Reflections of Romance in the modern world

The theatre which employs my exceptional talents also employs actors doing acting, dumpy wailing strumpets whose papa’s may or may not be someone important in Mushroom records,  and converts to a cinema during black weeks, so that I have seen the best and worst of humanity on stage and off. One fine example of theatre-in-the-round occurred yesterday, when a very fine young gent and his awful, boy-thin, bobble-headed, orange-coloured girl chum deposited themselves in Stalls, row AA. We were showing a Greta Garbo double, Grand Hotel (1932) and Ninotschka (1939), while the girl friend practised a particularly charming trick she had, in her boyfriend’s trouser pocket, involving a hooked forefinger and double-jointed thumb. Grand Hotel is the one starring Garbo as a ballerina and Joan Crawford as a loose stenographer and John Barrymore as a gentleman thief and Garbo saying, “I vant to be alo-o-one…” Meanwhile the deco interior of the Grand Hotel is supposed to represent a kind of vortex of madness, tho I cannot see it myself, as half of my life is deco, all spatial interferences and mirrored walls and see-through chairs and horizontal window panes that look like mail slots and porcelain deers and greyhounds entwined and the “Spirit of Freedom” flying woman on the bonnet of my yellow Rolls Royce, but I digress.  Ninotschka is about a communist party leader who comes to Paris and falls in love with a man who represents everything she is supposed to hate, which is true of most relationships I think. Anyway it was definitely true in the case of these two, who must have  a fine time together, pushing each other out of bed on their bad days and smacking each other over the head on their good days.

From an opportune wallstanding position in the cosy darkness I could hear them talking. It turns out the girl was French. Half of what she said was swearwords and the only English words she knew were swearwords. There was so much dust in the air it smelled like chalk. So ‘Caitlin’ got sentimental in the darkness and the silver light, which reminded her of… Then she began to wax lyrical on the existence of her elderly mother. The more she went on the more the mother sounded like a bit she’d once seen in a film, possibly set in Russia. Anyway it had definitely occurred to her that having a mother was a good thing, as though it made her unique. So she would impress this point upon him.

She was sunk very low in her seat leaning with her cheek against the boy’s arm. There was a distinct hum every time she exhaled through her nose. ‘Mama’ was a lace-maker, half blind and entirely arthritic, a paragon of Catholic virtue, and seemed to be much older than it is usual for mothers of girls Caitlin’s age to be. The object of all of this arthritic lace-making was her daughter’s tuition at a posh school in Paris – and an odd expression, “The good in life…” Caitlin couldn’t define it. When the boyfriend expressed such scepticism as was only natural as to the existence of such a saint in the modern world, mama’s suffering increased threefold. Caitlin kept up the tremulous note in her voice. “Dear mama… what would she think… what if she knew…” as though her lifetime of hard work had been erased by his scepticism.

“So your mother bought you that dress, Caitlin?” (Alex Perry-esque; slut taste, new money.)

Oui. Good mama!”

“Your mother bought you that bag, Caitlin?” (interlocked C’s – Chanel… or trying to be.)

Oui. Dear mama! ”

“You have been receiving the tuition?”

Oui. –Yeah, no…” (without explanation): “Poor mama.”

“What’s happened to the money? You’ve lost your mother’s money, Caitlin?!”

“[A curse]! —It’s in the bank!”

“What bank?”

A bank,” she replied craftily, as though he had intended to steal it.

Enfant, you’re clearly upset. We should get some air.”

Then they went into the foyer. That is only marginally less stuffy than the theatre and filled with 1960s monster movie posters and some pretty 50-foot ladies. He bought her popcorn, chocolates, but refused to buy her a postcard. She said nothing. But then in the theatre again they took their seats and she made a sudden sound like “Gi-aack!” It was half of a shriek like when a bird is pipped by a schoolboy with a popgun. It filled the whole theatre. All of a sudden the old mother came into the picture like a banshee, “My mama… my dear mama… my poor mama… my dear old poor mama…” interspersed with cursing. She had the quickest and most virulent undertone and sort of snapped like a dog around the end of her words, while her top notes would crack in the middle of  “Gi-aack!”

“And where is your mother now, enfant?”

“In Yonville, my lad!”

“Why don’t you go back to Yonville, enfant? To see your mother?”


At this point my duty was to intervene and silence them with a look of poisonous death. Up on screen Garbo was being inscrutable Garbo, I have heard she had size twelve feet and became a hermit in later life, and got seriously cut at Cecil Beaton when he wrote about their relationship in his stinking memoirs, “The Unexpurgated Beaton” – yes, fucking Cecil Beaton, who I hate, will haunt us throughout our lovely life, it seems… Anyway I didn’t hear from them again as she put her hand back in his trousers as soon as the feature got romantic, the dear little slut. I have never understood these lovely gents who will put up with a whiney girlfriend just because they have their tits out everyday, even Sundays. The least I can say for her is she had nice posture and a wonderfully fertile glow.


Dialogue ‘twixt sweet Roger & I. In fair Shitsville, where we lay our scene.

Now of course my sweet cousin & I had a real simpatico. (Stop me if this starts to sound like a eulogy). One day we climbed the ladder up to the second story of the court house my grandpappy had built & sat with our legs dangling over the balcony smoking sixteen packets of Marlboro Lights and sampling the vino from the mayoral cellars. We got to talking, oh, about lots of stuff. As you know very well my journey to Texas, and thence to Shitsville, has been an epic journey into the dark heartlands of my very soul.  As it turns out Roger just rolled out of bed one day after a soccer final, blinked blearily at his alarm clock, and decided to go to Shitsville as a kind of joke. That explains the moustache & chaps & fringed jacket. Also Roger was a bit glam and I saw then he shared the same Lennon-like taste in glasses as our mutual great-great grandmama, dear departed Arabella Shitsville, who was nailed to the wall in a gilt frame, just above Roger’s sweet head and delicate neck that showed all the sweet bones sticking out.

I have already mentioned how the… uh, the respected citizens of Shitsville had ever-so-subtly, in a Texas kind of way (i.e. not subtly at all) turned against me as mayor since the advent of our sweet cousin Roger in our simple little town. He was a popular and beatific kind of boy, full of pep and joy de vivre, which is all very well and good. He always wore a gold ring on the middle finger of his right hand which showed a Lepidoptera in relief.

Let me take a minute to point out that Roger Shitsville’s mother had got up early to bake fresh bread for him every day of his eighteen years. He had never been hounded by a prying media into joining the uninspired ranks of the gainfully employed, he had never foregone his daily baths in the breast milk of first time mothers, never felt moral pressure to eschew his taste for diamonds, and so on.  In short, for one reason or another, Roger never felt the need to clip his splendid blue, scaled Shitsville wings and undergo a reverse chrysalis into the grotesque yet strangely luminous, pale body of a Texas prairie silk worm, a very down-to-earth kind of grub to be, whose abject produce is considered to have considerable beauty, strength and value, I might add. Now, it was perfectly clear to me that the plain, simple folk of Shitsville were absolutely enchanted by this epicene butterfly, Roger Shitsville. Even some of the mutants from surrounding areas travelled to Shitsville (wearing sort of beekeeper nets attached to their hats to cover their faces) just to get a peep at the supine Roger, gleefully alcoholic and irreparably lazy, soaking like a flower in langurous bands of honey-coloured sunshine.

“We are not very close family but I think we are very similar,” he said, wrapping a pink feather boa tight around his neck.

“Roger, Roger: you are RIGHT,” said I, wrapping a Pierrot-like frou frou scarf tighter around mine. “Now attend to me, lad: I know you would very much like to be mayor, but it is not all boots and badges, cousin. There is a lot of work to do, and there is paperwork besides, and we all know that you can’t spell very well. You should just stick to what you do best (whatever that is) and be happy to leave civic, council and mayoral duties to moi.”

Roger agreed & went back to fanning himself with the back of an old 33c Tattle Tale magazine we had found in the back office. I was reading a back issue of Vogue, which I think is a disgustingly uninspired rag, full of fashion sycophants, but what do you expect to get in the dustbowl of Texas. In’t were a lot of pictures appertaining to the Dior S/S 2010 collection, by this time a neat retrospective. As it turns out, Galliano’s collection took its inspiration from bouquets of flowers, the kind you give to old actresses & opera singers, the great gross madames of the stage who have been playing Peter Pan for forty years running, in the faint hope that they will finally go away and die somewhere quietly if you load them up with enough delphiniums.

Now when it comes to Galliano, let me be very clear: the man is a turd: an ugly, anti-semitic dick of the highest order (like Cecil Beaton), who designs couture gowns for Disney princesses and Barbie dolls (also like Cecil Beaton, who is now mercifully dead). I would swap John Galliano for the re-animated corpse of Alexander McQueen in a smoker’s-quickened heartbeat.

But in the blue, blue peyote-drenched afternoon of any given Tuesday in Shitsville, the photos of  his latest (and last, ha ha) collection for Dior set me to thinking thusly. The overblown, suffocating, cloying  “blossom” palette was the epitome of Texas desert sunbloom chic: shades just this side of sunburnt, pink flush & red thrush (yes I said thrush),  the lurid orange of a burning fag end in the electric purple of a Texas night, the triple shade of blue in the Texas sky, tortoise-shell & cacti green, dark lips and nail polish like fingers dipped in dried blood or crude oil. It also reminded me of the intense warning colours of certain kinds of poisonous frogs and butterflies (and oh, let’s chuck in some birds as well, chickens for instance, just for fun), or the bone-dry rattle of a certain snake, I forget its technical name.

Now I have always subscribed to fashion that works like this kind of aposematism. This tendency to become highly noticeable and distinct from harmless organisms is the antithesis of crypsis, or avoidance of detection. The benefits of aposematism are dual: creature one, the aposematist, (okay so I made that word up) avoids being eaten; creature two avoids an horrific & ironic death by poison because they had fair warning. Aposematism has been such a successful adaptation that harmless organisms have repeatedly evolved to mimic aposematic species, a pattern known as Batesian mimicry, or cheap “fashion” knock-offs worn by bogans, WAGS, and people who shop at ZARA. Another related pattern is Müllerian mimicry, where aposematic species come to resemble one another, but that is by-the-by.

Read Next: High Noon, Shitsville, TX

Fuck Cecil Beaton

Taking a stand against Cecil Beaton, praised to the skies for his gauzey soft-focus photography and overblown costumes for My Fair Lady, this (direct) recreation of a stupid lampshade dress from the 1910’s which makes Audrey Hepburn look like a dick, his microscopic anti-semitism published in Vogue (“Cholly asks: WHY?? is Mrs Selznick such a social wow – Why is Mrs Goldwyn such a wow? …Party Darling Love Kike. Mr R Andrews ball at the El Morocco brought out all the damned kikes in town”) and the conveniently forgotten fact that he was finally fired not for this but because he did a sloppy job of assembling and photographing a “how-to-wear these must-have pieces” story.