Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Exceedingly Good Cakes

There we were again last night, down Earl Mysterio's cellar, but this time we had Mr Kipling's Cherry Bakewells to keep us company, not to mention Bramley Apple Tarts.

The cakes were courtesy of Magic J by way of atonement for making us change the rehearsal date at the last minute because he had to go and let off fireworks tonight for the Scissor Sisters (all part of Magic's secret double life as a Special Effects Man...)

Connie was laying into her corner of the cellar with a dustpan and brush, trying to make it all nice and clean, which seems a bit pointless to me since she's right under the hole in the roof, but some girls just have that homemaker instinct, I suppose. I think Beloved will be the first one to draw attention to my sad deficiency in that respect. I must be missing a gene.

The good news is that we're gonna reintroduce Perhaps Perhaps Perhaps into the repertoire - most famously sung by Doris Day, as featured in that classic of camp modern cinema, Strictly Ballroom. I plan to make Honey sing a verse in the original Spanish for a bit of continental sex appeal.

This may mean I have to then sing something in German so as not to feel left out of the multilingual chanteuse game: how about Falling In Love Again, as sung by Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel? ("Ich bin von kopf bis fuss auf liebe eingestellt - I am from head to foot besotted by love..." Or something like that. I dunno. German just doesn't sound as glamorous as Spanish or Portuguese. Or maybe only on the lips of Dietrich...)

We can both speak French, which means lots of opportunities for cheeky gallic numbers in the future. I quite fancy doing Sympathique by Pink Martini:


i think it's been on an advert but I can't remember what for. Can't stop singing it at bus stops though (forgive me, I hate to ruin my mystique by admitting i ever even stand at bust stops)

exciting future social engagements for the Slinktet include tomorrow's 'brand design meeting' when we are going to get our heads together to conceive the artwork for the demo sleeve, promotional material etc... and an even more exciting evening of Cellar Crap Clearance when we will all get drunk and sling Mysterio's old crap out of the front cellar to make space for new Band Crap. We are going to be transporting it all the way to the back cellar. Still, one room nearer the stairs, come the day when it actually makes it out of the front door into a skip (which will no doubt require the consumption of yet more alcohol).

What will Tricity be wearing for this enterprise? Possibly something from Beloved's wardrobe. He's got all sorts of army trousers and other 'alpha male' items of clothing which can only be enhanced by smears of chalky old whitewash and cobwebs. In fact, I'd probably be doing him a favour breaking them in for him. Then again, what am I thinking? I don't want to undermine his masculinity by doing manual labour and leaving him standing by watching. I'm sure he'd much rather it was the other way around.

Maybe I could offer to mix the cocktails while everyone else does the heavy lifting?



Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Men Prefer Women Without Make-up: Discuss

Up until a few months ago I spent half an hour every morning diligently putting my face on before I left the house. Then I got together with my Beloved in a flurry of passion, and stopped bothering. This was only partly because he said he preferred me without: mainly it was because of laziness. That half hour could be better spent luxuriating in bed with him until I couldn't put off leaving the house any longer.

Now that our romance has mellowed into a more comfortable, less frantic state, I'm still not bothering with the slap. Partly because this summer's monster bout of hay fever gave me itchy eyes, and partly because, thanks to the near-drag-queen glamour of my onstage persona, make-up has started to feel like hard work. I sometimes catch myself thinking about my stage make-up the way I used to think about the A-line nylon dress I wore in Boots when I was sixteen: it's a uniform, and I can't wait to get it off. Before every gig I sit down to the painstaking ritual of bringing Tricity Vogue to life: first, create a blank canvas of thick foundation, then add the sparkly pink eye shadow, then paint on the liquid eyeliner with as steady a hand as I can manage, sloping up from the eyes at the corners to make them look bigger (a trick I learned from a drag queen, funnily enough), then layer upon layer of vibrant lipstick, strongly arching brows, blusher, a round black beauty spot, and finally, the moment of truth .. the false eyelashes. These are, quite frankly, a bugger. The glue sticks to your fingers, and the first couple of attempts usually leave your eyelid smeared with rubber and the eyelash hanging off one end of your eye by a tendril of glue. The secret is to attach them to the line you've drawn in liquid liner, rather than your real eyelid, but if you botch the first attempt you have to draw the line all over again, and wait for it to dry before you glue up and go for a second take. It's worth it though. False eyelashes are my favourite dressing-up-box toy. The number of times friends have come up to me and stared bemusedly into my face just before I go on stage, muttering 'You've got amazing eyelashes, I've never noticed them before,' without a clue they're fake - even though they've seen me, and the stunted little lashes nature gave me, pretty much daily for months.

But false eyelashes only work in their proper context, as I've learnt to my cost. In my early twenties I got into wearing them when I went out clubbing, until one night I brought home a charming young man, and left my make-up on when we went to bed (as you do, when you've got a charming young man with you). I woke up in the night screaming that there was a spider on my pillow. Closer examination revealed it to be a false eyelash. Which meant that one of my eyes had a blank white patch around it where the eyelash had peeled away, but the other one was still fluttering at full-throttle, making me look a bit like something out of A Clockwork Orange. Needless to say, after his disturbed, and disturbing, night, the Charming Young Man didn't stay for breakfast.

I've learned the hard way that when you like your look extreme, you risk scaring the looker out of their wits. I once had a part in a children's TV series where I played an evil jewel thief who stole a pearl necklace and was chased across Birmingham by a small yellow car. I took a Dior ad in to show the make up artist - white face, red lips, black eyes - and she sighed resignedly and told me I'd need to be there an hour earlier (5am) to give her time to do it. I thought I looked fantastic - but when they showed the video to a five-year-old focus group, they all screamed at the screen when they saw me: 'Arrrrgh! She's so ugly!' Lesson learned.

So when I went to a big party recently with my Beloved in tow, I toned it down a lot. Okay, I still had the red lips, but the rest of my face was looking almost natural. Only to have my Beloved staring all agog at a young actress-musician all night, who was wearing the most immaculately applied, 40s-siren style make-up job I've ever seen. White face, black eyes, and red red lips. Apparently the standards of grooming which my beloved applied to me, did not apply to the goddess before him. In fact, I don't think he even saw the slap. To him, she was an iconic beauty who belonged to another, more glamorous, world. When men say they prefer women without make-up, do they actually mean it, or do they mean they can't be arsed sitting around for half an hour while you're putting it on before you go out? - even though, once out, their eyes may be irresistibly drawn to a mysteriously more vivid face than your own, without them necessarily making the logical connection between half an hour messing about with little pots and brushes, and the finished work of art?

Or am I attributing my Beloved with more gullibility than he deserves? Here's a thought: does a make-up-free face signal to other men that you're off the market? In which case, a man encouraging you to lay down your lip brush, and your doing so for him, is a sort of unspoken pact of commitment between you. I've certainly never been encouraged to go bare-faced by any of the glamour-bedazzled men I've pulled at gigs. (In fact, many of them have asked if I..d consider wearing the full stage ensemble in the bedroom - but that's a whole different story.) If they took me out, there was a tacit understanding that it was my job to look like a jazz singer, not the girl-next-door. On the discovery that an off-duty jazz singer is the girl next door after all, they would beat a hasty, disillusioned retreat. I reckon my Beloved might be a keeper.

So what have we learned? That the inappropriate use of make up may bring on extreme reactions of fear, hostility, or, if you're lucky, adoration. That make-up makes you look different to your everyday self. Which is maybe why your fella might ask you not to wear it: if he's fallen in love with your real face, that's the face he wants to look at all the time, which is fair enough really, and a lot less like hard work.

Meanwhile, I've decided not to be churlish about my actress friend looking like a million dollars at the party the other week. This actress-musician (let's call her 'Charlie') was at a crucial turning point in her career, with her band's single due for release on the Monday. She could have been catapulted to stardom by the end of the week, or not. But she was dressing as if she was already there. Her immaculate make-up put her up there among the 'beautiful people' - and it told everyone that was where she belonged. Good for her. Because you're never going to get there if you don't act like you deserve it. And late in the night, when my own red lipstick had wiped itself off on glass rims and male cheeks (only my Beloved's of course), she rummaged in her handbag and whipped out a small pot and brush with a conspiratorial air and invited me to try on her red instead. It was in a pot because the lipstick case had broken, but she'd managed to salvage the lippy itself. She had the same lip brush as me. But no mirror. So I painted it on blind, the way she must have been doing all night. And, as she nodded approvingly at my good aim, I felt a moment of powerful female bonding. I loved the fact she kept her favourite lipstick in a little plastic pot. And I loved the fact that she knew it didn't matter, because it was just a tool - like a carpenter's chisel.

In fact, I felt so warm towards her after our lipstick moment, that I invited her to come onstage with me and do a duet at my next gig. Then again, maybe that wasn't so wise. I'm not sure I want to share my stage with someone who can do their make up so much better than me.

Monday, October 09, 2006

What's the Giggle Gap?

According to this naughtly old gentleman at the gig last night, it's the gap between the top of a girl's stocking and the bottom of her skirt (or whatever)... and it's called the giggle gap because, if a man gets that far, he's laughing.

I was deeply flattered to be told that I had brought on three near coronaries with my stockings last night. They should issue medals for that.

Then again maybe I should have dressed a bit more demurely for a 70th birthday party...

Pretty sprightly crowd though - some fine shapes being thrown on the dancefloor. I don't think we've ever seen so much dancing at one of our gigs. The senior citizens of Kent put our regular crew of bright young things to shame. Honey kept sneaking onto the dancefloor in the instrumental solos to Give It Large, but was completely out-shone by an 8-year-old girl in a pink tutu. They soon teamed up and started working on some spectacular routines though - and Connie joined in as soon as she could slip out from behind the keyboards.

Meanwhile my Beloved juggled manning the DJ decks (okay, the DJ laptop) with charming the waiter into serving him not one, not two, but three bottles of Veuve Clicquot - and even found a Magic Mushroom growing in the field full of sheep behind the marquee. Then, paralytic on champagne, he expertly reversed our little car out of the driveway past two porsches and the soundman's trailer at one o'clock in the morning, after I'd made two very pathetic and girly attempts at the manoeuvre and given up in despair. I didn't let him drive home, though.

I only had one glass of champagne all night but I felt as if I'd had three bottles myself - that's what playing a good gig does for you.

Oh, here's another jazz joke, courtesy of Honey Mink:

What do you call a big grey animal that sings jazz?

Elephantz Gerald



Thursday, October 05, 2006

Expensive Date

It seems like nobody wants me except the people who can't afford me at the moment.

I'm not talking about my love life (for once) I'm talking about the sorry plight of our gig diary.

After a year of indulging our every whim, Lovely Tom at the Shepherds Bar has noticed that our monthly residency is bankrupting him. Bless him though, he hasn't actually sacked us, he's presented me with the harsh economic reality of the situation (never a pleasant experience for a girl), and invited us all to come up with a solution. So what we're going to have to do is take a brutal pay cut. Which means I'm going to be saving for 8 months for a new gown from Hollywood, instead of 4. Oh well, the old ones aren't looking exactly shabby yet, I suppose.

The biggest downer of this new state of penury is that Bobby Fresh will now be actually paying for the privilege of playing a gig, because the taxi fare to bring his drums to the venue will actually be more than he'll get paid for hitting them. He pointed out that it wasn't any of our faults that he'd never learned to drive or bought a car, but I still feel bad about it. Especially as they are such a cute set of drums. Maybe we should pass the hat round for driving lessons?

Spurred on by the realisation I might have to look further afield for a home for my cheeky slinktet, I've been busily firing off emails in all directions to every bar, club and agency I could think of. But clearly my email account must be malfunctioning because, mysteriously, I haven't had a single reply.

Frankly I'm baffled. Who wouldn't want to pay through the nose for the privilege of squeezing a seven-piece band into their venue - with not one but two sultry songstresses in slinky gowns? (not to mention Sir Fitz and his fruity brass, and don't even get me started on what the rhythm section get up to). I know I would. If I had a venue. Or any money.

Which brings me on to my antics this evening.

Meet Tricity Vogue, Jazz Gatecrasher

I was strolling up Newington Green Road on my way home from the recording studio this evening and as I passed the Alma pub I heard the unmistakable skitter of jazz drums, and the fruity plunk of a double bass. Sure enough, there in the window was a poster advertising a performance that night by BBC-best-jazz-soloist award winner Anita Wardell. I was all set to mosey on in when I noticed that tickets were £30. Bugger.

I must have looked like a little puppy with my nose pressed against the window pane, because this dapper gentleman in a smart black suit came out and ushered me inside, telling me not to worry about tickets, just put something in the hat when it came round. I went up to the bar to get a drink, opened my purse... and discovered the grand total of £1.95 inside. Did they accept cards? Not for under £10. A half pint of Kronenberg was £1.65, leaving me exactly 30 pence for the hat. Luckily it was all in ones and twos, and the 'hat' turned out to be a proper collection bucket with a discreet slot, so my coinage made a lot of noise when it went in, and nobody was any the wiser.

Anita and her trio tripped delightfully through some favourite standards, and a few I hadn't heard before (which is always a delight) while I took tiny ladylike sips of my half of lager and made it last an hour. Lovely warm vocals over properly feather-light piano, bass and drums. As the Fast Show guy would say: "Nice".

Now all I've got in my purse is two plectrums. Handy in case the sudden urge to play the guitar comes over me (I haven't touched one for about three months, but you never know) - but not much good for anything else.

There is something fundamentally awry with the economics of being a jazzer. Have you ever heard the joke about the jazz musician who won the Lottery? They asked him how long he was going to carry on playing jazz now he was a millionaire and he said... "Until the money runs out."