1983 ➤ Who’d be a spy while the 80s were swinging?

Deutschland89, TV, spy drama, East Germany,

Jonas Ney as superspy Martin: going rogue across rival intelligence services

❚ WHAT A ROLLERCOASTER! Just finished all three hit series of Deutschland83/86/89 on Channel4 catchup, an eye-opening panorama of Cold War life during the 1980s, notably in East Germany, the GDR. There, almost every member of your family had been pressed into spying on everyone else by the Stasi and hence at arm’s length by the Russian KGB. In the newly aired series three, the Fall of the Wall and the terrifying prospect of “freedom” becomes almost laughable, were people’s reflexes not so grim as the red peril turns in on itself.

➢ Catch up on Deutschland 83, the irresistible German thriller series set during the 1980s Cold War. Young East German guard Martin Rauch is inveigled into spying

➢ Guardian TV review, 2021 – Western hubris is unpicked as a new series of the hit German drama explores the deeper consequences of the fall of the Berlin Wall

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2001 ➤ Blitz Kids nail the rites for a Tuesday night out

Blitz Kids, New Romantics, Spandau Ballet, pop music, fashion

Before the phrase New Romantics had been invented: Blitz Kids queue for Spandau Ballet’s second pivotal concert at the Scala Cinema in May 1980

20 & 40
YEARS
ON

❚ BBC4 REMINDED UK AUDIENCES this week how entertaining were many of the Blitz Kids who set the New Romantics ball rolling 40 years ago. When the documentary The New Romantics: A Fine Romance was made in 2001, these talking heads were of course 20 years younger than they are today and full of fizz.

However BBC Manchester fell for some faulty memories that had gelled into mythological “truths” to create several laugh-out-loud howlers in the voice-over script as the price of believing odd Blitz Kid fantasies. Another irritation, amid much classic vintage footage, was the repeated montaging of film footage irrelevant to the Blitz club-night run by gender-bending Steve Strange and electro-deejay Rusty Egan, mainly because no more than about 11 minutes of live footage inside the Tuesday-night Blitz exist, and only one of which was used in this doc. That’s history for you. Set in video.

At least we can enjoy the many gnomic quips tossed out by the stars of 1980’s clubworld during the 48-minutes of A Fine Romance…

St Martin’s designer Fiona Dealey on the New Romantic credo: “Dressing for the Blitz was REAL THEATRE. It wasn’t just another uniform.”

Blitz Kid Stephen Linard’s trade secret: “Make-up was the big thing: make-up and Elnett. We used to get our make-up DONE FOR NOTHING down at Selfridges at half-past five and the girls there would do a makeover on you.”

Steve Strange on the term New Romantics: “I’d rather call it THE CULT WITH NO NAME, because the papers can never put one finger on it.”

Rusty Egan on gender confusion at the Blitz: “By the end of the night you’d hope to go home with someone – same sex, opposite sex, NO SEX AT ALL, you were never quite sure.”

Spandau manager Steve Dagger on their music: “Over the period 78-79 in the rehearsal studio the band gradually changed from a rock-pop sound to a modern SYNTHESISED TYPE DANCE SOUND.”

Duran’s Nick Rhodes on first seeing Spandau Ballet live in Birmingham in 1980: “We saw them play at the Botanical Gardens and when we left we were smiling. We just said: WHAT’S THAT ABOUT?”

New Romantics, Duran Duran, pop music, frilly shirts, Top of the Pops

Happy even to work “New Romantic” into their lyrics: frilly Duran Duran’s debut on Top of the Pops in March 1981

“Boy” George O’Dowd: “Duran Duran brought the FRILLY SHIRT through to the masses.”

Gary Kemp on shooting Spandau Ballet’s video for Chant No 1 at the Beat Route club in 1981: “That was our LAST HOORAH – Spandau being part of this movement.”

Spandau manager Steve Dagger on the early 80s: “There was this COLOURFUL BANG which revitalised pop culture and fashion and London as a swinging city.”

Robert Elms on the clubbing revolution initiated by the Blitz Kids: “It introduced one-off nightclubs, warehouse parties, the deejay as the centre of attention, clubs where they tell you you can’t come in UNLESS YOU LOOK RIGHT. None of that had existed before.”

George O’Dowd speaking as an old Boy: “Strange and Egan were the gruesome twosome of the time – the HINGE AND BRACKET of New Romanticism.”

➢ View A Fine Romance (BBC Manchester 2001,
last shown 2015, on iPlayer now for another month)

➢ Says one observer: “If you stepped out and didn’t get
abuse, you hadn’t done it right” – Daily Mail review, 2001

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
How real did 1980 feel? Ex-Blitz Kids give verdicts on the TV play about Boy George, Worried About the Boy in 2010

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➤ Fond farewells to Joe Allen who revolutionised London’s restaurant scene

Joe Allen, obituaries,Covent Garden, New York City, Orso, restaurants, tributes, theatreland,

Joe Allen at his regular spot at Joe Allen NYC, opened in 1965, before his block was christened Restaurant Row. (Photo: Todd Heisler/The New York Times)

❚ JOE ALLEN, THE RESTAURATEUR who splashed bazzazz across theatreland, has died aged 87. His photograph confirms the memory of him being a double for Humphrey Bogart, who as Rick also sat alone at his own table in the film Casablanca – though Lauren Bacall always denied any similarity! He pioneered his empire in 1965 with two outlets in New York City on a strip of West 46th Street that would become known as Restaurant Row. Then in 1972 he took the Joe Allen brand to Paris and in 1977 to London, opening both Joe Allen’s in a former orchid warehouse, as well as Orso’s Italian brasserie, during the revival of Covent Garden which had idled since 1974 when the vegetable market moved out.

Immediately lunchtimes became social hubs for publishers from Bloomsbury and newspaper hacks from Fleet Street, both a short walk away. By night both places were packed with stars coming on from their West End shows and I only ever managed to sit on star table No 1 once which was in 1984 when I met Hollywood’s legendary Dorian Gray, the actor Hurd Hatfield, visiting from his home in Ireland, who told a very bawdy joke (sorry, unrepeatable)! On Saturday nights Andrew Neil, editor of The Sunday Times from 1983 to 1994, held court round a large table at Orso with his top team awaiting a courier bringing first-edition proofs for the next day’s paper.

Joe Allen’s personal style was laconic, his restaurants unpretentious and clublike, from red brick walls to an inexpensive hamburger-led menu, and waiting staff who were invariably resting actors. Most famously the walls were lined with theatre posters – of productions that had flopped. Notable patrons have included A-listers such as Al Pacino, Stephen Sondheim, Elaine Stritch, Elizabeth Taylor, Sean Connery and Sir Ian McKellen, while the restaurants maintained a strict no-photograph policy to protect the privacy of its high-profile guests.

Though Joe himself was very visible during the first year in London, often sitting at the table beside the kitchen, in fact the day-to-day operation was run by the baker Richard Polo as a partner, who died in 2019.

❏ Joseph Campbell Allen, born 20 Feb 1933, died 7 Feb 2021.

Joe Allen, Covent Garden, New York City, Orso, restaurants, tributes, theatreland,

Informality the keynote: Joe Allen’s restaurant on West 46th Street. (Photo: Robert Stolarik/The New York Times)


➢ Less about the food than about the atmosphere – Obituary by Joyce Purnick in the NY Times: “West 46th Street’s proximity to New York’s theater district made it viable, and Mr Allen, concluding that actors, directors, writers and theater patrons would always want to eat, created a relaxed pub aimed at attracting the theater crowd. There was nothing quite like the restaurant in the mid-1960s, and it took off.”

➢ Remembering Joe Allen, who fed Broadway in untheatrical style – by Peter Khoury in the NY Times: “Even before Joe opened Joe Allen, he was a partner in an Upper East Side restaurant called Allen’s. If you watch the 1965 Jack Lemmon comedy How to Murder Your Wife, you’ll see a few shots of a handsome, dark-haired bartender there. That’s Joe.”

➢ A magnet for actors, journalists and royalty – Obituary in The Times of London: “Allen kept a flat in Chelsea, visiting London several times a year. Business meetings occupied his mornings. At night he perched at the end of the bar quietly draining a case of his favourite American imported beers and observing more than conversing with a studied determination not to “inflict myself on the customers”. If he sat at a table it was always the worst one in the house.”

Joe Allen, Covent Garden, New York City, Orso, restaurants, theatreland,

Poster wall of flop shows at Joe Allen’s: at centre, “Got Tu Go Disco” a short-lived musical from 1979. (Photo: Sara Krulwich)

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1980 ➤ When Duran Duran put Brummie Romantics on the map

Duran Duran, New Romantics

Duran Duran in 1980: Birmingham’s fluffiest New Romantics

40
YEARS
ON

◼ 40 YEARS AGO TODAY the Birmingham club-band Duran Duran released their debut single Planet Earth, less than two months after signing to EMI. It charted in mid-March, peaked at No 12, and bagged the band a spot on Top of the Pops, Britain’s premier music TV show. They were the first New Romantic band from outside London to make good, and the writer Steve Jansen claims that “inside of three short years, Duran were officially the biggest band on the planet”.

He celebrated Duran’s birthpangs with a thorough survey of their origins titled Switch It On! – Planet Earth & The Launch of Duran Duran, on the blog gimmeawristband.com which though sadly defunct today, is preserved at the Wayback Machine. As a shorter alternative, Shapersofthe80s documented a few key excerpts from his epic account, where Jansen talked to all the key players involved during the run-up to the band’s chart debut. They are published here with his permission…

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
Read Steve Jansen on how other people’s faith put
the Brummies into the charts

➢ Previously at Shapers of the 80s:
1980, How Duran Duran’s road to stardom began
in the Studio 54 of Birmingham

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2021 ➢ Famous last words from Frau Blücher and Nurse Diesel

Cloris Leachman, Mel Brooks, Nurse Diesel, Young Frankenstein, comedy, films,

Cloris Leachman as Young Frankenstein’s housekeeper: Frau Blücher’s name itself struck a note of terror

❚ EVERY MEL BROOKS FAN knows the face of Cloris Leachman from her outrageous characters, the Transylvanian housekeeper Frau Blücher and dominatrix nurse Charlotte Diesel, so vividly associated with the director’s wild film parodies Young Frankenstein and High Anxiety in the mid-Seventies. Mere mention of stern Frau Blücher’s name caused whinnying horses to rear in fear, and only slowly does Dr “Fronkensteen” Junior work out who she is. “So you and Victor were. . . ?” he asks. “Yes, yes,” she replies. “He vas my… boyfriend.” Later in the Hitchcockian spoof set in an Institute for the Very, Very Nervous, the demented psycho who pronounced her name “Nursh Deezhel” did finally admit: “Perhaps I’ve been a bit too harsh.”

“Cloris’s genius is that she never plays comedy for laughs. She’s deadly serious” – director Mel Brooks

Leachman the actress died this week aged 94 and her dazzling career also embraced an Oscar-winning supporting role in Peter Bogdanovich’s The Last Picture Show, numerous TV residencies from Lassie and The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its spin-off Phyllis to The Beverly Hillbillies, plus cameos in so many TV hits that between 1972 and 2011 she was nominated for 22 Primetime Emmys and won eight. Her twilight years saw her portraying off-beat grandmothers in television and film and competing with celebrities less than half her age on Dancing With the Stars.

Cloris Leachman, Mel Brooks, Nurse Diesel, High Anxiety, comedy, films,

Cloris Leachman as the very strict Nurse Diesel in High Anxiety: viewed with Hitchcockian inspiration from beneath a glass coffee table

➢ The Last Picture Show made Leachman a star – Robert Berkvist in the New York Times: “But she may be best remembered for drawing laughs on Mary Tyler Moore, Phyllis and Malcolm in the Middle.”

➢ Star of film and TV who relished the roles of grandmas and grotesques – Ronald Bergan in The Guardian: “She played Mary Tyler Moore’s manipulative landlady Phyllis Lindstrom for which she was best known.”

➢ Winning the Oscar seemed to liberate Cloris Leachman – Obituary in The Times: “I’m at a point where I’m free to go out and have a little fun with my career,” she said in her acceptance speech.

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