In a world saturated with social me-dear surveillance and suffused with surplus selfies, being ‘interesting’ becomes ever-more compulsory – just as it becomes ever-more elusive. Not only for artists in this brave new connected, visual, attention-seekingworld, but for civilians too.
Little wonder that Cecil Beaton, a man who essentially invented himself and his astonishing career with a portable camera loaded with his ambition and longing, one of the brightest of his bright young generation of the 1920s, has become more famous, not less.
As we plough relentlessly into a 21st century that he anticipated in many ways, long before his death in 1980, I suspect ours is a world he would be as much horrified as impressed by.
I’ve penned a long but -- it goes without saying -- scintillating profile of the British photographer dandy Cecil Beaton for fashion and style mag Another Man‘s 15th anniversary issue.
Guest-edited by the legendary and lovely Jo-Ann Furniss, other contributors include Paul Morely, Douglas Coupland and Chris Heath.
The issue is on sale now for £6.99. But in a first of its kind for the glossy fash mag, you can download the whole issue digitally -- and hygeinically -- gratis, if you fill in their form here.
How Sam’s body in ‘Psycho’ melted mine and Julie’s minds
On New Year’s Day I rewatched Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho. As you do. Released in 1960, his low-budget, shockingly deviant, uber-Freudian masterpiece is sixty years old this year. Pensionable, almost.
In a worrying development, suggesting I may be due early retirement myself, I discovered that I’d completely forgotten how fit Marion’s boyfriend Sam is, played by John Gavin, 29. And how much we see of his fitness in the opening topless scene – in which Sam, rather more than Marion, played by Janet Leigh, 33, is the apple of the camera’s eye. No wonder Marion steals $40K to keep him.
Sam is the unwitting femme fatale of this noir: those big, black eyes, those long luscious lashes, that beckoning bosom. That sticky end. Sam is desire.
It’s worth analysing that first scene in Psycho in detail, since it prefigures by decades the way the way men are ‘objectified’ today – and is a timeless cinematic love letter to the late Mr Gavin.
We open with a bird’s eye camera panning across the hot, arid Phoenix afternoon skyline, then voyeuristically zooming in on the dirty, open window of a non-descript, seedy hotel – and swooping in under the partially-lowered blinds. (Stuffed birds of prey are an obsession of Norman Bates, who later perves on Marion through a peephole as she undresses in his cheap motel room, in much the same way we did at the beginning of the movie.)
The first shot of our trysting, unmarried lovers is of Marion lying on her back on the bed in her bra, gazing up glowingly at Sam – his be-flannelled arse and lunchbox occupying the middle of the screen, framed next to Marion’s upturned face. Like much else in this film, including the shot of an actual flushing toilet later (the first ever in a mainstream US movie or TV show), it’s a shockingly suggestive-to-explicit image for fin-de-50s America. What’s more, that bra and those flannels are not even married.
(Unsurprisingly, the censors enforcing the still-extant Production Code were very unhappy with the first scene. Hitchcock offered to re-shoot the opening with the grim officials on the set -- if they allowed him to keep the shower scene, which they also hated. Fortunately, the board members failed to show up for the re-shoot and the cheap hotel shots also stayed.)
We can see Marion’s lover is shirtless and towelling himself – so we deduce, along with her satiated countenance, and the drowsy soundtrack, that the tableaux is post-coital. But we can’t see the flannels’ head as the shot cuts him off just above his waist. He is the faceless object of Marion’s desire and longing.
But we do hear him speak – in a deep, smooth voice:
‘You never did eat your lunch, did you?’
The camera cuts to the untouched shrink-wrapped sandwiches and soda bottle (and two stubbed out fag ends) on the bedside table. And then immediately to a long shot of a spectacularly unwrapped Sam, shooting an explosively handsome grin at Marion, his lean, attractively muscled body -- especially for 1960 -- picked out like a vision by the camera lighting in the gloomy room.
So, we know what Marion did eat for lunch. And it was totally delicious. The way her head instantly moves in on him suggests she’s hungry for more.
Sam’s toplessness -- which, being male, is officially non-sexual -- to some extent stands in for Marion’s, which was still in 1960 Hollywood officially impossible. But in black and white practise, it is very much its own splendid, highly sexual thing.
They then canoodle on the bed, while Marion makes it clear she’s unhappy about their clandestine, seedy meets and wants to get married. Sam eventually demurs that he can’t afford to get married yet because of the alimony he’s paying to his ex-wife, along with taking care of his father’s debts. Marion replies, prophetically:
“I pay too. They also pay who meet in hotel rooms.”
During this exchange the camera spends most of its time on Sam (who remains partially clothed while Marion gets dressed) and his adorable face, nose and chin, which Marion can’t stop stroking – showing us the back of her head, even when she’s talking. We have to see him from her POV: why she would desire him enough to steal, completely out of character, $40,000 from her kindly old employer.
And we really do.
We’re also left in no doubt that that Marion, despite the talk of marriage, is not some shrinking, 1950s violet. She has a very active sexuality and wants to possess Sam.
Norman, whom she of course meets later on the way to claim Sam with the stolen cash, is a kind of anti-Sam – younger, skinnier, sexually repressed and a mommy’s boy. Oh, and a knife-wielding cross-dressing psychotic.
His voice is quaveringly pubescent compared to Sam’s butch baritone. But like Sam he is also pretty – after all, he’s played by teen-throb and sometime popster Anthony Perkins. Moreover, it is square Sam’s hotness, and unavailability, as well as the stifling gender roles and mores of mid-century America, that has led Marion – the older woman – to the seedy-grisly terminus of the Bates motel.
I’d also forgotten something else about Psycho: how much Norman swishes his tiny tush when climbing the stairs of his gothic family home in the final reel. Just before we hear his ‘mother’, in a voice like late Bette Davis in full sneer mode, shouting:
“No! I will not hide in the fruit cellar! You think I’m fruity, huh? I’m staying right here.”
But then, it’s gothic chicken and eggs -- Whatever Happened to Baby Jane, made two years later, was conceived as a horror cash-in on the runaway success of Psycho, and Davis’ famous ‘psycho-biddy’ character Jane owes more than a little to Ma Bates.
John Gavin died in 2018, aged 86, an event I seem to have somehow missed, but he’s been in my fruity thoughts lately, having also recently rewatched Kubrick’s Spartacus (1960), in which he plays a smouldering young Julius Caesar hanging out with an oysters-and-snails loving Crassus (Laurence Olivier) – and yes, of course there’s a bathhouse scene. And Sirk’s Imitation of Life (1959), in which he plays an object of double feminine obsession (mother and daughter).
Often described dismissively as a ‘Rock Hudson lookalike’, Gavin was, I’d venture, prettier in his prime than Hudson, whose straight-edge, solid, dull, Anglo, handsomeness was the very reason he was supposedly ‘the last man you woulda guessed’. Although Gavin, who was of Latin American heritage, could sometimes be butchly wooden on screen, and unlike Hudson very heterosexual off-screen, there was something about his youthful looks that he couldn’t quite straighten out. That body, those eyes and that mouth.
But it was the obese, bald, 60-year-old – as he was when Psycho was made, 60 years ago – grandfather from Leytonstone, Mr Hitchcock, famous for his sometimes cruel, objectifying treatment of his female stars, who seems to have truly recognised, drawn out, and forever captured (stuffed?) the full-throated sexual energy, passivity and fatal charisma of Mr Gavin in his prime. A sexual energy, passivity and fatal charisma that Mr Gavin probably didn’t even know he had in him.
As a parting observation, I would suggest only slightly subjectively that in this film so famous for its focus on eyes – Norman’s at the peephole, Marion’s blinking at the car headlights on the highway, unblinking on the brightly-lit bathroom floor, the beady glass ones of the stuffed birds, ours zooming in under the cheap Phoenix hotel room’s window, Norman’s grinning psychotic eyes in the final frame – it is Sam’s eyes that are most seductive. They suck you in.
Mark Simpson finds Midway ‘dumb, numb and empty of cum‘
When I went to see Roland Emmerich’s teensploitation flick Midway this week I had low expectations. In fact, they were so low I almost ran aground on the way to the multiplex. Emmerich, the director-writer responsible for blockbusters such as Independence Day, Stargate, and The Day After Tomorrow, specialises in making movies as spectacularly awful as they are successful.
Why did I go? Because Emmerich’s
films are aimed at teen boys – and I’m a classic case of arrested development.
So is Emmerich, clearly – but I can only aspire to his level of adult cynicism,
which has probably made him as wealthy as a war profiteer.
Midway, based on the pivotal 1942 Pacific naval engagement between the US and Japan which saw the destruction of much of the Japanese carrier fleet and the loss of their hopes of any kind of victory, manages to be even more stupidly awful than I expected.
But this time I doubt the stupid awfulness will be accompanied by stupid success. Not least because while the Battle of Midway may mean a lot to old queens like Emmerich – and me – raised on 1950s-60s Second World War movies, it probably doesn’t mean very much to the youths who are the film’s target market. The auditorium I saw it at one evening a few days after it opened was mostly empty – and I was somehow not the oldest person there.
Emmerich tries of course to ‘update’ things to get around this problem. So Midway is WWII re-run as a First-Person MMO Shooter – won by an excruciatingly cocky character called, I kid you not, ‘Dick Best’. Think Tom Cruise’s ‘Maverick’ (he’s often called a ‘cowboy’), but somehow much more annoying. Ed Skrein really knocks himself out in the role.
All the other men are droolingly in love with him
and the size and heft of his virility – especially his handsome moustachioed
boss played by that gay Brit actor who put Orlando Bloom out of work (Luke
After Dick sinks the Japanese Imperial Navy one of his
fanboys announces, somewhat redundantly:
‘This war will be won by men who like dick best!’
(The ‘who’ may have been silent.)
What’s peculiar about Midway though is that for a film obsessed with dick and rammed with hot male talent, including professional manteaser Nick Jonas – and referencing Top Gun – how lacking in homoeroticism it is. Or any kind of eroticism, really – apart from, I suppose, the CGI explosions.
Midway isn’t just dumb, which would be entirely acceptable – it’s completely numb. Dumb, numb and totally devoid of cum. Even the homosociality is unconvincing and unfelt, which is quite an achievement in a movie set on board aircraft carriers filled with hundreds of young men. Perhaps this is because, paradoxically, the director likes dick best.
Emmerich is gay, and so may be inhibited on that front -- lest he ‘let the side down’, especially in this age of gay respectability. It’s not impossible either that he’s a homo that just doesn’t get it – which is surprisingly common, I can assure you. But his biggest hits Stargate and Independence Day relied on cynically exploiting 1990s teen male homopanic and anal anxiety in a way that only a homo could.
In 2015 he apparently tried to atone for his sins with Stonewall, a flick celebrating the 1969 Stonewall ‘Uprising’ as its now called (why spoil a perfectly good bar riot?) – which I haven’t seen and have zero interest in seeing. It was panned by critics and activists and pilloried for its politics and lack of diversity. But what were people expecting from someone who makes movies about shit exploding while dudes high five?
As a side issue, Midway stars several Brit actors, as is often the way these days, playing Americans – including the lead, Ed Skrein. Oh, and waiting for it to start I saw a trailer for Knives Out, with Daniel Craig playing an American with a ripe southern accent.
Now, it’s fabulous that Brit actors are getting work, darling. But as a Brit watching Brit actors do American accents in Hollywood moovies, too often I find myself cringing like a limey. Skrein’s accent in Midway is like being keel-hauled by your ears. (He also seems to be doing something intensely irritating with his clean-cut-jutting All-American jaw.)
But apparently not to Americans, otherwise they wouldn’t keep getting cast. And you would think, wouldn’t you, that Americans are a better judge of an American accent than me. Is it perhaps prejudice on my part – because I see them as British, whereas Americans just assume they’re American? Or are as generous and open-hearted as I’m bitter and small-minded and so are happy to accept them and their goddamn stupidly awful accents as ‘American’?
‘Every time I bend down I feel I’m going to bust through the seams.’
I had no idea that ‘hockey butt’ was such a pressing problem. In fact, I’d never heard of hockey butt before I saw this viral ad.
But it’s my new favourite word for big round muscle bubble butt that sticks out shelf-like, demanding your attention. Certainly it’s a lot more SFW than my other ones.
‘We athletes have a problem with shopping for pants. We have relatively small waists, big quads, big thighs, and big butts!’
Dylan Larkin, a pro hockey player in the US and captain of the Detroit Red Wings, is selling stretchy dress pants from State & Liberty with a corny-horny script that is pure gay for pay porn -- likewise Larkin’s slightly ‘wooden’ delivery. That cute self-conscioius laugh after ‘big butt’ (and the close-up on that big butt squatting) tells us that Larkin and the people making this video (despite their disavowals after the ad went viral for the ‘wrong’ reasons) know exactly what they’re doing.
And they’re selling not to other hockey players, of course -- but to amateur spornos who don’t want to hide their hockey muscle butts and thighs under a bushell when they have to finally change out of lycra-rich form-hugging gymwear.
Thanks to a host of stretchy suppliers, spornos in the office, on the town, or just visiting their mams on Sunday can scrub up nicely and smartly -- but without sacrificing their henchness or adorability.
It probably says far too much about my internet search history, but I’m getting more and more bombarded with Facebook ads for ‘athletic fit’ dress shirts and trousers, usually attractive young men men filling out their spandex ‘performance fit’ dress pants and shirts very nicely. It certainly seems to be a ‘growth’ industry.
Of course, it’s true that ‘regular fit’ often doesn’t fit athletes and bodybuilders or people who work out. Something that fits your swole chest and shoulders will likely be flappy around the mid-riff. Likewise, jeans and chinos that accomodate your hench thighs are likely to have room for a friend around the waist. In a world where men seem to be increasingly dividing into ‘fitties’ and ‘fatties’ that problem is only likely to increase.
But what is really being sold with ‘athletic’ and ‘muscle’ fit is a smart-slutty aesthetic. A way of ‘wearing’ the hot commodity that you’ve laboured hard to make -- your shredded body. ‘Dress’ clothes that casually advertise your undressed humpiness rather than disguise it, lumpily. Smart spornowear.
A spornos body is after all better designed and made than most clothes -- so why wouldn’t he want the togs he dons to merely follow and fondle the design of his delts and glutes?
After all, that’s what people’s eyes are doing.
Once again, I think we have to thank that chap from Finland whose mid-20th Century sketches for a new, improved, sluttier -- and skin tight -- masculinity have proved to be the blueprint for 21st Century spornosexuality.
Went to see male strip troupe Forbidden Nights at a theatre in North East England this week – I’m a sucker for a bit of culture, me.
And who could resist an evening billed as a ‘spectacle of desires, passion and excitement’ filled with ‘acrobats, fire acts, aerial artists and world-renowned circus performers’?
Especially when they ‘have not only mastered the art of strip tease, but do it in a way that has never been done before’.
A new way to flash your tackle? No wonder the auditorium, which seats 1000, was packed out.
Though me and my fit (non-bum) chum were the only men.
The women behind us, who like most of the audience were well lubricated long before the Baby Oil was cracked open, were loudly discussing my chum.
‘SUCH a waste!’
‘I KNOW!! In’t it ALWAYS the way!’
The show alas didn’t deliver the goods. Despite the ladies of Darlo roaring like Armageddon: ‘GET YER COCKS OUT!!’
The ‘acrobatics’ consisted of a few backflips, the ‘fire act’ was a damp squib. The ‘aerial artist’ was more impressive, but sadly not very fuckable.
Forbidden Nights fell between two stools – a ‘circus strip act’ that is neither really a circus act nor a strip act. The promised striptease ‘in a way that has never been done before’ turned out to be one that is all tease and no strip.
It was also painfully straight. And I’m not talking about the shockingly bad choreography (they desperately needed the talents of this guy). Or the hen night vibe and the man-bunned straight male compere making jokes about ‘lady facials’ and ‘swallowing cum’. I’m talking about the way the guys on stage don’t interact at all. I can’t remember them touching one another once – or even acknowledging one another. Even non-filth acrobats do that.
Of course, I’m biased, but this seemed to me to be a terrible waste of talent. I suspect that if the guys interacted more, even just in that tried-and-tested slightly flirtatious boyband fashion, the women would love it.
Then again, why am I giving away this kind of advice for free instead of just putting together my own strip troupe and cleaning up? Or at least just holding LOTS of auditions….
There was almost a riot after the bathetically anti-climactic ‘shower scene’ finale – no dick and barely a glimpse of bum cheek. Just lots of shimmying in silhouette behind a paper blind.
Tickets were £25 a pop.
One woman was shouting in the foyer: ‘I’VE SEEN MORE COCK IN ASDA ON A WET SUNDAY!’
Oh, and the swole guy in the middle of the poster (above) with the inked stars – the one who looks like a gay porn star and was the real reason me and my chum were there – wasn’t in the show.
Nor, frankly, were the bodies in the poster attached to the faces that were.
Obviously, someone tipped him off as to just how demanding 998 North Eastern women determined to have a good time can be.