Friday, 21 January 2011

Civeta Dei

The club kids, now they looked like a fun bunch didn't they? For those not in the know... well I guess you could (and should) just watch the above video with them on The Joan Rivers show. Essentially they were a gaggle of eccentricly dressed popular promoters, designers and party types from New York (and to a different extent London) who dominated the club scenes from the mid 80's up until the early 90's. They're a spectle and an entertaining one at that, both visually and due of the stories them all.

I might as well get the juicy part out of the way, in 1996 one of the founding clubkid members Michael Alig was convicted of murder of his friend Andre "Angel" Melendez because of a dispute over drugs. There's a lot more to the story, including heroin, self-exile and decomposing bodies in bathtubs, but the wikipedia article is probably more enjoyable than the atrocious looking early noughties film Party Monster, starring Macaulay Culkin as Alig and bizarrely Seth Green and James St James that portrays Michael's rise and fall.

Despite all this Alig's still got a bit of an endearing appeal, for example in this interview with an imprisoned Alig bemoaing his sober situation the top comment is someone stating how they 'can't wait to go to his first party when he gets out!', this being the party of a convicted murderer and notorious heroin addict, but let's be honest, you know it would be good wouldn't you?

In an another far less jovial interview on the Phil Donahue show the 'clubkids' are forced to justify their outfits, and describe them as a way of living out their fantasies and the whole movement is about espacism essentially. One of the few (if only) surviving clubkids, i.e. not dead, drug riddled or in jail, James St James talks quite soundly about Ketamine in the video below, and claims that it gives him that fulfilling high that apparently all them were always searching for. Quite a strangely sweet sentiment when thought about that way. With the way people live out double lives these days online who knows how these people would have dolled out their personal brands. In fact James does post a lot for the very good blog

But the real star of the scene has to Leigh Bowery, the guy was just phenonmenal, totally above and beyond his peers, just look at the man, listen to him talk, he co-starred with Mark E. Smith in an opera Smith wrote based on the death of Pope John Paul II for gods sake, that's amazing.

Insanely productive and talented during genuinely remarkable career he designed for The Michael Clark company, posed for Lucien Frued, co-owned the nightclub Taboo (which Boy George would later name his musical about the era on), wrote the disgusting semi smash Useless Man and was a celebrated artist and designer, turning his life and body in a living gallery of his works and ideas.

There's a very in depth if not particularly well done documentary called The Legend of Leigh Bowery on Youtube that's worth it's 90 minute run time for all the footage of his life and engaging interviews with close friends and associates. I even got a bit teary towards the end actually.

When you look at sheer outrageous clothes people like Bowery were wearing and look at what people/celebutantes wear in London now it reminds of the interview Vice did with Lawrence a few years ago, where he states, quite rightly, something along the lines of you can't really shock anyone with the clothes you wear now. You feel like you've seen it all before and not even a pack of 7ft raving Cybergoths could make you arch your head. Even though I do maintain that it is good that people can freely wear whatever they want to without getting abused or thrown dirty looks, its feels more like apathy rather than tolerance. And that ability to shock comes from the unexpected and the original, and that's the main attraction of Bowery and the sheer amount of brilliant ideas he had. People are still trying to shock others in how they present themselves and always will, it's just the ease of the internet, that's taken it out of the public sphere, perhaps.

Simlarly though it's this focus on the importance of ideas, and more specifically fresh perspectives that's one of the main arguments of this interesting video I watched recently by Sir Ken Robinson on the need for a new type of school system in the 21st century. Though I must admit that this wide-eyed 2006 lecture carries a somewhat redundant feel in austerity riddled company-sponsered-Academy age of 2011. Then again it was during the last society-purge under Thatchers 80's regime that colourful escapist characters like Bowery emerged, who knows. It's either that or all black Hard Times Chic ala Sade.

Also I couldn't fit it in but in an episode of the Dexters Laboratory spin off Dial M For Monkey Bowery served as inspiration for a fur hungry fashionista villian, though I can't find any footage of that episode I remember it from when I was younger. Sure I do.

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