Thursday, November 25, 2004
I love shattering illusions, and altering the way people perceive things. I don't do it maliciously though. Well, not since I was a brat in short pants and I gleefully informed next-door's pig-tailed six-year-old there really wasn't a Santa Claus after all (although in later life I was to discover that there were very definitely fairies at the bottom of my particular garden).
I particularly like putting people, er, straight on sexual stereotypes. Despite what Graham Norton might have us believe, not all gay men are prancing sex-mad nancy-boys, and not all Sapphics pipe-smoking, bull-dyke Gertrude Stein look-alikes, and occasionally they even talk to each other as well. Sometimes it's fun to point out that the butch building-site worker is, in fact, a raving screamer, or that fragrant mincing hairdresser has a wife and three kids, and has shagged more women than you've had crises on Old Compton Street.
In my experience things are rarely what they seem, as was displayed in my usually quite well-adjusted and metrosexual-wannabe local only the other day:
Sweet Innocent Barmaid: "You know your friend, the Stranger, well, this might be a kind of personal question but…"
You couldn't make it up, my dears.
Monday, November 22, 2004
Here I Am In A Roomful Of Strangers
A couple of days ago, I got a call on the mobile. It was one of those frantic Friday-evening SOS calls, when you suddenly realise it's the weekend and you've nada on your dance card, and where's the Queertown kudos in that, my shallow Soho socialite? Never mind though, when everyone else has stood you up, there's always Stranger. He'll never let you down, and he's anyone's for a Stella.
Sadly I had to tell my desperate friend that I couldn’t meet up, as I was on my way to not one of my favourite pubs for an appointment with a group of people I'd never even met, or spoken to, and, what's more, I didn't have even the slightest notion of what any of them looked like (although I was led to believe that one of them might have been wearing a pointy blue hat).
The "oh-yeah?" tone of her voice, and the fact she hung up in a huff, makes me think she didn't believe me, or at the very least thought I was taking the piss. Either that, or she was convinced I was on my way to a secret speed-dating session, and what did my mother always say about talking to strangers anyway?
For when you think about it, meeting up with people you think you know well, solely through what they choose to reveal of themselves on-line, isn't possibly the most normal thing to do, and, quite frankly, it's a little scary too. The only other time I turned up at one of these blogging get-togethers, I chickened out at the last minute, and high-tailed it back to the comparative safety of Old Compton Street and last orders.
So a million-and-one mwah-mwahs to everyone who made a Stranger feel not like a stranger, and relieved me of my blogmeet virginity in such a delightful and alcoholic way last Friday night. The only disappointment was that there wasn't some sort of quiz. I don't think anyone realised quite how much revision I'd put in, and how many individual archives I'd read in the days before, just so I wouldn't be caught out and put my size-nines in it with the wrong person. All that hard work to impress, and not even a starter for ten!
Of course, while I didn't know what my fellow webloggers looked like, they were in the same situation when it came to me (with the added disadvantage that I am invisible, after all). And later on, when I had finally achieved some kind of opacity, it was remarked that certain people had previously always envisaged me as being a Tom Baker sort of character, all long scarf and Fedora.
I'm not sure how to take that one. Did they see me as a fine actor and writer, a wit and raconteur, a bon viveur bringing a fin-de-siècle elegance to the proceedings? Or did they imagine me as some thousand-year-old geezer, bonkers as a bandersnatch, with a dodgy line in cyber-chums, and a history of being heroically sozzled in Soho pubs?
Please don’t answer that one.
Thursday, November 18, 2004
The Roar of the Greasepaint, the Smell of the Crowd
The Producers, Mel Brooks' smash-hit stage version of his cult movie, is currently the hottest ticket in London, with the homo-world and its shag-on-the-side prepared to sell their comprehensive stash of Class A's and Clarins just to nab a couple of tatty seats up there in the gods.
And for once it's a show worthy of the hokum and hoopla, the best of its kind in the West End since the near-legendary revival of Guys and Dolls at the National well over twenty years ago. And what's more, it's a real, honest-to-goose-stepping musical, none of that seriously dreary and Really Useless nonsense. And it comes complete with brassy Brunhildas, show-stopping storm-troopers, and an up-for-it gang of sex-starved old biddies doing a tap-dance routine with their Zimmers,
The highlight, of course, is the "Springtime for Hitler" sequence ("Don't be stupid/ Be a smartie/ Come and join the Nazi Party"), the sort of glitzy spectacular Leni Riefenstahl and Busby Berkeley might have come up with after one too many nights on the Liebfraumilch. It manages to be offensive to Jews and Gentiles, Germans and gays, and Bavarian pigeon-fanciers alike, which can't be bad. All done in the worst possible taste, natürlich, and I wouldn't have missed it for the world, or even a little piece of the Sudetenland.
But the best bit for me comes earlier in the show, when one of the two leads, a spineless, do-everything-by-the book, fourth-rate nobody (accountant), played by the excellent Lee Evans, decides he's done with the old corporate kow-towing and tells his slimeball of a boss just where he can stick his Dixon Ticonderoga number two pencil.
And then, accompanied by a veritable cleavage of chorines, he chucks the certainty of routine, and soft-shoe-shuffles his way off into the sunset, or, in his case, the Broadway lights of the Great White Way, to realise his dream.
I wanna be a producer
Oh, my nine-to-five darlings, that discordant twang you hear is a chord being struck somewhere in the atomic alarm-clock this Stranger has in place of a heart. Ditching what you've settled for, in favour of what you've always dreamed about, setting off on that high-wire with no safety net to break your fall. Isn't that really what we all want to do? You know, it's not the things you do in this life which you regret, but the things you don't.
Sitting in the stalls as a kid, I would always much rather have been up there on stage, dancing with the chorus boys. Of course, at that age I didn't realise that dancing wasn't quite what I wanted to do with the chorus boys. And despite the twisted sisters of today saying I'm "theatrical" enough already, and that I've been performing ever since my first Streisand LP, whenever anyone asked I'd always say I wanted to be an astronaut instead. (Whichever way, I suppose I'd still be flying off with the fairies.)
I did some Am Dram at University, when I wasn't making a colossal flop of whoring my way to a non-existent job in the mee-jah, that is, and surprisingly always got given the over-the-top and "camp" roles. (I can't think why.) But I never developed my theatrical – ahem – bent, after I graduated.
There's a reason for that. You see, back in infants' school, we did a couple of little plays a year. I even got to act the Virgin Mary in one of them, and let me assure you that never has a Mary been more winsome in a wimple as this Mary was at a mere six years old.
However, the play I remember best was the tale of Jonah and the Whale. My fellow classmates had to lie on the classroom floor, forming the outline of a whale, the idea being that the spotty and obnoxious kid playing Jonah would be swallowed whole by them.
Taking pride in the fact I was most certainly the spottiest and most obnoxious kid in the world, I naturally assumed the star role would be mine for the taking. Imagine my horror when the role went to my then-worst enemy. Imagine the tears! Imagine the tantrums! Imagine the childish sulks and the hissy fits! Imagine me at chucking-out time on Compton Street come Saturday night: it’s pretty much the same thing.
Finally, and to shut me up, the teacher took me to one side and assured me there was one part left to be cast, one part which had been written especially with me in mind. And, as she lifted me up onto a desk so that I could now look omnisciently down on Moby Dick and his dinner, she reminded me how pivotal my role was to the story, and how no-one but Master Stranger himself could give the part the authority and the dignity it deserved.
And that, my dears, is why I've never seriously pursued my acting ambitions. (And, come to think of it, probably explains a whole lot more as well.)
For once you've played at being God, then everything else can only ever be a bit part.
(This wasn't the post I'd planned and, to be honest, I'm not quite sure what it’s all been about. But if you hear that I've suddenly run off to join the circus then you shouldn't act in the least bit surprised.)
Thursday, November 11, 2004
Waiting For My Man
When the most exciting thing you're looking forward to is Saturday morning's home delivery from Sainsbury's, and the best fun you've had recently was an argy-bargy last night with some call-centre chappie from Mumbai, then reason suggests that, if you intend remaining a card-carrying Compton queen for much longer, you really ought to start getting out just that little bit more.