My Guiltiest Pleasure

30 08 2011

It might just be what you expected, you creep, hoarding innumerable dusky italo gems yourself inside the hidden niches of your deep, dark, depraved mind. Yes, you have stolen my thoughts. These melodic, minimalist dance anthems were made for us to relish in unparalleled ecstasy, you knowing whore. The embarrassing relic of which I speak is the impeccable 1983 italo-disco classic “Hypnotic Tango”, by the band My Mine, from Perugia, Italy. (I was playing with my Barbie Dolls and watching Cyndi Lauper dance barefoot on MTV at the time.) Is it just me, or is the chorus absolutely infectious? I will not apologise for adorning each Youtube video of the song I can find with tokens of my adoration. Neither should you. It seems as though everybody who likes this stuff is either Latin American or Eastern European. Sigh. The trials of being cosmopolitan.

Please enjoy the comical version first, if simply to quench your thirst for the mockery of that which you yourself secretly desire:


And now you can unfetter that old, faggish heart of yours, crushed as it is into a hard, pressure-cooked stone by aeons of ugly homophobia, to savour the original version as it was meant to be savoured: with a nice lemon liqueur and a lonely, neglected turntable:

Now that you are smeared in a thick coat of shame, let us continue. What we will now do is re-create the same horrific and beautiful effect, bangs, mousse, and shoulder-pads intact, in a live video featuring strange clowns and not-so-naïve New Romantic hooligans cavorting in a sea of crazed faces. It’s so Almodovar it’s silly:

Ah. Exactly. You are mesmerized. Now that you have slavered over the gorgeous gem that is “Hypnotic Tango”, let me assault you with a live version of the song in which you can bury your teeth, eyes, and ears. Yum, yum. This is pure, unabashed space-disco, ladies, and he’s dancing for you and the gents:

Ah. Yes. All that messy tomfoolery. How did we lose it? How did we abandon eccentricity? Perhaps it was a backlash against Thatcher and Reagan, who were in power at the time. Perhaps conservatives antagonised the already-flourishing music and fashion movement of the late ’70s and early ’80s, causing it to blossom into something more carnivalesque than we could ever imagine in our wildest acid trip. O, the ebb and flow of weirdness. For some reason, while conservatives held power in both Britain and America, there was a strict counter-culture that said the exact opposite in fashion, make-up, hair, and dance beat. Eventually these may have blurred together through commercialism, but I think it originated in the norm versus punk and new wave culture.

And now hipsters are reinventing italo-disco like it’s the shit—and they should, because it is. That is why we have bad-ass record labels like Italians Do It Better and fly bands like Glass Candy, Desire, Chromatics, and Cosmetics—to pick up where seminal artists like Giorgio Moroder left off and to carry on the legacy of elegant cosmic disco tunes, but with a fresh, modern, psychedelic twist. Just listen to how forward-sounding the synthesised bassline of “Hypnotic Tango” is; it totally presages the frenetic trance sound of the late 1990s—and now it takes on a loping, somewhat lustier shape in the early 2010s indie disco scene, ready to leap in leopard skin on to the dancefloor.

The genius of the nu disco artists is that they re-marry dance beats with melody, meaningful lyrics, and live band performance while creating a fresh new sonic texture using innovative technology. The result is that you can dance to a cool, modern song on the dancefloor and sing to it at the same time without having to be on drugs. Thank goodness we have little gems like “Hypnotic Tango” to inspire a generation bred on lacklustre brain-garbage.

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Drag Queens and Christian Divas

13 08 2011

I just realized something the other day, and it strikes me as more uncanny the more it sinks in. Jan Crouch looks like Divine. Seriously. Scarily like Divine. The wigs, the crazy make-up, the charismatic, larger-than-life diva persona, the whole cosmetic case. But Jan Crouch is a televangelist who co-hosts the Christian program Praise the Lord on the Trinity Broadcasting Network, and Divine (who died in 1988) was a drag queen, singer, and actor who starred in John Waters films like Pink Flamingoes, Female Trouble, Polyester, and Hairspray and released a series of Hi-NRG dance hits like I’m So Beautiful, Walk Like a Man, and Native Love which have become cult classics in the gay and electronic music communities. How can a televangelist look so much like a drag queen? What in the world is the common denominator?

Above is a picture of Jan Crouch, and below, a picture of Divine.

I don’t know about you, but I sense a . . . ahem . . . celestial theme going on with both of these scrumptious, fragrant, poodle-like ladies. Maybe Jan Crouch and Divine were friends at some point and exchanged fashion tips. Maybe they read the little red words of Jesus in the same NIV Bible together, or went to drag shows together. Maybe they performed together, singing contemporary Christian hits or inspirational hymns, or maybe Hi-NRG disco tracks produced by Stock, Aitken, and Waterman (SAW). Or maybe they shared husbands in a polyamorous relationship. I like to think that maybe they became bosom buddies getting a boob job at the same boob job clinic. But I don’t know about that. I think Divine’s boobies were fake. Actually, come to think of it, I think Jan Crouch’s boobies are fake too. I guess that’s another thing they have in common.

To get an idea of what I’m talking about, watch this video clip of Jan Crouch (I couldn’t find a serious video of her; it’s not my fault they’re all parodies):

…and now, children, feast your eyes upon this hot, throbbing, strangely ethereal-sounding homage to Snow White (a song and video I salivate over constantly, handkerchief in hand) by the inimitable queen of early Hi-NRG herself, Divine:

Why do Jan Crouch and Divine want to share mascara wands so much? Maybe that last song sums it up in a nutshell. They’re both unabashedly, flagrantly beautiful. As goes the cliché: the higher the hair, the closer to heaven. Maybe they used to go to clubs in, like, Chelsea or the Castro and sing Christian hymns to a 4/4 dance beat backing track or something. Gay men *get* crazy, big-haired, hymn-clutching, oratorical Christian women—maybe because a lot of gay men were raised by these big ol’ Christian divas and found out, hey, they actually love me and don’t think I’m going to hell!

I think sometimes we take the Christian versus homo thing a bit too seriously, especially when it comes to drag queens and Christian divas and their unexpectedly beautiful, synchronistic relationships with one another. Often, I think, Christian divas are just being mouthpieces for their stodgy husbands while deep down inside they actually like homos. A lot. And for them this is a matter of sloughing off the old, putrid sludge of Biblical patriarchy, becoming their own woman, and honouring what they truly think and feel inside. Think of Tammy Faye Messner, who before she died actually had a talk show with a gay co-host and said in an interview she supported the gay community. I mean, Tammy Faye even appeared in gay pride marches with Lady Bunny and Bruce Vilanch. Yeah! I know! The old PTL televangelist became a fag-hag! She certainly didn’t do so because her husband or the Bible told her to do so; more likely, she did so because she identified with the community as a human with similar thoughts, needs, and emotions. (Wait. Tammy Fay Messner looks just like Divine too. Holy shit. It’s a movement.)

Christian divas and homos both love performance and caricature, over-the-top imagery, bombastic music, and blowing people’s minds out of the water with their big, overly–made–up, screaming, crying faces. It’s cathartic, just like praying to God, or the Madonna (in multiple senses—the mother of Christ, the singer, and the Goddess), so it’s inevitable that the one should identify with the other. Sadly, a lot of Christian divas and drag queens put on their look because they don’t like the way they look without it. In both we see a bittersweet mixture of sorrow and ecstasy, the tragedy which secretly haunts the clown.

Well, I think I may have just answered my own question.

All of that aside though, I’ll tell you what—both of these girls have amazing taste! I wish I had the balls—and tits—to go on T.V. and do movies looking like that. I wouldn’t want either of them to change a thing. Not a thing. Seriously. And not simply because I think I would be turned to stone if I saw one of them rising from their tomb, waking  up in the morning, getting off the toilet, or hopping out of the shower to go to Bible class or drag rehearsal. Religion and Bible crap aside, and looking just at their purely human essence, I think both drag queens and Christian divas offer a vivid, Technicolor glimpse at what sort of magical, otherworldly creatures we all secretly want to embody, and can if we’ll just undo the straps, put the foot to the pedal, and say, “What the fuck?”