Saturday, 29 December 2012

What Good Comes Of The New Year's Honours List?

They've become as useless as a chocolate chimney, as much use as a codpiece for a chicken.

At one time, the MBE and OBE and the Sir/Dame was reserved for those deserving of the honour--the ones who had done things for the greater benefit of Mankind, great entertainers and actors, scientists, scholars and the like.
 
Now, they give them to anyone. We never had a Dame Anna Massey and there probably won't be a Sir Derek Jacobi--but there may well be a Dame Katie Price or even a Sir Ashley Cole, so rewarded for their services to tabloid claptrap.
 
A Caucasian cyclist who has won a major race--for which he was handsomely paid--and won a gold medal at the Olympics, gets a knighthood. Why? An equally talented young black female boxer who achieved the same at the Olympics does not get an honour. Why? A straight yachtsman gets to become Sir--a gay sportsman who triumphed at the same event, worshipped like the icon he is by his millions of fans, gets overlooked. Why?
 
Next year, a stray cat will have a poo on the doorstep at Number 10, and Agatha Penrose, a passing Birmingham hausfrau, will bravely save the PM's blushes by just happening to have a poop-scoop in her shopping bag. Come 1 January 2014, the lady will be feted as Dame Agatha Penrose.
 
Need I go further?
 
 

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

Richard Rodney Bennett RIP

A very sad loss. Back in the late-Seventies, Jeanne and I spent a lot of time with Richard and Marian Montgomery. Theirs was a perfect partnership. Richard also excelled with Eartha Kitt, who left us three years ago today. RIP, old chap.

Sad news: Richard Rodney Bennett is dead

We have been notified of the death on Christmas Eve of the wonderfully diverse and widely loved composer, Sir Richard Rodney Bennett. He was 76.
The British composer leaves behind 200 concert works and 50 film scores, and a span of close relationships that extend from Pierre Boulez to Stephen Sondheim. His gift for a good tune was insuppressable. He was also a pretty good pianist and singer. He took part in the UK premiere of Boulez’s four-hand Structures and co-translated his early essays. When he migrated to New York in the 1970s, Leonard Bernstein signed his green card application.
rrb3
We met for a Lebrecht Interview in the summer of 2011 and had a rollicking good time, so much so that Richard got in touch afterwards and asked if we couldn’t do all over it again. He will be sorely missed.
rrb nl
Here’s the preamble that I wrote at the time:
Richard Rodney Bennett is a contemporary of Birtwistle and Maxwell Davies but his musical life has pursued a very different path. From his childhood onwards music was there for him. His mother was a pupil of Holst while his father wrote children’s books and ballad lyrics. But his frailty meant that the young Richard was sent to boarding school, so he hardly knew him. Bennett’s musical mind was inquisitive from the start and after reading about her he approached the composer Elisabeth Lutyens for lessons.
She invigorated him further. Soon after he went to the Royal Academy of Music but this didn’t give him the stimulus he needed although it was there that he met one of his best friends Cornelius Cardew. Together they wanted to find out about the new music which was being written in the 1940s and 50s.
For a while he was the only pupil of Pierre Boulez, and with Cardew he visited Darmstadt in Germany where the new music supremos of the era met and had their works performed. His prowess as a pianist meant he was called upon to play some of the more challenging music by Boulez, Stockhausen and others. But in parallel with this he was writing film scores and continuing to play jazz with friends. So already at the age of twenty his musical life was eclectic to say the least.
In the late 50s and 60s his compositional career burgeoned with commissions and performances all over the world. His film scores included Far from the Madding Crowd, Nicholas and Alexandra and Murder on the Orient Express all of which earned him Oscar nominations.
In 1979 after the breakdown of a love affair and with the pressure of responsibilities in the music world proving too much, Bennett moved to New York where he has lived ever since.Now 75 Bennett enjoys his life spent between New York and London, singing with his regular collaborator Clare Martin.



Comments

  1. Very sad news. A composer I have listened to since I first discovered his music on a BBC magazine cd. Memento mori.
  2. Stephen Llewellyn says:
    I shall never forget his gig with Eartha Kitt. They were just perfect together!
  3. David Bret says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation.
    Very sad news. Jeanne and I spent a lot of time with Richard and Marian Montgomery during the late-Seventies. Theirs was a perfect evening of entertainment. And by sad coincidence–reading Stephen’s message above–today is also the anniversary of Eartha Kitt’s death.

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Thursday, 20 December 2012

Beware. The End Of The World Is Nigh



Here's Yma Sumac, singing from the Mayan Temple.

By the time you read this, I may be dead. We may all be dead. The world is about to end, or so the soothsayers say.
 
It's been a good life. 58 years of love (82 years according to some, man-to-man love only according to others). I'm going to be sorry to be leaving, but at least everyone else will be leaving too. It would have been nice to have seen others leave before me, to open the gates of Hell ready for my arrival. But I have been assured not to worry. There will be so many people waiting to be chucked on to the fire--the homophobes, the hashtag loonies, Michael Thornton, the Hollywood Hags and whoever killed Kimmy, my father and my old mate Pete Sutcliffe--that none of we formerly decent folk will be able to get near to it. Who knows, I may stay down there just long enough to make sure I've seen them turned to a crisp.
 
So long, folks...it's been nice knowing you!

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Mayan Calendar

I wasn't going to write this, but time may be running out in this little old world of ours...

 
According to the Mayan Calendar, the world is scheduled to end on 21 December. I'm happy with this, but I would ask for just one little concession...
 
That for 'The Famous Five', who make Fred Phelps look like Mother Theresa, could it please end 24 hours sooner?

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Memorial Services

While I have no problems about them holding a memorial service at Westminster for the nurse who committed suicide, I cannot help but ask a couple of very pertinent questions which others might be too cowardly to pose.
 
Were she a nurse from Leeds, Manchester or any other provincial Infirmary--one who had nursed old ladies or children other than a royal personage--would she have been afforded the same privilege?
 
Also, will they be holding belated memorial services at the same venue for Gary Speed, Colin Tarrant, David Scarboro, and Justin Fashinu?

Friday, 14 December 2012

Morrissey Is NOT vile!


The Sun newspaper finds his comments 'vile', which I find amusing.

For any Sun journalist to call anyone vile is an extreme case of the pot calling the kettle black--as I know from my own experience, and the experiences of some of my friends, they have a monopoly on the word. I place Sun journalists in the same category as homophobes.  
 
Moz and I have many things in common. We are both the offspring of immigrants, both raised in the no-nonsense North. I admire him, he admires me. He wanted his first biographer to die in a car smash, while he wanted me to be dusted and placed on his mantelshelf. I have made similar wishes and am not ashamed. Neither of us use pseudonyms. We say what we want to say as ourselves because we are not cowards, and invariably we say openly what others dare not.
 
I don't always agree with his views on royalty. We had the Queen Mum, and Diana. We have our Queen. The rest are frequently a waste of space. For quite a while now we've managed to survive without The Spews of the World. I'm sure we could manage with one chipwrap less.
 
 

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Support For The Australian DJs Facebook Page

       Nothing to do with me, I might add, in case anyone in the words of my late father-in-law 'mistakes sh*t for pudding', but very interesting.
I think some sanity and balance needs to be injected into the hysteria over this. Two Australian DJs made a prank call in the night claiming to be the Queen and Prince Charles to the London hospital where Kate Middleton was being treated for apparently severe morning sickness.

One nurse on the switchboard put them through to another nurse on Middleton's ward who gave a few details of her condition. Many people may not think that the prank was very funny, but it was only a radio prank. Such things are happening all time around the world, though not usually involving the royal family.

Neither of the nurses was publicly named nor officially reprimanded, according to the hospital. But the nurse on the switchboard then later apparently committed suicide and now the DJs are facing the condemnation and wrath of all and sundry.
...


I'm sorry, but if people are now responsible for the inexplicible actions of others, as with this bizarre 'suicide' by a mother of two children, then no one will ever do anything in fear of what others might do as a result.

What happened is very sad, but to take your life over a prank call from a radio station on the other side of the world is extraordinary and how could anyone have foreseen this from a spoof call in which her identity remained anonymous and when she did nothing except pass a phone call through to a ward?

In fact, it is all so bizarre that there is likely to be a lot more to know about the whole affair.
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Time To Stop Bullying The Australian DJs

I have worked in radio for over 25 years, and in this time have made around 400 DTL pre-records, including one with this station and one of these DJs.
If the ones bullying this pair did their homework, instead of loading their bow-strings without thinking (a typical bullying trait) they would find out that to make a DTL pre-record, BEFORE one gets to the DJ, one needs a producer and a technician.
In my opinion, this young man and woman did nothing wrong. They were acting as part of team who were making a prank call. The UK (and I should imagine every country in the world now) enjoys nothing better than a prank. Remember 'Candid Camera' and 'The Noel Edmonds Show'?
How on earth was anyone involved with this radio station going to know that their call would be taken by someone who was clearly unstable--and therefore who in my opinion (and I am entitled to one without having a bunch of fruit-loops call the authorities) should not have been caring for a future Queen of England?
I am desperately sorry for the woman who died, but again in my opinion, it's rather a silly thing to wish to die for and to leave two children motherless. One only wonders what other facts the inquest will throw up.
If ANYONE should be to blame, it should be the person who organised the DTL pre-record, and the one who put the call through to the hospital.
NOT these two, who are now going through hell, and some of the papers have joined in with the bullying campaign to needlessly turn them into monsters.
Bigots who destroyed Kevin Lloyd, Justin Fashinu and David Scarboro with their bullying. And of course, the one thing that these people don't have--aside from brains--is a good memory.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

R.I.P. David Bolt

 
David Bolt was the man who discovered and launched me. Along with a select few--Jacqueline, Roger, Marlene, Barbara--I owe everything to him.
 
David passed away two weeks short of his 85th birthday and had been ill for some time.
 
It was David who took us in, in May 1992, when I was being hounded by the press after Marlene died. The phone never stopped ringing, and reporters were always at the door. The tabloids were the worst, then as now. They weren't interested in Marlene the star, but in getting any juicy tidbits out of me, which were not forthcoming.
 
At David's home, in Surrey, we were able to mourn Marlene properly. Each time a journalist called, he or she was told that they would have to part with a five-figure sum, and they always did. His theory was that the newspapers have more money than morals, therefore let them pay.
 
David was a tough cookie--like myself he took shit from no one.
 
He was a true gentleman, and there aren't many of those around.
 


That Australian Phone-Call: Don't The DJs Deserve A Little Pity Too?

It's a truly dreadful situation. Two Australian DJs make a prank phone-call to a London hospital where the Duchess of Cambridge is a patient--and the nurse who took the call takes her own life. My sympathy goes out to her family, and at this the most terrible time of the year to suffer a loss.
Every company has the token 'dodgy' employee, and it's good that the buck stops with the boss--though they too can't always be blamed for what their employees get up to. Therefore companies withdrawing their advertising does on the face of it seem rather silly and overly dramatic. Had they worked for an airline company, or a retail chain, for example, would we expect everyone to travel with another airline or buy from another shop?
 
The circumstances of this young woman's tragic demise are not yet known, but on the face of it, taking one's life for something which on the face of it was not a serious crime does seem a little extreme. I appeared on that radio show last years. The presenter is what I would call 'loud', and slightly cynical--virtually all of our DJs in this country are the same. It's called having a personality because we no longer live in a society where presenters wear dinner jackets to read the news and sound like Godfrey Winn. Listening to the broadcast, they do such a poor impersonation of the royals, I'm surprised anyone could have fallen for it. And they were just having a lark--it's been done before and it'll be done again.
 
While I feel sorry for the young woman who died, I cannot help but extend my sympathy to these DJs--particularly the one who interviewed me. They must be going through hell, and so must anyone one else who may or may not have helped them with their prank. Little wonder they are undergoing counselling. Should they be fired? No, I don't think so. How were they to know that whoever answered the phone would end up committing suicide? They need our sympathy and support as well.


Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Kelly Clarkson: Just Where Do They Get These Singers From?

In the past we've had Florence Foster Jenkins and Mrs Miller, howlers who nevertheless had undeniable talent and the ability of never taking themselves seriously--the latter's sketches with Jimmy Durante are ace!
 
Now, there's another breed--catawaulers who believe in their own legend because they're persistently told how great they are by television presenters who probably cringe as much as I do to hear them singing tunelessly and incoherently!
 
Of late, I thought the worst I'd heard was Olly Murs, who looks like a dippy comic from a silent Belgian movie and sounds like someone honking up their mussels in a Bruxelles backstreet. And talking of Belgians, there's Brigitte Blé, whose screeching of the French classics would put the Swiss Digitas clinics out of business if poorly people went to see her instead of buying a one-way ticket. I could think of one or two people I'd like to send to Liege the next time she announces she's going to be murdering 'L'aigle noir'.

Yesterday I wrote about the sublime Kathryn Jenkins, and I suppose I'm a little spoilt having been brought up on a diet of Piaf, Callas, Brel and Wunderlich.
 
But Kelly Clarkson, promoted as 'World Idol'--where did that one come from? I just listened to her on breakfast television. She talks loudly like she's catching a train which keeps on running--100-word sentences, and if you remove all the 'like-sort of-kind of, you-know, yeah' from her conversation, their reduced to three words and you still can't understand what's she's on about! Worse still is her singing--this one even makes Alicia Keys sound like Joan Sutherland!
 
Does anybody write songs nowadays where 'alright' doesn't rhyme with 'night'--tuneless ditties which my dogs could better compose? And what sort of mindless person goes out and buys this stuff? Really makes you wonder!


Monday, 3 December 2012

Katherine Jenkins: A Spellbinding Talent

When it comes to lady entertainers, Wales has given us some corkers: Shirley Bassey and my old mate Dorothy Squires are just two.
 
And Kathryn Jenkins--a veritable lodestar of talent, in a country which does not have that much to offer.
 
 
Last night, in her television spectacular she was exemplary. Okay, so the purists will say she's not an opera singer. That's not because she isn't, but because no such offers have yet come her way, and because mezzos are usually limited to second-billing, when Kathryn is an artiste of premiere class.
 
 
So, stop the comparisons with Callas, who would have been 89 today, and examine what we have. The lady is beautiful--the only comparison I make with Callas--she can hit a perfect Top C and sustain it, and she can drop to a sumptuous controlled contralto. She can do coloratura, and I should imagine she would be pretty nifty at bel canto. With other voices, which sees others failing, she excels: listen to her with Il Divo! The only low points of her show last night were a trio of squawking catawaulers attempting a paltry emulation of The Supremes, a silly pianist who thought he was Les Dawson, but without the talent, and Mark Benton, a comic I wouldn't pay in co-op checks.
 
But Ms Jenkins! Quite simply the best of the best of the best!
 
Oh, and she does a superlative Argentine Tango as well!

Sunday, 2 December 2012

The Press: To Regulate Or Not To Regulate

With reference to no one in particular.

If a young lady of fame goes out on the razzle, whips off her drawers in the wine bar, dances on the table and then chucks up all over her local MP's wife, who happens to be there with the local Catholic priest, who she's knocking off--though his BNP member boyfriend is unaware of this--then the incident is bound to get in the press!

Then there's the Liz Taylor syndrome, and Amy Winehouse was a participant, too. Again, no reference to anyone living. Liz or Amy would head off for an engagement which was supposedly top secret, 'anonymously' inform the press beforehand, then play merry hell when they arrived at wherever, to the expected popping of flash-bulbs.

There are of course times when the press are very wrong. I've been nobbled a couple of times--once by a broadsheet, and secondly by a chipwrap. It was harsh at the time, but I did eventually get satisfaction and compensation. I mean, how DARE they say I'm a year older than I actually am! And there are others. Hacking the phones of dead girls, and dressing somebody up as an Arab sheik to trick a famous person--getting a reporter to pretend to be a rent-boy to nab a priest is not particularly nice. And of course, there are those who fear press intrusion, maybe because they have something to hide--again, I refer to no one in particular. But unless we're careful--and IF Leveson's nonsensical recommendations are implicated, we could end up like my beloved France, where a court-case is still silently raging because someone wrote something 'litigious' about Victor Hugo. He's been dead 127 years....

I'm no big fan of David Cameron, but in this instance I agree with him wholeheartedly. As for 'the petition', I fear it may get as many signatures as there are words in the Bible--like the Savile-Smith affair, it's the buzz of the moment, and no one likes to moan more than the British--but that it won't make one iota of difference. Still, reports of its progress make for interesting reading and it keeps people off the streets during this wildly inclement weather!

 


Saturday, 1 December 2012

World AIDS Day: Remembering Matthew Shepard

 
Take a look at this beautiful young man, a young man who had everything to live for, and you'll probably understand my dictum, 'The only good homophobe is a dead one.'
 
I loathe homophobes, racists, anti-Semites, anyone who is prejudiced against another person simply because that person happens to be different than they are--in almost every case because they are BETTER than the ones who pick on them.
 
Matthew Shepard was a young American university student who was tortured and murdered because of his sexuality. What makes his story even more tragic is that he shares his birthday with World AIDS Day. He would have been 36 today.
 
His mother, Judy, is now a leading advocate for LGBT rights--a position she should never have accepted because her son shouldn't have been taken from her so cruelly, by vile people not fit to breathe the same air as the rest of us. And this is why I am a firm advocate, in more serious and in 100% proved cases, for capital punishment.
 
If someone takes a life, they should be willing to give up their own.
 


World AIDS Day: The Wrong Person Is Making The Speech

We're told that as many as 25,000 people in the UK may have the HIV virus, and be unaware of the fact.

Therefore the message has to be got across--GET YOURSELF TESTED!

And who do they get to deliver this message and get it across to the gay community? Boy George? George Michael? Neil Tennant? Princess Kate (who could be in the running for taking over from her much-revered mother-in-law, aka our very own golden-hearted goddess, Princess Diana)?
 
No, they pick the person virtually NO ONE wants to listen to right now.
 
DAVID CAMERON!!!!
 
This is the man who asked for the Leveson Enquiry, which cost a staggering £5.6 million, only to now say that he doesn't want to implement the findings.
 
Which means, and this of only one opinion though I'm sure it shared by many, that the minute anybody from the gay community sees his mush on the screen, they'll switch off!
 
Then they wonder why this country is going to to the dogs!

Because we have a government which would rather waste money on useless projects and reviews, while taking it away from those who really need it--the sick, the elderly, and the poor. I can safely predict that if matters don't improve, this country is heading towards anarchy and revolution! And I for one will be waving the flag!

Friday, 30 November 2012

Morrissey, Bret & Freedom Of Speech


The world and its mother knows how much we admire each other--not much point having a mouth if it has to stay shut!

MORRISSEY: As things stand pre-Leveson, free speech does not exist in the UK, and if you think that it DOES, then you're probably a recovering alcoholic.
 
BRET: The Leveson Enquiry, an utter waste of £5.6 million of tax-payer's money in a country blighted by recession. Milly Dowler's family and that of the London bombing victim excluded, most of these people only have themselves to blame. Think, Mr & Mrs Celebrity, when you're smiling smugly and saying 'I won!', of how many children this money would have fed and saved from dying. And do you think for one moment this is going to stop the muck-raking?

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Binge Drinkers: Why Should The Rest Of The Country Suffer?

So, according to our not so illustrious government, if they increase the price of a unit of alcohol, it will discourage binge drinkers--yet another example of the botched instititution who is DRIVING us all to drink not knowing which planet they are on.
 
Binge-drinkers form a minority, one which I confess keeps me in on a weekend. The last thing I want while sitting next to the window of my favourite restaurant is to watch some biddy chucking up in the grate outside.
 
But why punish we responsible people? Why not impose tougher penalties for those guilty of causing havoc in town centres and decorating our streets with their stomach contents. A little old chap Jeanne knows was innocently feeding the pigeons--there's no notice prohibiting this, but he was hauled in by the rozzers, spent a couple of hours in a cell, caused the strapped police force to spend money they can ill afford to write out a report. Then he was hauled off to court--more wasted money--and given a £75 fine. One local reporter estimated a total cost of £2,000....and the birds ate up the 'mess' he made!
 
If a puking boozer was made to come back the next day--that's after they've spent the night in a specially constructed drunkard's hut, in the dark, cold and damp and no bedding, sobering up and preferably after a good hosing down--and clean up their honk, then maybe they might think twice about doing it again. And if British bartenders were treated the same as they are in France--equally responsible, because they've served these drunks in the first place--then maybe this nuisance will be curbed.
 
The answer, Messieurs Cameron and Clegg, is NOT to punish the innocent, but the guilty. But then again, you've never been on Canal Street or Solihul Street when the pubs are turning out, have you--or had to avert your delicate eyes from the shop doorways while you're rushing for your early morning train?

Sunday, 25 November 2012

18 Years Now: Never Forgotten



'Toujours avec toi...'


Dinah Sheridan: RIP


A truly lovely lady (and one I hope Grim Reaper Thornton doesn't stick his grubby claws into) I spoke to Dinah often on the phone--some of the Hollywood stories told by her gardener and house-sitter would make your hair curl, and Dinah herself was no shrinking violet when 'telling the tale'!
Dinah passed away yesterday at the ripe old age of 92.
She'd just married Jimmy Hanley when cast opposite George Formby in 'Get Cracking', and told me of her experiences with Beryl--a harridan who I nevertheless hold in very high esteem. Beryl, she said, had vetted her, and before Dinah signed the contract she was read the riot act. 'George couldn't keep it in his pants, but whatever he had in his pants was of no interest to me because I'd just married the most wonderful man in the world!'
Dinah went on to much bigger thingsm such as 'The Railway Children' Aubry died a few years ago, and my heart goes out to Jenny, who I also had a few nice chats with.

Nick Drake & The Barbara Connection




 

This young man was a genius. He wrote some of the most staggeringly beautiful songs ever written in the English language, and he left us way, way too early. He recorded just three albums, and for many years his legacy lay almost forgotten, which would have been a crime against music had it remained so.

History and the die-hard, really die-hard fans like to dictate that Nick was a miserable, gloomy person who spent much of his time feeling depressed. 'Black-eyed dog' and all that. In fact it's pretty evident when listening to him sing this that he's taking the piss! I suppose being gay, and having parents--the Colonial type--who probably considered homosexuality some kind of affliction--might not have helped. During one bad period of depression they bundled him off to a psychiatric ward--and for all their dosh let him stay on a ward with genuine mental patients.

I knew Michel Bidault, Nick's French boyfriend--he ran a restaurant near avenue Montaigne. Michel spoke of a completely different Nick--depressed only when he had to return to his gloomy home and oppressive parents. Otherwise he was a typical twenty-something. He liked to smoke spliffs, and he could drink most people under the table--he was a big lad, well over six-feet. But how those die-hard fans HATE stories such as Nick walking around in just a towel after his morning shower, or actually having fun!

The Barbara connection? Well, he was a fan. He loved 'Dis quand reviendras-tu?'. He and Michel went to see Cora Vaucaire a few weeks before he died, when he was staying on a barge on the Seine. His last 'performance'--just strumming his guitar and singing a ditty for fun--was at the Ecluse, where Barbara started her career.

Officially, Nick died on the 25th. His mother said she'd found him at around noon, slumped across his bed. He had NOT committed suicide, otherwise he would have been IN the bed. This was his mum trying to protect herself, though the dear lady had nothing to reproach herself for--there's every reason to believe Nick died before midnight after taking a couple of anti-depressants too many.

Of course, he should never have died at all.

'It was that house that did it,' Michel said. 'And those nagging parents didn't help. Had he been with me, things might have turned out very differently.'

 
 


Saturday, 24 November 2012

Barbara: La Prochaine Fois Je Vous Le Chanterais


It's only when you're listening to programmes such as the otherwise excellent 'La prochaine fois je vous le chanterais', such as I have this morning, and when you hear other people interpreting Barbara that you realise how exemplary she was--and how crap some of them are!
 
A couple of exceptions: Mika performing 'La Solitude' (my arrangement, am I biased?) and Marie Myriam singing 'Du bout du levres'.
 
But WHO told Martha Wainwright that she could sing? Her version of 'Dis, quand reviendra-tu?' must be one of the worst interpretations in the history of the chanson. Imagine fifty tom-cats being dropped into a blender, testicles first, and you may have it. I recall when we did the programme last year for the BBC. One very famous person connected to Barbara refused to appear in the programme if Martha appeared in it--that's how bad she is. Many thought the depths had been plummeted when her brother Rufus, who I normally like, murdered 'La Complainte de la Butte' and the wings of the old moulin stopped turning in protest! There's nothing quite so bad as an American (apologies to my friends across the Pond!) trying to sing phonetically in French. All the 'too' for 'tu'. Barbara even tackles Marianne Oswald--a brave move indeed!
 
On the other hand, on the rare occasions that Barbara sings the work of others, the result is sublime. Here her with Damia's 'Grand frisé' and 'Les ménétriers', or Piaf's 'A l'enseigne de la fille sans coeur'. Or Julien 'Wobbly' Clerc's 'Ce n'est rien'.  If you taped the latter and the Oswald number, it'll save you around £150 because you won't have to buy the excellent (for Barbara novices) but rip-off 19-CD box-set which contains everything you've already got, barring a few songs such as Claude Francois' 'Meme si je revenais'.

Merci, Philippe!

Oh, and Philippe must have been reading my mind, for he ended this excellent programme with Barbara and Frank Alamo showing another Wainwright how to song...'Complainte de la Butte'. Let's hope they were listening!

Friday, 23 November 2012

Barbara: 15 Years Passes So Quickly



She remains the singularly most influential figure in my life, the second-greatest love of my life. For twenty years almost I was her 'midnight confidant', time and time again I've been offered huge sums to tell our story, and I never will. She made, and still makes, taking all the flotsam life has to dredge up worthwhile. Always I ask myself, 'What would Barbara have done?' We had a mutual friend in Peggy Lee--well, she knew her much better than I did. When Peggy recorded 'Is That All There Is?' Barbara said, 'Death's not that big an issue--it comes to all of us, so when the time comes, just embrace it with open arms!' And when I received that phone call from Charley Marouani, two hours after the event and before it hit the press, I thought to myself, 'If she can do it, then there's nothing to be afraid of!' That was fifteen years ago this weekend. The fans always say the 24th, but it was actually one hour after midnight on the 25th. Freddie Mercury's anniversary--Barbara had chosen the title for my book about him. Nick Drake also died on the 25th--he was a big Barbara fan and his last 'concert'--just a couple of songs played for fun--was at the Ecluse, on the Left Bank. Exactly where Barbara started out. Joey Stefano, my other great inspiration, died on the 26th. We had dinner with him once, immediately after a Barbara concert. So many links and coincidences...
 
Yesterday was the anniversary of Pantin. It made Barbara laugh when we were talking to Melina Mercouri and I commented on how charming her grandson was--he was her lover! We roared with laughter at the antics of Alice Sapritch! So many good times were had with Barbara. November is such a good time, she said, for living and dying. I'll keep her up on that. She wrote Lily Passion and gave the Depardieu character my name--said I had the face of a perfect murderer! When I approached a couple of London producers on her behalf with the English version of the play about the man who knifes a woman each time he hears her sing, they would have nothing to do with it. Sensitive about the Yorkshire Ripper, who I'd known when younger. I told Barbara the whole story, the juxtaposition of which became the play. My reward, or one of them, came with Barbara arranging me to meet Garbo in 1986.
 
Fifteen years on, Barbara still earns millions--every penny of which goes to her children's and AIDS charities. She had a direct line to AIDS sufferers in prisons around France--she even went there and sang for them. In music, she received honours that even Piaf missed out on. The last time we talked was on our 25th wedding anniversary. She was very ill, but never in a million years did we think we were going to lose her. It's been a long road since she left. Nice people, nasty people. But she's in my thoughts every single day. The pictures I took hang above my desk, and our picture still hangs on the wall at Précy. People can say or write about me whatever they like, but they're never going to take away any of this. Who needs dung when they can close their eyes and see a diamond?

Charley called this morning, and he shares the same sentiments as I do regarding the anniversary. Everyone and his mother has released a book or a 'tribute' album. No one knows the real story because Barbara was so intensely private and trusted so few of us. I loathe people like Marie Chaix when they tell stories of drugs and bad tempers. I saw her lose her rag once at Marco, at the Mogador when he made a mistake with the lights--for some reason he chose to weep on my shoulder, which wasn't an unpleasant experience. Then he wept even more when she gave him a big hug later that night at dinner. Neither did she have a weight problem, as Chaix said. She was always slim as a reed! The singers--well, the less said about them the better. Barbara's songs were so personal, especially 'L'aigle noir' and 'Dis, quand reviendras-tu?' Eva, Mouloudji and Cora Vaucaire were given permission to do these while Barbara was lived and did them well--Martha Wainwright sounds like a cat in a blender. Everyone who knew Barbara cannot stomach her version of the song. I adapted 'Ma plus belle histoire d.amour' and she sang this with Barishnikov in New York.

Each time we go to Bagneux we clean the grave. She's buried with around ten members of her family, including her mother--Esther also died in November, and all of Barbara's studio albums were released on this date. We were present when all the others were recorded. In the Pantin video, I'm the man with the rose. Not only did she allow Jeanne to touch her costumes, she gave her one of them! Tomorrow, two of the French radio stations are playing every one of her songs over a period of twelve hours. That's what you call a star--but Barbara was much more than that.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Chanson: The Play & The 2013 Schedule

The novel doesn't come out until next June, but the play is only slightly based on it. Just the two main characters--I had to leave out Fréhel and Suzy Solidor because, unless they put in the programme, not many people are going to remember who they were. The ending's also been changed in the wake of the trial performance two years ago.
 
There's also been a slight change to the 'Bret Programme' for 2013. According to the announcement on Amazon, 'Greta Garbo: Divine Star' is to be published in paperback in March. Not so. They've just decided to keep reprinting the hardback for now, as it's still selling well.
 
'Elizabeth Taylor' is due out in China any time now, with a print-run of 100,000. I never thought they'd heard of her there. The book's all squiggles, but they've done an amazing cover in violet silk, to match her eyes, and each copy has a Cleopatra bookmark!
 
And finally, 'Valentino's Affairs' now looks like being rescheduled to August or even later so that both versions come out together, and so as not to flood the market. The text is more or less completed. We've had a few arguments with the backers regarding the ending. They wanted to have Rudy vomiting blood in inglorious close-up when he's found in his bathroom, and I found myself putting my foot down. What's this obsession with puking all of a sudden? It's everywhere--in films, soaps, even in sit-coms. Can't they just clap their hands to their mouths and rush out of the room like they used to? Do we really need to see this? As for the sex, I tried to put my foot down about that one too because originally there was no sex in it--just a little kissing. Sadly, I didn't win, though it's been kept to a respectable level! 
 
And finally, finally! There's Joey's new book, 'This Old House', which I'm handling--pretty much like I'm handling Joey, if you listen to rumours!--and which is due out some time during the Spring.


Chanson: A Two-Act Play (A Story of Forbidden Love Set During The German Occupation of Paris)
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'Chanson', with songs from the period, tells the story of French singer, Marcel--brooding, from the wrong side of the tracks, he arrived in Paris in 1934 and was discovered singing in the streets by Gérard, one of the city's most eminent impresarios. When the play opens it is 1944. Paris is under the Nazi jackboot and Marcel is the star attraction at Levalle's, the most fashionable club in Paris. When Gérard is murdered, Marcel's life falls apart. He ends his relationship with his girlfriend and can no longer see his mistress because her husband is home on leave. While trudging the streets late at night, after curfew, drunk and disorientated, he is picked up by Jurgen, a young German lieutenant who has worshiped him from afar for some time. Initially their relationship is platonic, but as time passes a deep bond develops between them as Marcel fights his demons to rebuild his shattered career--while the Liberation approaches, bringing triumph and tragedy in equal measure. WARNING: contains strong language< Less

Wednesday, 21 November 2012

It's Time The Anglican Church Made Up It's Mind

I think it's time the Anglican Church made up its mind about a couple of issues.
Women priests and bishops.
And the gay issue.
 
Archbishop Sentamu is one cleric in particular who is starting to get on my tits. And before you complain by the thousand--no, it has nothing to do with the colour of his skin, but what I believe to be a severe case of crass hypocrisy and a vain attempt to make the hole fot the peg.
 
Not so long ago, Sentamu was bemoaning the subject of gay marriage--I'm not sure if he finds civil unions morally offensive, or whether he doesn't like the idea of a Christopher Biggins type schlepping fown the aisle in a Versace gown, but whatever....
 
Sentamu says, on the subject of gay marriage, we should stick with what the Bible says, and with tradition. Fair enough, if that's what he believes in. We're all entitled to our opinion.
 
However, when it comes to ordaining women bishops, he believes we should be moving with the times--in other words, NOT sticking with tradition.
 
I'm sorry, your worship, but you are being unfair and, if I may say so, a bigot. You cannot stick with tradition when it suits you, and not stick with it when it doesn't.
 
It's called homophobia.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

The Smiths: 30 Years On

Their music was fantastic and there's no doubting that Morrisser was the finest singer-songwriter of his generation. A modern-day Byron, and as I wrote, Perdican Reborn.
 
The Smiths were Morrissey and Marr--well, Morrissey, no disrespect to Johnny. Like Freddie was Queen. They were more or less consigned to history when Freddie died, and after The Smiths' split, Morrissey went on to even bigger things.
 
The fans are loopy, so I never adhered to the 'ritualistic' side of things. I always liked meat, always liked sex, and was never keen on being miserable and shutting myself away in my bedroom.
 
 
 
But Morrissey, I could never admire enough because he's a man of my heart. Like Brigitte Bardot and myself, he's not afraid of saying what he thinks, even if he gets lampooned or hammered for it--like us, he's never found the need to hide behind the curtains. Perhaps this is why, when I brought out my first book about him--admittedly, I'd allowed him read the script beforehand--he said that he wanted to 'dust me down and stick me on the mantlepiece'. Of my predecessor, Johnny Rogan, he'd wished him dispatch on the M1, until learning that Johnny didn't drive whence the fatwah was transferred to demise by flames! Moz if the most quintessentially English gentleman I've known since my late father-on-law. It has nothing to do with racism, but with wishing to remain parochial. I wasn't keen on his comments about the royals, though to a certain extent I could see his point when he said that an old lady who lived near his Mum had died of hypothermia because she couldn't afford to pay her gas bill--while they'd found a newspaper in the house with a feature saying Princess Diana had paid £6,000 for a frock.
 
Neither is Moz miserable. When we received a special invite to his show at Drury Lane, I joked that it would be nice if we could have the royal box--he arranged it (our companions for the evening were The Pet Shop Boys) and even curtsied when he came on stage! Then when everyone had gone home, we all got hammered in the bar!
 
Lovely man!