Tag Archives: Sandra Smith

A wee chat about what it is like to live as a married man in women’s clothing

Sandra Smith: a woman of many costumes

Sandra Smith: a woman of many costumes

Last Saturday night I went to fetish club Torture Garden’s Love Hurts Valentine’s Ball, at Elephant and Castle, with this blog’s South Coast correspondent Sandra Smith.

I posted a blog about it.

Here Sandra Smith, too, shares a memory.


While John went to change into his outfit, I got into conversation with a man who was dressed in female attire.

She said her name was Katie.

We chatted at the foot of the stairs for a while, then moved into one of the rooms to continue our conversation.

Katie told me that she was 44, with a degree in Analytical Chemistry.

She had started to wear women’s clothing on hitting puberty, a time when she had wanted to get a girlfriend but couldn’t.

I suggested maybe cross-dressing was an unusual reaction to that.

She laughed and said: “Yes, I suppose it was.”

Katie said that she loved her wife, wanted to have sex with her, but felt neglected and shut-out after the children were born. Her wife always had some excuse not to have sex.

I suggested that she probably IS tired with two young children.

Katie brushed this aside.

I asked Katie what cross-dressing made her feel like and what it gave her.

She said that, when dressed as a woman, she loved the attention that she got from men. It made her feel desired, an affirmation of self.

This had led to many sexual encounters with men.

I asked her what sort of man was she attracted to.

“Anyone that will have me, really…”

We laughed at that.

“…although I do like black men,” she continued, “I wonder if women are attracted to men that cross-dress – in a sexual way I mean?”

“I’m sure there are those that are,” I replied.

Katie also mentioned that she loved looking feminine, would love to have breasts and some work done on her face to feminise it even more.

A year ago, she told her wife about her need to cross-dress and her sexual encounters with other people. This naturally had not gone down very well. But she feels that they are moving on a bit now, after much discussion.

Her wife has gone from saying about her feminine underwear: “I’m not touching those!” to “Are these yours or mine?”

Most weekends, she tolerates Katie going out as her female self, but Katie changes at a friend’s house. Her wife doesn’t feel that she can tell anyone about the situation, so only has her husband to talk to. She wants to keep the marriage going but the way forward isn’t clear, even though Katie has suggested they continue in an open marriage.

Katie adopts her male role during the week and at work and feels that nobody knows about her other life, apart from the other like-minded people that she socialises with.

I felt a bit sad for them all: caught in a situation that seems to me to be so difficult emotionally.

Katie doesn’t want to talk to anyone formally at the moment, but this may change.

Leave a comment

Filed under Psychology, Sex

My night dressed as a woman at a fetish club: what happened at end of the night

DO NOT READ THIS IF YOU ARE EASILY OFFENDED

Do I make a good woman? Is the jury still out?

Do I make a good woman? Is the jury still out?

Comedian Will Franken cross-dressed as a woman for six months last year. I only did it for seven hours on Saturday night.

On Sunday morning, I got a text from Sandra Smith, this blog’s South Coast correspondent, saying: “It’s the first time that I’ve ever walked into a pub with my tights around my ankles.”

A couple of months ago, performer Frank Sanazi (he sings like Frank Sinatra; looks like Adolf Hitler) asked me to come and see his new singing act ‘Elvis Corpsely’ – Elvis Presley back from the dead. He told me he was performing it for the first time at Torture Garden, the monthly BDSM fetish club.

And so he did this weekend, on Valentine’s Night (well, 9.00pm Saturday to 6.00am Sunday).

I went to Torture Garden maybe twenty years ago with comedian Tony Green. I blogged about it in 2011.

Tony knew Sophie Seashell, who had booked bizarre acts for that night. The Tiger Lillies performed. As did the extraordinary Andrew Bailey. In the cabaret section, it felt like they were trying to re-create a feel of the decadent Weimar Republic nightclubs in Germany between the Wars.

This year, I thought of going dressed formally

This year, I thought of going dressed formally

Twenty years ago, as now, Torture Garden had a dress code. Tony Green, wearing a white straw hat, a rather louche suit and looking a bit like Sylvester McCoy’s incarnation of Doctor Who. was told by the Torture Garden doorperson: “You’re OK. You look perverted.” Alas, my loud, hippie Indian-style shirt was not deemed a suitable costume. The people on the door conferred and suggested I take my shirt off so I was naked from the waist up, then take off my black leather belt and tie it diagonally across my chest with the buckle at the front.

With that, I was allowed in.

Since then, though, the dress code has been tightened, if that is the word to use.

Now the rules read:

You can’t wear a fetish top with normal black trousers or vice versa, we do not allow jeans, even black ones, no suits, no camo, no cotton underpants, no regular party dresses that you could wear to any club, no normal black trousers that you could wear anywhere and although full theatrical costumes are fine, cheesy fancy dress is not. Dresscode is enforced throughout the night. TG is a home for people that want to express the most extreme version of their fetish fantasy alter ego, so take this opportunity to push your boundaries.

BDSM and fetish are not my thing. I am quite happy with a picture of Baby Spice and a peach. So my wardrobe does not include anything remotely suitable.

So, on Saturday afternoon, I found myself in the car park at Beckenham railway station as Frank Sanazi handed over to me a long leather Gestapo coat – genuine, from the 1940s – and a small hand whip.  He had temporarily lost his Nazi armband down the back of a bookcase in his living room.

With legs like these, I could have a second career

With these legs, could I have a second career?

This was my fallback costume. But I also know comedian Sara Mason, whose Edinburgh Fringe show this year will be called A Beginner’s Guide To Bondage.

Which is how I found myself in her bedroom in Fulham at teatime. She was – for reasons I did not ask – particularly keen that I should go in drag.

So I tried on various shoes, stockings, panties, black tops and wigs. Sara seemed unsettlingly keen on dressing me in a variety of things, though I did stop at the offer of a butt plug.

I was going to Torture Garden with this blog’s South Coast correspondent Sandra Smith, also not a BDSM fan, who, while I was trying on my flattering fishnet tights in Fulham, was glueing studs onto her black jacket in Brighton.

Later that night I met Pete Cunningham – aka Frank Sanazi – at a pub in Elephant and Castle and he told me: “I’m playing Tel Aviv on the 7th of April.”

“As Frank Sanazi?” I asked.

“Yes,”

“That should be interesting,” I said.

“I’m doing two gigs out there” he explained. “I’m opening for The Producers in Tel Aviv. It’s the first time they’ve shown the film out there. I’m doing my songs as a warm-up for the film. And I’m also doing a burlesque night – they have a dark burlesque night. I was a bit apprehensive at first, because imagine checking in at the airport.”

“It could be a tough gig,” I suggested.

“Well,” he said, “if I can play Berlin, as I did a couple of weeks ago, and last year I did Vienna – why not Israel this year and New York next year?”

This blog’s South Coast correspondent (initials SS) Sandra Smith

Prestigious blog’s South Coast correspondent (has initials SS)

At this point, Sandra Smith arrived at the pub. As she walked in, her tights fell down.

And then we went to Torture Garden.

Just as I found St Peter’s in the Vatican to be a decidedly non-spiritual and non-religious place, Torture Garden was decidedly non-erotic and the punters seemed to have changed in the last twenty years.

In the blog I posted about that visit, | wrote:

There was a look in the more outrageously dressed (or un-dressed) people’s eyes at Torture Garden which made me think a strong British sense of irony and an active sense of the ridiculous don’t gel (if that’s the word) with wearing outlandish sado-masochistic costumes for sexual thrills.

My memory of twenty years ago was that there were a few decidedly odd people wandering around. Sexual thrills were in the air. Some had come over from Amsterdam for the night.

Frank Sanazi/Pete Cunningham as Elvis Corpsely

Pete Cunningham – now a real dead ringer for Elvis Corpsely

This time, people seemed more relaxed wandering around semi-naked or in bizarre get-ups and there were more of them – 2,000 people in The Coronet, a fairly small former cinema.

But, just as people say that modern Glastonbury Festival-goers are not like they used to be in the 1970s – today they are sometimes like tourists visiting a theme park far-removed from their comfortable suburban lives – so Torture Garden seemed a bit like a theme park where participants dressed-up for the occasion. There was no sexual tension in the air.

Until towards the end of the evening.

Sandra Smith and I were trapped in the venue until 5.00am by a lack of trains home.

Elvis Corpsely in performance

Dug up: Elvis Corpsely in performance

So we were sitting at one of a group of cafe tables by the bar behind the large dance floor, shouting at each other. You had to shout because of the loud, thumping, repetitive music.

Sitting at one of the adjoining round cafe tables was a couple – a young man and his topless girlfriend. And, at another table, a similar duo. All the other tables had similar couples and groups in various states of undress.

Sandra and I, by this point, were rather disappointed by the normality of it all.

Alright, there was a lot of naked flesh, leather thongs, PVC, latex and occasional studded choker collars with dog leads on display. But everyone was terribly polite, well-behaved and very very British and I observed to Sandra that any other bar in Elephant & Castle – or anywhere else in London, really – filled with people in their 20s knocking back large amounts of drink for hours on end, would have been less politely civilised. Our little cafe area was a bit like sitting in a Costa Cafe emporium with actors resting and chatting between takes in a Mad Max movie.

The girl in one of the couples at one of the tables next to us decided to make a thing of showing off her very nice breasts and adjusting her leather or plastic costume. This resulted in an invitation for her and her man to join the couple at the other adjoining table. and, over the course of the next five minutes or so, five or seven other young topless girls meandered over. I think the attraction was her breasts. There was much silent female amiability with the girls canoodling, snogging, kissing/feeling each others breasts and suchlike. All in a strangely innocent, only semi-passionate way.

Somewhere along the way a taller, thin girl was involved and another man sat down at the next table and, as she bent over, aiming her naked buttocks in our general direction, he started to insert his finger into her in what I suppose one might call an active penile impression.

This then continued when she stretched over to put her hands on the seat of a nearby plastic chair and he replaced his finger with a more appropriate length of his body and started making what Shakespeare called ‘the beast with two backs’.

The strange thing was that this uniformly rhythmic movement was an emotionless, almost mechanical, happening. No passion, not real excitement, no eroticism – just a meeting of meat in what William Burroughs called the soft machine.

It was one person who had an emotionless face doing something to (not really with) another person who had an emotionless face. Watching it was like having an out-of-body experience although, obviously, it would be incorrect to use that description for the two participants.

This ended without really ending. It just stopped. It had got nowhere and never was going to get anywhere. Then there was some other unemotional happenings with soft machines, some erect penises being played with by the two men (separately) and, at some point, a wet wipe was taken out and used for no apparent reason. It seemed more for show that for any practical necessity.

I have a feeling the object was to shock two old and presumed dull people sitting at the other table (us). But really, at this sort of event, this was a forlorn hope,

I suppose this was the climax of the night but – ironically – it involved no climax by anyone.

Sandra Smith’s opinion today was: “It seemed a lot tamer than I expected. One thing that did amuse me in that little scenario at the end was the girl in the midst of it all. While one man was fucking her at one end, she was giving the man at the other end a blow job but covered her head with a coat. With everything else going on, she covered her head with a coat! That amused me.”

Personally, I too am mystified why a coat was necessary for this but not the other parts of what I can only call the act.

Which it did seem to be.


For Sandra Smith’s blog about the evening, click HERE.


About a week after posting this blog and after it was mentioned on the Chortle comedy website, Chortle editor Steve Bennett got this comment from Israel:

I wanted to clarify a mistake in a report about Nazi in Tel-Aviv. It was said that The Producers will be shown in Israel for the first time. Well… The Producers is a huge cult movie over here and always have been. You’d be surprised how much the Holocaust in Israel is a common topic for comedy. Since it’s the land of the Jews no one can accuse us at being anti-semitic so we can take it one or few steps ahead.

Steve Bennett commented:

If you can’t trust the word of a man pretending to be Hitler, who can you trust?


There is a video of Torture Garden’s 2015 Valentine’s Night Ball on Vimeo

1 Comment

Filed under Sex

Drag king LoUis CYfer: “I was afraid of men and didn’t identify with femininity”

LoUis CYfer, drag king of London

LoUis CYfer, erratically-capitalised drag king of London Town

“You are happier being called… what?” I asked

“I don’t care what people refer to me as. I disassociate from this whole… Are you male or female? – No. I’m fabulous! – If you can inspire people and that’s your job and you get paid for that and you can live on that, what an honour!

“I play Soho every week and I’m off around the country every two weeks. We’re booking in a spring tour ending in Edinburgh next August – 27 nights at the Fringe.”

“What’s the show?” I asked.

Joan Retold – about Joan of Arc, but as if she was a Northerner from Sheffield. She’s a gender warrior in the modern day. We make the story of Joan of Arc a bit more centralised round the idea of being who you are. She keeps flipping back into the story and making comments about things like pottage.”

“And frottage?” I asked.

“Oh yes.”

“Why the name CYfer?” I asked.

“The name comes from my gay shame days. It created a lot of anxiety. I saw myself as something really bad. So, when I was coming up with a stage name, I thought Lucifer, then I masculinised to LoUis CYfer so he could behave really badly. I get people coming up to me saying: Now I know what the capital letters are for in your name: it spells LUCY.”

LoUis CYfer - Joan Retold

Lucy Jane Parkinson/LoUis CYfer reborn as Joan of Arc

LoUis CYfer’s real name is Lucy Jane Parkinson.

“When did you start performing?” I asked.

“I did my first proper show in the last year of junior school: I was probably about ten. It was Alice Through The Looking Glass and I was Alice. I wasn’t really a girly-girl. I had to wear a dress for the show and have a pet rabbit, so it was a challenge.

“It was my first standing ovation and I could hear all the clapping and I said to myself: Oh, this is definitely what I want to do. Just to see the smiles and know they’d enjoyed the whole show and, when I came out to take my bow, there was this really loud clapping and I was like: Whooaaa! That sense of acceptance and adulation. It’s addictive. It becomes addictive but then, as you get older, it becomes secondary to what you’re actually doing. Now I don’t do it for people clapping. That’s a nice added thing, but there’s so much more politics underneath my work now.”

I was in London’s Soho Theatre Bar yesterday, with this blog’s South Coast correspondent Sandra Smith. We were talking to drag king LoUis CYfer. She was first mentioned in this blog in April this year.

LoUis won the Drag Idol Championship in Texas in 2014.

LoUis CYfer (left) with Sandra smith yesterday

LoUis CYfer (left) poses for photo with Sandra Smith yesterday

“So where,” Sandra asked LoUis, “are you on the trans spectrum?”

“I don’t identify as female,” LoUis replied, “even though biologically I am. I don’t identify as the social female or the social male. I don’t wish to be either one of them. I just wish to be more androgynous than anything.”

“I always thought of trans,” said Sandra, “as either male or female – one wanting to be the other… a woman wanting to be a bloke…”

“I don’t see it as being ‘a bloke’,” LoUis told her. “That’s how a lot of people see it and I think that’s where they keep going wrong with it and I think that’s why the suicide rate of people post-op-trans is 85% right now.

“Some people pin all their problems and all their social anxieties on the fact of them changing gender. They think, if they change, all-of-a-sudden they will fit in. They go through all this big massive block of their life to get just there and do it… and then nothing’s different. All-of-a-sudden, they’ve got this body that’s been medically butchered – all their hormones have been changed – their mind is struggling and none of their problems have been solved.

“If you have struggled to get through life as a female because of what’s happened with other females pushing you down because you don’t want to be a beautified woman… or if you’ve had some kind of difficult encounter with men… I don’t think the problem is gender.

Louis Cyfer

“Don’t live in binary. There’s no either/or”

“I don’t believe that transgenderism – fully-post-transitional – is the right thing to do for some people. They think if they flip over and become male that will fix their gender issues and it won’t.”

“With them,” I suggested, “it is a psychological problem not a physical problem, so a physical change won’t change the psychology.”

“Exactly,” agreed LoUis. “We don’t live in binary, so there is no either/or.”

“I have heard,” I told her, “people say: I always felt like I was a man in a woman’s body or a woman in a man’s body. But it sounds to me like you are saying, in the words of the song, I am what I am. We have established you don’t want to be a man as such: you do not want the operation.”

“Though,” said LoUis, “I think I will do top surgery. That’s where the breasts are removed. I’ve never felt a relationship to them and, with my job, it’s very difficult to keep binding them and keep binding them. So having them removed is more like an investment in my manifesto. For somebody to look at me and not know what I was – I would prefer that.”

LoUis CYfer (chats to Sandra Smith at the Soho Theatre

LoUis CYfer chats to Sandra Smith at Soho Theatre yesterday

“What do you feel like,” Sandra asked her, “regarding the outside world?”

“I don’t really know,” replied LoUis.

“When you were a kid?” asked Sandra.

“I felt,” said LoUis, “like I was a boy growing up in a girl’s body. I felt like I should have been a boy. I never felt like a boy, but I felt I should have been one.”

“So there was,” I said, “an element of that I felt like a man growing up in a woman’s body?”

“Yeah. But now I’ve become more intelligent and I understand gender a lot more, I don’t think it’s that. I think it’s a social construct that I’ve been open to. I think it was the people around me when I was growing up. I watched how they believed what gender was. It was very suppressant of females, very liberating of the power of masculinity. I didn’t agree with that, so I went off on a journey to find my own way and now I think now I’m surrounded by people who are quite like-minded and don’t judge me because I’m a female.”

“Did you have a sense of belonging as a kid?” Sandra asked.

“No. I felt very odd, very different. It was weird. I felt very special but rejected. I felt: I have something in me that needs to come out, like a little gold fire. It feels very very lovely, but I feel I can’t communicate properly with people.

“It made me terribly unhappy. I felt no-one understood me, no-one got me. I felt a bit alienated and rejected except by my grandma. When she found out I was gay, she didn’t mind. She would ask: Have you got a girlfriend? Have you got a friend?”

“When did you come out as gay?” I asked.

Louis Cyfer

LoUis CYfer – “Now I am not afraid of men”

“When I was 13. But I don’t identify as a lesbian now. I think you just fall in love with who you fall in love with. I think I backed myself into a corner with the lesbian thing, because I think I was afraid of men and didn’t identify with femininity. I was attracted to women, but I should have just stayed on that line of I’m exploring my bi-sexuality. Because now I look at people very differently. Now I am not afraid of men.”

“What made you afraid of men?” Sandra asked.

“I had some really bad experiences. I was raped when I was younger.”

“How old were you?” I asked.

“It was two weeks after my 16th birthday. Growing up, I had some bad experiences and that was what really made me very afraid of men. I don’t think I went with women because something bad happened with men. I think I found softness and solitude in women and the femininity and the caring and the Mother Naturing – I loved that. It made me feel warm.”

“If,” I said, “you thought you were gay at 13 and got raped at 16, it has got no connection.”

LoUis CYfer strikes a pose as herself

LoUis CYfer strikes a dramatic pose as herself

“I was actually about 6 when I knew I wasn’t straight. I remember being in the car with my mum. I was sat in the back of the car and said to my mum I think I should have been a boy and she said Oh, don’t worry, everyone feels like that. So I said: Did you feel like that? And she said: No. And I never spoke about it again.”

“What,” I asked, “made you think at 6 you were gay? – You were not pubescent yet.”

“I knew something was different and I knew I didn’t like to be like they were on television. I didn’t know what I wanted, but I knew I didn’t want a family and a car and a this and a that.”

“Being trans,” I said, “is becoming terribly trendy now.”

“It is,” agreed LoUis. “And I think that’s bloody dangerous. People will start making the wrong decisions.”

Leave a comment

Filed under Gay, Psychology, Sex, Theatre

Yesterday’s quirky day from The Great Terror to a woman not playing a horse

Nick Awde singing opera in the streets of Edinburgh yesterday

Nick Awde seemingly sings opera in Edinburgh’s streets

In my opinion, this blog may meander around a bit in its subjects, but one uniting factor is a little bit of quirky detail. And yesterday had some quirkiness woven into it.

I had bumped into Nick Awde the day before.

He is a writer and critic for entertainment industry weekly The Stage, has published books under his Desert Hearts imprint by comedy people Phil Kay and Bob Slayer and he himself co-wrote Pete and Dud: Come Again (about Peter Cook and Dudley Moore) and, solo, wrote Jimmy Savile: The Punch and Judy Show which (as a title) Ellis & Rose infamously performed at the Edinburgh Fringe – though, it has to be said, mostly without much reference to the original script.

Anyway, Nick Awde invited me to go and see the world premiere aka a rehearsed reading of Midnight at the St James’s Theatre yesterday. He told me it was a very serious Azerbaijani play about the Stalinist Terror.

In the last couple of weeks, I have seen the West End musicals Showstoppers! and Bend It Like Beckham – both bright, jolly, uplifting, toe-tapping feasts of singing and dancing and primary colours – so I cannot honesty say that an Azerbaijani play about the Great Terror seemed wildly appetising. Well, it would not be an attractive proposition at any time but – Hey! – I thought – It might be interesting or eccentric or both.

Midnight - the Great Terror musical

Midnight – Stalin’s Great Terror as a musical

So I went yesterday afternoon and realised I must not have been paying full attention to Nick when he described it to me, because it was a MUSICAL about the Great Terror written by Elchin Ilyas oglu Afandiyev, who has been Deputy Prime Minister of Azerbaijan since 1993.

And it was not eccentric. It was wonderful. It was a serious and very dark musical about The Great Terror which I thought owed a little bit to J.B.Priestley’s An Inspector Calls. Although, I should point out, I have never actually seen An Inspector Calls.

Well, I possibly may have seen it years ago on the London stage but, as is well documented, I have a shit memory – I can’t remember the plot but have a vague memory of a two-storey stage set.

Midnight did not have a two-storey stage set.

Anyway, Nick Awde’s involvement in Midnight is as artistic director of the Aloff Theatre company which staged the play/musical and which is “dedicated to the promotion of new and classic works from East Europe and Central Asia” and which is “currently focusing on the interchange of dramatic resources between Azerbaijan and the UK”.

So Nick Awde, in my eyes, should be described as – and, indeed, is – an Englishman raised in Africa living in France with a Georgian passport involved in an Azerbaijani theatre company who wrote about Jimmy Savile as a Punch & Judy show.

I think that qualifies as quirky.

At St James’s Theatre yesterday (left-right) Hannah Eidinow, Norman Baker, Christopher Richardson and Nick Awde

At St James’s Theatre yesterday (left-right) Hannah Eidinow, Norman Baker, Christopher Richardson and Nick Awde

After the show, Nick told me that one of his relatives had been in the British Army and had been carried onto one of the boats evacuating the troops at Dunkirk in 1940. He had not been wounded. He had been carried on because, like many of the British troops at Dunkirk, he was paralytically drunk.

Retreating through a not-totally-devasted France, they had been taking shelter in abandoned farmhouses, most of which retained their wine cellars. His relative could remember little about the evacuation from Dunkirk except being carried onto a boat.

Inevitably, Nick had invited interesting people along to see the Midnight musical yesterday afternoon.

Notably:

  • former Liberal Democrat MP and Minister of State for Crime Prevention at the Home Office, now author and rock singer, Norman Baker who bizarrely, like me, was born in Scotland, partly brought up in Aberdeen and partly brought up in Essex.
  • and Christopher Richardson, founder of the Pleasance venues in Edinburgh and London who, it turned out, had previously designed theatres and theatre seats – it was suggested my buttocks may have rested on one or more of his creations – and who, in a previous incarnation as a teacher, had taught Stephen Fry.
Jody Kamali - Spectacular!

Jody Kamali – eternally Spectacular! and eccentric

I then had to rush to see Jody Kamali’s excellent Spectacular! show at the Museum of Comedy (I had already seen it at the Edinburgh Fringe in August). Afterwards, he told me about someone he knew who had a dispute with Rowan Atkinson at a press conference at the Fringe in 1971. As a result, his friend’s show was sold out despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that Rowan (very popular on the Fringe at the time) allegedly stood outside the venue every day screaming to the public NOT to go in and see the show.

Anyway, eventually, in the early hours of this morning, I got home to an e-mail from this blog’s South Coast correspondent Sandra Smith (who seems to be spending less and less time on the South Coast).

The email said:


I went to the Camden’s People’s Theatre in London this evening to see Lou aka LoUis CYfer, from the Admiral Duncan pub, Soho.

Louis Cyfer welcomes Sandra with open arms (Photograph by Sandra Smith)

Lou welcomes Sandra into dressing room with open arms (Photograph by Sandra Smith)

She got a Guardian review and is booked for Glastonbury and the Edinburgh Fringe next year. I really enjoyed her one woman show Joan

She wove her late grandmother, Catherine, into the piece, complete with reserved empty chair. It was beautifully done.

I got to play a cannon instead of a horse and gave it my all.

My efforts were clearly not appreciated because the audience all laughed.


As is often the case in this blog, I have no explanation and it seems wiser not to ask.

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Eccentrics, Humor, Humour, Music, Theatre

The end of the Edinburgh Fringe: death, reviewers, pigs, ham-fistedness & drink

Edinburgh Fringe George IV Bridge stunt

Goodbye to all this… at the Edinburgh Fringe

Yesterday’s blog was supposed to be about my journey back from the Edinburgh Fringe to London on Sunday but I got side-tracked by the unexpected news of the death of TV producer Danny Greenstone.

So it goes.

I should have paid attention at the start of the journey. At the St Andrew’s bus station in Edinburgh, young Fringe wannabe theatricals about to catch an earlier coach were chatting at the departure gate by me and one of them – I think trying to impress the others with his cool – started talking about the death of 21-year-old Kyle Jean-Baptiste, the 21-year-old who was the first black actor to play the Broadway lead – as Jean Valjean – in Les Misérables. He lost his balance and fell four storeys to his death from a Brooklyn fire escape early on Saturday.

So it goes.

“But at least he left something,” the young British theatrical said in Edinburgh. “He did something first. He had a record.” His young Fringe wannabe theatricals seemed to agree this was important.

Being ‘a success’ may also involve a large dollop of loopiness. Before I left, reviewer Kate Copstick had told me something which she later posted on Facebook:


Kate Copstick at the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show (Photograph by Garry Platt)

Kate Copstick at the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show (Photograph by Garry Platt)

After the dozens and dozens of acts who seem to regard my non-attendance at their show as a deliberate slight on their brilliance and an attempt to derail their deserved success, to say nothing of those PRs and promoters who seem to think I am part of their team, I get this (I have removed the name of the performer, but it relates to a review – a hugely positive review) in Scotland on Sunday that I wrote. If I was not so tired I would be angry …

“I don’t mean to be ungrateful but I was expecting a review with stars. A good review would have been very helpful because the English press have been hating us. I’m sorry but I need to ask this.”


This is almost surreal in that the performer:

  1. appears to be unable to spot a good review when he reads it
  2. has not noticed that Scotland on Sunday never includes stars in Copstick’s column
  3. seems to think a good review without stars is not a good review
  4. thinks it is either likely or possible that a newspaper is going to reprint a previously-published review with stars added (which is what he was actually asking for)

Reviews, of course, are both the dream and the nightmare of performers at the Fringe and some of the fly-by-night publications employ (unpaid) youngsters who are barely literate, let alone knowledgable.

Either last year or the year before, promoter and performer Bob Slayer got talking in one of his late-night chat shows to a ‘comedy critic’ for one of these Fringe publications whose reviews are coveted on many a poster.

Morecambe and Wise - akin to World War II

Morecambe and Wise – akin to World War II ?

It turned out that this young comedy critic passing wise judgment on shows at the Fringe had not only never seen but never actually even heard of Morecambe and Wise. For this blog’s foreign readers, this is akin to someone writing learned history books who is unaware the Second World War ever happened.

Last year, the online Fringepig website appeared, which reviewed the reviewers.

This year – last Saturday night – the first Ham Fist Awards were announced on board Bob Slayer’s BlundaBus on behalf of Fringe Pig.

I could not go but Sandra Smith, this blog’s South Coast correspondent, could. She tells me:


Bob Slayer on the bus with his Flying Fuck Award

Bob Slayer on the BlundaBus with his Flying Fuck Award

The evening kicked off a little after 12.30am, when Bob was presented with the Flying Fuck Award, specially made for him out of copper wire. It was presented to him because, by common consent, it was decided that he really doesn’t give a flying fuck.

Bob appeared very pleased with this, and carried it with him for the rest of the evening.

Ian Wolf, data specialist for the British Comedy Guide, was awarded an Unsung Heroes Award. He received a panda mask and a pen. Rules were being made up as they went along.

Ian Wolf - proud winner of a panda mask

Ian Wolf – proud panda mask winner

At one point, Bob was trying to recall an event. Convinced that I knew the answer from a half-remembered John Fleming blog, I leapt to my feet and shouted: “Was it the joke told by Julian Clary about fisting Norman Lamont at the British Comedy Awards?”

It was not. I was a quarter of the way through a beer at the time, so I can’t even put it down to alcohol. Just old age, a bad memory and enthusiasm.

Amongst the chaos that ensued, Bob replied with two questions:

“Do you know what fisting means?”

and, pointing at me,

“Who’s got my mother pissed?”

Not feeling in the slightest bit ridiculous, I still resolved not to be so hasty in future… until the next time. People then thought that I WAS his mother, yet again.

The evening continued apace, with the Ham Fist Award being given to Stuart Goldsmith, the reviewee, who will be receiving a £200 prize.

Stuart Goldsmith (left) with Bob Slayer

Happy Stuart Goldsmith (left) with Bob Slayer

The Ham Fist Award reviewer for 2015 was Graeme Connelly, of The List, who won £50 for writing Stu Goldsmith’s winning review.

Runner up was Chortle‘s reviewer Paul Fleckney, who had reviewed a show not by going to see it but by watching it live on Periscope

Sometime after 2.00am, everyone piled outside for a group photograph and Stuart Goldsmith headed off with his fiancée. They are expecting a baby on January 29th 2016 and seemed very excited by it and keen to tell people. Or was that Bob?


I should point out that Sandra has admitted drinking a little while on the BlundaBus.

2 Comments

Filed under Comedy

Terror attacks in Africa, fingerings in Canada & a Filipino drag karaoke photo

Sandra Smith

Sandra Smith sat on a plane behind a young man…

I occasionally post quirky ‘found’ stories on my Facebook page. A couple of days ago, I posted one about Hatshepsut, The Bearded Female King of Egypt.

Yesterday, this blog’s South Coast correspondent Sandra Smith told me it reminded her of her second trip to Egypt in 1997. Her flashback was possibly also not unconnected with the recent beach massacre of 38 people in Tunisia.

So it goes. Welcome to the 21st century.

Sandra told me:


The Swiss tabloid Blick turned a puddle of water into a river of blood flowing  from the temple of Hatshepsut, the site of the Luxor massacre

The Swiss tabloid Blick changed a puddle of water into a river of blood flowing from Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple

In 1997, we travelled there on the very day that the massacre occurred at Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple.

We went straight to the boat on the Nile, had a meal and did not know until the next day that something had happened. We were not actually told what had happened, but were sent on deck to wait for news from the British Foreign Office. From the deck, we saw men on the rooftops with guns, helicopters flying overhead and a raggle-taggle group of men leaning against vehicles on the quayside.

We found out later that they were the Egyptian Army, awaiting the arrival of the president – but still no information for us.

Eventually, we were told that we were to be taken back to the airport to return home, as there had been an ‘incident’, of which we were told nothing.

We arrived at a deserted airport at around 1.00pm and, during the afternoon, as more and more tourists arrived, we started to hear what had happened – that 60 plus people (the numbers varied in the telling) had been killed at Hatshepsut’s mortuary temple.

I had visited there on a previous trip and could well imagine how exposed they all would have been, walking from the coaches.

We eventually got on a plane at around 6.00pm. Counsellors, were on board to help deal with the people who had been closely affected. We were sitting behind a young man whose girlfriend had had her throat cut in front of him, but somehow he had survived.

We were OK. There was more info in the UK than in Egypt. Reporters were at the airport.

Kuoni, our travel company, told us we would get money back, so we went to Sri Lanka a few days later – just randomly chose it as a destination.


Anna enveloped by the fragrant incense of burning rainforest?

I also got a message yesterday from this blog’s Canadian correspondent Anna Smith. She is not related to Sandra Smith.

Anyway…

So…

Anna Smith sent this update on current life in Vancouver. She lives on a boat.


Quiet and dark… Last Sunday, in the morning, I went to turn on my water and saw a school of dainty fingerlings (a word unfortunately changed to ‘fingerings’ by Anna’s e-mail spellcheck) nibbling on the weeds growing under my boat. They were so pretty that I lay on the dock and tried to take a photo, but it came out too blurry. I am not sure what kind of fish they will become.

When I looked up at the sky, I saw an unusually dark, orange-edged cloud looming over the riverbank.

Junk removal man Brad will “haul anything… but dead bodies!!!”

Soon afterwards, we were enveloped by the fragrant incense of burning rainforest. It drifted like fog over the river. It looks like another planet. People are disoriented. They have been confusing the sun with the moon, not seeing the stars or the mountains. The buildings loom faintly. The river looks like lead.

The sun has not ‘risen or set’ for almost a week in Vancouver… It just turns into a red disc at 6.00pm and falls into the orangey white smoke.

Two hundred wildfires are out of control in British Columbia. It’s all anyone is talking about – the smoke and the fires. The fire risk is rated extreme. The prediction is 30 new fires per day for the forseeable future.

Hundreds of troops have been deployed and firefighters from Australia and New Zealand have arrived. Alberta gets the New Zealanders and we get the Australians.

The high temperatures and drought is said to be caused by The Blob. The Blob is a blob of warm water in the Pacific Ocean stretching from Mexico to Alaska, and is suspected to be caused by global warming

The lawn of the Galilee Korean Presbyterian Church is brown.

The lawn of the Galilee Korean Presbyterian Church: not greener.

Smoke has blotted the sky… It looks like Beijing – people wearing surgical masks, coughing. The grass is not greener.

There is a drought. We had no rain for two months but people are excited now, because we are to get a bit of rain tomorrow.

The smoke and heat is making people grumpy. There are no statistics on the cannabis fire situation lately, except that more and more  shops are opening.

As if the sun being blotted out wasn’t enough – I guess you heard about this as it is international news – hookers and their clients all over the world had their business momentarily but seriously interrupted by a sheriff in the USA who managed to convince Visa and MasterCard to stop processing the Village Voice’s Backpages ads for sex workers. This caused a flurry of worker-to-worker advice about how to use Bitcoin and much confusion which was solved after a few days by the Village Voice deciding to allow sex workers to advertise for free.

Meanwhile, life continues at my marina of Hell. I was woken up yesterday morning by a man yelling: “Fuck off! It’s none of your business!” which gave me the relaxing illusion that everything is normal. So I rolled over and went back to sleep.


Anna also sent me a photo of Vancouver-born screen actress Yvonne De Carlo‘s cousin David De Carlo celebrating Canada Day with a friend. Anna tells me:


David De Carlo with a friend (Photograph by Anna Smith)

David De Carlo (right) with a friend (Photo by Anna Smith)

David De Carlo was conceived in Stanley Park under the south end of The Lions Gate Bridge. I met David on Davie street a few months ago when I accidentally took a photo of his ass which was in the way when I was trying to capture something else. We struck up a conversation and he showed me some very interesting visual art that he makes. The picture was taken at a Filipino drag karaoke show, though that is not my favourite art form.


Yvonne De Carlo was a film actress whom Hollywood producer Walter Wanger described as “the most beautiful girl in the world”. She played Lily Munster, the wife of Herman Munster, in the 1960s TV series The Munsters.

Walter Wanger and Joan Bennett

Walter Wanger and Joan Bennett – barely separate from you

In 1951, Walter Wanger shot and wounded talent agent Jennings Lang in the left inner thigh and groin (or, in other reports, the testicles) after accusing him of having an affair with his wife, the actress Joan Bennett. Wanger served a four-month sentence at the Castaic Honor Farm near Los Angeles.

Everyone seems less than six degrees of separation away from everyone else.

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Another two gay nights out in London

Sandra Smith (extreme right) with new friends on way to Muse

Sandra Smith (extreme right) next to Shakondda with LoUis CYfer (foreground) on the way to Muse nightclub last week

Back in April, this blog’s South Coast correspondent Sandra Smith shared a meeting in London’s Soho with the UK’s only ‘drag king’ LoUis CYfer.

Last week, Sandra went back with her friend to the Admiral Duncan pub in Soho to see LoUis perform again.

The result was three nights of emails from Sandra. Here are two.


DAY ONE

Two other acts were on as well.

One was Shakondda, a Brazilian girl with a body that could move as only a Brazilian can – and big, big hair, made up of two wigs and a couple of smaller pieces. She wore a banana as an earring, and sang a few numbers.

The other was somebody called Sugar Lump – a guy in drag – who sang and it was left to the audience to decide whether he was to get paid or not. We voted Yes.

Louis_and_Kayleigh

LoUis (right) with her girlfriend Kayleigh (Photograph by Sandra Smith)

After the pub closed, LoUis invited us to Muse, a nearby nightclub, to meet her girlfriend Kayleigh, a dancer who works there. LoUis is very smitten by Kayleigh and they are moving in together very soon.

So we all arrived at Muse – LoUis, Shakondda, Sugar Lump, the manager of the Admiral Duncan, Psychic Sadie (who works behind the bar) and another guy. The Muse manager and one of the girls there work with fire, which they demonstrated. They set fire to the bar every so often just for the hell of it.

LoUis is busier than ever. Filming for her documentary – out next year – is ongoing. She is going to be filmed at home very soon. Then she is going back to Texas to do some workshops and a mini tour, possibly ending up in Las Vegas. She is also rehearsing for a one woman musical in Derby called Joan, based on Joan of Arc. She will be performing it in Derby on 17th and 18th July, then it’s coming to Camden’s People’s Theatre, possibly in August… and to the Edinburgh Fringe next year.

LoUis looks upon herself as gender fluid and intends to have a double mastectomy in the future. I think that has as much to do with having large breasts, which give her backache and she has to bind for her act. She wants to be seen just for herself and not identified by her gender.

She was born in Germany to a mother in the Royal Signals and a father who was a PE instructor. She came to England aged six. Her auntie, Marie Myers, was the first woman CID officer in Yorkshire and was attacked with a hypodermic syringe and contracted meningitis. But I can’t remember the outcome of that, as it was getting late.

LoUis went to Brunel University in London and has an MA in Contemporary Theatre Performance. She also studied Gender and Art in Relationship to That of Identity. At least I think that was what she said. It was getting very late.

Shakondda as she likes to be seen on Facebook

Brazilian act Shakondda as she likes to be seen on Facebook

Shakondda and I chatted about things racial in Brazil. She told me she chose her rather over-the-top wigs because of her family’s attitude to race and her mother’s refusal to acknowledge that they may have black blood. That is as far as I can remember. My memory is hazy in parts.

I told her that I would have loved hair like that when I was younger, as I was desperate not to be English. I used to get called Chink (so non-PC) as a kid, which delighted me enormously.

We left them at around 3.30am and all I had to do then was persuade the friend I was with that I would rather go back to where we were staying and not on to another club till 5.00am.

DAY THREE

Have got my top on inside out at the moment, having had two hours sleep. Went to bed at 5.00am. No doubt I will perk up later.

As well as my top being inside out, I am drinking coffee – instant – out of a cafetière that I found under the sink. Not a cup to be found.

We spent a fairly sedate afternoon yesterday up at Middle Temple.

Admiral Duncan pub  in Soho (Photo by Ewan Munro)

Admiral Duncan pub in Soho (Photograph by Ewan Munro)

I then headed to Soho and the Admiral Duncan pub again, as they have an act on every night.

I went alone, as my friend had fallen by the wayside after too many late nights.

The entertainment came in the form of the very glamorous Mary Mac – a Scottish lad from Glasgow – with tartan ribbons in his hair and a belter of a voice. There was a real party atmosphere and Psychic Sadie was behind the bar.

I spent the evening with a couple of boys who work together in Shaftesbury Avenue. They were great fun to be with, as were the rest of the crowd.

Mary Mac asked me where I was from and how I had spent my time in London, then asked me my age.

Sandra Smith wearing Shakondda’s hair felt less Scarlet O’Hara, more Whatever Happened to Baby Jane.

Sandra Smith wearing Shakondda’s hair

My answer elicited a huge cheer from the crowd and Mary Mac proposed a toast to me. My glass was clinked many times, and the evening continued apace. The show finished around 11.30pm and Mary Mac asked us collectively to join him at Heaven, the nightclub just off the Strand.

I decided not to go and said goodbye to the boys, after exchanging e-mail addresses with them. I headed off for something to eat in an Italian restaurant, which was on the point of closing. They insisted that it was no trouble at all to prepare something for me, after which I headed back to Bloomsbury at around 1.30am.


Sandra sent me a photograph of herself wearing Shakondda’s hair. She told me she felt less like Scarlet O’Hara, more like Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?

3 Comments

Filed under Gay, London