Archive for the ‘joe orton’ Tag

Chairman of the Board – Picture of the Month: Christine Keeler by Lewis Morley (1963)

The other day I got to touch this chair…

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The Keeler chair

The year I was born this chair got to touch the bare bottom of Christine Keeler.

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photograph by Lewis Morley

It was as the scandal of the Profumo Affair was exploding in Britain, marking the end of the age of austerity and heralding the new age of permissiveness.

I’ve been writing a script over the summer in which Keeler appears as a minor character so have been immersed in the era of which this photograph is an icon.

The photo session was in Lewis Morley’s studio above The Establishment Club in Soho (18 Greek Street) which was the spiritual home of the emerging anti-establishment of the early 60s. It was founded in 1961 and presented among others, on the small stage on the floor below Morley’s studio, Lenny Bruce, Barry Humphries and Dudley Moore. The club was part-owned by Moore’s partner in crime Peter Cook, another defining character of the era.

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Lewis Morley (1925-2013)

Morley was born in Hong Kong to English and Chinese parents, coming to England straight after the war in 1945. He eventually emigrated to Barry Humphries’/Dame Edna Everage’s native Australia in 1971.

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Dame Edna by Lewis Morley (1996)

The Keeler session was set up to produce images for a film that never happened (The Keeler Affair). Present were Morley, his assistant and the producers.

I recently came across another such movie that was never made featuring Keeler’s partner in crime Mandy Rice Davies. Her picture, by contrast in costume, was shot by Terence Donovan (1936 – 1996),  another of the key photographers of the Blow Up generation. His first major retrospective – Speed of Light at the Photographers Gallery, London this summer – brought to light this magazine cover:

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Morley decided to use one of a number of chairs he’d recently bought at (probably) Heals as a prop. They are cheap knock-offs of a classic Arne Jacobsen design, the 3107. The chair is more crudely made than its original and has a hand-hole introduced to get round copyright infringement.

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The actual Keeler chair

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The 3107 v The Keeler knock-off

At the beginning of the session Keeler was dressed in a leather jerkin, covered (just) but still plenty sexy. Morley shot three rolls of film on the day – on the first two he shot her dressed in this way both on and beside the chair.

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Keeler had been a model in her early years in London before getting sucked in to The Scandal. She had also been a showgirl and good-time girl, all these activities and aspirations adjacent in England in the late 50s/early 60s.

The producers then demanded that she pose nude. They insisted that was in her contract. Morley was reluctant and protected Keeler, both with the back of that chair and by clearing everyone but himself out of the studio and averting his eyes while she stripped off and mounted the chair. In this way he protected her dignity whilst fulfilling the terms of the contract.

He then shot the third roll. He tried various angles which you can see on the contact sheet which now lives at the V&A. Morley recounted the end of the session thus:

“I felt that I had shot enough and took a couple of paces back. Looking up I saw what appeared to be a perfect positioning. I released the shutter one more time, in fact, it was the last exposure on the roll of film. Looking at the contact sheet, one can see that this image is smaller than the rest because I had stepped back. It was this pose that became the first published and most used image. The nude session had taken less than five minutes to complete.”

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NPG x38964; Christine Keeler by Lewis Morley

Last shot of the last roll – suitably mythic.

The shot in question can currently be seen in the first room of the You Say You Want a Revolution? Records and Rebels 1966-1970 exhibition at the V&A. As can the chair.

What’s powerful about the shot is the X-shaped composition made up of her upper arms and thighs, bright in the high contrast, combined with the echo of the top half of that white X (those upper arms joined into a curvaceous triangle by her shoulders) which matches the sensual curved triangle of the chair back. The hands and wrists also make up a mini X, reinforcing the power of the central shape. The dark V of the chair back is a massive amplification of that hidden famous vagina. But topping off the shot is an alluring yet refined face. And a strong one, as challenging as any of the enigmatic eye-to-eye starers of Manet. [see E for Enigma – Manet Picture of the Month]

Morley used the pose again two years later with Joe Orton, the playwright who best captured the essence of the 60s in Britain. I first came across Orton in the Lower 6th (the freest and best year of school) when I was looking for the subject of a project and came across Orton by chance. I’ve loved him since. But I don’t find that the Morley portrait captures him well as it gives no sense of his cheekiness or humour.

NPG x24966; Joe Orton by Lewis Morley

Joe Orton 1965

Morley also used the pose with TV personality David Frost (in the same year as Keeler), but in a less still way, capturing something of the energy which was to land Frost a chair opposite President Nixon in the next decade (in the famous 1977 interviews which did for the leader of the most powerful nation on earth). Frost, The Establishment, Cook, Private Eye were all part of the same Swinging Sixties circles.

NPG x38945; Sir David Paradine Frost by Lewis Morley

David Frost 1963

Circles which overlapped with the establishment with a small e and their interface with Soho, pretty girls, gambling dens, sharp-suited gangsters, swinger parties, all the ingredients in the explosive brew that was Profumo.

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Christine (21) & Mandy (18) at the height of the Profumo Affair

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For a very particular moment – arguably one key frame – Morley managed to transform a 21 year old (who grew up in a converted railway carriage, abandoned by her father), a 21 year old swirling helplessly in a maelstrom of post-war British politics, the Cold War and the breaking down of the class system into a strong and dignified woman, the epitome of Sixties British beauty.

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Under The Chair

127-2004s

Previous Picture of The Month – Georgia O’Keeffe

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The 10 Books which made the most impact on me

A friend of mine, Carol, (aka The Naked Novelist) via my bestman Stuart, passed on a challenge this week: to list the 10 books that have had the most impact on my life. So that’s impact, not my favourite 10.

Here’s my stab at it…

1. ‘Here We Go’ – the Janet and John book I learnt to read with: “Look, Janet, look!”

janet and john here we go book
2. ‘Ulysses’, James Joyce – it’s about everything, and very resonant if you’re a Jew married to an Irish woman “Yes, yes, yes!”

First edition (I'd love one of these)

First edition (I’d love one of these)

3. ‘Paradise Lost’ Books 1 & 2, John Milton ed. John Broadbent – the poetry’s pretty damn good but the footnotes were a revelation – it helped me realise school subjects are artificial divisions and everything’s connected to everything else. “Of man’s disobedience and the fruit of that forbidden tree…”

 'Paradise Lost' Books 1 & 2, John Milton ed. John Broadbent book
4. ‘Asterix in Britain’ – I loved the notion of an invasion succeeding because one side stopped for tea at a set time every afternoon (5 o’clock)

Asterix Chez les Bretagnes

Asterix Chez les Bretagnes

Time for Tea (a fatal weakness)

Time for Tea (a fatal weakness)

5. ‘The Dinosaur Strain’, Mark Brown – got me into the subject of Creative Thinking, led to me making a computer game (MindGym) and ultimately to writing my own book about Creativity, ‘When Sparks Fly’ (5/8 finished, interviewed Jamie Oliver for it today)

the only picture I can find as it's almost extinct

the only picture I can find as it’s almost extinct

6. ‘Romeo and Juliet’, Shakey – emblematic of the year I had an inspiring teacher (English teacher of course – Mr Fitch RIP MA Cantab) who got me really reading

romeo and juliet shakespeare arden edition
7. ‘The Riddle of the Sands’, Erskine Childers – made me realise what a burden material possessions can be in the scene where the protagonist can’t get his trunk into the sailing boat and has to dump all his shit on the quay

'The Riddle of the Sands', Erskine Childers penguin book
8. ‘The Complete Plays of Joe Orton’ – bought it for a 6th form project, turned me on to satire and the Sixties

'The Complete Plays of Joe Orton'  book
9. ‘Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide’ – pored over this fat tome when I first got really into movies as a teenager

'Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide' 1979
10. ‘On the Road’, Jack Kerouac – led me to Allen Ginsberg who in turn inspired ‘When Sparks Fly’ (see above) and is the subject of the first chapter, With a Little Help from My Friend

On the Road by Jack Kerouac

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jack Kerouac-On-The-Road book novelIf it’s not too Neknominate, please do share your Top Impact 10 below (or a link to it)…

Angelic Upstarts (Days 90 and 91)

Creative Gangs: the Blitz Club generation {photo copyright of & courtesy of Herbie Knott}

Creative Gangs: the Blitz Club generation {photo copyright of & courtesy of Herbie Knott}

Embarked on the synopsis/sales document for this project beside the fire at the Adam & Eve on Mill Hill’s Ridgeway, using a model given me by the writer who pushed me over the tipping point into taking time away from the day job to do it in the first place. When I met her at Channel 4 in the course of my day-to-day work we got, in a meandering way, onto the subject of a book she had written and got published recently to do with Webby things and it was her explanation of the process and recounting of her experience which made it all feel doable and helped turn a long-term ambition into some action.

Day 91 began with a meeting with an old-school documentary film-maker at Kipferl at the Angel, Islington to discuss a creativity-related fund which he felt may be of use. As it turned out, the fund was probably a bit tangential but the discussion about Creativity-related stuff proved useful and illuminating. It got me to think more about attitudes to Uncertainty and Risk – I think I’ll centre one of the inter-chapters (my own jargon for the commentary between case studies) on this area, combined with the notion of the ‘creative gang’, as discussed with Gary Kemp (musician and actor, of Spandau Ballet) in an interview in a Fitzrovia cafe just now.

I headed up to Islington library to make camp for the rest of the day – based on the fact it was there that Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell defaced library books in a surreal and naughty way when they were living in the Angel. I’d never been inside before, passed it many times on the way up the Holloway Road and to my friend Bernard’s, but my image of the interior was entirely based on this association and my love of Joe Orton from sixth form days.  The foundation stone was dated 16th June (which is Bloomsday) 1906 (two years after Ulysses is set) which I thought was propitious but as it turned out the outside is much more inspiring, with its busts of Spenser and Bacon (not the 20th century ones), than the inside which had no good spaces to work in. So I headed up to Highgate Hill, checked out whether the Highgate Literary & Scientific Institution had any good space (nope, only for members), then settled down in Pain Quotidien to carry on with the outline doc. Was sitting next to two of the bitchiest schoolgirls I’ve ever had the misfortune to overhear – that kind of complacency and nastiness is the opposite of what When Sparks Fly is about. All the more reason to encourage a generous and open approach.

Joe's handiwork

Joe’s handiwork

Joe-Orton---defaced library books

Collins Guide to Roses

 

Adam writing in Adam library (Day 63)

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Went with the flow. Original plan was to get a change of scene for my writing day by heading off to the RAF Museum just a couple of miles away and write among old planes. But I had to drop the Other Half off in Holloway (near the library where Joe Orton carefully defaced covers and blurbs and got sentenced to 6 months for his trouble). On the way back heard on Radio London about Kenwood House re-opening today after two years of closure for renovation so went with it and ended up having a good, flowing writing session at the end of the Robert Adam library you never used to be able to get to (there was a rope barrier before the restoration). The gilding has been stripped away, which was a later accretion, and the beautifully lit domed room looks just right in its 18C pale pinks and blues with fine detail in pure white.

kenwood house adam library restored

Sitting on the new leather sofa on its first morning of active duty I wrote five pages of the Tony Wilson chapter, picking up from the emblematic opening scene and intro I wrote earlier in the week. It flowed easily between related moments so that it got well away from any simple chronological account and feels like something cutting the cake in a more individual way.

Lunch break in the cafe in the stable block with a newspaper – revelling in the not-at-work feeling. Then another burst of writing outdoors overlooking the lake and grounds. Plus a bit of reading about Sylvia Beach who could make a good shorter chapter for variety. So a very productive day lifted by an inspirational environment.

After the library session had a look around the restored rooms and the rest of the house. Found a full length Sargent portrait in the old rooms upstairs that hadn’t registered before. Plus a collection of Elizabethan painting which wasn’t familiar – some amazingly modern fashion such as dresses decorated with little rips. Was reminded what an amazing collection is in the house (a vague memory that it was once curated by Cambridge spy  Anthony Blunt, he certainly wrote the intro to older versions of the guidebook) – Vermeer, Rembrandt, Turner, Boucher, Reynolds, Gainsborough, and all first-class examples, nothing second-rate. It’s a special pleasure to grow up with your own local set of paintings (as Vanessa Feltz eloquently captured on the show which brought me here) and it’s striking to see how a building/place can weave itself into the fabric of so many lives over such a long time.

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The Magic Tunnel

from Islington Library, Holloway Road courtesy of Joe & Kenneth of Noel Road

from Islington Library, Holloway Road courtesy of Joe & Kenneth of Noel Road

 

50 people who buggered up Britain (and 25 who saved it)

A free hairstyle

A free hairstyle

An up-tight hairdo

An up-tight hairdo

Having given the Daily Mail a hard time recently with my Fear & Death analysis of its content and my highlighting how at odds it was with its own readership over The Sex Education Show / Sexperience, I’ve decided to take some inspiration from the rotten rag in the form of its political sketchwriter and theatre critic Quentin Letts and his new book Fifty People Who Buggered Up Britain. I haven’t actually read it but I have read a review which got me thinking about my own list – I’ve only just started really and could definitely use some help so feel free to join in. The timeframe is the last 5 decades. I thought I’d also counter Mail miserableness by adding a list of 20 inspirational figures in Britain from those same 50 years who helped counter-balance the malign influences. I’m hoping to have the full 50 (+ 20) in place by the New Year so do chuck some ideas into the pot… [names added post 2008 have the date added in square brackets]

Buggered up Britain:

1 Ashley Cole – stands out as the most unpleasant character in the Premiership and that’s no easy feat

2 Rupert Murdoch – brought vulgar anti-culture and arrogant anti-democracy to the country in equal measure – I vowed many years ago to throw a big party the day he shuffles off his awful coil and you’re all invited

3 Viscount Rothermere, co-founder of the Daily Mail which published his editorial on 15th January 1934 entitled ‘Hurrah for the Blackshirts!’

4 Ian Paisley – spent his whole toxic life saying No!

5 Doctor Richard Beeching – killed our (relatively green) railways

6 Lord MacAlpine – the Tory treasurer whose family’s firm vandalised Battersea Powerstation, ripped its roof off in the service of…

7 Margaret Thatcher – brought so much misery into Britain in such a short time – I’ll leave this one to Elvis Costello:

I saw a newspaper picture from the political campaign
A woman was kissing a child, who was obviously in pain
She spills with compassion, as that young child’s
face in her hands she grips
Can you imagine all that greed and avarice
coming down on that child’s lips?

Well I hope I don’t die too soon
I pray the Lord my soul to save
Oh I’ll be a good boy, I’m trying so hard to behave
Because there’s one thing I know, I’d like to live
long enough to savour
That’s when they finally put you in the ground
I’ll stand on your grave and tramp the dirt down.

When England was the whore of the world
Margaret was her madam
And the future looked as bright and as clear as
the black tarmacadam
Well I hope that she sleeps well at night, isn’t
haunted by every tiny detail
‘Cos when she held that lovely face in her hands
all she thought of was betrayal.

Notice the link to MacAlpine via Tarmacadam. Notice the link to Murdoch via lively celebrations of the passing of a big bugger.

8 Simon Cowell – for spreading the corrosive myth of instant fame

9 Oswald Mosley – married to one of the Mitford whores in Goebbel’s drawing room with Hitler present as one of only 6 guests – nuff said (do we detect a residual anger in my tone? give me another 50 years and I may start getting over the Nazis …but I doubt it)

10 Stock Aitken Waterman – for devaluing music, torturing us with the likes of Rick Astley and Jason Donovan

11 Howard Shipman – undermined trust in GPs and the NHS in a rather extravagant way

12 The Queen Mother – epitomised how anachronistic royalty and aristocracy are, and how unhealthy reverence of royalty can be. [This choice inspired by Adam D’s suggestion – House of Windsor]

13 Michael Gove – for not understanding the modern world and setting UK education back years when it was already well behind the curve [2016]

14 Victoria Beckham – “She succeeded in her desire to be ’more famous than Persil Automatic’ and is as about as interesting as a box of it. I think she has created such a one-dimensional aspiration for the young. Success can now be measured by vacuity and the meaningless.” [Practical Psychologist] Her husband by contrast captures some positive values such as leadership, commitment to a passion/skill-set and rehabilitation.

15 Reggie & Ronnie Kray – for the misguided hero-worship they have subsequently inspired and inspiring Guy Richie innit [courtesy of Practical Psychologist]

16 Steve McClaren – humiliated himself and England simultaneously under that umbrella with his stupid fucking biros and spiral-bound notepads. Saw him once in a hotel in Manchester (with Anthony Lilley) and there was no question who was the centre of the group… not him, but El Tel.

17 Paul Dacre – Mail supremo who reckons (vis-a-vis the Max Mosley case, son of #9 of course) distinguishing between ‘a sick Nazi orgy’ and ‘people having sex in military-style uniform’ is “almost surreally pedantic logic”

18 Melissa Jacobs – the mad bint who screwed up England’s World Cup 2018 bid for the sake of some Mail on Sunday pieces of silver [16.v.10]

19 Rebekah Wade (now Brooks, for a while at least) – sups with the devil, not with a long spoon, not even a short one, with a tongue in his mouth and up his other orifice from which much the same stuff dribbles [2010]

20 Edward VIII – a proven traitor and Nazi-sympathiser [2012]

21 George Osborne – for knowing the cost of everything and the value of nothing (as well as being a hypocrite) (and for having a Patrician haircut) [2016]

22 Philip Green – the Unacceptable Face of Capitalism in every sense (have you seen those chins and haircut? there’s a limit to what  a tan can hide) [25/7/16]

23 Jeremy Corbyn – the self-righteous non-leader/stooge who destroyed the Labour Party – reminiscent of…

Roger McGough – The Leader

I wanna be the leader
I wanna be the leader
Can I be the leader?
Can I? I can?
Promise? Promise?
Yippee I’m the leader
I’m the leader

OK what shall we do?

24 Nicola Sturgeon – the epitome of Bad Faith

25 Boris & Dave : I’m taking the liberty of yoking them together in a double act by way of some small revenge: they deserve each other. Boris Johnson – for proving to be the bumbling idiot he always looked (despite an at times charming surface) & David Cameron – for sacrificing the United Kingdom (a rather good union at the end of the day) on the pyre of the EU Referendum for the sake of some of his Tories, the self-same Tories who undermined the crucial Voting Reform Referendum during the 2010 Coalition.

Counterbalanced the buggers:

1 David Hockney – picked up where Picasso left off

2 Bob Marley – brought some Jamaican colour to the grey London of 77

3 Joe Strummer – with The Clash helped British musicians discover the honest energy of DIY

4 Tommy Cooper – just makes me laugh (could equally have been Eric Morecambe in this slot)

5 Francis Bacon – one of the two greats of 20th century art (alongside Picasso)

6 Hannah Billig, the Angel of Cable Street – too busy looking after people to collect her MBE (she asked them to post it)

7 John Peel [courtesy of Adam D “…fades in quietly” ]

8 Tony Hart: “We’re sorry we can’t return your pictures” [courtesy of Adam D] what nobler calling than bringing art and inspiration to children

9 Tony Wilson – for bringing together shining talent in a bold, rounded way – Martin Hannett, Pete Saville, Ian Curtis et al – and showing how to champion your hometown

10 James Bond – [courtesy of Practical Psychologist, in his words…] “overcame the stereotype of the sexually repressed Brit who liked a cold shower before having his bare bottom spanked by a tart” – those Pan edition covers certainly captured my young imagination

11 Michael Young – for the Open University and other progressive policy [courtesy of Practical Psychologist and in memory of Naomi Sargant, first Head of Education at Channel 4, appointed by Jeremy Isaacs in a more adventurous, imaginative age]

12 John Betjeman [courtesy of Practical Psychologist, in his words…] “he saw what we were doing to our land and tried to stop it”

13 Joe Orton – for reviving the Comedy of Manners and finding humour in the black stuff

14 Lennon & McCartney – for taking pop music up a gear or three. PP’s view below: “we led the world in something for the first time in a long time”

15 Geoff Hurst – for scoring that goal

16 Jonny Wilkinson – for scoring that try and creating a Perfect Moment

17 Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger – for bringing Technicolor British Romanticism to the big screen

18 Rabbi Hugo Gryn – for his efforts in uniting the faiths and demonstrating how to survive to do good, a true Mensch

19 Steve Redgrave – for being a model of commitment, plus his work on dyslexia & education

20 Humph (Humphrey Lyttelton) – for combining the quintessence of Englishness with jazz

21 Peter Gabriel – a multifaceted, visionary musician who is a great collaborator [1/3/16]

22 Danny Boyle – created something of once-in-a-lifetime specialness in the Opening Ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics, making us reflect in a fresh way on what Britishness actually is [2012]

23 David Bowie – kept things fresh for a long time [2016]

24 John Martyn – brought true soul to Britain, the world is a much lesser place without him [2016]

25 Nicholas Winton – who saved 669 children from the Nazis (including Alf Dubs who is trying to follow his example these days) and kept pretty quiet about it most of his life, finally receiving full recognition in the late 80s

 

Bubbling under:

Tony Benn – doing his best to show what politicians could be like {courtesy of Scanner, Adam D and Overthewire} [I’m not sure about this one, keep wavering]

LIST UPDATED AND COMPLETED 22/1/17

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