Archive for the ‘Art and Culture’ Category
Britain’s Got Talent has been known for many golden moments, Cher Lloyd’s tantrums, Susan Boyle’s amazing voice to name but two. But for sheer visual impact one lady always stood out. Personally I always liked her for making Simon Cowell’s facial expression change from boredom to sheer amazement in less than a minute.
Step forward Miss Fabia Cerra
If you didn’t catch her act the first time it was repeated on youtube endlessly for the viewing public. Now, this is the first time a burlesque performer had appeared on BGT so there was some doubt as to what to expect. Needless to say her performance titillated, stunned, amused and amazed the people of this fair land.
In the wake of the spotlight came huge, and scarily persistent media interest, particularly from The News of the World (you remember them).
But the fifteen minutes of fame tick away fast and she has been working hard. She consolidated her success by moving into new areas of business, such as perfume. A lot of her spare time is spent in charitable works and volunteer projects, such as Abdabs, a youth community theatre project based in Witney. She has even had a letter from Buckingham palace, but more on that later.
To see Fabia’s outstanding performance please click here
I still love the look on Simon Cowell’s face, it was the only time he cracked a smile. Lucky that desk was there, eh, Simon?
So I finally caught up with Fabia for a chat this week.
What drew you towards the Burlesque style of performance?
Much invoked, often implicated, always despised. The Devil is as old as deity worship by humankind. He is the yang to God’s Ying. The dark side of us all.
“Having the Devil in you” is an often used phrase for agitated or highly aggressive behaviour.
“Being a devil” would be acting on selfish impulse regardless of short term consequences.
He has been worshiped, appeared in film, in art, in song and he even has his own football team. Somebody even tried to sue him once. But who or what is he or it and where did he come from?
Note: for the sake of consistency the Devil will be referred to as a He.
As mankind evolved we developed many rituals, such as burial and veneration of our dead. That was the start. Our psychology developed and emotions became more sophisticated and elaborate. Our violence became less chaotic and more premeditated. Empathy grew more intense in some, and much less in others. A greater sense of empathy became the key to raising a family or tribe.
Selfish, devious, scheming and violent behaviour became the prime sources for the breakdown of early human society. Both empathy and violent behaviour gradually clustered into two tangible forms. We know them today as God and the Devil. The two seem to be as old as the other, and they are in some way interlocked figures, we cannot have one without the other.
God, Allah, call him what you will is one of the most sought-after benefactors in history. But he is not the topic of this essay, I will leave him for another time.
The Devil is an equally ambiguous character, and one much harder to pin down. While God is generally regarded as a genial, bearded middle age man the devil is a hybrid of humanoid and animal. This image springs mostly from the palette of renaissance painters and their vivid imaginations. His form is, theoretically, supernatural, with limbs of the creatures early man feared or hated the most. The bat, the snake, and the goat. (The last one seems a bizarre addition but nonetheless is there)
His powers are said to be great, but little is said of what they actually are. He seems capable of great violence but there is little evidence of him using this as a first resort. Instead, the Devil likes to trick, to scheme and to manipulate.
In view of the early church’s irrational fear of all things female it is surprising that the Devil is not imagined as a woman. Not that the women of the time were any less inclined to devilish behaviour, they just lacked the physical capacity to carry it out in such a spectacular manner.
The devil appeared in early Jewish text first, not as the epitome of evil, but as a form of prosecutor sitting opposite the judgment of God. The name Satan is a Hebrew version of ‘accuser’. In some Talmud or Rabbinic versions he is seen as an Agent Provocateur, testing man for sin in the judgment of God.
In Christianity he seems to have been some kind of subordinate being who rose up and led a rebellion. His exact reasons are hard to figure, but pride and will seem to figure in the case for both the protagonist and the antagonist. But which was which?
Some kind of supernatural war has featured in renaissance art, fought with swords and breastplates. It seems that God and the Devil were capable of mustering armies and leading them in armed struggle. Ultimately God seems to have won and banished the devil into the wilderness where he planned his revenge.
We can reason from this that God is more powerful than the Devil, either physically or mentally.
Although far from universally popular or attractive, some people do worship the devil. Their reasoning is highly personal. Some worship his for personal gain, others, quixotically, because they do not believe in God. For others it is some kind of protest against an over-paternalistic Christian society. Few devil worshippers are balanced individuals.
The format for the worship of God are clearly laid down in the Koran, and in great detail in the Bible. The precise method of devil worship seems to vary greatly. Animal or human sacrifice, deviant sexual practices and child abuse have all been implicated. The greater details seem to be a closely guarded secret and accounts of dark masses are rarely reliable.
In the late Sixties a man called Anton LeVay wrote The Satanic Bible. This set down the Constitution for Satanism as a religion. Those who bought the book expecting a charter for deviant behaviour were to be bitterly disappointed. Le Vay’s book was more pragmatical in nature, banning outright human sacrifice (boo!), Sexual deviance (hiss!), and any act that breaks that country’s laws (sod this!). Although LeVay has undoubted terrifying appearance, his is too practical-minded to make any headway with the crazies that his religion attracts. The Satanic Bible, I would suspect is outsold by Mein Kampf by a significant margin.
The Devil has some symbols. The most common in use is a hand signal consisting of a punching fist with the first and fourth fingers extended, the ‘horns of the devil’, popular at rock concerts. So now you know. In fact not many people knew what the hand signal stood for, I only just found out myself.
His main symbol is the Pentagram, the five pointed star. The one subtle difference between Satanists and other religions that use the pentagram is this: Satanists use the one with two points at the top and the three points at the bottom. The two points at the top symbolize the triumph of the devil (they are the horns) over the three points (representing the holy trinity). Within the star the face of a goat is sometimes portrayed. It’s origins are unclear but, like the Swastika, it seems to have been hijacked at some point and used as a hallmark of wrongdoing. The Pentagram had no association with Satanism at all until the Spanish Inquisition came along and associated the Devil with any symbol it didn’t like. Somehow the association of the Pentagram and the occult looks set to stick, like the Swastika and the Nazis.
Now about that Goat. The Goat, in ancient Egypt was a symbol of carnality. Within some Satanic rituals it was used to procure fertility. Other religions were already eating Goat only as part of a ceremony. At some point the idea crossed over but animal sacrifice tailed off.
The Devil has two numbers, 666 and the less well known 616. Why does he have these numbers? Why did he want them in particular? And what did he intend to do with them? And why does God not have a number?
The answers are highly ambiguous and mostly come down to early Christian superstition. 616 may have been a typo, not as I thought, the devil’s Fax number. The 666 could be a numerical code for something or other, but no theory has stood up to scrutiny. Even in the year 666 very little of note happened. The Devil never appeared, there was no fire and brimstone. It was the medieval Millenium bug scare.
The Devil has been portrayed in several films, the most recent being The Devil’s Advocate, where he is played by Al Pacino. In the film he is depicted as sardonic, cynical and bitter. He also seems to hate God but still lives in fear of him, even if he will not openly admit it. Personally I liked Jack Nicholson’s version better.
The Rolling Stones wrote a song about him, expressing their sympathy for him. The song describes him as a man of wealth and taste, wily and mischievous.
So what does the future hold for the Devil in this brave new Millennium? At the minute not much. He has largely been sidelined while radical Islam and their Neo-Conservative enemies seek endorsement from God for their activities. Nobody cares for the Devil anymore, poor Devil. But as long as there is light there is dark and if there is a God then we can be sure the Devil will be hiding out there somewhere just waiting for his chance.
Well ladies and gents, in my on-going search to bring you the best of the female of the species, allow me to present the reigning empress of Burlesque, Chrys Columbine. She is celebrated mostly for her ‘Birth of Venus’ routine, that has won praise from such figures as Dita von Tease herself. Not only has she been wowing the crowds of London town but she has also taken Dublin by storm, pulling the crowds in, night after night, at Leeson Street’s Sugar Club.
Not only that but she met with Ireland’s own interviewing legends, the batchelors of Ballydung, Podge and Rodge.
Roll VT Bob:
So we grabbed a dirty martini and sat down for a chat with this charismatic individual.
What were those two flirty feckers like during the interval? Did they try and pull you into their dressing room for a ride?
Not at all. They were actually quite calm and well-mannered, almost a little serious – guess they’ve done it so many times before.
Did you like Dublin? It is great for shopping and drinking
Definitely, I like the way there are so many cool shops and bars located within decent walking distances of each other. And there are several fantastic venues like Lillies and Odessa Club that I would never have known about if it hadn’t been for friends of mine dragging me in!
How did you find the Irish crowd, were they friendly or shy compared to the Brits?
They were incredibly friendly, really sweet and very full of energy – but not too raucous or sleezy at all. I find the Irish have a lot more of a positive outlook on life – they ain’t wingeing bastards like we Brits are I like the Irish a lot!
Where did you stay?
I’ve stayed in various really nice hotels when I’ve performed at Dublin Burlesque Balls, one was The Park Inn Hotel which was fab – very minimalist (whihc I do love), but had quite a lot of weird art around, of scary faces, another was gorgeous in a completely different way, very period, and apparently quite well-known but i can’t for the life of me remember what it’s called (and can’t find it in my emails). During Podge and Rodge I stayed at The Dylan – again fantastic hotel so I do feel pretty spoiled with regard to places Irish gigs have put me up in.
What are you planning on doing next?
I would like to carry on performing all over the world and delighting audiences. I have in the pipeline, some beautiful new concepts and routines with spectacular props which I hope to get out there, this year and the next. I would also like to help bring burlesque even more into the mainstream. What I mean is that it’d be great to see more on TV, for instance having it as the closing entertainment for Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, or as an interlude on This Morning, or something. I have thoroughly enjoyed the TV stuff I’ve done and definitely aim to do more. Well, if it worked for Podge and Rodge, can’t it work elsewehere on the screen?
Ms Columbine has been very successful in her career, grabbing the attention of everybody from French Playboy to the Mail on Sunday to, er, me. The world is the oyster shell for this icon of raunchy entertainment.
Photo credits go to these lovely individuals:
We are days away from the start of the 62nd Cannes Film Festival. After a false start before World War Two, it finally made it’s debut in 1946 amid much ceremony. It is the second oldest film festival after Venice, which was believed to be rigged by Fascist Italy. So the French started their own.
The big star of this year’s show is The Inglorious Basterds, produced by Quentin Tarantino and starring Brad Pitt. The film relates a tale of assasinations of Nazi officers in occupied France.
Their is a jury drawn from actors, directors and technical crew who pick the winners of the many various prizes. Among this years Jurers are Isabelle Huppert, Asia Argento and Robin Wright-Penn.
There are fifteen prizes in total. The most coverted is the Palm d’Or, or Golden Palm, for which Tarantino is the hot favourite. Another is the Prix au Certain Regard, awarded for the most audacious works.
Running parallel to Cannes is the Director’s fortnight, which showcases a programme of shorts and feature films as well as documentaries from all over the world.
The French take their festival seriously. There is a whole page on their website dedicated to just to how you use their logo.
The festival is very popular with journalists, especially papparazzi. It is a celebrity mecca after all, and a one-stop-shop for film star gossip.
The other thing it is famous for is the ‘Eurotrash’ that turn up like a bad penny. Leather skin, bouffont hair, skin tight pink dresses, and thats just the men.
So the carnival du Cannes kicks off next week and it will be very intersting to see how it all ends up. It is a shame I couldn’t get over there myself like a ‘proper’ journalist but maybe one day…
I will keep you posted on how it is all going.
For several years now the appearance of Neo-Burlesque has been raising eyebrows among regular clubbers. A throwback to the glamourous era of the late forties and early fifties, this combination of tease, comedy, and performance art has made a welcome return to club-land.
Burlesque has been around since the middle of the nineteenth century. Apparently it is a British export, taken over to America by Lydia Thompson and her troupe of British Blondes. Their act included erotic dancing, some stripping and teasing, comedy, and minstrel shows. From there it evolved into it’s various forms, which gave us the modern day pub strippers and pole dancers.
But neo-burlesque is a lot more elaborate, focusing on style and performance than raw arousal and very little stripping actually goes on. It is rare to see a bare nipple, much less frontal nudity.
And who goes to these shows? Well it isn’t baying packs of lads on the lash. More often in a groups of young women and couples. Could you take your mum to a show like this? Probably. She might have a go, knowing my mum.
It’s current leading lights are Dita Von Teese in America and Britain’s own Immodesty Blaize, both of who earn huge sums from their performances.
Not only that but it has become the new craze among regular women who are looking for an entertaining way to spend their evenings. Pole classes took over from learning Belly Dancing and Burlesque was the next progression. Most of the ladies who take part are very healthy sizes, curvy as women should be. This is a relief to see in the current size 8 obsessed world.
So I went online to meet a few of the average girls who had stuck on the nipples tassles and wiggled for all they were worth.
So ladies and gentlemen please give a warm wordpress welcome to…..
So Girls, do you have a strict fitness regime?
Stella – Yes, I eat cake and drink wine. Actually, Burlesque is a great fitness regime, especially if you dance in 4 inch stilettos like I do – that takes some muscles!
Glorian – Burlesque, ideally, is not about looks from the point of view of being slender and scantily clad, but is about talent and stage presence, and therefore welcomes and embraces all varieties of image and body type. Health is its own reward!.
Geisha Go Disco – I’m a bigger girl and i don’t really watch what i eat, but i do go to the gym at least twice a week and take weekly dance classes to stay in shape. A lot of people tell me after shows that it’s nice to see bigger girls on stage. However, there is a certain amount of responsibility in accepting your body type and that means looking after it as best you can.
December Charm – The quick answer is no. This isn’t like other forms of dance where you have to be very disciplined in order to keep your body in perfect form. (What is perfect?) In burlesque all body types are celebrated. ALL! Male, female, big, small, black, white… the list goes on. We don’t care!
Take a look at Dirty Martini and Immodesty Blaize- two amazing successful performers and neither are a size 8. In fact, I’m 12 stone and a size 16 myself. And proud!
How would you answer your critics that say Burlesque is just elaborate stripping?
Critic: “Burlesque is just elaborate stripping”
December: “You’re right!”
But she adds: Burlesque is not all stripping. The origin of the word burlesque is “to satire”. Spitting Image, the puppet show, is burlesque. Scary Movie is burlesque. There are many burlesque performers who do not strip at all- they sing, dance, tell jokes, mime but don’t strip. It is important to remember that.
Geisha Go Disco – I would say “Perhaps, but without the elaborate pay packet!” Seriously though, stripping is not involved in every act. Further more, when i do it, i end up wearing more than your average beach goer! Jacqui Smith may term this as legally “offering a sex encounter” but that’s a WHOLE other interview!
Should every woman learn Burlesque?
Stella – Every woman should learn to be free with herself. Burlesque did it for me, but every woman is different. Whatever you can find to liberate you!
Glorian – Burlesque is not female specific! There are many talented male performers, and many twists on gender within both male and female performances. I would encourage anyone who fancies having a go to do so, it can be incredibly fun, creative, wonderful and empowering, for everyone involved!
Geisha Go Disco – No more than they should learn Egyptian dance or Ballet or rock climbing or Tennis. I would love to say yes but sadly, i think the answer is no. Personally, performing has made a world of difference to my own sense of confidence, but it’s not for everyone.
Is there much of a Burlesque scene outside London?
Glorian – There is indeed! It seems that burlesque is everywhere these days, and not just in the larger cities, but is making its way to smaller towns. Birmingham, Manchester, Newcastle, Leeds and Edinburgh all have good scenes, but then so do smaller places like Stoke on Trent, Aberystwth, Huddersfield!
Geisha Go Disco – Yes! The West Country is a-buzz with Burly shows and there is a thriving scene in Melbourne and Sydney too, where i first started seeing it about 5 years back.
December Charm – I live half an hour from London. I’ve performed 10 times. Two of those were in London.
There is a bigger scene in other parts of the UK. The Midlands in particular have so much going on it’s hard to keep track. Definitely the heart of the burlesque scene! Generally speaking, I have to travel at least 2 hours to get to a performance as it is all around the Midlands.
What is your favourite music to perform to?
Glorian Gray – This can be difficult. The crowd loves it when you pick a track everyone knows well, which can be great fun. Some performers prefer to be more traditionalist, using vintage tracks, big band, jazz, rock n roll etc, some use modern tracks, anything from Britney to Metal music! I tend to be inspired by a song then build an act around it, rather than the other way round, so it just depends what sparks my ideas off! So far I have used Prince, Heaven 17, 1950s Doowop, celtic fiddle music, Debussy, gothic cabaret….so yep, it can be really varied!
Geisha Go Disco – Although i am inspired by a lot of the old girls like Lili St Cyr, I never use vintage tracks. I do an act to Adam Ant’s “Prince Charming” and i plan to use a lot of funk and disco in the future, even a little trip-hop!
December Charm – Something fun and upbeat that people can sing/ clap along to. At the moment I am using Andy Williams “Can’t Keep my Eyes Off Of You”, “Oom Pah Pah” from Oliver and a mix of “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse with “Monster Mash”.
Finally do you have any horror stories to share?
Stella Plumes – Hands down, the worst show of my life was at a venue where the microphone didn’t work. I perform a mixture of poetry and strip-tease, the poetry always informs the strip-tease and in some cases the strip-tease cannot make sense without the poem… especially in my Nazi Spy routine! The poem is a grossly satirical comparison between a barking mad stripper and Adolf Hitler, but without the poem to set the Satirical tone… well perhaps you can imagine… I made it out alive but it really spoilt the act for me and I didn’t enjoy doing it after that.
December Charm – Nothing major. The very first performance I did, I started lying down on the floor. I got on stage, lay down, the DJ played the cd… and I had no idea what song it was! He had managed to lose my cd and play the other performers instead. Luckily the girl organising it was right in front of me, so I told her and in the meantime the other performer ran around the back to grab my spare cd. I was so terrified that they would play the wrong song, but when it happened, I was actually remarkably calm!
If you are interested in experiencing, or even learning Burlesque yourself the hub of their operation is http://www.ministryofburlesque.com It is free to join and you get to work with the best performers in the business.
To learn more about the history of the art check out http://www.musicals101.com/burlesque.htm
Geisha Go Disco is performing at the Velour Palace in Gloucestershire on 28th June
Photo credits for the article go to:
Maybe I am just getting older but I have recently developed a bit of an interest in the art world, particularly portraits. I have no time for high art, such as dissected cows and silly lights flickering on and off.
“It’s art!” Says floppy haired artist.
“Nay lad, it’s a dodgy plug.” Says I. Honestly where do you get them from? Then you have Tracey Emin with her unmade bed as an art show.
“Why is it art?” She was asked at the opening of her new gallery.
“Cos I say it is.” She huffed. Well hark at lady muck.
Thank heavens that a fellow from Fife in Scotland has taught himself to paint and set out to save us all from the machinations of the Tate ‘set’.
Jack Vettriano, born Jack Hoggan, taught himself to paint relatively late in life. He never attended an art college or gained any major artistic diploma. But the images and characters he has depicted has made our nation take him to it’s heart. He was recently named as Britain’s favourite artist, much to the chargrin of the London based art world. For that reason alone the guy is a hero.
He changed his name to Vettriano in honour of his Italian Grandfather. I think he wanted to sound a bit more exotic or he wanted to appeal to the art world. Either way, it worked.
Jack’s art is very retro and is mostly set in the fifties and sixties. Women are wondrously glamorous, usually dressed in stockings and cocktail dresses. Men are smart and well dressed, and the cars are very sporty. This is why his art appeals strongly across the sex divide. It also transcends class boundaries. You are as likely to see his art on a calender on an office wall in Slough as you are to see it on the wall of an art lover.
He works on a number of topics particularly relationships between men and women. The way he depicts His main tool is the use of body language which he uses as a tool of expression. He knows how to depict pleasure and pain, love and loss.
He drew some criticism for his more racy paintings, depicting scenes of light bondage, the prospect of group sex and bloodsucking. I doubt there was much in it, people need to remember that he is a relative newcomer to the art world, and he is still finding his style.
More recently he collabarated with motor sports legend and friend Jackie Stewart on a series of paintings. He related well the sometimes strained relationship between Stewart and his wife who would mark his timings within a heartbeat of widowhood.
Vettriano shares my love of motor sports and speed, and it inspired him to work on a rendition of Bluebird. As you may remember she was the car driven by Sir Malcolm Campbell, another Scot known for his love of speed and iron nerve. Campbell and his little blue bullet set many land speed records in the thirties and forties.
Even the South Bank Show, ITV’s cultural flagship, has paid homage to this fine artist, dedicating an hour long special to his work. The programme is available to watch on Jack’s website which I enclose below.
And I leave you with a picture that may have proved the inspiration for an L.A. based magazine editor’s cover shot. Long may Mr Vettriano’s career continue.
To learn more about Jack and his art I recommend his website: