Tag Archives: Wendy Kirby

➤ 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 intimate teenage playmate 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. David’s 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. One poor black-and-white photograph suggests he might well have been wearing the crimson suit as he helicoptered onto the Music Hall stage. In this 90-minute show Bowie transitioned 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 and unexpected “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.

THE NIGHT DAVID MET FREDDIE

, 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”. In the studio, it turned out that Freddie couldn’t sing

❏ Their relationship 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 5years.com 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.”

Was Bowie’s gay phase in truth a marketing stance, as some argue? In his 2011 biography Starman, Paul Trynka reports American actor Tony Zanetta saying: “He was bisexual, but what he really was, was a narcissist – boys or girls, it was all the same. He was attracted to the gay subculture because he loved its flamboyance. Sometimes it was just an expression of communication – sometimes it was a way of. . . assimilating someone.” Bowie knew exactly what he was doing.

❏ Read on for a review of the film by 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 in Haddon Hall: 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

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ANDY POLARIS REVIEWS STARMAN THE MOVIE

Freddie Burretti, Daniella Parmar, fashion,Ziggy Stardust

Bowie’s designer Freddie and It-girl Daniella in about 1971: 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

➢ Follow Andy’s blog APolarisView: one man’s adventures in display and other obsessions

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2011 ➤ I danced in Bowie’s Jean Genie video but have never seen it, says his friend Wendy

Wendy Kirby,David Bowie, Jean Genie, 1973, Top of the Pops,video,All the Young Dudes ,Daniella Parmar ,Freddi Burretti

Wendy Kirby aged 19: as Freddi Burretti’s flatmate, she met the Bowies at the Sombrero club’s trendy Sunday feasts in Kensington — “We were the people always round David’s house”

❚ “I WAS AT THAT TAPING,” said Wendy Kirby on Facebook earlier today. “But I never got to see the video,” she told Shapersofthe80s by phone later. She was talking about the longlost recording of David Bowie singing Jean Genie on Top of the Pops in 1973 — 38 years “Missing Believed Wiped” — and due to be screened tonight on BBC2 for the first time since.

Wendy was one of a posse of Bowie’s friends he’d asked to accompany him to BBC TV Centre because, she says, he was feeling nervous — “If you can believe that! He comes across as very confident, but he was always very shy and didn’t really want to go on Top of the Pops. Angie was the one with all the energy.”

Wendy Kirby,David Bowie, Jean Genie, 1973, Top of the Pops,video,All the Young Dudes ,Daniella Parmar ,Freddie Burretti,

Wendy Kirby this year: “Amazing to see myself on Top of the Pops after all this time!”

When we spoke today Wendy was mildly surprised at all the fuss over the video she’s never seen, but then, even as a 14-year-old schoolgirl she was a regular in the audience for Top of the Pops so had grown pretty blasé.

About five years later she’d become one of Bowie’s “piss-elegant champagne-drinking” entourage after meeting David and Angie at the Sombrero disco (strictly speaking, called Yours or Mine, beneath the restaurant El Sombrero in Kensington High Street) during the Hunky Dory period when he was wearing the Mr Fish man-dress and had long cascades of blond hair. All that was lopped and dyed red by Suzi Fussey for the Ziggy persona which made him a star. On Jan 3 1973, Wendy donned a black fishtail dress “with an exceedingly low back” plus a long blonde mermaid wig, and stepped into Studio 8 and onto the dancefloor for Top of the Pops in company with her flatmate Freddi Burretti (Bowie’s costume designer for whom Moonage Daydream was written), Angie Bowie and panda-eyed Daniella Parmar whose constantly changing hair colour had convinced Bowie “of the importance of a synthetic hair colour for Ziggy”.

David Bowie, Missing Believed Wiped, Jean Genie,1973,Top of the Pops,BBC, Mick Ronson, John Henshall, Spiders from Mars,Wendy said: “We were the ‘young dudes’ who shaved off our eyebrows just for camp, because you could paint them on higher up — that gave us a strange unearthly look which David adopted. He was always open to suggestions and went through our wardrobes like a magpie!”

Bowie name-checked his friends in the lyrics of the glam-rock anthem All the Young Dudes in 1972: Wendy’s stealing clothes/ from Marks and Sparks/ And Freddi’s got spots/ from ripping off the stars from his face/. When David told her, she replied: “You could at least have made it Harrods!”

She added: “Thing is, the fame happened seemingly overnight. People had thought of David as a one-hit wonder with Space Oddity, then suddenly in 1972 Starman was a hit and everything went from ordinary to unreal. Nothing was the same again.”

Wendy had no idea whether the cameras had caught them dancing in the Jean Genie video newly discovered and due for broadcast tonight. “Pan’s People had done their dance number and were heading out of the studio when David went onstage. They all stopped to watch his act and were mightily impressed. I remember a couple of them were wearing red fox-fur coats…”

David Bowie, Jean Genie, 1973, Top of the Pops,video,All the Young Dudes ,Daniella Parmar ,Freddie Burretti

Freddi Burretti and Daniella Parmar photographed by Mick Rock

Wendy Kirby,David Bowie, Jean Genie, 1973, Top of the Pops,video,All the Young Dudes ,Daniella Parmar ,Freddie Burretti, Angie Bowie

Here’s the proof broadcast tonight for the first time in 38 years! Wendy and Daniella Parmar dancing on Top of the Pops in 1973, just behind Mick’s guitar. (Videograb © BBC)

❏ Update at 8pm: “Yes, that’s me between David and Mick, the girl with a ton of make-up, huge eyelashes and the red flower in the hair — we piled on tons of everything then. That’s Daniella dancing next to me. Amazing to see myself on Top of the Pops after all this time! I’ve never seen this before. And I haven’t seen David perform live since… Those were great days and I was too young to appreciate them.”

Of Bowie’s Sombrero posse, today Wendy lives in West London and Daniella in Worthing. Freddi Burretti (born 1951, raised as Frederick Burrett in Hackney) was also aka Rudi Valentino while fronting Bowie’s 1971 phantom band, the specially created Arnold Corns. His talents were better expressed as Freddi Burretti, making Ziggy Stardust’s outfits from the first quilted jumpsuit onward. He died while living in Paris in May 2001. The male escort Micky King recorded the Bowie song How Lucky You Are, among others, and according to Bowie was gruesomely murdered by a client some years later.

Wendy Kirby,David Bowie, Jean Genie, 1973, Top of the Pops,video,All the Young Dudes ,Daniella Parmar ,Freddie Burretti

Very Swinging London, early 70s: Wendy Kirby in a black wig. Her friends among Bowie’s young dudes included Daniella Parmar, hairdresser Antonello Parqualli and Sombrero face, Micky King

➢ Where to draw a line between Glitter and Glam – naff blokes in Bacofoil versus starmen with pretensions

AND HERE IS THE ‘LOST’ BOWIE VID AT YOUTUBE

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➤ Bowie’s “lost” Jean Genie from 1973 to be aired on Top of the Pops this week

David Bowie, Jean Genie, Top of the Pops, Mick Ronson,video,John Henshall,

1973 revisited: Bowie and Ronson singing Jean Genie in the "lost" Top of the Pops performance. (Videograb © BBC, courtesy of John Henshall/Bowie.net)

❚ HOT NEWS OF A CHRISTMAS TREAT for Bowie fans. They have waited for almost 40 years to see his only Top of the Pops performance of The Jean Genie with The Spiders from Mars in January 1973 — shirtless, though clad in an open satin jacket. The tape was long thought to have been wiped or lost.

However a former BBC cameraman recently discovered that he possessed the only broadcast-quality copy in pristine condition, and today Bowie Wonderworld announced that entertainment boss Mark Cooper has arranged to have it included in this Wednesday’s 90-minute collection of classic Christmas hits (TOTP2, 7.30pm). The intention had been to unveil the clip in the BBC4 documentary Tales of Television Centre in the New Year, but enthusiastic fans persuaded him to bring forward its screening, even though you won’t see the track listed in the online billings.

As executive producer of Top Of The Pops 2, Cooper said: “I can’t imagine what other piece of TOTP from the early 70s would be as extraordinary a find.”

Bowie’s performance of The Jean Genie was recorded on Jan 3, 1973 and transmitted the following day for the first and only time. The “lost” recording — copy on 2-inch broadcast videotape — was screened last week at the NFT’s Missing Believed Wiped event. BowieNet’s news editor enthused: “A shirtless David looks amazing as he shakes maracas and blows on the harmonica. It’s clear David and the Spiders were at their peak when this video footage was shot, just a few days before David’s 26th birthday.”

Andy Barding, another privileged witness, added: “The first screening of the newly rediscovered clip of Bowie, Ronson, Woodmansey and Bolder performing The Jean Genie on Top of the Pops saw a packed National Film Theatre struck agog at the majesty of Ziggy in action: in pristine, full-colour TV quality. David, with deep-red hair, shaved brows and bafflingly wide trousers, looked every inch the epitome of what we recall as glam.”

➢ Read Barding’s full appreciation of the lost clip at BowieNet

David Bowie, Jean Genie, Top of the Pops, Mick Ronson,video,John Henshall

TOTP 1973: Jean Genie viewed through John Henshall’s innovative fish-eye lens. (Videograb © BBC, courtesy of John Henshall/Bowie.net)

The Jean Genie single had been released in November 1972, and the January 4 transmission on the BBC’s flagship pop show boosted it to peak at Number 2 in the UK singles chart. The track was remixed for Bowie’s sixth album Aladdin Sane in April 1973 which divided critics over his genius. The Jean Genie surfed in on the inspirational wave caused by the arrival of Ziggy Stardust and the Starman in July 1972, when Bowie’s Top of the Pops appearance years later passed into legend as the glam-rock moment that shaped the imaginations of a teen generation who were to become the popstars of the 80s.

➢ Update Dec 21: Bowie’s friend Wendy Kirby spots herself dancing in Jean Genie for the first time

➢ Glitter versus Glam and where to draw a line – naff blokes in Bacofoil versus starmen with pretensions

TV INNOVATOR WHO SAVED THE KEY RECORDING

❏ The retired cameraman John Henshall, now 69, has been speaking of how he came to own the footage of David Bowie’s Jean Genie which was thought to be lost. In the early 70s, long before the days of digital effects, Henshall ran a company called Telefex which made star filters, multi-image prisms, fish-eye lens attachments, kaleidotubes and picture rotators. Encouraged by TOTP producer Johnnie Stewart, he used the fish-eye to create the optical effects seen in the Bowie recording.

David Bowie, Jean Genie, 1973, Top of the Pops,video,John Henshall ,Mick Woodmansey

Cameraman caught on camera: John Henshall seen in Studio 8 just beyond drummer Mick Woodmansey during the Jean Genie recording. (Videograb © BBC)

Afterwards he asked Stewart for a personal copy on 2-inch tape to include in his company’s showreel.

Today he is an expert in digital imaging, who pioneered the now ubiquitous lightweight television camera mounted on a long boom arm that we see sweeping above artist and audience at concerts. He also directed photography on hundreds of early music videos for artists including Paul McCartney, Kate Bush, Blondie and Elton John.

Henshall only discovered how “rarer than rare” the clip was when he mentioned it in a radio interview. He said: “I couldn’t believe that I was the only one with it. I thought you wouldn’t be mad enough to wipe a tape like that. They’d been looking for it for years.”

➢ Listen to John Henshall telling Malcolm Boyden at BBC Radio Oxford about how he saved the Bowie tape

➢ Update Dec 21: Finally, the BBC Six o’Clock News gets round to its own report on John Henshall’s prize discovery

➢ View the Jean Genie video on the BBC iPlayer until New Year’s Eve

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