Beautiful & Damned – July

The July Beautiful & Damned, last Thursday, starts slow but ends pretty well, with a decent amount of happy dancing people. The barbecue is cancelled, as the people organising it are convinced it’s going to rain that night. I go along with their fears and say fair enough, as I’m not the one who has to light the thing and serve the food. Of course, it then completely fails to rain. Still, if I’d been proven wrong in the other direction – the barbecue going ahead on my insistence and it raining – it would have looked far worse for me. A case of choosing the lesser of two evil outcomes.

Mr MacGowan & Ms Clarke turn up and dance. I’m wearing a white shirt, braces and one of the bow ties kindly donated by The General. Seems far too hot to wear a jacket, so I’ve gone to town with my hair by way of compensation, heavily slicking it down so it looks drawn onto my head in proper 1920s style. Mr MacGowan points out that HE’S happily wearing a black jacket, black shirt and tie, and is not bothered by the heat. “You’re a dandy lightweight!”

Meanwhile in Cardiff this week, sweltering skin-baring shoppers watch David Tennant running around in a full suit, as filming goes on for the Doctor Who Christmas Special. If both Doctor Who and Shane MacGowan can wear suit jackets in this heat, there’s really no reason I should let the side down. Besides, the Boogaloo is well air-conditioned these days.

Earlier, when I describe the night to Mr MacGowan, he replies, “So it’s a Fag Rock night, then?”

Well, who am I kidding. On one level, I suppose it is. But I like to think it can also be cool, or friendly, or strange, or camp, all depending on what angle you look at a club that plays Doris Day and showtunes next to David Bowie, Sinatra and the Divine Comedy.

This month we try out showing silent movies, projected upon a screen at one end of the room. It’s feared among the staff that people might just sit and watch the films rather than dance or chat to each other, but this proves ungrounded. I think if the film is black and white and comes with its own vintage caption cards (as opposed to subtitles), and is actually designed to be seen with music in the first place, people don’t find it off-putting to their dancing or conversation. The film illustrates the club’s music, rather than the other way around. Tonight we screen ‘Pandora’s Box’ and ‘Piccadilly’.

Also present: David Barnett & his mother, Anna S, Suzi L, Robin & Ellen, Emma Jackson, Anneliese, Ms Red’s Mr Ollie, Ms Hazel, Ms Mary. I meet a couple from Canada who are absolutely thrilled with the night.

El Records have accidentally sent me two review copies of their new Doris Day compilation, ‘Darling’, so it seems fitting to offer my spare CD as an extra prize for the best-dressed people there, in addition to the usual cocktails. The Canadian young lady is well turned-out in 20s garb, and I’m feeling ambassadorial, so the CD goes to her. I point out to her that El Records is a gem among UK indie labels. These days it puts out classy compilations and rare albums of classic artists, such as the Elizabeth Taylor In London album. None of your tacky TV-advertised compilations cashing in on a dusty old song used in some yoghurt commercial. El Records CDs are made to be seen with in public.

The cover photo of ‘Darling’ is typically unusual in the El Records way: an early shot of Doris looking unrecognisably young and girlishly sexy, as opposed to the more common later photos where she’s faux-virginal and camp. It’s Doris Day before she became ‘Doris Day’.

Mr O’Boyle suggests I play ‘Fiesta’ by the Pogues, and it works surprisingly well. I also spin both versions of ‘Beyond The Sea’, ie M. Trenet’s ‘La Mer’ as well as Mr Darin’s hit. During ‘One’ from ‘A Chorus Line’, Ms Red – who is an experienced musical actress as well as my fellow DJ – performs a proper leg-kicking dance with her boyfriend Mr Ollie. People applaud.

Noel Coward’s ‘The Party’s Over’ makes a pretty good closer, but I’m asked for a DJ encore. Cue yet more selections from ‘Bugsy Malone’, ending with Doris Day’s ‘Secret Love’. Emma J tells me she knows all the words to ‘Deadwood Stage’ from ‘Calamity Jane’, and promptly recites them to me on the spot. The whole song.

I’m disappointed that there’s many men in attendance who haven’t bothered to dress up at ALL tonight, but Ms Lou tells me the bar takings are the highest for a B&D night so far, and I like to keep the venue happy. It’s a dress recommendation, not a dress code enforced on the door. I don’t want to turn casually-dressed people away if they’re not giving the dressed-up dandies any trouble.

Still, I do wish I could convince more men to make the effort in their attire. I never have any trouble getting women to dress up. I suppose I could literally shout at the offending gentlemen like Matthew G does at ‘Kash Point’ (“How DARE you come to MY club in JEANS and a T-SHIRT! How DARE you!”). But no, that be rather out of character.

I do tell them off when they ask for requests, though. Albeit with a harmless smirk.

“Got any Etta James?”
“I’ll tell you when your clothes are worthy of an answer.”

Next month’s Beautiful & Damned is on Thursday August 17th. For the silent movies, I’ll screen ‘Metropolis’ and something with Ms Garbo, I think.