Wednesday, April 22, 2009

These Days

Yesterday, for no apparent reason, the electricity went out, "Maybe it's the end of the world," I thought, "Happening one light bulb at a time." As it turned out it wasn't, but we were still stranded, with only Greek salad for dinner, which was perhaps not the best preparation for an evening which involved the unwise combination of tequila, champagne and Ultravox. You see, as my apartment was plunged into increasing darkness with the setting of the sun I was literally forced to go to a party, and leave my copy of The Last Temptation behind.

The party was so so, but perked up by a frankly pretty steamy make-out session in our host's bathroom, after which I found myself, pouring myself and my associates into a taxi cab in the small hours. Returning home I was less than amused to find that the power was still out, and that our landlady, who lives in London, seemed less than desperate to remedy the situation. I went to bed by candlelight, which was actually sort of romantic, it thundered all through the night.

Now, this morning we had our first rehearsal proper with the performers who are to be my co-stars in our much anticipated (by someone, somewhere, I'm sure) show The Illustrated History of Longing. Thus I was required to rise from the grave at 8 am, yes, am, and pull on my electric blue age 10-12 reebok tracksuit, and head to the theatre. Of course, there was still no electricity, so no hot water, and no coffee and no, well the list of things I was deprived of is endless. But, I decided to think positive; my co-stars I realised will recognise soon enough how bad I smell and how grouchy I am, better that I open with the real me on day one. So we danced, and made shapes, and did the whole bit and generally looked pretty groovy. It was very kids from Fame.

Returning to my still unlit apartment after said rehearsal, I found celebrity costumier Ms Eva Le Blanc waiting on the street corner looking mournfully into the window of Body Club. Knowing that Ms Le Blanc is not a fan of treadmills, creatine, or dumbells I sensed something was wrong. Alas she had been stood up by her lunch date and was wandering the streets in the hope that she might find her bedraggled and lost down an Athenian back alley. Bad news for her good news for me! Delightfully, I was given free reign over the prepared platefuls of baclava and cans of coca-cola (all of Ms Le Blanc's parties are staged as though for 5 year olds, even when in fact they are not.)

Midway through this sticky feast an old man turned up at the door, cane in hand, speaking only five words of English, which admittedly is two more words of English than I speak of Greek, but still somewhat problematic. After a brief game of charades in the doorway it transpired that he was the electrician, dispatched from afar by our landlady in an efficient, Wicked Witch of the West style. The electrician was simply baffled at finding us sat at a tableful of baclava and coke, hanging out in the middle of the day. I think he actually imagined we were throwing the party to welcome him.

Although we assured him that we did not in fact speak Greek, the electrician insisted on talking away to us, rapid fire, waving his hands in confusion. We mimed our difficulties to him, he scribbled something incomprehensible on a piece of paper, we shrugged, he shrugged, he disappeared, we ate more baclava. Then, magically, our dear pal Katerina (Ms Le Blanc's Greek speaking lunch date) arrived and solved our communication crisis. She had in fact been wandering the streets since she was unable to contact Ms Le Blanc (whose cell phone and laptop were flat) for directions, what are the chances? Marvellously light was soon restored,even if the whole thing was terribly reminiscent of the episode of Absolutely Fabulous in which Eddie and Patsy get stranded in France, terrorised by the caretaker of the house they are supposed to be renting.

At some point Chen (our Chinese friend who somehow has ended up hosting a dinner party at our apartment tomorrow) arrived in a panic and in desperate need of advice as to where a person buys "pork with skin" in Athens. I'm a vegetarian so I let someone else answer that question.

You might think that would be enough excitement for one day, but no. Anna then arrived and turned our bathroom into a recreation of The Death of Marat in which I was to play the lead for her to film and make abstract projections from. I never thought that my pastel pink tiled bathroom would lend itself terribly well to recreating French masterpieces of the nineteenth century, but as has happened before, I was clearly wrong. And not only did we get to play that game, I then spent the next hour pretending to drown in the bathtub, which is actually a lot less fun than you might think.

Frankly I'm exhausted.

As I write Chen, having found the necessary carcasses, is proceeding to hack them up in the kitchen with a woefully blunt bread knife as Ms Le Blanc (as stauncher vegetarian than I) hides behind her hands, looking on the verge of tears and muttering "Tomorrow I am bleaching everything we own."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Insolent Noise

What amazes me more than anything about the British riot grrrls is that even though bands like Huggy Bear had a lot of exposure, the cover of Melody Maker, and national TV appearances in the yUK, the scene so quickly ate itself. I admire them for refusing to sign to EMI and make a record with Rick Rubin of course, but it's quite the tragedy that the genre dissipated amid the hype and hysteria of Brit pop and rave. In the US at least riot grrrl lived on down the line from Bikini Kill to Sleater Keaney, into things like Le Tigre and even Gravy Train! but in the UK?

Little to nothing remains.

So, I am greatly delighted to hear about two new bands who are mining the herstory to bring distortion and frenzied politics b-a-c-k. Riot T Girls (the brain child of Ryan Styles and Paul St Paul) and The Holy Roman Emperors are both on the rampage and may God have mercy on your soul because this time there's no escape and no MTV.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Beauty School Drop Out

I opened a branch of my cosmetology college in Athens last night, with great acclaim. I will be teaching the basic elements of how to beautify oneself for oneself through oneself. Operating from the principles that too much is never enough and that being terrible at something shouldn't ever stop you from doing it, I am offering a very reasonably priced course in the glamorous application of maqueillage.

So if you want to look like you got into a fistfight with a truck driver after your six year old niece gave you a makeover whilst you were passed out from a whisky binge (and frankly, who doesn't?) then I am literally your person!

My first client was Jeffrey Gordon Baker, just the basics.

Then I did myself - masterclass round.

Beautiful, Successful People.

Here our dear friend Ms Eva Le Blanc tries to get in on the action.

That noise my love, is the sound of Pat McGrath turning in her grave.

Sunday, April 12, 2009


It's still absolutely mind bending to me that when I take a right out of my door I come to the base of the Acropolis. Today I actually went up, and there encountered a plethora of aggravating people tramping across the marble and reading aloud from their guidebooks. Dear old Susan Sontag would simply turn in her grave at the sight of the slew of amateur photographers shooting their loved ones against monolithic slabs of rock. At times it was entirely impossible to move more than a metre or so before having to step back and out of someone's holiday snaps. It was akin to a rather gruesome experience I had at New York Fashion Week, in which I was trapped behind Tommy Hilfiger's endless posing for the world's media, whilst trying to elbow my way to a seat at the J.Lo show. This time however the work on display was of a somewhat higher calibre, not to dismiss Ms Lopez, but antiquity was always more of my thing.

Far more delightful was my stroll around the temple that never was, dedicated to Olympian Zeus. The structure was apparently just too big for the soil to uphold so the architects just gave up and went off to carve something else, leaving the pillars where they are. The whole surrounding area is carpeted with wildflowers, and under the shade of fir trees there lies the remains of a Roman bath. With the obligatory friendly stray dog not far behind and the ripples of applause and soft popping of a nearby tennis match, this holy site was beautifully tranquil. It put me in the frame of mind to do some work, and feeling very Byronic, I set about researching Hermaphroditus (which actually rhymes with more words than you might think) and began writing the cabaret theme song to the upcoming An Illustrated History of Longing . To my absolute delight there are a lot of sculptures on the subject of that very demi-God, and most of them are suitably explicit.

Friday, April 10, 2009

This living piece of art

This week's interview with yours truly comes from Acne Jeans, though I'm not sure why, I don't even own a pair of jeans. Let's have a picture of Max Steele modeling some jeans all the same. Oh, and whilst we're at it this is from a campaign for Etre jeans circa 1900. Sick.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Hello, Sailor

The divine Ms Le Blanc, costumier to the stars (and me) today picked out the first package of costumes for our production of An Illustrated History of Longing which opens sometime soon in Athens. Amongst the items was this terrific vest complete with sequined heart which I will be wearing on Monday for the publicity shots, and probably every other day too if I'm honest. In said publicity pictures I will be wrestling a sailor and giving full on Karen Elson realness, and Greece will literally not know what hit 'er.

The show is in equal measures this:



And this:

But mainly this:

Monday, April 6, 2009

LIVE via Satellite

Tonight in NYC, HOT! Festival Director and "downtown impresario" Earl Dax celebrates his birthday as only he knows how, with every freak in the tri-state area. Lest this seem too pedestrian he has also gone to great lengths to interface with me here in Greece, and there will be a live satellite link-up at some point in the proceedings. Expect shades of this:

The knife in my heart says you love me,
The look on your face says, "Don't bother"

Sunday, April 5, 2009

And thou art dead, as young and fair as aught of mortal birth.

Lord Byron really is a fascinating figure but a terrible poet, as Virgina W put it, "I'm much impressed by the extreme badness of B.'s poetry." (Apparently he was very capable of writing satire but was persuaded that poetry was his real strength.) Of the poems I've read I have yet to be moved, engaged or even vaguely interested by any of them.

Maybe I'm just not scholarly enough, but isn't there something profoundly lacklustre about a poem like She Walks In Beauty? And for all his wild ways I have to say I find him actually very stuffy. T.S. Eliot put it, "Of Byron one can say, as of no other English poet of his eminence, that he added nothing to the language, that he discovered nothing in the sounds, and developed nothing in the meaning, of individual words."

So it seems to me that the good Lord B is one of those figures, ever growing in numbers, whose greatest contribution to the world is their scandal laced biography. And thank goodness he did go off to free the Greeks from Turkish rule, do it with every possible partner, gamble away his fortune, and fall in love with 12 year olds, because frankly you have to work really on your extra-curricular activities when your literary output is that pedestrian. Face it, he is to poetry what Jacqueline Susann is to the novel.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

The story so far

Athens is an incredible city, I've been here for just over a day but I am mad about it. Everything happens at once, time melts. Great big chunks of the ground are open ruins behind wrought iron bars, communist and anarchist graffiti is scrawled on everything, '70s style apartment blocks sit right alongside nineteenth century townhouses and typically gruesome European fashion stores. for all women for all time and Shirtaninly a Man, being the best examples.

The surrounding streets at the bottom of the hill (on which sits the theatre of Dionysius) are populated by embassies, tavernas and abandoned buildings. Too precious to be torn down, and too old fashioned to be made into apartments more suited to the contemporary market and sold on, these beautiful houses are left by squabbling families to fall in on themselves, overgrown and crumbling.

I live at the back of the Acropolis, and it is a strange experience to live in the shadow of antiquity, even in the bright Spring sunshine the city is phantasmagorical and smells inescapably of orange blossoms. My balcony overlooks and archaeological dig and two streets over is Athens' biggest gay club, the plexiglass of history is shattered. Even grocery shopping is a pleasure, since the capital's most famous bakeries and most magnificently stocked green grocers sit on my doorstep. I'm honestly rather overcome.

Last night, walking through the park that surrounds the Acropolis by the light of the moon, we got a little lost (as drunken wanderers in a new city are want to do). As we disappeared deeper into trees and further away from the roads, enveloped by the night, we felt something of a flash of fear. Nobody would wander like this, through an empty, unlit expanse in New York or London so late at night unless they were looking for something nefarious. Aware that were we taking a wrong turning, blindly into the indigo foliage, with the wild dogs of Athens howling all past midnight, we stopped on the spot. Jeffrey said, "Could I express something like fear?" and a very clear snapping of twigs answered us from behind. Then, like so many incantations and folk tales, a huge white horse appeared, out of the pitch blackness,silver, an apparition. Only barely out of the reach of an outstretched hand it whinnied, shaking its mane like moonbeams falling. We moved towards him as directed and walked straight back onto our lost pathway, descending the hill with the growlings in the trees now behind us. To the left, above our heads, like a full moon sat the temple of Athena.