Thursday, 19 July 2007

Interuption of Service

About a month ago, my laptop decided to die on me. It just refused to start up. I sent it to the repair people via courier. Repairs were going to take two weeks (and that was only changing the CD player (which was also not working) so that I could restore the whole: ie do the work myself!

I still haven't received my laptop back although apparently the repairs have been made. The laptop has apparently been lost by Parceline the courier company (who are not very good: they have apparently been several times but can't be bothered to use my mobile phone. Slightly has had problem with them with the reasons why his stuff wasn't delivered changing at each new phone call).

I am not really bothered about the laptop. It was getting oldish (3 years) and all my data is backed up. Getting a new one seems like a good thing after all.

During all that time, the nice people at LGBT History Month (I am their webmaster, now remember) have lent me a laptop and by the same token, life! Today however I have to give the laptop back, as it is needed for something else.

I am supposed to hear from the PC people by tomorrow to see how things are going to happen but for all I know it could be another couple of weeks before I am back online.

I have plenty of reading to catch up with, I suppose but to be honest, and I know it is a bit sad, I don't know how I am going to cope...

Wednesday, 18 July 2007

London Gay Men's Chorus - Bad Boys

Bad Boys flyer

Let loose and on the run!
Fresh from the Scotland leg of the Bad Boys Tour, the London Gay Men's Chorus is back in London; brace yourselves for one of the sexiest, sassiest celebrations of villainy ever seen on stage.

Including music from James Bond, Chicago, Carmen Jones and Jerry Springer - The Opera, and songs by Queen, The Eagles and Wham, everybody knows Bad Boys get the good tunes and this show has them all.

It’s about low lives lived on the wrong side of the tracks. It’s about going off the rails. From the back of the classroom to the depths of the underworld, it’s one hell of a ride. Tickets are going fast!

Concert includes:
Queen: We will Rock You, Don't Stop me Now, Bohemian Rhapsody
Wham: Bad Boys
Carmina Burana: O Fortuna
The Eagles: Desperado
Jerry Springer: The Opera "I Just Wanna Dance"
Tom Lehrer: Machismo Tango
Frankie Goes to Hollywood: Relax

Bad Boys
Cadogan Hall
5 Sloane Terrace
London SW1X 9DQ
July 20 and July 21 2007 - 7:30pm
Box Office: 020 7730 4500
Book online for Friday
Book online for Saturday

Sunday, 15 July 2007

Salvation Madness

A friend of mine with an interest (bordering on the mania) in the history of theatres and cinemas regularly asks me, usually after imparting some obscure point of trivia, if I think he is mad. I don't think he is particularly. People with a passion, especially the kind of passion that doesn't hurt anyone, are usually interesting and for me admirable, since my enthusiasm is a rather lethargic beast.

After tonight, I think I might have to become the one asking the other whether I am mad.

The shop on the ground floor of the house I have been living in for about 4 years now has recently changed owners. For about a month, there has been some extensive works in the shop and tonight the fascia and signage of the old shop were taken down and unceremoneously dumped.

Just after midnight, to be sure that all workers were gone, I sneeked out and from the pile of unwanted plastic retrieved one of the panels that used to hang perpendicularly from the first floor outside wall of house.

It seemed like a good idea at the time. After all that sort of thing usually disappear with the establishments they announced and no one thinks about conserving them. I thought the thing could become some interesting to hang from my walls when I finally move on to my own place. This with the added value that it welcomed me to this place and I spent part of my live at that sign.

The sheet of plastic, at about 1.2 square metre, is however bigger than I imagined and it takes rather a lot of place in my current cupboard of a room. The colours are also a little bit garish. Now that the thing is all cleaned up and staring back at me, to be honest, I am not sure what to do with it now.

Do you think I am mad?

Friday, 13 July 2007

Gloria Gaynor homophobic?

Gloria Gaynor is currently in the uk for a series of shows. This morning she was interviewed by Radio4's Woman's Hour. The singer talked about her youth, her career, about some of her most famous songs, several of which have become gay anthems. She also talked about her becoming a born again Christian.

Finally the interviewer asked her about her status as a gay icon. She said she was really pleased with this and that saw it as an opportunity to lead her fans towards Christ. The interviewer then asked several times if there might be a contradiction between her faith and her having a gay fan base, if she considered homosexuality as a sin. Gaynor each time refused to answer the question directly. She only said that she is leading her fans to Christ and what he has to offer to them.

The interview can be listened to for a limited period of time here.

More details here.

Thursday, 12 July 2007

Serious Serendipity

Serendipity is like a benevolent fairy godmother for many a gay man looking for his roots. The fact that our history as a group has been so carefully hidden and pushed into the proverbial closet for so long makes any new discovery like a victory, even if that very discovery has been and will be made over and over by fellow solitary travellers.

I had such moment of serendipity earlier this week, itself the result of another such moment for someone else. A Friend of mine with an interest in theatre and cinema brought my attention to a BBC Radio 2 which had delivered to him more than the original unpromising expected few comments about a certain film. The programme, about the evolution of the representation of sexual moors in British cinema, included some un-trailed remarks about a few moments of cinematographic LGBT history which my friend thought worth sharing.

DVD jacket of VictimThe programme of course mentioned the well known film Victim which was released in 1961. The film was quite a risky career move for its star, Dirk Bogarde, then at the pinnacle of his art. This depiction of a respectable lawyer risking his life and reputation to unmask an unscrupulous blackmailer is often credited for having helped the change of mentality started in 1957 by the release of the Wolfenden Report which would lead to the partial decriminalisation of sexual acts between men in 1967. It is also hailed as the first positive representation of a gay character in British cinema.

If first heard of the film about 3 years ago by chance (serendipity again) while listening to an interview of Sylvia Syms (who plays Bogarde's character's wife) on Radio 4's Front Row to mark a retrospective of her career at what was still the National Film Theatre (NFT). The programme mentioned the film, what it was about and that it was being shown that same night at the NFT. I had recently moved to my current home which is located very close to the South Bank where the NFT is. I grabbed my chance and made a dash for it, something which would have been futile to attempt only a few months earlier when I lived further out. I made it in time and was able to enjoy the film which not only was good and moving but also clearly an important landmark for gay history.

In addition to Victim, the Radio 2 programme mentioned above made reference to another film released in 1959. The film is Serious Charge of which I had never heard of before. The film was released a Touch of Hell in the US in 1960. Directed by Terrence Young, it tells how an unmarried vicar in a new parish, Reverend Philips, (Anthony Quayle) accuses a local youth of being partially responsible for the death of a teenage girl. In defiance, the young man claims the vicar molested him. His story is backed up by a local woman (Sarah Churchill), vexed that the vicar rejected her advances. I searched the Internet to try and found more about this film and impulsively decided to buy a cheapish copy.

I watched the film last night. What a strange idea for a film! The fact that it is now presented and packaged as Cliff Richard's first appearance in a film (which probably saved the thing from total oblivion and allowed me to find it on DVD I guess) makes it even weirder. Also featured is the second daughter of Winston Churchill.

The film has this empty small-town feel you find in 1950's British films. The performances are really quite good despite a rather unfocused, drawn out and sometimes unrealistic plot. There are long and slightly pointless sequences of exposition showing the group of local "juvenile delinquents" which is led by the future accuser although you should probably remember that what we now call youth culture was only just out of diapers and therefore probably still fairly exotic.

In 1959, homosexuality was still illegal, yet once the accusation of sexual assault by the vicar becomes public knowledge, the local constable does not pay a visit to the man, unlike the hire of the righteous inhabitant of the village which is visited upon our man of the cloth through ostracisation, stones thrown through windows and anonymous letters. In the end, however and probably quite unlike the reality of the time for other men accused of homosexuality, everything ends well as the truth is finally victorious.

DVD jacket of Serious ChargeThe film is an early and tentative foray down the ill-lit alley later explored by Victim but it is also quite different. Reverend Philips, the main character, is for a start not homosexual, unlike Melville Farr in Victim. This meant that audiences could empathise with the hero in good conscience. Homosexuality seems little more than a plot device and the fact that it is homosexuality that we are talking about doesn't seem to matter much other than that if the producers were out to denounce parochial prejudice, this was probably what would be likely to generate the most violent reactions. The reactions remained pretty tame but the film was still given a "X" certificate thereby restricting even more what must have been an already limited constituency.

In the end, it is not very clear what point the makers wanted to make with this film. It is however a departure from the hitherto standard depiction of gay characters who were usually killers and psychopaths. Something for which the film must be lauded. In Serious Charge, audience members were offered an opportunity. They would require little effort, should they want to, to view Philips as really gay and therefore as a victim of society and from then start sympathising with his predicament.

In 1960, The Trials of Oscar Wilde was released. I haven't seen the film and don't know much about it but Oscar Wilde's story can certainly be viewed as that of a victim, a martyr, some would say. This theme of victimhood epitomised in the title of the third film on the subject released at the time is the result of the new attitude towards homosexuality heralded by the Wolfenden Report. The report recommended that homosexuals should not be considered as criminals any more but rather safeguarded "against exploitation and corruption".

From monsters, they (we) had become victims and from then on, gay characters made regular if sporadic appearances on British screens along with other social rejects (more about this here). The representation of gay people in film followed closely the level of acceptance they received from society as a whole.

In my view, Serious Charge is not as good a film as Victim but it remains an interesting period piece and a document of its time; a time when the light was just about starting to shine at the end of the dark tunnel of discrimination.