mercredi 29 août 2012

Keeping up with the Geordie Way is Chelsea

I got in trouble with my sister the other day for asking a 12-year-old if she watched Geordie Shore.  Until I saw the shocked look on her face, I’d thought this was a reasonable question to ask.

The first time I saw it myself, I had a full on ‘Shocked of BN1’ reaction to the whole thing.  You know, the piles of vomit, the ‘f*** hut’, the weird slang (worldy, tash on, mint, etc).  All of it.  Then after a few episodes – yes, I’ve watched that many – I started thinking it was all rather… sweet.  Charlotte’s my favourite – I think she’s hilarious and a lovely girl, if a little misguided (especially in her love for Gaz and her belief that they’re like ‘two otters on a log’ when he really doesn’t agree).  I also like Vicky, as she seems quite sensible, considering (not so keen on Ricci, though).

As you can see, I’ve been quite drawn in.  The thing is, now that I’m writing YA fiction in my spare time, I feel like I ought to keep up with this sort of thing.  That’s what I tell myself now that I just can’t tear myself away.  Must.  Keep.  Watching.  (Yes, this is *fine* – it’s research, practically work.)

I’ve never really been into Big Brother or particularly The X Factor or any of the big reality shows.  However, I’ve got quite keen on some of the more ‘niche’ (shall we say?) programmes.  It started with The Simple Life, which I still kind of adore (yes, I love Nicole Ritchie) – haven’t been so keen on Paris Hilton’s solo efforts since, and am fairly disgusted with myself for having an opinion on her at all.

These days, I really, really love Keeping Up With the Kardashians (my world has genuinely been rocked by the recent news that Kris and Bruce Jenner may split up – I am keeping all my fingers crossed that they won’t; I bloody love Bruce Jenner).  I am also grudgingly very fond of TOWIE and Geordie Shore.

I tried Made In Chelsea and couldn’t sit through an episode.  I think the difference is clear: the kids on that show have been chosen because their parents are well-off/well-connected; the casts of Geordie Shore and TOWIE are there because they are the most glamorous/funniest/most disgusting of anyone else in their town.  It may be a weird meritocracy, but it’s a meritocracy all the same.

Although, I read an article recently that I loved.  It said that the more people become famous through shows like this and other such ephemeral media, the less famous they will be.  It’s constantly being diluted.

There are so many channels now that it would be impossible for everyone to watch all of them, so we are no longer all looking at the same thing – none of these people are ‘famous’ to all sectors of the population.  In fact, a large percentage of people would not know who they were.

Thus, it would be impossible now for anyone to be as famous as, say, the Beatles or even Michael Jackson.  There’s simply too much stuff going on.

Which is why all those people complaining about reality TV (while wearing Boden and eating their organic cous-cous and never having watched it in their lives)  should actually be encouraging it – the more of it there is, the sooner it will die out.

Yes, it’s true: pop will literally eat itself.

dimanche 26 août 2012

Want List

It’s getting to that time of the summer when I start to think about what I want to wear in the autumn and try to get a head-start on hunting it out.  So far, the list looks like this:

High-necked, Edwardian dresses; a chambray shirt; excellent riding boots; studded ankle boots; black velvet knickerbockers; a smart jacket, maybe a Westwood-y twisty one.

You know what it’s like, you think up a new way of dressing and suddenly it’s the only way – everything else is wrong.  I can’t wait for the autumn.

mercredi 22 août 2012

Mistress of the Dark

When I was 16/17, I regularly used to stay round at my friend Louise’s house for days at a time when her parents went away (which they did a lot).  We would consume a lot of tea and toast, smoke cigarettes and drink wine.  It was great.

In between talking and listening to Placebo – again, a lot – we would watch films for hours on end.  While drinking tea/wine and smoking fags.

Our favourite films for these occasions were: The Labyrinth (we could both, basically, recite the entire thing for you, songs and all, right now), Clue (we love Tim Curry), Charles Worthington’s Big Hair (it came free with a hairdryer and is surprisingly entertaining), and Elvira: Mistress of the Dark.

I had never heard of Elvira before I met Lou (one of the many ways she changed my life for the better).  I was immediately obsessed and still am.  On the back cover of the video, they call her ‘Cher crossed with Beetlejuice’ – does it get any better?

Lou and I both coveted Elvira’s look wildly and would spend hours trying to recreate it (Lou more skilfully than I).  It’s still a look that I totally fetishise (see also: Bettie Page, Barbarella, Cher herself), mostly because I am too lazy to pull it off, but for a long time I tried.  Huge hair (that very particular massive-on-the-top vs. skinny at the ends – the holy grail), perfectly feline exaggerated eyeliner, corseting, high heels.  Cher crossed with Beetlejuice is a good analogy, as is Morticia Addams crossed with Traci Lords.

The amazing look is accessorised with abandon – a customised ‘50s muscle car, a dyed poodle, a haunted house, etc.  It is also complemented with a wickedly witty and filthy script.  Elvira is not only a hot goth, she’s effing hilarious.

Sample one-liners:
‘Hi, I’m Elvira – but you can call me…tonight.’
‘No, but if you hum a few bars I’ll fake it!’
‘Well, here’s to my big opening!  Ahem…’

The story is almost irrelevant but it goes thusly: Elvira is sacked from her job as a cable TV B-movie hostess, but then finds out that she’s been left the entire estate of her recently-deceased Aunt Morgana, who she had never met.  She travels to the small town where her aunt lived and finds not only a long-lost creepy ‘uncle’ and a hot local builder, but a whole host of conservative townsfolk who think she’s a witch.  So, you know, can she protect her inheritance, get the guy AND avoid being burned at the stake?  Needless to say, hilarity ensues.

Like her look, it’s the perfect mix of goth-glam-comedy.  Just when it’s total cool B-movie pastiche, she does a Flashdance routine!

During the summer holidays, we would watch it most days, joining in with our favourite jokes.  We’d then watch Charles Worthington’s Big Hair and try to recreate Elvira’s beehive.  Then smoke some fags and listen to Placebo.

I still love Elvira and have frequently been astounded at the array of merchandise available on eBay: from action figures to cardboard cut-outs to pinball machines.  If ever I have a house that will fit it all in, I swear one day I’m going to snap and go Elvira merch crazy.

The much-delayed 2002 sequel, Elvira’s Haunted Hills, is not quite up to the original in the classic stakes.  However, it’s still worth a watch.  Because, you know, who doesn’t want to watch Elvira and Richard O’Brien running around a graveyard together?  No-one I’m interested in hanging out with, that’s for sure.

Next Hallowe’en – or next time you’ve got some time on your hands and feel like a bit of comedy-goth-horror-glamour in your life – I’d highly recommend digging out Elvira.

Unpleasant dreams…

dimanche 12 août 2012

My Vogue Interview

I remember, back in the late 90s, when the back page of Vogue would always be the same series of questions asked to a famous/fashion person.  I love this sort of stuff, as we know.  (Does everyone always imagine their own answers to these sort of interview questions, or am I just really, misguidedly self-important?)

One of the questions was always ‘what would you add to an outfit of black trousers and black T-shirt to make the look your own?’.  I remember at the time (OK, I *may* have written down this fictional interview in my diary), my answer was (guys – remember, it was 1998!): ‘studded leather wristbands, my Miu Miu cargo bag* and a lot of eyeliner’.  Nice.

When not-asked the last clothing purchase I made, I also proudly replied: ‘cherry-red Capri pants from Gap’.  You know, just like in that oh-so cool advert where they were swing-dancing.  Sooo, we might not want to give these answers too much weight.

Weirdly, I was also answering them as if it were the future and I was now an actual famous/fashion person, too (who, um, bought red trousers from Gap and wore studded leather wristbands?) – during the ‘interview’ I shoehorned in some blithe references to my house in Notting Hill, my lovely children and rock star husband (who, you know, had the same name as my schooldays boyfriend).

Anyway, for some reason I thought of this and it got me thinking: what would I answer now?

Although studded leather wristbands were a bit weird/tacky/90s – I had two of them, which I would wear on both wrists, most of the time – they were the obvious answer.  I had a strong look.

Now it’s not so clear-cut.  I think my look would depend more on the proportions of the trousers (skinny) and the T-shirt (not too tight), but that’s not the point.

So, what makes me look like myself?

I would say: a flat shoe, my Sofia clutch bag, a strong lip, a massive watch, messy hair (with fringe, obv), possibly a scarf.

I feel like this will never change – but then again, I felt the same way about my punk-bracelets and Barry M eye kohl.  Then again, I’m still doing fake-interviews with myself, so maybe I haven’t actually changed that much.

Incidentally, another question was: ‘what’s your most overused phrase?’  My charmingly quaint, 1998 answer: ‘hold on, I’ve got someone on the other line’ (call waiting was quite new and exciting).  Sounds glamorous if you don’t know that I’m on the phone to my friend Rachael, and on the other line is aforementioned Schooldays Boyfriend ringing to say he will be standing me up tonight because he has a very important band practice, before I resume my call with Rachael in tears.  Such is the life of a famous/fashion Vogue interviewee.

* As I was discussing on Twitter recently – remember how in the late 90s, Miu Miu was genuinely a fun and affordable diffusion brand?  That bag was less than £200; I loved it and I still have it.  Miu Miu is so spendy now, it’s ridiculous.  I often see things I like from there and think ‘yay, Miu Miu’ then realise it’s three times more than I could afford for the most special treat.

mardi 7 août 2012

Dangerous Angels

Weetzie Bat and its author, Francesca Lia Block, had been at the peripheries of my consciousness for ages.  But not in any meaningful way.

I think the Weetzie Bat books are a big deal in the US but not so much here – not many people who I have mentioned them to in this country have ever heard of them.  However, there was a recent run on Weetzie Bat themed fun in my favourite online magazine, Rookie.  This was enough to make me finally investigate, so I thought I’d go the whole hog and buy all of the Dangerous Angels books.

At first, I’ll admit, I was unimpressed.  Like, ‘Really?  Seriously?  Is this it?  You’ve got to be kidding me!’ unimpressed.

It was like the kind of stuff I wrote when I was 15 and first got into magic realism, affected little stories about me and my friends, under thinly-veiled and very silly pseudonyms, giving weird importance to mystical tattoos and leather jackets and feather earrings, with a huge dose of wish-fulfilment behind the inclusion of magical happenings and wishes granted and hipster fairy godmothers.  And this was written by a grown woman who was supposed to be a ‘proper’ author as opposed to dreamy GCSE teenager.  Jeezus Louise-us.

Then, about halfway through the first Weetzie Bat book, something happened.  I started to get really into it.  I was sucked in and taken back in time and none of the rest of that stuff mattered.

Yes, the girl is still really called Weetzie Bat.  The story involves her being granted magical wishes, given a free pink house and wishing for ‘a Duck for Dirk!’.  Yes, she meets the true love of her life and he is called My Secret Agent Lover Man.  Weetzie and Dirk and Duck and My Secret Agent Lover Man live in Shangri-LA, and they are covered with feathers and glitter and miracles happen (but then they also eat tacos and go to punk gigs and call everything ‘slinkster cool’) and it’s kinda supernatural but all a bit cutesy.

It sounds worse on paper than it actually turns out to be.

I devoured the lot, the entire series, and found myself looking forward to reading more every day.  The story continued, to involve Witch Baby and Cherokee and Raphael and Angel Juan and The Jayne Mansfield Fan Club and I totally drank the Kool-Aid.

In fact, now I only feel sad that I didn’t read Weetzie Bat when I was actually 15.  Can you imagine how much I would have loved it?  In the end, I kind of love it now.  If I had read it back then, I think it might actually have changed my life.

vendredi 3 août 2012

I am not 17.

I am really bad at remembering how old I am.  It’s like I have no concept.

This was really brought home to me at a recent party, where the guests were a varied mix of ages and I found myself stuck somewhere in the middle – older than the kids, younger than the parents.

I was instantly befriended by a very sweet four-year-old girl, who decided that I was her new best friend.  ‘We’re not sisters, just friends – but I really, really love you,’ she told me very solemnly, once we had known each other for a few hours.  She sat on my knee throughout lunch and we spent the day walking around, holding hands and playing imaginary games.  Her mother and other assorted guests all said how good I was with her and how very helpful and nice.  I was so happy that this little girl loved me so much.  I was her favourite!  I was great at this!

Then it turned out I wasn’t.  This little girl was not only cute but quite bright, and she could soon sense a weak link.  I wasn’t good at looking after her like a mum or a babysitter – I was more like another four-year-old.  She said she wouldn’t be my best friend any more if I didn’t let her have more cake/jump off a high wall/try on my high heels – so of course (because I am tragic) I relented.  My sister, who is actually a nursery teacher, laughed and laughed at me for managing to get myself conned into this, due purely to flattery that she liked me best.  By the end of the day, I had let her run around so much and eat so many sweets that she fell over and then threw a massive over-tired tantrum.  I had a minor panic and had to go and fetch her mum.

Later in the evening, once my small charge had gone home, I could be found smoking fags and dancing to Pulp with a trendy 17-year-old.  I kind of forgot that we weren’t the same age as we talked about bands and boyfriends and the meaning of life until deep into the night.

Then ‘Live Forever’ by Oasis came on.

‘Oh, I love this song!’ she exclaimed.  ‘It came out the year I was born!’

I was genuinely shocked.  When that song came out, I went to Virgin Records to buy it.  My teenage boyfriend used to do a cover of it in his band and I would sing along at gigs.  I don’t know which of us was more shocked at the revelation of this discrepancy.

I really don’t want to be seventeen again, but sometimes I really do forget that I’m not.