Thursday, December 02, 2010

A Party On The Rocks

Photo by Martyn Healer 

My most 'interesting' party of the Christmas season so far has got to be Gregory Sams' birthday party in the wilds of his west London home.

I had arranged to have a reunion tea with an ancient friend beforehand in Soho.  Neither of us had suspected that Saturday, the day we met up just happened to coincide with the biggest Christmas weekend shop of the year, which meant the entire West End had been completely pedestrianised (not a cab or bus in sight).

After I had left my friend in Old Compton Street, I ended up walking all the way to Bayswater Road and beyond,  desperately shoving my way through the heaving throng of frenzied brain-dead shoppers.

I  had tried to get into Piccadilly Circus tube station as well as  Bond Street and Marble Arch, but  didn't have the strength to push my way down through the  densely populated crowded steps.

I finally ended up at Gregory's place three hours late and wailing with self-pity, flung myself prostrate on him when he opened the door, boring him and everyone else to death about my horror show of a journey.

Greg (an ingenious macrobiotic cook) promptly dished up his delicious home-made lemon, lentils and leek soup and offered me a generous shot of iced vodka which I threw down my throat in one gulp.

I hadn't drank spirits for years and it tasted yech-disgusting, but the hefty slug immediately did the trick and I  immediately swung into the party mood.

At the end of the evening, my vodka euphoria had evaporated which saved me from rashly accepting an inebriated stranger's offer of a one night stand!

Instead, I sanctimoniously went home with a a copy of Gregory's book Sun of gOd!

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Flashin' on the 70s

One of my Fave Rave blogs is Dominic Lutyens and Kirsty Hislop's  Flashin' on the 70s.

Dominic and Kirsty,who co-created the sublime 70s Style & Design bible have an eye on the fashion and style pulse, irrespective of what decade they choose to write knowledgly about.

So why is their blog one of my favourites? Because they have now blogged about me of course!

Not only did they plug my novel Frantic, but also its cover designer Celia Birtwell, Amanda Lear,  Jack Nicholson, Bette Midler and also the legendary Cockettes too.

Not bad for one sole blog entry about the 70s!

Wednesday, November 03, 2010

Christine Keeler is For Sale On Cork Street

Last night, I went to one of the most interesting and exciting openings I've been to in a long time at the Mayor Gallery (22a Cork Street, Piccadilly, W1S 3NA Tel: 020 7734 3558 - until December 17).

James Birch 
James Birch, the most ingenious art entrepreneur/dealer in the world of contemporary art, curated the gallery's sensational exhibition about Christine Keeler who sold him her collection of personal photographs.

All I can say is, this show is a MUST SEE for aficionados of the Profumo Affair. (For the 'younger generation' who didn't live through the scandal and have consequently never heard of Christine Keeler, Profumo's affair was caused by him not realising Keeler was 'two timing' him with Yevgeny Ivanov, a Russian spy,  a juicy scandal which rocked the Old Etonian stuffed Harold Macmillan's government at the time).

Today, Keeler would be feted as a 'Get me Out Of Here' celebrity, but in the early Sixties, she was slagged off as a 'call girl' in the national press even though prostitutes couldn't be 'called out' as mobile phones didn't exist in those days!

Christine Keeler's Life in Pictures is a priceless view of England's early Sixties Establishment history. It is fascinating to see her life unfold from her early days as a bikini clad glamour model (pictured with her then boyfriend Michael Lambton), and as a showgirl at Murray's Club where she met the infamous Stephen Ward who introduced her to Profumo.

Also, it was intriguing to see pics of her by 'celebrity' photographers like Duffy, David Bailey, and of course the famous photograph of her on the chair by Lewis Morley in 1963 (pictured top). This pic was decorated with red stickers.

C. Morey de Morand
Duggie Fields
At the packed out opening, I bumped into the artists Adrian George, C. Morey de Morand (nose to nose with the legendary John Dunbar) and Duggie Fields, who were all working the art dealer filled room individually.

Also, the prolific (London calling) Barry Miles (commonly known as 'Miles'), who wrote the forward in the exhibition's picture stuffed glossy catalogue (a collector's item), the ubiquitous social commentator Peter York and John Ralli, co-founder of Fix-A-Frame where a lot of the artists at the bash went to get their 'masterpieces' framed at the onset of their careers.
Peter York, James and Barry Miles
Anita Pallenberg

There were also plenty of old reprobates including Anita Pallenberg. But Christine Keeler didn't show.

I would have stayed longer to mingle with the surviving Christine Keeler set, and also people I haven't seen for thirty years (the old Daily Mail gossip columnists were still on their beat),  but I had to rush back home to watch the final of MasterChef!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Kiria, The Star Who Sings Pink Punk

I was thrilled to witness Kiria, the sensational looking 'pink punk' singer buying a copy of my novel Frantic in Celia Birtwell's shop when I went in there yesterday to sign some copies.

It must have been a case of delayed synchronisation, as I had been to her Radio album launch at 'My Beautiful Launderette' on Talbot Road in Notting Hill Gate last week.

This had been no ordinary music launch. The event was a glamour-puss stuffed klieg lit premier. And what made the event megawatt extra special was the spectacle of Kiria arrived in a convoy of twelve Harley Davidsons and a pink cadillac.

If all of this wasn't spectacular enough, pin up showgirls served pink champagne and cocktails in the pink back lit launderette, which was full of bubbles and ..... projections of Kiria's forthcoming video releases on the wall!

Kiria's current single is titled Jelly Baby which is guaranteed to stick in one's brain for an eternity.

I predict her next single Alright arriving in November, will also be equally as addictive. But, it looks like I might get hooked on Kiria's startling music (which she writes as well as playing her guitar). Her next single after that will be the waltz, titled Love Song. Aaaaaah!

It must have been kismet I bumped into Kiria inside Celia's emporium, because she also put me on red alert about her next gig: it will be this Friday, October 29th at the Cobden Club, London's 'favourite' membership club.

If Kiria's gig is anything as exciting as her Sex On Stage video clip,  I guarantee the entire audience will be throwing jelly babies at her and her band.

After I signed Kiria's copy of Frantic, I dragged her onto the 31 bus. She usually takes taxis everywhere, so the bus ride was an adventure for her. Especially, as an old lady next to us crooned 'would you like another Jelly baby?'

I went home and promptly downloaded the single AND the Radio album from - click here: iTunes.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Celia Birtwell Goes Literate

Celia Birtwell's magical shop (71 Westbourne Park Road, London W2 5PL), run by her daughter-in-law Bella Clark, her youngest son George, and their right hand/the shop manager Karen Cazabon has got a contemporary and comprehensive new website, which displays her sensational designs on its image stuffed pages.
Karen  Cazabon and Bella Clark

The singer Kiria dips into Frantic 

These includes Celia's original and beautiful  Fashion: her John Lewis collection, her unique fabric and wallpaper, Celia and Ossie Clark's priceless vintage stuff, her 'Must Have' designs for 'Indoor and Outdoor Living', her Accessories, stationery and Books.

The Books page includes 70s Style & Design by Dominic Lutyens and Kirsty Hislop, Chequered Past by Peter Schleshinger, Wuthering Heights, for which Celia did the cover for and my novel Frantic, which Celia also designed the cover for (I am so lucky).

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Dr Yan Li is A Genius Acupuncturist

One of my Fave Raves of the month has got to be Dr Yan Li, a Chinese doctor (her company is True Traditions), who has practiced Traditional Chinese Medicine in countries like China and Slovenia for over twenty years.

I saw her in Neals Yard in St Johns Wood High Street.

I went in for a tin of their relaxing lavender bath salts, and after meeting Dr Li who practises  there, signed up for a course of her  acupuncture treatments -  after she  correctly promised she would cure my lousy digestion  in six sessions. (I was  fed up with having to abstain from gluten).

Dr Li, who has a soothing bedside manner doesn't hurt at all.  After she removed the strategically placed needles, she gave me a therapeutic massage,  and also did cupping on my back - never in my wildest dreams did I envisage I too would have cupping acupuncture after I ogled Gwynth Paltrow's livid cupping marks on her back when she wore a backless evening gown on one of her red carpet treks.

Also, for for seekers of eternal youth, Dr Li does cosmetic acupuncture on the face and body which truyly rejuvinates. It knocks centuries off.

 I should know as I tried it and came out looking like an inhabitant from  Shangri-La! Recommended!

Dr Li can be contacted at or 0778 - 696 4866

Saturday, October 16, 2010

C. Morey de Morand Goes Indian

If you want to see paintings with marks made by monkey paw prints on the back of canvasses, head directly to the Nehru Centre, the Cultural Wing of the High Commission of India in London's South Audley Street.

The international artist, C. Morey de Morand, 'the modern day Mondrian' has an exhibition of her art which she physically created in India.

Born of French father and Russian mother, granddaughter of Gen Vladimir Sikevich (Lion of Ukraine), Morey de Morand travelled all over the world before she reached India.

During her Artist Residency in India alongside John Baldessari, at the Calico Museum, and the Sarabhai Le Corbusier House, in Ahmedabad, C. Morey de Morand created the series of painting assemblages, currently showing at the Nehru Centre (until 19 February).

These abstract painted, hand dyed and printed works were created with the assistance of the Calico Museum technicians, often working outdoors in a village with Indian craftsmen. The paints were made uniquely with the various mediums available and hand ground pigment. They were finally completed with further development in London in 2002 - 2006.

C. Morey de Morand in her studio 
These painting assemblages use the same grid allusions, layering and structuring physically with hand printed, hand-dyed cloths, hemp and metal as in the other more formalised works. In this case however, the rituals of spectacle and belief are used to give a structural meaning to unfathomable existence. Always present is the structuring of society, ceremonial rites, religion, celebration and ultimately death, the void, into which we disappear, The ultimatum.

'My work is my life, my own world where I belong. I make the rules and no one can tell me what to do there. There is something that I also want to give others,' de Morand told me when I was lucky to encounter her at the Nehru Centre during my visit.

Go see!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

A load of Trash Art At St Pancras Crypt

There is a completely barmy exhibition titled "Flashier & Trashier" on at - wait for it - the St Pancras Crypt gallery.

This show, which is curated by the artist Sue Kreitzman and the photographer Peter Herbert is worth going to, if one is into ancient crypts or 'flashy trash.'

'Our paintings are not subtle. We ladle colour and excitement onto wood, canvas and paper. So the images leap off the surface and hit your squarely between the eyes.

'Marvel at this extravaganza of all things kitsch! Enjoy the thrills and chills of the St. Pancras Crypt, deep beneath the streets of the city. Be amazed by our glimpse into the murky voyeuristic past of often beautiful and extravagant days gone by. Enjoy memories and reconstructions of Old Fashioned Circus Side Shows,' Kreitzman enthused at the awed punters.

I especially appreciated one of the crypt's rooms which had been titled, 'Departure Lounge', (Maybe it should have been called 'Get Me Out Of Here?'). For fanatical daft art tarts, it consisted of ten men made out of suitcases standing next to pews which face the stairs leading out to a busy Euston Road.

Personally, I think the real star of this show is the actual crypt, so even if one isn't a rabid devotee of all things kitsch (I saw plenty of red stickers), the historically spooky space does this imaginatively curated show more than justice.

It's on now at the Crypt Gallery opposite Euston Station (Entrance on Duke Road) until October 24th.

Saturday, October 02, 2010

Elvis, Nick Lowe and Co. Rock Around the Clock At Austin de Lone's Benefit for his son Richard

Bill Kirchen - guitar & vocals
Austin de Lone - piano, organ, & vocals
Ruth Davies - bass
Elvis Costello
Nick Lowe
Bob Andrews - piano, organ, & vocals
Paul Revelli - drums & vocals
Derek Huston - saxophone

'Elvis Costello sings Nick Lowe, Nick Lowe sings Elvis' was the ingenious theme of legendary pianist Austin de Lone's fourth annual Special Housing Project benefit concert for his son Richard, who suffers from the Prader-Willi syndrome.

Backing Elvis and Lowe at San Francisco's Great American Music Hall were a six piece band including: twanging guitarist Bill Kirchen and keyboardist Bob Andrews, who played alongside Nick Lowe with Brinsley Schwartz during the early 70s British pub rock movement. Incidentally pub rock in London was started by Austin de Lone's innovative band Eggs Over Easy.

Before the evening was over, all the other musicians sang their favourite Lowe and Costello songs as well, but what excited me the most was the delirious sight of my talented chanteuse/songwriter niece Caroline de Lone (pictured with Elvis and above), who opened the historical concert with her dad Austin.

Audience members who witnessed Caroline's mythical performance were the actors Kirsten Dunst, Peter Sarsgaard, and rocksters Bonnie Raitt, Mill Valley based Sammy Hagar and T-Bone Burnette. Aaaaahhhh!

Friday, September 17, 2010

Andrew Logan Opens A New London Shop

The iconoclastic jeweller and Sculptor Andrew Logan has recently opened his gorgeous new shop (above) inside his studio emporium (at The Glasshouse, Melior Place, London SE1 3QP), which now flogs his exotic and unique jewels to his rabid and appreciative fans.

As I fancied a choker and a matching pair of glass earrings, I couldn't resist making my way to Andrew's 'surreal emporium for all', where I was amazed to see the Mill Valley based singer/songwriter Caroline de Lone trying on some of Andrew's unique jewelled headgear in his studio.

So what was the charismatic Caroline de Lone doing in London? Trying to find a dynamic new stage outfit for her next concert appearance of course!

She and her musician/producer father Austin de Lone  will be opening for Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe at her brother Richard de Lone's benefit concert at San Francisco's Great American Music Hall on October 1st (phew!).

Maybe I should order a bespoke, magic flying glass carpet from Andrew Logan to transport me over the pond in order to hear Caroline's hypnotic voice serenade her smitten Bay Area audience.  

Monday, September 06, 2010

Elvis and Nick Lowe Headline at Richard de Lone's Benefit

Every year,  Austin de Lone organises a benefit concert in aid of the Richard de Lone Special Housing Project at the illustrious  Great American Music Hall in San Francisco. (Tickets on sale now).

This year's benefit features Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe who will warble and play their musical instruments.

But what personally interests me is  the prospect of Austin  and his chanteuse daughter Caroline de Lone, who will be performing together as the opening act.

Aaaaaaah! It's so nice to see my relations (Austin is my brother-in-law and Caroline is my niece)  appear together on stage in aid of  my nephew Richard de Lone, who suffers from the Prader-Willi syndrome.

Friday, September 03, 2010

The Legendary Poet Michael Horovitz Gets Swamped

I've just done the best barter for as long as I can remember: I swapped my first novel Frantic for
Michael Horovitz's fabulous looking book A New Waste Land.

So how did my bargain of the century with the legendary poet miraculously take place?

I was lucky to be invited to his private view ingeniously titled a 'little festival of 45 years of Michael Horovitz's Picture-Poetry' at Art@42 (Pembridge Road, London W11 3HN).

The building's prime real estate belongs to the dentist to the stars: Dr Simon Godley, who moonlights as Horovitz's art curator as as well as being a writer and an actor.

After Simon gave me a drink and freebie tubes of paste for sensitive teeth, I latched onto Michael Horovitz, who promptly showed me and my fellow early attendees round his unique exhibition, which consists of of his original picture-poetry Art.

Michael A. Sargent
The guests were an eclectic mix including  the French rock photographer Chantal Coves (she also organises the yearly V rock festival), and the Pirates of Penzance piratical looking actor Michael A. Sargent (he was discovered in Borough market and shortly starts work in the new movie version of Treasure Island.
The highlight of the literary evening besides Michael Horovitz's 'must have' art was his riveting impromptu stand up poetry performance, which was so zany it motivated the appreciative hordes and besotted philanthropists at the private view to go berserk, elbowing each other out of the way to buy Michael's numerous books and art.

There's still some stuff left, so leave word for Michael Horovitz c/o 020 7229 7850 to arrange a view by appointment.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

FrightFest screens Notorious Wound Movie

I've already booked myself in to view Wound at this year's FrightFest horror festival at the Empire cinema in Leicester Square.

Normally, I don't go for films in the horror genre these days, as unlike the innovative horror movies of the Seventies, the vogue for 21st century fodder tends to cater for bloodthirsty addicts of torture porn and gratuitous splatter violence.

But Wound, helmed by David Blyth, the controversial NZ film director is an exception.

Admittedly, Blyth's new feature film does include images of explicit violence and themes of incest and mental illness, all of which is automatically guaranteed to excite the horror festival crowd. However, Wound is an intelligent well made movie, which will keep its audience guessing until its unpredictable climax.

'It is a psychological exploration of different shards of one's woman's mind. It deals with serious social issues,' Blyth says.

Wound, which was shot over twelve shooting days in the Auckland suburbs of Avondale and Onehunga  has been described as 'an angry nightmare, hellbent on waking up the proletariat and spitting it right in its eye.'

Wound has already attracted notoriety after its screening at the  New Zealand Film festival.  In fact, there were even attempts to ban the movie.

Wound screenings at FrightFest: 5 p.m. on Friday August 27th and also 4.05 p.m at the Empire.

Don't all rush now!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Nostalgic Seventies

The writer and journalist Dominic Lutyens has co-written with Kirsty Hislop (pic above) the most definitive reference book on the Seventies called 70s Style and Design, which was recently published by the prestigious Thames & Hudson.

Naturally, I was thrilled when Dominic and Kirsty both bought my novel Frantic, which is about the early Seventies.

'It's really effervescent!' Dominic enthuses.

'Having been everywhere and done it all, Frances brings to life the 70s scenes – from London to San Francisco – that we documented in our book but never got to experience first hand, alas!’ Kirsty adds.

He is now in the middle of producing his next book on the fashion icon Celia Birtwell, whom Karl Lagerfeld once declared to be the best textile designer in the world. Friends of Ms Birtwell, who include David Hockney (he regards her as his muse) are currently going through their archives for photos of Celia for the book.

I don't have a grand piano to put my framed photographs on, so my pics are nailed to the walls. After Dominic Lutyens came round today, he walked off with several photographs of myself. In each one of these snaps, I am dressed in one of Celia Birtwell's unique costumes, which she concocted for the 'late' Radley fashion label years before she designed for Top Shop. So thanks to Dominic Lutyens, my walls are now completely bare.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

A Vintage Cockettes' Movie Is Re-released

Rumi Missabu, an  original and the most successful surviving member of the legendary Cockettes has just sent me a signed edition of the remastered  Elevator girls In Bondage  DVD, which has recently been re-released in 'Sparkling new Colour' in a limited signed edition.

In exchange, I sent him a copy of my novel Frantic, in which I wrote about a SF theatrical troupe inspired by the Cockettes, whom I saw perform at the Palace Theatre in the early 70s.

Elevator Girls in Bondage, written and directed by Michael Kalmen, stars Rumi as 'Maxine' a 'rebellious elevator girl', as well as fellow members of the Cockettes, including Miss Harlow (an original Plaster Caster), Pristine Condition and the Cockettes' originator Hibiscus and his visually stunning Angels of Light.

The 56 minute film (with the funniest sex scene ever to be seen on celluloid) was rarely seen at the time of it's 1972 release, so that's why the new limited signed DVD is a real collector's item.

(If you want further information,  e-mail And If you are desperate to own this classical DVD of nostalgic early '70s history, send cheques or money orders to James Bartlett at 3856 Greenwood Avenue Oakland, CA 94602 USA.  It costs $27.95 which includes shipping and handling and  it takes 2-3 weeks for delivery).

Also, the Elevator Girls In Bondage's complete soundtrack will be available on CD soon. (click on the link to view a clip from the film).

Rumi Missabu, the Cockettes' official curator is a star of stage and screen including Bill Weber's and David Weissman's award winning Cockettes movie, and is currently starring in a revival of Pearls Over Shanghai at the The Hypnodrome theatre in San Francisco.

Rumi first trained as an actor alongside Sally Field and Cindy Williams before joining the Living Theatre theatre group in the late 60s.

'I was with the troupe when they toured San Francisco in 1968 in two productions of Paradise Now at Norse Auditorium with rocker Jim Morrison and at Berkeley Community Theater,' Rumi told me.

After that stint, he joined the Cockettes and in the early 70's  arrived in New York to work with Hibiscus and the Angels of Light which enjoyed a successful run off-off Broadway.

I'm thrilled to have Rumi's signed limited edition of Elevator Girls In Bondage, which brings back memories of the turbulent early 70s when I saw several of the Cockettes' innovative shows (including Pearls over Shanghai) in San Francisco during their theatrical peak.

I had never witnessed anything like them before, so to have this updated, classical piece of memorabilia brings back those revolutionary and innovative times as well as the gorgeous vintage clothes which used to be picked up at thrift stores for a song!

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Mutual Admiration Society

I devoured Sam Cutler's book You Can't Always Get What You Want, which I think has got to be one of the most entertaining books in the history of rock 'n' roll.

Naturally, I was thrilled when Sam told me he enjoyed reading my novel Frantic. So, what was the loveable 'old reprobate's' verdict?

'I loved it BUT (to be honest) I found the ending slightly disappointing - I mean she "didn't find God" she found Los Angeles !!! NUT that she is/was I found myself really liking Alice - any girl that chunders into her stolem handbag can't be ALL bad ! LOL I also 'recognised' several people in the London scene which was tres amusing. All in all a 9 out of 10 Frances - good,' he critiqued.

And to think I spent decades re-writing Frantic so that it wouldn't resemble a roman à clef!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Bruce Oldfield's Affordable Couture Sale Is On Now!

Miracles do happen! I just happened to be sauntering down Beauchamp Place in Knightsbridge first thing this morning when on impulse I decided to ogle Bruce Oldfield's new Wedding Shop at No 32.

The late Ossie Clark used to promise me he'd make my wedding costume, but Bruce's concoctions are ideal for a long trip down the aisle. If he had been doing wedding dresses at the time of Princess Diana's wedding (she was a loyal client), I'm sure she would have asked him to make her frock.

After I had finished drooling, I popped into Bruce's Couture Shop at No. 27, as I saw there was a sample sale on.

Luckily, all the clothes on sale weren't size zero: they were a humanely sized 8-12 and some of the clothes were even sized 14. And as the gorgeous clothes were ridiculously low priced, I greedily grabbed an exquisite dress (pictured left) out of the elegantly manicured hands of socialites shopping for bargains there.

But what was more amazing than being able to afford Bruce's beautiful couture was that he was in the shop, and to my surprise he told me he had actually read Frantic, my novel about the excessive early 70's in London and San Francisco. Bruce is very literary, so what was his verdict?

'I might say that it's not the sort of book I usually read but it's funny and pacey and is about a world that I wisely stayed on the periphery of, ' he tactfully said.

When I was a gossip columnist for the defunct Ritz Newspaper at the tail end of the twentieth century, I used to see Bruce a lot.

He often took me out for glamorous dinners at restaurants like San Lorenzo and Mr Chow, and in between haute couture mouthfuls of pasta or seaweed, he would generously tell me to borrow a costume from his Knightsbridge emporium for the evening if I was going somewhere ultra smart.

Now, thanks to Bruce's couture sale which is currently on at his 27 Beauchamp Place shop for three more weeks, I'm well stocked up for glittering soirees. Girls, don't all rush now!