Saturday, December 01, 2012
To anybody who might be wondering about my sporadic blog writing of late, I can only say that I am experiencing no lack of ideas. But I am going through a blog-writing-block in which the salient lack of motivation is lazy postponement, “I will write it tomorrow. And if not, perhaps the next.”
Of course it could be a seasonal disorder. Today Rosemary said, “I cannot wait for this month to be over.” I pointed out to her that today happens to be the first day in December. She smiled and this is something that Rosemary does not do too often. I will have to rent Sullivan’s Travels
and have her see the ending with convicts in a church watching a “picture show”. They all roar with laughter at a cartoon featuring Pluto.
By the end of November I always feel melancholic. The days are very short and by 6 I feel it is 10 pm. The Christmas lights are out there now and days will soon turn to be longer than nights. Our melancholy will dissipate as light takes over. It is the lack of light and the constant rain or the gloomy cyan skies over North Vancouver that affect my state of being.
Tomorrow I am going with the two granddaughters to see the Pirates of Penzance, a Vancouver Opera production at the Queen Elizabeth. There may be a difference between Walt Disney’s Pluto and a Gilbert and Sullivan operetta but I am sure that the smiles of Lauren and Rebecca will still be the same. I propose we banish November from our calendar.
The Penthouse - The Castle - A Rampage, Alan Wood & Jack Shadbolt
Friday, November 30, 2012
In 1973, an up market Vancouver bar "Gary Taylor's Show Lounge", employed showgirls and strippers as waitresses, who gave a free dance with every drink. It was raided by the police under the obscenity legislation, but in 1974, Judge Jack McGivern ruled that the nudity of dancers was not obscene, which started a trend of nude dancing in bars. No contact was allowed but Gary Taylor's had a boxing ring where the girls performed revealing acrobatics after stripping off, and then earned tips. American men from Washington State made the trip from the United States, which at the time had stricter laws.
|Gary Taylor & gang|
Few really know that that Gary Taylor's Show Lounge at the Castle Pub on Granville really marked the beginning of the end for such places as the Penthouse. The Penthouse, paradoxically, escaped that end and all of the many strip bars of Vancouver, with the exception of a couple are gone. Taylor’s Show Lounge combined the novel concept of being able to bite on a hamburger at lunch while sipping on a beer and watching beautiful women take off all (top and bottom) of their clothes. This sort of thing did in the old-fashioned burlesque and strip joints that opened at night and charged an admission fee which was called a cover charge.
Two Wednesdays ago I went to the book launch of Aaron Chapman’s Liquor, Lust & the Law
which is all about the legendary (and, yes, still open) Penthouse on Seymour Street in Vancouver. I had no real desire to go but I received a summons from Randy Rampage that I could not refuse. I found myself sitting at the corner of what we used to call gyna-row with Randy Rampage on my left, and Susanne Tabata (producer/director of the film documentary on the Vancouver punk era, Bloodied But Unbowed
) and Gary Taylor on my right.
Taylor, who had a copy of the book, showed me the reproduction of a Penthouse poster that listed him as manager. And yet, nobody came up to Taylor since few if any knew who the man with the eternal boy snicker on his face was. An announcer pointed out to us that the event, presided over by a tearful and nostalgic Danny Filippone (nephew of Joe seen here and who spells his family name differently) had brought together the unlikely combination of two Vancouver legends, musicians Dal Richards and Randy Rampage.
While the Penthouse opened as a supper club in 1947 by the time I arrived in Vancouver in 1975 it was not the place you might tell your family and friends you planned to visit. There was an air of seediness about the place while strip bars became almost accepted places for power lunches. By the 80s lunch at the Drake, Marr, Number 5 Orange, the Austin, the Cecil Hotel or the Marble Arch had patrons from the largest of the town’s law firms.
Sometime around 1982 the Penthouse attempted to compete for lunch by promoting Omaha steaks on its upper floor lounge. I remember going with Vancouver Magazine’s
resident ecdysiast aficionado, Les Wiseman. I had a steak, he had beer and we both watched a beautiful woman with a considerable upper structure take it all off. By then few of us remembered that Gary Taylor had made that possible.
While watching all the activity two weeks ago, I knew that the times that were will not come back. Danny Filippone’s tears confirmed it. As I looked at my companions I decided I would write this blog and show people as they looked then (in those rosy times) and not as they look now. I wasn’t around in the 40s or 50s, 60s or even 70s to photograph Dal Richards so the picture here, which I took some 15 years ago, will have to do.
|Annie Ample & Joe|
|Susanne Tabatta |
ended up as poster for Gary Taylor's Rock Room
In the late 70s when I used 35mm cameras I shot several assignments in one roll. In the same roll with the picture of Gary Taylor a the entrance of his Rock Room where pictures of paintings by local artist Alan Wood (the first) and the second Free at Last
a serigraph by Jack Shadbolt. Two of them had sympathetic connections, I think.
An Angel, Angell's Seamed Stockings & A Little Girl Gets It
Thursday, November 29, 2012
|Bernard Cuffling, Clarence - Angel First Class|
Vancouver artist William Featherstone died in 2009 at age 82. Statistics would have dictated a much earlier death, an automobile accident on his way home in Brackendale BC. I first met Featherstone in 1980 in the editor’s office at Vancouver Magazine.
He had been relieved of his wallet (cash and credit cards) the previous evening, by an unknown sweetie in a clandestine sleepover at the Marble Arch Hotel. His pal, Malcolm Parry sprung lunch. In all the years that Featherstone taught at the then Emily College of Art and Design he drove home many times under the influence.
The above is my proof for the existence of guardian angels. I take this year’s (and every other year) Arts Club Theatre Company’s production of Philip Grecian’s It’s a Wonderful Life
and its resident Clarence, Angel Second Class (played with soaring , though featherless expertise by Bernard Cuffling
For Thursday’s opening at the Granville Island Stage I was accompanied by my granddaughter Lauren Stewart, 10. Her sister Rebecca, 15, who has seen many productions of the play, predicted that her sister would not get it. She was wrong. Beginning with Cuffling’s excellent diction which Lauren understood so well and Dean Paul Gibson’s smart direction, she got it. Gibson made sure that we all saw Uncle Billy (David Marr) drop the Manila envelope with $8000 on the floor and then how it ended between copies of newspapers on evil tycoon Henry Potter’s (Alex Willows) lap.
It didn’t take higher mathematics for Lauren to figure out that old fashioned (and yet so current) greed was the culprit of the drama on stage. She laughed at the children while I enjoyed the rear views Lindsey Angell’s (she plays Violet the flirt who becomes a lady of the night in George Bailey’s, Bob Frazer, town.) long legs with the ever so beautiful seamed stockings. I followed the seams up to where things got even more interesting. I have seen Angell in meatier plays and I hope to see her again in such rolls even if I will have to sacrifice my vision of those legs.
Opening night marked the 200 production of the play by the Arts Club Theatre Company. Angel Bernard Cuffling and Kyle Jesperson (Peter Bailey) have appeared in every production of the play since its inception in 2007. Quite close to that record is Jennifer Lines (Mary Bailey) who can still distract me from Angell’s legs when her house coat drops and we see her in a teddy!
Perhaps Lines can convince us she is only 18 because of charms she has honed as Cleopatra in Bard on the Beach’s production of Antony & Cleopatra in 2010. It took me just a few seconds to note that the clean-faced Bob Frazer had equally clean hands without one spot of blood. How an actor can go from being Macbeth (he was so in Bard on the Beach’s Macbeth this year) to a squeaky clean banker in one season attests to the power of acting.
By the end of the evening I was refreshed through the eyes of my Lauren and we happily went home reliving Clarence’s masterful caching in the air of two bullets directed at George Bailey’s back.
Lauren and I will be back next year for more of the festive same.
A Bundolo Of Laughs At The Santaland Diaries
Wednesday, November 28, 2012
As a Latin American by birth it has taken me many years to adapt, adopt and then enjoy two concepts that heretofore were alien to me. One was the theatrical, and movie musical (people talking, suddenly, for no reason at all burst into song) and the other of going to a small joint, pay money at the door and then sit down to listen to standup comics.
My frequent ventures into Arts Club Theatre musicals (I look forward this week to White Christmas
) made me a fan. Standup comedy took a bit longer but finally CBC Radio’s most intelligent program, The Debaters
won me over to the side of comedy. I wrote about it here
and would you believe that I received an email communication from Bernie Lucht, producer of the more serious CBC Radio program Ideas
telling me that he agreed and that perhaps Ideas would incorporate more humour into their mix.
If someone were to ask me who the two funniest men in Vancouver would be I would instantly blurt out two names. One might be familiar, Ryan Beil, the other not so. That other is Bill Reiter who was one of the stars of CBC Radio’s (1972 to 1981) Dr. Bundolo's Pandemonium Medicine Show
. It was the funniest radio show I ever heard until The Debaters came along.
Since the Dr. Bundolo’s radio show demise, Bill Reiter has appeared in film and TV and made perhaps as many TV voiceover commercials as Donald Sutherland.
Beil and Reiter, besides being seriously funny have signature and unmistakable voices.
The Debaters and Ryan Beil’s opening night performance tonight (The Arts Club Theatre Company’s Granville Island Stage) of David Sedaris’s (adapted by Joe Mantello) of The Santaland Diaries
both deal with subjects that normally cannot be broadcast by serious radio. It would be too daring. Mask the daring with humour and almost nobody notices the killer content.
In a season where lights are up a day after and usually many days before Halloween (my neighbor’s house, across the street is an alien spacecraft from Close Encounters of the Third Kind
) it is difficult not to be cynical of a holiday which no longer can be identified with the big C.
Beil, through Sedaris’s words gave us a rat-tat-tat cynical view on Christmas seen from the inside, a Santaland elf, called Crumpet, at Macy’s.
As my Rosemary and I watched and laughed I thought of another inside view of Christmas that I have been privy to. Some years ago a woman stalked a swimming instructor at Simon Fraser University. Most, by now have forgotten. The young woman in question worked for a couple of years as a mall Santa’s helper. The photographer who ran the business had problems with her as she wore skimpy outfits and the constant bending over to adjust Santa’s beard, etc caused the parents of children to be exposed to visions of Rudolph and sugar plums not in the Christmas curriculum. I wonder what Sedaris with the expert help of Beil could do with that?
Christmas is all gushing family time and nostalgia. Consider the play It’s a Wonderful Life
or the musical White Christmas
, both being performed by the Arts Club. The former is on right now at the Granville Island Stage and the latter begins on Wednesday, December 5. For me the perfect combination of these two plays would have Beil in the Santaland Diaries as a palate cleanser (the Champagne) between the two sweet main courses. Alas for me I am not to see them in that order! But see all three I will!
Before Beil showed up for my portrait in his changing room I had a short chat with Stage Manager, Peter Jotkus. For any photographer and or journalist who might be reading this you should know that after the director the second most important person in any theatrical show is the Stage Manager. If you want access you have to make sure to be polite and to ask nicely!
Jotkus told me of the complexity (over 70 lighting cues) and the many movings of the cubes and panels during the 75 minute long show. If you think Beil has a tough time you have to consider what happens backstage including the Apprentice Stage Manager, Lucy Pratt-Johnson, who plays a silent elf besides all the other stuff she has to do. I asked about the light and sound effect of the Santa Claus camera. It seems this took four hours of testing until director John Murphy and Lighting Director Ted Roberts were satisfied. Having seen Murphy's Petruchio in Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew
this year at Bard on the Beach I must say everybody must have been hopping to make this a darn funny and very tight show.
Sara Bynoe - Main & Empty
Tuesday, November 27, 2012
|Sara Bynoe - Photograph Alex W-H|
Main and Empty
one week before I got fired
waiting on tables
at East Van’s favorite late night eatery
across from the neon light store/ drug front
down from ten coffee shops in four blocks
next to stores with silk screened ironic t-shirts,
locally made jewelry and retro records.
filling my arms with
local brew, sangria and the mix of the day,
black beans on basmati
coconut milk and quinoa
mango, tofu, peanut sauce,
large nachos the size of my torso.
two guys are sitting at a back table
drinking one p.m. beers
one hides behind Buddy Holly glasses
the other shields with a sleeve of tattoos
while white people with dreadlocks listen to hip hop
while the smell of spray paint loiters in the alley
while the new cook burns the chili
and I’m shedding dreams like onion tears
after three rounds
they left behind torn napkins
empty cigarette boxes
an insulting 6% tip
and a note
YOU ARE BEAUTIFUL
A Girl & Her Violin - A Platonic Essence
Monday, November 26, 2012
Of late, in my stage of photographic retirement, I try to keep the shutters of my cameras clicking as often as I try to go up and down the stairs of our home. Both actions are not only good for the body but for the soul.
I have often told my photographic students that a backdrop, a subject, a light, a camera and the photographer (all usually at parallel planes that never intersect) are a formula for failure. If you happen to be paying a model to face your camera, that will not guarantee success either. Nor will playing loud heavy metal music or bribing your subject with alcohol or mood enhancing substances.
You need a plan, an idea, a concept or whatever you might call it. For me the most important item is justification for taking the picture. That justification can be a job or it can be a project. But what is most important is the give-and-take interaction of wills. There is my will to photograph what I see or think I see. On the side of the subject there is a willingness or unwillingness to show who they are. Or in many cases to project what they think you see in them.
But it is not always a battle of wills. Or at least not between my granddaughter Lauren, 10 and her grandfather the photographer. She always asks me before I take any how many I am going to take.
I don’t think Lauren needs makeup but it is fun to incorporate Rebecca, 15, her sister who is an expert makeup artist. Besides I don’t see why I cannot make a 10-year-old look older because I can. Soon enough, sooner than they think, these girls will be trying to look younger.
The battle of wills is between the sisters. One hates to have makeup being applied, the other one loves to apply it. In the case of Lauren and her violin, Rebecca made the decision that she did not need to use lipstick as the eyes and the violin were sufficient.
To me a portrait of a little girl with her violin and especially if she is wearing a sailor dress (an item of my romantic past and customary photographic prop of my past-and-near relatives) is iconic in the modern sense of the word. I would opt for an older Platonic expression. A portrait of Lauren and her violin is an essence.
Neverland Burlesque - Cute, Dainty, Sexy, Twirly & Dirty
Sunday, November 25, 2012
As the days gets colder now that November is about to end I am warming up a tad to the concept of burlesque. I wrote about how I disliked it here
. Last Saturday was my third time at the Neverland Burlesque with the Blood Alley Quartet at the Russian Hall on 4th Avenue.
The first time I tackled the photography with a 3G iPhone. The second time I plunked my softbox flash and my medium format camera back stage. I snapped the girls before they did their act (very dressed) and then after the act (with a lot less clothing!) What could I possibly do this third time? I used a new light called a beauty dish (appropriate?) but took a Nikon FM-2 and Nikon F-3. I loaded one with T-Max 400 (pushed to 1600) and the other with Fuji 1600 colour negative film. What you see here is the Fuji. It is pretty well impossible to colour correct the film since I did not use the flash but the quartz (3200 degrees Kelvin) modeling light. To get a proper colour one must use tungsten-balanced film or adjust a digital camera to tungsten white balance. After scanning the negatives I used Corel Paint Shop Pro X2 on the Time Machine setting of Photo Effects. I chose the Early Colour Process setting which replicates the Autochromes of the beginning of the 20the century.
This time around there were two new girls (I don’t think they mind being called girls). One was Voodoo Pixie and the other Violet Femme. A third girl was a “dirty” country& Western singer, Shirley Gnome of which I will write about later.
Voodoo Pixie is not too short and not too tall. She is slim and has legs to kill for and breasts that are just right. Everybody around her (including the other girls kept telling her how cute she was). This finally made me wince as I found her sexy as hell. Both her acts featured classic burlesque dancing and poses and she wore beautiful costumes. But the added bonus was her expert and graceful dancing. I was sure she must have studied balled but Violet Femme told me this was not the case.
Violet Femme is a full-figured burlesque dancer who has a physical resemblance to that classic Tempest Storm. One of Violet Femme’s acts pretty well brought down the full house. They had been riled up into excitement by our master/mistress of ceremonies MZ Adrien. Violet Femme’s act featured many golden gift boxes of all sized that had countless tasseled pasties. She applied these to different parts of her body and they twirled her body this way and that way. The pasties rotated in every direction like clocks gone wild. By the end I was dizzy and the house clamored for more.
Now Shirley Gnome, wearing scuffed cowboy boots and a cowboy hat and a bad blonde wig (or was it?) charmed me by telling me she sang dirty country& Western. With her “aw shucks” expression I was further charmed. She looked terrible. She had not slept for days. She told us and the house that it was hours of constant sex and drugs. Could this be true? She looked so wholesome and cute (yes cute!).
|Gus Vassos - Impresario|
Her first act blew me over ((and consider that her act did not include taking her clothes off. She is not a burlesque dancer). She can sing, play a guitar (she borrowed Gus Vasos’s guitar) and has a way with words. For her second act there had to be some persuading by Vassos. She was ready to lie down and sleep. She sad goodbye to me and I felt I had to protectively hug her (even though with boots and hat she was taller than I was). I told her to make sure she went home, slept and had a good breakfast the next morning. It seems that Shirley Gnome specializes in an almost all day breakfast in bed, all alone and without any need of room service. What could that breakfast possibly be? Like a good Western girl she is indeed self-sufficient when has to be.
Sasha Minx's performance was only the second in her carreer as a burlesque dancer. This time around (like in her first performance) she took off her clothes while singing live with the Blood Alley Quartet. But there was one big improvement. She was wearing a slinky outfit and not jeans. But there is one lack of improvement I am glad she did not upgrade. No pasties for her, just sexy black tape!
At the end of the evening I had laughed and enjoyed wholesome repartee with lovely girls backstage. But I must stress here that the best part of the show was to listen to a solid sounding quartet play original songs with verve, passion and virtuosity. Is there anything more that I could possibly ask for?
I will be back to report from backstage, the next Neverland Burlesque show at the Russian Hall on December 15. It should be a jolly good show. I have heard rumours of potential codpieces.
|Mz Adrien's things|
|Shirley Gnome sings her "breakfast" song |
|The Blood Alley Quartet |
From left, Randy Bowman (drums), top left Dave Olajide (bass),
centre, Gus Vassos (vocals, guitar)
right, Anthony Walker (vocals, guitar)