Tag Archives: Frank Sinatra

June 7th

On this day in 1977 after months of faffing about, Queen Elizabeth II officially celebrated her silver jubilee. There was loads more stuff after this day as well, but it was on June 7th that everyone was to go out into the streets, have street parties, get pissed, get off with the neighbour and drunkenly slur “Lawd luv her, she’sh a great queen, Gor blessh ‘er!” and other such patriotic bloody nonsense.

This picture makes me sad

We’ll be doing the whole thing again next year when the queen reaches her diamond jubilee (60 years on the throne) and everyone waves flags, a lot of people hang around on the Mall, bonfire beacons are lit up and down the country and some people get drunk again and whilst red in face and full of beer, wine and/or spirits, they will toast the queen before farting loudly and the quietly slipping off their chairs to lie in a drunken coma on the pavement, their carpet or in the gutter. Adultery will be committed in the name of the jubilee, if it’s a hot day there will be sunstroke and pants will be pissed. All in all, a British celebration, meant to evoke the spirit of pride and patriotism, but only managing piss and wind.

To be fair, next year’s one will be far smaller than the celebrations in 1977. For a start there are more people like me who’d quite happily see the back of the whole lot of them and then there is the lack of community spirit that our beloved St Margaret of bastard cunting Thatcher bestowed to us in the 1980s. There will be flag waving on the Mall. There will be some street parties, but there will also be a lot of taking advantage of smaller crowds in supermarkets, going abroad, sitting home and watching it on the tv but in no way getting involved with the neighbours one couldn’t pick out in a police line up if ones life depended on it.

In 1977 a worldwide audience of 500 million watched the queen smiling on a balcony with assorted misfitsmembers of her family. She

Corrie on acid

made nice speeches and there were enough people around who still remembered the war and rationing and “the good old days” to really care about what was going on. And then of course there were The Sex Pistols. They released their single God Save The Queen to coincide with the whole jubilee hullabaloo, after all Malcolm McLaren was nothing if not a PR überkind and my oh my did people seethe at the sheer effrontery. Of course rather like those who don’t like Springsteen’s Born in the USA because “it’s so patriotic and America fuck yeah“, those who hated it so much, hadn’t really listened to the lyrics. It’s not anti the queen, so much as the establishment, the government and all of us dreaming our way in a fog of apathy through our, er, “fascist regime”. To be fair, even if the haters had listened to the lyrics they’d still have hated it, but at least it would have been for the right reasons! The hand sailed along the Thames on June 7th on a barge called the Queen Elizabeth and, well who on earth would have seen that coming! had a bit of a skirmish with the police and found themselves nicked. Oh and the song was banned on the radio, but it still got to no.1 in the charts, but instead of showing it at no.1 they instead left the no.1 spot blank. Ooh, those scary punks! It was a precursor of where we were all going. A more generalised cynicism for pomp and circumstance, although with a sprinkling of sentimentality and love of tradition; a more media savvy class of celebrity (the royals themselves were soon whoring themselves out to the media like Kings Cross crack addicts) and a future that was happy to forget the hardships of the past and demand more for no other reason than they could.

Lawd luv 'er

It was also a comedy rebellion with no teeth, which pretty much sums up the sort of rebellion we British folk excel at. We can’t have revolutions because mum’s got the tea on and we don’t want to miss Coronation Street (btw, they had a special episode for the Jubilee where Annie Walker dressed up as Elizabeth I. The writers had probably taken a lot of acid before they came up with that one). But, if you insist, we will enjoy the silly fellows being a bit angry, after all it’s just a laugh.

So, that was it. I didn’t go to a street party because I didn’t want to. I’ve seen friends’ photos of events they attended. I am so glad I wasn’t tempted. It was a tragic mess of flags, appalling hair and clothing decisions, spam sandwiches and generic fizzy pop for the kiddies.

Lord luv ‘er and all who sail in ‘er.

 

Today was and is the birthday of three singers of some note. The dead one is Dean Martin and the two who are still alive are Sir Tom Jones aka Jones the Voice and Prince.

Now, taking them in order of birth, I start with a man who had a voice that was probably used to get an awful lot of women into bed, both

Dino did like a fag

by him and those who bought his records. Dino Paul Crocetti, started his showbiz career as Dino Martini and then Anglicised it to Dean Martin as he hit the clubs and sought success. He never really got girls peeing their pants and acting like lunatics in the way Frank Sinatra did, but he did have a lovely voice – pretty much modelled on Bing Crosby – and soon most people realised that he was less of a dick than Sinatra and some of them even preferred him to Sinatra. Me? I like them both vocally, but Martin’s the one I’d like to have had a drink with. Now, I know if I dig even a little deeper I can find out horrid stuff about Martin, but I don’t want to, so, you know, he sure did sing pretty and anyone with ears to hear is grateful to him for that.

Put it away, love!

Jones the Voice also sang so fine that he made laydeez throw their knickers at him. I love a lot of stuff he’s done, but what is it with his hair and that stupid bloody nose job. And wearing really tight leather trousers long past a time when anyone could have told him that an ageing  paunchy Taff showing off his meat and two veg is NOT attractive. That said, I have brilliant memories of It’s Not Unusual becoming a hit for the second time and my colleague Zac phoning up to my office to say “It’s on!”. I’d race down to the room where he was working, where they had a radio and he and I would dance like lunatics and then when it was over, get back to our work. So thank you, Thomas and I’m very glad you’ve stopped with the dye jobs. Grey hair is better on you even if it still does look like a Brillo pad.

And then there is Prince Rogers Nelson.  I love Prince. When I saw him live on the Lovesexy tour, he rendered

You sexy motherf***er. Sort of.

me nearly hysterical with, well I don’t know what. Lust, certainly, even though I don’t fancy him. Some sort of manic episode? A temporary madness? Definitely. He’s been laughed at for being a bit odd, a bit short and a bit up himself, but the thing is he is SO talented. A multi-instrumentalist (as opposed to a mentalist, although probably that too), he has written some of the best music I know. Sign o’ The Times, is one of the best albums I know and the title track sums up the eighties in one simple and compelling song. His music can make you happy, it can make you horny (4 real as Prince would write it) and every so often it can make you cry (if you don’t believe me, listen to Sometimes it Snows in April). If he doesn’t, someone else singing one of his songs might: Nothing Compares 2 u. The man was and is a genius and anyone who doesn’t at least acknowledge that he has some good tunes in him is totally wrong in the head. Happy birthday Prince! You make me happy.

 

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April 26th

On this day in 1977 Studio 54 opened its doors to (some of) the public for the first time and for the next three years was the place to be seen in New York City, although it was probably for the best if you were not seen by the police if you were  snarfing cocaine and having a bit of sex in the balconies.

Yes, you can see that man's winky

The building where the nightclub was located is at 254 West 54th Street, which is partly where it got its name. But prior to becoming a big old discotheque, the building had been a theatre – Puccini’s La Boheme played there in 1977 – and then one of CBS’s radio and then TV studios. Under CBS it was called Studio 52 – because it was CBS’s 52nd studio – so when Rubell and Schrager and their other partners bought the building, they decided to use the “studio” and add 54 for its location.

Steve Rubell and Ian Schrager had previously owned a disco out in Queens called the Enchanted Garden, which is nicely ironic when one thinks of how snooty they were about the bridge and tunnel crowd at Studio 54. The bridge and tunnel crowd were and are the New Yorkers from the outer boroughs who travel into Manhattan. Manhattanites can be awfully snobby, but frankly Manhattan is so lush, that one can pretty much understand why. Anyway! The Queens disco had been quite successful and a PR woman by the name of Carmen D’Alessio had even had a couple of parties out there. She liked Steve and Ian’s style so she suggested that they buy the building and open the best club in the world ever. They agreed and that, laydeez and gennelmens, is how the club got to be. How it got to be the success it was, is mostly down to Carmen D’Alessio  who was a shit-hot PR woman and event planner. She got Bianca Jagger to ride a white horse into the club on her 30th birthday and she arranged the opening night guest list, and oh my, what a list it was. Mick and Bianca Jagger, Janice Dickenson (when she was a smokin’ hot model and not the overly-plasticised mentalist she is today), Mikhail Baryshnikov, Debbie Harry, Liza Minnelli, Martha Graham, Jerry Hall, Brooke Shields, Salvador Dali and newlyweds Donald and Ivana Trump among many, many others. Rumour has it that Warren Beatty, Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Henry Winkler and Frank Sinatra were turned away at the door because the doorman thought they weren’t hot enough for the club. Chances are that’s some sort of urban rumour started by  Carmen D’A who knew that the public would eat up the idea of a club so exclusive that some of the biggest stars in the world weren’t good enough to get in. The door charge to get in was $8 and the club held 700 patrons so that amounted to $5,600 a night in cover charges, plus all the booze and shit. Rubell boasted that they made $7 million in their first year.

The club started big and continued big. It also lived most of its short life surrounded by scandals great and small. Within a month of

A montage of wasted slebs and the great unwashed

opening it had been closed down due to its lack of a proper liquor license. They re-opened immediately selling  juice and soda pop until their license came through. After Rubell’s boast of how much money they’d made in a year the club was raided and he and Schrager were arrested for skimming $2.5 million. There was a second raid in 1979 and the pair got arch-bastard and evil fuck Roy Cohn to defend them. On January 18, 1980 they were sentenced to three and a half years for tax evasion and later that year the club was sold. Rubell and Schrager went on to open more clubs and go into hotels as well. Schrager is still doing just that and is a very successful multi-millionaire. Rubell contracted AIDS and died in 1989.

The club only had three years of being at the apex of decadence, but its fame has lived on. In many ways it’s hard to know why. It wasn’t musically innovative; it played disco which was the thing at the time, but it didn’t introduce any new music or new acts. It wasn’t anything special, but the buzz around it was so wild that it was the place everyone wanted to get into and very few did. It was, I guess, the Woodstock of Disco, but with better clothes and coke rather than dope. These days the club is a theatre and most of its patrons are either dead or really boring. Or both. Thus is the merry-go-round of life. We all get a chance to sparkle for a few brief moments and whether we do or we don’t, there’s always a cardigan and slippers waiting in the wings.

Today was the birthday of Douglas Sirk.

His name may mean nothing to you, but if it does, you know that he was the director of such lush and beautifully shot films as All that Heaven Allows, Magnificent Obsession and Imitation of Life, among others. If these mean nothing to you, you may have seen Todd

A still from All That Heaven Allows. Totally stylish and totally OTT

Haynes’ Far From Heaven, which is a total homage to Sirk.  Or maybe you’ve fallen in love with Pedro Almodovar, who cites Sirk as one of his influences and my, can you see it.

Sirk’s films were commercially very popular in the 1950s, but the critics had no time for him, mostly because the films were very woman-centred and about heightened feelings and passion and that sort of thing. But there was far more to them than those short-sighted twats could see at the time. In the 70s a reappraisal of Sirk began and finally – and thankfully before  his death – his talent was finally appreciated by critics as well as the public.

I’m not going to add much more. Sirk was a magical film-maker and the best way to get your head around that is to watch some of his films and let the lushness wash over you like a Technicolor ocean of baroque passion. Do it. You’ll love it.

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April 22nd

On this day in 1886 the state of Ohio passed a statute that made seduction unlawful. It was aimed at all men over the age of 18 who were teachers or instructors of women and girls. It didn’t matter if the sex was consensual, they could still be charged and face between two and ten years in prison.

C'mon love, you know you're gagging for it

Ohio wasn’t the only place to have laws against seduction; they existed in other states and in England, where it was a common law or civil wrong. Of course, as with most laws governing issues of sex, it was less about the woman who may have been seduced and more about her status as property.  The seduced woman was nearly always unmarried and she herself could not press suit against her seducer; this role fell to her father. However, if the woman in question was a servant and she had been seduced by her master, her father could not bring suit against him, which only goes to underline that it was all about a woman as chattel and not as a person with rights and feelings of her own.

Various states had differently worded laws against seduction. In Virginia it was illegal for a man to have “an illicit connexion with any unmarried female of previous chaste character”, if he finagled this by promising to marry her. Similarly in New York it was illegal to “under promises of marriage seduce any unmarried female of previous chaste character.” Georgia was more descriptive in its statute which stated that it was unlawful for a man to “seduce a virtuous unmarried female and induce her to yield to his lustful embraces and allow him to have carnal knowledge of her.” Saucy.

There is very little information about these laws, because on the whole they weren’t enforced and when they did come to court judges were loath to convict. In Michigan a man was convicted, probably because there were three counts of seduction against him – the slag – but the appeal court tried very hard to have all the charges thrown out. Two charges were thrown out because the defence argued that the woman in question was no longer virtuous after her first encounter with the man. The other charge was thrown out on the grounds that the woman’s testimony – that they’d gone at it in a buggy – was medically impossible. I’ve never attempted relations in a buggy myself, but I have a feeling it would be more than possible. Clearly the appeal court of Michigan was lacking in imagination.

It does appear that in the US, unlike in the UK, women could bring charges themselves. Some did so in order to coerce their seducer into marriage. On the one hand this is hardly laudable, but on the other, given that they were living in a time when virginity (or at least the appearance of it) was vitally important, if everyone knew a certain gent had had access to your glittering prize, you couldn’t blame a woman for pushing for marriage. A trial in New York turned into a wedding ceremony when the accused proposed to his accuser.

Most of these laws are now – thankfully – defunct, but there was a case brought in 1938 in New Jersey. The accused in this instance

Mug shots of Ole Blue Eyes from the "seduction" arrest

was Frank Sinatra, who was charged with having enticed a woman of good-repute to have sexual intercourse with him by using false promises of marriage. Unfortunately for the woman involved, the case was dropped when it was discovered that she was already married.

In the course of rooting around in this subject, I’ve noted a cultural and historical change in our perceptions of seduction. Whereas in the past the act of seduction has been seen as a male preserve, with the man has seducer and the woman as innocent victim, these days seduction seems to be all about women. Look for images of seduction and you will see semi-clad women, adverts for all sorts of products are often sold to us as something that will seduce our partners or any passing man who takes our fancy. Men are now the objects of seductresses, but they’re not portrayed as innocent, more as waiting for us to get the right seduction recipe brewed up to stir their eager loins. The subjects and objects have changed places, the idea of chattel has all but disappeared, but deep down, it’s still about money: seduce him and he’ll buy you more pretty things to seduce him with. Or something.

Of course we can forget the outdated notions of the old laws and ignore the messages of some of the advertising and, as consenting adults, just have an awful lot of fun with seducing each other, because without all the lies and broken promises it is a rather jolly thing  to do!

Today was the birthday of a woman who could certainly be called a seductress, Bettie Page.

Lovely bum

Page started modelling in about 1950 when she was in her late twenties. Before that she had wanted to be a teacher and then an actress. She had been a good student, graduated high school as her class salutatorian, married, divorced and moved to New York where she met a police officer called Jerry Tibbs who was interested in photography. She modelled for him and her career began.

Bettie quickly became famous, appearing in magazines like Wink, Titter, Eyeful and Beauty Parade. She was uninhibited and was happy to do most anything in her photos. She is famous these days for the many bondage shoots she did; she also starred in some silent stag shorts, either as the dominatrix or the bound slave. These were all female films and there was very little actual nudity and no sex.  In 1955 she was a Playboy centrefold and was voted Miss Pin-up Girl of the World. In short during this period, Bettie was at te top of her career, was well-loved and very successful.

In 1959, much to the chagrin of all who had liked looking at her in the nuddy, Bettie found God in Key West and from that day onwards she never got her kit off for the camera again.  She spent much of the sixties working for Billy Grahamand being all evangelical. In the seventies she was diagnosed with schizophrenia after violent attacks on her landlord. She only became aware of renewed interest in her pin-up career in the late nineties and was still trying to get some recompense for the use of her image in 2008 when she died.

Jungle Bettie

Bettie was interesting. She appealed to both men and women, but she was a silent image that anyone could impose their own fantasies upon. For men she was the smiling kinkstress always ready to try whatever they wanted. For women, I think, she is seen as a strong woman, not afraid to be out and proud about her own sexuality. I don’t think any of us have it quite right. For all the images of Bettie Page that exist, we know so very little about who she really was.

So, happy birthday, nudie laydee evangelist. You’re everywhere and nowhere,baby.

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