R.I.P. Steve Strange of Visage

3 03 2015

Steve Stranve IXFor those of you who don’t know, the ‘Fade to Grey’ song that all of you know was by Visage. Bonus points to those of you who can match Steve Strange with the image in the banner above.

Steve Strange was the lead singer of Visage. He was like Boy George in an alternate synthpop post-punk universe (wait, early ’80s London?) plus cocaine. He was part of the New Romantic scene, a movement which spanned from the late ’70s to the early ’80s and encapsulated an art form in various media which included androgynous dress and makeup, new electronic sounds in music, and an obsession with Vivienne Westwood’s casual ‘pirate’ look, which we can see if we simply YouTube Dead Or Alive singing ‘Misty Circles’ live.

It was that era that introduced elegantly-executed androgyny to the masses. Though short-lived (at least in the underground), it influenced the course of the ’80s by challenging people’s thoughts about gender roles, and what men and women should be. Was Annie Lennox a man, or a woman? I mean, do we seriously think this is weird nowadays? She had short hair and wore a fucking suit. Can’t a woman do that?? That’s exactly the point behind artists like the New Romantics. You, the viewer, are appalled by the fact that a short-haired ginger woman can wear a suit while dancing around in a field of cows, but you stare on in bovine wonder.

Everything weird and upturned is good.

I am sharing these videos (above and below) because:

A) Steve Strange, the tortured but talented lead singer of Visage, recently died of heart failure in hospital in Egypt (I will never accept this–it can’t be),

B) ‘She’s Electric’ is perhaps one of the greatest synthpop/dance anthems ever composed (how sublimely pulsing and ethereal?),

C) I am a big, fat, slutty whore for New Romantic music​, and

D) I just bought the CD single for ‘She’s Electric’ online! SO can’t wait to hear all the mixes. I’m especially excited about the extended mix. (Usually I like the original mix better than any of the shitty club mixes, so an extended mix of the original is like a diamond in my vagina.)

R.I.P. Steve Strange. Who cares about all your coke benders at the Blitz Club? You were a genius songwriter and performer. And you left us with what might be Visage’s best album. You left us with fashions which confuse people, makeup which makes a straight man blanch, artistic ideas which make the queerest heart quiver, and a renewed purpose behind showy spectacles like RuPaul’s Drag Race. If anybody went out in style, it was vous.





Designing and Apartment like a Disney Legend

28 09 2014

I’ve got it! I’ve got a new design theme for my future studio apartment when I move out of the flophouse I currently live in (with roommates, ick). It’s going to be a 1950s fantasy world! ‘It’s the Cold War after all!’ Mary Blair - It's A Small WorldSince I work for a furniture company that sells Mid-century Modern furniture and home accessories, and I get a 30% discount on all purchases, I decided to forgo the Art Deco theme I had in mind for a Mid-century Modern one. Art Deco is my favourite interior design and architecture style, but it’s just too hard to find practical furniture, like convertible sofas, to pull off the Hollywood Regency look in a studio apartment.

The middle of the twentieth century was an awful time for urban planning—everything was about cars and highways, and tearing down old neighbourhoods to replace them with parking lots, strip malls, and suburban tract houses—but the interior design and architecture styles in themselves were really cool. Think Jetsons, Star Trek, the Dick van Dyke Show, EPSON scanner imageand the It’s A Small World ride at Disneyland—anything that seemed cool and modern in the ’40s, ’50s, and ’60s, but which is considered retro nowadays. I’ve decided the ‘It’s A Small World’ 1950s Disney fantasy world is the look I’m going for, but it isn’t going to be a tacky carnival. It is going to be sleek and contemporary with a few nods here and there to that era in the decorative arts. Old 1950s record albums. Old cars. Old children’s story books. That is the look I am going to shove in your face when you come to visit my pad. And just imagine it at Christmas, with multi-coloured Christmas lights and retro glass tree ornaments reflecting pink and purple hues off white surfaces!

The artist behind the concept work for Disney’s ‘Small World’ ride was Mary Blair. Not only did she design the set and animatronic characters for our most beloved theme park ride, but she also illustrated the backgrounds for feature-length Disney animated films such as Cinderella, Peter Pan, and Alice in Wonderland. Mary Blair IIA pioneer among women in the world of animation, which was and still is dominated by men, she created some of the most memorable animated landscapes of the twentieth century, and anyone who has read a Little Golden Book based on a Disney film has probably enjoyed her magical artwork without realising who she was. So I have decided to take her as my inspiration. It is the perfect marriage of the retrofuturistic Space Age of Tomorrowland (as embodied by Star Trek and The Jetsons) with the mystical, magical world of Fantasyland, all using the tropes, motifs, and design elements of Mid-Century Modern art. I should add that Blair was not just a children’s animator, but also created remarkably evocative adult watercolours featuring the themes and landscapes of America during the early to middle twentieth century.

Anyway, here are the bare bones of my design scheme. I’ve decided to go with a sleek, contemporary, gravel-grey convertible sofa called the Tratus, by the Danish company Innovation. It comes with or without arms, but I am going with arms because I like the ‘complete’ sofa look. I also like the matte, dark grey legs and frame base. Tratus Convertible Sofa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am going to get matching chairs for either side of the sofa, in order to create a relatively symmetrical look, and also so I can convert the sofa into a queen size in case some queen ends up in my bed after a night of drunken debauchery. These chairs are made in the same matching grey, although only a picture of the yellow version is available. Tratus Chair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

To these I plan to add a kidney-shaped coffee table with a white, powder-coated, tempered-glass top and lacquered, steel-framed base. There will be matching end tables on either side of the sofa. Appropriate table and floor lamps will be included. Maybe a lava lamp. Hmm. Yes, a lava lamp. Cerise-coloured. Azalea Coffee Table               Azalea End Table

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

OK, let’s talk about art. Since I am drawing inspiration from Mary Blair, I have to have some affordable prints of hers to display on my walls. Just enough to conjure up the idea of Mid-Century Modern Disney fantasy world, yet subtle enough to be sophisticated. So here are the prints I have selected below. This one:

Mary Blair - Cinderella VI

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this one:

 Mary Blair - Cinderella II

 

 

 

 

 

 

And this one: Mary Blair - Cinderella                   And this one: Mary Blair - Cinderella V                 And this one: Mary Blair - Cinderella IV                 And this one: Mary Blair - Alice in Wonderland                 And this one: Mary Blair - Alice in Wonderland II                   And this one: Mary Blair - Peter Pan III                     And this one: Mary Blair - Weird               And this one: Mary Blair - Headless Horseman                   As you can see, I’m going for the dark Disney look in my Mid-Century Modern flat. I shan’t have anything less. My main goal is to create a darkly retrospective atmosphere with a hint of Mid-century fantasy married with a little bit of retrofuturistic science-fiction. The furniture I showed is neutral—grey and cubical, or elliptic and white. The furniture serves as a device to show off the more carnivalesque prints I intend to put on my walls. What do you think? Can I pull off this Mid-century Modern, Disneyland fantasy look?





30 Years of Italo-Disco

28 08 2014

Michelle Pfeiffer Grease II Cool RiderIsn’t it funny how musical styles come and go? I remember 1950s rock ‘n’ roll being popular when I was growing up in the early ’80s, mainly because of Grease and Grease II. Michelle Pfeiffer straddling a ladder was one of my most cherished memories (and her electrocuting Christopher Walken to death in Batman Returns was perhaps my favourite scene in cinematic history). Everything ’50s was cool then, from the turned-up cuffs to the white socks. One of the first songs I learned to sing was ‘Rock Around The Clock’, but that was in 1982, long after the original song had been played on the radio, let alone penned. I was flooded with images of Madonna, Cyndi Lauper, and Boy George. The same era had a peculiar dance beat which nobody had ever heard before—a 4-4 dance beat–with synthesiser arrangements.

In the early ’80s a new sound flooded the dance clubs of Europe and trickled down to America (as usual—new sounds happen in Europe first). It was a style of dance music with a rich, heavy, persistent bassline and simple yet elegant melody. It originated in Italy, with musicians like Giorgio Moroder, who produced music not only for Donna Summer, but also for films like Midnight Express and iconic ’80s fantasy films like The Never Ending Story. It clearly derived from 1970s disco, but reinvented itself with modern synthesisers. It became known as Italo-disco.

Probably my favourite italo-disco tune is ‘Hypnotic Tango’, by My Mine:

Isn’t it absolutely gorgeous?

One of my other favourite italo-disco tunes is ‘Orient Express’, by Wish Key:

Isn’t that the most seductive dance tune you’ve ever heard?

Glass Candy basically aced the whole italo-disco revival with the following tune:

How beautiful is that? Ida No, the singer of Glass Candy, is totally awesome.

New italo-disco style music is being created by Sally Shapiro:

Absolutely sublime.

Italo-disco is a gorgeous dance style. You just have to love dance, melody, and rhythm.





IMATs NY

19 04 2014

One of my favourite comedians, Deven Green, models the latest shades in Obsessive Compulsive Cosmetics makeup, with Willam Belli. Not only is Deven smart and funny, but she is beautiful too!

Deven Green

IMATs NY

With my favourite performer Willam Belli who is the OCCmakeup lip pencil model!
On my lips: Meta and Psycho Liptar!

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Brandon’s Halloween Costume

19 10 2013

Halloween - Creepy Vintage Masks CostumesI haven’t dressed up for Halloween in years. As a child I was a firefighter, a clown, a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup, a mime, and a vampire, but nothing lately. Well, Halloween was originally a time for adults to party, not for children to go trick-or-treating (which tradition is only about eighty years old).

My vampire was kind of shitty. It was inspired by the version of Dracula starring Christopher Lee. I had thick, opaque, stark white skin, black circles round my eyes, red lips, and blood pouring down my chin, and I wore a white shirt with some cheap pendant, black slacks, and black Brandon Vampire XVIdress shoes. I made my own cape of black velvet on the outside and red polyester on the inside. And the collar was cut out of an old pizza box. Yes, I really did that.

At the drop of a hat, this year I decided to resurrect my vampire, but this time he will be less cheesy and more genuinely creepy. In fact, I’m not even sure he won’t be a she–with a very flat chest. This time, he will be a priest raised from the dead as a vampire–or a priestess raised from the dead as a vampire. I guess in the latter case she’d have to be a Wiccan high-priestess or something, since Catholics still don’t allow women to be priests. I know, even though it’s supposed to be creepy, isn’t my new goth vampire idea still kind of corny and stupid? I kind of like that though.

By genuinely creepy, I mean she will be realistically deathlike. No more big black raccoon eyes and blood-red lips–no, this bitch is gonna have red lines around her eyes surrounded by deep grey shadow, and grey-red lips which fade toward the lip edge rather Brandon Vampire IVthan go over the edge drag queen-style. She won’t have thick, stark white, drag queen-style pancake foundation, either, but a thin, translucent veil of white reminiscent of a corpse washed ashore on the beach in Blackpool in the dead of winter. She will have long black hair, but the wig I have is too glossy, so I think I’m going to rub some dirt in it. And then I am going to stick some twigs in it. She has to look like she has just climbed her way out of the grave, you know.

Naturally, she will have fangs. How can you have a vampire without fangs? Mine are those theatre-quality fangs with the thermoplastic granules that you melt in hot water, stick into the fangs–which you press upward into your canines–and mould around your molars. The result is highly realistic, natural-looking, bloodsucking feline jugular-rippers.

Brandon Vampire XIXBut she will have black nails. I want a little bit of Vampira’s influence in there somewhere. I bought black nail polish because at first I thought I would just paint my nails black, but I have such stubby and unglamourous fingernails that I ultimately elected to buy the cheap, long, black, plastic, fake fingernails at the costume shop.

And of course there is the costume itself. My vampire won’t look sexy, not even in the kitschy 1950s Vampira way–I find that a bit predictable and passé. I do like that look, but I just want to try something different, and, besides, I don’t have Maila Nurmi‘s voluptuous, wasp-waisted physique, so I have decided to don a priest’s cassock. The cassock actually looks rather like a High Victorian bustle Brandon Vampire VIIdress without the bustle, including a short, tight-fitting bodice, so I think it suitable for a priestess who has just risen from the dead. On top I will wear a black, hooded mantle to create the appearance of a solid, matte, black column of unwelcoming gloom.

The cassock itself is something else–it was custom-made for me by the Victorian-style fashion designer Kambriel of North Carolina. I simply selected the article I wanted in the material I wanted and sent her my measurements. She produced a perfect-fitting cassock for me and sent it to me in the post, complete with a personalised handwritten thank-you note. It was a bit pricey–around USD$300–but for the style, quality, and service, perhaps it wasn’t.

I can’t remember where I came across Kambriel’s Web site, and it may be too late now to order any of her items in time for Halloween, but she crafts the most sumptuously beautiful garments, for both women and men. Just visit her site in the link above and browse her catalogue to behold some of her creations. Oh, and the wig Brandon Vampire XIIII bought came with a face-veil! So I can cover my ashen face with an ethereal, spiderwebby black net to scare the children! Madam Death. She will Fuck. You. Up.

I’m sure I’ll tweak the outfit a little more before Halloween, but you get the basic idea. I know it doesn’t sound very creative, but I like to look at Halloween costumes the way I look at dance music remixes: I prefer a complimentary homage to the classic, original version over a completely irrelevant oddball. The difference lies in the nuance. Maybe next year I will don a creepy vintage mask–I do love those–but I love makeup, and reinventing the classic vampire with an unexpected twist is a show of creativity in itself, isn’t it?

Or maybe I’m a witch.

A vampire-witch?

A witch raised from the dead as a vampire!





Cartman Looks Like Steve Strange!

16 07 2013

I’m sure you remember my post on Visage. Well, Steve Strange looks uncannily like Eric Cartman from Episode 3, Season 6 of South Park.

Cartman:

Cartman South Park My Hot Body II

Steve Strange:

Steve Strange IV

Is it just me, or is Cartman channelling early 1980s New Romantic gender-scepticism?





Visage Release a New Album!

15 05 2013

Visage - 2013 PhotoshootWatch out, Pet Shop Boys! Beat it, Depeche Mode! You have competition, Erasure! New Order, make another album goddamnit! Visage have regrouped and they are back in style with a new, fierce electronic dance album.

Much of what we love and remember about the ’80s was pioneered by a small group of kids who frequented a nightclub in London in the late ’70s and early ’80s called The Blitz. Among the patrons were Marc Almond of Soft Cell (“Tainted Love”), songwriter and DJ Princess Julia, and Boy George, who served as cloakroom attendant. But a very special patron of the club was Steve Strange, the notoriously androgynous genderfuck artist who hosted club nights at The Steve Strange and Princess JuliaBlitz and helped form Visage in 1978 along with Rusty Egan and Midge Ure. The band are best known for their hauntingly elegant synthpop anthems “Fade to Grey“, “The Anvil“, and  “Damned Don’t Cry“. (The gorgeous and talented Princess Julia also appeared in the video for “Fade to Grey”, while the enticing LA Richards appeared in the video for “The Anvil”.)

After 29 years, Visage have produced a new, original electronic dance album with Steve Strange serving seductive vocals alongside bassist Steve Barnacle, former Ultravox guitarist Robin Simon, and newcomer Lauren Duvall on vocals. (She matches Steve Strange in her vocal talent and reminds me of Claudia Brücken.) Some of the songs are rough dance-rock floor-stoppers, and others, sublime, emotional synthpop anthems. The result is modern, fun, crazy glamour–sound meets style and a masterpiece results. The album sounds surprisingly contemporary and fits in well with the current trend of nu disco and independent electronic music.

Shameless Fashion” is the first single from the new album. It reeks of unabashed playfulness and an unpretentious glorification of beauty, which I adore. “Never Enough” is a throbbing dance anthem which confronts the complicated nature of sexual desire and satisfaction. In “I Am Watching“, Steve tries to warn a potential victim of stalking by stalking the stalker. By far, the most glorious song on the album is “She’s Electric (Coming Around)“. The eerie guitars, icy synthesisers, and chugging bassline are accompanied by hauntingly poignant vocals which ask us, Who is she? Where is she coming from? What should we do? It is perhaps the most beautiful, mysterious, and challenging track from the new album.

It is strange that a band which pioneered the chic sound of the ’80s should take such a long sabbatical only to produce one of the most modern-sounding electronic dance albums of 2013. The album sounds like something Pitchfork would plug as indie electronica nowadays. It just goes to show that age doesn’t matter: do what your heart desires, and beauty will result. Visage have achieved this, even with their new alignment of band members.