As far as one-hit wonders go, A-ha's Take On Me is especially wonderful. (Ok, the Norwegian band had a few minor hits, too.) A catchy synth-pop tune, it took the world by storm in 1985, as well as a little thing called MTV, the ideal platform to show the video's innovative rotoscoping animation, which is part pencil-sketch and part live-action.
Well, that and lead singer Morten Harket's bulging triceps, sleek Nagel-esque haircut, and chiseled Swayze-esque cheekbones. Not to mention his two-and-a-half octave vocal range — enough to make anyone swoon. With that, the song may have taken the world by storm with its hilariously bad original title, The Juicy Fruit Song. Maybe. By the way, the band is still a band, after a second reunion earlier this year. Their full tenth album, Cast In Steel, is due to be released out any day.
Not since Tom Hanks in the 1990s has an actor won two consecutive Best Actor Oscars, but that's not stopping Eddie Redmayne from trying his hand at it. After his sensational transformation into the speech-challenged, wheelchair-bound Stephen Hawking in The Theory of Everything, which won him Oscar #1, the gutsy ginger undergoes a much different, but no less sensational transformation for possible Oscar #2.
He plays Lili Elbe (born Einar Wegener) — the trailblazing transgender artist of the Art Deco era — in The Danish Girl, directed by Tom Hooper (The King's Speech, Les Misérables). Lili's artist wife, Gerda Gottlieb, supported the secret transition, one of the first-known such operations, and painted numerous portraits of her erstwhile husband in flouncy dresses and female accoutrements. Correctly, the film appears to portray their relationship in love-story terms.
Ever the contrarian, Grace Jones is coming out with her long-awaited memoirs this fall (Sept 29), titled I'll Never Write My Memoirs. Explaining the title, the living legend said, "I wrote a song called Art Groupie. The first line said 'I'll never write my memoirs' — that was a long time ago. Since then, I thought, if I don't do it, somebody else will."
The book promises to be a sensation. Consider all the Jamaican-born maverick has done. She arrived in the U.S. as a teenager and began modeling at 17. She worked in Paris for Yves Saint Laurent and Claude Montana, roomed with fellow mannequin Jerry Hall, and had sleepovers with an as-yet unknown Jessica Lange. She returned to New York, became involved in the Studio 54 scene, released three disco albums, and collaborated with Andy Warhol. Having now become rather notorious, Jones launched into her third career, acting on the big screen in Conan the Destroyer and the James Bond film A View to a Kill. All of which makes for salacious reading, one hopes.
The Elephant Festival in Jaipur, India, is a beloved yearly tradition. High-ranking pachyderms are primped and treated to a full make-over by caretakers known as Mahouts, who decorate them in jeweled head-plates, drape with brocade jhools, or saddle cloths, and adorn the tusks with gold and silver bracelets.
Not only are the elephants decked out in their finest festival attire, they're also encouraged to play polo, dance, and join a human tug-of-war. French photographer Charles Fréger was on hand to capture the more festooned of the gentle giants...
A growing chorus of those uncomfortable with Caitlyn Jenner as an untouchable transgender icon (John Waters recently proclaimed "Caitlyn's a Republican, she’s on a reality show, and she’s a Kardashian. We can’t make fun of him or her?") now includes Genesis Breyer P-Orridge. The English singer-songwriter — who fronted the industrial band Throbbing Gristle in the 1970s and the experimental band Psychic TV throughout the 80s and 90s — transitioned in 1993, along with his late wife Lady Jaye, to a non-gender-specific state, or pandrogyny, and ultimately one with each other.
In a fascinating one-hour interview for The Talkhouse, Genesis Breyer P-Orridge — who generally avoids using singular pronouns, preferring "we" and "our" — expounds on this unique and radical perspective, the belief that humankind will eventually "evolve into a unified being, not male or female, but both. The human body is not the person...The mind is the person.” If you've heard the expression “Transsexuals are the stormtroopers of the future,” know that Genesis Breyer P-Orridge coined it.
Inevitably, the topic of Caitlyn Jenner came up, about whom Genesis Breyer P-Orridge is mostly supportive, but with one very important caveat, basically: Don't speak for the trans community...
The British Film Institute in London toasts 50 years of cinematic filth with a retrospective dedicated to the one-and-only John Waters, he who even found time to tarnish the oh-so-sterling reputation of the fashion world as host of the CFDA Awards. All of his films — from gross-out early filth to slightly more sophisticated later filth — will be screened. Because Divine's racier scenes in Pink Flamingos (1972) and Female Trouble (1974) really have to be seen in full-size at some point in a person's life, not to mention still-adorable Johnny Depp hamming it up in Cry Baby (1990) or Kathleen Turner indulging in a campy murder spree in Serial Mom (1994). Even Waters' earliest projects, his short films from the 60s, will hit the big screen.
The Pope of Trash himself will introduce a number of these screenings, plus take to the BFI stage on September 18 for what promises to be a lively discussion of his repertoire. He's also hand-selected a number of indie British films to be shown in a side series, Teabaggin’ in the Kitchen Sink, including Boom! (Joseph Losey, 1968) and Blue (Derek Jarman, 1993).
“This tribute is like receiving a plenary indulgence from the movie gods above," Waters said, "and for once I can be showbiz thrilled without the slightest drop of irony in my thanks. Yikes, respectability…the final outrage.”
John Waters Retrospective, September 1 – October 6, 2015, British Film Institute Southbank, London
Watch the original 1972 trailer for Pink Flamingos...
Before mainstream assimilation, gay men had a secret language all their own — the hanky code. Now a seminal relic in the annals of gay history, the code was used in the 70s and 80s to decipher the meaning behind various fashion choices made by those out for a bit of cruising.
This was the illicit atmosphere in which photographer and art reviewer Hal Fischer arrived in San Francisco from Illinois in 1975. He soon set about creating the not-quite-book Gay Semiotics — more of a text-image hybrid project about the hanky code, as observed among gay men on the prowl in the Castro district — that's now being reprinted by Cherry and Martin gallery. These images depicted, for instance, the careful placement of handkerchiefs in the back pockets of jeans, alongside text that read: "A blue handkerchief placed in the right hip pocket serves notice that the wearer desires to play the passive role during sexual intercourse.” Hence hanky code, although keychains, earrings, and scarves were also part of the uniform and they, too, received similarly cheeky anthropological scrutiny.
Fischer also photographed a series of gay archetypes. The so-called Street Fashion Jock dashed about in satin gym shorts and Adidas sneakers, the Street Fashion Leather Gay strapped on chaps and leather boots, while the Street Fashion Basic Gay kept it simple in a flannel shirt and Levis.
The small art publication, which Fischer described as a "lexicon of attraction," became a significant contribution to the canon of art theory and an important document of gay life in 1970s San Francisco — in spite of, or perhaps because of, it's droll nature. The new edition recreates the look and feel of the original volume, reproducing in bound format those 24 iconic images from the gay cult classic.
In a mesmerizing transcendence of time and place, Ukrainian artist Alexey Kondakov photoshops characters from mythology and antiquity into ordinary scenes of modern Kiev. Incongruous though they are, clearly, there's something rather apropos about Bouguereau's Virgin Mary and child riding a bleak subway or Caravaggio's depiction of David and Goliath played out in a shadowy alley. This is art without borders, pastiche in the digital age.