Friday, 8 December 2017

Meanwhile, in Arizona...

Dolly Parton look-alike competition, 1979

One of the classiest photos from the new book Arizona Trips by British photographer David Hurn, as featured in today's Guardian.

Yee, Ha!

Tuesday, 5 December 2017

It's a Scandal

"Discretion is the polite word for hypocrisy."

"I took on the sins of everybody, of a generation, really."

"No one else knows the whole story. I was there. I lived through it."

RIP the notorious Christine Keeler, the "model" whose revelations were at the centre of the "Profumo Affair" that brought the government of Harold Macmillan to its knees in 1963.

A tribute...

Monday, 27 November 2017

A lovelier you...

...courtesy of my latest loan from the utterly perfect Awful Library Books, of course!

Monday, 20 November 2017

Seventy bleedin' years, Lilibet?

Congratulations to HM The Queen and HRH Prince Philip on the occasion of their 70th wedding anniversary!

Tuesday, 14 November 2017

Twenty-five million, five hundred thousand pounds!

...and yet it looks like a (very bejewelled) soap-on-a-rope??!

The largest flawless, colourless diamond of its type to ever go on sale - 163-carats, no less - has sold at Christie's.

Sunday, 5 November 2017

A richer and fuller life

His stories of escapades as a young gay man in the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s were as mischievous and comic as they were a window into an often hostile world, where as second-class citizens homosexual men had to tread carefully on the edges of society.

National Service was "fantastic" [he said] because it was filled with so many gay men.

Cambridge was equally "very, very gay", causing one heterosexual undergraduate to complain to him, through tears, that there was "something wrong with him" because he was attracted to women.

"I think you'll be alright Douglas," Prof Lockyer replied drily.

"There was this semi-secret, sub-rosa network of gay clubs we would go to," he explained.

One bar-hopping friend and ex-lover was Jeremy Wolfenden, the gay son of Lord Wolfenden, whose radical report controversially recommended decriminalising homosexuality in 1957.

"Places like the Rockingham in Soho... was for well-to-do, sophisticated people - it had its own writing paper.

"You had to give your name at the door and I said: 'Jeremy, aren't you a little worried that you give your name 'Wolfenden'?

"He said: 'Oh don't worry my dear I always give your name.'

"So I'm recorded as having a much busier social life when it was in fact Jeremy capering about town while his father made these important recommendations to the government about 'queers'."
RIP Professor Roger Lockyer, historian, writer and one half of the very first couple who became "civil partners" when the law changed in 2005 [they converted their partnership to marriage in 2014]. Of the occasion, he said:
"I think that particularly being a historian… people do know a bit about their own history and what others went through and it makes for a richer and fuller life if they do.

"I remember distinctly walking down the street after the ceremony thinking: 'I am as legal a person as anybody else. I am a full citizen at last.' It was a wonderful feeling."

And finally, when asked about the secret of longevity [the couple had been together for 51 years when he died] he had this to say:
The best way to stay in a long and happy relationship is to want to stay in a long and happy relationship! It helps a great deal if you find the other person very attractive, which of course I did in the case of Percy - he was a young, handsome man - but we also shared so much in common.

I learned quite early on that if you want a relationship to endure, you must not bridle at every possible insult. We’ve both behaved badly to each other from time to time, and I just kept on thinking to myself: “It’s not worth losing this wonderful relationship over things that don’t really count. The little things are the little things; the big thing is the relationship and as long as that’s sound, then to hell with any of the details."

Sunday, 29 October 2017

Brave day sunk in hideous night

From Sonnet 12 by William Shakespeare:

When I do count the clock that tells the time,
And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;
When I behold the violet past prime,
And sable curls all silvered o'er with white;
When lofty trees I see barren of leaves
Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,
And summer's green all girded up in sheaves

British Summer Time is officially over for another year...

Friday, 27 October 2017

Eeh oop - it's a look

From Time Out:
There’s Scouse girls and their wearing of bangle-width rollers round town before a night on the tiles. Manc girls who – presumably through natural selection – can traverse ankle-breaking cobbles in skyscraper heels with grace. Manc lads in those parkas now synonymous with the warring Gallagher brothers. Geordies who are apparently impervious to the cold. And all that’s not to mention the 1980s casual look, originating on the football terraces of northern England. Hundreds of images come to mind when you think of northern fashion. And so it’s only proper that the region gets its own fashion exhibition.

...Celebrating northern fashion feels right given the wealth of talent that the region has produced. For example, Burberry’s Christopher Bailey hails from Halifax. Agyness Deyn is from Rochdale and bright young thing Matty Bovan grew up in York with his impossibly stylish mum. The exhibition – which is being expanded for its trip [to Somerset House from Liverpool’s Open Eye Gallery] – will also look at how the north and northerners are represented in contemporary photography, fashion and art with contributors including Raf Simons, Corinne Day and Gareth Pugh.

Northern style seems to involve a lot of hair-curlers, it would seem...

The exhibition North: fashioning identity is on at Somerset House, London from 8th November 2017 to 4th February 2018.

Sunday, 22 October 2017

Adieu, Mademoiselle

"In the years that I have been an actress, I have told the story of my life many times, and I get tired of it, so sometimes I change it a little."

"The stage takes more from your life in three hours of work than one whole day in the film studio. On stage, you are a prisoner, even though it is a lovely prison."

"I think it's despicable to be on display and a fashion showoff."

RIP Danielle Yvonne Marie Antoinette Darrieux (1st May 1917 - 17th October 2017)

Read my tribute to the grande dame on the occasion of her 100th birthday

Thursday, 19 October 2017

I had the last laugh

"All my life I wanted to look like Elizabeth Taylor. Now Elizabeth Taylor looks like me".

"I think I've always been respectable. What I do onstage is not what I do in my private life... It's an act... It's how I make my living. People laugh, and it's not hurting anyone."

"Of course the last thing my parents wanted was a son who wears a cocktail dress that glitters, but they've come around to it."

"People who used to make fun are now fans. I had the last laugh."

It's Divine's birthday, bitches.

All hail!

Divine (born Harris Glen Milstead, 19th October 1945 - 7th March 1988)

Friday, 6 October 2017

This weekend, I am mostly dressing casual... the lovely Misses Billie Dove and Marion Davies!

Fur and feathers - sure signs that autumn is here.

Monday, 2 October 2017

Whom no man will ever possess

Today is the birthday of waspish American film critic and television host Mr Rex Reed. Who? I hear you say...

Largely an unknown quantity over here in Blighty, Mr Reed's controversial and much-vilified take on movies, the arts and the cult of celebrity have not exactly endeared him to generations of film-makers in the States [he was once described as "the hazel-eyed hatchet-man"]; and he has certainly rubbed the braying "Twitterati" up the wrong way on many an occasion [no bad thing!]. His nearest British [albeit somewhat more high-brow] counterpart might have been Brian Sewell. I am certain we at Dolores Delargo Towers would adore him.

It is also the perfect excuse (if any were needed!) to wallow in the man's most (ahem!) famous [and rare] on-screen appearance: as "Myron", Raquel Welch's male alter-ego - alongside an idiosyncratic cast that included John Carradine, Kathleen Freeman, Tom Selleck, Jim Backus, Farrah Fawcett, John Huston... and Mae West - in the camp cult classic Gore Vidal adaptation, Myra Breckinridge!

Rex Taylor Reed (born October 2, 1938)

Myra Breckinridge, dissected

Friday, 22 September 2017

Someone really should make this story into an opera

With all its intrigues, unlikely relationships, financial and political shenanigans, deception, bitter revenge and wronged families, one could hardly imagine a more complicated, scheming, scandalous and decadent plot appearing in any of the masterworks of Puccini, Mozart, Donizetti, Giordano or Verdi.

I have long been fascinated by the saga of the "world's richest woman" in her dotage, her unlikely (gay) suitor upon whom she bestowed billions, her bitter and wronged daughter, the Machiavellian "advisors", the whiff of political scandal that threatened to bring down the French government, the sinister attorney, and the ingenious butler who exposed it all...

The Daily Beast:
The French have a colourful term - s’encanailler - which roughly means slumming, hanging out with rakish types from a different social milieu. That was undoubtedly part of the magnetism that drew [billionaire L'Oreal heiress Liliane Bettencourt] to [little-known gay photographer] François-Marie Banier...

“Liliane was rich, she was beautiful, and she was bored to death,” said her former lawyer Georges Kiejman... [but] "when Banier arrived on the scene, he immediately put some spice into her life."

Brash, provocative, iconoclastic, he had none of the kowtowing deference that she was accustomed to. He would criticize her clothes, her hairstyle, playfully call her names at times, even as he flattered her and praised her beauty, her intellect, her sensitivity. Banier also talked to her about books and philosophy and art, things that were not part of [her late husband] André’s dinnertime conversation. And he brought her out of her shell, introducing her to artists, writers, and actors, escorting her to art galleries, museums, theatres, auction houses. As Liliane put it, “he renovated me.”...
From National Public Radio (NPR):
Emotionally and fiscally, their interests dovetailed: Banier opened up the stimulating art world to Bettencourt by escorting her to galleries, introducing her to his bohemian friends, reading aloud to her from Stendhal's Charterhouse, and being thrillingly irreverent in denouncing the giant Monet in her mansion as "hideous." Entranced, she lavished him with money and gifts, including paintings by Picasso and Matisse, apartments, and millions in life-insurance policies. For 25 years, Bettencourt played the generous Galatea to Banier's Pygmalion, with the total of her largesse teetering to an incredible one billion euros.

In 2007, Bettencourt's only child, her daughter Françoise Bettencourt Meyers, filed a criminal suit against Banier for abus de faiblesse (abuse of weakness), claiming that this "Rasputin" had ruthlessly exploited her then 84-year-old mother's oncoming dementia. Meyers, a quiet woman described by a friend as "an austere Carmelite nun," says her hand was forced when an eavesdropping chambermaid told her she had heard Banier asking to be adopted by Bettencourt.

The scandal, which electrified France for a decade, came to be known as the Bettencourt Affair.
From Mediapart:
[Pascal Bonnefoy, the long-serving butler to Mme Bettencourt] produced damning testimony against François-Marie Banier, who he said "destroyed" the Bettencourt family, humiliated Liliane by calling her "a bitch", and whose "arrogant" behaviour included urinating over plants at the Bettencourt home.

He also launched a scathing attack on Patrice de Maistre, the billionaire's wealth manager, and others in her close entourage who he said "hide behind a tired and fragile woman" while leading her astray.

"I could not accept the unacceptable, and for me it was like the scene of a car accident and not stopping to help," he said in his statement to police detectives. "I could not continue without doing anything and still be able to look at myself in the mirror. I had served Monsieur and Madame Bettencourt during so many years, and I could not let all these people around Madame carry on without reacting."...

...The transcripts of the tapes, which were handed by Bonnefoy to Liliane's daughter Françoise and then to police, principally concerned conversations between Liliane Bettencourt and her wealth manager, her tax lawyer and solicitor, and François-Marie Banier. They were made between May 2009 and May 2010, recorded on a digital Dictaphone placed behind a chair in Bettencourt's private office in her town mansion home in Neuilly-sur-Seine, just west of Paris.

Bonnefoy said he was prompted into making the recordings after he was subject to a campaign of ostracism led by Banier...
From The Guardian obituary today:
The saga resulted in not only a public family feud but a major political scandal and courtroom drama when the investigation was extended to look at whether Sarkozy and other figures in his party had also taken advantage of the elderly Bettencourt, asking for money from her after it was declared that she had dementia.

The money, alleged to have been given in brown envelopes, was said to have funded Sarkozy’s 2007 presidential campaign.

The “Bettencourt affair” tarnished the latter half of Sarkozy’s presidency, and when he lost the 2012 election he was placed under formal investigation for illegal campaign financing and taking advantage of Bettencourt. But the charges against Sarkozy were dropped in October 2013 due to lack of evidence.

In 2015, the photographer Banier was convicted of exploiting Bettencourt and sentenced to three years in jail, fined €350,000 and ordered to pay €158m in damages. He appealed and last year received a suspended prison sentence and a fine but did not have to pay the vast damages.
..and The Guardian, again, from 2010:
[Georges Kiejman, speaking in court, commented:] "This is a family story; the daughter is trying to use this court to settle a psychological conflict with her mother. It's a 57-year-old little girl complaining 'my mummy doesn't love me. She loves him more than me'."

Kiejman added: "That Madame Bettencourt should have the misfortune of finding the brilliant Mr Banier more amusing that her own daughter – and between you and me that's no surprise – is not for this court to decide."
The court certainly did decide. Banier was shamed, but kept his fortune. Sarkozy survived, albeit with his reputation tarnished. Liliane was to remain in the care of her daughter, and the L'Oreal fortune was secured. No idea what happened to the butler.

I await the first production of this Machiavellian operatic masterpiece, opening at a concert hall near you...

RIP Liliane Henriette Charlotte Bettencourt (née Schueller, 21st October 1922 – 21st September 2017)