Pack up your troubles in your old kit bag and smile, smile, smile. Forget the worst recession since the South Sea Bubble, dust off that cracked glitter ball and drag out those tarnished bacofoil hot pants. It’s time to get crushed by the sequined juggernaut that is the Eurovision Song Contest, the rightful heir to the fall of Communism. This year, the travelling freak show has pitched the big top in Malmö (pronounced Malmurrrr), Sweden. Expect high camp, a blizzard of glitzy ticker tape and enough dry ice to halt global warming. Expect virginal visions in white, gay-bar strippers, fake blonds where collars and cuffs don’t match, notes as flat as the Fens and tunes once heard, never remembered. Don’t expect ABBA. The land of the midnight sun and real blonds is throwing an enormous street party like a UEFA cup final but without the drunken thuggery. The annual warble-fest costs so much to stage it attracts its very own IMF bail-out. Let’s hope nobody votes for the unkindly named PIGS (Blighty might be joining that popular club any day now). Winning will send them over the fiscal cliff.
Turkey has thrown a hissy fit and withdrawn from the competition. TRT (the Turkish broadcaster) does not like changes to the voting rules in recent years (50/50 between the public and a panel of music experts) which it claims disadvantages the Turkish entry by reducing the influence of the Turkish diaspora across Europe. That’s the point, silly. TRT also objects to the automatic qualification of songs from the so-called ‘Big Five’ broadcasters (the BBC among them) that pay the lion’s share of the costs. If TRT wants a free ride to the final, it’ll have to sign a much bigger cheque. After all, he who pays the piper calls the tune. To top it all, TRT got its pantaloons in a twist over a lesbian kiss live on stage. At the semis, Finland’s Krista Siegfrid landed a sloppy smacker on the lips of one of her backing dancers. Krista doesn’t actually drink from the furry cup in her day job, she just objects to the Finnish Parliament’s refusal to vote on marriage equality. Her song ‘Marry Me’ is through to the final where she’s threatening to repeat the tonsil-tickling outrage. Whether Krista has qualified because she kissed to be clever or despite of it is anyone’s guess. Overcome with moral indignation and shock, TRT has pulled the show completely. As we all know, watching a bit of girl-on-girl action turns you lesbian and there are no lesbians in Turkey, the land where men are men and goats are nervous.
Britain’s entry is an old-school power ballad sung by the gravelly-voiced Welsh chanteuse of yesteryear, Bonnie Tyler, she whose heart was totally eclipsed in ’83 after she got lost in France in ’77. The song’s not half bad (and half good either) but it hardly matters. We could put up Sooty for all the difference it would make. Mark my words. It’ll be a heartache for Bonnie. She’ll need more than a hero to fight the rising odds against a rout by the former Warsaw Pact. Well, I suppose it serves us right for Iraq. Poor old Auntie Beeb keeps wheeling out the golden oldies with their careers behind them, presumably because no-one with a career in front of them would touch Eurovision; it’s the kiss of death. Despite the parochial politics and regional gerrymandering, we’ll be waving our little union flags, raising a glass of bubbly to the campest show on Earth and hoping against hope that we don’t come last.
After the Hump’s disastrous showing at the farcical Caucasian Eurovision circus, we awoke to a thump at the door to match the thumping in my hung-over head. The removers launched into a fast frenzy of wrapping and packing at a speed I’ve never experienced in Turkey before. Our meagre chattels were efficiently boxed, labelled and loaded like a well-oiled Germanic assembly line. The procession of sweaty men was halted only momentarily by a traditional Turkish marching band – all monotonic horns and clashing drums – as it passed along the ancient street. Our fabulous Turkish neighbours popped across the courtyard with tea, cake and smiles. After the briefest of breaks and a quick fag with the fags, the boys chucked themselves back into the fray. The entire endeavour was all done and dusted in just three hours. We had shopped around for a few quotes but most of the silly prices were higher than the value of the family silver: it would have been cheaper to flog the whole lot off and start again. BacktoBodrum came to our rescue with Soyer International Removals – fast, friendly, and cost effective. Our goods will soon be sailing on high seas back to Blighty. We’ll be following them very soon, a suitcase each and handful of high hopes .
The campest cabaret has come to town. This year, the good burghers of Baku are proud hosts to the financially crippling annual Eurovision Song-fest. At least the well-oiled Azeris can afford to stage the ritzy affair without going cap in hand to the IMF. Various tone-deaf bottle blond painted divas with floaty hair, mincing pretty-boys in tight white lycra and hairy ruritanians in ethnic pantomime drag have parachuted into town to compete for the most infamous music prize on the planet. The Azeri autocrats are rubbing their hands in glee. As usual, votes will be cast along political and ethnic fault lines regardless of the quality (or otherwise) of the compositions, most of which will be badly sung in banal single-syllable pop English. It’s music, Jim, but not as we know it. Expect plenty of back slapping Balkan bonhomie between recently befriended old foes, top marks from the Turkish jury to their Azeri pals, the usual love-in between Athens and Nicosia and friendly hands across the Baltic. Pity poor Engelbert, he hasn’t got a hope in Hell. To not come last will be a decent achievement. Regardless of the shameless predictability of it all, we’ll be popping our euro-corks courtesy of a lovely Bitez Babe. We’ve promised not to trash the joint as Engelbert’s nul points come rolling in.
The glitzy shindig has caused quite a ruckus in the Caucasus. A couple of Eurovision websites have been hacked by anti-gay cyber attacks, leaving the catchy slogan “here is no place to immoral gays in Azerbaijan. Leave our country, no place to stay in Azerbaijan for gays who look like animals.” Now, who are they calling an old dog? The Iranians have thrown a hissy fit at the prospect of all that decadent fun and frolics from the sexually suspect just across the border. The Iranian ambassador has been withdrawn in protest, there’ve been riots by the great unwashed and a fatwa or two from the mad mullahs. Like the Puritans of old, it seems the Iranians have forgotten what is it is to have a little glittery fun. These days, what passes for Saturday night entertainment on state-controlled TV is ‘Lynch the Queers, Live”. Now, where did I put my knitting needles?
While I’m looking for them, check out the Russian entry from the singing grannies.
The marching season will soon be upon us. I’m not referring to the archaic and socially corrosive pipe and drum marches in Northern Ireland. No, I mean the collective act of uninhibited worship by LGBT communities in towns and cities up and down the realm. He-men in heels, lads in lycra, dames in dungarees and enough gingham to supply every Doris Day film ever made will be parading through the streets chanting the pink anthem, “We’re here, we’re queer, we go shopping.” All are welcome. It’s a glorious celebration of diversity without the slightest risk of disturbance by fascist thugs. Blighty isn’t Russia. The only skinheads on view will be in frocks. It wasn’t always like this. The Sceptred Isle has come along way in a few short years. According to The European International Lesbian and Gay Association Europe, Blighty is the best place in Europe to be gay. From what I’ve read and experienced, I would agree. Who’d be openly gay in Moldova?
Sadly, the dancing days of mega-prides are almost behind us. Most of them operated on a wing and a prayer at the best of times: a single bad weather day would financial cripple the lavish parties in the park with their huge overheads, top billing acts and decadent consumption of alcohol and recreational drugs. The cost of the clean-up operation alone was enough to bail out the Greeks. Brighton Pride is the lone survivor. Last year, for the first time, it was pay-on-the-gate affair. I fear its days are numbered.
We’ve been following the preparations for Norwich Pride with keen interest. Money is tight but the dedicated volunteers are doing all they can to ensure the festival remains both fun for all the family and solvent. The fundraising efforts that have caught my eager eye include ‘Ping Pong for Pride,’ a table tennis knockabout at a local primary school (with rainbow balls) and a Eurovision Song Contest party at Cinema City (proceeds to be split between Norwich Pride and the BBC’s Children in Need). On the 28th July, the gayest day of the year, Norwich will be awash with an ocean of fluttering rainbow flags, including over Hellesdon Hospital, Aviva Insurance, the Norwich Puppet Theatre, City College, Norwich City Council, Norfolk County Council, the Castle Museum and the Fire Service Head Quarters. We’ll be there to cheer on the drag queens, soak up the gaiety and to dance to diversity at Norwich’s very own family-friendly rainbow ball.
Remarkably, wrinkly Engelbert (aka Arnold Dorsey) can still hold a note at 75. Mr Humperdinck will be singing for his pension at the 57th Eurovision Song Contest with a sweet little ditty called Love Will Set You Free. It’s actually not a bad ballad in a Lionel Bart musical kind of way. Come Eurovision night in May, the streets of Soho will be empty, the middle aged ladies of the Carpathians will be chucking their knickers at the screen and Caucasian grannies will be swooning in the aisles in Baku. But, can Engelbert win and bring glory back to Blighty after 15 luckless years? Not while the Baltic league and Balkan cartel are in the driving seat, methinks. What do you think?