I love you to death!

Laura Macfehin looks at the horror flicks that best fit your every Valentine’s Day mood.

OK, so I’m a little biased in that I truly believe every holiday is made better with a horror film, but I think that a very strong case can be made for horror being the perfect Valentine’s Day match. 

Sure on the surface a Rom-Com might seem more appropriate– but I think we all know that these are by and large a tissue of lies and un-meetable expectations that do nothing for real-life romance except set us up for at best disappointment and at worst the inability to differentiate between romance and disturbing stalker behaviour.

Horror, on the other hand delivers no matter what your Valentine’s needs may be.  For those in a new relationship there is nothing more bonding than sharing a scare or discussing how you would have avoided the slasher’s axe. 

For those jaded with romance or happily dating yourself in a world obsessed with hetero pair bonding, what could be more cathartic than seeing young love literally getting its heart ripped out. 

And for those soft souls in a committed relationship with their beloved only horror provides stories of romance that defy time and space to endure.

Scream if you want to go faster!

If you’re on the new relationship buzz one of the best things you can do is watch a good old fashioned slasher flick.  You’ll be jumping into each others arms in no time! There are obviously plenty to choose from but some that  that might work particularly well are–

Urban Legend (1998)

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Although it’s not specifically Valentine’s Day themed it is one of the best slasher films of the 90s.  Students at a New England university start popping off in ways that suspiciously mirror the eponymous legends. 

It’s got a bit of the meta po-mo self-reflexiveness made popular by the Scream movies but it is also just great slasher flick.  The formula was at its peak here and a good time via a nostalgic trip back to the simpler late 1990s is guaranteed.

If you want to see all those horror tropes in their original incarnations then you have to travel back to the early 80s.  My Bloody Valentine (1981) hasn’t been lauded like other films in the genre–  movies like Friday the 13th (1980) or Halloween (1978) but its a great little picture. 

Twenty years after a Valentines Day dance is turned into a massacre by a traumatised miner the town decides to party again… with deadly consequences! 

Sure it might not be that scary to our 21st century eyes but it is set in Valentines Bluff on Valentines Day so you can’t get more on theme than that.

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Also with an on-the-nose Valentine’s theme is Hospital Massacre (1981) aka X-Ray aka Be My Valentine, Or Else…  In the same ‘killer returns’ mode Hospital Massacre features a woman who in her youth spurns a would-be valentine.  Twenty years later and– you guessed it– he’s back and still wants to claim her heart!

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In a similar vein but as yet un-viewed by me are Lover’s Lane (1999) and Valentine (2001).  The latter stars David Boreanaz of Angel fame and Denise Richards, and both films look trashy as all get out which is a bonus for me– the trashier the slashier in my books.

Love is for losers

In more recent years we’ve had a bevy of horror features with a somewhat more cynical take on romance and dating, so if that’s your current feels there are some fabulous films supporting that mood!

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You’re Next (2011) is still one of my favourite horrors to come out in the past ten years.  Centred around the already fraught ‘meeting the parents’ scenario You’re Next makes the idea that love is a trap literal with stellar turns from aussie Sharni Vinson and horror icon Barbara Crampton.  If you’ve ever shouted at characters not to be so stupid you’ll find this flick a very satisfying watch!

There are more aussies highlighting the dark side of love in The Loved Ones (2009).  When troubled but spunky teen Brent turns down Lola Stone’s invitation to a dance (he already has a girlfriend after all) Lola enlists her dad’s help to make her prom dreams come true– with decidedly twisted results.  It may seem odd to call something so gut-roiling ‘refreshing’ but The Loved Ones really is, and not just because its a gender-flip on the usual spurned-dork-becomes-killer storyline.  They are thrills and gore a-plenty here.

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If you’ve had first hand experience with gaslighting, belittling and other bullshit behaviour then last year’s Midsommar (2019)  is for you.  An American college student tags along with her (obviously the worst) boyfriend and his friends on a trip to a secretive Swedish commune.  Yes there are a couple of shocks along the way but cartharsis is the name of the game here and sometimes you need a good slap in the face.  

See also May (2002), Teeth (2007), Jennifer’s Body (2009), and Get Out (2017) 

Gothic Romance

It’s not all romance gone bad in horror films though– in fact some of the most romantic storylines (in my slightly gothy brain anyway) are contained in horror scripts.  So if you’re a loved up softy then horror is still the greatest genre to with which to celebrate.

I may have been at a somewhat formative stage when Francis Ford Coppola brought out his version of Dracula (1992), but I still think Gary Oldman’s Count is the most romantic to have graced the silver screen.  You couldn’t be an angsty teen in the early 90s and not swoon when he says this to Winona Ryder.

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To be fair by the time Coppola made his gothic period piece my penchant for creepy re-vivified ancient lovers had already been established by Boris Karloff’s role in The Mummy (1932).  Everything in this film is beautiful, from Jack Pierce’s masterful monster makeup to the romantic love that would bring Imhotep back from the dead looking for his re-incarnated princess.

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Ok it may seem like I’m just sticking this last one in here because I like to put Poltergeist (1982) on every list I make, but I genuinely think of this as a very romantic film.  Unlike a lot of horrors in which a family is divided by a paranormal experience, the Freeling’s stick together.  Ultimately it is the strength of their love and in particular Steve’s confidence in his wife that allows her to rescue her daughter and protect their little family and, corny as it sounds, that seems really romantic to me.

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For other genuinely romantic films see also: The Conjuring (2013), and The Lost Boys (1987),

So what do think?  Is horror the perfect accompaniment to Valentine’s Day?  What will you be watching?

Do you remember rock ‘n’ roll radio? An interview with Retrogasmic podcast host D.D Deluxe

Time to grab a cocktail, turn on the wireless and join D.D Deluxe and fellow Retrogasmic podcast host, Hettie La Bombe for a groovy trip back in time.

Think of it as your very own space-time portal to all things retro, vintage and kitsch. The Retrogasmic podcast, brought to you by New Zealand retronauts D.D. Deluxe (and sometimes the lovely Hettie LaBombe), beams you straight into a world inhabited by retro style, classic cars, B-movies, pin-up girls, vintage fashion, intoxicating music (think rare blues, rockabilly and even old punk rock) plus a selection of very, very cool guests.

There’s a regular vintage trivia quiz and a whole lot of laughs along the way. You can even hitch a ride as the hosts try to track down their elusive roaming retro reporter in “Where’s Winki??”.

The award-winning podcast (named “Top Vintage Podcast 2019” by Feedspot) was born in early 2019 when the hosts, fresh from touring the country with their rockabilly band Boom! Boom! Deluxe came up with the idea of creating a podcast to unite the different segments of the retro scene they’d encountered while on tour.

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You’re originally from the United Kingdom, how did you wash up in Aotearoa?

Born and bred in London, but in 2005 decided I was due for a change.  I’d been a professional musician most of my life but for the last few years of the 90s and early 2000s I’d somehow managed to get married (surprised anyone would have me LOL) and have a daughter so it was time to do a job that actually made some cash.

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I bought a bankrupt printing company, slowly turned it into a small advertising/branding agency and with a bit of luck managed to do OK.

However, there is only so long you can work 60 hour weeks so we sold everything, jumped on a plane and decided Auckland was a better place to bring up a child than the joyous suburban nightmare that was West London. Wasn’t an easy thing to do but have never regretted it.

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For those that haven’t yet tuned in, how would you sum up the Retrogasmic podcast in a nutshell?

Your very own space-time portal to all things vintage, retro and kitsch!

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How did the idea for the podcast come about?

Having toured New Zealand for a year in Boom! Boom! Deluxe Hettie and I were amazing at how many “retro” groups there were around NZ; Car clubs, Hot rods, pin-ups, burlesque, old movie fans, Rock n Roll and Swing dancers, vintage lifestyle/furniture people, vintage bakers even, but everyone seemed to be happy staying in their own little corner, no-one seemed to collaborate which seems crazy!

The odd event like The Very Vintage Day out, Beach Hop and Rockabilly Show & Shine temporarily gets a lot of these people in the same place but then it reverts to little pockets again.  We decided a podcast would be a great way to start letting everyone know about all the other aspect of Retro fandom going on and hopefully start building more of a NZ “scene”.

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How do you come up with the programme for each show?

Quite often we’ve found an interesting person to talk to, so the interview will be almost half the show, but we’ve had a music licence for the last year now so we always include a (we hope) great variety of music too, everything from rare blues songs from the 1920 right up to punk and funk from the 70’s. 

Our “era is basically post first world war through to the end of the 70’s.  We try to keep it fast paced and funny! We’ve also got a few recurring features like the vintage trivia and “Where’s Winki”, our lunatic roving reporter who somehow can just tells us what’s she’s doing there and then and is hysterical!

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How long does it take to put together?

Once the interviews are recorded, and all the songs are chosen, the editing, and production can take anywhere from 5-10 hours depending upon the content. We try really hard to keep the quality of each show as high as possible.

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What is your most popular broadcast so far?

Episode 4 features a great interview with my old mate Glen Matlock – former bass player and major songwriter with punk legends The Sex pistols.  We were in a band together for a while and both support the same football team so keep in touch and he was an obvious choice to talk to once the show started.

He’s a great lad and funny too – if you’re a Pistols fan have a listen because he tells some really funny stories about some of the stuff the band got up to that I’m sure not a lot of people know about!  That episode has had about 5 times the streams of any other!

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What is one of your most memorable interviews and why?

Hmmm, difficult because we’ve talked to so many incredible people.  The debut show featured the amazing Fran Robertson, who had just won Miss Viva Las Vegas pin up  – basically the Mss World of pin up competitions, and her back story was both heart-breaking and inspiring.

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We spoke to pin up Monique Sweet who was caught in the terrible Christchurch earthquake, literally buried, until a brave passer by risked his life to venture into the fallen building and start to dig her out.  Incredible.

We interviewed Bettie Page biographer Tori Rodriguez a few months ago as well as Bettie Page’s nephew Ron – that was fascinating hearing first hand what she was like and how she survived an incredibly difficult life. I could go on – we also chat to emerging bands from around the world that are playing retro inspired music so we’ve had some really cool music!

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What do you enjoy most about making a podcast?

Having an excuse to go up to really interesting people and say “can I talk to you for 20 minutes please?” And playing music that I love that quite often most people won’t have heard of – for example we did a show on ‘Group Sounds’ – late 1960’s Japanese psychedelic Rock, it’s brilliant!

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How do you promote yourself?

We ask nicely!  Every show has a sign off asking people to leave us a review or share the pod.  It’s hard because every show and band asks this, but people have been very supportive so far.  We occasionally run adverts if a show has a really niche theme, and we of course share the shows in the relevant retro groups on FB, Reddit etc. The promotion adds about another 20% in time to each show I guess.

We were really lucky that in 2018 we were awarded “Top Vintage Podcast 2019” by Feedspot a big podcast website – that almost doubled our listenership overnight, especially in the USA.  It’s great looking at the stats and seeing that people in the US, UK, Germany, Sweden, Australia japan and Norway all tune in regularly!  I often wonder if they can understand my cockney accent hahahaha.

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What are some podcasts you love to listen to and that inspire you?

I mainly listen to comedy podcasts like “Athletic Mince” or “RHLSTP” and I dip in and out of some of the science ones too. I find that some of the bigger American pods are full of adverts and the hosts tend to just waffle one, and it becomes more about them than the thing they are talking about. I figure if people have tuned into our show they want to be entertained while they commute or have a bath or whatever, so the last thing they want to hear is some cockney rattling on about what he had for breakfast or something!

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What do you do when you’re not making podcasts?

Wonder how I’m going to pay the bills, same as everyone else!  Seriously, the podcast isn’t cheap to produce – we’ve been very lucky to have http://www.Rosemary.nz, a lovely lady that hand makes incredible retro bowling shirts as our sponsor, she’s really helped, and a couple of other sponsors along the way including a few from America.

Apart from that we are pretty much constantly gigging around New Zealand with Boom! Boom! Deluxe – we released our second album of original material earlier this year and we’ve just dropped single number five from that record (available on Spotify, CD and vinyl folks!) so we’ve been crazy busy – gigs basically pay our bills.

Next year in May we are touring Japan and also hope to get over and play a few festivals in Australia too. Me and Hettie both teach a Japanese martial art called Aikido too, we have our own dojo here at Deluxe Mansions in Silverdale. Sometimes we literally don’t get a day off for months but at least we are doing things we love!  I’ll rest when I’m dead.

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Thanks for having me – your lovely readers can check out the podcast, for free at www.retrogasmic.com/listen-to-the-show

 

The Art of the Answer Song

Oh answer song, why do I love you so?  The sixties were undoubtedly a great time for pop music… one of the great celebrations of teenage angst where pop stars were able to create these great mythic landscapes where star-crossed lovers lived out extended dramas involving heartbreak, parental disapproval and gory and/or fiery deaths.  The answer song allowed these fantasies to be extended beyond their natural three-minute life span.

Of course it started before the 60s– there are probably some snappy 18th Century broadsheets spilling some sassy replies to popular ballads of the day.  But certainly by the first half of the twentieth century folks were hearing a hit and chiming in with their two cents worth.  Thus when Big Mama Thornton sang “Hound Dog” and it stuck around at number one on the record charts Sam Phillips got local DJ and Memphis celebrity Rufus Thomas to answer back with “Bear Cat“, which got to number three but nearly bankrupted the label with a copyright-infringement suit.

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Big Mama Thornton

Some songs were so popular they spawned multiple replies.  “Get a Job” by doo-wop group The Silhouettes must have really hit a nerve because it got several replies– The Miracles and The Tempos both declared “I got a Job“, while The Heartbeats sang “I Found a Job” and The Mistakes energetically declared “I got Fired“.

 

Often times the answer song was a ‘right of reply’ type of affair when the original seemed a little unbalanced.  One of my favourites of this type is by The Teen Queens (of “Eddie, My Love” fame) who answered Bobby Marchan’s somewhat creepy revenge song “There’s Something on Your Mind” with their straight up “There’s Nothing on My Mind

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The Teen Queens

Whether it was LaVern Baker propositioning Elvis the Pelvis or Ginger Davis putting down Dion’s put-downs answer songs were often a welcome comeback in a time with such rigid gender roles.

You could even reply to your own song– The Bobbettes did so well with their song “Mr Lee” (apparently about a Maths teacher they didn’t particularly like– the record company made them re-write the original lyrics dissing the teacher) they followed it up with “I Shot Mr Lee” (I guess he hadn’t gone up in their estimation in the meantime).  Their last hit was also an answer song– this time a reply to Chris Kenner’s “I Like it Like That” pointedly called “I Don’t Like it Like That”

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The fabulous Lesley Gore also answered her own songs– most successfully with the sad story of “It’s My Party (and I’ll Cry If I Want to)” which she updated with the wonderfully bitchy “Judy’s Turn to Cry“.  These songs were firmly in the world of teenage drama and high stakes necking/partying/exchanging of rings but the weren’t the full melodrama of the teenage death song.

That tragic sub-genre held the likes of “Teen-Angel” “Leader of the Pack” “Give Us Your Blessing” and “Ebony Eyes” and for myself the crossover between answer song and teenage death song in this pinnacle of both sub-genres.

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Lesley Gore

I can’t remember the first time I heard “Tell Laura I Love Her” but I certainly heard it many times over the years sung at me by the parents and older siblings of friends.  Even through the cringing self-consciousness of adolescence I loved the song with its dark romantic story of death at the race track.

It was almost inevitable that an answer song would be penned in response to Ray Peterson’s over the top ballad, but it wasn’t until I heard Skeeter Davis singing the tearful-prayerful reply that I really fell in love.

Skeeter Davis had already made several answer songs that were more in the country music line– her songs “I Can’t Help You (I’m Falling to)” and “Lost to a Geisha Girl” were both answers to Hank Locklin songs, and “I Really Want You to Know” was a reply to Eddy Arnold’s “I Really Don’t Want to Know”.

“Tell Tommy I Miss Him” was a Marilyn Michaels song, and it was also recorded by Laura Lee but is Skeeter Davis who does the song full justice for me.  Her voice has that suggestion of a catch, that suppressed sob while at the same time the strength and resolution that perfectly delivers the melodrama of the song.  It is the same quality that makes “The End of The World” everybody’s favourite heartbreak.

Answer songs didn’t end with the sixties of course– but to my mind it remains the golden age of this art form.  But tell me– what is your favourite musical comeback?

 

Classic Beach Reads to Revisit

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“Indian summer is like a woman. Ripe, hotly passionate, but fickle, she comes and goes as she pleases so that one is never sure whether she will come at all, nor for how long she will stay.” 
― Grace Metalious, Peyton Place

In 1956 the book that would spawn nine sequels, two movies, two television series and two made for television features came out and immediately shot to the top of the New York Times Bestseller List where it stayed for fifty-nine weeks.  The heady mix of lust, adultery, murder, incest and abortion set in the strait-laced New England town was an instant success, selling sixty thousand copies in the first ten days of its release.

Being regularly banned only helped secure its place as a guilty pleasure.  It has inspired everyone from Jacqueline Susann to John Waters.  Read it for the ‘good bits’ left out by the cleaned up film version, and because as Vanity Fair writer Michael Callahan puts it it’s “a cultural bitch slap at the duplicitous notions of proper conduct in the age of Eisenhower“.

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“I bet the pill is harder to get than drugs–which shows how screwed up this world really is!” 
― Beatrice Sparks, Go Ask Alice

Before your insta-chats and snap-webs, when phones were attached to walls and therefore couldn’t come to school with you, books like this were what got passed around at lunch time.  Published anonymously as the real diary of a TROUBLED fifteen-year old who falls in with a BAD CROWD and succumbs to DRUGS, Go Ask Alice was in fact penned by Mormon counsellor Beatrice Sparks.  Sparks published a whole slew of teenage diary books around issues like teen pregnancy, homelessness and eating disorders.  Read it for the nostalgia hit or if you’re parents just won’t stop yacking and listen to the kids for once, man.

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“Elaine Conti awoke in her luxurious bed in her luxurious Beverly Hills mansion, pressed a button to open the electrically controlled drapes, and was confronted by the sight of a young man clad in a white T-shirt and dirty jeans pissing a perfect arc into her mosaic-tiled swimming pool.”  ― Jackie Collins, Hollywood Wives

Jackie Collins, sister of Joan and queen of the trash (novel) got her big break with her ninth book Hollywood Wives in 1983.  The book, which looks at the lives of Hollywood hostesses, stars and starlets has sold over fifteen million copies and was turned into the most successful mini series of the 80s by super producer Aaron Spelling.

Read it for the glitz, the sex and to try to figure out who the who the real life inspiration for the characters are!

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“Nothing is whole, not for too damned long. The world is half night.” 
― Peter Straub, Mystery
Mystery is the middle volume in Peter Straub’s weird Blue Rose trilogy, a thriller series that hovers somewhere between detective fiction and horror and is like nothing else you’ll read.  Despite being published as a trilogy the books are all stand alone works that cross paths only tangentially.  It came out in 1990, won the Bram Stoker Award in 1993, and continues be one of his most popular books.
Set on the Caribbean  island of Mill Pond, teenage sleuth Tom Pasmore investigates a historic murder case with the help of elderly neighbour and ex-celebrated detective Lamont von Heilitz.  At over five hundred pages Mystery is the perfect book to fill empty days at a bach with– just add a hammock and you’ve got the perfect holiday read.

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“There were shadows in the corners and whispers on the stairs and time was as irrelevant as honesty.” 
― V.C. Andrews, My Sweet Audrina

The only stand alone novel in V.C. Andrew’s oeuvre, My Sweet Audrina is an insane (even by her standards) mix of rape, hauntings, multiple falling-downstairs-accidents (in fact the same stairs), diabetes and brittle bone disease.  No, seriously.

Although many V.C. Andrews’ books were ghostwritten, this 1982 masterpiece of trashtastic madness is definitely from her own hand.  Her hugely popular books make the phrase ‘guilty pleasure’ kind of redundant– just embrace the magic and go with it.

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“Helen Lawson: They drummed you out of Hollywood, so you come crawling back to Broadway. But Broadway doesn’t go for booze and dope. Now get out of my way, I’ve got a man waiting for me.” 
― Jacqueline Susann, Valley of the Dolls

It’s no secret that we at Eclectic Ladyland love Valley of the Dolls.  And we are far from alone– the novel was the best-selling book of 1966 and has since sold over thirty-one million copies.  Jacqueline Susann wrote what she knew– a stage and television actress she filled her books with show bizz types so familiar many assumed the book to be a Roman à clef .

Valley of the Dolls follows three friends through the trials and tribulations of Broadway and Hollywood and their increasing dependence on speed and tranquillisers– the eponymous dolls.  The book was adapted for the big screen in 1967 and the resulting film starring Patty Duke, Susan Hayward and Sharon Tate helped seal its place as a cultural artefact of high camp.

Fun fact— Jacqueline Susann had met Grace Metalious, author of previous trash hit Peyton Place when the latter was interviewed for television by Mike Wallace.  Minutes before the interview Metalious’s girdle broke and Susann who was working in the studio apparently helped her out– although exactly we may never know!

 

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“Which one of you bitches is my mother?” 
― Shirley Conran, Lace

 

That is the line that confronts the three central characters of Lace— Shirley Conran’s 1982 scandalous classic.  Filled to the brim with sex, bitchiness, and female desire the book has remained extremely popular.  It was adapted into a fabulous mini-series (with Phoebe Cates) in 1984 and was re-issued on its thirtieth anniversary, at which time The Guardian described it as a “feminist bonkfest”.

Read it for the high-class bitchery and remember how much it actually celebrates female friendship and sexual agency.

As always– one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, and what may be denounced as low-brow entertainment in one era, can be another era’s celebrated classic.  Don’t feel guilty in your pleasures– literary or otherwise– whether you’re lazing on a beach or wishing you were.  As Shirley Conran once said– “Life’s too short to stuff a mushroom” .

Art Attack: An interview with Neryl Walker

Melbourne-based artist, illustrator and designer Neryl Walker is all about girls! girls! girls!

Neryl Walker has women on the brain! Whether it’s sultry semi-nude ladies draped languidly over sofas, beehived beauties rocking out on guitars, or buxom broads dressed in pussycat outfits – she draws them all!

Hers is a distinctive style which recalls commercial illustration from decades past but has a dash of rock’n’ roll as well as a B-grade retro bent.

Her work reminds me a little of Shag– a contemporary of hers. Both artists have exhibited at Melbourne-based Outre Gallery, the home of contemporary lowbrow, pop surrealism, and underground art.

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The Australian artist makes no secret of her love of mid-century pop culture–which seeps into her artwork in the form of vintage pyrex dishes, anodised atomic planters and kitsch Vladimir Tretchikoff prints.
Her home, which she shares with her art director husband Tim and ‘mermaid’ daughter Ivy, is packed with vintage curios and flea market finds including mid-century modern furniture, kitsch prints, vintage graphics and typography, packaging, signage, girlie magazines, records, books and vintage toys.

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When she’s not doodling away in her sketchbook, she plays guitar in a 60s garage rock’n’roll band or you can find her at the vintage markets hunting down her latest score.

Want to find out more about Neryl? Read on….

 

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You’re an artist, illustrator and graphic designer – which came first?

I think ‘artist’ encompasses all of my creative outlets. I studied Graphic Design at Curtin University WA with a minor in Illustration so I guess technically that came first.

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Were you always creative as a youngster?

Yes I was always drawing. I grew up in a small country town so having a good imagination was key!

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How would you describe your particular aesthetic?

Definitely vintage and mid-century inspired.

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What is it about retro ladies that makes you love to draw them?

I just love 50, 60s, and 70s style, the fashion, big hair, the music, the dancing. What’s not to love!

 

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What are your creative inspirations and influences?

A myriad of art and music. My daughter. My partner and I are also big collectors. I love things that have had a life already and a story to tell.

 

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What are some of your career highlights so far?

Illustrating Bare Escentual’s ‘Buxom Lips’ lip gloss range. I created over 100 different girls for 100 different shades of lip gloss. Dream job.

I’m also collaborating on a new project called Modnlovr with my partner Tim Haynes. We’ve designed a mid century inspired range of planters. We’re launching in the United States soon so I’m super excited about that.

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Tell me about the process involved in making each of your artworks…

It always starts with sketching an idea on paper. I usually scan this and work on colour in Photoshop. Then I am back to hand drawing a more finished version to scan back in to the computer to rework, adding texture and layers.

 

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What materials do you use? And how long does each work take to finish?

My illustration work is hand drawn and/or painted, then scanned and built in Photoshop. The length of time is normally dictated by a deadline. My artwork for group and solo shows is usually hand painted acrylic on paper, canvas or plywood.

It really does depend the size and detail as to how long each artwork takes. Some works fall easily into place while others are still sitting half baked in my studio.

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What do you enjoy most about what you do?

Working for myself and setting my own hours. That said, I probably work more than a regular ‘9 to 5 er’ but I’d say that is the case for most people running their own business.

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How has your techniques/ subject matter evolved over time?

The computer has really changed the way I work. When I first started illustration I would mail the original painted artwork to the client which they would then scan at their end. To be able to scan my own work, change colours on screen and email an illustration was a game changer.

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You play in a garage rock band, can you tell us more about that?

I’ve played guitar and bass in a couple of rock ’n roll bands, mostly for kicks. I see it as another creative outlet.

It came out of a DIY situation where a group friends were hanging out and learning to play, literally in the garage.

I love the creative collaboration of rehearsing with a group as opposed to being an artist which is an often solitary pursuit.

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Who are some of your customers/ clients?
I have customers all over the world that buy my prints but the majority come from the USA and Australia. I am represented by Snyder New York in the USA and Jacky Winter in Australia, so most of my client work comes from those regions. My client list includes: Bare Escentuals, Seafolly, Angostura, Stella Artois, Chronicle Books, Hardie Grant, Bloom Cosmetics, and Ena Products.

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Where can people learn more about your work or purchase their own pieces?

Instagram: @nerylwalker

Modnlover Instagram: @modnlovr

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The Curse of Valentino’s Ring

Rudolph Valentino had the world at his feet when the star of the silver screen met an untimely death.  But did a mysterious ring and it’s supposed curse send him sooner to his grave? 

Laura Macfehin looks at the legend of the so-called ‘ring of destiny’ and the troubled lives of the people caught in its curse!

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The Star

By the time Rudolph Valentino came to Hollywood he had already left two lives behind.  In 1913 he arrived at Ellis Island as a teenager alone, leaving behind a doting mother in Italy, a certificate in agricultural studies he had no interest in using and the memory of a disapproving father.

In New York he waited tables and eventually became a taxi dancer (also called tango pirates) at Maxim’s.  His good looks made him a favourite amongst the older ladies that were his clientele, and he started a relationship with the Chilean heiress Blanca de Saulles. 

This tumultuous friendship saw Valentino testify in court at their divorce proceedings as to Mr de Saulles infidelity, after which de Saulles had Valentino arrested on trumped up vice charges.  When Blanca then shot her ex husband after he refused her court appointed custody rights, Valentino, fearing he would be called to testify again, left the East coast in a hurry.

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Mrs Blanca De Saulles

In sunny Hollywood Valentino began his third life– quickly gaining work in the burgeoning movie business.  He secured his first leading role in The Four Horseman of the Apocalypse in 1921, which was a huge success.  It was The Sheik, however, filmed that same year that cemented his sex symbol status as a ‘Latin Lover’.

Men and women alike found his presence on-screen mesmerising, and the studios capitalised on this with films like Blood and Sand  and The Cobra.  He was at the height of his popularity when, on a break from shooting in San Francisco he spotted a ring in the window of an antique store.

It was a large signet ring with a tiger’s eye set in gold.  The shop owner was reluctant to sell it Valentino, telling him it was jinxed, and describing it somewhat ostentatiously as ‘the ring of destiny’.  Valentino bought it on the spot.

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The Curse

He used it as part of his costume in his next film, The Young Rajah, which was a flop at the box office, and thinking of what the shop keeper had told him he put the ring away.  He got it out again though some years later to wear in The Son of the Sheik.

Shortly after filming had finished on the film Valentino collapsed in New York, where he was operated on for perforated gastric ulcers.  The doctors gave him a good prognosis but shockingly just a week later he died of peritonitis.  He was 31.

 

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Pola Negri supported by friends at the funeral of Rudolph Valentino.

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His death caused a wave of hysterical grief across the United States, and at the centre of this maelstrom was his then girlfriend, actress Pola Negri.

Although Valentino had been seeing at least one other woman at the time, Negri insisted that she was the fiancee, and rode in be-veiled state in the funeral wagon that took Valentino’s body by rail back to California, stopping at every small town along the way so that mourning fans could pay their respects.

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Fans line the streets to witness Valentino’s funeral cortege.

As well as taking centre stage, Negri also took the jinxed ring as something of Valentino’s estate to remember him by.

After nine months she had recovered herself enough to marry a Georgian “prince” Serge Mdivani.  She suffered a miscarriage, something she mourned the rest of her life, and the marriage quickly faltered too.

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The Crooner

In 1932, Negri was performing with a young crooner named Russ Colombo.  Negri was struck by his resemblance to her former lover, and gave Colombo the tiger eye ring as a token of her affection.

She was not the only one to make the comparison– the baritone was known as ‘Radio’s Valentino’ not just because of his physical likeness to the silent movie star but also because the romantic image his crooning love songs gave him.

He and Negri parted ways, but the ring went with Colombo as his star rose.

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In 1934 he was at the height of his popularity with hits such as “You Call it Madness (But I Call It Love)” and “Too Beautiful For Words”.  The latter he had written for the beautiful blonde star he was in love with– Carole Lombard.

She returned his love, and on September 2nd 1934 had a dinner date with him planned.  In the day time he visited his good friend, photographer Lansing Brown.  He was wearing the ring.

Lansing Brown had a collection of antique firearms, and he was fooling with a duelling pistol while the friends sat in the library.  Unexpectedly the gun went off in his hands and a fragment of shot ricocheted off a table and hit Colombo above the left eye.  He died in hospital at age 26.

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Lombard and Colombo

Colombo’s siblings, fearing what the shock would do to their mother, who was at the time hospitalised with heart failure, maintained the fiction of Colombo being alive for the next ten years, Lombard herself helping by sending letters to the older lady she penned herself under Colombo’s name.

Little did anyone know Lombard herself would die a tragic death just eight years later when a plane crash would leave Clark Gable her grieving widower in 1942.

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In the mean time, the ring went to Colombo’s good friend, fellow entertainer Joe casino.  Wary of the ring’s reputation as a bringer of bad luck, Casino kept the ring locked up in a glass case in his house.  After a while though he let friends convince him the curse was just superstition, and he took the ring out of its case and began to wear it.  A week later, the car Casino was driving was hit by a truck and he was killed instantly.

Del Casino, Joe’s brother, then inherited the ring.  He scoffed at the curse being nothing but coincidence and bad luck, and made a show of wearing it with no ill effect.  He lent it to a Valentino impersonator, who also suffered no bad consequences, leading one newspaper columnist to print that there was no curse on the ring.

Shortly after this a burglar named Joe Willis was accidentally shot by police fleeing Del Casino’s home– the ring was found in his pocket.

The Skater

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In 1938, producer Edward Small was working on a biopic of Rudolph Valentino.  For the main part he had in mind a young english man named Jack Dunn.  Dunn had been a world medallist in ice skating, until he quit his skating career in the hope of following his former girlfriend Sonja Henie onto a career on screen.

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In 1938 Dunn had already starred in one film, Everybody’s Girl, and had been cast in the lead of another, The Duke of Westpoint, when he was asked to screen test for the role of Rudolph Valentino.

The producer borrowed actual items from Valentino’s wardrobe to dress Dunn up in, and he borrowed the ring from Casino to complete the look.  Dressed as The Sheik, Dunn made a very convincing Valentino, and everyone agreed the test went very well.

Work done Dunn went with some friends on a hunting trip in Texas.  He was a novice hunter, and it is not thought he even did any shooting, and yet a week later he had died from the rare blood disease tularemia, possibly from handling a dead rabbit.  He was 21.

 

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After this, Del Casino decided to err on the side of caution, and had the ring locked up in a bank vault in downtown Los Angeles, where it remains to this day.  So far, no-one else has experienced any weird effects from the tiger eye ‘ring of destiny’.

The bank has perhaps suffered more than its fair share of robberies, strikes and other disruptions though.  After a heist that went spectacularly wrong the leader of the gang responsible supposedly said they never would have hit that particular bank if they had known what was in its vaults.

The curse sleeps?

Does the curse persist?  Did it ever exist?  The portrait above by Federico Beltrán Masses, which features Valentino with a guitar and Negri wearing the ring, was sold last September in London for NZ$285,444.  Masses, who knew the couple and painted many Hollywood stars likely incorporated the ring in his composition because he knew it added to the allure of their story– which is after all the flip side to any cursed object.

The Handmade’s Tale: Little M Creates

Welcome to the sixth installment of The Handmade’s Tale! This week Natasha meets British-based jewellery maker, Little M Creates.

Ever hankered for a brooch featuring Vladmir Tretchikoff’s iconic green lady? Or fancy having Bette Davis’ terrifying visage (circa What Happened to Baby Jane?) swinging from your earlobes?

If quirky statement jewellery is up your alley, you’ll be hooked on the whimsical creations of Michasia Stevens aka ‘Mimi’ of Little M Creates.

The UK-based jewellery queen describes her style as “DIY punk meets drag queen” and  her aesthetic’s all about camp kitsch for pop culture junkies!

“[My jewellery] is unisex, inexpensive and most importantly fun! I like to think that whenever someone wears one of my pieces they are smiling and having a bit of nostalgia trip!”

Mimi, who graduated from Plymouth College of Art in 2009 with a BA Hons fashion degree, has always loved fashion and is a self-confessed magpie.

The crazy cat lady (with no cats) loves nothing better than raiding charity shops for bargains, “honestly my house is full of figurines and random bits that take ages to dust!” 

Read on to find out more!

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How long have you been making jewellery? Were you always creative/ crafty as a youngster?

I’ve been making jewellery for as long as I can remember, me and my sisters were always very crafty growing up, we had a cupboard full of paper, pens and other bits and pieces and could usually be found drawing things or doing random projects.

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Originally fashion was always my thing, I was always designing and graduated with a BA Hons fashion degree in 2009 but never ended up pursuing it further as I kinda lost the passion and have no patience.

I’ve been making jewellery for a living for three years now which I still find quite unbelievable as I never imagined that it would take off like it has!

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How would you describe your aesthetic?

My aesthetic is camp kitsch for lovers of pop culture! Its unisex, inexpensive and most importantly fun! I like to think that whenever someone wears one of my pieces they are smiling and having a bit of nostalgia trip!

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The Bronte Sisters (minus Anne)

Why the fascination with glitter?

I just think glitter is fun! It’s a bit of a childish throwback and it makes the details in the drawings pop against different fabric so its functional too!

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Nick Cave on fluffiness- can’t go wrong really!

What are your creative inspirations?

I mostly draw on the old TV shows and movies my Dad used to make us watch; things like Hi-de-Hi, Dad’s Army, Allo Allo and Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em which I think I hated at first but really learnt to love.

I’ve always loved ’70s and ’80s music too so that turns out some great ideas!

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How has your taste and work evolved over time?

I think the quality and size of my drawing has evolved, at first my pieces where simple block style but I’ve been getting better at mixing in more detail recently.

As with anything you learn as you go along and learn better processes/products to use. I think my confidence has grown too and I’m less afraid to try out new ideas.

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Fresh batch of Vampira pins!

I’m very lucky to have some great friends on Instagram that are always suggesting characters so they widen my horizons when it comes to new character ideas.

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Carmen Miranda necklace with gold chain.

What’s the first piece you remember making?

Oh, I love this story..and its basically how Little M started! My friend Debbie was having a really tough time with things and I wanted to do something to cheer her up, because no one likes seeing their bestie upset.

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Anyway, I happened to have some shrink plastic in my crafty bits so I decided to make her a pair Chas and Dave earrings (she’s a massive fan) as a bit of a joke to make her laugh, she posted a picture on Instagram and I got people asking if I could make them a set, she then gave me counter space in her vintage shop and it escalated from there!

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Are you mainly making brooches or do you make other pieces as well?

I make necklaces and earrings too, but brooches sell the most, I think its because they are so easy to wear.

It’s so easy to add a brooch to an outfit and I know lots of people who find earrings harder to wear so I always make the characters available in all styles so they can choose which one they prefer.

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Vincent Price pin

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Portrait of Diana Dors- the British answer to Marilyn Monroe.

A sneaky hint too is brooch converters! that way you get a brooch and a necklace in one!

What are your top sellers?

I get phases where certain characters are popular but steady top sellers are Rik and Vyv from the Young Ones, Patsy and Eddie from Absolutely Fabulous and Bette Davis from Whatever happened to Baby Jane? 

I think it’s because they are such iconic faces and they are known and loved around the world.

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Anna May Wong portrait brooch

Are the majority of orders custom made/ one offs?

I’ve found that custom orders are becoming a very important part of my business and the amount I do has increased since I started.

I genuinely love doing them too because most of the time they are people I’d never think of doing or people I’d never heard of so I end up learning something new! 

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I branched into portrait pieces and have even made a necklace to commemorate someones beloved dog which was a massive honor, to be asked to make something that important really did mean a lot to me.

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Tell me about the process involved in making Little M pieces. What materials do you use? And how long does each piece take to make?

Each piece varies in time and is totally dependent on the size and detail. Simpler monochrome designs take about an hour plus drying time for the resin, or the colourful pieces it takes about two, the glittering and filing stages are probably the most time consuming bits.

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The initial drawing stage takes a while but once I have that done its simply a case of tracing it onto the plastic sheets and adding all the detail, I think its this that makes my work so unique because I can vary each design or add different details so that no two pieces are ever identical.

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Custom designs usually take a lot longer because I research the character, find out if the buyer has a favourite image and send regular updates until they are totally happy with the finished result.

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What do you enjoy most about what you do?

It sounds really sappy but I love that people enjoy what I do and buy it! I never imagined that I’d have my own business and make so many friends in the process so that really is the best feeling in the world! 

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What do you do when you’re not making things?

I am such a crazy cat lady (with no cats) and love nothing better than raiding charity shops for bargains, honestly my house is full of figurines and random bits that take ages to dust! 

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I have a Sunday job working at my friends vintage shop in Margate which I absolutely love because I’m surrounded by beautiful clothes and accessories , it keeps me sociable and she stocks my pieces!

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Where can people learn more about your work and purchase their own pieces?

I have an Etsy shop www.etsy.com/uk/shop/littleMclothing where you can find all of my designs and also enquire about custom orders.

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If you are in the Kent area you can find me at Madam Popoff Vintage in Margate or at Made in Ashford which is a pop up shop for makers in Ashford.
You can also find me on Instagram @little-m-creates

So, what do you think of Little M’s handiwork? Do you have a favourite character you’d love immortalised as a piece of  jewellery? Let me know in the comments!

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Freddie Mercury from Queen

All Kooped Up: An interview with lounge lothario Koop Kooper

Natasha Francois chats to Cocktail Nation radio host and arbiter of all things swank, Koop Kooper.

Koop Kooper vividly recalls visiting his grandparent’s home as a child and being dazzled by the mid-century furniture inside. He would lie on the couch watching old movies from the ’50s and ’60s while his mother and grandmother sipped tea.

Sometimes he would take his mother’s old Bluebird wooden tennis racket outside and hit balls against his grandparent’s wall imagining he was playing [Australian tennis pros] Rod Laver or Ken Rosewall. “It was like my own little portal to the past, he says. “Even as a kid, the mid-century appealed to me.”

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“I had quite an active imagination for a 10-year-old. Also, I remember little things like the fact that it was a very old neighbourhood and to me, it felt like ’50s America. Add to this the fact that my mother also used to like listening to old music, I guess it tends to get into your head.”

At 14, Koop discovered the rockabilly subculture. He remembers sitting in a ’50s style milkbar with a friend, watching the local greasers with their vintage clothes and slicked back hair, and thinking they were so brave and he could never do that.

“A year later and I had my hair piled high in a pompadour and was dressed head to toe in vintage 1950s clothes,” he says.

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By the late ’90s he’d drifted away from rockabilly towards jazz and swing. A girl he was seeing introduced him to the Ultra Lounge series which he began collecting and fell in love with all things swank.

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25 years later, and the 40-year-old radio host is still wearing clothes from the era. Granted, it’s a more adult style, but still mid-century to the core. “I have several shirts and jackets I picked up in the early days and I am pleased to say they still fit!” he says.

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Describing his distinctive sartorial style as “vintage 50s/ 60s Cary Grant meets Don Draper meets George Clooney,” Koop favours skinny ties, single breasted thin lapels suits and stingy brim hats. For casual wear, he loves jack shirts and gab pants.

“I wear vintage every day of the year. Same with my hair, royal crown pomaded pompadour.”

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“Too many people play at a lifestyle and don’t actually live it day in and day out. From wearing vintage clothing or vintage-inspired clothing every day, to driving a classic car everywhere (his current ride is a 64 Austin Healey Sprite), I don’t just dress up for the weekend out.”

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“This is how I look all the time, says the one-time pro tennis chair umpire, “I don’t listen to modern music, I constantly read books written about the past or written in the mid-century. I’m not interested in the latest viral sensation, To me it’s just another fad that will disappear faster than you can say Jack Robinson.”

“This lifestyle is 100 per cent for me. It’s not just about physical things but also thoughts, attitudes and manners.”

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However, unlike many vintage fans Koop doesn’t consider himself a collector. “I bought all my furniture and brick-a-brac with the intention that I actually use everything I buy. I don’t want to live in a museum.”

His favourite era is the late 1950s to mid 60s. To him it “epitomises the zenith of style where design and love of technology started to come together.”

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These days he hosts the internationally syndicated weekly lounge music podcast Cocktail Nation which he broadcasts from his Sydney penthouse to an audience across the globe. The hour-long show, which first aired in 2006, fuses interviews, commentary and advice with an eclectic mix of neo and classic tunes.

The music runs the gamut from lounge to exotica, with detours into many other sub genres, but the smooth-talking Aussie is in his element when it omes to interviewing luminaries and pioneers from the world of cocktail culture such as The Martini Kings, Marina the fire-eating mermaid, mid century bongo master Jack Constanzo and tiki cocktail guru Jeff “Beachbum” Berry.

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Tiki cocktail guru Jeff “Beachbum” Berry.

Having worked as a radio announcer on commerical Australian radio for years, and as a professional voiceover artist, Koop felt that there was a gap in the market for a show which combined music along with interviews, a gig guide and news from the world of lounge.

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“I wanted a late-night feel of a show that had a feeling of exclusivity about it. This wasn’t meant to be something that was readily accessible to the public, it’s always meant to be slightly alternative. Certainly this is something which has come up when dealing with potential syndicate stations who want a cutesy pie top 40 of the 50s, we ain’t that.”

Koop’s top five neo-lounge tunes

Check out the show at: www.cocktailnation.net

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The Cocktail Nation is a radio show and podcast broadcast across the world via various radio stations. Every Saturday night, host Koop Kooper talks to the movers and shakers of the lounge and Exotica scene while mixing it up with the very best in swingin’ tunes from the 50s and 60s.

 

Meet the Mad Monster Lady!

Classic movie monsters like the Wolfman, Frankenstein’s Monster and the Phantom of the Opera have had an ardent fanbase from their first appearances on the silver screen; probably because of their ability to evoke terror and sympathy in equal parts.  One such fan is artist Audrey Funk; and her renditions of these monsters on canvas are garnering her fans of her own!  Laura Macfehin talks to her about her process.

How did you start making art?

My grandmother was a painter, and when I was young I would go and stay at her house during the summer and we would paint. She started my love for art, and taught me so much.

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What is it about monsters that makes you want to paint them?

I’ve loved monsters since I was a little kid. I’ve always been drawn to things that are “dark.” Monsters have always appealed to me. I think what I love most about them is that they’re just misunderstood. Like the Wolfman isn’t “evil,” he was cursed. 

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What else in your life inspires you to make things and paint?

I suffer from severe anxiety, PTSD and depression, and having a creative outlet helps me on a daily basis to cope with these issues.  

Your painting of Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster is going to be featured in Famous Monsters magazine in October! Nice one! How did this come about?

Well, Famous Monsters had a contest at their Dallas Convention and I entered it and won for the horror category. Being in Famous Monsters has been a dream of mine since I was a little girl. It’s very surreal to me that one of my pieces is going to be in the magazine.

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The iconic Famous Monsters of Filmland was started in 1958 by editor Forest J. Ackerman and publisher James Warren.  The magazine celebrated classic movie monsters and the creative people who made them– bringing back into the spotlight many (at the time) overlooked innovators like Lon Chaney Sr. and Jack Pierce.  The original magazine folded in 1983 but was brought back into circulation in the 90s in a less than satisfactory way that led to original editor Ackerman suing the new publisher.  In 2009 a new Ackerman approved editorial staff reinstated the mag, which continues with a huge and enthusiastic fanbase to this day.  Famous Monsters has inspired artists in all mediums– from Stephen King to the Misfits.

What are some of your passions outside of painting?

I am a high school art teacher, and I love what I do. I love connecting with my students, and love sharing my passion for art with them. I am the weird art teacher, who’s classroom is covered with monsters, and that’s ok. I show my students that it’s ok to be yourself and don’t try to conform to what society thinks is cool or “normal.” I provide a safe environment for my student to feel comfortable expressing themselves.

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 Do you have a favourite monster and why?

Frankenstein’s monster has always been my favourite, especially portrayed by Boris Karloff. He’s always appealed to me the most. When I was in the 2nd grade I did a book report on Boris Karloff.  Karloff’s representation of the monster will always be first and foremost in my mind. Frankenstein’s monster to me  just represents someone who is shunned from society because of what they look like. He does things that appear monstrous, but he’s not really a monster, he just doesn’t know any better. 

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Where do you do your art and making?

A lot of my art making is done at school. While my students are working, I like to paint. I think it’s a good teaching tool, because they can watch me and learn from what I’m doing. I share my own techniques with them as well. I think it’s important that my students can see that I myself am an artist, and that way they will be more likely to trust the advice that I have for their art.

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How else do you spend your time?

I love to spend time with my husband and my three young boys, ages 5, 6 and 7. It’s like herding cats when we go out but it’s so much fun! We love to take them outside and explore.   

My husband is my pillar of strength and my own personal cheerleader. He has helped me overcome so much and I am eternally grateful for his unconditional love and support. We love antiquing together, where I try to hunt for more monsters to add to my vintage monster collection.

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Do you have any new projects on the horizon?  What are you looking forward to?

I will have some of my work displayed for sale at the Local Boogeyman’s House of Horror shop in Los Angeles opening this fall, which is very exciting. I always have a list going in my head for new paintings and ideas that I come up with. I’m looking forward to expanding my Etsy shop to include more of my original artwork. 

 
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You can find more of Audrey’s work at her Etsy shop here and on her Facebook page
 
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Interview with illustrator Johnny Moondog

Natasha Francois talks to rock ‘n’ roll legend, vintage store proprietor, former waiter, pool cleaner, dog walker, burger flipper and radio host Johnny Moondog about his career as an illustrator/ animator.

Johnny Moondog first discovered the power of the pen when he drew a picture of a blue dragon for a classmate  he had a crush on.  “She was very impressed”, he remembers. 

It was then he realised art “could make people happy and it was a real thrill. I also learned much later it can totally piss people off too.”

Nearly four decades later and he’s still doodling away. Having worked as an animator and illustrator for much of his life, in between touring the world playing rock ‘n’ roll, Moondog is now back at the drawing board full-time.

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Commission for a T-shirt for Auckland band Swampland.

He describes his style as a modern take on a classic sixties, 2D cartoon comic style with a very economic use of line.

“It’s all about bold block colour with a pop culture reference. A strong bubble gum noise that’ll slap ya good and leave you wanting more!”

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In Full cover art: “I rarely do photography, but when I do I use a 60s Penn SLR and usually incorporate 2D drawing with it.”

When we needed a logo for our blog (which launched 6 months ago), Johnny Moondog was the obvious man for the job. 

“The brief was for something psychedelic and real girly,” he says. “I thought with that name reference it had to be sixties themed. I went with a Paisley Josey and the Pussycats styled drawing. The garish colouring was fun to do.”

Check out the result below and read on for rest of the interview!

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Eclectic Ladyland logo by Johnny Moondog.

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Alternative colourway for Eclectic Ladyland logo.

How did you first get interested in illustration/ animation?

 I started taking myself seriously as an illustrator when I was hired by a New Zealand, animation studio. The studio was contracted to complete TV series work for Disney (god bless evil Uncle Walt). That was in 1992. Up until then my drawing was definitely semi pro, designing up posters for various bands I have been in, or doing T-shirt and tatt designs for mates.

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Early work by Johnny Moondog for his band Honey Love.

My interest in drawing has been there since I can remember. Spending time copying comic characters, and designing monsters to scare my friends. I drew a blue dragon when I was 8 years old for a girl who sat next to me in class that I liked and she was very impressed! I realised it made people happy and that was a real thrill, I also learned much later it can totally piss people off too.

An interest in drawing will always be there as you can never master it. Progressively you get better, learning more every time you put pencil to paper. I know as much about the human anatomy as a doctor by now… probably.

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“This was another commission- the client was a cheerleader/ confederate fetishist. This also appeared on the Fix cover.

Have you done any formal training?

No, I never had formal training. My school was the Saturday morning cartoons, 2000AD and Marvel comics then later the EC horror comics and then all sorts of independent comic art. I used to spend hours at the old book cellar in Albert St deciding which ones to buy or acquire…

I think if I had formal training my style would probably be more generic. Institutions tend to smooth the edges off you in my opinion.

Can you give us a brief overview of your artistic career to date? 

My first paying job was as a ticket writer back in 1982 for the Orewa jewellery store. I was twelve and thought I hit the big time! Every day after school writing out tiny price tags in a fancy calligraphic font.

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Moondog in rock ‘n’ roll mode with his band Labretta Suede and the Motel 6.

Ever since I was a teenager I have played in bands and always did all the poster and album design work, so it was kind of semi professional getting paid if we made money at the gig.

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Artwork for Hudson Lusty- another early band of his.

It was here that I really developed my drawing confidence and learned about graphics and fonts. Poster layout is an art within itself. You see them plastered all over the streets and you have the most visible gallery in town!

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Poster art by Moondog for his band Honey Love.

In 1992, after answering an ad in the Herald newspaper (remember those?) I was hired by an animation studio that were completing TV animation for Disney. After three months of intense training I was thrown in the deep end of the Duck Daze pool. I can still draw a kick ass duck bill.

While working here I was part of a team that completed various shows for big American production studios including Warner Bros, Nickelodeon, HBO etc. It was cheap for them to produce it here due to the exchange rate and cheap labour. Four years later this all changed and the work went off shore and the studio was liquidated.

Since then I have been employed by various small animation production studios to work on TV series, ads, film, music videos and illustration.

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Moondog was part of a team of animators who worked on the award-winning Bro Town.

In 2000 I was hired to develop the New Zealand animated phenomenon that was Bro’ Town. A small group of five animators and comic artist named Ant Sang set out to visualise the first script written by the naked Samoan comedy troupe.

As soon as the concepts were solidified we went about hiring an army of animators some of which had little to no experience. I was put charge of the clean-up department, which is basically the inking side of the drawing production. It was the first time a series this size was produced locally and we came up against many difficult issues, including censorship, budget, impossible deadlines, writer strikes, temperamental artists, drugs, booze, scandal and all types of logistical nightmares. It was the best job I ever had!

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Working on Bro’ Town was “the best job I ever had.”

Bro’ Town lasted five seasons before everyone was just plain burnt out. But it’s a show that all of us that worked on it are immensely proud of. It picked up multiple industry awards and remains a peoples’ favourite to this day.

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Bro’ Town picked up a slew of awards during its five seasons and remains a favourite to this day.

In 2009 my wife Labretta Suede and I relocated to New York City where we concentrated on music and touring with our band Labretta Suede and the Motel 6.

I looked for animation work and visited Mike Judges studio and met the guy who designs Beavis and Butthead. They were working on Superjail in a super modern studio where everything was drawn on computers. Unfortunately this is the way all modern animation is now done and being that I draw the old fashioned way I said good-bye to my animation career and threw it in for rock ‘n’ roll.

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Poker run: A prospect for the Hell’s Angels wanted a T-shirt design and this was the result.

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As of the time of writing I now pursue work as a full-time illustrator and have been extremely happy working for myself, although I do miss the buzz of a studio. Don’t get me wrong – it’s all hard work to make ends meet and have also been a waiter, pool cleaner, shop owner, dog walker, burger flipper and radio host.

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Hick Yokels: Mural design for a Ponsonby cafe owner and “yes he was a big Robert Crumb fan.”

What have been some of your career highlights? What work(s) are you the most proud of and why? 

There have been many. ‘The Third Pig’ was a cartoon horror for Tales from the crypt which was great fun.

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Frankenstein pig tongue puller- an animation still from the Third Pig.

‘Downtown’ for MTV. ‘Bro’ Town’ was definitely a highlight, I got to design Nick Cave and Vincent Price amongst other celebs for this show. What I’m most proud of though, is designing all the artwork and branding for ‘Labretta Suede and the Motel’ 6 along with my wife as it is all ours.

Labretta 2012 Tee & Tour Poster

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Poster for the Bait album release: “It’s always a pleasure to draw my wife in various states of undress.”

Creative influences and inspirations?

My early inspirations were mostly comic book artists such as Carlos Ezquerra, who drew ‘Judge Dredd’ and ‘Strontium Dog’ for 2000AD. That comic had so many great artists of varying styles.

Check out John Hicklenton…. Later Ed Roth and his hot rod monster art designs. Robert Crumb, Coop and his devil woman. As soon as I saw his stuff I knew that’s the direction for me. I was already drawing that style so it validated what I was doing.

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Rockabilly ghoul with a knife: My own character design for a shelved short film project I was working on.

There are so many. Aubrey Beardsley with his monochromatic ink work. Ashley Wood is a genius along with Tomi Ungerer.

As soon as I read Love and Rockets by Jamie Hernandez I really studied the way he used high contrast black and white inking and his seemingly simple and economic use of line, man he rules! But the king of my castle is Warhol, say no more.

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Bubblegum pinup: Commission for a fan of that 50s bad girl Bettie Page style pinup. It was used for the cover of the Fix magazine.

How would you describe your illustrating style? 

I would say it’s a modern take on a classic sixties, 2D cartoon comic style with a very economic use of line. Bold block colour with a pop culture reference. A strong bubble gum noise that’ll slap ya good and leave you wanting more!

For USA Festival 'Heavy Rebel 2016'

Poster and T-shirt design for a huge hot rod car show that runs through independence weekend in North Carolina.

How has it evolved over the years?

 I have got better at drawing hands, eyes and hair.

Anime Character Design

Classic Manga girl design for TVC.

Can you tell us a little about your creative process and how that works?

I usually research the subject pretty thoroughly by using reference books and the internet (loving Pintrest). Then I will do a very loose rough or a layout. I have a rickety old vertical drawing board with a spinning acrylic disk so my drawing surface is backlit. Next I will pencil in the rough and get to a near finished drawing, then the final clean line goes over the top on a fresh piece of paper.

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Branding and artwork for Cockspurs Vintage- Moondog and Labretta’s vintage store.

It is more work than people realize. All my wording is hand drawn too. Finally I colour it on Photoshop, which I have just learned. I used to ask my nerd mates to do that for me but you can only ask so often before their specs fog with rage.

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Nazi chick: “Another commission for the Fix. Gotta love those uniforms, especially when a girl with no pants is wearing it.”

What’s the weirdest thing you’ve ever been asked to draw? 

Everything I get asked to do is pretty weird so, when someone asks for a logo or something pedestrian that’s weird to me. I had to draw myself as a character in Bro’ Town, they cast me as a homicidal killer in a boys home. I have been commissioned by a rotary car club to design a t-shirt so I drew a sexy devil girl next to a RX3 with the plate number ‘EVIL”. Turns out, the president of the club was a hard-core Christian. So it was a “thanks but no thanks” situation.

Then someone asked me to draw a porn comic of their sex life but he was full of shit. I also got asked to draw a snuff scenario for a dodgy website but instantly refused.

A couple of years ago a promoter asked me to do a zombie tiki party poster that caused a huge furore.

The show was held at the Samoan Fale (church) up on K-road.  The finished poster had an undead zombie priestess holding a shrunken head and a northern hemisphere tiki character incorporated into the design.

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The controversial zombie tiki party poster.

As per the brief by the promoter, who himself is Samoan, he wanted to see nipples. Jesus what a shit storm! Myself and the promoter were totally overlooked and the PC crazies went straight for poor Labretta. Attacking the band viciously and labelling us as New Zealands most culturally inappropriate band.  Radio stations blew it all up and wanted to interview Labretta. It made local and international news. We got death threats and had to hire extra security at the show. It turned out it was mostly keyboard warriors that couldn’t be arsed tearing themselves off the internet to confront us in person. Bizarre!

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Defunct music publication The Fold featuring Johnny Moondog and his wife Labretta Suede on the cover.

What do you enjoy the most about what you do?

I enjoy the process of the work and when I am drawing its an intense concentration and almost Zen like state of mind. There is a discipline to drawing and feels satisfying when it’s complete. I also enjoy people’s reaction to a finished work, good or bad. It is great to complete projects where the only limit is the imagination.

album and t shirt art for Jason James the Hollywood rockabilly.

Hollywood rockabilly musician commission for a T-shirt and album cover. This was the first and last time I will ever draw a goddamn piano!

What projects have you been working on lately?

I have just finished an album cover design for a rockabilly artist living in Hollywood who wanted to be sitting on top of a flaming piano, while he played it with his feet, while playing a guitar and singing into a vintage microphone. So, that was fun.

Next up I’m drawing Bob Log III riding Buckey the giant beaver for an Aussie tour poster.

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Bob Log III tour poster.

What would be a dream commission for you?

Years ago I started developing a short animated horror film about drag racing delinquents crashing into a gothic country church and then get savaged by supernatural forces of the un-dead that lie in the graveyard. It was to be in black and white with a rock ’n’ roll instrumental soundtrack, no dialogue. I got to the storyboard stage, then zombies became flavour of the month and I shelved it.

I would love to complete a b-grade exploitation animated film.

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Moondog in his natural habitat on stage with his band Labretta Suede and the Motel 6.

Where can people find out more about you?

You can see more of my work at Johnny Moondog Art on Facebook and feel free to message me if you need some illustration work done up right.

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Recent poster for  Moondog’s birthday party at Golden Dawn.