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My gay day in Soho yesterday and, later, seeing women’s armpit hair in Stockwell

Me and my new friend in Soho yesterday

Me and my new boy friend in Soho yesterday

So, I was at a gay bar in London’s Soho yesterday afternoon, talking to this young ‘boy’ with stubble on his chin. I did not ask his name and we went into an alleyway beside the Vue cinemas in Leicester Square where he asked me: “Do you want me to take my penis out?” then stuck his hand into his trousers and started rummaging around.

But more about that later.

I was in another bar a couple of weeks ago – the Soho Theatre bar – and Zuma Puma aka Nelly Scott told me:

“I was in this film and one of my teeshirts was a little bit shorter and I was thinking Oh no! What if they’re really upset? and I was walking round the set trying to cover up the fact that I’m a woman with armpit hair, when it’s actually like a matter of pride for me. I was thinking What if this is unacceptable for this character?

“But you were playing the part of a killer,” I said. “A homicidal female psychopath.”

“Exactly,” said Nelly. “Why would she be shaving her armpits? – When would she have the time in between killing people?”

“Why are you so proud of your armpit hair?” I asked Nelly.

Michael Brunström stands in a bucket of water

Michael Brunström stands in a bucket of water

“I love it,” she told me. I love the texture of it. I like stroking it. I like how it keeps my arms warm. And I like my own smell. That’s another bonus. I would wear it as a perfume.”

Last night, I went to her always extraordinarily bizarre weekly Lost Cabaret show in Stockwell which she comperes as Zuma Puma. Somehow the sight of Michael Brunström standing in a bucket of water passionately reading a random article from a Yachting magazine seemed quite normal in the context of Lost Cabaret.

Sharney Emma Nougher (left) & Zuma Puma raise their arms

Zuma Puma (right) and Sharney Nougher raise their arms

After the show, Zuma Puma and Sharney Nougher showed me their armpit hair.

I was very grateful.

It was a fairly ordinary day.

I am always grateful for small kindnesses.

So back to my gay afternoon in Soho yesterday…

The young ‘boy’ I met asked five men in the gay Ku Bar if they fancied him. Three did. Well, two did and one said: “Only if you are in the process of transgendering.”

Juliette Burton as herself

Juliette Burton as herself

A shrewd observation, because yesterday was Day Five in performer Juliette Burton’s week of shooting partly-hidden-camera video inserts for her upcoming Edinburgh Fringe comedy show Look At Me (co-written by comedienne Janey Godley). It is about how people’s external image affects how people perceive them as people.

“Each day has been challenging in different ways,” Juliette told me yesterday.

DAY ONE 

Juliette dressed as what, merely for understandability’s sake, I would describe as ‘tarty’.

“It had the biggest reaction from other people,” she told me. “I was dressed in a costume that was inspired by The Only Way Is Essex, Big Fat Gypsy Weddings and Jordan before she became Katie Price. I started at King’s Cross, then got on a bus to Soho Square and walked through to Covent Garden. Wherever I went, people stared at me and some of the looks I got – we’ve looked at the video we shot – were so disdainful and so scornfuI. I did not do anything tarty. All I did was walk past dressed in a particular way.”

DAY TWO

Juliette partially made-up, with and ‘old’ cheek and throat

Juliette during her transformation, partially made-up, with an ‘old’ cheek and throat

Juliette was made up to look like an old lady.

“That was more liberating in some ways,” she told me, “because I was less noticeable. But, in some ways, it was more emotional.”

“How?” I asked.

“You’ll have to come and see the show,” Juliette said. “It was a sad day.”

DAY THREE

Juliette wore a ‘fat suit’ and was made-up to look fat.

“That was very difficult for personal reasons,” Juliette explained, “because there were some emotional things going on inside me that I hadn’t anticipated. The prosthetics were very good and the character was confident and bold and bright. I was about a size 18 in the prosthetics. I wanted to reclaim my experience when I had been that size, because I used to be a size 20. I wanted to reclaim how I felt about myself back then.”

DAY FOUR

Juliette under cover, literally

Juliette – literally under-cover

“I thought this was going to be my hijab day,” said Juliette. “The hijab is what Moslem women wear when only their face and hands are exposed. The niqab only exposes their eyes and hands. I thought the hijab I had ordered online had a headscarf and a black dress but, in fact, it actually had niqab headgear as well.

“So sometimes I dressed in a niqab, sometimes in a hijab. That was very interesting because most people don’t bat an eyelid if you walk round London like that, though there were some experiences I had that were quite shocking.

“What I hadn’t anticipated, again, was the internal journey. There’s stuff that goes on psychologically that I hadn’t anticipated.”

“But, to find out, I’ll have to come and see the show in Edinburgh?” I asked.

“Absolutely,” laughed Juliette.

DAY FIVE

Juliette (left) and the reaction of friends Lizzy Mace and Frankie Lowe

Juliette (left) arrives at Ku Bar + the reaction to her changed personality by her friends Lizzy Mace and Frankie Lowe

“Well,” said Juliette, “That’s today. I’m dressed as a man and you say I make quite a good man.”

“You look like a rather effete South American boy,” I told her. “You could maybe make money selling yourself in Rio during the World Cup.”

Make-up artist Sarah-Jane Lyon had given Juliette a false Adam’s apple.

“And I’ve got a bulge,” said Juliette. “A foam penis. Do you want to see it?”

“No,” I said.

“Don’t you want me to take my penis out?” Juliette asked.

“Don’t you want me to take my penis out?”

“Don’t you want me to take my penis out?” Juliette asked.

“No,” I said. “Not down an alleyway in Soho. I’ve seen too many real ones on stage.”

“So you’re bored with penises?”

“I’ve been too close to too many pricks,” I said. “I worked at the BBC.”

“It’s a foam penis,” said Juliette.

“I would prefer to see Martin Soan’s singing and dancing vagina,” I replied.

That was yesterday in a Soho alley.

Today Juliette is in Stoke-on-Trent shooting extra footage for her pop video to promote Look at Me.

And, on Sunday, she is back in London, to shoot more hidden camera reactions to her superficial appearance.

“I will be wearing pink underwear,” Juliette told me, “and fishnets, a wig, flippers, snorkel, body paint, absurd make-up and I will have a giant glittery purple peanut on my head and be carrying a bright pink dog. A real one.”

“What will the dog be wearing?” I asked.

“The dog will be wearing a tutu, of course,” said Juliet matter-of-factly.

“Of course it will,” I said. “Do you have armpit hair, Juliette?”

There is a promotional video for Look At Me on YouTube.

and also one for Zuma Puma’s Lost Cabaret shows

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Filed under Comedy, Gay, Psychology, Theatre

News of Edinburgh Fringe sexual organ props & the World Fart Championships

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

Martin Soan (right) chats on Lewis Schaffer’s radio show

“I thought I was going to get away without building a sexual organ prop this year,” Martin Soan told me yesterday. “But the first order for a cock has come in today. It’s for a comedian going up to the Edinburgh Fringe.”

“Your FIRST order?” I asked. “How many do you normally get?”

“I usually get about two a year,” Martin told me.

As attentive readers of this blog will know, Martin was asked in May to perform the part of a vagina in a play. He is famed for The Naked Balloon Dance he created for the Greatest Show on Legs.

“What happened to your vagina part in the play?” I asked him this morning.

“The woman sent me the script, I read it and I politely told her I was not an actor.”

Martin was once asked to build a prop for a comedian which, he said, was an “all-singing-and-dancing talking vagina. I used silk. It had hair and eyes. It was really scary.”

He may not be an actor in the traditional sense, but he walks an ever-moving dividing line between being a comedian and a performance artist, a prop maker and a creator of stage fantasies.

mrmethanebends

Mr Methane flying off to fart in Finland

And, talking of unlikely career paths and fantasies, we have the case of my chum Mr Methane, the world’s only professionally-performing farter who is attending the first ever World Fart Championships in Utajärvi, Finland. They are being held this Saturday.

He flies off at noon today, but may arrive in Finland earlier than scheduled if there is a following wind.

“I’m surprised they’re having championships,” I said to him yesterday. “Surely it’s a talent rather than a sport?”

“I would say it could be both,” he told me. “It’s a sport in terms of my kind of farting – petomania – because performing a full show like mine is quite strenuous and it requires one to be farting fit. I think the talent is being able to control one’s emission.”

“That is always a bonus when in polite society,” I suggested.

“Sometimes,” said Mr Methane, “when I am introduced as a professional farter, the ladies do not fully take into consideration the fact that a pro can control his emissions. That is a positive over your average male, surely?”

“I certainly consider it thus,” I said. “But do foreigners really understand the joke? Indeed, is it a joke?”

“I am the man,” said Mr Methane, “who apparently blew the doors of censorship wide open for Swedish TV after my 1991 appearance on Robert Aschberg’s TV3 show.”

Mr Methane performed in front of guests including the country’s Foreign Minister.

“Things were apparently never the same again,” Mr Methane told me yesterday. “Or so I found out when I was invited as a guest on a Swedish style This Is Your Life TV show for Robert. The show’s producer wrote to Barrie, my manager:

When Mr. Methane visited Robert’s show Ikväll in the early 1990s he stunned a whole country. Some was amused and some were appalled by Mr. Methane’s talent however – it was television history. None in Sweden had before seen this kind of a show. Robert’s show was a predecessor and Mr Methane was the one guest that made it happen.

“When Martin Soan and Malcolm Hardee and the Greatest Show on Legs took The Naked Balloon Dance to Sweden in the early 1980s,” I said. “it was very popular there, but Malcolm told me he didn’t think the Swedes actually understood why it was funny.”

“I think Malcolm is partially correct but not entirely,” said Mr Methane. “If you watch the clip of Robert Aschberg crying with laughter and tears running down his face as I perform, it’s hard to believe that Swedes have no sense of humour. I think they tend to conduct themselves in a reserved fashion and this gives off that impression.

“Robert’s mate Gert Fylking, who held the microphone, could give the Greatest Show On Legs a run for their money. He was mental and did some really crazy things. But, then, he did attend a boarding school in Uttoxeter… His parents felt that an English education would be good for him and it obviously paid dividends.”

“Crazy things?” I asked.

“He had an enema-shitting contest,” said Mr Methane, “but his real party piece is jumping up and down on one leg, naked, until his cock spins round like a propeller. Both were performed on TV3 after they’d tested the limits with my act. He is a Christian Democrat politician now.”

Little House on The Prairie was a fine TV show

Little House on The Prairie was a fine TV show

“I used to work for TV3 in the UK,” I said. “It is a fine TV company. I think they screened Little House on The Prairie undubbed. Do you think any one nation more attuned to the true appreciation of your farts?”

“I guess my show is best received in Australia,” mused Mr Methane, “though some Australians are touchy about it because they feel that the world sees them as crude and rude when they are, in fact, a highly cultured nation.

“My 1997 appearance on the Channel 9 Footy Show apparently holds the record for the most complaints about an Australian TV show. People were calling in to complain from remote places out in the bush that weren’t even meant to get Channel 9’s signal. The switchboard apparently melted. The Sydney Morning Herald wrote:

The Footy Show panel turned to rubble, the studio audience was a mix of Animal House delight and gob smacked incredulity and the phones ran hotter than a Kate Fischer calendar.

“So what are you doing at the World Fart Championship in Finland?” I asked.

“At 47,” said Mr Methane, I’m past my competitive age, so I’m there as a The Godfather of Flatulence – an inspiration to those who follow in my footsteps – or wherever – A bit like you get the retired footballers on Match of the Day.

Johann Strauss was a fine Austrian composer

Johann Strauss II was a fine composer

“I will be doing a fully-blown show there, but I will be pacing myself. I will be going at my own speed, not sprinting to a finishing line in the shortest time and I will be accompanied by the Utajärvi Brass Band in a special rendition of The Blue Danube by Johann Strauss. I see my show as a mature wine that should be savoured and not rushed so one can experience the true aroma.”

“How can they judge farts at the Championships?” I asked.

“I’m not sure,” admitted Mr Methane. “You could have The Longest, The Shortest, The Fattest, The Thinest… Hang on, this is beginning to sound like the theme tune to Record Breakers.”

“Whither farting contests?” I asked.

“I think it is an event that could run and run,” said Mr Methane.

“Any helpful advice for actual contestants?”

“Relax… But not too much.”

“And after your visit to Finland?”

Bob’s Bookshop (left) is a fine venue

Bob’s Bookshop (left) is a fine venue at the Edinburgh Fringe

“As you know,” said Mr Methane, “ I am appearing at the Edinburgh Fringe, with My Life In Farting at Bob Slayer’s Bookshop venue at 3.30 every afternoon,  13th – 17th August… Ring-side seats are still available.”

“And you are staying in my Edinburgh flat for that week?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Mr Methane.

“Oh dear,” I said.

As I was about to post this blog, I got a mobile phone text from Mr Methane. It read:

“I’m hearing reports of a fart on The Archers. Not sure if true but, if so, you’d think they would have brought me in to do it. We both missed some publicity there.”

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Filed under Comedy, Finland, Humor, Humour, Sweden, Theatre, UK

British comedian Martin Soan forgets two old vaginas but is offered a third

Martin Soan contemplates the vagina offer yesterday

Martin contemplating vagina offer yesterday

The redecoration of the public areas of Fleming Towers continues apace with comedian and prop maker par excellence Martin Soan up ladders painting. (I have a fear of overbalancing induced by a childhood trauma on a rope-and-plank bridge in Scotland when I was around nine.)

Late yesterday afternoon, Martin came downstairs and said:

“I’ve just been asked to play a vagina. This woman’s rung me up and asked me to play a vagina. Which is OK. Alright. I can accept that there’s a vagina in a play. I’m quite open and liberal about it. But then she told me she wants me for the BIG vagina. There is another part in the play for a SMALLER vagina.”

“Who’s playing that?” I asked.

“I’ve got no idea,” said Martin.

“Have you met this woman before?”

“No,” said Martin. “Someone just gave my number to her.”

“Obviously,” I said, “she was asking around for someone who could be a cunt and people suggested you.”

“It must have been Boothby Graffoe or someone like that,” mused Martin. “She did mention it was so-and-so but she was talking fast and… someone has just passed my number on…

“She was reading through the whole play over the phone for about five minutes,” he continued in disbelief. “She said: Hang on a minute! Hang on a minute! I’ll just open the curtains to let some light in the house. I mean, it’s 4 o’clock in the afternoon now and she’s just opening her curtains to let some light in her house.”

“But you have no idea who the small cunt is?” I asked.

“I did suggest Andy Linden,” said Martin. “I’d play the big vagina if Andy Linden was playing the small vagina.”

“Would you be a talking vagina?” I asked.

“I presume so,” said Martin. “There are lines. It’s a play.”

“Vagina lines?” I asked. “What lines?”

“I’ve got no idea,” Martin replied. “She was reading the script to me, but my head was swimming.”

“Where would this play happen?” I asked.

“At The Lost Theatre in Vauxhall,” said Martin. “That’s a good place to do a play if you’re straight, isn’t it? It’s the gay capital of the world.”

“It’s not the Vauxhall Tavern?” I asked.

“No,” said Martin, “but every pub round there…”

“That’s where MI6 is!” I interrupted. “Vauxhall… James Bond can’t be gay!”

“But,” explained Martin. “MI6 is on the other side of the road. They’re separated by the one-way system. They call the bit opposite Gay Village.”

“Do they?” I asked. “I haven’t lived, have I?”

“No, you haven’t,” said Martin.

“Didn’t you build a vagina for someone once?” I asked.

“Yeah,” said Martin. “I’ve made two vaginas.”

“For…?” I asked.

“I can’t remember,” he said. “One was for a dead-straight stand-up. He wanted an all-singing-and-dancing talking vagina. I used silk. It had hair and eyes that one. It was really scary.

Martin re-installs my pussy at Fleming Towers this morning

Martin re-installs my pussy painting at Fleming Towers today

“And I did another vagina for someone else, but I can’t remember the name.”

“Honestly!” I said. “Your life is so full and complicated that you can’t remember who you made a talking vagina with eyes for?”

“No,” said Martin. “I block all these things from my memory.”

“I suppose that’s possibly wise,” I said.

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Filed under Comedy, Humor, Humour, Sex, Theatre

Barking mad censorship continues at the Edinburgh Fringe Programme office

The censored and acceptable Edinburgh Fringe show image

Yesterday, I blogged about the insanity and inanity which has characterised the compilation of the Edinburgh Fringe Programme this year. In particular, the barking mad decision by the Fringe that the title STUART GOLDSMITH: PRICK was unacceptable and that it should be replaced by the title STUART GOLDSMITH: PR!CK which was acceptable.

Commenting on my blog, Stuart’s reaction was: “I thought this was an isolated incident, but I’m genuinely disturbed by how many people have come forward and said they’ve had copy disallowed for reasons of ‘taste’, ‘decency’ or ‘house style’. This was the Edinburgh Fringe we were talking about – What’s happened?!”

The other cracker which I mentioned yesterday was that comedian Richard Herring’s updated version of his 2002 show TALKING COCK (which was printed in the Fringe Programme under that title with no problem in 2002) had been changed by the Fringe Office – without his knowledge – from TALKING COCK: THE SECOND COMING to TALKING C*CK: THE SECOND COMING.

Quite why the word ‘cock’ (which, in this context comes from ‘cock & bull story’ – a phrase with a totally non-sexual origin and meaning) was deemed offensive but, in this context, the word ‘coming’ was deemed inoffensive is a mystery.

And it remains a mystery. And it is not alone. Australian comedian Jon Bennett is performing his first Edinburgh Fringe show PRETENDING THINGS ARE A COCK at the Edinburgh Fringe this August.

The show’s title has been printed in full without any problem in the brochures for the Adelaide Fringe, the Edmonton International Fringe, the Melbourne International Comedy Festival, the Montreal Fringe and the Vancouver International Fringe. And, this August, the Edinburgh Comedy Festival booklet/posters/flyers will have ‘Cock’ written in full in Pretending Things Are a Cock, but the official Edinburgh Fringe Programme will not.

This morning, producer Bronwyn Hooton told me: “It’s baffling to think that the Edinburgh Fringe – the largest fringe in the world – is censoring the art forms that appear within it, when your own Commonwealth countries do not.”

The Edinburgh Fringe, this year, seems determined to become a laughing stock world-wide, not just in Britain.

Bronwyn continued: “The welcome video on EdFringe.com says: The Fringe was created 65 years ago when eight companies who hadn’t been invited to take part in the international festival, in the true show-business tradition and in a flash-mob style decided to stage their work anyway. On a tradition of open-access and freedom, to have censorship issues from the Edinburgh Fringe Office themselves seems to go against this ethos they claim to abide by.”

The word ‘cock’ in Pretending Things Are a Cock had to be censored (to ‘c*ck’) on the image used in the Fringe Programme because the word was deemed to be offensive, though the image itself (see above) was not.

I could barely believe my eyes when I saw this censored image.

But it is a very nice asterisk and, obviously, it has made a big difference.

Has the Fringe Office got their kn*ckers in a twist and gone completely mad this year?

Well, yes, apparently it has.

The Chortle comedy website yesterday pointed out that, printed in the upcoming Fringe Programme will be “a show called Molly Wobbly’s Tit Factory, which has escaped the blue pencil, comic Chris McCausland has been allowed to use the quote from a Chortle review ‘balls-out funny’ and a show called Sex Ed: The Musical contains the blurb: Have you ever tried hand-to-gland combat? Playing the clitar? Spelunking? Have you ever been vaginally tardy?

Writing in his blog yesterday, Richard Herring pointed out that Kunt and The Gang’s name is acceptably print-worthy to the Fringe Office, as is Reginald D.Hunter’s show title Work in Progress… And Nigga (Reg has a tradition of putting Nigga in his titles) and that, indeed, in Richard’s own Programme entry, the Fringe Office took no exception to the phrase “the yoghurt-spitting sausage” but, somehow, ‘cock’ was too much for them to swallow.

Comedian Jody Kamali commented that the Fringe Office “said I couldn’t use three dollar signs in a row ‘$$$’ in my Fringe entry, as it didn’t fit their ‘house style’.”

Also, following my blog yesterday, Chortle phoned the Fringe Office and reported that “when asked why certain words are deemed offensive and others not – and how Herring’s title was changed without him knowing until now – the Fringe office said they did not wish to comment.”

No surprise there. But there was a surprise that – several weeks after the final deadline had past – the Fringe Office told Richard Herring yesterday that his very expensive quarter page ad in the Fringe Programme was suddenly also unacceptable. He was told that he would have to disguise the word ‘cock’ by removing the letter ‘O’.

In his blog yesterday, Richard wrote: “I wonder will the Fringe brochure people object if the “O” of cock is… hidden behind a big splurge of dripping white liquid… (it) might be allowed because a splurge of white liquid is not on the list of rude words.”

The two substitute censored versions he submitted to the Fringe are below:

“Talking Cock” – censored with an asterisk

“Talking Cock” – censored with a splurge

Presumably, the Fringe Office objected to Richard Herring’s ‘cock’ because of what they perceived as the use of a genital word (even though the common phrase Talking Cock is not sexual in origin).

However, they had no objection to a review quote on the ad, which says:

“Man’s answer to the Vagina Monologues – The Guardian”

So, apparently the word ‘cock’ (in the context of the non-sexual-origined phrase Talking Cock) is unacceptable but the word ‘vagina’ (which has a solely genital meaning) is completely acceptable.

Richard Herring, in his blog yesterday, wrote:

“Whilst I acknowledge there is a point where some choice has to be made over what is suitable to go into a general publication, I am concerned about the draconian level of censorship that is occurring here and what it says about what the Fringe is turning into. This should be the last place where freedom of expression is clamped down on.”

Or, as Richard said to me: “Underneath the silliness and twatdom it’s a very important issue”.

What on earth is going on?

One thing is certain. There is no point asking the Fringe Office.

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Filed under Censorship, Comedy, Language, PR