Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Journalist. Mother. Bunny enthusiast. Pop culture junkie.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Walk on the Wild Side

“I'm a thousand different people. Every one is real.”

Her eyes glittered with the drunken rush of old Hollywood glamour. Her pouty red lips brought grown men to their knees. Her dramatic, self-indulgent wit made her an icon.

Her name made people smile.

Candy Darling.

She was born a male. In the 1950s, people knew her as little Jimmy Slattery, the boy with the drunken gambling father and sweet, but timid mother.

To escape her stifling blue-collar life in New York City, the future diva drowned herself in old Hollywood films. She worshipped Kim Novak. She envied Elizabeth Taylor. She dreamed of being Marilyn Monroe.

By the time she was a teenager, Candy was putting on her most stylish dresses, perfecting her makeup in the mirror, and strutting out the door to party at all the hottest gay bars in town. She changed her name and never looked back.

As a gorgeous woman with an outgoing personality and loads of confidence to boot, Candy was naturally drawn to the stage. She wanted to be beyond famous. She wanted to be a STAR.

She was starring in a burlesque show (featuring a talented, but virtually unknown actor named Robert De Niro) in 1967 when she caught the attention of pop artist Andy Warhol.

Intrigued by her addictive charisma and overwhelming sexuality, Andy asked Candy to act in his next film, Flesh.

Soon, the pair became best friends. Candy was a staple at the Warhol Factory. With the famous artist by her side, she lit up the most glitzy nightclubs in the world. She mingled with movie stars. She was the subject of several extremely famous rock songs. She was at the height of her fame.

But it was too good to last.

It wasn't long before Andy grew bored with the "chicks with dicks" theme. It was so last year, he decided. So, he ditched the transsexual. Candy went from being his BFF to being shunned by the man who had made her a superstar.

Suddenly, she was all alone. It was cruel and shocking to the 20-something performer.

Using her Warhol boost, Candy managed to keep her career afloat for a while during the early 1970s. She had small roles in low budget and even big budget films. She starred in a smattering of plays.

And then the inevitable occurred.

Candy was diagnosed with leukemia. It was the result of the hormones (mostly estrogen) she had been taking to maintain her feminine appearance during the last decade. The cancer ate away at her body with incredible speed.

Instead of being depressed, Candy saw her deadly illness as the role of a lifetime. The 29-year-old played the dying femme fatale with so much style and flamboyance, it would have made her old Hollywood idols proud. She even posed for a deathbed glamour shot.

She quite possible left the most charming death note in celebrity history:

To whom it may concern

By the time you read this I will be gone. Unfortunately before my death I had no desire left for life. Even with all my friends and my career on the upswing I felt too empty to go on in this unreal existence. I am just so bored by everything. You might say bored to death. It may sound ridiculous but is true. I have arranged my own funeral arrangements with a guest list and it is paid for. I would like to say goodbye to Jackie Curtis, I think you're fabulous. Holly, Sam Green a true friend and noble person, Ron Link I'll never forget you, Andy Warhol what can I say, Paul Morrissey, Lennie you know I loved you, Andy you too, Jeremiah don't take it too badly just remember what a bitch I was, Geraldine I guess you saw it coming. Richard Turley & Richard Golub I know I could've been a star but I decided I didn't want it. Manuel, I'm better off now. Terry I love you. Susan I am sorry, did you know I couldn't last I always knew it. I wish I could meet you all again.

Goodbye for Now

Love Always
Candy Darling

And just as she dreamed, Candy Darling has become a legend. She was the first drag queen to take over pop culture. Her influence can be found in movies, famous drag queens, and reality shows to this day.

With her fabulousness and cheerful glamour, she changed the world...and made it a more special one.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Guest Post: Kinky Boots!

I am very honored to present you with a guest post this week from my hilarious real-life (and bloggy) friend, Duffy.

I think you will notice his post fits nicely into my LGBT Pride series. Plus, it's all about fashion, which I think might be a very slight interest to a couple of you. Haha.


The pReview Re-viewing Re-Living True Story of Kinky Boots:

(warning: This may make you go buy shoes.)

by Jeff Finck

Steve Pateman may not be a name that most people know.  Nor will most people know his company W.J. Brooks Ltd.  Allow me to educate your face!  In 1979, a young man called Steve Pateman began helping his father make shoes at their shoe-making firm in Earls Barton, England, near Northamptonshire.. A city well-known for its shoe-making. (Apparently, as many as one third of all men in the city were shoe-makers by 1831!)  Little did Steve know at the time, his shoe-making roots were going to make history not 20 years later.. All thanks to drag queens.

Little known fact: 20 years of hanging out with drag queens WILL make you fabulous.

W.J. Brooks Ltd. (est: 1889) would continue selling and exporting quality men's footwear until the great market flood of 1990, when cheap, godawful, imported shoes started gaining momentum.  Couple that with the British Pound increasing in value, thus losing a lot of their export trade, Steve and his company struggled against the odds.  It got so bad by 1997, Steve had to give in and start cutting staff, many of them friends, in order to make ends meet.  Even after cutbacks and redundancies in staff, W.J. Brooks was getting beaten up pretty badly in the shoe game.

Not unlike a certain shoe-magnet/former President.

But in 1998, a fetish shop in Folkestone, England came a-calling and they needed a ton of women's shoes in men's sizes, STAT!  Steve saw an opportunity with this nearly untouched market, and thus began the Kinky Boots Factory!  Actually.. BBC wouldn't dub W.J. Brooks' new footwear The Kinky Boots Factory until 1999 when they featured their Divine Footwear on an episode of their Trouble at the Top documentary series.  BBC really prides themselves on coming up with clever names for things.

CBeebies may have blown my mind.

After MacGuyvering metal struts into stiletto heels, specially made to handle the sheer magnitude of a man's superior weight (it's science.. look it up in the Geneva Convention..), Steve attached those heels to various designs he had for wider, bigger leather boots.  In order to send out a catalog, though, he needed a man to model the boots.  When no one else would volunteer, Steve became that man.  With a catalog completed, a BBC documentary spot in the bag, and an appearance at a Düsseldorf footwear show, W.J. Brooks' Divine Footwear line would turn out to be a wild success.. For a time.  At its absolute height, the line accounted for nearly 50% of the company's profits!

Lesson learned: If money's tight, figure out how to shove metal into something feminine and sell it to men.

Steve Pateman's story has actually garnered much exposure over the last ten years, resulting in a movie AND a musical on Broadway!  The 2005 movie, Kinky Boots, starred Joel Edgerton ( The Great Gatsby, Warrior) and Chiwetel Ejiofor (Salt, Serenity, Children of Men), and was loosely based on the actual events.  Even though the movie was only a moderate success, it did earn Chiwetel Ejiofor several nominations for best actor, including the 2006 Golden Globes!  The 2013 musical, also titled Kinky Boots, is based on the same (slightly changed) premise as the movie and has met a bit more success than its predecessor, recently winning six Tony Awards, including Best Original Score and Best Musical.  The play was written by Harvey Fierstein and features music and lyrics by freaking Cyndi Lauper!

Ah, two people who could be picked out of a line-up by voice alone.

This story does have kind of a bittersweet ending, though.  In 2000, W.J. Brooks was saddled with such a massive debt by an (from what I can tell) unnamed American firm.. Plus, the fact that the crazy, cheap shoe-throwing industry had tracked his company down and followed them into the whole fetish line.. Steve was forced to halt production on his Divine Footwear for men.  Despite all of that, with the exposure of his struggles and successes, it would seem that a light has been re-shone on the city of Northamptonshire and many shoe-making factories have managed (as of 2011) to continue hugging the shoe-shaped balls out of the industry through the adversity.

Just like me!

Duffy likes to revel in the fact that he thinks he is a very funny person.
See how funny he thinks he is at his movie blog:

Thursday, June 6, 2013

The Lady Lesbian

She was born into a world of scandal.

Her mother was the gorgeous mistress to King Edward VII and her father was a shadowy figure who was barely around.

By the time Violet Trefusis realized what was going on around her, she had already decided her life was going to be MUCH different than that of her promiscuous mother.

Unfortunately, the pretty little child had absolutely no idea that her future would not only eclipse her mother's famous affair, but shock the entire country.

When Violet was a teenager, she fell in love with a girl a couple years older, named Vita. Their flirtations came to a close when the king died and Violet's mother decided to take her family abroad for a couple years as a courtesy to her royal lover's grieving family.

When Violet came back to London, she was outraged to learn that Vita was engaged. To a man! To make Vita jealous, Violet flirted mercilessly with men at society parties and even got engaged a couple times to get her crush's attention.

But, it didn't work.


Vita remained happily married, giving birth to two sons. But then one day Vita's husband had a confession. He was cheating on her...with men. Stunned by her husband's homosexual liaisons, Vita made an agreement with him: he could have sex with as many men as he wanted, but she got to do the same...with women.

Thrilled by the turn of events, Violet once again declared her love for Vita and much to her astonishment, her wish came true! The two women spent every waking moment together, holding hands in the lush green countryside to frolicking on the beaches of South France.

Gossip of their affair traveled back to London, much to the dismay of Violet's mom. Even though the middle-aged woman had once been the mistress to the very married King of England, at least she had done it with a little dignity and discretion! Not prancing around Europe without a care in the world! With a woman, nonetheless!What was her daughter thinking?!

She threatened to cut off her daughter's finances until she married. Violet was torn. It was 1919. She had no skills to get a job. There was no way she could support herself alone. She begged Vita to leave her husband, so the two of them could run off together and live as a couple freely, without the hypocrisy of fake marriages disguising their true love. They would worry about money later, but at least they would have each other, honestly.

But Vita refused. Violet was asking something of her that wouldn't be socially acceptable until nearly 100 years later.

Frustrated and bitter, Violet agreed to marry the man of her mother's choice, only as long he agreed to never consummate the marriage. Here she was entering the hypocritical life of her mother, something she promised herself she would never do, but it seemed she wasn't being offered a better choice.

Her handsome new 20-something husband agreed to the platonic marriage, simply thinking that Violet was merely a pure and innocent girl who was terrified of sex. After the marriage was finalized, Violet finally confessed to her husband his worst nightmare: she was a lesbian.

When she tried to leave her husband to go back to Vita, however, she had her entire family as a roadblock.

Her younger sister, Sonia, was engaged to a very wealthy and respectable aristocrat (together, they would eventually become the grandparents to Camilla Parker Bowles). Violet's parents were adamant that their openly gay daughter not destroy the union by flaunting her homosexuality in public. Violet fought so hard to be able to see Vita, that it destroyed her family. Both her father and sister stopped speaking to her.

By the time her sister was married, it was too late for Violet and Vita to rekindle their romance. Someone had spread a rumor to Vita that Violet and her husband were sleeping together. Even though Violet insisted to Vita that it simply wasn't true, Vita was already too hurt. She ended their relationship, leaving Violet in anguished, broken-hearted despair.

In the late 1920s, Vita would go on to have one of the most famous lesbian affairs in world-wide history with writer Virginia Woolf.

Vita & Virginia

Violet, however, turned into a ghost of herself after the break-up.

In the 1920s, she began a long-term affair with the sewing machine heiress, Winnaretta Singer, who was married to a prince. But instead of wild passion and dreams of running away, the romance was much more discreet and controlled.

Violet's mother actually approved of this affair, because not only was it being conducted in good taste, but Winnaretta was one of the wealthiest and socially acceptable women in Europe. If her daughter was going to insist on being a lesbian, at least she was now sleeping with the right woman!

Winnaretta Singer

But Violet was miserable. She was living the lesbian version of her mother's life. She was nothing more than a mistress to married royalty.

Whatever happened to living free? Defying hypocrisy? Being PROUD of who you were?

Sadly, those were feelings way before her time. The world wasn't ready for it yet.

After World War II, Violet and Vita reconnected and rekindled their romance. They remained close friends for life.

Vita eventually passed away in 1962 and Violet passed away ten years later.

But their forbidden and tortured love remains the source of legend.

Books, movies, and history have preserved a bond forever.

A bond that couldn't even last for the people who created it nearly 100 years ago.

Saturday, June 1, 2013

"Modern Art on Legs"

June is LGBT Pride month. To kick off the celebration, here is a profile on the glam-fucking-tastic gaylien force, Leigh Bowery. I hope you enjoy the series on LGBT icons I have in store for you these next 30 days.

Leigh Bowery grew up in a blue-collar neighborhood in Australia.

Miserable in his working class town, he shied away from boys his own age who were more interested in playing sports or sneaking a delightful peek at pornographic photos. Instead, Leigh hid under his covers at night pouring over the latest fashion magazines and kept his weekends filled with classic films, especially those starring his idol, Elizabeth Taylor.

When he graduated high school, the chubby teenager attended fashion school in Melbourne, but got bored after a year and moved to London in 1981, with nothing but a suitcase and sewing machine. He was ready to take on the world.

He moved in with two guys who were hip to the homosexual party scene and he started his career as a fashion designer. His outfits were so outrageously loud, colorful, and bizarre, he got noticed by the industry immediately.

Everywhere he went, whether it was out to the grocery store on a lazy afternoon or partying at the hottest dance club, people stared. They had never seen someone like him before!
 His wigs! His face paint! His shoes! Who was this Leigh Bowery?!

He showcased his collection at London Fashion Week and all over the world. His clothes were sold at Barney's. He even designed stage costumes for a hot new pop star named Boy George.

While he was on top of the world, Leigh started a disco night club called Taboo. It became the hottest place to be in London, with orgies practically manifesting themselves on the dance floor. The drunk DJ spinning without a record. Celebrities getting high...or down. And as the queen of the ball, Leigh lit up the room every night with his jaw-dropping attire.

He wore everything from white lacy nightgowns to an actual disco ball on top of his head. His most popular outfit involved a glittery Chanel-inspired jacket with a plastic toy policeman's helmet.

In 1986, however, the club closed down when the tabloids revealed the "shocking" exploits carrying on every night.

But it didn't matter because Leigh was bored with it all already. He was in the midst of moving on into another career: performance art.

Without much trouble, the party monster booked gigs all over London.

He did everything from pretend to give birth on stage to channeling Jewish persecution in World War II.

In 1993, he added another job on his resume when he started a pop band with a few friends. Their single, "Useless Man," became a hit in Europe.

But while he was busy shocking the world with his bold artistic expression, Leigh's life was literally falling apart.

In the mid-1980s, he had been diagnosed as HIV positive. He only told a couple friends at the time, begging them to keep his secret. He didn't want the deadly disease to overshadow his work.

He even married a close friend, Nicola, as performance art, and never even told her what was going on with him.

But by late 1994, seven months after their marriage, the tired artist could no longer keep his illness in the dark. He grew increasingly sick, having to cancel gigs and spend weeks in the hospital.

It was time to tell everyone.

In January of 1995, Leigh passed away, right after pleading with his friends to simply tell people he had moved to Bolivia to become a pig farmer. He still didn't want the disease to be his legacy. It just didn't seem fair.

Fortunately, his wish came true.

Since his death, Leigh has been remembered in three books (two biographies and one photo collection), a documentary, countless art shows, and in Boy George's Broadway musical, "Taboo."

His eclectic style has influenced artists like Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, John Galliano, and Lady Gaga.

People remember his spirit. Not his death.

Not bad for a "Bolivian pig farmer," eh?