marksimpson.com

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

Menu Close

Tag: Nottingham

Glenn Or Glennda?

Last month I spent a stimulating and highly satisfying weekend with Glennda Orgasm.

Or rather, the artiste formerly known as Glennda Orgasm, my old (but forever youthful) pal Glenn Belverio, who wise-cracked and bang-flicked his way to fame in the early 1990s, his svelte frame clad in couture frocks  on a NYC cable TV public access show, asking thoughtful and provocative questions while gripping an unfeasibly large microphone.

Glenn was so YouTube long before YouTube existed.

Glenn pulled the plug on his TV show in 1996, and mothballed Glennda in 1997 – drag was getting far too popular – and turned himself into a fashion writer and author. But not before he and the cheeky Canadian queer filmmaker Bruce LaBruce contributed to Anti-Gay, the ‘incendiary’ 1996 collection of essays by non-heterosexuals critiquing lesgay identity politics I edited. It was a transcript of an asthma-inducingly funny episode of Glennda’s show titled ‘A Case For The Closet’.

By way of thanks (there wasn’t much of a fee) I hosted him in London the same year when he had a Glennda Orgasm retrospective at the ICA. I met him at Heathrow Arrivals with my loud-and-proud MTF friend Michelle  holding a card scrawled in magic marker: ‘MISS ORGASM’.

I still have fond memories of his wig menagerie that took over my living room. It was the beginning of a long friendship, though quite why Glenn even speaks to me when I’m so unkind to him I don’t know

The last time I saw Glenn, more than two years ago in Rome we were surrounded by naked fascist bubble butts. Somehow we survived the ordeal. 

So back to our weekend together. Glenn was visiting the UK last month for the launch of ‘Still I Rise’, an exhibition ‘exploring the role that women have played in the history of resistance movements and alternative forms of living’ pegged to the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the UK at the Nottingham Contemporary Art Gallery.

Bravely – and admirably, given an increasingly censorious climate – the exhibition’s organisers had included his hilariously incorrect 1993 caper with the anti-feminist feminist motormouth Ms Paglia at the peak of her global fame and alarming energy. Called Glennda And Camille Do Downtown it memorably features them running into feminist anti-porn protesters picketing an adult book store.

The activists suddenly become very camera shy, moving away and actually hiding behind their placards. Paglia goes 60s streetwise nuclear on the ‘anti sex, anti art, anti-everything’ protestors (flanked by her big black bodyguards):

‘YOU FINALLY HAVE SOMEONE WHO CAN DEAL WITH YOU AND YOU ARE SHRINKING!! YOU PEOPLE ARE WIMPS!!’

Glennda is less confrontational, resorting to humour that even has some of the protestors smiling:

‘A day without porn is like a day without sunshine!’

Needless to say, twenty five years later the anti-porn demonstrators are now running everything. Even Tumblr.

I joined Glenn in Nottingham, the city of Saturday Night, Sunday Morning – tormenting him with my dietary requirements (I can’t eat onion – which is essentially the basic ingredient of all food) and my dyspeptic opinions. Glenn for his part entertained me with his wickedly funny mimicry of mutual friends and spooked me as he always does with his quite monstrous ability to remember everything. He has total, terrifying recall. I really had better stay on the right side of Glenn.

Due to inclement weather, we spent an afternoon in the National Justice Museum, on the site of the former County Gaol. Though I’m sure quite a few people think we should have spent rather longer there than an afternoon. It was fun inspecting the dungeons and the oubliette – every home should have one. But even more fun watching the re-enactment of an 18th Century trial of a lady pickpocket and a public hanging (they have the last working public gallows).

I think part of our fascination was because Glenn and I had little doubt that if we’d been around a couple of hundred years ago this is where we would have ended up.

I liked the way the ‘Still I Rise’ exhibition included resistance and rebellion (something Nottingham has a long history of) as a motif and especially appreciated the 70s-80s poster agitprop section by the See Red Women’s Workshop, some of which was familiar to me from my early 80s Brixton squat days. One poster in particular caught our attention – depicting the drudgery trap of marriage. Glenn and I of course immediately and selfishly reinterpreted it as a Pythonesque satire on the false promises of gay marriage. 

Glenn recorded dozens of shows between 1990-1996 but, criminally, only Glennda And Camille Do Downtown is available online. All the other shows still need to be transferred from video to digital format. Apparently Glenn’s distributor Lux are very keen to undertake that task. Let’s hope they get cracking soon.

Glennda needs to rise again.

You can read Glenn’s write up of his visit, the exhibition and the launch here

Glennda and Camille Do Downtown (featuring Camille Paglia)

Still I Rise: 27 Oct 2018 – 27 Jan 2019, Nottingham Contemporary; 9 Feb – 2 Jun 2019, De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea

Friday Night and Sunday Afternoon – A Delightful ‘Weekend’

When I first saw the trailer for ‘Weekend’ it seemed to be a tale of two beards that meet in a gay club in Nottingham on a Friday night and then proceed fall for one another over the next couple of days in a council flat.

And then I watched it. Once I got past the beards, ‘Weekend’ was the first ‘gay film’ I’d seen in a long time that didn’t make me cringe. In fact, it was the first British film I’d seen in a long time that didn’t make me cringe.

It’s really rather good, with both Chris New as opinionated, apparently uninhibited Glen and Tom Cullen as shy, lonely Russell turning in fine performances. They have an on-screen chemistry which makes you feel you are watching something genuinely intimate and delicate unfold.

And while I still stick to my argument here that the era of the melodramatic genre of  the Big Gay Movie ushered in by ‘Victim’ in which the drama is about homophobia (internalised and externalised) and the narrative is about coming out and acceptance, has drawn to a close – at least in a Western context – ‘Weekend’ does seem to point to a future in which charming ‘small gay movies’ have a place. If that doesn’t sound too patronising.

I particularly liked the way ‘Weekend’ refused to resort to homophobia as a dramatic device, with Glen being quite obnoxiously gay assertive with some beery straight males in a pub but not getting bashed – instead, they panic when he accuses them of homophobia. Russell’s best friend is a straight man who is hurt that Russell won’t talk to him about his dates. There is a suggestion that perhaps Russell might be a bit ashamed of being gay, or at least, not as comfortable as he should be. But then again, neither is in-your-face Glen. The problem, whatever it is, isn’t society’s any more – even if society isn’t and may never be entirely as accepting as it pretends.

Some of the dialogue was cracking, and it reminded me in its freshness of the early 60s New Realist Cinema – the so-called kitchen sink dramas. Though of course it’s 50 years on so it’s a lot fruitier: “ERE YOU LOT!” Glen yells from Russell’s window half way up a tower block at some delinquents down below. “STOP FUCKING ABOUT OR I’LL COME DOWN THERE AND RAPE YOUR HOLES!!”

This might have been deliberate since ‘Weekend’ was set in Nottingham, and sometimes seemed to be a kind of 21st Century gay update of the early 60s Neo Realist classic ‘Saturday Night Sunday Morning’ (there’s even footage of Russell riding around on his bike like Albert Finney). Or ‘A Taste of Honey’ in which Geoff (Murray Melvin) meets a kind of angry gay male version of Jo (Rita Tushingham).

My only criticism – and of course I would have one – would be that unlike those 60s Neo Realist films I don’t really believe the film or the actors have much to do with the city they’re supposed to be living in. Nottingham is just a (very nicely shot) extra in the film. New/Glen you can maybe buy as a provincial gay, but Tom/Russell is supposed to be a working class foster kid working as a lifeguard and living in a high rise council flat, but often sounded posh. Even the way his flat is decorated looks a bit like a Shoreditch hipster’s idea of how a ‘poor provincial persons’ flat would look.

And those beards too seemed more East London than East Midlands. But if ‘Weekend’ had been set in East London perhaps it wouldn’t have seemed quite so ‘real’.

Weekend is out on DVD and Blu-Ray on 19th March