According to ‘Deck the Halls,’ a lovely old carol based on a traditional Welsh tune, ‘Tis the season to be jolly’ and time to ‘don…our gay apparel.’ Who am I to argue? So until I’ve had my fill of gay-attired jolly-making, Perking the Pansies will be off the air and down the pub. Whatever Christmas means to you, peace be with you. I’m signing off with a saucy little number courtesy of Brighton’s Christmas lights. It’s a spoof, of course. But wouldn’t it be delicious if it were for real?
Rite of Passage
After small town resort and the tale of Can’t Sing for You, Brighton came a jolly to the big city and time to party. My nephew and namesake, Jack, was celebrating his coming of age with his first legal drink. We helped his nearest and dearest deck out a hired hall in tinsel, balloons and streamers, transforming a working men’s club into a glitzy fairy’s grotto. As we uncovered the party platters, I asked Jack if we were to be the only gays in the village that night. ‘Well,’ he said, ‘there may be a couple of bisexuals popping along for a boogie. No big deal.’ How times have changed since I got the keys to the door. Jack was nervous (he’s a sensitive soul). Would anyone actually turn up to his 18th? He needn’t have worried; the streets of South London were empty that night.
There’s a lot of debate these days about the degenerative condition of Britain’s yoof – you could be forgiven for thinking that we’ve sired a lost generation of lazy, selfish, illiterate, shallow, celebrity obsessed mediocrities. Well there was little evidence of that poor state of affairs at Jack’s bash. Apart from a few very minor skirmishes caused by raging hormones, the trendy young things were polite, respectful, considerate and obliging. Boisterous? Certainly. Feral? Hardly. Mind you, when did eighteen year olds get to look twenty five? The hipster whiskers didn’t help. Naturally, birthday boy got horribly drunk on his first lawful binge, but the care shown by his friends was impressive and rather touching. The next morning, he rose from the dead with not so much as a twinge. Oh, to be eighteen again.
The fragrant Grace, the long term squeeze of Jack’s elder brother, is a bit of a photographer on the side and set up a photo booth for the evening. Here are some of her best shots…
Exit Through the Gift Shop
As anticipated, our London to Brighton expedition was a booze cruise of Swedish proportions. The main seaside event was supposed to be Elaine Paige in concert at the Brighton Dome courtesy of our London playmates. I say, supposed because Ms Paige cancelled at the last minute. She was laid up with a throat infection – a killer for any singer or porn star – and no amount of gurgling loosened the famous pipes. Elainey may only be a minor deity in the pantheon of demanding divas (not a patch on drunken Judy, mad Barbra or po-faced Madge) but she can bang out a tune better the most and was the definitive Evita. We drowned our sorrows in a cabaret bar that served up warm wine of excruciating awfulness. We drank it anyway.
The next day, the wind powering up the English Channel blew us into the Royal Pavilion. Despite multiple trips to the bright lights of Brighton down the decades, I’d never ventured into the Pavilion before. The pastiche fantasy – styled in onion-domed Disney-Mughal on the outside and lavish Chinoiserie on the inside – was the extravagant pleasure palace-on-sea of serial slut George IV. Oriental imagery was all the rage during the Regency period and not a penny that Fat George didn’t have was spared. It’s still fabulous but, as I toured the opulent salons, I wondered what the huddled masses made of the folly they had paid for. Ironically, it’s owned by the council now.
We were rather relieved to leave Brighton in the end. There’s a sadness about the town, something I hadn’t noticed before. I must be getting old.
To mark our joint birthdays, Liam and I are off to Brighton (London-by-the-Sea) for a couple of days in the company of a pair of drunken old playmates to take in the sea air and drink the town dry. Thankfully, the lashing remnants of Hurricane Gonzalo have already cylconed over otherwise the air might have been a little more bracing than we had bargained for. After the Brighton booze cruise, we’ll be in London to mark the coming of age of my nephew and namesake, Jack. He’s having a bit of a do with the class of 2014. And yes, we’ll be the old farts hiding in the corner sipping on a sweet sherry and trying hard not to leer at the young men in big hair and skinny jeans. No doubt we’ll be bringing our livers back in a Sainsbury’s bag.
Here’s Jack with the old girl earlier in the year.
Phil Starr, Drag Star
When I did a piece on Ruthie Henshall’s Norwich gig a while ago, I slipped in a little anecdote about my pipe cleaning days and a drag queen called Dockyard Doris. This sent me on a trip around You Tube to find old footage of the lovely Doris. I discovered a few clips but none worth showing to your nan. While I was digging, I stumbled across some old recordings of Phil Starr. Warm memories came flooding back of simpler days when a real belly laugh was easier to come by. Phil Starr was an old school drag queen comic with impeccable timing and a closet-full of shaggy dog stories, each with a witty twist. Cutting but never cruel, Phil started his career in the Fifties and played to packed pubs right up to his sudden death in 2005 at the age of 73. I saw Phil sprinkle his fairly dust in the East End and Brighton. I laughed so much, it hurt.
I’ve picked out one example for your delectation. It’s rude, just a little bit crude and not at all PC. Change channels now if you’re easily offended.