Archive for June, 2009

Top Ten Gay Icons of All Time

June 29, 2009

What defines a gay Icon? Is it someone who gay people feel an admiration for such as Kylie, Cher etc? If this is the case then being gay does not necessitate being a gay icon? Or is it someone who has paved the way for gay rights like Harvey Milk, or David Norris- Political campaigners that have made gay life easier from those in the community? Or is it someone like Pete Burns or Marc Almond who brought homosexuality into pop culture, and in doing so, perhaps normalized it in everyday society. The answer is most likely a combination of all three groups, and I have tried to compile what I believe to be a fair list. I haven’t included anyone whose name wasn’t known ten years ago, as I think to be an icon, you must stand the test of time. Nor did I just pluck this list out of thin air; I went on to a number of gay forums and asked people for their opinions. The following is the result, feel free to disagree though, who’s to say who is an icon and who isn’t…

 

 

 

 

10. Ellen Degeneres

  Coming out oEllen-DeGeneres-s01n Oprah’s show and her own sitcom simultaneously was a brave move by Ellen Degeneres. 1997 was not an accepting time for homosexuality, certainly not in a clean cut, prime time sitcom based on what the world assumed was a normal straight lased witty woman. It seemed at first that this move wasn’t wise as ratings for Ellen plummeted and it was canceled soon after. Not to wither away however Ellen’s refusal to be ashamed at who she was ultimately won over conservative America and she now hosts her own chat show that rivals Oprah’s herself.

. Ellen was also the first mainstream show to have an LGBT main character and paved the way for other gay themed sitcoms like Will and Grace, and The L Word. Always witty, charming and beautiful, Ellen proved that normal people could be gay and proud.

 

 

 

 

9. Dusty Springfield

Described by Elton John as the best singer the world has ever known, (and if Elton John thinks so…) Dusty’s soul hasdusty graced many a gays vinal /cassette/cd player since her debut “A Girl Called Dusty” in 1964. Her subtly and frailty spoke to the gay masses and it was incidental that she herself was a lesbian. Her definitive album Dusty In Memphis, was one of the first R’N’B albums sung by a white woman and Dusty although modest was riding in the same lane as Aretha and Nina. Her sexuality was carefully disguised throughout her career though it is now known she had a number of female lovers. In fact it was widely regarded that she was actually quite a tomboy and it was only on stage when she left Mary behind and became Dusty that the star came out. Perhaps, like many a character in gay culture, Dusty was the drag act to a “Boy Called Mary”, as Kris Kirk baptized her.

 

 

 

 

8. Grace Jones

grace jonesIs Grace Jones a pop star? Is she an actress? It’s probably easier to label her as a work of visual art, transcending many mediums then to try and cram her into any one box. One object she unarguably is though is a huge gay icon. She took full advantage of her androgyny blurring the lines on femininity and what is it to be beautiful. Confusing men, both straight and gay into finding her attractive. Skin so black, legs so long, hair so tight. Grace Jones is all about extremes. It helped that she is famously the biggest diva to hit the globe since Cleopatra. Regular groupies of Jones will report that she often appears hours late, sings one or two obscure tunes, middle fingers the audience and runs off…only to appear minutes later as if nothing has happened. Why is it that gay men find strong women so appealing? For whatever reason it is, Jones has plenty of strength, both physically and in character. Easily fitting into number 8 on this list.

 

 

 

 

7. Quentin Crisp

It takes guts to be gay in today’s world. Homophobia is still very apparent and even in liberal circles there are stillQuentin_CrispR-1 leaps and bounds to go before being gay is as casual as eye colour. However back when Quentin Crisp was a little twink on the streets of London in the 1930s, homosexuality was a crime, worthy of jail time. Crisp refused to hide or apologize for being gay however. Instead of bottling himself up in the closet, he rebelled against secular society by exhibitioning himself in effervescent flamboyancy.  Living the life of a bohemian rent boy, he penned his life in his autobiography “The Naked Civil Servant”, and thus propelled himself in gay icon status. Celebrated just for being who he was, Crisp’s refusal to conform is admirable beyond belief.

 

 

 

 

6. Pet Shop Boys

pet shop boysOne thing that unites (most) gay men and women is a love of dance. From the Castro to Canal Street, gay clubs are known for their dance floors, and since the mid eighties the Pet Shop Boys have been supplying the paramount tunes to fill them. Always proud, yet never naff, they are one of the first mainstream gay acts that had also had a strong following from a straight audience. They were also notorious for resurrecting the careers of other major icons; in 1987 they released “What have I done to Deserve this” with entry number 9, Dusty Springfield, and in 1989 they produced Liza Minnelli’s album “Results”. Still as big as ever 25 years into their career, they are the biggest and most influential electro pop band of all time.

 

 

 

 

5. Bette Davis

The golden Hollywood era is a collage of gay icons, and picking one was not necessarily easy. Monroe, Dietrich, Kelly,Bette-Davis eve Dean and Crawford are all worthy of a place, and no doubt many think they are more iconic then the elusive Ms Davis, but if one observes from a distance and an unbiased eye, it is clear that Bette Davis is by far the biggest magnet for gay emblem status. Those staring eyes and tempestuous nature that she possessed both on and off the screen made her a living paradigm for drag acts to base themselves on. Unlike many of her peers, Bette never cared about looking pretty, and certainly never cared about playing a bitch. Whatever it is that attracts gay men to strong women, Bette had it in abundance, and she was never one for playing damsel in distress. A vixen in “Jezebel”, a Diva in “All About Eve” and down right psychopath in “What Ever Happened To Baby Jane”, one thing she was in every role, was a fixation for gay culture.

 

 

 

 

4. Madonna.

madonna 80sOK, so lets ignore the fact that her gay brother claims she’s a homophobe. And lets ignore the fact that she’s a bad actress and mediocre vocalist. For Madonna, it’s not about the finer details, it’s about representation, and entertainment, and none can deny Madonna’s talent for getting people to talk. More then any other artist of the past 30 years…or perhaps ever, Madonna has relied on the gay public for success. I personally don’t even know any straight person who likes her new music, but yet it sells, and she still gets number ones-a fine example of the power of the pink pound. Cutting her teeth in the gay clubs of New York, and forging a lifelong bond with gay culture, Madonna was the woman who brought Vouging into the mainstream, and revived the Dietrich “Butch Chic” look. If ever there was a gay man trapped in a woman’s body…

 

 

 

 

3. Boy George

The poster boy for androgyny, at least in his early days, Boy George was the pinnacle of the New Romantic period ofboy-george the 80s. When he first graced the music scene with The Culture Club people didn’t even know what sex he was. Never before had such blatant homosexuality been displayed before the watershed, and he was welcomed with a mixture of curiosity and distain. Unfortunately his later escapades (heroin addiction/getting arrested for chaining a rent boy to a radiator) overshadowed his musical ability and his impact on the gay community. It didn’t help that he ballooned in weight and people quickly forget the beautiful boy/girl creature he was in his youth.

Blurring the line regarding gender, whether you love him or hate him you cannot deny Boy George is nothing, if not iconic.

 

 

 

 

2. Judy Garland

The fact that the phrase “Are you a friend of Dorothy?” became the international code for “Are you gay?” would nearly be enough on it’s own to ensure Judy a place on this list, however Judy’s influence in gay culture delves far deeper. Judy_Garland_1939Unlike Bette Davis or Joan Crawford, who represented the bitch factor in gay life, Judy represented its sensitive underbelly. It sounds pessimistic to say that the reason gay men related to her was due to her tragic existence, which reminded them of their own tragic life, however there may be more then a vein of truth to it. She was of a time when being gay was still very much inviolable, and her life seemed like a mirror held up to her gay fans. It’s no coincidence that her death in 1969 coincided with the Stonewall riots, a landmark in the gay rights voyage.  Perhaps she cannot claim 100% of the credit, however her death was the straw that broke the camels back and her affliction with the community gave them strength to fight. A performer of the highest degree, Judy Garland will be remembered fondly by the gay community forever more. Her tragic life lead the way for a more comfortable one for the queers. 

 

 

 

 

  1. Oscar Wilde

Over 100 years after his death, Oscar Wilde is still seen as the quintessential homosexual man. As famous for his lust for a peaches and cream twink, as he was for his literary works, his decipherable portrait is the most widely recognized gay symbol after the rainbow.

Born in Dublin in 1854, he became obsessed with beauty from an early age, which became major themes in many of his works. A Picture Of Dorian Gray is fundamentally an ode to the beauty of man, written in an age where homosexuality was a crime worthy of hard labor and imprisonment; it was a brave step on Wilde’s part to write such a novel. Although no actual act of sodomy is mentioned, it is dripping with homoeroticism and innuendoes. His short story The Happy Prince was a children’s story, and so was lacking the vulgarity hinted in Dorian Gray, however many see the story as a metaphor for vanity in gay culture. Unfortunately Oscar was brought to trail in 1895 and sentenced to two years hard labor for gross indecency. For a dandy like Wilde, prison was not an easy transition and he died a mere 3 years after his release, penniless and shamed.

His legacy still lives on however and history has been kind to him. While not as open as Crisp nor as vivacious as the icons that came decades after, Oscar represents the intellectual gay, and the depiction of man (or boy) as beautiful. We must remember how times have changed since he skedaddled around the whorehouses of London, and how uncouth being gay was. However he paddled forward in his creativity and we owe him gratitude for his determination.

Oscar_Wilde_bored

 As voted by the members of gaydar and fitlads, Oscar Wilde was deservedly named the biggest gay icon of our times.

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Film review-Lake Tahoe 4/10

June 26, 2009

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A warning for all those fervent toward fast cars and big explosions, Lake Tahoe is probably not the film for you. Moving at a velocity a snail could overhaul, it is very much about creating at atmosphere rather then telling an intricate plot. 

We meet Juan, a melancholy 16 year old who crashes his car and on his search to find the damaged component, he meets an aging dog lover, a chain-smoking single mother and a kung-fu obsessed mechanic. Juan saunters back and forth between these characters for the majority of the film while also stopping home a few times to check in on his little bro. It’s all very arty and profound of course, but regrettably not very entertaining. When we eventually do find out what’s eating away at our hero, we’ve lost all interest. Reeking of the high brow “less is more” attitude I suspect this emperor isn’t wearing any clothes.

 

Director: Fernando Eimbcke

Starring: Diego Cataño, Hector Herrera, Daniela Valentine 

Running time: 85 min

Interview with Alias Empire

June 18, 2009

Alias Empire can been seen gigging throughout various hotspots in the city that is Dublin.  And they are rather good, no seriously. You might know them under their previous Alias (see what I did there) Dry County. Their debut “Unexpected Falls” earned them plenty of esteem and garnered them a Choice nomination that they lost out to Super Extra Bonus Party (and where are they now eh eh?)

I caught up with them to talk about 2nd Baptisms, taking over the UK, and Space Invaders.

alias empire3

 

 

 

 

Why the need to change the bands name? Was it a unanimous decision within the band or were there some rows? 

 

Apart from the fact that there is a Canadian rock band called Dry County we just felt we need a name that wasn’t so genre specific. We felt that the name “Dry county” maybe held us back from gaining new fans because they might think we are a country rock band. It suited when we started out and the type of stuff we were doing then, but as we evolved musically the name didn’t make as much sense anymore. We always fell victim to lazy journalists who called us “Dry Country” which annoyed us haha.

 
And why Alias Empire?

 

As I mentioned before, it’s a name that isn’t as genre specific and we fell it will evolve with us, whichever direction we chose to take musically.

How have fans reacted to the new name?

 

There hasn’t been any complaints yet anyway, people have started taking to it quite positively. We’ve set up a new Website www.aliasempire.com where fans can set up a free account. There they can download ep, wallpapers etc. There is our own version of space invaders too. We plan on adding more stuff and making it more interactive: having competitions etc. We all liked the idea of not having a barrier between band and audience, like a lot of bands do.

Your releasing your debut album Unexpected Falls in the UK presently, will you be going back into the studio soon?
If so what can we expect from your second album?

 

There are about 5 or 6 songs written at the moment for our second album, butwe’re currently concentrating on releasing the first in the UK. The songs we have written so far are defiantly heavier and more synth based. Less guitar. We have been playing some of them live recently and the seem to be going down pretty well with fans.


You played at both Oxegen and Electric picnic in the past, which festival did you prefer, and will you be playing at either this summer?

 

They’re both very different crowds. Oxegen gets a younger crowd while Electric Picnic gets an older crowd, often families. Personally we prefer EP as it’s more laid back and has a more eclectic mix of bands. We’re not currently doing either festival this year, but we are certainly open to offers.

 

 

Alias Empire play in Whelans, 26/6 at 20:00

Nafftastic-Emma Bunton

June 18, 2009

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Sweet Ms Bunton.

 

Even if she becomes a suicide bomber or Sarah Palin’s lover, she will always be remembered as the cute girl from the Spice Girls. She was the one that your mother would have liked you to date, sweet, a little cheeky, and definitely pretty, but perhaps not as sexy as Geri, or as cool as Vicky. She discreetly shared the lead vocals with Mel C on most of their big tracks. Yeah I know your probably surprised at that but if you listen to Stop, 2 Become 1, Goodbye, Too Much and loads and loads of others, it is Emma’s vocals that lead the chorus, while Mel C can be heard screaming away in the background.

 

But I’m getting way to into the Spicy women here. What I set out to do in writing this was to shed a little light on her fragile and underappreciated solo career. To do this though, it’s impossible not to compare her to her fellow band mates. It’s generally accepted that Mel C had the most credible solo career, and to be fair perhaps she deserves it. She is a keen songwriter, she has a decent voice (if a bit metallic) and is a great live performer. I saw Mel C live in 2003, and she was really good. She had energy and a great band, but one thing was slightly askew. Her songs. Yeah ok, she had some clever numbers from her debut, but the highlights on her second were of a duller nature, and as her catalogue grew, the quality of her material went down the drain. Almost the exact opposite happened with Emma’s Career. Her debut “A Girl Like Me” was released, most probably because Emma felt releasing a solo album was the natural thing to do, and it was a slightly lackluster affair. “What Took You So Long” was a fun and breezy experiment in gentle acoustic pop, and if you listen to it just at 2:08 it almost, almost sounds like she’s saying, “I’ll suck you all night”. It was to be Emma’s only number one hit, and the album followed soon after. Unfortunately the album was as bland as pie, and apart from one or two catchy numbers, was instantly forgettable.

 

It seemed little Baby Bunton’s career in music was over. Her voice was sweet and easy to listen to but it was painfully obvious that had Emma not been in the Spice Girls, “A Girl Like Me” would never have been released.

 

However…a few years later, Emma released “Free Me”. And it was the perfect pop album. It came from nowhere, suddenly she found this genre of music that she felt comfortable in. It was still pop, but had a 60’s sound to it, a little Austin powers, a little James Bond. Her voice suddenly gained range. Imagine that, a Spice Girl with range!! “Free Me” was the first solo Spice Girl album (aside from Mel C’s Northern Star) that deserved a place on the charts. And it was the first real indication that perhaps Emma would have had a musical career regardless of her history with the girls. Lacking any filler whatsoever it consisted of 12 retro Motown numbers that made you want to rent a speedboat in the Caribbean. If any album was meant to be played in summer…

eb3Maybe was the only real hit off the album, yet by the time the album was released, Spice fever was well over and for the first time, being a Spice girl was more likely to hinder your career then help it. Had the same album been released by another singer, and had the same amount of airplay, it would have sold far more, and reviews would have been better. It still did do well, and reviews still were quite good, but for such a stellar and unique album, it deserved better.

 

“Free Me” is Emma’s definite 46 minutes of music, but not her last. She released her third and final album (to date) “Life In Mono” in 2006.

 

It is a subtler number then “Free Me” and not nearly as commercial. Continuing with the 60’s theme she added a French sass to it, while still in keeping with modern music. Unfortunately, unmusical and unrespectable record companies were frightened by the albums seemly lack of a hit single, so asked her to cover some naff songs of the genre she was toying with. “Downtown” did not need to be rehashed, and no one but Doris Day will ever be able to sing “Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps”. However they were stuck on the end of the album like a prosthetic limb.

One cover that most certainly did deserve to be on the album however was it’s namesake, “Life In Mono”. Siobhan de Mare originally recorded the song, but it sounds like it was designed for Emma’s Silky vocals. It is without a doubt the best song she has ever leant her voice to, including the herb days. The only single to come from the album was “All I Need To Know” (I don’t count Downtown) which didn’t even make it into the top 50. It was never going to reach number one, but that didn’t matter.

 

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I don’t know if Emma is going to release another album, “Life In Mono” only sold about 3 copies. I would love to sit her down and give her some advice. First of all, she needs to get off her arse and do some touring. You have to be Kate Bush nowadays to release albums and not tour. She has sung to huge crowds all around the world so gathering a little band and playing to small clubs wouldn’t be an issue for her. The difference between her and Mel C is that Mel is confidant in her music. She believes it is good, and this comes across in her performances. Emma though, seems shy. She can sing just as well as plenty of other solo singers, Christina or Mariah she is not, but she has just as good a voice as Katie Melua or Dido.

Come on Emma, Your better then the Spice girls, prove it…. 

 

 

Check out her version o Life of Mono,  its brillo pad

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot’, Interview with Actor Megan Riordan and Director Matt Torney

June 18, 2009

Judas Iscariot, the benchmark for any traitor right? Betraying with a kiss, selling his soul for a few pieces of gold, and committing suicide before he even gets to spend it. The poor chap gets a bad rap in the Bible. Not to get too theological here, but without him, Jesus would never have been crucified, and the most famous story of all time would not exist. Whether you believe in God or not, no one can deny his impact in Christian belief, yet is his depiction of evil perhaps unjust?

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When Stephen Adly Guirgis wrote The Last Days Of Judas Iscariot, he wanted to cast a fair light on the infamous kiss and tell. Set in downtown purgatory, it is a dark courtroom drama/comedy where a lawyer who believes in divine mercy above divine justice is appealing Iscariot’s sentence of eternal damnation. Calling in witnesses as diverse as Sigmund Freud to Satan himself, the original off-Broadway production (which was directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman) received rave reviews and is currently the most preformed play in American High Schools. Making it’s debut in Ireland this July, we spoke to lead actor Megan Riordan, and Director Matt Torney on why they decided to bring it to Dublin

 

 

Judas is often considered as the ultimate betrayer, yet “Last Days” seems to cast him in a favorable light, or at least a fair light. Will the audience relate with his character?

 

Matt:    What’s interesting about the play is that Megan’s character (Judas’ Defense attorney) decides to appeal Judas’s soul; Her grounds for defense is that on one hand God is meant to have this unconditional love for all his people yet he is essentially using Judas so that prophesies can be fulfilled. Judas has prepared an essential part in preparing the way for Christ to die on the cross for our sins, and now has to take the rap.

All the characters that come in to testify have a different opinion on what should happen to him. For example Mother Teresa is one of the witnesses, and she believes because Judas committed the sin of despair (i.e. suicide) he has chosen to lock himself into his own personal hell. In this regard we can’t comment if the audience will like, or dislike Judas. There are so many arguments put forward it’s up to people to make their own mind up.

 

 

Would you say the play is pro religion, anti religion or is it simply using religion as a tool to examine human behavior?

 

Matt: Interesting question, the writer Stephen Adly Guirgis focuses on religion in many of his works,

Megan: He grew up with a very strong Catholic faith, for him, the story about Judas is what turned him away from religion, or at least prompted him to question it. He uses biblical characters to examine different aspects of human nature. For example, several of the apostles represent a different aspect of humanity. St. Peter represents human strength, Simon represents anger and Thomas is weakness and doubt. Jesus himself represents Heart, and Love.

Matt: There is an interesting scene actually, when Judas and Jesus meet for the first time since his betrayal, and Judas rejects Jesus’ embrace stating, “Why didn’t you make me good enough to be loved by you?”

 

 

 

The themes of the play are good vs. evil, litigation and compassion. These are heavy subjects and may lead people to think the play is quite dark, and somber, this is not the case though am I correct?

 

Megan: No not at all, using such heavy topics could lend itself to an intense and serious play, on a par with going to church, but actually the play is incredibly funny. The writer is so talented, that he can create brilliant characters that are so well crafted, each have their own form of humor, the setting of New York brings plenty of comedy with it. He pokes fun at religion and peoples attitudes towards it. It’s interesting to see St. Monica depicted as a ghetto Latino New Yorker.

 

 

meg2Your set designer Kara Zeigon works for Law and Order, I take it the set for :Last Days” is something special then?

 

Megan: Yes she is one of the permanent staff for law and order…you may recognise some set pieces from the show actually (laughs), but yes she has plenty of experience with TV, and music videos,

Matt: She is based in New York. The two of us worked on the design in the US earlier this year, and she’s arriving in Dublin just before we take it to stage.

 

 

And the play was originally directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman. They are some big shoes to fill, any pressure Matt?

 

Matt:  No not really, I think the play is very suitable to Ireland, with its strong Catholic background, and I’ve enjoyed exploring that relationship.

Meg: I think New York and Ireland have a strong relationship. The play could almost be set in Inner city Dublin rather then the New York streets, as there’s something parallel and charming about their ubiquitous similarities. The setting is almost a lens to look though the issues

 

 

 

The Last Days of Judas Iscariot by Stephen Adly Guirgis

Project Arts Centre – Space Upstairs

9-18 JULY ~ Tickets €15 & €10 | 7:30PM

Preview(s) 7-8 JULY ~ €10 | 7:30PM

BOOKING: 01 881 9613 or www.projectartscentre.ie

Hollow Towers-Early Days

June 3, 2009

Hollow Towers

Lets face it there are dozens upon dozens of new indie bands springing up around Dublin like weeds in a cobble lock drive way. Plenty of these bands are fine musicians, fine song writers and fine performers, half filling up various venues in Dublin with their mates, parallel bands and eager groupie scene hitters. It can get tedious though admit it, when another mate of yours who plays guitar says, “come to my gig”, or even worse, when a mate of yours says, “come to a friend of a friend of a friends gig”.  All these weedy bands melt into each other to form one bland mass of ok music that you know will never venture outside of their mates Ipods. The point of this ridiculously long introduction is that if you root through these weeds occasionally you will find a wild flower that deserves to be taken out of the weed patch and placed in a garden where it can be appreciated. Hollow Towers are the band I’m referring to in this mediocre metaphor. A side project/second band to Star crossed enemies; Hollow Tower’s first single Early Days fuses theatrical rock with syrupy integrity without causing nausea. Possibly the catchiest song to infiltrate my ears in quite some time, lyrically it chronicles breakup with lead singer Bribry pining at a lost love professing her to “take my heart from the ground”. It’s actually quite rare for a male vocalist to be so honest about leaving a relationship with scars and Vocally; Bribry’s range is impeccable.  Go check them out. You heard it here first.

http://www.myspace.com/hollowtowers