Friday, May 30, 2008

Isabel Ice Smoking

Enjoying a ciggy has become so demonised it has been pushed into the very margins of society. It even comes with a multi-million pound government health warning. But, as we all know, bad is cool and cool is sexy and the porn world hasn't been slow to recognise the fetishistic potential of having a quick puff. Apparently there is a whole sub-genre in the adult entertainment industry featuring smoking porn stars. Here the lovely Isabel Ice, Wales's leading practitioner in the field, can be seen enjoying a transgressive nicotine break. Not sure if she's an actual smoker in real life or whether she's just acting in this clip but rarely since the heyday of Lauren Bacall has anyone looked quite so seductive with a fag in their mouth.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Sarah Vaughan in Cardiff

Here is a brief interview with blues/jazz singer “Sassy” Sarah Vaughan taken from a now defunct Cardiff newspaper in 1958. Fact fans will be interested to learn that the singer performed in Cardiff on three occasions - in 1953 (when she wore a scarlet dress), 1958 and 1963.

Sarah Vaughan Visits Cardiff

Sarah Vaughan looked lively and gay. She was relaxing in between shows when I saw her at the Capitol Theatre. Miss Vaughan, I said, why are you called Sassy? “I really don’t know – but I’d like a drink.” A drink arrived. With a glass of water in one hand she went on, “Al Hibbler gave me the name. I guess you’d better ask him.” We got onto singers. What do you think of Eckstine? “Billy? My favourite – I love him.” She was polite but apparently slightly resentful and stood staring at me behind very dark glasses. What do you think of Louis? “Louis? You mean Louis Armstrong? Oh my goodness what a question.” She burst into laughter. “Why I think he’s wonderful.” And Elvis? The smile faded. She became detached again. “Well it’s really not my type of music. I don’t go on rock and roll. I guess he’s nice - and rich. But I like the blues, good blues.” Sarah told me she was delighted to appear in Cardiff. She had heard that the Welsh appreciate music – even the blues. And how right she was.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Shameless Lovers

This is an interesting cover from the October 1962 edition of American movie magazine Photoplay. It shows Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor enjoying a pool-side snog. At the time both were married to other people. In typical tabloid fashion the mag is both censorious (text) and prurient (picture). The text reads:

"In Hollywood's history there has never been a love affair to equal that of Liz Taylor & Richard Burton. Indiscretion has been their motto; taste has been thrown to the winds. At this moment, though married to others, they pose for pictures that are sad testimony to what can happen when passion mocks morality."

Inside are another thirteen pictures of the couple behaving shamelessly.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Un-Faithfull in Swansea

At the Grand Theatre, Swansea, in 1975 the audience waited patiently. They were there to witness the opening of a new play The Rainmaker starring Marianne Faithfull. The curtain was due to go up at 7.30pm but there was a delay. Then came the announcement: Marianne Faithfull had failed to turn up. The half-capacity crowd was refunded and sent home.

Half an hour after the last of the disappointed theatre-goers had departed Faithfull finally waltzed in. She had caught the wrong train from London. In tears Mick Jagger’s former girlfriend informed reporters that the disaster was entirely her fault. Although she had committed many misdemeanours as a pop star this was the first time anything like this had happened during her thespian career.

The rest of the cast in the touring play were a bit miffed by her poor time-keeping. They had been forced to go amongst the audience to sign autographs and apologise for letting everyone down. Theatre administrator John Chilvers went further - he was “disgusted” with the female star and angry that no understudy had been around to step into her shoes. It was unprofessional.

Faithfull promised to apologise to the audience the following night but Chilvers vetoed the idea. They were a different set of people so what was the point in apologising to them? Oddly ticket sales were given a boost by her non-appearance. Punters were curious to see whether she’d turn up the next night. When she did walk on stage at the appointed hour a spontaneous burst of applause greeted her arrival.

Faithfull had put her no-show in Swansea down to having to take care of family business in London but basically she was just fed up with touring. When The Rainmaker blew into Cardiff a couple of weeks later the grumpy Hampstead actress gave her opinion of the capital to a local journalist: “I don’t think I have seen anywhere so awful in my life.”

Monday, May 19, 2008

China Vagina

Over the past few years Cardiff artist Ruth McLees has been catching the eye with her stylish artworks featuring images painted onto patterned fabric furnishings. Her figures are usually female and often reference film and fashion.

Recently she has designed an excellent range of ceramics using the female sex organs as a theme. The limited edition China Vagina collection features: The Golden Pussy (see pic); The World is her Oyster; Garden of Eden; Rape of Tibet; Zip it!; and The Orgasm.

Priced at (of course) £69 a plate they are not exactly cheap but worth it just to shock your dinner party guests. Just imagine the raised eyebrows after they’ve polished off their sausage, beans and mashed potato. I for one would be more than happy to lick the plate clean.

Both subversive and a celebration of the female form, they are a fine example of imaginatively designed ceramic art. You can find out more about McLees’ excellent work here.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Cardiff City Superstars - Wembley Mix

Football songs are always terrible except when Helen Love do them. Here they have updated their classic Dickies-influenced Cardiff City Superstars adding new lyrics to celebrate the Bluebirds’ triumphant march to Wembley. Listen out for Gruff Rhys on vocals doing a passable north Walian impersonation of Joey Ramone. Also check out some of the anti-British establishment lyrics, notably:

Alan Green and the BBC
We’re the team you didn’t want to see


We’re not going to save the queen

All sung to the theme tune of late '60s kids TV programme The Banana Splits. Marvellous!

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Marching Songs of the Free Wales Army

This is one of the odder musical purchases I've made recently. Marching Songs of the Free Wales Army consists of a selection of tunes played by Welsh nationalist Julian Cayo Evans on his accordian. A cosmopolitan and romantic collection it includes Welsh, Irish, Swedish, Polish and Breton favourites. Between tracks Evans talks about the trials (literally) and tribulations of being in the FWA.

My favourite line: "After being found guilty some of us were jailed for love of our country and for standing up for our rights on charges of training our fellow countrymen and possessing firearms... I give you here a selection of polkas."

To be honest I've never been a huge fan of the Free Wales Army - those uniforms just kind of killed it stone dead for me. When it comes to Welsh paramilitary organisations I always preferred the more left leaning MAC. They just seemed a bit more hardcore. But this CD, made from a recording in 1981, is historically interesting and worth getting hold of if you're into musical curiosities.

Expect to hear selections from this being played rather loudly in the coming weeks should Cardiff City win the FA Cup at Wembley on May 17th.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Augustus John and James Joyce

Cool picture alert. Irish Modernist giant James Joyce with Welsh bohemian fop Augustus John in Paris. It was 1930 and John was in the French capital to complete a sketch of the literary legend.

The Welshman was holed up in a studio in the Rue Delambre. It had a bar downstairs and food could be sent up. One problem though - John was disturbed by the bold pattern of his studio wallpaper. How could he eat in such surroundings? He remedied this dire aesthetic situation by locating a ladder and hanging strips of brown paper over the offending decor! Well, it's what we all would have done.

John completed several drawings of Joyce whilst in Paris. In return the Irishman gave him a French translation of Ulysses. Despite their vastly different personalities (Joyce was very austere) the two men got on surprisingly well. When they finally exchanged goodbyes they embraced in the continental manner.