Sunday, July 30, 2006

Highlights of Las Vegas

I haven't won a lot of money, but I did get 4 Aces at video poker, which earned me $20 on a 25c bet. Just call me the last of the big spenders.


A Circle De Soleil type extravaganza including 2 lesbian contortionists in a life-sized champagne glass, a cage-fight that ended in a gay kiss, 2 fat woman doing a naked pom-pom dance, and a love story involving a muscular dwarf. Boundaries were pushed - at least as far as the State of Nevada was concerned.

Helicopter Ride to the Grand Canyon

We were picked up in a limo (I felt like one of those women in the "get treated like a celebrity" Carphone Warehouse ads) and then flown up over the Strip of Las Vegas while Elvis sang Viva Las Vegas through the headphones. We saw the Hoover Dam and then on to the Grand Canyon - where it was blisteringly hot and beautiful. Everyone should travel by helicopter - all the time.

Night time on the Strip

The heat is still pushing 100 F. The pavement is littered with porn - literally - there are dozens of little men giving out cards for strip shows and the like, which then get dropped and trodden underfoot. Everywhere is crowded, and it's like being confronted by every single person who's appeared in the audience of Jerry Springer, plus the guests. Lots of angry, bitter drunks, who'd lost money, shouting at nobody and everybody. We stopped off at the Bellagio where Elton John was piped into the air and the fountains did a synchronised water show for us. It was kitsch and beautiful. When it was over, a woman who looked like Sue from Survivor series 1 applauded next to me and then laughted at herself for clapping at water.

The Liberace Museum

Dedicated to the tackiest showbiz persona ever - the man who invented bling. A variety of his over-the-top cars, pianos, outfits and jewellry were on display. More interesting though, was watching the unironically impressed reactions of the other visitors and their interactions with the reverent museum staff, who couldn't wait to impart their Liberace knowledge, as if they were talking about the Pope or a minor Deity

Getting propositioned by a football coach from Texas in the hotel jacuzzi

I said "I don't think so, but thankyou" and then fled back to my room before it turned into something out of

We are off to San Diego tomorrow, where maybe people will be a little more normal.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Let's get married in Vegas

Arrived in Las Vegas last night at 4 in the morning (thanks to a delayed plane). The minute we stepped off the plane into the airport we were confronted with rows of slot machines (and people playing them - they're like Borg Casino Robots who never sleep). We also saw a huge advert for "The Thunder from Down Under" - a male strip show from Australia, and another massive advert of a busty woman (who looked like a drag queen but wasn't) firing a machine gun, with the tagline "Fire a machine gun!" It's all so unsubtle and panders to people's weaknesses: gluttony, lust, greed etc. But it's done on such a grand scale that it's impossible not to be impressed and caught up in the hedonistic glamour of it all. I feel compelled to break out into an Ann Margaret Vegas dance routine (ala Viva Las Vegas) every few minutes.

We are staying on the 30th floor of New York New York, a massive casino hotel, which, from the outside emulates the Manhattan skyline (along with a rollercoaster) and attempts to replicate the real New York, it's all very "hyper-real". It always takes me a few days to adjust to the breezy extroversion of America. In the UK, we are generally poor communicators and diffident. Americans on the other hand speak clearly and loudly, and always seem to have some witty sitcom response to any given situation. The man who brought my breakfast this morning, looked me up and down and said "You need to get your hair on!" I didn't have the heart to say "Actually, it always looks this way." After a few days, I kind of get into it and go along with it too. It makes me wonder whether personality really *is* to do with context (I read "The Tipping Point" on the plane which argues just that). Maybe there is a sassy American version of me and the reflective, shy Brit is only because I live in the UK. My fella is in 7th heaven because the hotel has a Starbucks that is open 24 hours a day.

So far I have gambled and lost some money on the slot machines, visited an "oxygen bar" (although I couldn't see what all the fuss was about), over-eaten and got a blister walking miles from shambolic hotel to hotel - they are all joined together, meaning you don't have to step outside into the 100+ degrees F heat. We got lost several times on the way back though as we negoiated the enormous hollowed out pyramid of the Luxor, and the fake olde worlde of Camelot. Tonight we are going to see "Zumanity" - a Showgirls-esque variety show. I'm sure it will be educational.

I am following the ongoing story of "Monique" at the moment - she's a celebrity I've never heard of, who was recently thrown off a plane after one of her entourage tried to place a hairdryer in an overhead locker. I'm sure there was more to the story than that, but Monique has been phoning in every day to "E Tonight" saying things like "I was treated like an animal!" and "I have been in touch with legal representation". Tragically, Monique said to an air hostess "Don't you know who I am?" It seems she didn't.

Also, one of N Synch has "confessed he is gay" according to the media. Since when did it require a "confesssion"? Still, he isn't all that good-looking so I don't think the story will run.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Ecstasy of Gold

One of my favourite ever movie scenes is the "Ecstasy of Gold" last-but-one scene from Clint Eastwood's The Good The Bad and The Ugly, directed by Sergio Leone. If you've never seen this film, then hopefully the clip below should tempt you into watching it. It's one of Quentin Tarantino's favourite films and the scene below is used to open shows by the band Metallica. It's a near perfect match of cinematography, music and narrative, without the need for words.

At this point in the film, the three main characters have reached the final stage of their hunt for buried gold, having undertaken a journey of epic proportions. The gold is buried under one of the graves in a Civil War graveyard, with the graves arranged in concentric circles. Finally, Tuco (the ugly) finds the graveyard and he runs through it, trying to locate Arch Stanton's grave where he has been told the treasure is buried. The irony of his joy, found among hundreds of pointlessly killed soliders, always chokes me up. The music is both sad and glorious. Tuco starts running round in circles, literally - getting increasingly desperate - the graveyard is so enormous - can he ever find the grave he needs? The camera begins to spin around so the graves are blurred, while Tuco appears to be standing still while running. And finally, as Ennio Morricone's haunting music swells to a crescendo, just when you think he's never going to get anywhere - he spots the right grave. Or is it? What follows is a Mexican standoff that can only be resolved by a three-way shoot-out and a payoff which harks right back to the beginning of the film. It was Clint's last spaghetti western - the end of his trilogy. And a perfect high to go out on.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Damn this heat

I had been entertaining the fantasy of a nice retirement (in several decades time) somewhere hot. But this past month has made me realise that hot weather ain't all that. I feel like Clint Eastwood in a spaghetti western, during one of those scenes where someone's ran off with his water bottle and horse and he has to hike 100 miles through the desert. Hot weather also seems to make people crazy. I could give examples from real life, but I don't really have the stomach for it. I have spent a horrible amount of time on trains this week, and they've all gone hideously slowly because the signal points have overheated. I have changed my retirement fantasy to involve somewhere which has British weather in May all year long.

I saw the latest Don Roos film last week, Happy Endings. I enjoyed The Opposite of Sex, so thought I'd give this a go. It's a very similar film in that it has lots of the same elements (Lisa Kudrow, woman seducing gay man, shock pregnancy, a gun, homophobia, a gay man cheating on his boyfriend, sarcastic narrative), but all jumbled up. Kudos to Steve Coogan for playing American AND gay. The film's title comes from what happens at the end of a certain type of massage.

Now that Nikki has been voted out of Big Brother I have a feeling the programme has "jumped the shark". It's not too late to start watching Big Brother US - which is only 4 episodes in and had more scheming and intrigue in its first episode than the whole 7 years of UK Big Brothers put together.

Saturday, July 15, 2006

Fax War

The following link is an apparently verbatim fax exchange between Julie Birchill and Camille Paglia which took place in the early 1990s. The two decided to engage in a "fax war" after Birchill gave an unfavourable review to one of Paglia's books. And it very quickly descends into a level of hilariously catty spite. Birchill does the debating equivalent of taking her bra off and wrestling in a tub of mud, telling Paglia she has a "wop name", calling her a "GIRL" and saying that academia is a "fate worse than death" (I suppose it makes a change from the usual "I've been to the university of life" cliche that most people with chips on the shoulder who haven't been to university come out with.)

Paglia, on the other hand, tries to take the "higher ground", but ends up coming across like an insane arch-villain of James Bond proportions, utterly taken with her own supposed "stature", warning Burchill that the bad review was a pivotal point in her career, she's turned down a chance to make an "important alliance" and that Julie's "spluttering hostility proves [she] has made serious inroads into terrority [you] once ruled alone". Ruled alone? Ooh get her! Both women have such bigged-up egos that it's hilarious when Paglia boasts that she is "read and translated from Japan to South America" (how lovely for her) or when Julie lies that she was asked to do the documentary about Lady Di first, but passed up on it, being glad to pass some work to Camille. Miaow!

But the two do score a couple of good hits. Paglia describes Julie's writing as "alcoholic prose" and tells her to "blow your dusty proletarian tuba" but the truth is she's a "sheltered, pampered sultan". Too right - Julie might go on about how much she loves "chavs" and really is one herself, but her nice house in Hove tells a different story. But saying that, Birchill's final missive "fuck off you crazy old dyke" can't really be topped.

The whole thing was published in The Modern Review, which somehow spoils its authenticity. Shame. Still, I got my fella to read out the whole exchange to me yesterday - he is a great mimic and can do Julie's Minnie Mouse Bristol burr to a tee. We weren't sure what Camille sounds like - despite the fact she is so famous, we don't recall seeing her on tv or hearing her on the radio, so he simply used an imitation of the bitchy middle-aged American gay men we have met and that worked just as well.

Speaking of bitchy, this blog could teach the girls a thing or too if either of them fancy a rematch.

Currently listening to The Days of Pearly Spencer

Sunday, July 09, 2006

You'll never work in this town again

I have been playing "The Movies" for most of the afternoon. You play a Hollywood movie mogul who has to build a studio of film stars. As the decades progress from the 1920s to the present day, the fashions change, hairstyles seem to get more outrageous and the films get better and the stars develop drink problems and get fat, meaning that they have to spend time in rehab or having lipsuction. My stars are a nightmare - they throw constant tantrums, walk off set and go and get drunk and complain that their trailer isn't ritzy enough (despite me kitting it out with baseball hoops and flower beds). They constantly compare themselves to the other stars in my stable - raise the salary of one of them and the others all start screaming and bitching instantly. What's most ironic though, is that all the films I've produced so far have been absolute crap! My studio is the worst one in Hollywood and my actors are consistently get rubbish reviews.

There is a "movie making" facility where you can create your own movies and add voice-overs to them. But I haven't tried it yet as I'm too busy being addicted to churning out more trash from my studio. It's one of those games where you look up and five hours have passed and you have no idea where they went to... There's a demo download at the site, so play it at your peril!

Thursday, July 06, 2006

The future of Big Brother

After last night's lovely mental torture of Aislyne, this is what I see in store for the next 7 series of Big Brother. Bring on the entertainment!

series 8 - contestants include 3 porn stars, 9 promo girls, 6 gay men (4 of which are porn stars), 1 person with Downs Syndrome and 2 morbidly obese people. A challenge involves the contestants forcibly having to shave each other's heads. One of the contestants, Tonya, is severely booed on her eviction and suffers facial scarring after someone in the audience throws a broken bottle at her face. The Downs Syndrome person wins

series 9 - 7 of the contestants are porn stars, 7 are gay, 4 are bisexual, 5 are bulimic. All of the women have had breast implants. Within 24 hours half of the contestants have had sex with each other. All nominations are made public. The food budget is miniscule. During a fight, a contestant is brutally beaten and several people have to be forcibly removed. A mentally unstable contestant who was booed later commits suicide. People on internet forums write "good riddance!"

series 10 - having moved to Channel 5, we now have BB Tar and Feather! all of the contestants are 16 year old porn stars. Within 2 weeks they have all contracted syphillis from each other. One contestant has an abortion, live onscreen. Tasks involve the ingestion of mind-altering drugs. Evictees are now tarred and feathered upon leaving the house. During a heated fight, a contestant slashes another contestant's neck with a kitchen knife severing an artery. The contestant dies. Viewing figures are the highest yet. The winner is a porn star called Favio.

series 11 - BB Crazy! the new contestant line-up features several convicted rapists, 8 year old girls, right-wing extremists and people who have spent time in mental institutions. One contestant commits suicide live onscreen by electrocuting herself, rather than face the mob outside. A pregnant women suffers a miscarriage when she is evicted, due to the crowd hostilty. People on internet forums write "the bitch deserved it". Several contestants are sexually abused during their time in the house. The winner is a paedophile called Joe.

series 12 - BB Capital Punishment! after a new government brings back the death sentence, Davina excitedly announces that this year evicted housemates will be executed, live on television. The contestants are all child-killers, terrorists, and serial killers who are serving life sentences. They have traded their prison sentence for execution and the chance of freedom. The winner is a multiple racist-killer who goes on to have his own tv chat show called "Crime Pays".

series 13 - BB is still using the "execution" rules, but instead of convicted killers, it's back to the usual run of promo girls, porn stars, outrageous queens and models. Ratings are at an all-time high. There are several murders among the eviction crowd every Friday. People on internet forums write "The show is getting boring now."

series 14 - BB Deathmatch! The contestants are simply locked in the house and told "last one alive wins".

Wednesday, July 05, 2006

I love you Penelope

This posting I did recently on the new meaning of the word "gay" has come back to haunt me. I wrote a book about gay slang a few years back and because of this, the BBC Radio World Service asked to interview me about the etymology of "gay" and what I thought about the new schoolyard usage as "lame". Normally, I hate going on the radio, but they said I could go to their Bristol premises which is only 5 minutes walk away, and it wasn't going to be one of those "balanced debates" where I'd have to fight it out with some Bernard Manning type and probably come off worse.

So I went along and said all I had to say. I even got in a comment someone made here on this site about "gay" not being fashionable slang anymore among schoolkids. (Thanks DazPaz.) When it was over, part of me was relieved, but another part was sad and didn't want to go home. I wanted to stay there forever and have my own radio show.

What made it all slightly glamorous was that in the waiting area (which was styled like Patsy's office in AbFab - all internet stations and big tv screens and perspex), I found myself sitting opposite Penelope Wilton - recent star of Doctor Who, also in Ever Decreasing Circles, Clockwise and loads of other stuff that I like. I'm kind of a fan of hers. But I didn't want to freak her out so I contented myself with furtively looking at her every now and again. She touched up her make-up and then read a newspaper as she waited for her taxi. When I was called to go in, I wanted to make an obscure reference to the weird 1978 tv play "The Norman Conquests" that she appeared in and then scream "I love you!" but managed to restrain myself somehow. I guess that's why they have security guards.