After last weekend's jaunt up to Liverpool, me and TSB were all up for taking it easy this weekend: not straying too much from the pleasantly familiar routine of lunch, alcohol, Duckie, bed, lunch, alcohol, bed. In that order, obvieusement.
Saturday evening, though, we paid a flying pre-RVT visit to the Bread & Roses in Clapham, for our friend S's 30th birthday drinks. Getting off the Tube surrounded by slightly braying white boys in shirtsleeves, I was reminded of that tendency of straight people to band together in large, loud, underdressed packs the better to wander the High Streets of Britain. Hadn't seen S for ages and he'd put on weight but in the right way: always a looker, he now has an appealing upper body solidity. Yum. He'd been in the pub since 5pm but amazingly wasn't trashed. I remembered turning thirty and actually feeling quite good about the whole thing - like suddenly the pressure was off me to pay lip service to fashion or know what was Number 1 or whatever. I was free to indulge my incipient fogeyness.
Got to Duckie a little after 10. Only two of the Six there, Amy and Simon, making us somewhat apprehensive. Simon lovely as ever, though (his Movember 'tache noticeably bushier), chatting to us about Liverpool Is Burning and asking after the "beautiful woman" who'd accompanied me there, ho ho. Later, Amy acknowledged us from the stage as "hardcore" for having trekked up north and back. We felt duly smug. Our hostess was looking particularly good, in a long floaty blue-and-white ensemble, the Virgin Amy:
DJ Lush was standing in for the Wifes. I've said it before but it's true enough to bear repetition: the Readers Wifes really have spoiled us for other DJs. Lush is better than most and, if I'd never heard Kim Phaggs and Chelsea Kelsey, I'd probably be an enthusiastic, committed fan. She plays pretty decent stuff really, last night's selection a distinct improvement on the last time she DJed at Duckie, but her timing was wrong, somehow. With the Wifes, there's a sense of momentum steadily building throughout the evening - some songs are unfamiliar but consistent within the whole - whereas DJ Lush's choices seemed more random and, at times, misjudged. She played Starman really early in the evening and it was wasted on a not-yet-drunk-enough-to-sing-along audience. Ditto The Boy With The Thorn In His Side. There was a tendency toward recent indie rather than the from-any-era oddities characteristic of the Wifes, and she had a greater tolerance for longer, atmosphere-sapping tracks like Siouxsie & the Banshees' Monitor, which seemed to go on for a thousand years. I wouldn't even have known what it was if Gareth hadn't cheated by using Shazam. Suffice to say the pacing didn't really work for me.
I dunno, it feels a bit unfair to criticise a DJ for not being the same as the Wifes. On the other hand, Gareth left early and we followed shortly afterwards, around 1.15, only the second time ever we've left Duckie before the end. It just wasn't happening with the music and the crowd was an unusual one, too. A brace of scary blonde women had dumped their coats on the activity island (the new cloakroom?), a group of directionally-hairdoed Baby Gays were crowding us from the direction of the stage (for reasons which will become apparent in a moment) and the throng seemed more difficult than usual to push through to bar or toilet.
But! But but but! The cabaret was really rather good, with a thematic consistency uncommon to Duckie, that theme being mess. Ick. Gunk. Stickiness. Eww.
First up, one John Joseph Bibby, auburn-tressed beauty in an intricate frock apparently made entirely of paper. White paper had been taped over the whole stage, too (some tit spilt their drink on it earlier and several sheets had to be replaced with fresh ones).
Bibby began to sing, while an attractively monobrowed Frieda Kahlo lookalike daubed him with various colours of poster paint.
She finished up by tipping whole pots over him. By this time, we were being pinned against the activity island by the cowering Baby Gays. Paint is a nightmare to get out of one's Abercrombie & Fitch.
Act No.2 was a couple of Duckieites turned performers - according to Amy, a not uncommon trajectory - Justin Sweets and Caramel Miranda. The stage was set with all manner of sugary sprinkles, chews, hundreds & thousands... and a beeyoootiful high-calorie titfer was contrived:
The ickiness? Well, the tower of sundae glasses was glued together with liberal applications of lurid technicolour goo, squeezed from an icing bag. As with Bibby's paint, it went all over her hair. TSB, who's mildly phobic about such things, shuddered by my side.
There were occasional pauses to throw confectionery into the audience. I felt my tummy rumble and my fillings squeal.
"What," teased Amy, "could possibly follow that?"
A genuine(ish) beauty queen, Miss Teen South Carolina:
Apparently this was the burlesque performer Gypsy Wood, doing a word-perfect pisstake of this famous moment in beauty pageant history:
Poor (real) Miss Teen South Carolina...
A quick costume change later, our own Duckie version then proceeded to launch into her own dance interpretation of Whitney Houston's high Glycaemic Index gloopathon, The Greatest Love Of All (before she discovered crack, one assumes):
This in itself would've been funny enough - she managed to hit just the right note of hilarious almost-sincerity, without lapsing into all-out slapstick - but, all of a sudden, the crotch of Miss Teen South Carolina's pristine leotard began to well crimson...
... and blood seeped out and down her legs. This would've been shocking in any context (blood-red on white just is, presumably tapping into some ancient OMGbleedingtodeath reflex) but, happening in a roomful of (mostly) gay males, there was a collective gasp of horror as we were all reminded of womeny bits that bleed. Misogyny? Perhaps, but at least this act made me examine my own instinctive gay male "urgh" and it did so in an amusing way.
Miss Teen South Carolina slopped around in her own menstruum, finishing up blood-streaked and triumphant, Carrie-turned-cheerleader, to huge applause.
I was reminded of Amy's occasional scary headmistress persona, though, when a drunken arsewipe from the back of the room threw a piece of ice up onto the stage. Amy looked daggers into the audience, identifying the culprit; after the act's conclusion, she publicly invited him outside. Barred? Presumably. Throwing stuff at the performers is a definite Duckie no-no. Unless they invite it.
So... yeah. A Duckie where the cabaret was markedly better than the music. Not often that happens.