DG Promotion--Discount On Dirty Dancing Tickets

Image002 Dirty Dancing may never make any cineaste's list of best American films, but piffle to that.  Who doesn't  love the story of Baby and Johnny, brought together by mambo, torn apart by class warfare? And now--it's a musical!

Re-imagined for the stage by the original screenwriter, Dirty Dancing is an unprecedented live musical experience, exploding with heart-pounding music, breathtaking emotion and of course...dancin'!

Limited Engagement Begins May 8th at Hollywood’s Historic Pantages Theatre

Deep Glamour readers and their friends can get a rockin' great discount (35%) on select seats  when they order tickets  through Ticketmaster with the special code GR35 .

(Thanks to Stacy at Allied Live for this offer, too.)

The Allure Of Dreamscapes

Angelina Jolie fans may enjoy seeing her in the 1994 Meat Loaf video Rock’N’Roll Dreams Come Through. In it she plays a teenage runaway who wanders into a dreamscape industrial complex. (The first line of the song is “You can’t run away forever.”)

Meatloaf first appears as a singing head inside a juke box. When Jolie is menaced by two thugs, the jukebox explodes, freeing Meatloaf to save her. At first Jolie might seem the proverbial damsel in distress being saved by a knight, but Meatloaf is more a father figure who shows her the distress that her running away has caused others. The refrain of the song is:

There’s always something magic,
There’s always something new,
And when you really, really need it the most,
That’s when rock and dreams come through

Eventually Jolie is shown inside the jukebox, with music piped straight into her ears. She holds a crystal ball, suggesting acquired wisdom. Later an angel appears, hovering over the group that has gathered there.

At the end of the video Jolie walks through the gate of a suburban mansion, returning home. Despite the soft-focus photography, suburbia looks dull compared to the surreal world of the dream. But Jolie’s last-second smile suggests she has learned that she can use music to sometimes escape her ordinary existence by dreaming of a far more magical world.

Image Creates Reality: The Persistence Of Ruffs

DSCN0456This completely unauthorized and illicit photo (click for a larger view) is from an exhibit currently installed at the Palazzo Medici Riccardi in Florence. With an evocative name that translates "The Medici: The Dream Returns," the show features life-size, and three-dimensional, versions of personages known only from their portraits. Recreated by Belgian artist Isabelle de Borchgrave, the clothes are made not of silks and laces embroidered with gold but of paper and paint. (Good photos and a video in English are on her website here.)

Paper, says de Borchgrave, "is a very simple, undaunting material. There's not the same fear of ruining it as there is with cloth. I create a trompe-l'oeil, an illusion, as in painting, as is the Chapel of the Magi frescoed by Benozzo Gozzoli," the museum's signature work, whose portraits feature carefully rendered textiles.


Perhaps because its material is so scratchy and yet so light, the exhibit reminded me of an observation about the relationship between painting and fashion made by the brilliant fashion historian Anne Hollander in a 1991 essay published in The Idealizing Vision : The Art of Fashion Photography. Hollander wrote:

In the superior world of the painter, noble personages in all sorts of awkward gear were created and presented in a state of ideal dignity and refinement; and so a standard was set for perfect appearance that might be followed by the living originals, who could feel beautiful in their trappings instead of trapped. Consequently, still bigger lace ruffs and even thicker silk skirts might continue in vogue, even into the next generation, because Rubens and Van Dyck and their colleagues were at work rendering them glorious to see, wonderfully becoming, and apparently effortless to wear.

Of course, it's also possible that those people looked in their mirrors--or at each other--and wondered why they couldn't live up to those glamorous images. Could a little girl in a dirty world ever have a dress this white?

Stevie Nicks: Going Like Sixty In Style

Somehow Ruth La Ferla managed to write an entire piece about the enduring style of Stevie Nicks without ever resorting to the phrase "unmade bed".

Stevie once told a reporter that she saw a woman on the street, and wanted the same look:

So when I joined Fleetwood Mac and I had some money, I went to a lady and I said, I want you to make me a raggy chiffon skirt that looks sort of like an urchin on the wharves of London.

To be fair, La Ferla dubs her the anti-Madonna.

Sponge Bob Meets Sir Mix-a-Lot

Via AdGabber, which doesn't approve ("a porn director's wet dream....Here come the cause groups"), comes news of this bizarrely witty Burger King ad, which alters Sir Mix-A-Lot's paean to backsides so that it fits SpongeBob Square Pants. The "director's cut" is above. Here's the actual commercial:

I'm not in the Sponge Bob demographic, but I think the ad is fun and playful, not the sort of thing that conjures up phrases like "porn director" and "wet dream." Besides, I like anything that rewards Sir Mix-a-Lot for glamorizing big butts. 

Of Voices, Performances, And Divas

The gods of singing are capricious. Some of us are given passable voices, others pathetic voices. Some are given good voices, and a few are given extraordinary voices. Some of these few have the power to enchant.

Most of the singing we hear today uses electronic amplification. Some singers have learned to take advantage of this, and sometimes use their voices in ways that seem remarkably intimate. 

Here’s a video of Alison Krauss using her beautiful voice in this way while performing on a TV show. At times she seems to sing so softly we almost feel we are overhearing her sing to herself. The male members of the group sometimes join her by singing softly into their microphones, gently supporting her. Everything about the group’s performance, including the clothing, suggests casualness, as if they look and sound much the same as they would if we happened to find them singing in someone’s home. (Nonetheless, I find Krauss’ lovely voice and quiet beauty enchanting.)

In contrast to this feeling of intimacy, operas are performed in large theaters, and the singers perform without amplification. Voices large enough to full such spaces are rare, typically need years of training, and can be damaged by singing roles unsuited to their voice and experience. Such rigorously trained voices help opera singers portray larger-than-life characters, and the quality of the voice is integral to those characterizations. Words such as powerful, vibrant, agile, and flexible are sometimes used to describe them--terms we associate with health and vigor. In a confined rehearsal space I once heard two baritones rehearse powerful, macho-tinged arias. A soprano then joked she needed to leave the room because there was too much testosterone in the air.

Given the gods’ capricious nature, large, beautiful voices doesn’t always in up in a bodies as appealing to the eye as the voices are to the ear. Opera fans have often overlooked this issue, but in our media-minded age, appearance has become more of a factor.

Listen to gorgeous, sumptuously voiced Anna Nebretko sing an aria from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi for a TV audience. In this aria the singer tells her father that if he doesn’t help her marry the man she loves, she will jump off the Ponte Vecchio into the Arno River. In singing it she sounds as if she is pleading her case to the whole world—she is singing as she would (without amplification) to move a patron sitting in the last row of a theater.

Since this performance was not in a theater, a microphone was placed on the floor in front of her, and the reverberation was set to emulate the sound of a large hall. The microphone was placed far enough away to allow her to fully use her powerful voice. By contrast, with Alison Krauss the microphone almost touches her lips, allowing her to use a more intimate tone to full effect.

Unlike Krauss, nothing about Nebretko’s performance appears casual. The gown, the makeup, the hair, and the voice all seem larger than life. (Such gowns can cost thousands of dollars, and I find it hard to imagine a more glamorous effect.) The images that we take away from these performances are remarkably different, as they were intended to be. Whatever she is like offstage, in her performance Krauss seems like someone who might, if you met her, talk with you in a relaxed way. In contrast, Nebretko seems like someone who might, if you were lucky, grant you an audience. Krauss seems down-to-earth and approachable; Nebretko seems otherworldly and unreachable. 

Their voices and performance personas are each perfectly tuned to resonate in their chosen performance environments. And while each are alluring within their domains, each would find her ability to enchant vastly diminished if forced to trade realms. Lucky us, to have both.

2967904505_ee4474b33fCreating a memorable performance persona is not without danger. A person's public persona and private character are not necessarily the same, and for some people performance images can become traps. In interviews Joan Baez has discussed falling prey to her own mythology when she was young. Although her interest in folk singing and politics remained steadfast, as she grew older she became interested in high-quality clothing. As the photos at her website reveal, she matured into an elegant woman with a sophisticated fashion sense. In 2008 New Zealand fashion designer Annah Stretton named a dress  and jacket for her. At the 2007 Grammys, when asked about young performers, Baez revealed that now she listens to opera. She has refused to let her early image as a performer define or limit her later appearance or cultural interests.

Some opera singers, expected to be glamorous, may in private prefer comfortable casual clothes and be wonderfully down-to-earth. When they need to present a glamorous image, they costume accordingly. There is exceptional danger in falling prey to the mythology that can surround a diva. Seeing oneself constantly in this mythic light can lead to insufferable behavior. At the peak of her fame, silvery-voiced Kathleen Battle became so unapproachable that she had trouble dealing with both her colleagues and the people providing services for her. Her behavior ultimately became so intolerable that in 1994 she was famously fired by the Metropolitan Opera and has not worked in opera since. Here she is performing the Bach/Gounod Ave Maria with guitarist Christopher Parkening.

An enchantress had become entranced by her image as a performer. As her behavior became increasing governed by delusions of grandeur, she forgot that glamour is always partly an illusion. Her performing colleagues did not forget. When told that she had been fired, they applauded. Given how disruptive her behavior had become, one can hardly blame them. Her voice and beauty were otherworldly, but the world of opera, like all live theater, is here-and-now, and thus requires performers who can come down to earth.

(For examples of Netrebko at work in the theater, look at these excerpts (1 and 2) from a Salzburg Festival production of Verdi’s La Traviata, as broadcast on German television. With such an over-sized stage, intense vocal presence becomes a necessity.)

Mama M.I.A.

Mia The minute M.I.A. stepped out on to the stage at last night's Grammys, Facebook status updates and Tweets blew up. The rapper performed nine months pregnant (her baby was actually due that day) and she was truly outrageous, wearing an crazy, see-through mesh polka-dotted number and tennis shoes and bouncing around like a teen after too much pizza and ice cream. (Check out the number here.) It was kinda awesome.

(Here she is on the red carpet before the show.)

You've come a long way baby!  When Demi Moore posed nude at 7 months for Vanity Fair in 1991, magazines were pulled from shelves and some covered them up with paper bags as if they were porn.

Pregnancy has, until very recent history, been something women concealed. Hello Grace Kelly hiding her belly with her Hermès  bag.

Ironically, after M.I.A., I switched over to Masterpiece Theatre where a character was talking of her daughter's impending confinement. I do believe the Grammys would've given Victorian ladies the vapors.

The actual process of labor and delivery were very important to aristocratic families of the Victorian era. Many would travel to London weeks before to stay with friends throughout the final few weeks. The purpose of this journey, called going to town....The house had to be prepared very specifically to accommodate the pregnant woman and her husband, friends, family, the doctor and his team of medical attendants. Not all women actually made the trip to London or to an alternate location to deliver, and therefore many rearranged all of the rooms and furniture in their own house to prepare for weeks of confinement. Confinement was the term used to describe the last few weeks of pregnancy that were spent in the bed of a specially prepared house. (work cited: Lewis, Judith S. In the Family Way: Childbearing in the British Aristocracy, 1760-1860 . Rutgers University Press. New Brunswick, NJ, 1986.)

172007[1] Confinement?! Heck no! Today a cottage industry has popped up around outfitting and photographing pregnant brides-- and not necessarily in blousy, drapey dresses, but belly-hugging designs that celebrate the baby-to-be.

I think the next wave of feminist empowerment is not with words but with images. M.I.A. did her own version of "going to town" last night and it was at once shocking and amazing. (Check out some of the comments, "She should be ashamed for being so disgusting.")

If a woman, hours away from giving birth, can perform alongside the boys and manage to bring down the house, I'd say we just made strides in breaking down another image of the more delicate sex.


50 Years Ago Today: Buddy Holly Remembered

Fifty years ago today, a plane carrying Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper (J.P. Richardson) to a concert crashed in an Iowa field. Barry Mazor, in the WSJ, writes about newly released Buddy Holly CDs. That'll Be the Day was Holly's first #1 record.

Springsteen Superbowl Smash

14945 Yesterday's Superbowl halftime show by Bruce Springsteen didn't impress Todd Martens at the LA Times, but it's a hit with just about everyone else.  Fans of the Boss expect a lot of clowning and by-play at his concerts, and he and Steven Van Zandt did all their usual shtick, capped by Springsteen announcing "I'm going to Disneyland" at the end, just like all MVPs but Martens thought it was a plug for ABC/Disney.

Slate's Stephen Metcalfe (who likes Bruce, cuz he's a fellow depressive) felt Springsteen didn't capture the mood of the country. That the Superbowl hired some extras to clap and cheer bothers him too.  Jobs are getting slashed and he's complaining about people getting work?

Metcalfe thinks Springsteen is an "odd ball favorite", which is news to the rest of us who've been fans since the early days. Metcalfe might have been in middle school when he first heard the music, but I saw Bruce at the Guthrie Theater in 1975, and he didn't look all that odd to me, my friends or the rest of the world.  We thought he looked sexy, dangerous and cool.

Bruce Springsteen isn't an unlikely rock nerd-god, dragged unwillingly into the spot light. He's an entertainer, and he throws himself into the act. That's what you're supposed to do, remember?  And I promise, this is the only Bible verse I'll ever quote here:

Whatever thy hand finds to do; do it with all thy might.
                                                                                                  Ecclesiastes 9:10


Hip Hop Glamour: The Mixtape

 DG welcomes guest blogger Anne Stewart, a writer and graphic designer in Cleveland, who regularly blogs for Hotcards, a print and design house whose work illustrates this post.--Virginia

MixtapeglamourAt a time when our Hollywood stars are Colin Farrell and Lindsey Lohan, and pop diva status is conferred on Amy Winehouse and Britney Spears, many people are turning to hip hop in their search for glamour. The superstars of hip hop are carefully groomed, fashionably dressed, and portrayed through music, videos, and album covers as fabulously wealthy, mysterious, and often dangerous (although not in a bad way).

By inviting people into a world of dark, gritty origins, meteoric rises to stardom, and dreams realized and indulged, hip hop is redefining glamour in popular culture. And for the ultimate crash course in hip hop glamour, the best place to look is the mixtape cover.

 Mixtapecovervivalahova Architects of Glamour

Whether it’s a playlist put together by J-Love, a remix, like the recent Viva La Hova from Mick Boogie and Terry Urban, or a random blend of Lil Wayne’s latest studio work, a huge number of hip hop mixtapes are constantly being released as free promotional tools.  And, along with the albums – even if they’re exclusively released online – comes cover art, the frontline of mixtape advertising, and the embodiment of the creative process behind hip hop glamour.

The best mixtape cover artists are not unlike old school Hollywood photographers à la Geoge Hurrell, using the tricks of the working artist’s trade to raise their subject matter to incredible heights. Both are the architects behind a very specific story of glamour, both depict worlds so perfectly enchanted that they could only be the products of imagination.

Mixtapecoverclassic Anatomy of a Mixtape Cover

The typical mixtape cover includes elements like piles of money glowing softly along the bottom edge of the design, and a city skyline in the background, often at sunset, often with birds taking flight in the distance.

In between we find hot cars, beautiful women, cool shades, and massive bling that would definitely look tacky if it wasn’t being worn so audaciously.

But beyond these material trappings, we find the true genius of the cover artists in the idealization of their subjects. The rappers and DJs featured on mixtape covers, famous or not, are portrayed as superheroes, heads of state, gods and goddesses, and otherworldly beings capable of holding this world in the palms of their hands.

All this opulence and braggadocio is the more glamorous, because it’s purely the stuff of dreams. The mixtape cover is little more than the desires of the musicians themselves, assembled by cover designers in Photoshop, constructed to sell an idea in the hopes of making it a reality.

The Facts Behind the Fantasy

The truth is that the entire glamour of the endlessly wealthy, powerful, and indulgent hip hop world is a story created by designers sitting behind desks, splicing together this publicity photo and that stock image of a Ferrari, or a set of wings, or a helicopter. Rappers that have never met are cut and pasted together, sometimes heads are placed on different bodies.

Mixtapecovermoney The mixtape cover is a contrivance of such epic proportions because mixtapes are created by musicians releasing material to create hype, not to make a million bucks. This means that there’s never the cash, or the time, to actually assemble the DJs and emcees involved for a photo shoot, complete with props and costumes and dancing girls.

And so the whole thing is made up. And the beauty of it is that hip hop glamour only becomes a reality if it can first sell the fact of its existence. The artists are often just as desperate for the fantasy to become real as are the fans gazing up at posters on our bedroom ceilings.

Rappers and DJs may be the antithesis of the Golden Age cinema goddesses who once defined glamour, but they are pop culture’s new school, and that means a whole new kind of glammer.

This new incarnation can be over the top and often crass, but it’s also mythic in narrative and proportion, magical in its ability to embody the exoticism of the mundane, and unapologetically enamored with fabulousness. Who among us can ask for more glamour than that?

All mixtape cover art provided by graphic designer Glen Infante of Hotcards.com.