Friday, September 29, 2006

Life imitates mockery

Ever feel that life is mocking you? Tempted to say, "no that is for self absorbed drama queens." I couldn't agree more. Well, until today. Tell me what you think. Last night I went to bed flipping through London Lite, and the other freebie with the funny font, with smug satisfaction over how faintly dowdy Gwynnie was looking these days. Now don't label me a nasty popsugar witch just yet. There is a little celebrity schadenfreude in all of us. And c'mon the macrobiotic, teetotaller, Prada wearing 'earth' mother, is the international face of Estee Lauder (who control 40% of the global cosmetics market, incidentally) so somebody whose opinion counts for multi-millions thinks differently.

But that was not the mockery. No, that came this morning on my run (post late night blog and Rioja binge) around Hyde Park. There I was galloping (okay, maybe that was the horses) past the Italian Fountains listening to the Arctic Monkeys on my Ipod (in honour of Gordon Brown's music taste) when I looked up to see none other than Gwynnie herself, replete with cascading over bleached hair (meow!) obviously trying to inspire the Rapunzel trend, shuffling (us runners can be ruthless) her way past with some 50 cent look-alike security bloke a few paces behind.

All of which left me wondering two things: is Coldplay on her Ipod; and if the alcohol and gluten free mum who finds inspiration in fruit and Kabbalah needs constant supervision, why doesn't Pete Doherty?

But that is enough about the waste of talent that is Steven Spielberg's god daughter and Brad Pitt's old fiancee (forgot about that, didn't you?), we have real trivia to spend our Friday skive time thinking about. So without further ado, we have the 9th edition of City Slicker's "Week's Action, Weekend Reaction."

1) Has all the drama surrounding size 0-0 models left you craving a bit of decadent flesh? React by checking out the Beryl Cook collection at the Portal Gallery. Cook's famous paintings of fat, ordinary, unassuming people combined with her trademark playful streak of vulgarity and naughtiness should be just the clinical catwalk antidote. Not open Sundays. Until 21 October.

2) Are the endless reports of soaring personal debts and bankruptcy rates, leaving you feeling guilty every time you splurge on noodles out at Wagamama's? React by reading Beyond Baked Beans: Budget a series of unpatronising , easy-to-follow recipes to help you start cooking for yourself without draining the overdraft. Invaluable for the single or flatmate shared city dwellers cupboard.

3) Does today's picture leave you less than convinced by Estee Lauder's miracle makeover powers? React by checking out the latest London make-up craze: all natural, mineral-based cosmetics. Leading the way is a range called Lily Lolo based in Farringdon. They ship next day samples of all their products for 99p/each. Annoyingly, granola Gwynnie would probably approve.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

London's love-in

When you run out of real news you commission a survey. Or so the media does all too often. What would Metro do without inane polls to fill its pages every morning? But just who are these people that get surveyed? Why are we never included? Do you have to actually have a gas bill in your name, have voted for your local MP, and have an MOT not an Oyster? If so, it is no wonder the latest Love in London report, missed out the average Londoner. Or maybe the 647 strong 'representative' sample is a better gauge than my single (and no, not spinster) circle of mates.

So without further ado, according to the latest report: 25% of you (note my discreet absolution) are having four dates a week, a quarter are in it just for sex and one in five residents of Clapham, Fulham and Wimbledon go on just one date a week, compared to 51% of randy south-east Londoners.

See where my incredulity stems? Who are these people? Even if we count those live-in couple's 'let's have a date night' attempts to rekindle the romance (which incidentally are recipes for expectation disaster akin only to birthdays), I don't know of a single (as in one) friend who has gone on a 'date' this week, this month, maybe even this year. Well, except for Miss X, the one recently signed up to the dating agency, and who fits in multiple dates after work and before 7PM. And as this survey was sponsored by (London's hottest new dating service), the sample bias in favour of daters more than stacks up.

But, that doesn't mean we shouldn't indulge in a bit more fun with what is obviously a well plugged PR attempt to prey on our feelings of romance inadequacy (because the deliberate picture here of the future King and Queen of England trotting out a practice run of wedding attire wasn't bad enough) by a recently launched new dating service. And so for a UK-US love-in (Clinton's proclamation of undying devotion for Brittania last night has us in the mood) over 60% of London men and women would prefer to date another Brit. But, my personal favourite - 33% of surveyed men said they would prefer a (loud often unhinged) American woman, and 30% of women a (loud smelly sneaker wearing) American man.

And if American fetishes and claims of sexual rampancy amongst the swells of London's cesspool of M&S TV dinner eating, EastEnder addicts was hard enough to believe; the most bizarre news was that Holborn -yes, that part of town solely defined by a Central Line stop - is second only to Covent Garden as the best place to meet a new romantic prospect.

Well, whilst we will leave you Aloone to sort our your love life, we can certainly offer better suggestions for locations to take that new romantic prospect this week:

For the Chelsea fan what a better way to marry football with the female than by heading to La Famiglia for a romantic dinner and near Stamford Bridge. With a Saturday kick-off at 3PM you will have plenty of time to make dinner at 8. A wonderful locals family restaurant that I am near to regretting for writing about. Don't miss the homemade boar pasta or tiramisu (best in town).

For the broody female, book up to see the Children of Men at the Electric Cinema in Notting Hill. If the threat of world annihilation via infertility doesn't make him rise to the manly challenge of saving the world (and you) via impregnation, nothing will. The deluxe seat cinema is handy for an after film bite at the ever trendy Electric Brasserie.

For the most exciting gay cultural event to hit London since the EuroPride check out the House of Homosexual Culture's autumn fayre (complete with gay tombola!).

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The Final Curtain

Nostalgia is an odd feeling. Sometimes so intense you can understand how it used to be classified a severe medical disease. Luckily, these days we are not as gravely afflicted. Well, except for moments of mental impairment when we start wondering if our ex's Jeffrey Archer-esqe qualities could have been overlooked after all. But that is more dementia than nostalgia.

No, what we are feeling today is that bittersweet longing for things to just stay put simply because endings are rarely happy (despite what they advertise in Chinatown). And so it is, we feel instinctive empathy for the luvvie-ish lamentations this week over the decision to finally close the Victoria & Albert's Theatre Museum in Covent Garden by January 2007. The Museum's future became uncertain when the Heritage Lottery Fund refused to back refurbishment plans. The Museum's collection is expected to be re-absorbed into a permanent exhibition at the V&A in South Kensington. And since the announcement, stage doors lining Shaftesbury Avenue have been filled with huddled masses bewailing the loss of a national museum dedicated to theatre based in the very heart of London's Theatreland.

Does it matter you ask? Isn't theatre all about the live moment not artificial preservation?

On the face of it, the decision to close is no doubt a blow to London's cultural menu. Especially considering London is the theatrical capital of the world (the Mousetrap notwithstanding). And for many theatre exists in the present but grows from the past. Hence the appeal of Museum exhibits such as Sir Lawrence Olivier's costume from Richard III and Noel Coward's make-up box.

Yet to be overtaken by a swell of commiseration considering you didn't even know London had a Theatre Museum, nor can you recall the name of a show pre Mamma Mia? Don't feel ashamed you are joined by large-scale indifference from most of the art world (and a certain wannabe thespian blogger).

It wasn't until a month ago when I attended a Liza Minnelli impersonator concert (as you do) at the Museum that I knew it existed. And as a devotee of Covent Garden's other anorak hangout, London's Transport Museum, I would certainly be in their target audience (if ever there was a case for someone to stay home more). So it was that I was greatly disappointed by what I found on my first and last visit: the trappings of historical theatrical arts displayed underground in artificial light on winding narrow corridors. Like Liza Minnelli's boudoir if she lived with the Addams Family. The act of visiting there sadly not relevant to those who want to go to a good museum, or to those who want to learn more about London's Theatreland.

So we will bid 'So long, Farewell' Theatre Museum. Just be sure to leave behind the West End shows when you leave the West End. We can only hope they find you better digs on Exhibition Road. Because in theatre, as in life, there is always hope reserved for the second act.

For a real inside view to the performing arts across the capital:
Check out the Open Rehearsal Festival this weekend when major venues including the Globe Theatre, Royal Albert Hall, English National Opera, the Barbican and the South Bank Centre open their doors to the public for three days of free, behind the scenes events.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

The man is in the bag

Don't be fooled. Today is not about David Beckham, but rather about David Cameron and Gordon Brown. Or David and Goliath if you believe any of the conference gossip from Manchester. With big Gordo's speech of his lifetime out of the way, not untarnished by Cherie's far from Freudian slip (imagine the damage she is capable of when drunk) we are all left wondering, is this the man to run Britain? As a Cava commie, sushi socialist I don't think it is fair nor wise for me to impose my opinion especially because, as far as I see it, the decision is in the (man) bag.

Yup, you read it correctly. I am going to be voting for Britain's Next Top Model, sorry I mean Prime Minister, based on his association (real or fictional, this is politics remember?) with manbags. I know, a big part of the problem with manbags is the term, somehow sounding oddly testicular, although it is better than mixing "man" and "purse" and getting "murse." And as with most fashion movements, gay and Continental men march in the vanguard and have played a big part in bringing manbags in from the cold. But please do not confuse our intent: we are not looking to subvert the uber-male world of politics by instituting female criterion; rather, we are merely exposing the underbelly of what has become a male London fashion craze.

Not simply to be seen within trendier locations of Brixton or Belsize Park, the manbag is here and highly visible. Remember the World Cup and that Gucci bag worn onto the plane by Becks? Although it must be said, the man who popularised "manbag" is Joey from Friends. It was the episode where Joey splurges on a unisex handbag, gets mocked by Ross and Chandler and, fatally for manbags, the moral of the story is: carry a bag and you will not get the job. Joey's devotion to his "man bag" ended up costing him an audition because he is so reluctant to put it down that the director believes he is a bag salesman.

But that was 1999 and this is 2006, can we apply the same principles to the job of Prime Minister? I would (not) hesitate to say yes. But mind you this is pure speculation as I have seen neither Brown nor Cameron touting a manbag. Well, unless you consider Gordon's phone-box red, Budget Day briefcase. Ah yes, and herein lies the female (and alpha male) prejudice towards manbags: they are never worn equally.

Which is why I believe there is no longer any doubt: Brown will be the next PM. Why such centainty, you ask? Because it is all too easy to picture crunchy conservative Cameron cycling in from Notting Hell touting an over the shoulder canvassed wash messenger bag. And that hypothetical image is, I am afraid, as close to political suicide as fashion can ever bring a man. Perhaps David Beckham can just about get away with it - perhaps - but he is an avowed metrosexual international icon, and he lives in Madrid. Cameron is none of the above. And, more importantly, Gordon Brown would never try to be.

And there is also a more fundamental reason behind why I can't envision Gordon Brown carrying a manbag. This may seem sexist but there is a natural biological male aversion to carrying manbags. And it's not because they end up leaving them in the pub. It's because they make them feel more vulnerable. (Just think the pain experienced when the vital 'manbags' get hurt and you can understand why men want to limit external baggage). So call Gordon boring, call him staid, or just leave it at Scottish. To me, he is one manbag free and in this age of political muckraking: strength is where it is at.

But, men, if you are still confused about the manbag dilemna, let us decode it female style here :

1) Rucksack. Passable. Provided you are in school, in a trade, in the public sector (see we can extend our charity if need be), or just need somewhere to stash your trainers, sandwiches and copy of The Sun.

2) Briefcases, laptops, courier bags. Acceptable. They do a stated thing.

3) Any satchel with a canvas strap worn across the shoulder. Now I know I may be demonised for this but please men, 'Just Say No' to messenger manbags. We expect to look down and see you in flip flops, which we have already said is a menaissance menace. Only Santa can get away with the over shoulder look; well, and any blokes wearing cargos and part of an organised military regiment.

But if you absolutely must, we can just about tolerate (because we want one ourselves) Mulberry's Alfie bag. Topman does cheaper imitations.

Monday, September 25, 2006

The informer

Who ever says that they don't look forward to the Sunday paper's glossy magazines is either a self conscious intellectual or too busy reading Hello! to bother with reading today's blog (not that far a cry in many instances, it must be admitted). Not you, I hear the defensive insistence? Search deep and think back to (yesterday) when you forego the front page crisis update from Darfur to see the weekly sociological (read: inconsequential)rant by your favourite columnist.

And from there most of us press on further through the glossy rag to the styles section's barometer column which exists (thank you to PR planted promotions) to tell us 'what is hot this week, and what is not.' As such, I ashamedly found myself scanning the Guardian's 'The Measure' column on Saturday to find Cartier love bangles going up the trend measuring barometer and Lily Allen going down. Okay, am I splitting hairs, or are those two trends unlikely to appeal to the same readership? On the one hand we have, Sloane Ranger, Cath Bridson (the 'modernists' Laura Ashley) shoppers who are addicted to afternoon cakes at Paul's; and on the other, teeny bopper MySpace addicts who get tickled by the rhyming of Tesco with al fresco.

Or maybe that is just what the weekend magazines are about in these days of declining readership and pressurised advertising spend: spread betting. Which is more than understandable and if it preserves the shelf-life of print journalism we all but encourage it. Except that it can leave us in an information lurch as to those things that really matter to us (such as, is the Royal Academy's new Rodin exhibit worth choosing over Modigliani and his Models, and is it acceptable for old-timer Jack Nicholson to still be publicly randy?

So in informal (and unaccountable) blogger fashion, we feel motivated to write the the first (and possibly only) 'City Slicker Informer': where nothing is reviewed that hasn't been viewed.

On the 'In':

The Queen: A surprisingly fun fictionalised view behind the doors of the Palace. Mirren is superb at making you empathise with the stuffy, but beloved order that is living out its doomed days. (With all due respect to Her Majesty, was anybody else suspicious that Mirren's ankles were padded for the part?)

Marie Antoinette:Female queens are back on both sides of the Channel, but not in a Scarlett Johannsen (wanna-be) bouffant way. Rather check out the brilliant article, Dressed for Excess: Marie Antoinette, out of the closet, from this week's New Yorker. A good, quick study before Sofia Coppola's film about the ex-Queen due for a London release later next month.

Kandinsky: at the Tate Modern. Last week to see the work of one of the greatest abstract painters of all time, who was also believed to have had synaesthesia, a harmless condition that allows a person to appreciate sounds, colours or words with two or more senses simultaneously (isn't it funny how female multi-tasking applied to a man sounds so artistically inspired?). Look out for the painting, "Moscow, Red Square"; a soothing image of urban life much welcomed after the disturbing (but also powerful) ones from Children of Men.

On the 'Out':

Michael Sheen: No relation to Charlie or Martin. Current London golden boy. Excellent as the budding, but insecure journo in Frost/Nixon and equally as smarmy Tony Blair in The Queen, but a sense (real or otherwise) of personal arrogance is hard to dismiss. Not to mention Sheen resembles an eerie cross between Boy George and Juliette Lewis (photo above deliberately chosen for emphasis).

The Gender Gap: The Washington Post digs into the real differences between male and female brains, as articulated by pop psychiatrist Louann Brizendine in her new bestseller, The Female Brain. Not much new to anyone familiar with John Gray, with men, or with women. But receiving a lot of hype amongst the Yanks.

Piano/Forte: Terry Johnson's expected hit at the Royal Court Theatre's early Autumn season falls flat. Proposed as a black comedy about a disgraced Tory MP and his dysfunctional family, it hits all the wrong notes: melodramatic pretension combined with shallow stereotypical familial dynamics. Don't bother.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Things are not what they seem

For starters, I am not just using today's title as an excuse to showcase Kate Moss, again. Rather, I am fresh from an evening at the National Theatre where I watched The Alchemist: a brilliant production of Ben Jonson's 17th century play that rings true with much that defines 21st century city life. (Incidentally, Nick Hytner, artistic director of the National and the genius behind £10 Travelex tickets, should be knighted as London's cultural hero.) The play was largely about greed, gullibility and scams. No, remember Jonson was around in the Jacobean Era not our Bush-Blair one. But, therein lies the point.

Ruses choreographed to trick the willing date back to the forbidden apple. Whether it be Kate Moss 'blacked up' on the cover of the Indie yesterday, Penelope Cruz's prosthetic ass in Volver, or a fabricated nude pic of Tiger Wood's WAB (Wives and Birdies, what a term to induce nausea, bring back the WAGs) images are constantly construed to purposefully mislead.

Just look to the exploding, billion pound industry of plastic surgeons nipping and tucking our way to concealment, frontage, and fabrication. Which reminds us what has been really bothering us this week: why is it so dangerous for size 00 girls to project an unrealistic image, but nobody cries out about the size EE ones? Especially considering it was just proven (again) that choosing to have a boob job is highly correlated with crisis of self esteem and confidence often leading to suicide. But you don't see anyone over reacting to the promotion of titillation that is Page 3.

All of which gets us ready for some realistic provocation with the 8th edition of City Slicker's "Week's Action, Weekend Reaction:"

1) Interested in transmutation, gullibility and con artists but the hype surrounding The Alchemist means it is sold out for the weekend? React by heading to The Tricycle Theatre for Fabulation: a funny, enjoyable play about the rise and fall of a successful female publicist living in Brooklyn. The backbone of the story being about a woman, Undine, who must, like Voltaire's Candide, learn to tend her garden - in this case the garden of the humanity she neglected in her climb up the ladder of African-American Yuppiedom. Last year the buzz made it a hit before it opened. Until 21 Oct. £7.50-£18/ticket.

2) Always been meaning to see stand-up comedian and TV film star, Omid Djalili, or just seen his face plastered on Tube adverts? React by heckling him in a rare circuit appearance at the intimate Hampstead Comedy Club (which is actually in Primrose Hill) this Saturday night where he will be presenting a set of old and new material, along with music and comedy from Earl Okin and Swedish stand-up comic Henrik Elmer. Book after 2PM on Saturday by calling 020 7633 9539. £8.50/ticket. Reservations a must.

3) Half interested in the London Design Festival, but will never make it to Little Australia (formerly known as Earl's Court)? React by stumbling through Spitalfields Market en route to the nearby Geffrye Museum for Ceramics in the City. An annual weekend long showcase of work by 50 ceramicists (yes, that is a word) that is as much an exhibition as a sale. C'mon, you know that barren bookcase shelf could use a little Shoreditch inspired funk.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Her Madgesty

Don't worry I am not going to immerse our refined sensibilities in any lengthy discussion about the comeback of The Bob. If I were to do that I would have to make reference to Madame Beckham and how she set the trend months back. Which is dangerous, for from there we will only digress to trollop gossip from which we must at all times refrain. Well, except on this Thursday in September, when London's temperature is freakishly hotter than Mallorca and is making us feel guilty for dismissing The Inconvenient Truth.

And in honour of Banksy's recent stunt, let's not completely dismiss the elephant in this blogroom. Madonna, you are no immaterial girl. We are not going to ask for the inspiration behind your 48-and-proud haircut in case our suspicions hold true. Rather, we will just say (as we would to any friend post traumatic hair makeover) "it is very youthful." Although this time when our opinion counts for nothing, we actually mean it. Bloody typical (as any self respecting Anglophile would say).

And speaking of being proud, having hair issues and being iconic to the gay community; did anyone catch Rupert Everett's confessional in the Daily Torygraph? Don't worry if not, the most memorable bit was his chat about being on alopecia (baldness) medication, and that the result is, as he confides: "I don't have any sperm left. If I stop taking the pills, all my hair will fall out, but I would rather have hair than sperm." Does that equate to pro-choice for men?

Rupert is en vogue this week for plugging his autobiography, "Red Carpet and Other Banana Skins," in which he makes some provocative comments about some of Hollywood's biggest stars. This includes the news that "Julia Roberts is as skittish as a racehorse, and that his great friend Sharon Stone is an extraordinary character, extremely intelligent, totally controlling, really fun but... unhinged. And that's kind of fabulous." Men, take note, that is how to compliment us whilst also outing our femme fatale quirks, but without using the ubiquitous "you're bonkers." It somehow confers a wild temptress over a bewitched covenress. More Madonna than Donatella. Get the drift?

But now look what we have done? We have spent all our precious time talking about them. What about us?

Let me point us in the direction of today's inside shopping tip (straight from a size zero source on-site at London Fashion Week):
Next (leave your label snobbery with brand bonfire Boorman) have struck it iron hot with the dress that hits all the now buttons: leopard print, shirt dress, knee length, and at £34.99 is yuffer affordable. Recently spotted on Kate (Middleton, sorry), Jade Jagger, and someone from Holby City whose name I instantly forgot. Available to order on-line (men, that tip is for you. It may just help you finally hit that illustrious button).

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

The unconventional woman

There are two types of relationships: ones that bump along and ones that speed head on into collisions only to ricochet and hit the road again. Now being half Italian and half New Yorker (very different to American), I have more than my fair share of skid marks. I tell (if not try and convince) myself that this is because I am passionate and emotionally engaged, which I realise can sometimes be disguised as erratic and volatile with a penchant for drink fuelled soliloquies (also termed rants). But at least there is never a dull moment.

And such is the underlying theme of the Almeida's production of Tom and Viv, albeit played out to a tragic end in the play about T.S. Eliot and his whirlwind first marriage to Vivienne Haigh-Wood. Whilst there will always be a place amongst the Radio 4 listener set for fringe, earnestly literate plays about famous, cultured people having nervous breakdowns, Michael Hasting's production opens with surprising fluidity and closes with powerful (but not overwhelming) emotion. Think One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest crossed with Iris, but without floods of tears (and I cried at Billy Elliott so take comfort).

T.S. Eliot was a classic Anglophile American, determined to become 'more English than the English' (think Madonna not yours truly; I don't do horses or the country very well). Tom passed his domestic life on automatic pilot, while his mind found refuge and flourished in the Waste Land. As he says to Viv in the first few lines of the play he finds it "an enormous effort to be trivial" with people. This Olympian diffidence, the script suggests, was sufficient to make him a source of ridicule to his in-laws ("every family needs a wild crazed sort of black sheep")-and perhaps enough to drive his wife mad.

Like Marco Pierre and his wife, Tom and Viv were prone to crash tests. Viv was a feisty, young bohemian aristocrat who was eccentric and experimenting. She was filled with a vivaciousness and charm that eventually descended into wild mood swings attributable to a severe hormonal imbalance (to which some of us can relate on a monthly basis), made tragically worse by the doctors of the time who prescribed her with alcohol and opium (so this is where they first discovered the effects of female binge drinking). Their turbulent marriage was the inspiration of some of Eliot's finest work, and despite the complex nature of their relationship he spoke of Viv as someone who gave him everything he wanted, and to whom he owed everything. (But, not to worry, the prose is definitely T.S. Eliot and not Bryan Adams.)

The first half of the play left me beguiled as to the oddness of their coupling, his Angelina to her Brad, and slightly distracted by the affected tone of speech (many an "Absolutely!" said in posh sing-song) which seemed more than a little artificial. But the play is set in the garden party environs of Oxbridge and Bloomsbury during the first half of the last century, so after a few minutes you forgive and forget.

Whilst at once a disturbing indictment of the treatment of women at the time, the most powerful moments were watching Viv in all her pugnacity try and unearth the passion of Tom the poet from beneath his mortician-like persona. Similar to what I suspect Becks undertakes trying to unlock Posh the Spice Girl from his turned morticia-like WAG.

Tom and Viv is a brilliant evening of theatre and essential viewing for any T.S. Eliot fans, for anyone interested in the study of English behaviour as well as anyone fascinated (or tormented) by unconventional women.

Book now:
Runs 12 Sept- 4 Nov
Press night is 22 Sept (Friday) so no formal reviews allowed until then (that's why we have blogs). Book before for best availability.
Seats from £6-£29

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Belonging without belongings

My willpower is shot. I vowed that I would refrain from giving any air time to former style mag editor, Neil Boorman's, pathetic bonfire of the brands gig. Which beyond setting up a blog-turned-book deal last March, amounted to him burning his branded possessions at Finsbury Square in public view this past Sunday night. And why such Oxfam spited behaviour you rightfully ask? Because this is supposed to mark his rebirth as a label free No Logo championeer. Boorman (his name being the best label of all) pledges that his blog and burning stunt are acts of redemption-esqe cleansing, from which he will find the strength to cure himself from label addiction. And this last bit, is where I started to take a modicum of interest in this self-obsessed, middle class, brand gigolo.

Boorman's PR smooth, but ultimately empty stunt took on Gordan Brown's latest public crying session in the empathy PR stakes by dubbing Boorman's basic insecurity a chronic addiction. Now, I have been addicted to many things in my day, and my river of Cancerian sympathy runs deep, but this would test any levee (no, not Levi, that's his issue remember). Think I am being a bit harsh? Try it the next time you get home after a shopping spree on Bond Street. "Sorry honey, my addiction just led me to spend our month's rent in Prada. Really, I wasn't just in need of the insecurity blanket that comes with brand snobbery." If you don't get guilt tripped back to the returns desk, then dump your partner now, anyone wet enough to let that slide will bore you in six months time anyway.

But putting any Topshop-addict confessions to the side for a minute, the reality that some are too concerned about being seen with the right product is probably true. The real nonsense comes from Boorman's suggestion that he might find himself beneath it all. There is something human about the need to pick a herd to conform with. Certain brands allow certain people to pretend they are part of a special set. And others are built up quite often because a company actually became quite good at producing something. But we are not the first to criticise Boorman, controversy surrounds him.

And for a rare moment we actually want to believe that euphemistic opium of the karma brigade, that 'what goes around comes around.' For by claiming to be addicted, Boorman will surely end up, if he isn't already, more brand obsessed than before. As any recovering 'addict' (authentic or generic) he surely now lives in fear of accidentally using a branded something because he might 'relapse.' Stripped of his Gucci mac (though not his Apple Mac, it's important branding for any soon to be published author, remember?), he will probably feel just as great a need to belong. Which is why it's a good thing he included a one-year get out clause on his devil doesn't wear Prada contract. If only we weaker addicts had such self control.

And for the latest labels we endorse:

Any brand located at Kingly Court, the buzzing shopping quarter off Carnaby Street, as tomorrow boasts its own one day fashion show with new collections from various independent boutiques. After dabbling in this decidedly cooler side to Fashion Week, head to Red for a cocktail. Because it isn't us that has something to prove when it comes to addictions.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Heel to toe

We can't escape the irony surrounding us today. On Drury Lane we have hirsute toed wanna be hobbits lining up to audition for a chance to play in the staging of Middle-earth in the West End. Whilst on the grounds of the National History Museum we have the embodiment of last week's superwaif regulation call coalescing in Blahnik stilettos around the Moet champagne catwalk bar for London Fashion Week.

In both parts of London today, discrimination is being apportioned based on height, weight and disputable definitions of talent. Giselles and pygmies aside, most of us would be rejected on all counts. And such indiscriminate discrimination (word coupling used for heightened ironic effect) is precisely why I find the post Madrid super skinny model banning debate all the more outrageous. At what point was faith in our critical faculties lost to paternalistic sheltering? (Okay, but we got rid of that possessive, smothering boyfriend years ago). When did we stop being trusted to decide for ourselves what is realistic, what is aspirational, and what is just plain farcical?

But what about the teenage girls, some ask? Just look at statistics on eating disorders, claim others. Blame Kate Moss snide most. Hold your hot pant wearing jealousy at bay, for a minute, I plea. As is the case with 'homeland' security efforts, measures of 'protection' are limitless. Intended to prevent an uncertain causality, they can by definition be construed for the unforeseen. What is to say that today's ban on thin won't be tomorrow's ban on brand? Isn't it a logical extension that if supermodels represent the pursuit of unnatural weight, that Chanel represents the pursuit of unattainable wealth? Hardly a detrimental line to take I realise, but where do you stop?

And aren't we gravely forgetting about teenage boys, the oft overlooked half of the impressionable generation. Is the image of David Beckham not dangerous to many an average youth club member's sense of self-worth? Is it that much easier for an aspiring young footballer to accept he never will play for England, than for a 5'1" portly teenager that she will never walk the catwalk ? Such nanny state debate over the size of supermodels, does nothing to dispel the myths at hand. In fact, it only serves to perpetuate the biggest one of all: that life is anything but a series of acceptances. Now don't get me wrong. I am just as gushingly optimistic as the next braying American, but Kate Moss I will never be. This I must accept.

Well, until today when women across London (and shortly New York) are all a step closer, as Kate blessed Topshop last night with her front row presence at its catwalk show. And here we have perhaps the biggest irony of all. The world's greatest supermodel upstaging all that London Fashion Week's air kissing exclusivity represents with (here declared) the greatest fashion statement of her career: from today Kate has shown she is following in our (high street) footsteps. By promoting what is attainable, Kate has gone where no supermodel has gone before. But we should have guessed, Kate is ubiquitous for sniffing out the best snuff, I mean stuff.

And in keeping with today's ironic theme, forget the high street for now and check out London's latest high(er) fashion craze:

Mayle, a unique and beautifully designed label with an underground cult following. Pricier than Topshop, but still doesn't cost the moon. If nothing else, a snoop in stockist's Cross, Mimi and Browns should give us an idea of what copies to look out for on the high street. Now who needs Fashion Week?

Friday, September 15, 2006

The proverbial elephant

For once we wish we were in the La La land that is LA. Not because we are pining after some real celeb spottings now that the 'silly season' is over, and it's nearly time for the A-list to return from Pacha to the front rows of London's Fashion Week. Rather, because our icon of all things really cutting edge, Banksy, is opening his weekend-only exhibition entitled, Barely Legal, amongst his usual hype and secrecy, in a downtown Los Angeles warehouse.

As if our favourite guerrilla artist hasn't done enough for us lately. We were only recently reminded of his genius with the 500 Paris Hilton CDs he tampered with and then splattered across UK HMVs. And then he raised his self-set, high bar further when he took the Mickey with his stunt at Disneyland.

And so it goes that this week he has made his way across the southern states of Bush Country to the industrial wastelands of LA, painted the flesh of a live elephant in pink and white flowers, and left it to stand in a makeshift living room. Which in classic Banksy style must be a metaphor for the proverbial global elephants - the big issues, like poverty (sorry Al Gore, but some things do come first), that nobody is prepared to take on.

But we have no doubt that, if anybody can elicit a reaction, Banksy can. Which takes us to the 7th edition of City Slicker's "Week's Action, Weekend Reaction."

1) Aware that it is Open House London this weekend, but not sure which buildings participate or which are worth queuing for? React by heading to the hidden gem, 19 Princelet Street, for the last chance this year to get inside the Grade II listed building that houses the Museum of Immigration and Diversity. It is an unrestored 1719 Huguenot silk merchant's home that pays homage to the refugee experience in Spitalfields, including a concealed synagogue (if only Anne Frank had been so lucky). Last public visit for 2006 this Sat & Sun (10AM-6PM). Admission free.

2) Has this week's brouhaha surrounding tighter controls on alcohol advertising imposed any guilt induced limitations on your consumption levels? React by ditching the chorizo sandwich at Borough Market for a liquid diet and head to Rake, the first bar to open within the precincts of the market for over 100 years. It also claims to be the capital's smallest drinking hole (which after visiting you wouldn't contest). And with over 100 brews on offer, it shouldn't need any advertising. Rake, 14 Winchester Walk, SE1 - turn right after Vinopolis on the way to Southwark Cathedral.

3) Jealous of Banksy's graffiti chic? React by checking out up-and-coming South African born, Hackney living, furniture designer Ryan Frank. Captivated by east London graffiti, Frank has taken to making rugged furniture and interior accessories that are good and functional, whilst also being sustainable. Urban deterioration turned decoration. Banksy would definitely approve. Available at Homestead, 148 St.John's Street, EC2 (020 7420 3333) or direct through the man himself (0798 414 6383).

Thursday, September 14, 2006

In Ipod we trust

Today's post will hopefully turn out shorter than normal. Not because I can't be bovvered, but because it's bad for our collective health. Apparently technology mediums are making us dependent, needy, and stifled; and no I am not confusing it with an ex boyfriend. This week's edition of New Scientist magazine, (stop snickering, sometimes one needs an antidote to Grazia), highlights an interview with cybershrink, Sherry Turkle, of Massachussetts Institute of Technology, that claims technology is creating 'tethered selves' - individuals who are never alone, never truly isolated from computers and phones, nevermind Ipods or crackberries.

It only takes a minute's reflection on life in London to recognise that not only are leopard pumps back in fashion, but that no one is ever 'on their own.' We walk out of the office and instinctively reach for the mobile to finally return those personal calls from last week. We get home after a few pints and log straight onto the BBC (or blogger if our condition is particularly acute) in case the world didn't stop while we downed a few lagers. We wake in the morning to instantly check the crackberry in case that client from overseas responded to last night's intentionally time zone incompatible email.

Action upon action to buffer the moment, because 'all by ourselves, don't wanna be, all by ourselves, anymore'. And why? Are we really our own worst enemy? I (or Satre, if you are splitting hairs) thought hell was other people. Why the modern need to share our thoughts and feelings instantaneously? A boyfriend sends us a cryptic text and we immediately phone a friend to decipher the code. Why such shameless dependency? Because presumably some third party only available down the end of a Nokia has some superior information on matters personal to our life. Why have we let ourselves get to this point? Has technology commandeered independent thought to the extreme, by which we now need others in order to feel our feelings in the first place?

If you sense an element of the dramatic in these fighting words, then I propose you try commuting without your Ipod for a day (if only to make you ditch those 'nano'-sensical ties. Thomas Pink has a lot to answer for introducing those to the already sartorial crisis of male commuter fashion). Why log onto your MySpace homepage and list your likes and dislikes, when you could be out discovering new ones? Okay, maybe we are verging on the outrageous, I realise. I mean who has time to see Kandinsky at the Tate, read Arthur & George, catch Los Olvidados at the NFT, or ever make it to Green & Red for a serious Shoreditch shot of tequila, when there are YouTube videos of J-Pop dancing Japanese teenagers to watch?

Thankfully, London is a creative capital filled with resourceful young things, or just a cesspool for conspicuous cuddlers.

Don't believe me? Check out:

Cuddle Parties: a US import (there is a novelty) where 'nurturing, non-sexual, affectionate touch in a safe and structured environment' is part of the deal. Back rubs, naps, and hugs all up for grabs, but no Eyes Wide Shut moments, supposedly. Email: for more info. The next one is this Sunday in West Hampstead.

The Lunch Club : another import from the US (because we know they like their food) with a tagline 'because eating alone is boring.' An incredibly successful (if random) social networking forum where strangers come together to eat, drink, and meet. Reports from NYC are of 'an upmarket, more downtown (read cool) than uptown (read not) crowd.' And them (read us) New Yorkers are a tough audience.

Stitch and Bitch: Bi-monthly knitting classes with various locations across London cafes and pubs. From fuddy-duddy to trendy at the drop of a needle. Because if Uma and Madonna are at it, it must be the new yoga.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Yuffers anonymous

I have come clean with my undying admiration for Kate Moss before. This is often rebutted with disdained contempt by those who claim she is heroin chic not heroine chic. Somebody has to look good in skinny jeans I retort, and it surely isn't the rest of us bumping and grinding our way (sorry that was a belated ode to International Pole Dance Day) along the bedroom floor trying to squeeze real size thighs into a pair. Which reminds me why I dislike Hugh Grant, barring an emotional relapse when watching About a Boy. It was his comment about Britney's thighs all those years back. See we really don't forgive and forget.

But we are digressing. No what is really on our minds lately is the new term trotted out to describe us female breed of urban professional. Men, don't turn away, chances are you know one or two of us rather intimately so there may be a thing or two gleamed by actually listening to us for a change. Gone are the days of Dinkies (dual income, no kids), and Orchids (one recent child, horribly in debt) now we are told to welcome in the Yuffers-young urban females, who typically spend more than they earn, binge career, and spend weekends at country spas.

So are we really Yuffer sufferers? Do we spend more than we earn? How about earn less than we deserve. Binge career? See previous answer for why that might be. But visit country spas? Now I don't know about you, but apart from some vague wistful glances at the reviews steaming up the recently opened Thermae Spa in Bath, the appeal of a relaxing 'girlie' spa weekend is all but lost on me. (But please bear in mind, yoga also makes me anxious not meditative. The two are probably correlated).

Please spa retreating yuffers explain, to the manic, Type A amongst us, why you are spending precious coinage (remember the glass ceiling is our figurative predicament, there is no need to seek out literal ones in the Sanctuary treatment rooms) for a weekend make-over without a man in sight to impress with the result? Because we always suspected country spa weekends are marketed to vulnerable Yuffers looking for an image massage in a pedicure foot pool.

But without treating our diagnosis with a dose of economic rationing, we can deduce that spa trips must be the variable cost in our overrun scenario. Because who honestly has more fun in a daytime seaweed wrap than a night-time sequined one? And isn't that why we suffer debt fuelled life as a Yuffer? Because girls just wanna have fun.

So exfoliate those shackles. Cancel the £110 oxygen microbrasian facial, put down the designer handbags, bought or rented, and take us up on some Yuffer salary-saver tips that even Madame Moss would approve. They may cost more than her latest £2.99 Superdrug handbag (pictured here) and reportedly bought by 50,000 of us in the past week, but remember we are worth a point.

Our Yuffers 3-step programme:

1) Dreading the inevitable fashion inadequacy spawned by the arrival of London Fashion Week? Resist surfing Net-a-Porter for that new Mulberry bag, and head to TopShop, the website not the real thing. Where you can find this seasons latest bags from £12-£70. The same ranges available as at the Oxford Street branch, but from the smugness of your work chair.

2) Sinking lower in career doldrums than Tony Blair? Keep your paycheck (how else are you going to afford this season's suede ankle boots?), and appease your need for stimulation with extracurricular activities. Learn more by heading to Courses for Adults Open Evening at City University on 19 Sept. Fees average £90-£110/semester.

3) In need of a little spa-like TLC after all? Check out the latest range of bath and beauty products, Soap & Glory, which comes to us from Marcia Kilgore (the brains behind the hugely successful Bliss spas). Formerly only available at Harvey Nicks now also stocked in Boots. Prices from £4.99.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Who is a Londoner?

Whilst yesterday marked a date of global significance, today marks one of only personal. Four years ago this day, I boarded a plane with a one-way ticket (whaddya say to that Homeland Security?) from JFK to Heathrow, once a New Yorker soon to be Londoner - whatever that meant. And so today, four years in, I am asking: What is a Londoner? Have I made it yet?

And as any self-respecting blogstress would, I put the question of 'what is a Londoner?' to Yahoo! Answers, last week's heavily media touted new social research service. Expectations under management, the answers only faintly disappointed: 'born in London,' 'talking with a cockney accent', 'a snob'. This clearly tells us the on-line answer pool was overly represented by the populations of Westminster, the East End and the north of England. But that goes little way to refining our defining.

Identifying a stereotypical Londoner was never going to be as easy as the counterpart New Yorker. The film industry alone abounds with images of NYC played on endless reels to audiences the world over. From the struggling artist come waiter-waiting-on-success, to the brash big-nosed Brooklynite, to the brunch scoffing, man devouring Sex in the City fashionista; Hollywood provides a montage to colour our imaginations. Life in the Big Apple is portrayed as a carnival ride that never stops, but you must know when to get off the carousel. New York does not suffer fools gladly (apart from Monica Lewinsky who is now an A-list Manhattan celebrity); it is a perishable dream of sorts.

But that still hasn't answered what life is as a Londoner for those looking beyond Samuel Johnson's catch-all: "when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford." And after four years in the Big Smoke, I am left doubting if there is a stereotypical Londoner, after all. Apart from the cloned 20-something female clad in a Debbie Gibson-esqe uniform of leggings, ballet pumps and ironed hair. But that is hardly representative of the populace at large (unless you are riding the Tube after 11PM).

Just looking around this morning at London Bridge station, I was astounded by the sheer diversity of fellow commuters – Somalis, Indians, Americans, Zimbabweans, Scandinavians and a hundred other nationalities vying for their place in the metropolis. And then I thought back to today's question, 'what is a Londoner?', and I recalled a recent trip to Turkey where I noticed the relative uniformity of the population. And how I also realized at that time that I was also looking at the future of London.

A thousand years ago Istanbul was the capital of the remnants of the Roman Empire – home to a variety of peoples from Greece, Rome, central Asia, Arabia and the Russia. Yet now this diversity had coalesced around a mean – almost everyone dark haired, brown-eyed and olive-skinned. And I thought if one could merge all the people in a place like London one would be looking at the future of that place – one would have some notion of what a Londoner is or will become. Then, just then, maybe my friends back in New York will stop believing I am stranded without Abercrombie on some rain battered island with only Hugh Grant types for consolation (only the latter being false, of course).

And in Londoner's universality must be the definition of 'afford' Samuel Johnson was referring to with "for there is in London all that life can afford." I couldn't fathom he was referring to ability to pay. Because if there is anything that unites us Londoners it is the unrelenting instance of being ripped off. Not that a Tube ride is not worth every pence of £4 Ken, why would the District Line suggest otherwise? Don't worry if you didn't appreciate that inside joke. Us Londoners can be snobs, remember?

For a far more esteemed Anglophile's take on life as a Londoner, check out:

White Bicycles: Making Music in the 1960's Because if there is one London snob that rises above all others, that is the music snob.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Don't be anybody's lunch

How do we know what we know when everybody in powers seems to be lying? That is the question raised by The Civilians production of (I Am) Nobody's Lunch and the one that has enveloped both sides of the Atlantic since 9/11. Straight to London from the Fringe, The Civilians, a much buzzed about downtown NYC theatre troupe, perform a cabaret-style cheeky romp about the media mine of disinformation and how all too often inaccurate news is disseminated and absorbed.

Riveted by the timely sidelong glance at NYC and our world post 9/11, I found myself gripped by The Civilians production. Five years after the calamity that struck the City and the initial international spirit of fellow-feeling and cooperation, the US (and by default its poodle Britain) are more loathed in many parts of the world than our supposed aggressors. That is, assuming us and our aggressors are not merely one psyche transposed: an id unmediated by any cultural super-ego. Bush without a conscience? Now that is hardly newsworthy.

And this is not proposed with seditious or incendiary intent. Rather it is reflecting the already growing fomentation across the US and UK of the 'Truth Behind 9/11' movement, spurred by a disbelief in the government's spin. This past weekend's Guardian, showed a recent poll in the U.S. which found that 36% of Americans believed it "very likely" or "somewhat likely" that their government was involved in allowing the attacks or had carried them out itself. There are many people in the UK who agree with them.

Conspiracy theories abound, but their unifying theme is that a neo-conservative cabal within the US government staged the events as a pretext to wage wars, to justify the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq. And this is not far from the blend of suspicion and apathy that is a recurring motif in (I Am) Nobody's Lunch, albeit via a song and dance. The production asks if post 9/11 uncertainty has not led us to turn away from the big questions (i.e. Bush's "Islam vs. Christianity" prostelyzing) for refuge in the distractions of smaller ones (i.e. peace-keeping in Afghanistan)? The Civilians deliver Michael Moore themes updated with humour by trendy New Yorkers, played to a hip, Soho audience.

By the end, I was left asking myself what conceit is more abhorrant: affirming that the US government did indeed fail to prevent and/or foil the 11 September attacks (as is generally contended); or rather that parties involved with and/or part of the US government had full prior knowledge and actively or passively favoured the 9/11 attacks and supported the cover-up that followed? What state is more egregious: an ignorant government or a befooled people?

And on that note, I am reminded of a quote by David Brooks in a NY Times op-ed piece on the problems confronting Democrats in the U.S: "The Greeks used to say we suffer our way to wisdom." But what if by refusing to confront with wisdom the bigger "good vs. evil" contentions of Grandmaster Bush, and instead focusing on interim conflicts, we are showing our inherent inability to, as Jack Nicholson famously posited at the climax of A Few Good Men, 'handle the truth'? Doesn't the question then become whether the postmodernist rejection of all grand narratives isn't the biggest grand narrative of all?

Thankfully, (I Am) Nobody's Lunch gives us a hopeful message for the taking: Don't be anybody's lunch. Have hope in yourself, in your knowledge, and even (it must be dreamt) in your government. Because in today's post 9/11 world we all deserve a light at the end of the tunnel.

Book now:

I (Am) Nobody's Lunch at the Soho Theatre
6-9 Sept , 11-16 Sept, 18-23 Sept
from £10

Friday, September 08, 2006

The weekend is your oyster

That was the week that was. Where to start, or rather when to end? Sorry Blair, not those words again, I know. But we need some certainty. And we nearly take pity on you, but then we remember that this is the inevitable fate meted out to people who take their nations into wrong wars. Look at Lyndon Johnson, no Great Society could make up for Vietnam. And we still can't forget you for lying to us when Jeremy Paxman asked you back in 2003 if you and Bush prayed together?

But since you aren't moving on, we will. After all, Paris Hilton has been arrested for drunk driving and explained herself on live radio. At least somebody has the guts to face the music. So, yes Lemar, there is some justice in this world. If only we could get Kate Moss back together with lothario, Russell Brand, named the UK's Most Stylish Man at this week's GQ awards. Because maybe once we see a newborn clad in sass & bide skinny jeans will we be able to react to Suri's toupee with a strand of belief. And on that note we have the 6th edition of City Slicker's 'Week's Action, Weekend Reaction.'

1) Annoyed by how quickly the Earth's axis tilts, leaving us little time to enjoy the last few weeks of the sun season? React by getting in early on Britain's native oyster season, and head to Hay's Galleria, near London Bridge, for the annual oyster and seafood festival. This weekend, the covered shopping centre will host a veritable sea of shucked oysters, dressed crabs, lobsters and the pot (sorry lot). Champagne, Pimms and Guinness will also be on offer to wash down those jellied eels. And whilst at Hay's Galleria have a nose in The Riverside Bookshop, Bermondsey's answer to Daunt Books. 8-10 Sept.

2) Has yesterday's unveiling of Foster's and Roger's new World Trade Center towers left you feeling inspired? React by heading to the Barbican's Future City exhibit and fire up your sparked interest in megastructures and the modern wonder that across the world gargantuan schemes are being realised. Until 17 Sept.

3) Is all of the hype surrounding Justin Trousersnake's new priapic album making you cry out for music by real artistes? React by heading to a gig at the Spitz Festival of Folk. With outright legends like Davey Graham (9th Sept) and awe inspiring young talent like Bat for Lashes (12 Sept) your time will truely feel 'Justified'. The latter's lead singer, Natasha Khan, has been dubbed a cross between Sinead O'Connor and Bjork and is sensually provocative, and well, batty. But if you miss them at the Spitz or just want to be Boy Scout prepared, their debut album, 'Fur and Gold', will be released across good London music stores this Monday.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

What makes women happy?

Babies. Now I am no expert on the subject, but do we not think that Suri Cruise looks older than four months and bears a striking resemblance to Holmes's ex Chris Klein? Would this not explain the miraculous pregnancy (Mimi Rogers told us years ago that Tom Cruise is an impotent monk), the shotgun wedding, the secret birth, and the general eerie feeling when looking at the photos from this month's Vanity Fair? But then again do we really care, so long as Katie is 'happy' - the most loaded word available to describe the modern woman.

And if you happen to listen to anyone or read anything these days, it would lead you to believe that, loaded (the word, not us, for once they aren't referring to our capacity for binge drinking) or not, we are fast becoming a herd of miserable, sterile, deplorable heifer-less cows. Just this week the media bonanza surrounding Fay Weldon's new book, What Makes Women Happy, has been imploring women to fake orgasms and patronise men with "wow honey, you are so clever" ego massages afterwards in order to please "the otherwise insecure daddy" (ok, maybe I added that last bit). And why you ask? Because Weldon surmises women should simply accept that they are less capable of being happy than men.

And just like any wholesale assault there have to be losers and even bigger losers, the latter of which according to Weldon's 'enlightened' worldview are the selfish banditry known as 'career women'. Whatever you do ladies don't try and climb the careerist greasy pole because you may just prove your independence and intellectual vigour. And that we have been told sends out a noxious odour to the male of the species.

Just ask Michael Noer, the news editor of, who has caused recent furor on both sides of the Atlantic last week for advising men to "marry pretty or ugly ones, short ones or tall ones, blondes or brunettes, just, whatever you do, don't marry a woman with a career." Why such blatant bimbo pimping you ask? Because men," the more successful a woman is, the more likely she is to grow dissatisfied with you." And therein, I am afraid, lies the real unhappiness afflicting modern women: boring men.

But who says we have to accept this as our Lot (remember what happened to his wife?), or risk a life of (gasp!) happiness? Thankfully news today tells us that we may be best to freeze our eggs anyway. Just don't wait too long for your clever rockstar to appear, for recent evidence tells us that men over 40 (Cruise is 44) start also hearing those voices (I mean noises) from the tick tock atomic clock. All of which just renders little Suri's conception all the less 'scientific'.

For what is really making me happy (when it's not making me cry):

Snow Patrol's song, "You Could Be Happy," off their new album Eyes Open.

You could be happy and I won't know
But you weren't happy the day I watched you go
You could be happy, I hope you are
You made me happier than I'd been by far

Do the things that you always wanted to
Without me there to hold you back, don't think, just do
More than anything I want to see you go
Take a glorious bite out of the whole world

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Slice O' Minnelli

Liza Minnelli must be the world's greatest living gay icon. As such it was with little surprise that gay men packed out the Theatre Museum last night for Rick Skye's female impersonation A Slice of Minnelli. As an avid enthusiast of London's musical theatre scene, I am not a stranger to finding myself a rare female amongst an audience of gay men. Of course, many musical theatre fans are heterosexual, and not all gay men have "musicalmania," but there is a widespread, inter-generational relationship between gays and musicals. Combine that with a dream role in Liza Minnelli for a female impersonator, and you have a guaranteed gay sensation.

I must admit it wasn't until last night that I gave the notion of gay icons much thought. Having missed out on the legendary Judy Garland, my years have witnessed Madonna and Kylie as the front runners with Babs and Cher picking up the rear (so to speak). But while, for gay men, it is female stars that predominate, just to be a female star does not by definition make a figure 'iconic'- Julia Roberts for instance is not a gay icon. And whilst some icons have gay links (e.g. Joan Crawford's reputed lesbian relationship, Liza Minnelli's gay husband), homosexuality as such is not evidenced to be the key issue. So then, we must ask, what is?

After watching Rick Skye so capably assume the persona of Liza Minnelli, I came to appreciate it must be a unique combination of vulnerability and strength. Apart from those big searching eyes, the choppy helmet of hair, the hoofer's long legs, the most distinct part of Liza is the sound of her voice, a brassy, belting bray beneath which lies a reservoir of vulnerability.

Rick Skye portrays a life of ups and downs: Liza's unwise selection of husbands, her addiction to drink and drugs, the haunting ghost of her mother, and the glittering success of her career. Through renditions of Cabaret, New York New York and Over the Rainbow, he captures a career filled with highs and lows and a life much larger, and often removed, from the rest.

And therein must lie Minnelli's appeal to gay men, in particular, (and this female New Yorker) as both a fantasy figure in which we see aspects of our own lives; as well as a basis for a common sub cultural knowledge. Minnelli, the sacred beast, appeals to anyone who has loved and suffered, who has been madly happy and desperately sad. With sardonic and self deprecating humour, Skye brings this batty but unbowed superstar alive on the stage. By its end, A Slice of Minnelli made me fall in love with Liza, with Skye and with the stage that is life.

Book now, last night was standing room only:

Theatre Museum
Russell Street, Covent Garden
020 7943 4750
until 10th Sept, £12.50-£15

The Theatre Museum is sadly in danger of closing so if you have never seen this ode to the sensational wonder that is London theatre, leave time to wander around before the show. There is also an open bar throughout and at £10/bottle of wine you can complement the merriment, or just self-medicate Minnelli style.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Judging by a cover

Conscious or not, commuting Londoners are on the front line of a high-stakes media battlefield. In one corner sits global media hog, Rupert Murdoch's News International and its long-awaited freesheet, thelondonpaper (sadly not written by ee cummings despite appearances); in the other sits Associated Newspapers and London Lite. Both papers are aimed at young urbanite commuters who have grown up not paying for a newspaper and are increasingly turning to the internet. For their news, not their porn (stay with me today).

And whilst we could use this freebie media insurgency to debate the evil monopolistic tendencies of journalism writ large. We would be recklessly dismissing the major and immediate risk at hand: the loss of the impermeable stereotypes we derive from a fellow commuter's newspaper choice (free Metro excluded).

In the mind numbing but stimulus heavy subculture of London's public transport systems, we look for easy signals from which to distinguish friend and foe. In times of heightened security this is reduced to size of backpack or briefcase, but in less pressured times is often marked by newspaper mast. A lot can be surmised about a person if given their commute reading preference. But if everybody is reading an indistinguishable free Metro, Lite, or thelondonpaper; how will we know a Telegraph tory, from a Mirror builder, or an FT money tree?

All of a sudden the world of pretend subterranean sympathies would be no more. And the imagined personalities the stereotypes afford are part of the collective force driving our will to commute. They help connect the dots between millions of atomised souls being carried from place A to place B, if only for 20 minutes a day.

If this freebie explosion takes off, everything would be different. No longer could I smile at the Guardian reading bloke who I assume eats muesli and lentils, until I remember he probably wears socks with his sandals. Nor will I stare down the suited and booted FT reading gent, with presaged contempt of his million pound bonuses. Or smile out of pity at the Sun reading chap still stuck on Page Three.

No, once we are all fed the same free dribble, the cost will be to our collective, time passing stereotyping. But wait, must we surrender? For 70 pence a day, won't we gladly escape? This is today's world order, as here defined: paying up, to read up, so we can dream up. But remember to choose with caution, now you know we are all watching.

For anyone who has ever picked up a newspaper and wondered what's gone into it?

Recommended read: My Trade: A Short History of British Journalism by Andrew Marr. A clever insightful read by a journalist who loves his job.

Monday, September 04, 2006

A touch of colour?

Downing Street was riddled with speculation at the weekend. But this time it was on matters less public than the recent internecine fighting over the date of Blair's leaving do; indeed, matters had moved on to the shade of the Prime Minister's hair do. And whilst this is not the first time the Administration has publicly denied claims of a bottle blonde Blair, there has been surprisingly little media coverage beyond a single weekend story in the Guardian. Which only leads us to assume the roots (of the story) have been well covered up.

Nevertheless, the Labour ranks have no doubt been gossiping over the water cooler about their boss's recent penchance for hitting the bottle (of peroxide). And whilst it is tempting to digress into a psychological deconstruction of what such an image update is meant to manifest, project, or simply correct. We will refrain; partly because the uncoloured sideburns speak for themselves, and partly because the weekend booby prize already went to Andre Agassi for his shameless blubbering.

But then I am not well disposed to speak of Agassi's image, I still see him as a 16-year-old petulant teenager in long hair, denim and DayGlo. What the former great, Ivan Lendl, once called "just a haircut and a forehand." Which I acknowledge is unfair as the balding icon has been defying his age for years now, prolonging the inevitable through sheer will and periodic spinal cortisone shots. Only to admit in recent interviews that he was starting to appear "more ordinary" than he wanted, and he would rather walk away than be ordinary.

And then I remembered the famous three words that Andre brazenly declared on billboards back when he was hairy and denim-clad: Image Is Everything. And whilst I still blame Agassi for leading us down the dangerous path of denim shorts and pink spandex, his image undeniably had an impact from start to finish. Some people will remember Andre as a pigeon toed shuffler and others as a graceful master of court, but everybody remembers him, even after the finish line.

But for Blair, the race hasn't stopped. With nearly ten years of practice, he is still balancing his egg on the spoon. And while he may be refusing to fire the starting gun, that hasn't stopped would-be successors from getting into the blocks. It's not, as Charles Ryder says in Brideshead Revisited, what one would have foretold. But with a looming Tory contender on the right side of 50, Britain's Prime Minister is trying to win as a blonde.

If your image (or fringe) needs a touch up:

Check out Taylor Taylor, London's trendy, friendly hair salon, that recently opened it's London flagship location off of Brick Lane. With rave reviews from Vogue, Time Out, and the Evening Standard; and with celebrity regulars including James Blunt, Sophie Ellis Bexter, Zoe Ball, and KT Tunstall you should emerge sharply shorn. With superior service, competitive pricing and Sunday trading it should attract Spitalfield market shoppers as well as hungover heads looking to update their multi-layered mullets.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Reality bites

We have decided that today, this weekend, and the rest of 2006 for that matter, is all about keeping it real. Denial is so passé, harmless or otherwise, and who has the time to keep up pretences anyway?

Just look around, reality is biting everywhere. The on-trend oversized sunglasses we financed, will be decidedly off-trend by when the need to wear them returns. The bar bill damage tallied in euros on holiday, arrived with a sting when converted to pounds by Mastercard. And the vow to never picture or promote Paris Hilton, was easily broken once a parody of reality was sought.

So in the spirit of keeping things real, I won't digress as to why I find Scarlett Johansson's open-mouthed, vacant stare offensive; but instead will lead us straight into the 5th edition of City Slicker's 'Week's Action, Weekend Reaction."

1) Unimpressed by the couched paranoia in recent Home Office alarms over the number of Eastern Europeans in the UK? React by learning more about the real Motherland and take in the production of Techniques of Breathing in an Airlocked Space, the English-language premiere of the award-winning Russian play about the crazy state of contemporary Russia and how people survive in stifling situations. Or if you can't be bovvered going out, stay in with the DVD Black Cat, White Cat. Belgrade-born Director, Emir Kusturica, is legendary for twisted plots, eccentric characters, slapstick comedy, and Eastern European stereotypes. A far more realistic portrayal, than any Daily Mail scaremongering.

2) Annoyed by Rooney's Colleen (privately known as Roo's Coo) patronising WAG finger waving that we, the nation of debt-ridden shopaholics, should 'get a grip, forget Prada and try Primark'? React by finding the real deal at a real deal and head to the secret sample sale at the Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, E1. With Missoni at George at Asda prices, Colleen should learn to keep shtum and let Rooney deliver the punches. Sale from today to Sunday (12:30-8PM).

3) Smitten by Almodovar's portayal of Spain in Volver? Viva la fortuna! React by heading to the themed "A Walk Through Spain"Regent Street Festival this Sunday. The street will be pedestrianised and turned over to Spanish food, wine, fashion shows, horses, and a rumoured Catalan human tower involving 300 men. Which if you have ever spent a night at the London, gay male gyrating machine, Shadow Lounge, should seem rather realistic.