You’re as camp as a Brighton bus queue!” — The Bön Mots of Benidorm

I’ve snob­bishly held out against the sun-damaged charms of ITV’s pack­age hol­i­day sit­com Benidorm, set in the ‘all inclus­ive’ Hotel Solana, for sev­eral series. But the sixth one — which sadly this week pours the sand out of its shoes and packs its bags for another year — had me sur­ren­der­ing to it more legs akimbo than the Solanas’ Mrs Slocombe-esque man­ageress Joyce Temple-Savage for Matthew Kelly.

benidorm_series6

Created and writ­ten by Derren Litten (co-writer for The Catherine Tate Show), Benidorm is Carry On meets St Trinians meets Are You Being Served? meets Lady Windermere’s Suntan — and gets an ‘all-inclusive’ hangover and runny tummy. A proper char­ac­ter actor ensemble, rather than a vehicle for some jumped-up stand-up’s over­ween­ing ego, and with some lines that glisten like an obese Brit’s back in the Costa Del Sol noon-day sun, it’s very old-fashioned com­edy — which is to say, actu­ally funny instead of just sneery-cringey.

No won­der the crit­ics hate it. (See also that other recent ITV com­edy tri­umph Vicious.) Benidorm is tacky and trashy and stuck in the past but doesn’t mind who knows it, thank you very much.

Kenneth Du Beke
Kenneth Du Beke (Tony Maudsley)

Everyone is a cari­ca­ture but instantly recog­nis­able. Well, every­one is a cari­ca­ture except for Kenneth Du Beke (Tony Maudsley) the over­weight chain-smoking gay man­ager of the Solana’s salu­bri­ous hairdress­ing salon Blow ‘n’ Go who with his rather ‘young’ and ‘cheery’ styl­ing was mis­taken by Philip Olivier (aka ‘Tinhead’ from Brookside) for a children’s enter­tainer. He’s just doc­u­ment­ary.

Tacky and trashy and trapped in the past it may be, but Benidorm is also often well-written and sharply observed. The whole of epis­ode three (below) is quite bril­liant and takes on a very con­tem­por­ary sub­ject — judgey gay assump­tions about the rela­tion­ship between mas­culin­ity and sexu­al­ity — that most ‘ser­i­ous’ dra­mas wouldn’t dare.

The scene at 21:38 between love­able Liam Conroy (Adam Gillen) , the swishy Tenko and Dynasty fan and hairdresser who has fallen in love with a girl, and his narrow-minded tight-clothed gay boss who knows bet­ter and insists Liam is ‘really gay’ and is going to end up ‘liv­ing a lie’ deserves an Oscar:

Liam: “You need to learn to accept people for who they are! Just because I don’t fit into YOUR ste­reo­type of how a man should be doesn’t give you per­mis­sion to call me names! I am what I am and what I am [swings arm and pirou­ettes, badly] needs no excuses!!”

Likewise Benidorm is what it is and needs no excuses either. And as Liam’s cross-dressing dad Les/Lesley from Wearside would say: “Thank fook for that!”

Oh, and in case you think that Liam’s dilemma could only exist in a silly sit­com and never in real life — have a read of this heart­felt post by the young bal­let dan­cer Chehon Wespi-Tschopp about the way too many gay men treat him because he doesn’t fit into their ste­reo­type of how a man should be.

Sex Terror’ Now Available on Kindle — Sweet Dreams.

Sex-Terror-cover-web

SEX TERROR

Erotic Misadventures in Pop Culture

Mark Simpson

This book will change the way you think about sex. It may even put you off it altogether.

NOW AVAILABLE ON KINDLE 

Amazon.com * Amazon.co.uk * Amazon.de * Amazon.fr * Amazon.es * Amazon.it Amazon.co.jp * Amazon.com.br * Amazon.ca * Amazon.in * Amazon.com.au

 In his full-frontal follow-up to his widely acclaimed It’s a Queer World, Mark Simpson dis­penses with the mon­key busi­ness of sexu­al­ity and gets to grips with the organ grinder itself: SEX.

Subjecting our saucy new god to his sac­ri­le­gious satire, Simpson sins against every con­tem­por­ary com­mand­ment about doing the nasty: It must be hot. It must be fre­quent. It must wake the neigh­bours. And it must be Who You Are.

Simpson argues that we all put far too much faith in sex these days, and that in actual fact sex is messy, con­fus­ing, frus­trat­ing, and ulti­mately disappointing.

Especially if you’re hav­ing it with him.

Along the way he gets worked up with Alexis Arquette over Stephen Baldwin’s bubble-butt, gets intim­ate with Dana International, Aiden Shaw and Bruce LaBruce, and – very gingerly – con­fronts Henry Rollins with those ‘gay’ rumours.

 

Praise for Sex Terror:

MARVELLOUS… open Simpson’s book at any point, as many times as you want, and you’ll find the sort of gem-like sen­tences that Zadie Smith would give her white teeth for.”

- Suzi Feay, Independent on Sunday

A chain­saw cock of wit… blis­ter­ingly, endear­ingly hon­est… insight­ful and valu­able.  VERY FUNNY INDEED.”

- Dermod Moore, The Hot Press

Setting com­mon sexual sense on its ear, Simpson’s Swiftian pro­pos­als strike at an emo­tion dear to us: sexual desire. His anarchic mis­sion is to free sex from ser­mon­iz­ing, con­ven­tion, ego­ism, and cul­tural bias. But unlike Foucault, his decon­struct­ing weapon is built of rib­ald humour and pot­shots at pre­ten­sion. Simpson’s essays pro­duce ran­cour and HILARIOUS LAUGHTER, DISBELIEF AND DELIGHT. Some call him won­der­ful, and some call him out­rageous, but I call him A TRUE ORIGINAL and YOU SHOULDN’T MISS THIS BOOK.”

– Bruce Benderson, author of Pretending to Say No and User

BRILLIANT… With sur­gical pre­ci­sion Mark Simpson peels away the lay­ers of mod­ern mas­cu­line cul­ture, leav­ing few iconic fig­ures un-scarred. This book is cer­tain to pro­voke and likely to offend; we would expect noth­ing less from one of the most import­ant voyeurs of con­tem­por­ary life.”

– Bob Mould, Musician and Songwriter

When the cul­ture of sex breathes its final breath, Mark Simpson will be there to deliver the eulogy with great zeal. And what a GLORIOUSLY SARDONIC AND INSIGHTFUL farewell it will be!”

– Glenn Belverio, Dutch magazine

“One of those books that bounces up and down on your knee yelling ‘read me, read me…. Brutal hon­esty and razor wit  — a per­fect feast. QUOTABLE GENIUS.”

- RainbowNetwork.com

BLOODY GOOD…  every out­rageous insight is just that – an insight into the mod­ern  con­di­tion that often makes you laugh out loud and, if you are not entirely bey­ond hope, think. Simply some of the best writ­ing on mod­ern cul­ture around.”

- Brian Dempsey, Gay Scotland

One of England’s MOST ELOQUENT AND SARDONIC commentators.”

– Bay Windows

Mark Simpson won’t be every reader’s cup of tea, but those who enjoy a biter blend of DARK HUMOUR AND KEEN SOCIAL OBSERVATION will want to drink deeply.”

– Washington Blade

…never fails to amuse, bemuse, stun and stir… a writer at his peak, a SHAMELESS SUMPTUOUS SERVING OF SOCIAL SATIRE you’ll be digest­ing long after you put the book down”

– All Man Magazine

 

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ABOUT MARK SIMPSON

English author and journ­al­ist Mark Simpson is credited/blamed for coin­ing the word ‘met­ro­sexual‘. Simpson is the author of sev­eral books includ­ing: Saint MorrisseyMale Impersonators, and Metrosexy.

 

Sex Terror cover image taken by Michele Martinoli.

In Defence of Jerry Lewis

Martin and Lewis were the hot­test male com­edy double-act of all time — who make today’s ‘bromance’ look like brom­ide.

lewis-martin-2

By Mark Simpson (Originally appeared in Out, May 2009 — but has fallen off their website)

Forget hair whorls, gen­omes, amni­otic fluid, older broth­ers, dom­in­eer­ing moth­ers or disco. I can reveal with abso­lute, religio-scientific cer­tainty that the cause of my homo­sexu­al­ity was just two words. Jerry. Lewis.

As a kid in the 1970s I watched re-runs of his movies, espe­cially the ones from the early fifties with his on-screen boy­friend Dean Martin, with a level of breath­less excite­ment that noth­ing came close to – until I dis­covered actual bug­gery in the 1980s.

Films like Money From Home where he pins Martin to the bed wear­ing a pair of polka dot shorts camper than Christmas in West Hollywood (1953), andSailor Beware (1951), where he is pricked by sev­eral burly USN med­ics wield­ing ever-bigger needles until he squirts liquid in all dir­ec­tions and faints made me the man I am today.

Earlier this year, after a life­time of being ignored by a cross-armed Academy Awards that never gave him so much as a nom­in­a­tion when he was mak­ing movies, Lewis is finally get­ting an Oscar. But not for his cute films with Dean Martin or his solo clas­sics such as The BellboyThe Errand BoyThe Nutty Professor, and The Disorderly Orderly – in which, mem­or­ably, he hap­pily hoovers with the appli­ance plugged in up his own ass – but for his fun­drais­ing for Muscular Dystrophy. It’s a char­ity Oscar – in every sense. Lewis is 82 and has had ser­i­ous health prob­lems for some time.

The Hollywood gays though were reportedly Not Happy. They had a hoover up their ass about Lewis.  Apparently some tried to block his Oscar because this ill, old man born in 1926 almost used the word ‘fag­got’ last year after host­ing a twelve hour telethon. In effect, the gays are run­ning down the street scream­ing Maaaaaaa!!

Likewise, because he isn’t him­self gay, and because his early nerdy, ‘retarded’ sissy per­sona has been deemed ‘exploit­at­ive’, Lewis has been almost com­pletely spurned by gay stud­ies, when really he should have his own depart­ment. If noth­ing else, Lewis Studies would be a damn sight more fun than Queer Studies (as long as they didn’t include the Telethons).

Certainly his films should be set texts.

But it was his anarchic early 1950s TV shows with Martin when a twenty-something Lewis was at his queerest and gid­di­est. Their heads so close together in those tiny 50s cath­ode ray tubes, gaz­ing into each other’s eyes, rub­bing noses, occa­sion­ally steal­ing kisses from one another or lick­ing each other’s necks to shrieks of scan­dal­ized pleas­ure from the audi­ence. They were a prime-time study in same-sex love. And were adored for it – lit­er­ally chased down the street by crowds of scream­ing young women and not a few men (espe­cially pop­u­lar with sail­ors and sol­diers they were the Forces sweethearts).

This half-century old double act from the homo-hating 50s is much more alive, much more flir­ta­tious, than today’s sup­posedly lib­eral and lib­er­ated ‘bromantic’ com­edy, which goes  out of its way to purge the pos­sib­il­ity of any­thing phys­ical. Next to Dean and Jerry’s sim­mer­ing screen-love, bromance just looks like brom­ide.

Whatever the nature of his off-screen sexu­al­ity, Lewis’ com­edy part­ner­ship with Martin, the most suc­cess­ful of all time, along with most of their best gags, was based around the matter-of-fact, unspoken assump­tion that they were a couple.

Their very first TV show opens with our boys arriv­ing at a posh ball full of Waspy straight couples being announced: ‘Mr & Mrs Charles Cordney!’, ‘Mr and Mrs Walter Christiandom!’.  And then: ‘Mr Martin and Mr Lewis!’.  The dago and the jew. Setting the tone for their series, Lewis promptly trashes the place with his nervey-nerdy slapstick.

The Martin and Lewis part­ner­ship was queer punk rock before even rock and roll had been inven­ted, trash­ing nor­mal­ity right in the liv­ing rooms of 1950s America, cour­tesy of Colgate. No won­der they’ve been almost forgotten.

They should never have exis­ted.  True, the expli­cit­ness of their pair­ing depended on the offi­cial ‘inno­cence’ of the times, and the nos­tal­gia for buddy­dom in post-war America, allow­ing the audi­ence to enjoy the out­rageous queer­ness of what was going on without hav­ing to think too much about it. Literally laugh­ing it off.

But offi­cial inno­cence is a mis­chiev­ous comedian’s gift-horse. A skit depict­ing (fic­tion­ally) how Martin and Lewis (or ‘Ethel’ and ‘Shirley’ as they called one another) met cli­maxes with them being trapped in the closet together – pushed together mouth to mouth, crotch to crotch, by Martin’s vast, vain col­lec­tion of pad­ded jack­ets. In another skit our boys end up shar­ing a bed with Burt Lancaster play­ing an escaped hom­icidal maniac: Jerry: ‘Boy, Dean, these one night stands are moider!’

Moider was exactly what they got away with.  In a skit set in prison, Jerry’s bunk col­lapses on Martin below. ‘What are you doing?’ asks Martin. ‘I felt loinesome,’ replies Lewis.

Lewis’ on-screen queer­ness may have been just a phase – but what a phase! It was so unruly, so indefin­able, so crazy, so tick­lish, so exhil­ar­at­ing that gays – and prob­ably most people today – don’t know what to do with it.  Or where to put it.  It’s a bit scary, frankly.

But that – in addi­tion to still being piss your pants funny – is pre­cisely what is so great about it. And why I still think clas­sic Lewis is as much fun as sodomy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

An exploi­sion of D&J kisses in this cheeky and charm­ing clip painstak­ing com­piled by a YouTube fan.


The noise made by the audi­ence when Dean falls on top of Jerry in the bath wouldn’t be heard again until Elvis shook his pelvis.

 

Jerry joins the Navy, gets some big pricks, and then sprays everywhere.

 

Dean and Jerry join the Army as para­troop­ers. Watch Dean’s eyes dur­ing the blanket scene.

‘I was loinesome.’

 

A slightly fic­tion­lised account of how our boys met, com­plete with closet clinch climax.

 

Never been kissed… Yeah, right.


Special thanks to Elise Moore and Hannah for shar­ing their pash­ern­ate love of Dean & Jerry — and remind­ing me of mine.

Lewis & Martin’s 50’s Love Makes Today’s Bromance Look Like Bromide

lewis-martin-2

This month’s Outfeatures a column by yours truly, called ‘In Defense of Jerry Lewis’, explain­ing how my child­hood love for early Lewis made me the man I am today — and why his anarchic com­edy part­ner­ship with Dean Martin in the ‘repressed’ 1950s was a kind of queer punk rock before even rock and roll had been invented:

Their heads were so close together in those tiny ‘50s cathode-ray tubes — gaz­ing into each other’s eyes, rub­bing noses, occa­sion­ally steal­ing kisses or lick­ing each other’s neck to shrieks of scan­dal­ized pleas­ure from the audi­ence. They were a prime-time study in same-sex love. And they were adored for it — lit­er­ally chased down the street by crowds of scream­ing women and not a few men…’.      (‘In Defense of Jerry Lewis’)

Though these clips below prob­ably explain it all rather better.

They also show how com­pared to Martin and Lewis, today’s much vaunted ‘bromance’ com­ed­ies are more akin to brom­ide. Lesbian bed death without the hon­ey­moon. Instead of going out of their way to purge their stage romance of any hint of pas­sion or any­thing phys­ical in the way that annoy­ingly self-conscious, college-educated 21st Century buddy com­ed­ies do (the word ‘bromance’ itself sug­gests that any hint of erot­ics would be akin to incest), Martin and Lewis’ blue-collar, mid-century love-affair con­stantly injects it. Flags it up. And slaps your face with it. Theirs is lit­er­ally a much more tick­lish affair. And a shit­load fun­nier for it.

What’s more, it looks very con­vin­cing.

(Oh, and yes, it may be that I still feel fond of Jerry Lewis because his telethons never made it to the UK.…)

An exploi­sion of D&J kisses in this cheeky and charm­ing clip painstak­ing com­piled by a YouTube fan.

‘It’s phys­ical attraction.’


The noise made by the audi­ence when Dean falls on top of Jerry in the bath wouldn’t be heard again until Elvis shook his pel­vis.


Jerry gets some big pricks in the Navy and then sprays every­where.


Dean and Jerry join the Army as para­troop­ers. Watch Dean’s eyes dur­ing the blanket scene.

‘I was loinesome.‘



Spot a (very tiny-looking) James Dean giv­ing a boxer a rub-down while scop­ing the com­pet­i­tion.


A slightly fic­tion­lised account of how our boys met, com­plete with closet clinch cli­max.


Never been kissed… Yeah, right.



Special thanks to the Canadian play­wright Elise Moore and Hannah for re-kindling my unhealthy Lewisian love-affair, offer­ing insight­ful obser­va­tion — and send­ing me some really great YouTube Martin & Lewis love.


Little Britain Touches Up Uncle Sam

By Mark Simpson (Guardian, 20 October, 2008)

What other cul­ture could have pro­duced someone like Ernest Hemingway,’ waspish bisexual American exile Gore Vidal once asked of America’s favour­ite so-butch-he’s-camp writer, ‘and not seen the joke?’. The answer, was, of course, that only a cul­ture that couldn’t see the joke could pro­duce a Hemingway.

I don’t know whether Matt Lucas and David Walliams read Vidal or Hemingway, but in Little Britain USA, the recently launched HBO spin-off of their hit UK TV com­edy sketch series (which is also air­ing on BBC1), they seem to be pos­ing that ques­tion again — though this time the answer has some bear­ing on the like­li­hood of Stateside suc­cess of their show. In Little Britain USA ‘Our Boys’ (as a cheer-leading UK media seem to have tagged the camp duo) have put their prob­ing fin­ger on one of the most tick­lish fault-lines of US cul­ture: how ‘gay’ big butch God-fearing America can seem — and how com­ic­ally in denial of this Americans can be.

There cer­tainly seems to be a bit of Hemingway, who loved his guns, in the mous­ta­chioed cop (played by Walliams) who gets a vis­ible hard-on while demon­strat­ing his impress­ive col­lec­tion of weapons to his fel­low officers. But it’s in the steroid-scary shape of the towel-snapping ‘Gym Buddies’, Tom and Mark, who like to take long showers together after pump­ing iron, and graph­ic­ally re-enacting what they did to the ‘pussy’ they pulled last night — with each other’s huge latex bubble-butts and tiny pen­ises — that the so-butch-it’s-camp not-so-hidden secret of American cul­ture is graph­ic­ally outed by Little Britain USA.

Along with patho­lo­gical denial. In last week’s epis­ode, when an alarmed bystander glances nervously at them hump­ing naked in the locker room they retort: ‘Whaddyou lookin at? Are you A FAG??’  Walliams, who is so camp he’s almost butch (a ladies’ man off-screen he has been described repeatedly by the UK press as ‘the ulti­mate met­ro­sexual’), seems espe­cially proud of the Gym Buddies sketch — describ­ing it as ‘pos­sibly the most out­rageous we’ve ever done’. Certainly it’s drawn most fire from crit­ics in the US, who have given the series very mixed reviews.

Lucas and Walliam’s glee­fully amoral queer sens­ib­il­ity — they’re basic­ally drag queens on a revenge trip, espe­cially when they dress up as men — was always going to be dif­fi­cult for America to swal­low. But touch­ing Uncle Sam up in the locker room may well make it a lot harder… er, I mean, more dif­fi­cult. America, even that part of it that watches HBO, may not want to get that joke. Especially when made by a couple of faggy Brits. And by the way, while we over here might think American butch­ness tres gay — e.g. the locker-room and volley-ball scenes in Top Gun — all Europeans look ‘faggy’ to Americans, espe­cially us Brits. The sketch fea­tur­ing Walliams as a flam­ing Brit Prime Minister try­ing to get into the straight black US President’s pants prob­ably won’t offend as much as Walliams hopes since most Americans thought Tony Blair was gay anyway.

Rather sweetly, com­pared to the UK, America is a coun­try where mas­culin­ity and mach­ismo is still sac­red — des­pite hav­ing done more than any other coun­try to make it obsol­ete by invent­ing men’s shop­ping magazines. In the US of A, it seems, any­thing mas­cu­line can’t be gay and vice versa. Hence Hummersexual Tom and Mark. Hence ‘Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’. And hence all that fuss the US made over that mediocre gay cow­boy movie Brokeback Mountain which, when it arrived in the UK, promptly bored every­one senseless.

America’s love of the mas­cu­line body, is glor­i­ously ‘gay’ — or, more accur­ately, homo­erotic.  But alas, until now Uncle Sam has been ter­ribly ashamed of his nat­ural, red-blooded and blatantly bloody obvi­ous bi-responsiveness.

Only America, God Bless, could have pro­duced UFC, a hugely pop­u­lar pay-per-view ‘full-contact-sport’ that involves two young muscled men in shorts try­ing to get each other’s legs around their ears (Tom and Mark prob­ably watch it together — in their UFC shorts). Only America could pro­duce a best-selling men’s workout magazine like Men’s Health, put men’s pumped tits and abs on the cover every month and strenu­ously main­tain the pre­tence that none of its read­ers are gay or bisexual — or even met­ro­sexual. Only America could pro­duce a film like last year’s ‘300′, essen­tially a toga-themed Chippendale flick for teen boys — but because it was made for American teen boys its denial was even more pre­pos­ter­ous than its pec­tor­als: the bad­die had to be a big black club queen in a spangly Speedo.

Mind you, ‘300′ had at least one vir­tue, albeit unin­ten­tional: it was rather fun­nier than Little Britain USA. Perhaps the biggest prob­lem Walliams and Lucas face in ram­ming their sens­ib­il­ity down Uncle Sam’s throat isn’t America’s gay denial or gag­ging reluct­ance to see the camp joke, but simply the fact that, on the basis of the first couple of shows, their American ‘out­ing’just isn’t very funny.

Either side of the pond.