubble around my brain on this rather chilly day in September.
Last week: I am pulling off a Pose With Wine at Mr Bacon’s old drinking and posing hole, The Colony Room in Soho. I am there with Clayton Littlewood, having first met for coffee at Bar Italia, then dinner at Stockpot. Pure Soho stuff.
Clayton used to live in a basement flat under Old Compton Street, which fascinates me. He could hear the prostitutes upstairs plying their trade. He says it was always noisy, unsurprisingly, and almost impossible to get any sleep at night. But that the mornings made up for it: Soho at 7am has this incredible atmosphere. The quiet after the storm, sobriety kicking in, people with proper jobs starting to get up and go to work. Streets caught naked, clear of teeming crowds. Small children go to school here too, not always something you associate with Soho (just been watching this video about Soho Parish School). A sense of recovery, of the sun getting its own back on decadent humans, of pores getting a chance to breath.
We visit the Colony Room in Dean Street at a critical point in its 60-year history. A party of regulars, including Salena Godden, have just been to the private view of a much-feared auction, where some of the Colony’s art is being sold. Michael Wojas, the manager, plans to move the club out of its Dean Street premises, in order to save it from escalating rents. To this end, he’s selling off the artwork on the club walls, including a 1950s mural by Michael Andrews. Some club members have protested, both about the move and the art sale. There was even a story in Private Eye about it all. (Interview with Mr W here)
I initially lent my name to the rebel members’ ‘Save The Colony’ campaign, but have now changed my stance to a neutral onlooker, having understood more of Mr W’s point of view. It won’t be the same away from 41 Dean Street, but then it wasn’t the same after the smoking ban, anyway. I hope it continues in new premises, as long as it’s still in Soho.
[Update after the auction: The good news is that the Michael Andrews mural sold at a good price, according to the Independent, to ‘a representative of the Andrews estate… in the hope it can be placed in a museum.’]
Clayton L tells me it’s about time I pitched a non-fiction book to agents and publishers. ‘The Manesake Diaries’. ‘Boy With A Too Many Track Mind.’ ‘Secret Diary Of A Fallen Boy.’ The secret being there’s no sex in it whatsoever.
I could focus on the ‘modern dandy’ episodes, the music biz and DJ adventures, my veteran blogger status, the unlikely Shane MacG capers, and the general Being Dickon Edwards philosophy. Whether such a volume would draw a decent book-buying crowd or not, I don’t know. Only one way to find out. All I have to do is… work hard at it. Ah. The W word. Okay.
RIP Paul Newman, giving the newspapers a good excuse to print huge close ups of those famous eyes. Far nicer to see those in the corner shop, first thing on a Sunday, than anything more to do with banking or the ‘credit crunch’. The latter phrase being as tiresomely over-bandied about in the press as the word Facebook was last year. ‘Tortoise Breeding & How The Credit Crunch Will Affect It’, that sort of thing.
RIP also Bryan Morrison, music biz manager and publisher, whose clients included Wham, Pink Floyd, and very nearly, Orlando. We went to his office for a single meeting, during our mid 90s hustling days of being The Next Big Hubristic Thing. Mr M turned out to be the proper personification of a rock ‘n’ roll impresario: cigar in hand, which he used to make a point, gold discs on the office wall, 1960s anecdotes about The Pretty Things. As we walked in, he pointed at me and said, ‘LOVE the look!’
Tags: Clayton Littlewood
, colony room
, dickon's brain
Sequined Vodka Tales
A Fosca London gig announcement. Oh yes!
It’s the much-threatened Fosca Farewell show. Saturday December 13th at Feeling Gloomy, Bar Academy, Islington. Stage times to come.
The line-up will a five-piece, three-guitar and two synths (plus laptop) assault: Rachel S, Kate D, Tom E, Charley S and myself.
Two DJ gigs of mine, at somewhat shorter notice.
I’m DJ-ing on Sat Sept 20th, at a plush dress-up event called The Magic Theatre. This takes place in an Art Deco ballroom in Bloomsbury. Here’s what their website says about the dress code:
“Ladies: The perfect place for all you Cinderellas and Style Queens, Pink Princesses and Leggy Latex Babes… Audrey Hepburns and Barbarellas, TV’s, Saucy Secretaries and Rock Chicks…Whether you’re a Goth Girl, Dowager, French Maid or Precocious Teen Queen, Marie Antoinette, or Marilyn Monroe, the Magic Theatre is YOUR stage. Gentlemen: Retro Glamour, Uniforms, Lounge Lizards, Gentlemen of the Cloth, Fauns, B-Movie Stars, Prince Charmings, Pirates and Dandies of all kinds…Arise, Sir Galahad, kneel before Zod, come out, come out you Peter Pans, Dick Turpins and Darcys…”
I’ll be doing two DJ sets between 8.30pm and 11.30pm. Ticket details at www.magic-theatre.co.uk.
I’m also putting in a brief DJ appearance at The Beautiful & Damned on Thursday 18th, at The Boogaloo (near Highgate Tube). Martin White & The Mystery Fax Machine Orchestra will also be playing. The B&D isn’t ‘my’ club any more, as I’m forever correcting people, but it’s still going strong under the auspices of Miss Red and The Boogaloo team. They’ve reinvented it into a kind of cabaret / club night / music hall booth affair. It’s great to see unwitting Highgate pub goers wander in off the street, and wonder just what weird, time-hopping universe they’ve stepped into. Part Red Room in ‘Twin Peaks’, part Sapphire & Steel…
Back to the diary.
Wednesday evening: to Trash Palace in Wardour Street, for a club night called ‘Polari’. It includes Jamie McLeod’s exhibition of modern dandies, which in turn includes me. Always nice to swan into a club to see a large framed photograph of oneself on the wall. The club also supplies free quiche.
On this occasion, special guest Sebastian Horsley takes the mic, and prowls and provokes and reads from his book, to a packed and appreciative crowd. Including his mother. He’s in his red sequined suit and brandishes a matching sequined bottle of vodka. Well, a sequined bottle cosy.
I say hello to David Benson, Anne Pigalle, Jason Atomic and Ms Ruta, and meet Clayton Littlewood, author of the ‘Soho Stories’ column in the London Paper. The window by his writing desk (or rather, laptop perch) looked out from the clothes shop he worked at, Dirty White Boy in Old Compton Street. A particularly good spot in London to watch people and gather (or imagine) stories: Soho media types, the famous, the homeless, the vicious queens, the prostitutes, the tourists, the tramps, the old survivors, the new blood. He’s put together a book version: ‘Dirty White Boy: Tales Of Soho’, which I’m rather looking foward to.
More details at his MySpace page, with excerpts, readings and so on: www.myspace.com/dwbsoho
After Polari, Mr Benson takes myself, Mr H, Mr L and his friend Ms Lois for dinner at one of the Chinese restaurants in Gerrard Street. Sebastian invites me to an orgy on Friday. I politely decline. I’ll be busy playing indiepop songs in Madrid. Many of which are about, well, not going to orgies.
Tags: Anne Pigalle
, Beautiful & Damned
, Clayton Littlewood
, David Benson
, DJ gigs
, Fosca gigs
, Fosca play Madrid
, Martin White
, Sebastian Horsley