The 'Daddy' of the Metrosexual, the Retrosexual, & spawner of the Spornosexual

Category: 80s (page 1 of 2)

Prince Charming – Adam Ant’s Pop Apotheosis

Some years back I posted a piece called ‘The Prettiest Punk’, about the most fetching three minute wonders. Scandalously, Adam Ant appeared nowhere in the list.

Perhaps this oversight was an unconscious censorship – because otherwise none of the other candidates would have stood a chance. Or more likely down to the fact I was born a bit late for punk and so only remembered Adam Ant in his much more successful, much more made-up new romantic ‘dandy highwayman’ phase, which twas technically new wave musically, but very much new romantic visually, and ideologically.

When he transformed from a punk Cinders into a glamorous, baroque butterfly, drowning in lip gloss.

Born Stuart Goddard in 1954, and raised in an unplumbed two-room north London slum, this art school ruffian chose the punk name ‘Adam’ because ‘he was the first man’, and ‘Ant’ because ‘they will survive nuclear war’. He personified more than anyone else (even, dare I say, that other London boy made good, D**** B****) the open secret that British youth cults of glam, punk and new romanticism, although they officially hated each other, were all part of the same aesthetic rebellion.

One that eventually culminated (or degenerated, depending on your point of view), via the assimilation/proliferation of glossy magazines, consumerism and advertising, and the increasingly mediated nature of masculinity, in metrosexuality.

The tongue-in-cheek but seriously extravagant by the standards of the time ‘dandy highwayman’ promos for ‘Stand and Deliver’ and ‘Prince Charming’, both shot in a day and released in 1981 (forty years ago next year), were at least as influential in shaping the sensibility of the 1980s as Paul Schrader’s more ‘adult’ Hollywood feature film and young Richard Gere panopticon, American Gigolo, released the previous year.

‘Stand and Deliver’ was a pitch perfect pop song, noisily celebrating male narcissism and declaring, with wailing warcry, a national uprising against naffness – while holding grown-ups to ransom.

“It’s just stealing people’s attention. I’m a very big history fan of certainly the Georgian era and I like the flamboyance and sexuality and bawdiness of the time. I’ve seen films like Tom Jones and I grew up going to Saturday morning pictures and seeing all these other influences. I put them all together and Stand And Deliver was just purely grabbing people’s attention and using the whole sort of classical English highwayman feel as a theme.”

Adam ant

The promo, directed by Mike Mansfield, begins with us enjoying in close-up a fully-made-up but apparently naked Adam gazing smolderingly at himself in the mirror as he applies his ‘war paint’ – while the hunting horn sounds. The ‘threesome’ mirror-shot that invites the viewer to gaze on a beautiful young man gazing at himself is a trope which has become a cliche in the decades since, in a world where metrosexuality is completely mainstream and corporate, and social me-dia is rampant. In 1980 however, it was still an arresting vista.

I'm the dandy highwayman who you're too scared to mention
I spend my cash on looking flash and grabbing your attention

Mr Ant is entirely upfront and personal about his ravenous desire to be desired. In fact, he wields it as a weapon. Instead of holding up travellers with a pistol he holds a mirror to their faces. (Perhaps inspiring 1980s Taboo nightclub ‘door whore’ Mark Vaultier’s infamous habit of holding a mirror up to hopeful punters, asking:”Would you let yourself in?”).

Stand and deliver your money or your life
Try and use a mirror no bullet or a knife

Tossing the phallic pistol and replacing it with a mirror is a provocatively fey gesture, as befits the ravishing passivity of male vanity. It also perhaps references the raucous Sex Pistols-style guitar chords that open ‘Stand and Deliver’ (who also styled themselves as ruffians).

Working class Adam completely embraced the nascent medium of glossy, aspirational pop promos, coming up with many of the grandiose ideas himself – as well as the medium of glossy, aspirational self-love. Both of which were of course abhorred by ‘proper’ punks and the ‘serious’ music press.

The devil take your stereo and your record collection (oh-oh)
The way you look you'll qualify for next year's old age pension 

Which is why, in addition to being enormous fun, ‘Stand and Deliver’ went to No.1 in May 1981, and refused to budge from its pole position in the hit highway for five weeks, relieving nearly a million teenagers of their pocket money. But then, unlike most pop singles, it did contain useful fashion advice:

It's kind of tough to tell a scruff the big mistake he's making

During the ‘hanging’ sequence (which was banned by the BBC) accompanied by the divine Georgian gibberish chorus of ‘Qua qua da diddley qua qua da diddley‘, we are regaled with knee-clasping stylised shots of stylised Blitz Kids. There’s more than a nod in this video to The Dame’s seminal ‘Ashes to Ashes’ promo of the previous year, at the time the most expensive ever made, which also featured eminent denizens of London’s hyper-cool Blitz nightclub, paying homage to their prophet.

‘Stand and Deliver’ ends as it began, just you, me, Adam and his reflection sharing an intimate moment: a close-up on mirrored glossy lips again, as if (re)discovering their own irresistibility.

And frankly, has anyone worn lip gloss and full foundation better? Blondie’s soft-focus kisser looked crusty in comparison. Even Tim Curry’s iconic smackers as pouty Frank ‘n’ Furter in The Rocky Horror Picture Show seem drier than a Weetabix discovered behind a radiator after Mr Ant’s spangly lusciousness.

If ‘Stand and Deliver’ was Adam Ant’s glamorous gospel, ‘Prince Charming’ was his shining apotheosis. It is quite the most perfect promo ever made – delivering him straight into pop cultural heaven.

The track has a repetitive, terrace/school playground chant-like quality to it, like some of the best glam rock singles. But unlike glam rock it doesn’t really exist separate from the panto pop promo. In fact, ‘Prince Charming’ is more pop promo than song. This is not a criticism. It is part of its historic achievement.

It starts with Adam as Cinders, his bandmates singing to him:

Don't you ever, don't you ever
Stop being dandy, showing me you're handsome

It’s a touching image of male camaraderie in the British youth cult tradition, and reminds me somewhat of Bowie’s ‘When you’re a boy/Other boys check you out‘ line from ‘Boys Keep Swinging’.

His fairy godmother turns up, played by camp icon Diana Dors – on a cloud, surrounded by toned oiled-up topless young black male dancers. With a wave of her wand he is transformed into a sexy Beau Brummell – something I suspect Mr Brummell never actually achieved himself. (Check out those tight breeches and the way they reflect the light – gadzooks!).

Ridicule is nothing to be scared of

Quite so. Male vanity only really works if it is unashamed and fearless. Ridicule is a form of attention, after all. And frequently a form of envy.

At the ball that Cinders/Adam attends, the chanting and the arm-crossed synchronised dancing is wonderful, but also slightly Satanic, in a thrilling Dance of the Vampires sense, despite or perhaps because of the childish panto theme. As Adam mounts the cloudy staircase towards a landing mirror, the revellers freeze and fade away to nothingness and our hero is left alone, with his Orphée-esque reflection – and our gaze.

He smashes the mirror with a handy candelabra, fragmenting himself, and we see Adam as a series of male pop cultural icons: the Man with No Name (Clint Eastwood), Alice Cooper, Sheik Ahmed Ben Hassan (Rudolph Valentino) and Adam in his dandy highwayman garb from ‘Stand and Deliver’. It’s the drag sequence in Bowie’s ‘Boys Keep Swinging’ promo, but this time cross-dressing in the clothes of the same gender. Metrosexuality is, after all, about accessorising attractiveness.

With admirable arrogance, this slightly odd-looking, very tiny man from the humblest of backgrounds imaginable has, via the powerful transformative magick of pop, inserted himself into the immortal iconography of male celluloid stars. His desire to be desired made famous flesh.

Cinders has found his Prince Charming – in himself. At his coming out ball.

Mind, he is only really convincing in his dandy highwayman role and as Valentino. His Valentino is actually quite devastating – a revelation, both in terms of Valentino and Ant. Besides, the fact that he knew and understood the long-dead silent screen star’s importance as one of the first male sex objects, let alone coveted it, is an indication of his close study of the subject.

But there is a ghost in attendance at this ball. The ghost of Johnny Depp Future, who was only 18 when this video was made. Depp credited Keith Richards with inspiring his criminally successful Pirates of the Caribbean ‘Jack Sparrow’ character – but curiously didn’t mention Adam Ant’s dandy highwayman. Which, visually at least, it clearly references. Perhaps he didn’t because Ant did it even prettier.

Some of Adam’s (much) later looks also put one in mind of Depp. Maybe it’s because facially they do share some genes. Or perhaps it’s because they are both, for that reason, stealing styling tips off each other – seeing each other as their respective reflections.

Call me a biased Limey, but I think it’s pretty clear that in all essentials, Adam is the original and Depp is the copy.

I posted a brief piece about Adam Ant and ‘Prince Charming’ on this blog many years ago – but it seems to have mysteriously vanished. Much like the revellers at Adam’s ball...

Jeff Stryker Gets Smarter (& Even More Shredded)

You like that, don’tcha?

I can only assume that Pietro Boselli is getting career advice from an older homosexual. Which makes me very jealous.

He may be a sporno star, but Pietro is far too young and far too cherubic to know who Jeff Stryker is, or the ridiculously butch way he used to talk on the classic gay porn videos he made in the1980s when testing the gag reflex and nose-breathing techniques of his on-screen colleagues.

Though Pietro’s obviously coached attempt to copy Jeff’s wooden and sleazy delivery is very sweet.

Either way the career advice Pietro’s getting seems designed to drive middle-aged homos like me into a tizzy.

All I can say is: it’s working.

But I’m hoping that Pietro isn’t actually hung like Jeff. I’d prefer to think the Bona of Verona has a neo-classically-sized – i.e. tastefully tiny – uncircumcised penis. Instead of a cut cock the size of a lubed dolphin.

h/t Peter Watkins

The Straightness of George Michael

Mark Simpson on how George Michael was the missing, subversive gay link between Bowie and Beckham

(Rolling Stone, 28/12/2016)

Back in the early 1980s, I was one of those annoying ‘alternative’ teens who, when pressed, would admit they quite liked ‘Wham Rap!’, which extolled the freedoms of unemployment (‘I’m a soul boy! – I’m a dole boy!’), and acknowledged he was ‘really talented’, but essentially dismissed George Michael as ‘too commercial’. Which in the inverted snobbery of the era essentially meant ‘uncool’.

And also – you may find this rather difficult to believe – ‘too straight’.

Thanks to the massive influence of 1970s Bowie (who also checked out this year), the early 80s UK pop scene was queerer than Weimar Berlin on poppers. It was chock full of fabulously ‘freaky’ stars like Pete Burns of Dead or Alive (another victim of 2016), Boy George of Culture Club and Marc Almond of Soft Cell. None of them were particularly out at the time, but then, looking the way they did they probably didn’t need to be.

By dazzling-teethed contrast, the disco-dancing, bird-pulling, Mr Good Time persona Mr Michael presented – but which seems to have been based largely on his Wham partner Andrew Ridgeley – looked almost heterosexual.

Almost. OK, the leather jackets, the naked boy-flesh and the blow-dried hair appears très camp to us now, but that wasn’t necessarily the case at the time. George was officially very much for the ladies and the ladies were even more for him. But also, as his success grew, ‘loadsa’ straight boys wanted to be him.

After all, his (white) soul boy image was a tweaked, glammed-up, sexed-up, slightly Princess Di version of what many wedge-sporting, Lacoste-wearing working class London and Essex lads were styling themselves at the time. And he was mega rich and famous and getting his leg over.

In one of those peculiar postmodern ironies that made masculinity what it is today – flamingly metrosexual – George Michael’s ‘closetedness’ for two decades of pop stardom meant that straight women ended up expecting rather more from straight boys and straight boys ended up copying a gay version of themselves.

Michael’s multiplied image helped make ordinary male heterosexuality visually tartier, while his amplified lyrics helped make it more available emotionally. A straight female friend of mine told me that every single boyfriend she dumped in the 1980s sent her lyrics from ‘A Different Corner’.

George Michael was the missing, subversive – and actually gay – link between David Bowie and that other London pretty boy, David Beckham.

Even when a now-solo Michael ‘butched up’ for the rather more ‘traditionally-minded’ American market with his smash hit 1987 album Faith, the effect was… ambiguous. More so arguably, than the twinkiness of Wham! In the famous promo for the title single, he is wearing jeans, boots, a leather jacket and sunglasses in what looks like a homage to the previous year’s Hollywood fly boys hit Top Gun. But with a large crucifix earring and designer stubble (this accessorization of facial hair is something else ‘gay’ he helped popularise.)

He’s next to a 1950s jukebox like the one in the Top Gun bar, wiggling his butt apparently trying to invent twerking, while the camera zooms in on it relentlessly (the word ‘REVENGE’ hovering above on his leather jacket). Perhaps waiting for Maverick – or maybe Iceman.

This might sound like the wisdom of hindsight, but some contemporary gay boys were picking up the queer vibrations. An American gay male friend who was living on a military base at the time remarked: “He was the first teen idol that felt “gay” to me even though he was always with sexy women in his videos. I didn’t even know what the gay clone look was, but he was sort of replicating it. The earring also seemed a signal – my dad said fags wore those, especially in the left ear.”

George’s phenomenal success in the US and the subconscious ‘down low’ queer signals he was broadcasting in plain sight came, remember, at the height of the Aids crisis and the foam-flecked reactionary backlash in the late 80s against ‘Satanic’ and ‘sick’ homosexuality.

Perhaps it was because of how he’d helped redefine heterosexuality for a generation, when he finally came out in 1998, toilet paper stuck to his shoe, a surprising number of straight people were still shocked – despite having been fairly explicit about his orientation in the lyrics and dedications of his songs for most of that decade.

Though of course there is another piquant irony to be had in the fact that this man whose career had originally been based on ‘masquerading’ as a heterosexual was finally outed in a public restroom by a plainclothes Beverly Hills Police Dept officer who (George claims) was masquerading as a gay man.

However, the way George handled that incident was so defiant and assured that he completely turned the tables on not just the Beverly Hills PD and the tabloid press, but also homophobia itself. He immediately told the world he was gay and refused to display any shame.

Instead, he released ‘Outside’, a jaunty single extolling the pleasures of outdoor sex for everyone, regardless of sexuality – along with a video that featured cross and same sex couples getting it on in hidden away outdoor places, while being recorded by a police helicopter. George in gay cop gear disco dances in a public restroom where the glitter balls descend from the air vents and the urinals revolve. In many ways, this was the absolute zenith of pop music as propaganda for pleasure and against shame.

What George achieved with ‘Outside’ was certainly no less than historic. That original pop star Oscar Wilde had been convicted of Gross Indecency a hundred years earlier and been completely destroyed by it. George had turned his own ‘Ballad of Reading Gaol’ into an all-singing, all-dancing commercial and cultural triumph.

Now that he was out, New Millennium George still refused to ‘go quietly’ and ‘make it easy on himself’. He was not what you might call a ‘good gay’. He had a long term partner but was frank about the fact that their relationship was an open one – when most gay celebrity couples maintained a veneer of monogamous respectability.

He remained true to the dream (and nightmare) of masculine freedom that male homosexuality can symbolise. For all his faults and increasing foolishness, he refused to become that most absurd of things a ‘role model’. He insisted that he remained a sexual being – unlike most other celeb UK gays in the Noughties. ‘Gay people in the media are doing what makes straight people comfortable,’ he told the Guardian in 2005. ‘And automatically my response to that is to say I’m a dirty filthy fucker and if you can’t deal with it, you can’t deal with it.’

The tabloids thought they knew how to ‘deal’ with it. In 2006 they sent a flash photographer to follow him to the famous gay cruising area of Hampstead Heath, a large park in north London – at 2am – and plaster the results all over the front page, along with oodles of hypocritical concern about his ‘sick’ and ‘sordid’ behaviour and warnings/incitements that he ‘could get his throat cut’.

His reported response to the photographer when ‘snapped’ was, however, pitch perfect: “Are you gay? No? Well fuck off then!”

Sexual jealousy of course was at the root of it all. The scandalously free availability of ‘no-strings’ sex is an aspect of the gay and bi male world that many straight men tend to be very interested in, one way or another – and had been at the root of much of the tabloid attacks on gay men at the height of the Aids panic. Gay men ‘deserved’ Aids because of their ‘unnatural’ sex lives and their promiscuity. For having, in other words, too much fun.

One famous tabloid editor and columnist from that era worked himself into a violent lather of indignation: ‘I can’t stand George Michael and every time he tries to laugh off another vile gay sex exploit I dislike him a little more… I’d like to give him a good kick in the balls. Unfortunately, he’d probably enjoy it.’

But these bitter voices were already beginning to recede into the past – thanks in part to the changes that Mr Michael had helped bring about by being the kind of ‘commercial’ pop star I disdained in my teens. And of course, nowadays straight people have Tinder. While in the UK at least, straight(ish) ‘dogging’ has pretty much replaced gay ‘cruising’.

His continued, unapologetic – ahem – pride in his not always exactly wise life-choices remains invigoratingly rare in an age of safe sleb spin and public apologies as grovelling as they are empty.

‘I don’t want any children; I don’t want responsibility,’ he told Time Out matter-of-factly in 2007. ‘I am gay, I smoke weed and I do exactly what I want in my life because of my talent’.

Michael’s earlier secrecy about his sexuality was criticised by many – including gay pop stars who didn’t come out until after their careers were effectively over. Perhaps he could, as some have insisted, combatted the transatlantic anti-gay tide by coming out in the 80s or early 90s. Or perhaps his career would merely have been ended, and with it much of his influence.

Whatever his reasons for staying in so long, and whatever the long term effects on his happiness, being ‘openly closeted’ for so long seems to have been key to not only making Michael a commercially-successful artist but also a surprisingly subversive one.

And perhaps it also lay behind his determination, once out, not to go back into the biggest closet of all. Respectability.

Pride & Prejudice

How the film ‘Pride’ reminded me that I was actually in Lesbians & Gays Support the Miners

I think the time has come to share a secret about my past I’ve kept hidden for far too long. Back in the 20th Century, when I was still a teenager (just) – and a long, long time before I became cynical old queen – I shook a bucket for the miners as a member of an unlikely lefty group called Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners during the Great ‘Coal Not Dole’ NUM Strike of 1984-85.

I had no idea a film had been made about that unlikely outfit until I happened to see online, mouth akimbo, the trailer for Pride a couple of months back.

And if someone had told me before I’d seen it that the story of how some well-meaning gay London lefties reached out to a Welsh mining community during that year-long showdown with Margaret Thatcher’s government had been made into a big budget comedy, directed by Matthew Warchus and written by Stephen Beresford, starring Bill Nighy and Imelda Staunton, I wouldn’t have believed them.

To be honest, even after seeing the Pride with my own eyes at the cinema the other day I still can’t quite believe it.

I knew many of the characters in Pride, some of them very well: feisty, flame-haired, wise-cracking Steph – ‘I’m the Lesbian in Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners’ – (played by Faye Marsay) let homeless, pathetic me stay in her council flat until I was slightly less homeless and pathetic.

And of course, like everyone else, I was in love with the 23 year old canny Irish Commie Mark Ashton (played by Ben Schnetzer), albeit mostly from a distance. Largely for the love of Mark, and perhaps a deeply-buried, highly politically incorrect hope that one day a burly miner might show me his, er, gratitude, I attended meetings in a crowded roll-your-own-smoke-filled room above a gay pub in Islington. (Which were usually, like most meetings, crushingly boring, so I completely understand why the film instead pretends that LGSM was just ten people).

I was unemployed so had plenty of time to shake a bucket outside Gays The Word bookshop in Bloomsbury, The Bell pub in Kings Cross and in Camden Market bellowing ‘LESBIANS AND GAYS SUPPORT THE MINERS!!!’ at slightly baffled or alarmed passers-by.

Of course this was a form of hopeful thinking as much as it was a slogan. Even back then, many gay people were very Tory. But in the end, LGSM reportedly collected more money for the miners than any other support group in the UK. I doubt though it was thanks to me – I may have had a lot of time on my hands, but I was a very lazy activist.

I remember witnessing two LGSM mates who weren’t at all lazy being harassed and unlawfully arrested by the police while collecting in Camden. I gave evidence against the police in an unlawful arrest case – the court of course acquitted the police and found my mates guilty of being gay, lefty and supporting the miners.

I have a recollection of attending some NUS event in Manchester on behalf of LGSM at which I gave some kind of speech. And I was, I think, at the Pits & Perverts gig at the Electric Ballroom, shaking a bucket again – and very probably at Pride in 1985 where Welsh miners famously led the march.

I also made the trip to Dulais Valley in an LGSM minibus, but I think it was after the strike had ended. I don’t recall much about the trip, save that everyone was lovely.

Everyone that is except me. After getting back from the miners’ social club I drunkenly shagged one of the characters in the film on a very creaky floor of the bedroom we were sharing, in the local home we had very kindly been welcomed into.

Mortifyingly, everyone crammed into the tiny house knew about it the next day.

If I sound a bit vague about some of the details it’s because I don’t remember a great deal about that era. In my defence I’ll say I’m not the only one. Jeff Cole, on whom the young ‘heart of gold’ ‘Jeff’ character (played by Freddie Fox) is based – someone whom I hadn’t spoken to for over twenty years for no other reason than life, as it does, pushing people apart after pushing them together very closely for a while – reassures me he also can’t remember very much. And he was the official photographer of LGSM, who made the wonderful no-budget documentary about LGSM in 1985 which was part of the inspiration for Pride. (See below.)

Perhaps I don’t recall much because it was another century, another Millennium, and I was a different person. With ideals and full of – Christ! – earnestness. Maybe none of us should really remember what it was like to be a teenager when we’re middle aged. It’s just so unfair on both versions of us.

What do I think of the film? Well, obviously I can’t offer an impartial review of it, as I’m far too close to the subject matter – and yet at the same time strangely distanced from it by a faulty memory. In truth, I dreaded going to see it. Partly because I thought it was going to be a kind of gay Brassed Off (which I loathed – all that emetic London centric condescension).

And partly because I wasn’t sure I really wanted to remember that era.

I think many gay lefties and dreamers from the 80s are suffering from PTSD – Post-Thatcher Stress Disorder.

Particularly since in many ways, and despite the naked homophobia of the 1980s Tory Party, gays on the make were to become the hot pink shock troops of Thatcherite individualism. After all, no one believed in the power of money, shopping and personal reinvention more than they did. The ‘gay lifestyle’ was to take off in the late 80s, largely replacing gay politics in the 90s – and eventually becoming a straight aspiration.

Pride though played me like a violin outside a soup kitchen, and had me laughing and blubbing in all the places it wanted me to. And I recognised, in wonder, many of the characters in a way that I really didn’t think I would. It was like meeting old friends again – in the pomp and splendour of their/our youth, complete with those retro 1950s style haircuts and t-shirts we all had back then.

Except that Mark Ashton was even more charismatic and attractive and mythical than Ben Schnetzer’s portrayal of him.

Stephen Beresford’s script does a near-miraculous  job of staying true to the both the spirit of the times, and the leading characters – bringing both alive. It’s incredibly well-researched, thanks in no small part to the advisory role of Mike Jackson, beanie-wearing LGSM Secretary (played by Joseph Gilgun) – or ‘the Accrington sodomite’ as Mark calls him in the film, through a loud-hailer.

If I have a criticism it’s that Pride is at its weakest in some of its fictionalised parts – the use of homophobia for easy drama (there was never any trouble, in fact, on any of the LGSM visits to Wales), and the ‘sympathetic’ coming out storyline of ‘Joe’ – an invented character – and his stifling middle-class family, all tap into the clichés of ‘the big gay movie’ that we’ve seen too many times before.

I don’t think these devices were really needed – since the LGSM story is not a coming out story but rather a story about already out-and-loud gay people going back. But what do I know? The film is a smash hit.

Minor carping aside, I’m happy to accept Pride as my cathartic memory implant of 1984-5, freeing me at last from my youthful pinko PTSD. It also offers in the end a truth that is more than just sentimental feelgoodery. Despite the crushing defeat of the miners and the (pipe?) dream of socialism by Margaret Pinochet. Despite Aids – or AIDS!!! as it was then (Mark Ashton died from ‘the gay plague’ in 1987, aged just 26). And despite Section 28, the original anti ‘gay propaganda’ law, introduced by the Tories as a way of exploiting a tabloid hate campaign.

Two very different and distant communities under siege came together and discovered they had a great deal in common – and not just that they both knew, as Mark puts it in the film and as I recall (I think) at the time, what it’s like to be bullied by the police, the tabloids and the Government and labelled ‘the enemy within’.

After the strike a grateful big butch NUM block vote forced the Labour Party to finally adopt a gay equality pledge which was to help change Britain forever in the following decade when (New) Labour swept back into power.

And as the film suggests, in an echo perhaps of Billy Elliot, miners learned how to dance to disco instead of nursing a pint watching the ladies, while their wives learned how to take on the law and politics instead of making sandwiches. The Victorian sexual division of labour and loving on which many working class communities had been based was beginning to break down. This was a process that was only accelerated over the next decade or so by the loss of ‘male’ heavy industry jobs – like mining – and the creation of ‘feminine’ service industry jobs (often part time and poorly paid – and non-unionised).

Although Thatcher laid waste – quite deliberately – to much of South Wales, the north and Scotland, a new generation of young men and women would adapt to the brave new post-industrial, and arguably post-heterosexual world they found themselves growing up in. Laughable as it may seem, Geordie Shore is the tanned, bleached, pumped proof of this.

Pride is a timely reminder that the revolution in the way our society thinks about and treats gender and sexuality came from the left and its ideals of solidarity – not just the atomising nature of consumerism and individualism. And certainly not by the design of our first woman Prime Minister with her ‘Victorian values’.

Thatcher fan-boy David Cameron’s introduction of same sex marriage was intended as a rewriting of history, a brazen co-option of all the heavy-lifting victories for gay equality by the left in the previous years in the teeth of vehement opposition by his own ‘nasty party’ and its many allies in the press. (And by him personally: only a decade ago Cameron voted twice against the repeal of Section 28 – the second time in a free vote.)

If Mark Ashton were alive today he’d probably remind us of that himself. He might also add, with characteristic honesty and realism, that the reason why Pride can be such a smash hit now and regarded with such fond nostalgia by many people who probably supported Thatcher at the time is because the miners, the organised working class, and ultimately socialism as a political force, were historically defeated in the 1980s and no longer represent a threat.

And the gays got married.

But then history is made out of strange, tragi-comic paradoxes, which in the 20th Century we used to call ‘dialectics’. No wonder some of us can’t remember some of our personal ones properly.

Straight Down the Hatch

As the 80s boy racer dreamboat the Peugeot 205 GTI turns 30 Mark Simpson remembers stroking its stick-shift

Hot. Hatch.

In the world of car porn there is no other conjugation that raises the punter’s pulse more than that one – evoking as it does fuel injection, tight handling, firm suspension, snug interiors and accommodating rears.

And amongst hot hatches, the Peugeot 205 GTI is the ultimate car porn star. This year the French stunner, launched back in 1984, when the miners were on strike and Frankie Goes To Hollywood were in the charts, turned an ancient and decrepit 30, but is still widely regarded as the hottest hatchback ever.

It’s certainly my favourite car ever. I owned one in the early 90s, round about the time they stopped production in 1994, and I still dream moistly about it in a way I don’t about, say, my old Golf Mk 1 GTI, even though I suspect the Golf was a rather better made car.

I had a 1.9, 205, introduced a couple of years after the 1.6. It simply had to be a 1.9. Not because it had a few more HP than the 1.6 (126 compared to 105), or because it did 0-60 in 8 seconds (instead of 8.7), or because it had disc brakes all round instead of just at the front. And certainly not because it had more torque. But because of that ‘9’ on the badge. Who wants an average 6 when you can have a whopping 9? Especially when you’re still in your twenties, as I was at the time.

Apart from the badge, there were other key visual signifiers of your ownership of more cubic centimetres: the alloy wheels were fatter, and you had sexy half leather seats, vs cloth. I became practised at spotting these giveaways from a distance, before I could get a good look at the badge on the side. I’m sure I wasn’t the only Peugeot 205 size queen, constantly dismissing 1.6ers as unworthy of my interest.

In fact, being so lightweight – or what safety engineers now would call ‘horrifyingly flimsy’ – either 205 GTI was a joy to drive, even though neither had power steering (drivers back then were expected to have shoulders when it came to parking). It would take bends with an alacrity and eagerness that was positively arousing. Admittedly the pedals were rather too close together, particularly if you had size ‘9’ feet – but you just had to be careful to operate them delicately with pointy toes.

It was a great car for belting around a city like London before ‘traffic calming’ measures were introduced, speed humps installed every few feet, and rat-runs closed off, turning London’s roads into railways for cars. In addition to being great for engaging the ‘safety power’ and nipping around ‘obstructions’, the 205 GTI would leave most cars standing at the lights, watching your sexy arse disappear into the distance.

Peugeot-205-GTI-01 rear

It was remarkably practical too. Despite the fact that from the outside it looked like the proverbial rocket-powered roller-skate, a road-legal single-seater with the driver crouched over the sports steering wheel, head almost sticking out of the sliding sun roof, inside it was surprisingly spacious. People with legs could even sit in the back. If you owned a Peugeot GTI you could actually have friends, or a family.

If, that is, you had any time for anything that didn’t involve zooming around with a big stupid grin on your face.

GTi interior

But if I’m honest none of these were the real reasons I possessed one. It was the 205 GTi’s scorching looks that bowled me over. It was a very, very sexy piece of 1980s styling – quite possibly the definitive one. A kind of supermini American Gigolo with black and red bumper car trim. The wheels were exactly where they should be, in the corners, and it had a very sexual shapeliness to it. I even loved the two-tone plasticky interiors that everyone mocks now. (Though admittedly most of the plastic bits did break off.)

I had a red one, but I wanted a white one, and black one, and a blue one, and slate grey one as well. I thought they were all good enough to eat.

The Peugeot 205 GTI: the tastiest hot hatch ever.

205-1

Originally appeared on LeasePlan

Yes, I know he’s not driving a Peugeot 205 GTI – but he so should have been