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19 posts categorized "male on Sunday"

May 06, 2007

Male on Sunday - 19

"I think I am more attracted to characters with a subtext, whatever that is and they don't necessarily have to be virtuous, but they have to at least be human." - Clive Owen

There are so many fan pages dedicated to this man that this little piece here is a tiny salt grain in the mine that is Clive Owen. He, to me, signals the return of masculinity after a metrosexual mess of femi-males who were splashed across screens and magazine pages.

The mythical term, overnight success, has been applied to actors like Owen who have worked consistently to finally tread the boards of the world stage to become recognized around the globe. He’s061229_cliveowen_vl_widec  not only a hunk, he’s a working class bloke, and this element adds an extra dose of appeal; toff nosed identities may look nice, but privileged backgrounds mean one thing: a pampered life.

Clive Owen had two bites from the apple of Overnight Success, and the first didn’t eject him into the world sphere (television show, The Chancer), but the second wave followed his film appearance in The Croupier and, as they say, the rest is history. Bitten by the acting bug, after playing the Artful Dodger in a production of Oliver! he also faced ridicule for his preferred vocation as a teenager at school but persisted, and thank goodness he did because the world was beginning to look like a metro playground.

King Arthur broke through in an era of over the top special effects, and even though I like Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings, I feel that unreal characters (Elves, Hobbits, and Orcs) don’t reflect human aspects. I remember exiting the theatre after watching King Arthur, and overheating some LoTR fanatics whine about the lack of artificial special effects. King Arthur reflected masculinity in a way that many films of that time didn’t. Many films focused on clean-cut males or artificially enhanced males (with elfish ears?).

Continue reading "Male on Sunday - 19" »

April 08, 2007

Male on Sunday - 18

I'd like to introduce this week's Male on Sunday post, by thanking everyone who responded (I'll get to responding later on in the day, Happy Easter to those who are celebrating Easter today) to the post below this one (about the 300 'review' on the ERWA site). I wrote the post below last week, and kept it as a draft to post today. It's an appropriate response to those 'literary' snobs who think that writers or 'literary' figures are more important in history. A writer is nothing without the events he/she documents. A writer is, almost always, an observer, documenting the 'action' as it unfolds and to elevate oneself as a writer (above 'non literary' people) is as foolish, as it is arrogant. The historical figure below is a figure who wasn't a literary 'figure', who didn't write books, but his oral history provides one of the richest descriptions of Apache culture that can be found today and his story can still be read to this day (irrespective of him not being an 'auteur').

~~~

‘I have seen many men die; I have seen many human bodies decayed, but I have never seen that part which is called the spirit; I do not know what it is; nor have I yet been able to understand that part of the Christian religion.’ ~ Geronimo

Geronimo was an interesting man, among many interesting man. His story, through first word is very interesting. It's like catching a glimpse back into recent history, and into a people that do exist to this day. Although this culture has experienced shake ups with the arrival of foreigners, who basically set out Geronimo to 'conquer' without regard, it's richness -thank God - exists to this day. Our religions of Christianity, Judaism and Islam - the three, considered 'great', religions - don't really focus on the interrelationship humans have with their natural world. There is an emphasis of 'serving' a God, learning the teachings through prophets, biblical events and the like but when it concerns understanding the physical world around us there is no 'connection'. The 'forgotten' connection each person  has with each living thing, from insect to tree, has created a distanced nature - we have elevated ourselves to the top of the pile but are we really worthy of it and do we have any 'understanding' in order to jusfify such an elevation?

Somewhere along the way in our human journey – within our own cultures – we are given the definition of 'spirit'. Whether it is initially passed down through the mouths of our parents, or we become acquainted with it at Sunday school we do come across it. In addition to the singular word – which resonates equally among all institutionalized faiths – there are various addendums. We have the 'fighting' spirit, the 'human' spirit as well as the 'ghostly' spirit that haunts Edgar Allen Poe or features in many a ghost tale.

Continue reading "Male on Sunday - 18" »

March 11, 2007

Male on Sunday 17

“I'm notorious for giving a bad interview. I'm an actor and I can't help but feel I'm boring when I'm on as myself.” - Rock Hudson

Being the precocious child, I’d annoy my mother, remain awake until whatever time to watch various films on television; we didn’t have the option of a larger house, and lived in a one room granny flat at the time. It was all that she could afford, so I couldn’t help but stay up late to watchRockhudson  the late movie, sometimes catching the late-late movie. When re-runs of my mother’s favorite show commenced, so did our arguments. Our taste in male leading actors differed; she adored Roger Moore (circa: the Saint), and I couldn’t understand why. His cavalier take on every script/role didn’t rub me right, and this cavalier aura followed him through a few James Bond films; I adore James Bond as a character, but I’ve only seen the Moore films once. When my mother took me to the cinema to see For Your Eyes Only, as a birthday treat, I asked her how Moore re-appeared on the big screen; I thought I’d see Sean Connery. My mother, thrilled at seeing big screen Moore, shrugged it off, and I left the cinema disappointed; I never liked, what I interpreted as being, Moore's sleazy on screen aura.

Our differing tastes included leading ladies; I loved Doris Day, she didn’t. I also loved Doris Day because our television stations here would always replay the films starring Rock Hudson.

My mother often talked about Roger Moore, probably in the same way I rave on about Rock Hudson to my son each time Giant is shown on television, and I’d offer her my newfound matinee idol: Rock Hudson.

“He’s all right,” she’d say, and I’d think, ‘are you bloody kidding me?’ She had a thing for the fair haired male sex.

Continue reading "Male on Sunday 17" »

March 04, 2007

Male on Sunday 16 - ΚΑΤΑ ΤΟΝ ΔΑΙΜΟΝΑ ΕΑΥΤΟΥ

“People are afraid of themselves, of their own reality; their feelings most of all. People talk about how great love is, but that's bullshit. Love hurts. Feelings are disturbing. People are taught that pain is evil and dangerous. How can they deal with love if they're afraid to feel? Pain is meant to wake us up. People try to hide their pain. But they're wrong. Pain is something to carry, like a radio. You feel your strength in the experience of pain. It's all in how you carry it. That's what matters. Pain is a feeling. Your feelings are a part of you. Your own reality. If you feel ashamed of them, and hide them, you're letting society destroy your reality. You should stand up for your right to feel your pain.” Jim Morrison

"If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is, infinite." The Marriage of Heaven and Hell (William Blake).

Jim Morrison was always on the cards for Male on Sunday, but the idea daunted me because The Doors, to me, are one of those bands that a person – so many years after Morrison’s death – doesn’t happen upon while listening to popular radio stations. The Doors find their listener, and I can only write about Jim Morrison as a listener, and how this band’s music has affected me. So this piece is going to take a scenic route, and the reader either jumps in the car, or hops off round about here.

Continue reading "Male on Sunday 16 - ΚΑΤΑ ΤΟΝ ΔΑΙΜΟΝΑ ΕΑΥΤΟΥ" »

February 25, 2007

Male on Sunday - 15

Principia “I don’t know what I may seem to the world, but, as to myself, I seem to have been only like a boy playing on the sea-shore, and diverting myself in now and then finding a smoother pebble or a prettier shell than ordinary, whilst the great ocean of truth lay all undiscovered items before me.” – Sir Isaac Newton.

Sage, scientist, intellectual and alchemist, the humble beginnings of this man were contrary to his final destination; perhaps one of the most innovative minds, a mind that is yet to be surpassed, he is what Leonardo da Vinci could have become should he have been permitted to study medicine and other sciences at university level.

One is frequently introduced to Sir Isaac Newton in high school, and up to a limit, just enough to gain an understanding of core scientific theories, such as the Laws of Motion and calculus (although this branch of mathematics is also attributed to Leibniz: a shared credit, as it were), among other things. His Thirties saw him with gray, shoulder length hair, and he’d be working late into the evening, spending many intervals in his chamber during his time at Trinity College. Centuries after his death, once his papers were discovered, the realization dawned that this man was, perhaps, the peerless alchemist of all Europe.

My fascination with a man like Newton concerns his origin, which then transformed into an adulthood devoid of lovers, marriage and the things many man take for granted. It can be said that his mistress, or muse, was pure learning. He immersed himself into the physical world, and retreated into the abstract dimension within his mind, manipulating mathematical concepts to translate common problems.

Continue reading "Male on Sunday - 15" »

November 27, 2006

Male on Sunday - 14

“My odds of survival now are greater than they have been for quite some time." - Trent Reznor.

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I can’t say that I’ve read tracts and tracts about Trent Reznor, the creative force behind Nine Inch Nails, in terms of every single detail about his life save for a few interviews and articles that go into much detail about his arrival onto the music scene after modest beginnings. I’ve only focused on the music, and the way he expresses emotions within as he marries varies musical genres together. Can one word sum up his music? Is it industrial, punk, rock or a blend of noise? What’s more striking, to me, isn’t so much the label but how he pretty much flowed through the Nineties grunge era of angst, or a type of angst that was packaged. A refined angst? A marketable angst?

Continue reading "Male on Sunday - 14" »

October 30, 2006

Male on Sunday -13

Kazant19150“A true novelist cannot but live the reality of his own times, and in doing so become aware of his responsibilities. He thus attempts to help his fellow men to face up to and solve the pressing problems of his day to greatest possible extent. In as far as a contemporary work of literature reflects the times in which we live, it is necessarily one of the most subtle and effective forms of action. Or rather it itself can become the seed of action. Provided that a novelist is aware of his mission, he tries to push reality to adopt the form he judges to be most fitting for man. In other more balanced, self-confident times, beauty could suffice to fulfill the author's ideal. The writer of today, if he is truly alive, is someone who suffers and worries at the sight of reality. He is led to co-operate with all the still surviving powers of light to advance man's burdensome destiny a little. The modern writer, if he is true to his mission, is a fighter.” Nikos Kazantzakis

Where literature is concerned, regardless of the medium, there are three types of authors (for me). There are those who end up in the bargain bin, those who don’t pay attention to language or structure (thereby ruining a reader’s rhythm by paying it no respect) and those whose works will never sit in a bargain bin. Nikos Kazantzakis falls into the latter. He’s in my literary toplist, and I think that few authors examine the human existential issues in the manner that he did. A lot of works out there today, due the marketing of such works (as well as authors), are transient. Many of today’s popular authors rarely discuss the struggles they often write about, and those who do manage to a book deal hardly dare to reveal the struggles along the way - doesn’t make for good press, and many care more about their image.

“Life is different here, to live here you have to struggle, because there are three and a half million people here struggling for their living. I visited a few people I had introductions for, and tried to find a job so as not to be a burden on father any more. But so far I have not succeeded in doing anything, though they did make me promises. In any case I have enough money to live on for all of October and November. In the meantime I'll go to university and when I learn the language fluently I won't have anything to fear.” Nikos Kazantzakis (from a letter to his parents, discussing his life in Paris shortly after his arrival)

Born in Crete in 1883, during a time of uprisings to break Ottoman rule within the island, he came from an average household and wasn’t born with a silver spoon in his mouth. His early life is filled with stopovers. In 1898 he was sent to school on the island of Naxos to escape the rebellions on the island of Crete, and it was here that he began his education at a school run by French monks, which inspired his love of the French language.

In 1902 he finished his secondary education in Irakleion, and then moved to Athens to study law. Writing came to Kazantzakis easily. Before he commenced his law degree he published an essay, and his first novel “Serpent and Lily” (1907). A year later his play, “Day is Breaking” won a drama prize in Athens, became a production and the first controversy for Kazantzakis before moving ahead to postgraduate study while working as a journalist (and being inducted as a Freemason). No stranger to controversy, he lived in Athens (1910) with the woman that was to be his first wife, Galatea Alexiou, while earning a living as a translator. At this point, Kazantzakis was fluent in Greek, French, German, English and Classical Greek. In 1919 Greek Prime Minister Eleftherios Venizelos appointed him as the Director General of Social Welfare; Kazantzakis was responsible for the repatriation of more than a hundred thousand Pontian Greek refugees from the Caucasus region. It was while overseeing this, that Kazantzakis drew inspiration for his novel Christ Recrucified. This period heralded Kazantzakis own odyssey, and much like Odysseus, it saw him traveling around the world.

He gave literature characters who weren’t far removed from everyday life; each facing their own existential struggles while observing the larger machine of the world at work and this can also relate to the authors own spiritual and existential struggles that latched onto him early on in life. The world probably knows him best through his work Zorba the Greek, which has also become a film classic starring Anthony Quinn as Alexi Zorbas, an old Greek who teaches a younger foreigner how to live life, and take it as it unfolds or not to sweat the small stuff.

Regardless of Kazantzakis’ own struggles, he constructed a body of work that almost earned him a Nobel Prize in literature only to lose by one vote. Albert Camus, the winner of the Nobel Prize in Literature (1957) is quoted as saying that Kazantzakis deserved it more. This can be true, because no other work portraying Jesus Christ dared explore the existential aspect of Christ’s life. Decades after the publication of this book, after Martin Scorcese’s decision to adapt the novel to film, many Bk2pub1 religious groups picketed cinemas around the world protesting over the film that depicted Christ as a man. 1988 was an interesting year for the onset of Christian protest (and had the protesters actually read the author's introduction to the novel, they'd see his deep admiration for Christ, but it's all about shoot first, ask questions later). Thus Kazantzakis’s stories have a timeless quality, in that they can still evoke social debate. As a result of The Last Temptation, Kazantzakis was excommunicated from the Eastern Orthodox Church (due to the ‘heretical’ content of the book), and there were other behind the scenes events that may swayed the Nobel vote. More importantly, Kazantzakis’ reaction to the churches (Eastern Orthodox Church and Catholic Church) condemning this novel was to send a telegram to the Vatican to say the following, quoting Tertullian:

“Ad tuum, Domine, tribunal appello” - I lodge my appeal at your tribunal, Lord.

Unlike many of today’s supposedly literary ‘wunderkind’ who can earn five figure sums before their novels are printed (who hardly scratch the surface of the human struggle), Nikos found it difficult to make a living out of writing due to the fact that there wasn’t a market for Greek writers and because he wrote in demotic Greek, his works gained a controversial quality. This inability to earn a living from writing, or the struggle within, led him to write a lot more by way of translating other works, working as a journalist and even writing travel literature based countries he traveled to ( Japan, China, Italy, Egypt, England), which also fed into the quality of his literature so his novels, even though translated to English, don’t lose much in the translation.

When Kazantzakis died in 1957, aged 74 his body was transferred to Athens, the Greek Orthodox Church refused to permit it to lie in state, the body was transferred to Irakleion, Crete where people were able to pay their last respects to the man who chose "Δεν ελπίζω τίποτε. Δεν φοβούμαι τίποτε. Είμαι λεύτερος" ( I hope for nothing. I fear nothing. I am free), for his epitaph.

As you can see, it takes a lot of space to explore Nikos Kazantzakis and I’m not anywhere near half done or a quarter done, but I'll leave it here because this isn't an academic essay, it's an informal personal exploration as to how this person's work, and personal stance, has influenced me over nearly two decades.

October 22, 2006

Male on Sunday - 12

"I cut things off because I no longer want to be like a wall, or a rubbish bin where you dump anything you want." - Gerard Depardieu

If Gerard Depardieu was born outside France, his life would have been different. If he entered film in places like Hollywood, he would have been typecast or had a short lifespan as an actor because the realm of Hollywood prefers the aesthetically ‘beautiful’ actor, the type of person that doesn’t cause too much visual friction for the audience. In almost every film from La-La Land, it’s the same thing. It’s not about the person, and Botox does little for facial expression, it’s more about looks or a certain type of neat appearance that evades categorization but is noticeable throughout many major releases.

As the third child of six children, he didn’t expect much. Gerard’s beginning, in Châteauroux were ordinary where poverty is concerned. The Second World War, particularly in Europe was one of the darkest periods of the modern era, but this era also infused every survivor with a sense of adventure. It’s much like the saying, ‘there are worse things,’ and millions of Europeans who lived through the war, and personally endured trials and tribulations had a close example of the worst.

Depardieu didn’t follow the customary rules that actors follow today. He didn’t have some epiphany at a young age and immediately decide, like many of today’s actors, that ‘acting’ was in his blood or whatever else. He left home at 12, and became a nomad, living an adventurous life. Life is an adventure when one leaves home so early in the piece. He worked as a dishwasher, and he also worked on the Riviera as a beach boy, doing things such as putting up umbrellas for people. His adventure through Europe was also funded via stolen cars, and petty crime. During this early age, he also lived with two prostitutes.

Much has been said about his entry into drama, but according to one interview, Gerard relays that he lost a part of his language by the time he came to Paris. On the advice of others he enrolled at the 10 Theatre National Populaire. The rest, they say, is history. Since his 1965 debut, at the age of sixteen, in French short film Le Beatnik et le Minet he’s never been out of work and is classed as one of France’s most accomplished actors with 150 feature films under his belt, some of these films include English language films such as Peter Weir’s Green Card, Ridley Scott’s 1492 - Conquest of Paradise and Randall Wallace’s The Man in the Iron Mask.

There are no limits where acting is concerned. Each emotion, gesture or speech mannerism may look effortless to execute, but the wide variety of characters Depardieu has played emphasizes the skill of the actor’s art. In Green Card he played the bumbling émigré, in Cyrano de Bergerac (for which he received an Oscar nomination) he displays a vulnerability (aside from being naturally endowed with a sizeable nose that’s fitting to the original character from the play) within Bergerac’s flamboyance and masculinity. In the Return of Martin Geurre he plays a humble peasant, who upon returning from a war asserts his identity. He isn’t purely a dramatic actor, he’s also played comedic characters, the sort that aren’t far removed from everyday life. In Tais Toi, starring opposite Jean Reno’s suave criminal character, he plays Quentin the bumbling wannabe criminal that drives Reno’s character to the brink of distraction.

It’s all in the eyes, I think. Gerard’s eyes have seen many things, and his personal life has been tumultuous. In more recent times he’s publicly fallen out with his son Guillaume, and at the same time he’d also maintain a clear work ethic, delivering roles with a skill that’s second to none. Others would have gone into hiatus, or at worse reach a ‘senior’ age and be sidelined, whereas Gerard went from strength to strength as an actor. This is why I’ve always loved French film (and European film in general). France doesn’t view their actors in terms of half lives, or peak periods, and doesn’t sideline actors due to age, appearance or personal crises. There is a distinct line between an actor’s personal life and their work. The two never blend, and an actor’s personal life is separate from their acting ability and/or films.

Outside of Europe it’s different, and an actor’s personal life can affect the success of their film. A more recent example would be Russell Crowe, and the limited success of The Cinderella Man in the wake of the fracas at the Mercer Hotel. It will be interesting to see whether or not Mel Gibson’s next film, Apocalypto, fares well. This, I have to confess is why I don’t particularly like mainstream Hollywood film that much and prefer independent films in more recent times. If an actor isn’t good looking enough, or has experienced a few rounds in rehab, the actor is judged severely and their work opportunities can dry up. One only has to look at the likes of Brad Pitt and Robert Downey Jnr to see the different acting ranges, and yet how many times do we see Robert Downey Jnr? He’s one outstanding actor.  But open up a magazine and we’ll see Pitt and Angelina; their recent popularity isn’t based on their work or artistry, it’s based on the controversy of their union and ten million paparazzi shots.

Thus, in an actor like Gerard, a viewer sees the actors art, and it’s an art that can be compared to the likes of Pacino, de Niro, Brando, Hanks and of late, Jim Carrey (his role as Count Olaf, and footage of his improvisations provide glimpses to immense talent).

I first saw an article about Gerard Depardieu as a mid teenager. He was described, back then, as one of the sexy actors to watch. Women find him sexy, because he’s gregarious and full of life. Men like him because he’s a man’s man, and doesn’t pull any punches. He’s also considered a gourmand, and has written his own cook book, has also extended his love of fine wine to produce his own wines. Although he announced his retirement from film in October last year, he could also be considered one of the highest paid actors in France and has also received the 'Chevalier du Légion d'Honneur' or Knight of the Legion of Honour.

He is the vulnerable Geurre, lovelorn Cyrano, swashbuckling Musketeer Porthos, happy go lucky émigré Georges, the intrepid Christopher Columbus, and most importantly that vulnerable twelve year old boy who decided to drop out of school to embrace an adventurous life.

October 15, 2006

Male on Sunday - 11

“Fashions fade. Style is eternal.” - Yves St Laurent

I’ll go on to discuss how, and why, I came to be fixated on YSL at an early age but first things first, YSL made it his mission, as a designer, to focus on feminine beauty and elegance. Unlike some other designers who go for whimsical spectacle, frocking up their models to the point of fashion overkill (so you have difficulty discerning their gender), that’s so far removed from accentuating feminine beauty, the house of YSL has always focused on elegance. Current YSL designer, Stefano Pilati has likened YSL to Picasso, and has gone on to say that “YSL is history” in relation to fashion. Tom Ford has described YSL as a major influence, and you’d be hard pressed to find a fashion designer who hasn’t been influenced - on some level - by Yves St Laurent.

There are moments where I think the world of fashion is fickle, especially now where more emphasis is placed on frivolity than style, however the influence of a fashion designer can be far reaching. Imagine, walking into a function and being told you have to leave because your clothes are inappropriate? Women used to experience discrimination based on their clothing. In the Sixties, during the Melbourne Cup, Jean Shrimpton donned a mini dress and caused a stir. During her time, Coco Chanel caused a stir by opting to wear pants instead of dresses. Many of the clothes that are acceptable today, are so because noted designers behind the scenes pushed forth in order to proclaim their creative/artistic freedom.

I used to draw clothes, because my mother worked as a dressmaker and I would be awed at the finished results. She worked as a contractor, and would put together something like fifty blouses (or whatever she was assigned) a week. She’d receive the cut parts, and assemble them in the same way car aficionados hot-up their dream cars . So my interest grew, and the major turning point occurred when I was five. As a recent widow, she was hard pressed to fork out cash for new ‘anything’. Clothes were either sewn or hand me downs, and everything was budgeted to go toward the rent, utilities and groceries. Our leisure times were spent in parks, or walking around this city I live in, and we’d only catch a film once a year. So one day she saw a pink dress in a shop window, took out her memo pad and pen, started sketching it, and in a few weeks (once she bought near matching buttons) a near identical, ‘new’ dress was born. Years down the track, when I was in high school, I decided to try and see if fashion was for me, and although I could conjure up mad-ass sketches, I couldn’t sew to save my life. During Year 10, Work Experience cropped up and we had to pick where we wanted to spend our four weeks, and during the past four years mind you, I spent a lot of time educating myself on the designers that made significant inroads in fashion:

Coco Chanel, and her suit (which people still purchase to this day).
Paco Rabanne and his futuristic type garments fashioned from metal mesh.
Christian Dior and the post WWII ‘New Look’.
Elsa Schiaparelli, and her signature color ‘Shocking Pink’
Mary Quant, and the Mod look.
And the list goes on and on.

Everyone gravitates toward a favorite in the end, but work experience, in two ‘then’ Sydney fashion houses wasn’t for me. If you think the magazine world depicted in The Devil Wears Prada is tough, then the world of fashion design is like DWP on roids. There’s little room for fuck ups within fashion houses. One of the designers I chose was a former designer for Esprit, who opened up his own fashion house here in Australia, and the other one (I had the fortune of finding out, during the last fortnight of work experience) was his former business partner. They split, and I had no bloody idea, and let me tell you once I divulged my previous fortnight’s whereabouts to the other designer, you could chip (forget about slicing the air) the ice within the immediate atmosphere:

“Oh, so you came from there…”

Fashion design isn’t for the faint of heart. I wouldn’t classify myself as being faint of heart, but I couldn’t sew, and I didn’t have the cash flow, besides this I didn’t have the patience for temper tantrums and I still don’t, so I moved on however, I still retained my favorite fashion designer, and that designer will always be Yves St Laurent. YSL is also responsible for a few dates of mine - with supposedly fashion minded males that purportedly worked in the industry - that went pear shaped. It would be:

Him: “Oh I like Armani and Valentino. Who’s your favorite?”
Me:  “Yves St Laurent”
Him: “Are you serious? Too boring.”
Me:  “Well you have no idea about fashion design.” (translation: I am so mortified, that I'll never even consider making out with you, let alone give you a blowjob.)

Mind you, the above isn't to say that Armani and Valentino are 'crap', they're great designers, but to put-down YSL is absurd.

To gauge the achievements, and sheer determination, of YSL to succeed in a world that was closed off from outsiders, is to backtrack to the time when a 17 year old YSL left home for Paris to pursue his dream of being a couturier. In 1953, at the age of 17, his entry - an asymmetrical cocktail dress - won first prize in the International Wool Secretariat Contest. It was while he was working as a cutter, that he was employed by Christian Dior to work as an assistant. At the age of 21, after Dior’s death, YSL took over as artistic director of Christian Dior. Mind you, there are no designers today that take over prestigious fashion houses at the same age.

Yves1954firstprizeintlwoolsecretarprize St Laurent was a prodigy. He spent an immense amount of his childhood, and adolescence, sketching clothes, but his early success as artistic director had to be put aside due to National Service where he was conscripted to serve in the French army during the Algerian War of Independence. This service led to him having a nervous breakdown, and entering a mental institution where he underwent electroshock and psychiatric treatment.

In the wake of this, he then went on (with the financial support of his one time partner, and business partner Pierre Bergé) to establish his own fashion house, and then the Rive Gauche (for Pret-a-Porter/Ready-to-Wear lines) boutiques were established in 1966. Menswear was then added in 1974, and the empire expanded with cosmetics, and fragrances (Opium, Rive Gauche, Jazz for Men, Kouros, to name a few). In regard to fashion firsts:

  • YSL, was the first to create the ‘Le Smoking’ Tuxedo pantsuit for women in 1966, which many have tried to reproduce, and still reproduce.
  • In 1996, he was the first couturier to show his Haute Couture show live on the Internet.
  • He was the first living designer to have a retrospective exhibition of his work at the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
  • He was the first designer to use models from a variety of ethnic backgrounds.
  • He created the ‘Mondrian Dress’.
  • In 1960 his ‘Beat Look’ caused a sensation in the fashion world.

In the Sixties, he brought in the pantsuit as an essential staple for a woman's wardrobe and this was initially met with social resistance, but it all panned out, the pantsuit stayed. He is also famous for bolero jackets, see-through blouses (1968), safari jackets, smocks, and peasant blouses.

Outside the world of fashion, he was awarded (by President Mitterand) the Knighthood of the Legion of Honor.

So, you can see why some of my then dates would go pear shaped? To ‘poo-poo’ YSL is to have no idea of fashion in the sense of where many of today’s popular garments/styles originate. Clothes aren't just a strip of fabric, they represent cultural changes, art, scientific innovation, in addition to style. Even though I'm no fashion plate (hey, I may consider putting a Paypal Donate button for the Haute Couture Fund, only kidding), these are standard things and clothes don't have to cost a bomb, it's more often a question of style. Couturiers put an image together, observe trends, and work from that point on to create an ensemble that is then mass produced or copied, so the rest of us can afford it or the look can be reproduced - on some level - without borrowing on the mortgage.

In addition to the above, the women who patronized him or whom he chose to represent YSL were also his muses, the most popular or well known among the four is Catherine Deneuve, one of, if not, the most elegant women on this planet where style is concerned.

Captb915f686f6aa4cfe80d303b4d38578ccfran In 2002 problems such as ill health, depression, addiction, including difficulties with Tom Ford, led to Yves St Laurent and Gucci (which bought YSL, with YSL designing Couture and Ford designing Pret-a-Porter) closing the Couture house of YSL.

I spent quite a large chunk of my time, up to 2002, following YSL’s collections. Opening up a magazine, to see each collection, was a highlight for me, and way back in my ambitious teen years, YSL was always someone to watch. When he announced his retirement, it was like the end of an era and I have to admit, I lost interest in fashion from that point on, and do confess to thinking that the hipster jean for women is totally hideous because it only suits 'straight up and down' bodies and I'm so sick of seeing it, and seeing women try to squeeze into the fuckers. His designs weren’t trashy, and his style wasn’t dependent on or proportional to the amount of flesh shown (ouch!), it was about cut, tailoring, elegance, and most importantly, style where the person came first, not the other way round.

So, even if one’s not consciously aware of it, Yves St Laurent’s influence still lives on in many fashion styles that are frequently resurrected through the seasons, and this would have to count as one of his most significant achievements.

October 09, 2006

Male on Sunday -10


Gmichael My first concert was Wham at the Sydney Entertainment Centre. The concert was packed out, and I grudgingly went with three friends, because I was the fourth ticket. I was in my teens, and was into gritty rock, the kind that boasted stars that looked liked they were hygienically challenged, or ‘grungy’.

Once we got to our seats, we had to wait for the show to begin and although I wasn’t into the bounce that was Wham, I couldn’t dismiss the energy and ambience within the Centre. It was difficult to spy a male in the crowd. I hadn’t seen that many females in my life. Thousands. When the show started, and George Michael leapt out on stage, his energy was like something else, but what followed was something that was a first for me. I couldn’t believe the effect on those around me. My two girlfriends were bawling from their awe, and our male friend was dumbfounded. Although I wasn’t a fan of every Wham song (there are a couple of songs that are still great), one thing I couldn’t dismiss was George Michael’s talent.

He was the persona of Wham in many ways, but back then there was still something missing. Was it George Michael or Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou up there on stage? Even though he was considered to be at the top of his form, there was a tentative hue in his music and song but when he took a solo turn, he entered another arena that saw him standing on the shoulders of musical giants. Few people would have thought, including himself, that one day the chubby teenager from North London would become the superb singer that would sing a duet with Aretha Franklin. He reached a point where his stardom preceded him, and justifiably so, but this near shattered when he was arrested for ‘lewd’ conduct in a public toilet. I suppose it didn’t matter that the other person was basically there to arrest someone, the news that hit the world related ‘lewd’ conduct, and this proved to be the event that took Michael down another path, one that would more or less force him to confront many things that involved his own persona, his life and where he stood within it all.

There is much biographical content that anyone can read at the click of a button, many interviews as well as an awesome official webpage that gives new listeners the opportunity to listen to all of his albums, in full, for free. It’s hard to believe that his career spans two decades. Time may seem like it flies by too quickly during certain moments, but there are moments that feel like they’re on slow motion, particularly where personal losses are concerned, the kinds that pull the rug out from under. Shortly after Michael climbed to the top he began to wrestle with emotions that concerned his sexuality, worldwide fame and the sometime emptiness that results from having a high profile. What followed, were moments that altered his perception, namely two deaths that pulled him into a dark period, and preceded the toilet incident that was blown out of all proportion by the media.

As a solo artist, Michael has sold more than 80 million records around the world. During his bleak period, a period that’s been dotted by depression (after the deaths of his lover and mother) and something like 25 joints a day to numb the sense of loss or disorientation that follows sudden loss, he’d still sell records. During his uncertain moments, times where he’d wrestle with his sexuality prior to coming out, he’d write the most beautiful songs and sing like an angel. You’d never know, or suspect that his person, this talented singer songwriter was walking a razor sharp line that tested his wellbeing.

It’s difficult to document or detail the demons that Michael has faced, because they’re extensive and they require pages, pages that can be located just about anywhere or read from interviews he’s given, but the one thing that I find arresting, is his use of humor to elucidate his bleak periods. He puts things into perspective in ways that can induce laughter, even though the events are far from funny. A 2005 interview in The Guardian describes George Michael as buying a puppy to preempt the loss of his then aged pet : "And then the bloody puppy drowned in the Thames. Awful. Just awful. So I went through that and then the dog died soon after anyway. D'youknowwhadImean?"

It’s not funny, but it reads funny in that ‘What the fuck?’ kind of way that questions life, and the chaos within it. But his humor in tackling adversity can be fully appreciated in the film clip of his song, Outside, where he makes fun of the ‘lewd conduct’ incident even though this incident tested his internal strength, as various accounts of it flooded throughout the world, and most aimed to slay George Michael, based on his sexuality.

Two decades ago, when George Michael entered the world’s stage and made his presence, he did so in the shadow of his father’s doubt. Aspiring to be a singer-songwriter was a dream, or a delusion, and when one reads about Michael’s family history, his heritage, it’s understandable. Many people, especially those from war ravaged Europe, particularly from families that lived in crowded houses as a result of adversity, after invasions and occupations, migrated to start over, believed in a solid work ethic in order to take them over the poverty line. The mentality of any post war migrant, or refugee, revolves around solid work and dreams of being a singer-songwriter, basically occupations that belong in Dreamland aren’t a part of the scheme.

I suppose the other reason why I can identify with some of the demons, is because of the similar heritage, and internal conflict that can arise when one feels that their parents expect so much more where being ‘X, Y, or Z’ isn’t a real ‘job’, it’s not a career, need more solidity, go and study, work in a ‘clean job’, namely something corporate or office like even though there’s an equal amount of effluent in so called ‘clean jobs’. in short, ‘Stop dreaming, and get on with the things that you ought to get on with. But life’s too short for that, and sometimes when you take another path, it can wreak havoc, particularly when you don’t want to be the person everyone else may expect you to be.

The main thing, I guess, is that George Michael has always been so much more than what the media, in some cases (particularly during the period of his coming out), has portrayed. He’s done things his own way, has sought to maintain a level of integrity as a musician and songwriter and has never wavered from this, despite swimming in darker waters for periods that have seen him take long breaks from music. In some interviews he’s expressed that (due to his absences, and own personal upheavals) he’d let down fans, but behind all the wealth, success, album sales and media attention, he’s still a person.

What still amazes me is that he gave the world many songs during his bleak periods and/or periods that saw him question his life from many angles, and he hasn’t stopped doing this. I’ll go further to say that in the last ten years, Georgios Kyriacos Panayiotou has come out of a chrysalis, and has transformed into a rare kind of butterfly.

George Michael Official Website

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