68 Comeback Special Comes Back

Marked the passing of Elvis to the great gig in the sky (on this day in 1977) by going to watch his ’68 Comeback Special on the big screen. I filed out of the Phoenix Cinema, East Finchley along with Elvis admirers from near and far (including actor John Simm all the way from Muswell Hill) with a big smile on my face and a warmed heart as Elvis on screen was a unique, charismatic blend of cool and warm.

“…he was a bad muthafucka boy, Elvis was bad…”

Eddie Murphy, Delirious

Here are six of the seven or so costumes he wore in the show, designed brilliantly by Bill Belew.

elvis 68 comeback special costume black leather

The famous black leather

elvis 68 comeback special costume white suit

The most famous white suit until Stop Making Sense

elvis 68 comeback special costume suit gold

Pure showbiz gold

elvis 68 comeback special costume suit brown Saved

‘Saved’ in brown tones

elvis 68 comeback special costume suit denim Guitar Man

Stylish denim ‘Guitar Man’

elvis 68 comeback special costume red black

Classic black & red combo

Rock in Peace, big man

And what a coincidence that the Queen of Soul died today on the same date as The King (of Rock n Roll) – Respect to another unique one…

aretha franklin singer soul

The Queen is dead

aretha franklin singer soul

Long live The Queen

Elvis talks in the 68 Comeback about how the roots of his music are in gospel and then launches into ‘Saved’.

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Violet Vixen

My latest Real Stories Original commission to go live is Violet Vixen. In the wake of the documentary‘s launch, its protagonist, Leo Noakes aka Violet Vixen, appeared this week on ‘Loose Women’ (ITV). I went to the live studio transmission at the BBC Studios at Television Centre, Shepherd’s Bush with the director, Leanne Rogers. Leo did a good job in a high pressure situation, wittily taking up Stacey Solomon’s  offer to have him become her make-up artist.

violet vixen poster real stories original documentary

Leo is an articulate, sassy, amazingly mature 11 year old boy who loves doing make-up, dressing up and playing with his identity. He doesn’t want to be a girl but he does want the liberty to do ‘girlish’ things and above all to be who he is.

“I love dressing up. I don’t particularly see the clothes and make-up I wear as belonging to girls, or even to boys. I hate the fact that society labels stuff.” says Leo.

His mother surprises him with a trip to Brighton to meet his hero, drag artist Courtney Act, who Leo first came across on US reality TV show RuPaul’s Drag Race. The contrast between conventional Corby where his home is and progressive Brighton blows his young mind.

Leo runs a very successful Instagram channel, overseen by his mother, Lauren. She has to protect him from trolls but by and large people are positive about his alter ego, Violet Vixen. He uses his social media channels to spread the age-old message: Be true to who you are!

Leo’s know-how about make-up is particularly striking. He taught himself as Lauren is not really into cosmetics or clothes. He has ambitions to move to the USA and become a TV drag artist. But above all he wants the freedom to be himself.

courtney act tweet about leo violet vixen

Courtney Act aka Shane Gilberto Jenek, winner of Celebrity Big Brother 2018, was delightful in his interactions with Leo and proved a huge inspiration.

Courtney Act drag queen

Courtney Act

One of my favourite aspects of the film is the way Leo cannot compute that a place like Brighton (where he meets Courtney) actually exists – a place where he wouldn’t stand out for being who he is.

courtney act leo noakes violet vixen

Courtney, Leo, mum & friend

courtney act leo noakes violet vixen

leo noakes violet vixen brighton

Art Deco Sussex

Bexhill-on-Sea to Brighton, east to west 23.vii.18

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex - interior staircase

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex - exterior seaside

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex - exterior staircase

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex - interior staircase

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex - interior staircase

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex - exterior artist painter

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex - exterior staircase landside

Staircase, landside

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex - interior staircase landside

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex - exterior

De La Warr Pavilion, Bexhill-on-Sea, East Sussex - exterior staircase

58 South Cliff, Bexhill

58 South Cliff, Bexhill

58 South Cliff, Bexhill

58 South Cliff, Bexhill

The Sandcastle, Pevensey, East Sussex art deco house

The Sandcastle, Pevensey, East Sussex

The Sandcastle, Pevensey, East Sussex art deco house

from the beach

The Sandcastle, Pevensey, East Sussex art deco house

The Sandcastle, Pevensey, East Sussex art deco house

The Sandcastle, Pevensey, East Sussex art deco house

The Sandcastle, Pevensey, East Sussex art deco house

The Sandcastle, Pevensey, East Sussex art deco house

Embassy Court Brighton flats apartments

Embassy Court, Brighton

 

Triangulating History

22.vii.18

The river ouse at rodmell sussex virgina woolf

This I reckon is the spot (River Ouse, Rodmell)

I went to visit Monk’s House, Virginia & Leonard Woolf’s cottage in the quiet East Sussex village of Rodmell. I was here years ago with Una and it left an impression, I was happy to return. Because I arrived before opening time (the cottage is now looked after by the National Trust) I sat reading for an hour in the nearby local churchyard, St Peter’s. At noon I had a look around the gardens with its view of the South Downs and then had a look around Virginia’s bedroom, with its monk-like single bed and set of Shakespeare beautifully bound by her, and a wander through the ground floor rooms of the cottage, with paintings by Leonard’s shared woman (post-Virginia), Trekkie Parsons, who split her week between Leonard and her husband at the marital home nearby. All par for the Bloomsbury course.

st peters church rodmell east sussex

St Peter’s churchyard, Rodmell

Of course Bloomsbury is rich in colourful tales, none less fascinating than the one the National Trust volunteer at the entrance to the cottage reminded me of, the way she eventually killed herself by walking from the cottage to the river Ouse, just beyond Monk’s House’s grounds, put stones in her pockets and walked in, drowning in what a local told me is a river with strong tidal currents. Not that day – in the midst of a heatwave there was barely enough water to immerse yourself in, the level less than half-way to the line marked by green vestiges of the high water mark.

IMG_4340 garden of monks house rodmell virginia woolf

Leonard & Virginia’s beloved garden, Monk’s House, Rodmell – St Peter’s in the background

I decided to go find the spot, mainly because I wanted to walk by the river which I really love, rather than for ghoulish motivations. That no-one seemed to know where the actual spot was was more of a prompt.

view from St Peters church rodmell sussex

view from Rodmell (St Peter’s churchyard)

I’ve done this kind of triangulation of history before. Two memorable ones include figuring out where Patrick Pearse read the Proclamation of Irish Independence in 1916 and standing there exactly 100 years to the minute after that momentous event. And working out where Tony Visconti and his lover kissed by the Berlin Wall, a moment immortalised in David Bowie’s Heroes. In the latter case, my estimation was subsequently confirmed as correct.

thistles at southease east sussex by river ouse

The start of the river path at Southease

For this one I went down to Southease, the adjacent hamlet, and walked down to the river under the blazing summer sun. I walked along the raised embankment back in the direction of Rodmell. By using the spire of St Peter’s I was able to align myself with the garden of Monk’s House and there is only one natural path to that spot along the edge of a field which must have been pretty much adjoining the Woolf’s land. On the basis that Virginia would have wanted to just get to the river and do the deed the place where she walked into the river is the spot shown in the first picture above.

A very resonant and tragic act in a very beautiful and peaceful place.

river ouse at rodmell sussex southease

Coincidence No. 460

I am watching ‘Othello’ at The Globe with Enfant Terrible No.2. I notice the line, when The Moor has killed Desdemona:

“Methinks it should be now a huge eclipse
Of sun and moon”
The same night there is a lunar eclipse which turns the moon red. It is known as a Blood Moon.
blood-moon-total-lunar-eclipse-27 july-2018

27th July 2018

The longest total lunar eclipse of the 21st Century took place on 27th July 2018. It lasted 103 minutes (the entire celestial event lasted nearly 4 hours).

The Casting Game No. 76

SuperMario

super-mario

to play

Mark Rylance playing Iago at the Globe (July 2018)

mark rylance actor as iago in othello at the globe theatre july 2018

Coincidences No.s 455, 456, 457, 458 & 459

dorothea-lange-migrant-mother-1936 photograph great depression dust bowl

Dorothea Lange’s iconic ‘Migrant Mother’ (1936)

No. 455 Oakland

I am in the Barbican Art Gallery looking at an exhibition of photographer Dorothea Lange and notice that many of the prints are from the Oakland Museum of California. This reminds me of my friend Richard who lives in Oakland. I send him an email there and then asking if he has seen the exhibition which has or will also be shown in that museum.

I get an email back a few minutes later saying that it is good that I emailed as he happens to be home in London for a funeral. (As a result, we get to meet up a bit later at the Clissold Arms for a drink.)

(I have a documentary shooting at the moment in Oakland – Back to Black.)

sick puppy carl hiaasen book cover design

No.456 Black dogs

I am reading Sick Puppy by Carl Hiaasen. The puppy in question is a black Labrador.

I keep seeing black Labradors everywhere. I saw one on Ness Island yesterday. I saw one in Coldfall Wood a couple of days ago. Since then I saw one at the bow of a small boat in Ullapool. One at Seafood Shack, the award-winning street food outfit in the same town. And someone shared a video on Facebook showing a black lab falling into a river rapid while going after a stick and a golden lab subsequently saving it by grabbing the stick and pulling it out of the fast-running water.

The island that is about to be spoiled through property development in Sick Puppy is being renamed Shearwater Island. The boat that I take to explore the waters around Ullapool is called the Shearwater.

On the way to Ullapool I hear about a shooting at a newspaper office in Maryland, USA, the Capital Gazette. One of the victims is Rob Hiaasen. An unusual surname – it turns out he is related to author Carl, his brother.

The night before I meet a man named Olaf at a dinner given by Scottish Enterprise at Xpo North in Inverness. It is the second time that fairly unusual first name came up in the day. Earlier I meet a Norwegian actress and film-maker who mentions that one of the times you can see there are plenty of Norwegians in London is on Norway Day when they gather at the Norwegian Church in London, St Olav’s (church and seamen’s mission).

the 39 steps john buchan book cover design pan

My first copy (from my dad)

No. 457 Portland Place

I buy a copy of The 39 Steps in Leakey’s bookshop in Inverness. I start reading it by the Moray Firth and on the first couple of pages there is a reference to Portland Place where Richard Hannay rents a flat.

I am walking through Inverness when I find myself in Portland Place (1828). (It contains the most northerly mosque in the UK.)

Naked & Invisible Nude in Newington Channel 4 short form video still

‘Naked & Invisible: Nude in Newington’ (Channel 4)

No. 458 Newington Green

I am sitting next to the chief executive of Highlands and Islands Enterprise at dinner. She tells me that her daughter has moved to London – to Newington Green.

I am talking to the chair of the panel I have just done at Xpo North. He tells me his office is in North London. Camden Town? I ask. No, Newington Green.

In my talk for an earlier panel for Skills Development Scotland I refer to a film I commissioned at Channel 4 and there is a still from it in my presentation. It is a scene shot in a greengrocer’s on Newington Green and the title of the episode is Nude in Newington.

Xpo North inverness creative industries scotland

No. 459 Independent filmmakers

Google Alerts points me to an article in a magazine called Filmmaker. I check it out and it is run by an organisation called IFP. This stands for independent filmmakers.

I meet one of the fellow panellists for the session I am doing at Xpo North in Inverness about 21st-century storytelling. Nick is from Brooklyn. His games company is part of IFP (which I’ve never heard of before that article shows up).

Simple Pleasures from Inverness

zoe graham glasgow singer

Zoe Graham

Two rabbits by the botanic gardens. Sunset from Inverness Castle (reading Forever and a Day). Watching the City of Inverness Pipe Band practising – the stirring sound of the bagpipes. Walking along the River Ness to the Ness Islands – siesta on the bank near where the anglers hang out. Two herons. The calling of seagulls. Watching the coloured lights on the bridge with Josh R. Highland gin & tonic. Leakie’s bookshop (in an old church) – finding a 1950s hardback copy of The 39 Steps. Watching bees in the botanic garden. Eating local mussels with lemongrass and chilli. The sound of the fast-flowing river. A snooze to Kind of Blue. A cheese platter. Watching the last ep of 13 Reasons Why. Doing a good job of a careers talk at Xpo North (with a ceramicist and a writer). Catching a bit of Zoe Graham playing her solo looped music. Doing a great panel on 21st Century Storytelling with Michael, Nick, other Nick and Paul. Paul’s classic Scottish lunch – a chocolate eclair and a can of Coke. Michael’s speaking style. Schadenfreude of Germany getting knocked out the World Cup. A pint of lime and sparkling Highland water after a long riverside walk.

Inverness

In Your Face hits 1 Million mark

in your face documentary real stories 1 million youtube views

In Your Face (a film I conceived and commissioned for Real Stories) hit 1 million views on YouTube this weekend, a month after going live. It received 2 million views on its opening weekend on Facebook and a cut-down received a whopping 10 million Facebook views in that same period but the million on the more deliberate viewing platform that is YouTube is nonetheless a significant landmark in the 21-minute film’s life.

In Your Face Real Stories Original documentary confronting tattoo prejudice

In Your Face: confronting tattoo prejudice

Are facial tattoos the final frontier?

To what extent do face and neck tattoos shape your opinion of someone? Three heavily tattooed people have their facial tattoos covered up by an expert make-up artist as part of a social experiment to compare how they are treated with and without ink, and to explore whether tattoos on the face are the final frontier of self-decoration. In this age of mainstream tattoo acceptance, what’s the social price you pay for inking your face? And what motivates people to do it?

Skat Dagger is named after the dagger tattoo that used to pierce his face from above the left eye to the cheek. He first inked his face at the age of 21. He now has “Winter” written on one cheek and the image of a rose on the other. He lost a daughter at 14 months – her name was Winter Rose. The stories of Skat, Becky and Jason (the three people featured in the film) give insights into why individuals step over the border into having tattoos on their face.

As their tattoos are carefully removed by world double body-painting champion Carolyn Roper using specialist make-up and they look into the mirror for the first time at their ‘clean’ faces, we get to see their emotional reactions. We also see them undertaking various everyday activities first with their tattoos, then with their tattoos ‘removed’. From asking for change of a five pound note for a parking meter to going for a low-skilled job, we get to see the contrast between how they are treated ‘before’ and ‘after’.

As a climax, they enter Harrods, the famous up-market department store, which has a no tattoo policy not only for staff but even for customers! They go in with make-up covering their tats, wash it off in the washrooms, then see what happens when they engage with staff from the cosmetics counter to the watch department.

‘In Your Face’ was produced by Showem Entertainment for Little Dot Studios. You can watch it here:

 

Coincidences No. 347, 348 & 349

No. 347 Steyning, Sussex

I am reading a book about the Preraphaelites (William Gaunt’s The Pre-Raphaelite Tragedy) – it mentions how one of Rossetti’s models claimed to be from Steyning but referred to it being in Surrey (when in fact it is in Sussex), casting doubt on her veracity. (Time seems to have proved she was telling the truth as she now has a blue plaque in the small rural Sussex town).

The next day I am at my book group when one of my friends mentions he’s just had a great weekend away in a house located in a place called Steyning.

dante gabriel Rossetti-Fanny-Cornforth model painter preraphaelite

Fanny Cornforth by DG Rossetti

No.348 FML

I am running a workshop on short form film-making in Helsinki and one of the participants suggests #FML as the title for their film. I can’t recall what it stands for (despite being an occasional collector of TLAs (Three-Letter Acronyms) and having FML in my lists).

That night I am watching 13 Reasons Why in my hotel room and the key characters use the term – repeatedly. It means “Fuck My Life”.

13 reasons why protagonists

No.349 Brittle Bone

I am standing in the bathroom writing an email about a wrong master for my Real Stories commission Brittle Bone Rapper being used in a showreel.

As I click send the words “brittle bone” come up on the Radio 4 programme that is playing on the radio.

 

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