Tag Archives: age

The American female performer who may play Quentin Crisp in London

PennyArcadeWebsite

On Monday, American performer Penny Arcade starts a 20-night run at London’s Soho Theatre of her Edinburgh Fringe show Longing Lasts Longer.

Her mother was abusive and her father was mentally ill. Aged 13, she ran away from home and spent a summer homeless. She was sent to a reform school. They released her when she was 16. She left for New York City, with money stolen from a sandwich shop where she worked. In New York, she changed her name to Penny Arcade after an LSD trip.

When I met her yesterday, the first thing I said was: “I read somewhere that, when people first meet you, they always ask how old you are.”

“No, they don’t ask me,” she said. “I force it on them.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because,” she explained, “while my age doesn’t define me, it certainly in some ways explains me, because of what I lived through. I have been on my own, forming my own analysis, for 50 years.”

“I also read,” I said, “that the phrase ‘performance art’ was invented to describe you.”

“No,” Penny told me. “I am one of the people who invented what has become known as solo performance art, text-based performance art.”

“As opposed to improvisation?” I asked.

“No. I’m a great improviser. It’s one of my most salient attributes. Most people are not improvisers. Text-based performance art as opposed to visual work, where somebody walks around with a bucket on their head for an hour. Text-based performance art is high content. It’s about real stuff. I don’t make work for the same 300 art school cripples that go to everything. I make work about things that affect me that I know affect other people.

Penny Arcade in Soho yesterday

“I am different from other people” – Penny Arcade yesterday

“I am different from other people. I’ve had a different life from most people. I have been an outsider and rejected by my family and society with a velocity of impact so profound that it was not until I was in my fifties that I could really get my head above it. I’ve had a very very long time of understanding or trying to understand what it means to be an outsider, what it means to be rejected by society.

“When you have this kind of profound and painful reality, it makes you very sensitive to other people. I think pathos is a cornerstone in my work and my work engenders empathy. That’s the goal of my work. To make people feel what I feel or feel what other people feel – by being very very honest and very very very revealing.

“That said, Longing Lasts Longer is a bit of a different kind of show. The point of Longing Lasts Longer is basically to present a kind of manifesto of how I think we got to where we are right now, how it’s affecting the younger people. It’s a warning to younger people. People have said the show is critical of younger people but I’ve said: No, it’s critical of what’s being done to younger people. The biggest trouble in the world, of course, is the fact the world is filled with stupid people.

“Thinking is difficult. That’s why very few people do it. In order to think, you have to create a new groove in your brain that is deeper than you knew before, which is why most people don’t think. It’s hard work to think. It’s a very exciting show. There are over 100 sound cues in the 60-minute show. It’s very hard-hitting, unrelenting and it’s very funny. And it’s really about the human condition.”

“You’ve just come back from Poland,” I said. “Did you perform Longing Lasts Longer there?”

“No. I did Bitch! Dyke! Faghag! Whore! which is my sex and censorship show. It was very well received there and it’s 20 years old. We did 48 performances of it in London three years ago and the London Times called it “the smartest, most quotable party in town”. So I’m an aphorist, like my old friend Quentin Crisp.”

“When did you meet him?” I asked.

“I met him when he was about 77. He died in 1999, shortly before his 91st birthday. I had wanted him to live to be 100, which made him quite angry with me.

Quentin Crisp with Penny Arcade

Quentin with Penny – “I had wanted him to live to be 100”

“He called me in 1996 and asked me: Miss Arcade, I know that I’ve always promised you to live to be 100 years old, but I was wondering if I could get a dispensation from you and only live to be 90. “I said: What are we going to do if you die? What am I going to do? He said: I’m going. You’re staying. I feel sorry for you.

“And he was quite right. Although I don’t think anything would have prepared him for what has happened since 1999 in the world. The level that we’ve gone overboard into since 2001. The terrorism, the corporate and political disregard for the truth and integrity. Quentin liked evil to be cosy, like in an Agatha Christie book. Not the levels that we’re dealing with now.”

“Has it really changed that much?” I asked.

“Well, the world’s a horrible place filled with horrible people. That hasn’t changed. I’ve watched squatters who were supposed anarchists and, as soon as they got their floor in a building, there wasn’t room for anybody else. I mean, it’s human nature. It’s something I struggle with: my own human nature, my own greed, envy, self-absorption. But I notice these things. A lot of people don’t notice them in themselves.

“I was very close to Quentin in the ten years before he died. He was a phenomenal study in ageing and I learned a lot about ageing from him.”

“What did you learn?” I asked.

“Society tells you that the last 40 years of your life are inferior to the first 40 years of your life. But that is not true. The last 40 years of your life is how you complete your character. And you have to complete your character in order to be a complete person.

“I learned what real individuality means. I learned what real integrity is. I learned how our values are not something that we purchase or download, but something that we pay for over time on the instalment plan. I learned the benefit of being curious.”

“Had you not learned that earlier?” I asked.

“When I really started spending a lot of time with Quentin, I was 40. I was still in the throes of a lot of post-traumatic stress from my childhood and my early life. First a lot of bad things were done to me and then I did a lot of bad things to myself and it took me a long time to climb out of that. I met Quentin when I was still quite un-formed. I was really in a process of becoming and that made me very similar to him I think. I think he recognised that quality in me – that I was someone who was committed to becoming, not to pretending and being something I wasn’t.

“Watching him and being with him and his ruthless honesty – with himself as well as with everybody else – I also saw his foibles and his conceits and his vanities. Which all human beings have.”

“What were his foibles?” I asked.

“Well, he never really stopped being the middle class person that he was born. The middle class couldn’t contain him, but he couldn’t uproot it out of himself either. He never really forgave the brutality of his younger life, even though he seemed as if he did. But he had very little pity for anyone. He had very little empathy. He used to say to me: People have no rights, Miss Arcade. If we all got what we deserved, we would starve to death.”

“What’s next for you?” I asked.

From Edinburgh to London to Oz to NYC

From Edinburgh to London to Oz to NYC

“I’m going to be in Australia with Longing Lasts Longer from February 1st till May. Then I want to go back to the Edinburgh Fringe in August, because I love to be in Scotland and I would love to bring another show there. Then I’m going to be doing a larger version of Longing Lasts Longer in New York in November 2016.”

“With even more music cues?” I asked.

“Yes. And a lot of video. And I’m also going to be writing a script about Quentin Crisp.”

“A stage script?”

“Yes.”

“You could play Quentin,” I suggested.

“I could. And I told him that I would. But I don’t know if I’m quite ready. It might be…”

“It might be too emotionally raw for you?” I asked.

“I don’t know…I can channel him, that’s for sure.”

“You have to write the play,” I said. “And you should play him yourself.”

“It’s an interesting idea. Penny Arcade is Quentin Crisp. He and I always said that I would eventually play him, because he saw me play people that he knew. I used to be known in the 1980s for character work, before I stumbled down this cultural criticism. I used to do the cultural critique through characters and then I got rid of the characters.

“If I played Quentin Crisp myself, the first place I would do it is at the King’s Head Theatre, because that’s where Quentin Crisp first performed.”

There is a promo for Longing Lasts Longer on YouTube.

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Comic Janey Godley drinks at the cow after going to a bank with her father

Janey Godley checks for text news of her dad

Yesterday, I had tea and muffins at the giant upside-down purple cow – the Edinburgh Fringe‘s  Udderbelly venue – with comedian Janey Godley, who had just arrived from Glasgow.

“What was your morning like?” I asked her. Will I never learn?

This is what she told me…

__________________________

Last night, my dad called me and, cos he’s 80, he’s got a wee notebook with loads and loads of people’s phone numbers and the PIN numbers to his bank accounts.

He told me he’d lost the book. He had not lost his bank card, just the book.

But, seriously, if you found the notebook, you’d need to have been Alan Turing, the man who broke the Enigma code, to be able to find a PIN number in this tiny wee notebook that’s got like 6,000 phone numbers and notes. And, anyway, he hadn’t lost his two bank cards. He still had them.

At midnight, my dad phones his two banks and cancels everything. It’s like we’re all on Tangerine Alert… Jim’s lost his fucking notebook!

This morning, he phones me at eight in the morning

“You need tae come with me while I go to the bank tae make sure they’ve did everything!”

“Oh fuck!” I think.

So me and my husband had to go and pick ma dad up. We went into the first bank and ma dad threw the card at the woman as if it was her fault and I told him: “I’m gonna speak.”

I told the woman, “OK, ma dad’s lost his PIN number and he’s cancelled his cards. Can you check that everything’s been cancelled and his account’s fine?”

She checks.

“Yes,” she says. “Everything’s fine.”

“Take me to the next bank!” ma dad says to me. He’s got two bank accounts.

En route to the next bank, I say to him: “Dad, it’s the summer. The kids are all away.”

“Aye,” he says. “You don’t see many kids.”

When I was wee, all the kids used to go to residential school in the summer, which was like a Council-run holiday. I said to ma dad:

“You never ever let me go to residential school. Why did you never let me go? I’ve held that against you for forty years.”

He started laughing and said: “I didn’t want you to go to residential school.”

“Well that’s shite,” I said. “I wanted to go to residential school.”

So we get to the second bank and I say to the woman:

“This is my dad. That’s his card. He cancelled his card last night because he lost his PIN number and we’re all on Tangerine Alert, so…”

“Have you got another bank account?” she says.

“Yes,” my dad says, “I’ve got a bank account with the Royal Bank of Scotland.”

So she says: “Do you want to move your bank account from them to us?”

“Excuse me,” I say. “He’s 80. He’s already confused. He’s been phoning banks in the middle of the night. Can you just reassure this old man that his bank account card has been cancelled, his account is secure and he need not worry about anything else. Can you do that with your mouth moving? Can you just tell him that?”

So she says: “If you’ve got another account with another bank, we can move it.”

I say: “You clearly aren’t listening to anything I say,” and my dad butted in:

“She’s just angry cos she never got to go to residential school in 1966.”

The woman just stared at us.

I said: “Dad, we’re not doing a Thing. Not now. It’s not a show.” I turned to the woman and said: “Gonna just explain to this old man who saw Clydebank burning in the 1930s… Gonna just explain to him that his bank account is OK? That’s the reason I got oot o’ ma bed. Can you not talk to him about moving accounts?”

So she went: “OK. Your card has been cancelled, a new card has been ordered… But, if you want to mo…”

I said: “You need tae shut yer mooth. We’re done here.”

My dad marched out of the bank with me and said: “Thank fuck you’re a comedian, because she’d have just stood there and kept saying that to me.”

I said: “Do you want us to drive you to Govan?”

He goes to a wee social meeting there.

“No!” he says, “I shall get on the tube. It makes me exercise.”

So I walk him down to the tube, my husband drives me to Queen Street station and I get the train to Edinburgh. On the train, I look at Twitter and the whole subway in Glasgow has been closed. So I immediately panic.

I phone my dad and he says to me: “Did you find out something went bad on Twatter?” cos he has to call it Twatter.

“Yes,” I said.

“A man committed suicide in front of me,” he says. “I had to get a fucking taxi!”

There was a jumper and, instead of my dad accepting somebody might have killed themselves, he was more angry he had to get a taxi.

“You were away!” he said. “Where did you go in the motor?”

“Queen Street,” I said. “We told you this.”

“Right!” he said, “Well some cunt killed themselves and I had to get a taxi.”

So that was my morning so far.

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Filed under Age, Comedy, Humor, Humour

I am thinking of dying my hair. Is this a bad idea? Or am I past my sell-by date?

Could I be the new young face of 2012 British fashion?

In 2000, I shaved off my beard because, frankly, it was making me look older than I needed to look and we live in an ageist world. My hair has now mostly turned white rather than just greying, so I was thinking perhaps I should dye it.

Last week, I asked the suspiciously black-haired American comedian Lewis Schaffer what he thought about this.

“John, you’re bald,” he told me. “You have too little hair to color. No-one will notice. Except you will have hair color on your scalp for days after coloring it and that will look sad. Plus, when the grey comes back in, you’ll look sad.

“If you want to seem young, you should shave every day and thoroughly. At the moment, you shave like a old man. You miss the bit around the neck and errant old-man hairs come out of the tip of your nose.”

“You don’t think that’s a good look?” I asked.

“Shave every day,” he said. “It’s very important. And trim your eyebrow hair. Look at pictures of Barry Manilow’s or Elton John’s eyebrows. They look young.

“Trim your nose hair. Trim your eyebrows. Wear a suit. Lose weight. Exercise. Buy more current glasses. Or stop using glasses altogether.”

I thought this was a little harsh, as Sean Connery gets away with it, except he doesn’t wear glasses.

So, yesterday, I had a meal with my eternally-un-named-friend – well. OK, she’s an ex-girlfriend. We were eating spaghetti. I think perhaps one way to appear less old is not to eat spaghetti. I have always eaten spaghetti badly.

“Eyebrows are very important,” she told me.”A good pair of eyebrows will carry you through your baldness.”

“But my stubble,” I complained. “Lewis said I should shave every day, but all the Hollywood sex symbols wear stubble nowadays. I keep seeing them interviewed on TV with stubble.”

“But, John, you’re no Hollywood sex symbol,” she said, “and it’s clean, even stubble. Sometimes yours is stubble just because you’ve missed a bit and it’s much longer than other bits. You’ve got a tatty, moth-eaten look. The other day I told you there were three hairs that were half an inch long and you must have missed those three altogether. You can’t just have decided to cultivate them and shaved round them intentionally.”

“Why not?” I asked. “Perhaps I was trying to make a feature of them. Like flowers. People don’t complain about flowers sticking up in a garden, do they? A flower is just something that’s been allowed to be taller than the other things around it. People don’t say Ooh, when you mowed the lawn you missed that flower; chop it off.”

My eternally-un-named friend said nothing.

“And,” I continued, “Lewis said I should wear a suit. I feel uncomfortable in suits and ties.”

“Well,” she told me. “A suit looks good. I mean, you can go round slobbery in jeans a lot of the time but if, every now and then, you put on a suit, it reminds people you haven’t totally lost it.”

“What about ties, though?” I said. “I feel half-strangled. I’ve never worn ties.”

“Something smart,” she said. “Just every now and again. You wore a tie to that funeral the other week.”

“Well,” I said, “that was a funeral and he was of an older generation than me. I suppose I will increasingly have to wear ties because, at my age, I suppose more and more people I know will be dying off.”

“There’s going to be a turning point, though,” my eternally-un-named friend said, “where less people will be dying because most will have already died.”

“Can I be slobbish after they all die?” I asked. “ It might be in my interest to just kill them off as soon as possible.”

“You’ve gone weird now, haven’t you? she said.

“Why?”

“What’s happened to you?” she asked. “You’ve probably been reading the Edinburgh Fringe Programme again and nearly writing a blog about…”

“We’re not going to mention that!” I said.

“…marching down to the Fringe Office,” she continued, “and demanding your 400 quid back. Plus psychological damage and trauma.”

“So should I model myself after Lewis Schaffer?” I asked. “Is this wise? Is he the perfect role model, sartorially and facially?”

“No,” my eternally-un-named friend said, “but you could try to follow his advice. Martin Soan can also brush up well and he wears clothes well. You should be suggesting him to Nigel Hall as someone who could wear socks in their adverts.”

“I should?” I asked, surprised.

Martin Soan, an older man, but stylish in his Nigel Hall socks

“You remember?” she asked. “He was sitting in Nigel Hall socks, naked, in Lewis Schaffer’s radio show the other week. Martin looks very smart in just a pair of socks. I think it could be a brilliant wotsit. It could be one of those. A brilliant thing. Advertising. You know.”

“You think I look good naked in a pair of socks?” I asked.

“Not as good as Martin,” she replied. “You’d be too self-conscious… You don’t hold yourself… ”

“When you say I don’t hold myself…” I interrupted.

“Martin can do elegance,” she continued.

“What? In nudity?”

“Yes,” she said. “Shall we write to Nigel Hall? Their advertising Dept.”

“What?” I asked. “Suggest a naked man in a pair of socks?”

“Well, Martin Soan naked in a pair of socks,”

“You’ve been around comedians too long,” I told her.

“You keep saying that to me,” my eternally-un-named friend said, “but other people who aren’t comedians are funny… often funnier… and most comedians aren’t that funny. They do it for a job because they just know how to play a room, to hit a funny bone and create a claptrap.”

“How do you create a claptrap?” I asked.

“That thing of making people realise that they’re going Oh! – a sort of thing of recognition in their emotional baggage interior whatever and Oh-uh-ho! That’s funny! and clap. Further analysis later in the cold light of day.”

“You’ve decided you’re definitely not going to the Edinburgh Fringe in August?” I asked.

“You never know,” she said. “I might turn up there, but it’s too crowded and you all get a wee bit mental. You know. Obsessive. Charging around. Busy busy busy.”

“Perhaps Martin will be wearing his Nigel Hall socks,” I said encouragingly.

“You’re going to say I have stuff on my chin, aren’t you?” she said.

“No,” I said. And we continued our meal.

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Filed under Age, Comedy, Fashion, Humor, Humour

Justice Minister Kenneth Clarke and “normal” rape

I should start this by saying I have known three women who were raped.

I have worked with two; and a girlfriend of mine had been raped in her early teens.

I may be biased because I think Labour leader Ed Miliband is a twat, but I’m more disgusted with him trying to make political capital out of rape than with Justice Minister Kenneth Clarke’s comments on rape sentencing – at least from the relevant excerpts I’ve heard and seen of what Ken Clarke actually said – as opposed to what he is implied to have said.

What seems to have happened is that he was defending government plea-bargaining proposals which would offer a 50 per cent reduction in sentences (instead of the current one third reduction in sentences) in return for an early guilty plea for various serious offences including rape.

When challenged about the seemingly low average sentence for rape at the moment, Clarke mentioned that the average includes cases which involve teenagers having consensual sex with each other if the girl is under 16. The example he gave was of an 18 year old boy having sex with his consenting 15 year old girlfriend. Even though she perfectly happily consents, that is legally rape because she is below the age of consent… but that specific boy is likely (quite rightly, I think) to get a lower sentence than some Neanderthal scumbag guilty of what most people would think of as what Clarke called “serious rape, with violence and an unwilling woman”.

I think he is quite right that most people would accept a boy of 16 years and 1 month having sex with a consenting girlfriend of 15 years and 11 months should get a lesser sentence for rape than what people would think of as a ‘normal’ case of a man raping a woman… because it is a ‘different’ type of rape.

The fact that the use of the words ‘normal’ and ‘different’ can be twisted and misconstrued by quoting that sentence out of context exemplify how difficult it is to talk about rape.

Ken Clarke also foolishly said something along the lines that date rape cases can be “complicated” though, indeed, they can be. And he is right that average sentences (which is what he was being asked about) are affected by individual case circumstances because some cases deserve longer sentences than others. In that sense, there are, indeed, ‘different types’ of rape deserving different lengths of sentence. It is not that some cases are less serious but that some cases are nastier.

I asked a female friend about this and she thought that, perhaps, a teenager having consensual sex with a girl under 16 could be legally called something other than “rape”: perhaps ‘unlawful sex’. But it would be very difficult to draft that into Parliamentary legislation because how could you possibly separate a 45 year-old man preying on a 10 year-old girl from a 16 year-old having consensual sex with his 15 year-old girlfriend?

At what point would it change over from a crime of “unlawful sex” to the much worse “rape”? Is the sex performed by a 17 or 25 year-old less predatory than that performed by a 35 or 45 year-old? And at what point is “consensual” relevant? 15? 14? Parliament has decided 16 is the cut-off point. I think in most states in the US it is 18. In Italy, it is much more complicated, as the Silvio Berlusconi case (which I blogged about three months ago) shows.

It is almost impossible to legislate for ‘different types’ of unlawful sex.

But the sight and sound of Labour politicians trying to make political capital out of a very serious matter – trying to score sixth form public school Debating Society type points off each other – is an unedifying spectacle. Far moreso than Ken Clarke making a valid point.

On the other hand, I’m not sure it is particularly edifying to have the government give accused people 17% lower sentences (50% instead of 33%) if they plead guilty early… just to save money.

I’m also not clear if, under the proposals, people would get a 50% reduction for pleading guilty plus the normal (I think it’s) 50% time off for good behaviour… That would mean someone facing a 16 year sentence would get an 8 year sentence and be out in 4 years with good behaviour… a 75% reduction in sentence.

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