Category Archives: Social trends

➤ Burretti movie adds an epic and essential chapter to the Bowie story

Starman, Freddie Burretti, film, biopic, Lee Scriven, David Bowie, Man Who Sewed The World, glam rock, fashion

Connected by “otherness”: In a scoop for the film Starman, Bowie himself gave this unseen 1973 picture of Freddie Burretti wearing his own design for a lush crimson suit to launch the Aladdin Sane album. Both photographs by Masayoshi Sukita

Click to zoom down to Andy Polaris’s film review

◼ BETWEEN 1970 AND 1974 FREDDIE BURRETTI not only became David Bowie’s teenage lover but gave visual expression to the singer’s pop ambition. When they met Bowie was 23 and married to Angie while former Mod face Freddie, with his 28-inch waist and voluptuous long-hair, was as sexy as many another 19-year-old in that moment when David Johansen, Marc Bolan and Bowie were creating what became known as glam rock. But Freddie and David clicked instinctively in what Bowie calls their “otherness”, much of which derived from their sexuality. His career rebirth as an alien on Planet Earth was a masterstroke of pop invention and it was Burretti who created the exotic and brazenly sexual one-piece style of costuming in lush fabrics that we associate with Ziggy Stardust.

A new documentary biopic was previewed in London last night and not only breathes fresh life into familiar Bowie music but pieces together a unique chapter about his personal relationships against the austere climate of Britain in the 70s. Director Lee Scriven captures on film a score of eye-witness accounts, chief among them Freddie’s brother Stephen, his special friend and flatmate Wendy Kirby, his younger It-girl protégée Daniella Parmar, and biographer Kevin Cann.

Freddie Burretti , David Bowie, fashion,

Burretti stripes 1973: Bowie photographed on the Aberdeen express by Mick Rock

Titled Starman: Freddie Burretti – The Man Who Sewed The World, the biopic’s impact is cumulative. Burretti described himself as “just a dress designer” – raised in Hackney, transplanted at 14 to Bletchley in the home counties, then escaping at 18 back to London to live the life – yet by the time the on-screen talking heads arrive at GQ editor Dylan Jones, it becomes clear that a body of opinion today ranks Burretti alongside giants such as Zandra Rhodes, Vivienne Westwood and even Alexander McQueen, whose design talent blossomed more than a decade later.

Indeed, Burretti’s “stylish, yet slightly whimsical approach to tailoring” and the enduring influence of his adventurous cutting in several suits of the moment during 1973–74 is thoroughly acknowledged in the V&A catalogue to its touring exhibition, David Bowie Is. The singer’s blurring of the line between stage wear and day wear persuades an impressive list of high-fashion designers to admit their debt to him, including Riccardo Tisci at Givenchy whose SS2010 show opened with a black-and-white striped blazer in a blatant tribute to the one Bowie was famously photographed wearing on an intercity train in May 1973.

Bowie told Fan magazine in 1974: “Freddie is extremely patient. He just listens to my ideas and has this sort of telepathy, because whatever I think of in my mind he produces for real. I just hope he’ll continue to design incredible clothes for me.”

❏ Up until now very few pictures of Freddie Burretti were known to the public – even the cover of the sex education magazine Curious shown below surfaced in only 2010 with Cann’s chronology of Bowie’s early life, Any Day Now. As the gay liberation movement was gathering momentum in Britain, we see Bowie wearing a floral “man-dress” designed by Savile Row tailor Mr Fish, known for putting Mick Jagger in a frock for the Stones’ 1969 Hyde Park concert. Bowie had two Mr Fish dresses which he wore in 1970 in cover photographs for the album The Man Who Sold the World.

With Starman, Scriven’s company LJS films has scored a major coup. The publicity photo you see up top has never been published before and was given to the project by Bowie himself, showing off Freddie’s good looks, with grey highlights in the hair. Today you’ll come across very few pictures of the gorgeous suit in rich crimson-and-blue velvet with flared crimson trousers created for the launch of the Aladdin Sane album. Its first outing was Bowie’s interview on the Russell Harty TV chat show recorded on 17 January 1973, and in an associated live clip singing Drive-In Saturday.

Uniquely, what Starman has done is to collage together Burretti and Bowie in the crimson suit to simulate a sumptuous set of photos taken that February by Masayoshi Sukita against the glistening art deco interior of Radio City Music Hall in New York. Scriven said: “I have been told Freddie would arrive at studio shoots in advance with the clothes and help the photographer by standing in as a model so he or she could set up the lighting etc ready for Mr Bowie.” Some of the shots play with his mirrored reflection and the collage cleverly echoes the originals.

In the UK an NME headline revealed the new persona, “Goodbye Ziggy, Big Hello to Aladdin”, while at Radio City on 14–15 February Bowie and the Spiders were launching their US tour. In this 90-minute show Bowie transitions through the hit songs of Ziggy Stardust to introduce Aladdin Sane and all but one track from the new album – all this, remember, before his official “retirement of Ziggy” announcement in London that July. Included in Freddie’s £1,000 invoice for costumes supplied to the tour, Cann’s meticulous book records “Red Check Suit 40 guineas” (about £500 today).

The tragedy is that the Burretti-Bowie partnership ended the next year, over a “financial disagreement”, according to Cann’s book. Immediately, Burretti slipped out of the public eye.

, Freddie Burretti, David Bowie, glam rock, man-dress,gay issues,

Curious magazine, 1971: Bowie wears his Michael Fish “man-dress” and plans to create a band called The Arnold Corns to showcase Freddie as “the next Mick Jagger”. It turned out that Freddie couldn’t sing

❏ Their affair had begun in 1970 in Kensington’s fashionable gay disco Yours Or Mine beneath the Sombrero restaurant. The Bowies were regulars, and one night David spotted Freddie cutting a dash on the up-lit dancefloor. Angie Bowie crossed the room to ask him and Wendy to join them for a drink.

In an interview with Angie said in 2000: “You have no idea how handsome this man was. Freddie was wearing white Spandex hotpants with a navy blue sailors trim and a sailor shirt with short sleeves out of the same white Spandex edged in navy on the collar and sleeves. He looked totally Scandinavian with high cheek-bones and lots of blond hair, but he was tall and had big hands and feet speaking of his artistry and physical stamina. Every night he made new clothes to wear. He was so brilliant.”

At last night’s screening flatmate Wendy also remembered that day: “Angie approached us and asked us to have a drink. We hesitated and that’s what’s missing from the film – our sheer arrogance. We nearly said no!” She added: “Watching the film was quite strange. No one imagines their youth will be portrayed on screen and it was a little unsettling. I think the film was an affectionate glimpse of a time long gone. I didn’t appreciate at the time how talented Freddie really was. Lee’s film brought home how exceptional his work was. I’m proud to have known the man who was ‘just Freddie’ to me.”

❏ Read on for the reaction of Andy Polaris, ex-Blitz Kid and 80s pop singer who regards Bowie as one of rock’s serious gods.

➢ Starman director Lee Scriven’s website

“man-dress” , Wendy Kirby, Freddie Burretti, David Bowie, fashion,

Angie and David at home to Freddie: the host wears his Michael Fish designed “man-dress” that was banned from his American album cover for The Man Who Sold the World

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: 2011, I danced in Bowie’s lost Jean Genie video, by Wendy Kirby

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s: 2010, A feast of Bowie-ana served in waffeur-thin slices by Kevin Cann

Last night’s preview: click any pic below to launch slideshow

➢ Previously at Shapersofthe80s:
1970, Where to draw a line between glitter and glam



Freddie Burretti, Daniella Parmar, fashion,Ziggy Stardust

Designer and It-girl, Freddie and Daniella: striking a pose that David and Angie came to emulate

Andy Polaris, singer

Andy Polaris

❏ Starman: The Man Who Sewed The World gives a fascinating insight into the relatively unknown life of fashion future legend Freddie Burretti. This working-class lad had a creative mind able to absorb everything he loved about Mod fashion, having taught himself to make his own clothes at an early age. With enough dedication and focus to learn tailoring as well as the youthful dynamics of the dancefloor, he was obviously adept at observing styles and reworking looks to his own vision.

A chance meeting at the disco lead to the serendipitous collaboration with Bowie and the singer’s as yet not fully realised Ziggy Stardust wardrobe. These bold textured prints and coloured jumpsuits were, and are, extraordinary for capturing Bowie’s otherness at that time. Aladdin Sane prints that looked like Liberty worn by the androgynous male rock star blew our tiny minds back then.

What I loved about the movie was seeing the genesis of Freddie’s glamour vision in a mundanely drab landscape played out with the innocence of his mainly, it appears, female friends notably Wendy bf and Daniella protégée. Wonderful to hear their counterpoint stories of that inner ciricle involved in Bowie’s creation of Ziggy with Freddie’s ascendant talent and confidence.

The pairing of Freddie and Daniella wearing his clothes is groundbreaking. Looking at those photos we see the androgynous beauty of Freddie (like a still from James Bidgood’s 1971 cult movie Pink Narcissus) teamed with Daniella’s Asian complexion and short spiky blonde crop. They had already created David and Angie’s classic image before the rest of the world saw it!

fashion, David Johansen, David Bowie

Coordination of styles, 1973: which came first, Johansen of New York Dolls or Bowie in Burretti suit?

In fact, Daniella also anticipates Ava Cherry singing with Bowie in Young Americans several years later when we note the similar styling – how did that happen?

From my own black perspective, a brown or black face was something I would immediately zone in on, seeing someone like you up there on a stage and hanging out with the stars. Marc Bolan having the black Gloria Jones as his wife was a big bloody deal to some black kids, for sure.

Freddie’s whole look seems to have been adopted wholesale by David Johansen of the New York Dolls, so the influence of this young British designer can today be recognised rippling out into the wider pop culture although it probably wasn’t acknowledged at the time. Maybe a parallel could be drawn between Freddie and Alexander McQueen – both gay and from working-class backgrounds – though McQueen came to work with Bowie as an established star, whereas Freddie created an image that made Bowie a star. Today it is unreal to imagine any designer could achieve such pivotal pop success without a massive team behind them.

➢ Video: Andy Polaris sings Mr Solitaire on Top of the Pops


➤ 75 Ballet gigs later, Gary Kemp tackles serious theatre but denounces its obsession with class

Homecoming, Harold Pinter, Gary Kemp, Jamie Lloyd, Gemma Chan, Trafalgar Studios, interview, theatre, London, reviews

Gemma Chan as Ruth, with Gary Kemp as Teddy, rehearsing for The Homecoming at Trafalgar Studios in London. Photograph by Matt Humphrey

➢ Gary Kemp interviewed by Nick Clark in The Independent, 10 Nov, before he opened this week in Harold Pinter’s The Homecoming at Trafalgar Studios:

The play, set in 1965 was written when working-class people didn’t cross into celebrity, or cross classes. Kemp can empathise with the character who left his working-class roots and found home alien upon his return. “I went to grammar school and things became different, more middle class. My parents were definitely working class. My dad was a printer.” He said: “I get that thing about coming home and having a different language to your parents and sometimes using it against them and sometimes feeling terrible because of that.”

Today, he feels class restrictions remain visible, particularly in the acting world. It is, he said, “utterly class orientated. It’s ironic really because it’s incredibly liberal but underneath that facade there lies this need for Oxbridge, a need for the understanding of literature and a need for received pronunciation. Working-class actors are condemned to sitcoms and soap.” He pointed out that the production’s director Lloyd is working class. “That’s as rare as hen’s teeth” . . . / Continued at The Independent online

➢ The Homecoming runs at the Trafalgar Studios, London (0844 871 7632) until 13 February


➢ Michael Billington in the Guardian, 23 Nov:
Fifty years after its London premiere, Harold Pinter’s play continues to puzzle, astonish and delight. Far from treating it as a revered theatrical specimen preserved in aspic, Jamie Lloyd’s excellent revival offers a fresh approach to the play without in any way violating the rhythms of Pinter’s text. . . The Homecoming retains its hold over our imaginations. It can be seen as a Freudian play about sons filled with subconscious Oedipal desires. It can equally be seen as an ethological study of a group of human animals fighting over territory.

Homecoming, Harold Pinter, Gary Kemp, Ron Cook, Jamie Lloyd, Gemma Chan, Trafalgar Studios, interview, theatre, London, reviews

Gemma Chan as Ruth, with Gary Kemp and Ron Cook, in The Homecoming at Trafalgar Studios. Photograph by Marc Brenner

➢ Dominic Maxwell in The Times:
Half a century after it first put Harold Pinter at the forefront of British drama, this 1965 play can still leave audiences provoked, puzzled and, finally, pleased. With its stark but colourful expressionist staging, its swirling bursts of Mod music and its sharp Sixties threads, this is Pinter goes Kafka, domestic drama goes haunted-house horror.

➢ Dominic Cavendish in The Daily Telegraph:
Welcome back to Pinter-land, a world of inescapable disquietude which, in Jamie Lloyd’s stripped-back 50th anniversary revival of The Homecoming, is more Hades than Hackney. The gender politics of the play make it Pinter’s most problematic major work. It’s not constructed to invite “debate” – you’re meant to submit to its strange, atavistic logic. . . In broad terms, Lloyd delivers an evening that is intense, committed and often – because of the dialogue – darkly funny.

➢ Quentin Letts in the Daily Mail:
Those with a taste for bleak, absurdist, sexist fantasy will find their needs adequately catered for by the latest Jamie Lloyd production at London’s Trafalgar Studios. . . Pinter’s language is always to be savoured, his patter of lower-middle class cliches so astute. References to Humber Snipes and jam rolls and London Airport and flannel vests evoke an era. Was he ahead of his time in envisaging a career woman liberating herself from a lifeless marriage? Or was bedhopper Harold working off a little fantasy about a woman too free with her favours? I incline to the latter view.


1980s ➤ The Ridgers lens lays bare the pursuit of love

The Others, Derek Ridgers, Idea Books, youth culture, nightlife, London, Swinging 80s, Dover Street Market, photography, style,

London 1984: if this is you, come to the party! Photo © Derek Ridgers

◼ IF THIS PHOTO SHOWS YOU perfecting the horizontal jig in a London club in 1984, you’ll find yourselves immortalised in the latest book by photographer Derek Ridgers, titled The Others. The collection captures young love in all its clubland guises and if you spot yourself in this gallery why not email info [a t] and ask to come to the London launch this Thursday, 19 Nov?

Between 1980 and 1986 Ridgers and his candid lens couldn’t help following the pursuit of romance among the lovers, the loveless, the lonely and the last to leave in nightclubs as disparate as Gossip’s, Planets, Great Wall, Batcave, Feltham Football & Social Club, Flick’s, Lyceum, Le Beat Route, Camden Palace, Taboo and many more.

These snogging couples represent Britain’s many subcultural tribes who expressed distinct affinities in the early 80s through personal style and musical tastes. The book’s foreword says its intriguingly contradictory title describes the “other” clubbers who had enough attitude *not* to get rejected by the greeters on the doors of London’s finest clubs. It would make more sense to call these kids The Chosen Ones. Once inside a club, however, they got their priorities right and relegated posing into second place behind the down-to-earth goal that was really on their minds.

The Ridgers images capture all the fun and frailty and the frissons of exploring your youthful identity among like-minded tribalists in ways the publisher was probably trying to nail: a sense of “otherness” that characterised many subcultures in that austere and intolerant era. Whether brave or tentative, outsiders or players, they were helping shift attitudes in dark and stylish cellars across the land. They re-energised Britain by mobilising the talents in which the young excel: through music, clothes, haircuts and romance.

The Others is priced £35 for 124 pages in a limited edition exclusively available at Dover Street Market London and New York, Ginza and the Comme des Garcons Trading Museum in Paris, as well as Marc Jacobs’ Bookmarc stores in New York, Los Angeles, London, Paris and Tokyo. And online from Idea Books.

The Others, Derek Ridgers, Idea Books, youth culture, nightlife, London, Swinging 80s, Dover Street Market, photography, style,

Big hair, 80s-style: Mohican and his captive. Photo © Derek Ridgers


➤ Princess Julia relives the day when 1980 went Boom!

 Daily Mirror, Blitz Kids, New Romantics

The Daily Mirror, 3 March 1980

◼ IT WAS MARCH 1980 WHEN the term Blitz Kids was first used to describe the “weird” and “whacky” young people making waves with their in-flight haircuts at the Tuesday club-night in London’s Blitz wine bar. The cutting here from the Daily Mirror says it all: in those days the left-wing tabloid sold 3.6million copies daily and was still taken seriously for its news coverage, while the Sun was just overtaking those sales figures with a distinctly down-market approach. Newspapers were a mass medium back then.

Using the lively wide-eyed language of the red-tops, Mirror feature writer Christena Appleyard put her finger on exactly those elements of individualism and waywardness that would later the same year see the Blitz Kids renamed the New Romantics. What she completely omits to mention is that four days later the house band of the Blitz, Spandau Ballet, were playing only their fourth live gig in London, at the trendy Scala cinema. In fact, she doesn’t even mention the band alongside Visage and Yellow Magic Orchestra as part of the club’s “electro diskow” synthesised soundtrack.

Appleyard was a savvy writer hearing only one part of a genesis story, yet her headline put the Blitz Kids on the media map and Boom! – this was lift-off for the careers and reputations of about 50 cool clubbers
in the short term, and a whole new look and sound for UK pop culture generally.

Julia Fodor is part of the founding mythology of the Blitz Kids, and tonight in London she was giving an illustrated “audience” to a select crowd in Hoxton. At The Glory pub she was reliving her teen years as mannequin de vie for PX, the New Romantic clothes shop, and as Blitz Club cloakroom girl, who later became a cultural commentator and international club deejay who at her height was being helicoptered into Paris to play at the posey Queen nightclub on the Champs Elysées.

New Romantics, fashion

PX moves into Endell Street in Feb 1980: New Romantic satin gowns, Fauntleroy collars – and Julia. Photographed © by Martin Brading

And Julia’s rise was the norm for those key Blitz Kids with ambition and attitude in 1980. Before that March you could count the media mentions of Steve Strange’s club night: three in the Evening Standard; a page in Tatler; a feature in New Society, the sociology weekly; and a feature about “chiconomy” in the March issue of 19, the teen magazine.

Then Boom! The Blitz Kids headline triggered a small rash of media outbreaks as two perceptive photographers visited the club to take pictures – Homer Sykes and Derek Ridgers – while student journalist Perry Haines featured his Blitz pals in the Evening Standard fashion pages. What put Spandau Ballet on the map, however, were reports in the Standard, the Daily Star and Record Mirror of their electrifying concert, complete with ornamental Blitz Kids dancing in the aisles to a whole new style of music-making – theatrical, romantic, fashion-conscious and danceable – that resulted in a second Scala concert being scheduled for May.

Reading about the Blitz phenomenon had intrigued a young researcher on Janet Street-Porter’s yoof documentary slot, 20th Century Box, at London Weekend Television which then commissioned the May replay for their cameras. In the meantime one alert talent scout at Chrysalis Records also wanted to hear the band’s music. The next few months saw the Blitz Kids start to gobble up column inches and enliven the odd TV strand, while the two coolest magazines of the decade, The Face and i-D, were launched specifically to report this burgeoning youth culture based on street style.

Spandau landed the first contract for a New Romantic band in October, while Visage released its first album in November after signing to Polydor, and the Romantic band-wagon was under way. By Christmas 1981 the sound of the UK pop charts had been transformed completely from rock guitars to bass and drum.

❏ Tonight and for two more Mondays, An Audience with Princess Julia celebrates London’s glorious counter-culture with extracts from her own memoirs supported by visuals by her friend, deejay and face about the club scene Jeffrey Hinton. Tonight Professor Iain Webb also participates, with bespoke accessoriser Judy Blame on Nov 16 and milliner Stephen Jones OBE on Nov 23 – all at The Glory, London E2 8AS.
➢ Tickets available only in advance via Ticketweb


Blitz Kids, Ryan Lo, fashion, Princess Julia

Julia talks: adorned in a kind of Baby Jane pink ruffled nightie by Ryan Lo, from his SS16 collection, with cap of roses (inset, being snapped by Louie Banks)

Click any pic below to launch slideshow


2015 ➤ Blow me! Talking Heads’ David Byrne to curate Meltdown Festival

Talking Heads, David Byrne, Meltdown Festival, London, Southbank Centre, new-wave,

David Byrne: Scottish, musician, singer-songwriter, artist, writer, actor, director, film producer, record producer, photography, opera, new wave, Talking Heads, Grammy, Oscar, Golden Globe, Hall of Fame. (Photograph © James Day)

➢ Marianne Tatepo says it all at Konbini global pop culture magazine:

Very few things can take an ominous word and turn it into something vibrant and exciting. Case in point: Southbank Centre’s Meltdown. For over two decades, the London music festival has been host to illustrious names, both on the commissioning and executing end.

Yoko Ono (2013), Jarvis Cocker (2007), Patti Smith (2005), Morrissey (2004), David Bowie (2002), and the legendary late John Peel (1998) are but a fraction of the impressive minds who have curated this modern arts symposium. This year is no exception with writer-cum-photographer-cum-singer-cum-multi-instrumentalist and Scottish legend David Byrne spearheading this session, scheduled for mid-August.

For its host, Meltdown borders on the miraculous: bands have reunited specially for it (The New York Dolls, at Morrissey’s helm) and on another occasion, the unlikely pack of Nick Cave, Pete Doherty and Grace Jones are reported to have sung Disney tunes together. Meltdown is a cult where the currency is interdisciplinary excellence… / Continued at Konbini online

➢ Watch for news of David Byrne’s Meltdown 17–28 August 2015 at London’s Southbank Centre

➢ David Byrne on how tech affects music and the way we listen – at Wired magazine