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Nadal Hammered Into Sexy, Slippery Pieces by Armani

As if the tarty Armani poster of Rafael Nadal offering his arse to the world wasn’t slutty enough. Along comes the sporno video.

The tennis ace is being shoved up against the (unplastered) wall and then thrown down and hammered on the builder’s bench. Twice.

By the camera. Which chops up his body into sexy, slippery bits and pieces. Tits and ass and abs. Total, rampant, ruthless objectification. Which Mr Nadal – like many young men today – appears to relish.

And that liquid he’s half-drowning in. Is it bodily fluids? Or is he being water boarded by our gaze?

Could this video in fact be any sluttier, without actual penetration? Then again, wouldn’t your actual, standard-issue penetration diminish the sluttiness by making it both ‘hard’ and banal?  Instead of the grainy non-specific sluttiness that drips off everything in our mediated, metrosexy world.

Quentin Crisp & Hurtian Crisp

The Naked Civil Servant is the best and funniest TV drama ever made. And I’m sorry, but it’s a scientific fact.

And like its subject it could only have been made in the UK. Even if Crisp said he hated England – and he did, over and over again.

So many lines in Philip Mackie’s superb screenplay for the Thames TV adaptation glitter like, well, the icy aphorisms that Crisp filled his eponymous autobiography with. But it was Hurt’s breakthrough performance as Crisp which is most historic: rendering Crisp, as Quentin himself acknowledged – and welcomed – something of an understudy to Hurt’s Crisp for the rest of his life.

The actual, quasi-existing Crisp, born Dennis Charles Pratt in Sutton, Surrey in 1908, sometimes sounded by this stage (he was nearly 70 when the drama aired) like a vintage car tyre losing air ve-ry slow-ly. And was almost as immobile. Hetero dandy Hurt injected a kind of rakishness – a hint of phallicism, even – to Crisp’s defiantly passsssive persssssona that came across rather more invigorating and sexy than he actually was. Hurt rendered Crisp rock ‘n’ roll when he probably wasn’t even up for a waltz. When Hurt repeatedly intoned Crisp’s Zen-like answer to the world and Other People and Desire in general – ‘If you like’ – it sounded slightly more aggressive than passive.

(And for me, Hurtian Crisp was further improved by what I shall call Hoyleian-Hurtian Crisp: I met the performance artist David Hoyle in the early 80s when we were both teenage runaways to London’s bedsit-land. He would perform key moments from TNCS mid-conversation, but always succeeded in making these impromptu excerpts sound as if they were flashbacks to his earlier life. Which, since he grew up a sensitive boy in working class Blackpool in the 1970s watching a lot of telly, they were.)

TNCS, both the book and the dramatisation, is criminally funny precisely because so much of what Hurt/Crisp says – or declaims – is so shockingly true.

The line whispered delicately in the ear of the leader of a 1930s queer bashing gang is now almost a cliche, but still has hilarious force: ‘“If I were you I’d bugger off back to Hoxton before they work out you’re queer.” Cue 1920s style intertitle:

Some roughs are really queer, and some queers are really rough.

Crisp’s truths, particularly about human relationships, are the truths told by someone who has nothing to lose – largely because they’ve already lost everything to the bailiffs of despair. This is the ‘nakedness’ of the Civil Servant.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ELs1am-2FYw

Because it was one of the first TV dramas to depict a self-confessed and unapologetic – flaunting, even – homosexual TNCS has been frequently misrepresented as a ‘gay drama’. But Crisp’s sexuality is not really what TNCS is about or in fact what Crisp was about.

To a degree it is about being ‘out and proud’, or at least determined to inflict oneself on the world, but not so much as a homosexual, and certainly not as ‘a gay’, in the modern, respectable, American sense of the word. It’s not even, thankfully, a plea for tolerance. Rather it’s a portrayal of the heroic self-sufficiency of someone who decided to stand apart from society and its values, henna their hair and work as a male street prostitute – and then, lying bruised in the gutter, turn a haughty, unsentimental but piercingly funny eye back on a world which regards him as the lowest form of life. It’s the blackest and cheekiest kind of comedy – which is to say: the only kind.

‘I am an effeminate homo-sex-u-alll’, declared Crisp to the Universe, over and over again. And the Universe had no choice but to agree. By being utterly abject Crisp forced the Universe to do precisely as he instructed. A blueprint for celebrity that was to be repeated many, many times by others before his death in 1999 and even more times after – though usually rather less wittily and with less jaunty headgear.

Crisp added that as an effeminate homosexual he was imprisoned inside an exquisite paradox, like some kind of ancient insect trapped in amber: attracted to masculine males – the famous Great Dark Man – he cannot himself be attracted to a man who finds him, another male, attractive because then they cannot be The Great Dark Man any more. Hence the famous, Death-of-God declaration in TNCS, after many, many mishaps and misrecognitions: ’”There. Is. No. Great. Dark. Man!“’

Strictly 19th century sexologically speaking, Mr Crisp was probably more of a male invert than a homosexual and often said that he thought that he should have been a woman, and even wondered whether he was born intersexed (this despite famously dismissing women as ‘speaking a language I do not understand’ – perhaps because he didn’t like too much competition in the speaking stakes). Either way, he doesn’t appear to have been terribly happy with his penis or even its existence – something homosexual males, like heterosexual ones, are usually delirious about. But then again, perhaps rather than expressing some kind of  proto-transsexuality Quentin’s Great Dark Man complex was merely setting up a situation in which he could remain ever faithful to his one true love. Himself.

In Thames TV’s TNCS, which begins (at Crisp’s request) with a pretty, pre-pubescent boy as Quentin/Dennis dancing in a dress in front of a full-length mirror, Hurtian Crisp is an out-and-proud narcissist, who simply refuses to take on board the shame that such an outrageous perversion should entail. When he attempts to join the Army at the start of the war he causes apoplexy in the recruiters for being completely honest about his reasons for doing so: he doesn’t mouth platitudes about ‘doing his duty’, ‘his bit’ or ‘fighting Nazis’. He just wants to eat properly and the squaddies he knows seem to have quite a nice time of it, loading and unloading petrol cans in Basingstoke. His openness about his homosexuality is palpably less shocking to the Army officials than his honesty about his self-interestedness. About his interest in himself.

Or as Hurt/Crisp replies as a preening adolescent youth when asked by his exasperated, buttoned-up Edwardian petite-bourgeois father: ‘Do you intend to admire yourself in the mirror forever??’

If I possibly can.’

And boy, did he. TNCS, which aired slap in the middle of the 70s, was probably more of an inspiration to the glam, punk, new-wave and new romantic generation than to gays in general. Hurtian Crisp and his hennaed hair and make-up sashaying the streets of 1930s London symbolised in the 1970s the idea of an aestheticized revolt against Victorian ideas of proper deportment and dullness that had dominated Britain for much of the Twentieth Century. The best British pop music had always been a form of aesthetic revolt, and Crisp seemed very much his own special creation, which is what so many teens now aspired to be. Crisp was taken for a real original and individual in an age when everyone wanted to be original and individual. Or as Crisp put it himself later:

‘The young always have the same problem – how to rebel and conform at the same time. They have now solved this by defying their parents and copying one another.’

TNCS changed Crisp’s life and made him very famous indeed. A reality TV winner before such a thing existed, his prize was the chance to move to America. Since he had loved Hollywood movies from childhood and was later treated like a Hollywood starlet (albeit in air raid shelters) by American GI’s in London during the Second World War, no wonder he grabbed the opportunity with both hands.

But if there’s anything to be learned from An Englishman in New York, the sequel to TNCS broadcast on ITV recently, it’s that it may all have been a terrible mistake. Even if Mr Crisp never thought so.

Although Hurt turns in a technically fine performance, he seems to have become more Crispian and less Hurtian. Perhaps that’s inevitable with the passage of time (Hurt is nearly 70, the age Crisp was when he first played him). Or perhaps it’s simply that his acting skills have increased. Whatever the reason, it’s not a welcome development here. And I’m sure Crisp would have agreed.

But much, much worse is the redemptive reek of this sequel. Everything is made to turn on Crisp’s ‘AIDS {upper case back then, remember} is a fad’ quip made in the early 80s and the trouble this got him into in the US – and why he was a good sort, really. Despite the things he actually said. So we see him adopt a gay artist dying of the ‘fad’, fussing over him and arranging for his art to be exhibited. We discover him sending secret cheques to Liz Taylor’s Aids foundation. We even hear him explain what he meant by ‘fad’ (supposedly it was a political tactic: minimize the gay plague to avoid a hetero backlash).

Now, this obsession with redemption may be very American and has of course, like many American obsessions, become more of an English one of late – especially when trying to sell something to the Yanks, as I’m sure the producers of this sequel are hoping to do. But if there was any point to Crisp at all it was that he was utterly unsentimental – except where royalty were concerned – and relatively free of the hypocrisies of everyday life.  This sequel supposedly about him is full of them. So forgive me if I’m unconvinced.

Crisp was invincible in his determination to regard the US as the dreamland of the movies of his youth made real: America was as he put it ‘Heaven’ where England was ‘Hell’. And why not? If you’ve spent most of your best years deprived of almost every single illusion that comforts most other people, why shouldn’t you have one big one in your retirement?

And to be fair much of what he had to say about the friendliness and flattering, encouraging, open-hearted nature of Americans compared to the mean-minded, resentful, vindictive English is quite true, even today. But Crisp’s whole approach to life was even more at odds with American culture, even in its atypical NYC form, with its emphasis on self-improvement, aspiration, uplift and success. ‘If at first you don’t succeed, failure may be your style,’ said Crisp, who regarded himself as a total failure. Could there be a more un-American worldview? Apart that is from, “Don’t try to keep up with the Jones.  Try to drag them down to your level.  It’s cheaper.”

In an early documentary from the 1960s Crisp, sitting in his London bed-sitting room sipping an unappetizing powdered drink he takes instead of preparing food, which he can’t be bothered with, that ‘has all the vitamins and protein I need but tastes awful’ he describes himself as a Puritan. Actually Crisp was a Puritan with an added frosting of asceticism. Crisp was deeply suspicious of all pleasure (save the pleasure of being listened to and looked at) and most especially of sex, which he described as ‘the last refuge of the miserable’. And four years of house dust is a very good way of showing how above the material world you are.

It’s a very middle class, middle England, middle century Puritanism – just like Crisp’s background. But Crisp was also his own kind of revenge on himself, or on the world that had made him — of which he was a living parody. Ultimately none of us are really our own special creations. The most we can hope for is a special edition.

Crisp’s Puritanism was part of the reason why he could never embrace Gay Lib (‘what do you want to be liberated from?’). He was recently subjected to a stern posthumous ticking off by Peter Tatchell, an original Gay Libber, in the Independent newspaper prompted by what he sees as the ‘sanitising of Crisp’s ignorant pompous homophobia’ in An Englishman in New York. Post-60s Crisp was apparently jealous of a new generation of out queers who were stealing his limelite: he wasn’t the only homo in town any more.

This broadside was a tad harsh, and Tatchell sometimes sounds as if he’s on the Army board that rejected Crisp (while accusing him of ‘homophobia’ threatens to make an absurdity of the word). But I agree that the sequel does ‘sanitise’ Crisp, though I think this a bad thing for different reasons to Mr Tatchell. I also suspect there’s some truth to the accusation of ‘jealousy’, but I’d be inclined to put them in another form. Maybe Crisp didn’t want homosexuality to be normalised because if it were it would undo his life’s work. Likewise, I think Crisp would have loathed metrosexuality.

And as the sequel suggests, in one of its few insightful moments, one reason for Crisp’s failure to answer the gay clarion call was simply that he didn’t believe in causes, or the subjugation of truth and dress-sense to expediency that inevitably goes with causes. Unless that cause is yourself.

Besides, like many ‘inverts’, Crisp was a great and romantic believer in Heterosexuality – the ideal kind, of course, rather than the kind that heterosexuals actually have to live, and which they execute very, very badly.  He used to call heterosexuals ‘real people’ (as opposed to ‘unreal’ homosexuals), but I suspect he thought he was the only real heterosexual in town. And in a sense, he was.

***

I can’t leave you without pointing out that while Quentin Crisp may have dismissed Aids as a ‘fad’, Hurtian Crisp became more associated with ‘the gay plague’ than almost anyone save Rock Hudson: literally becoming the sound of the seriousness of the subject. In 1975 hetero Hurt plays the most famous stately homo in England. The success of this gets him to Hollywood, where four years later in 1979 he is cast in an even more globally famous role – as ‘Patient Zero’ in Ridley Scott’s Alien: the first host for the terrifying unknown organism that enters his body by face-raping him and which proceeds to kill-off in horrifying, phallic-jackhammer fashion, his shipmates. Two years before the first identified Aids cases in NY.

Eight years later, Hurt is cast as the unforgettable fey-gravelly voice for those terrifying tombstone ‘AIDS: Don’t Die of Ignorance’ ads – complete with jackhammers – that ran in heavy rotation on UK TV, urging people to read the Government leaflet pushed through their letterbox and practise safe sex.

In other words, The Naked Civil Servant had become a rubber-sheathed civil servant.

Old Spice: interview Crisp gave Andrew Barrow of the Independent a year before his death.

Crispisms

‘In an expanding universe, time is on the side of the outcast. Those who once inhabited the suburbs of human contempt find that without changing their address they eventually live in the metropolis.’

‘It is not the simple statement of facts that ushers in freedom; it is the constant repetition of them that has this liberating effect. Tolerance is the result not of enlightenment, but of boredom.’

‘To know all is not to forgive all. It is to despise everybody.’

‘You fall out of your mother’s womb, you crawl across open country under fire, and drop into your grave.’

‘I simply haven’t the nerve to imagine a being, a force, a cause which keeps the planets revolving in their orbits and then suddenly stops in order to give me a bicycle with three speeds.’

‘It is explained that all relationships require a little give and take. This is untrue. Any partnership demands that we give and give and give and at the last, as we flop into our graves exhausted, we are told that we didn’t give enough.’

‘The consuming desire of most human beings is deliberately to place their entire life in the hands of some other person. For this purpose they frequently choose someone who doesn’t even want the beastly thing.’

‘The simplest comment on my book came from my ballet teacher. She said, “I wish you hadn’t made every line funny.  It’s so depressing.”‘

‘Even a monotonously undeviating path of self-examination does not necessarily lead to self-knowledge. I stumble towards my grave confused and hurt and hungry.’

‘Someone asked me why I thought sex was a sin. I said, “She’s joking, isn’t she?” But they said, “No.” Doesn’t everyone know that sex is a sin? All pleasure is a sin.’

The End of Michael Jacksonism

By Mark Simpson

(Edited from a feature that originally appeared the Independent on Sunday in July 1997, titled ‘Now the end is near’)

Only a Michael Jackson gig could begin with a ten-minute computer-generated sci-fi video which obviously cost more than most artists can muster for an album.

The film beamed on to the three giant screens at Wembley, the first leg on MJ’s current tour of Britain, show a golden android getting into a capsule and then riding a big-dipper track at high speed through pop culture, art and the last thirty years of history – the moon landings, little Michael performing ABC, Nixon, hunger and war in Africa, tall skinny Michael in ‘Wannna Be Startin’ Somethin’’, the Berlin Wall coming down, macho Michael in Bad. And then, on the vast stage with a large bang and a flash, out steps the android and takes off his mask. It’s the King of Pop!

Michael Jackson, you see, is the present, the past and the future. He’s our connection with the looking glass world of media: he is the man in the mirror. His-story is our story. Michael Jackson is all human culture. Moondancing.

All the same, few things could be as uncool in Britain today as admitting you like Michael Jackson. You can wear slip-on shoes. You can watch A Question of Sport. You can even drink lager and black – but don’t ever, ever admit that you like Michael Jackson. American, inauthentic, corporate, sincere, tacky, irony-free and no sense of modesty whatsoever, MJ is the antithesis of Britpop – the great Satan to Britpop’s fundamentalism.

When uber-cool Jarvis Cocker made his now legendary stage invasion at last year’s Brit awards, interrupting the King of Pop’s ascension into heaven serenaded by a choir of angelic children during a vast performance of ‘Earth Song’, he was supported not so much by revulsion at the (dropped) child-abuse allegations but by a much stronger feeling: revulsion at an American taking themselves so seriously at the Brit Awards.

And yet, Jarvis’ mooning might possibly have been inspired by  jealousy. MJ’s performance of ‘Earth Song’ (containing probably the best and most bathetic pop lyric ever: ‘And what about the elephants?’) did steal the show and really was a religious experience. Yes, it was astonishingly arrogant, tasteless, blasphemous and doolally, but then the best pop always is.

Brit-pop – despite its much-heralded demise – still has a stranglehold on British pop music, and is a highly reactionary music form, harking back to the Sixties sound of all-white bands like the Beatles, but surgically removing any of the R&B sound that informed so much of the ‘Fab Four’s’ music. Oasis are not the Beatles again: they’re the Beatles minus Chuck Berry. And MJ, despite his kabuki-mime pallor, is very ‘black’ in the sense that most of his music is rhythmically orientated.

Though of course the basis of MJ’s brand that he mixes his American blackness with American whiteness until you can hardly distinguish the two: ‘Black or White’ is as much a question as a statement – like asking how you like your coffee. (Funnily enough, it was probably precisely because his skin-colour changed that many white British critics felt able to attack Jackson.)

So I’d love to report that the latest show is brilliant – but in fact it’s an epic, grinding disappointment. The intro video was by far the best part of it. Anti-climax is probably inevitable when you go to see the most famous man in the world. But there’s also a kind of pointlessness to it. MJ is so fantastically plastic, so extravagantly synthetic that there is nothing really added by going to see him ‘live’ and watching him on a giant video juke-box with thousands of others in a sports arena. In fact, something is taken away. MJ is a simulacrum, a copy for which no original exists. The image is the man, not the tiny imposter jigging around on stage between the video screens the size of football pitches – and beneath the towering Stalinist statue of himself.

It’s precisely because MJ is so phoney, so artificial, so mass-produced, processed and pre-digested that he has been so popular. MJ is the Big Mac of pop music – scorned by faddists and know-betters but very popular with people who want something fast, fun, and nutrition-free that gives them a buzz. Most people are uncool, thank god, and quite happy that way.

But for all his popularity with the masses, the MJ brand, like Big Macs, is clearly in decline. This tour has failed to sell out and there isn’t anything approaching the ‘Jacksonmania’ that has greeted previous ones. His last couple of albums have been less than impressive and the kiddie-fiddling charges can’t have helped. But perhaps the real problem for MJ Inc is beyond the MD’s control. The world’s love affair with Americana has peaked. When the Cold War ended and the Stalinist statues were pulled down and replaced with McDonald’s golden arches, people stopped dreaming the American dream. It had become an inescapable reality.

Michael Jackson, the greatest embodiment of that dream, the creature of consumerism, individualism and aspirationalism, the most famous man who never lived, is also a victim of his own success. Hence the hubristic use of that blockbuster intro video and Ceaucescu-esque statues on the cover of the History album and next to the stage on this tour is eerily apt. Those who try to embody history usually end up victims of it: toppling over beneath the weight of their own contradictions. And besides, Jacksonism isn’t much of a replacement for Jacksonmania.

Put another way, Michael’s audience has grown up while he, valiantly has not. At Wembley, while MJ cavorted with some female dancers on-stage, a fan behind me shouted out: ‘They’re a bit old for you, aren’t they Michael?’

You really know the world’s changed when MJ fans get cynical.

© Mark Simpson 2009

The Sun newspaper – how gay is it?

thesunuknewspaperlogo.gif

Why is Britain’s best-selling, sauciest tabloid so unsure of its sexuality?

Mark Simpson, the Guardian (August 24, 2007)

The Sun’s TV critic Ally Ross is an unhappy camper. You see, he’s always bitching about TV being ‘too gay’. Which is a rather peculiar thing for a TV critic to complain about. Perhaps his dad wanted him to be a (much less well paid) sports writer.

Last Friday, he proved what a pugilist he is by laying into the recently launched ITV Anthony Cotton daytime chat show, and by attacking all things poovey on telly. He concluded with his 0ver-familiar refrain: ‘TV is way too camp, i.e. gay and rubbish, for its own good’. At the end of a column simply chocka with catty clawings and rubbish campery.

In fact, so keen is big butch Ross (who likes to pose as the Test Card Girl above his byline) to straighten out telly and get rid of gays and gayness, in an unrelated piece about Big Brother on the same page, recounting how one male contestant was lovingly describing women as ‘tits, baps, breasts, erm, womb people’, he interrupts this red-blooded reverie with: ‘cuts to Gerry (the gay Greek contestant) fantasising about the Greek Army.’ Thanks for that straight thought, Ally.

Actually, I agree. TV is too ‘gay’ and camp and rubbish. But so are you, Ally dearie. And so, these days, is the Sun. Though, like its TV critic, it seems rather confused and conflicted.

In the same issue, readers were treated to another gratuitous ‘gay’ fantasy titled ‘Brokeback Putin’ – a spread of shirtless snaps of Russian President Vladimir Putin and (fully clothed) Prince Albert of Monaco on a blokey fishing holiday, complete with ‘camp’ captions that try to portray him as homo (and therefore ridiculous and impotent): ‘Oooh Vlad, I’ve got a tiddler’ ‘Here let me hold it Albert’. Er, calm down will you? They’re just fishing.

The Sun’s breathless, squealing addiction to rubbish, dated campery – and its campaign to convince us all that ‘camp’ is exactly the same thing as ‘gay’ and that of course male homosexuality is a form of emasculation – is literally perverse. Even more than most papers, the Sun is desperate to attract young readers – readers who don’t share that early 1970s worldview, not least because they weren’t even born in the 1970s. Headlines like “Hello Sailor!”, the mocking front page that greeted the Navy’s recent decision to actively recruit gays and lesbians, are limp Dick Emery imitations that no one under forty-five is going to get. In the same pink and fluffy Sun-speak vein, any out gay male celebrity, regardless of their demeanour, is instantly given a new first name – ‘Camp’.

Then there’s Sun gossip columnist Victoria Newton’s creepy endless ‘Gay-O-Meter’ obsession with comedian David Walliams. Every time he’s photographed socialising with a woman the meter reads STRAIGHT (coloured blue). Every time he’s photographed with a bloke it goes into GAY (coloured pink). I thought that the whole point of gossip columnists was that they got out more.

But hang on a minute. Isn’t socialising with women girly and ‘gay’? Isn’t drinking with your male mates (or, for that matter, going fishing) something that a proper bloke is supposed to do? Isn’t the Sun actually queering things rather than straightening them out?

In fact, at the risk of it exploding in your face, that Gay-O-Meter should be turned on the Sun itself – a newspaper that is nowadays just a daily edition of girly gossip rag Heat magazine with some news about especially vain celebrities who happen to play sport at the back. A recent Sun item revealed how Man United were remodelling their player’s changing rooms and lockers to ‘accomodate their manbags’ which apparently are full of ‘more cosmetics than their WAGs’.

There is though a difference between Heat magazine and the Sun: there’s much more queer sex in the Sun. Point the Gay-O-Meter, if you dare, at the Sun’s agony aunt section with its daily ‘lesbian lust’ confessions and ‘am I gay?’ letters (not written, I hasten to add, by their TV critic). Illustrated with photo-porn novel strips of naked women and men with equally desirable, equally undressed bodies getting into messy love triangles and even messier threesomes of every possible permutation. Or all those ‘Footie Studs in Sordid Roasting Vid Scandal!’ (see centre pages for full colour spread) news stories.

The Sun is obsessed with ‘camp’ and ‘gayness’ for the same reason telly is – because popular culture is. The reason it’s so conflicted and confused is partly because of its own very recent past as an out-and-out queerbashing daily, and partly because the expensively educated people who now edit the Sun, most of whom I’m sure have lots of gay friends and even more camp straight friends, are worried about being sussed by the ‘chav’ readers they condescend to (‘chav’ is a favourite Sun word). It doesn’t appear to occur to them that their readers’ attitudes might have changed more than their own.

Then again, perhaps the Sun is so confused because it’s being doing too much spinning around in sequins. I can reveal that according to ‘sources close to the Sun’ they recently all went on a ‘team-building’ weekend in some camp seaside resort. The team-building task? Ballroom dancing.

I wonder if their TV critic’s team won?

Copyright © 1994 - 2017 Mark Simpson All Rights Reserved.