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Thursday, January 31, 2013

High Heeled Wheels

John Fluevog Shoes are known for their offbeat designs and bizarro Hobbit mushroom shoes, but the most exciting development in Fluevog’s designs is the return of the platform shoe, i.e. high heels for men. I reported in an earlier blog (“The Low Spark of High Heeled Boys”) about the Fluevog Perry boot with its blue snakeskin design and 3-inch heels.

It was followed up by the Prince George (pictured down below), Fluevog going even more extreme with a 4-inch heel, and boy is it solid. To date I jumped off a stage with them on, drove my Prius through downtown Los Angeles on a Friday night with them and neither I nor the shoes were damaged.

Egged on, no doubt by robust sales Fluevog followed up these classics with a newer design, the unisex Swordfish Edwardian boot. The Fluevog press release describes it as thus: “An iconic Fluevog line from the 80s, popularized by its distinctive pointed toe shape, The Swordfish has been re-imagined by John into this killer boot. Using tough, aged Texas leathers, tunite soles, instep zippers, straps and buckles, it's no wonder The Swordfish are cherished and collected by Fluevogers everywhere. The Edwardian also includes a 3.5" leather-wrapped Cuban heel that brings the Fluevog flair way over-the-top”. As far as I’m concerned it can never go too way over the top, but then again I’m a graduate of Rodney’s English Disco, Class of 1973.

Coincidentally, last week BBC News ran a piece online called “Why Did Men Stop Wearing High Heels?” The article, written by William Kremer submits the revelation that high heels were originally designed for men in Persia as a form of riding footwear.

"When the soldier stood up in his stirrups, the heel helped him to secure his stance so that he could shoot his bow and arrow more effectively," said Elizabeth Semmelhack of the Bata Shoe Museum in Toronto, Ontario. “A wave of interest in all things Persian passed through Western Europe. Persian style shoes were enthusiastically adopted by aristocrats, who sought to give their appearance a virile, masculine edge that only heeled shoes could supply. As the wearing of heels filtered into the lower ranks of society, the aristocracy responded by dramatically increasing the height of their shoes - and the high heel was born”.

The most notorious wearer of high heels at the time was Louis XIV of France, who was a wee 5’4” and sported 4-inch heels to enhance his physical stature. The article also states that his soles were always red, yup, just like Christian Laboutin’s signature look!

By the 17th Century women in Europe were adopting men’s style into their fashions, and you guessed it, high heels made the transfer. During the Enlightenment men renounced luxurious trappings like excessive jewelry and looking more, well punk rock so their heels got shorter for utilitarian reasons.

According to the article high heels were phased out of society not just by men but also by women, as well, and didn’t make a fashion comeback until, believe it or not, French porno produced in the early 20th Century. Some of this sounds kind of far-fetched, but the truth is always stranger than fiction. And nothing could possibly stand in the way between me and my new high-heeled Fluevogs!


The fetish club scene has suffered two significant losses in the past few months: that of John Napier,lead singer of Ethyl Meatplow, and James Stone, of the Fetish Ball, which not only hosted leather & rubber fashion shows but also hosted bands like The Cramps and The Specimen, as well.

John Napier’s death was announced on November 11, 2012(11/11, how weird)from a drug overdose. I remember seeing Ethyl Meatplow performing at The Fuck Club and John being the best thing about the show. He had all the most important elements to being a great performer: he was dynamic, funny and always surprising to watch on stage. Plus he did a better version of “Close To You” than The Carpenters, so there.

I also remember John as being a gracious and funny guy. We had dinner together on Santa Monica Boulevard (where else?) and had a lot of laughs. There was none of this bullshit band rivalry or jealousy being served at all, so I have nothing but friendly memories of him, and offer my sincere condolences to his family and friends.

James Stone sadly passed on January 23, 2013, from bladder cancer. His well-deserved notoriety was from promoting all those great Fetish Balls usually held at Parkview Plaza and sometimes at the Hollywood Athletic Club. The Fetish Ball, for people who haven’t gone, is a sort of fetish fair where leather and rubber goods (read as S&M or B&D) were sold by vendors like us and fetish fashion shows and actual goth-glam-trash bands played. James always got us a good spot to sell our corsets, bustiers, bracelets, chokers and extras to all those kinky kids.

We later did a lot of cool business with him when he was a buyer at The Pleasure Chest, the sex store on Santa Monica Boulevard (where else?). He was always pretty down-to-earth and easy to work with, not to mention generous with his contacts for us, a class act all the way. While I’m not given to making sweeping statements like the Golden Era of Hollywood Punk Fetish is over, the lights on the seedy streets of Santa Monica Boulevard and evil Silver Lake will be a lot less bright and glittery than they used to be, and these real gone geezers will be terribly missed.

Thursday, January 24, 2013

"Paul Smith: Gentleman Designer"

To be perfectly honest the world of menswear hasn’t seen too many designers of utter genius. Rei Kawakubo (Comme Des Garcons) and Burberry immediately come to mind, Kenneth Cole comes close, but for the most part the most brilliant work has been largely reserved for women’s fashions. Then there’s the work of Sir Paul Smith, letting us in on what makes him tick in a recent French television documentary. Every thing he says and does in this doc can serve as a valuable lesson in fashion design.

Originally from the town of Nottingham, Paul Smith opened a boutique with his future wife Pauline, a fashion student from the Royal College of Art. She pretty much steered him in the right path of design, which helped build his name by combining vintage British tailoring with colorful and occasionally flamboyant fabrics, lining choices, notions and unique finishing. Because he started with average, white shirting material, he decided that the only way to stand out from the pack was by jazzing up the finishing and implementing unconventional colored buttoning, never forgetting his trademark multicolored stripes emblem, looking like some unholy psychedelic bar code. The Paul Smith approach from Day One was to continue the tradition of British tailoring with enough weird tweaks to keep it new and eccentric.

Shown in his Covent Garden office with thousands of books, toys and swatch boards surrounding his desk, Smith works in his headquarters on 20 Kean Street, a five-story building which also houses his assistant designers, art and marketing staff. Smith even takes time out to goof off with his vintage Mr. Machine toy – I’ve got one, too! Anyway, he’s shortly seen conducting an office meeting with designers and managers about the focus and concept of his new line, using of course vintage rock album covers. But dig the bizarre choices!

Example Number One are photographs of Sixties era Frank Zappa(!) wearing an occasional suit, looking smart and dapper, but not without Smith mentioning that Zappa also wore a gorilla-fur coat. The point being made is that in Rock & Roll smart tailoring goes hand in hand with the unexpected. His head designer Simon steps up and shows custom printed textiles influenced by album cover art.

Example Number Two is The Stone Poneys, Linda Ronstadt’s pre-solo folk band with Smith pointing out cool folk-rock style, mixing vintage beatnik with then current acid rock looks as a target design. This style at the time consisted of heavy coats, tight striped pants and furry hats, a style best popularized by John Philips of The Mamas and The Papas, among others.

Example Number Three, if it wasn’t weird enough, is Kraftwerk and the Kraut Rock look in general. Kraftwerk's tailored and dapper looks from "The Man Machine" and "Trans-Europe Express" are held up as examples of clean lines and fine-line tailoring. The bottom line, Rock & Roll has always been about style and fashion. My blog title last year said it all: “Once Rock Stars Looked Like Models But Now Models Look Like Rock Stars”.

Coming from most designers, the whole R&R fashion rigmarole would sound like so much chin music – John Varvatos, great fan that he is, can get tiresome with his fandom, but Smith is the real deal. Smith talks about his youth in Notting Hill, sleeping on floors with legendary blues musicians like Zoot Money and Grahame Bond.

British rock style in the Sixties, Sir Paul explains, put a twist on traditional British dandyism by incorporating women’s fabrics for men’s tailoring at bespoke tailors on Savile Row. As a result, sometimes bands were ripped off by the tailors when they used old curtain fabric rather than real material, passing it off as psychedelic enough to be cool. Smith proudly shows off designs he made for bands like Led Zeppelin (trousers for Jimmy Page!) and Pink Floyd.

Not above clowning around in front of the camera and or his staff, Smith even advises his Paris Fashion Week models (including Andrej Pejic and a frightened-looking Miles McMillan) that it’s okay to look happy and even smile when walking down the runway. The down to earth attitude about fashion includes modeling, where it’s stressed that models need to look interesting rather than gorgeousperfect.

A designer as celebrated as Paul Smith could very easily just rest on his laurels and take himself seriously like less-successful designers (he has 200 stores in Japan alone), but what makes Smith so cool is his restless search for inspiration and lack of propriety in an art and industry increasingly ceremonial to the point of atrophy. In this regard, Smith might very well be one of the most Rock & Roll designers in an industry rampant with imposters.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Manga Or Fashion Sketch

The world of manga has changed dramatically in the past few years , no longer the stronghold of Sailor Moon and other childlike comic strips, it has taken on a sophistication that is both exciting and startling to watch. More and more artists in the manga field are illustrating in less cartoony styles and utilizing styles that hover closer to full-on fashion sketches.

One of the most loyally followed artists is Akira Amano, artist and writer of “Hitman Reborn!”. According to Wikipedia, “HItman Reborn!” is the story of “a young boy named Tsunayoshi Sawada, who finds out that he is next in line to become the boss of the most powerful Mafia organization called Vongola, the Vongola Family. As such, the Vongola's most powerful hitman, a gun-toting infant named Reborn, is sent to tutor "Tsuna" on how to become a respectable boss”. It was one of the most popular manga series in Japan.

What makes “Hitman Reborn!” and other series unique from the others is that the males are depicted as hyper-stylized, brilliantly put-together and more than a little sleek (read: feminine) in the way they’re depicted. As a result, many of them are drawn in a style that more closely approximates fashion sketches than as cartoons or superheroes.

This raised a few questions; are these new artists failed fashion designers or are they simply highly evolved cartoonists? This sleek, verging-on-androgynous artwork has consequently opened doors comics forefathers like Chester Gould and Will Eisner never dreamed of, initiating a decadent new comics genre unique to Japan: Yaoi.

Yaoi, to put it mildly, is homoerotic manga porn written and drawn by women showing delicate boys having sex. This is mostly aimed at women who seem to go for this sort of thing; these comics don’t really have much of a large gay following - many Japanese gays find the comics ridiculous. And yes, there’s a Yaoi-Con (of course) that takes place annually in San Francisco. Last year it moved down to Long Beach, California.

The bottom line, as I see it, though is that there’s something happening here, what it am is prezackly clear. Comics are looking more like swanky fashion sketches, and Japan leads the way in providing a highly sophisticated alternative to all that bad ultra-vi cluttering up the racks at the comic books stores.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Burnt Money (Argentina, 2001)

Like a misbegotten remake of Bonnie & Clyde or Gun Crazy, Burnt Money is a romantic crime film from Argentina brilliantly directed by Marcelo Pineyro starring Eduardo Noriega. It's based on a true story about a gang of criminals hiding out in Uruguay after a high-profile heist committed in Argentina circa 1965.

Because the armored car holdup is so high-profile their faces are plastered in every newspaper in South America, so they have to lay low in some beat apartment until they get their fake ID cards. The lovers on the run are a pair of criminals Angel (Noriega) and Nene (Leonardo Sbaraglia),nicknamed “The Twins” because of their close resemblance to each other. Angel has a serious heroin problem and Nene has occasional urges for women. Rounding out the gang is Cuervo (Pablo Echarri), the wheelman, insanely high-strung and homophobic.

The hideout in Uruguay turns into a season in Hell as the gangsters are sitting on millions of dollars with nowhere to go and nowhere to spend any of it. Angel is tormented by his crime and homosexuality, aggravated by Cuervo’s constant taunts, which Nene just laughs off as sheer insane drivel. Although the three hoods have been ordered to stay inside, they rebel by going outside; once to the beach for a liquor-fueled dance to “Surfin’ Bird” with bikini beauties which quickly goes wrong when they start shooting off pistols, and the second time to a local carnival where Nene picks up guys in the rest room and eventually hooks up with the local tramp, Giselle (Leticia Bredice).

In one of their private times together Nene confesses everything to Giselle (while Angel repents in church). When Giselle realizes she can’t replace Nene’s love for Angel after getting kicked out of her own apartment by the gang, she drops a dime on the boys. The police and the militia arrive, culminating in an intense 20-minute shootout with the boys burning all the money (Plata Quemada) and going for broke in a final gun battle.

Pineyro’s direction is simply brilliant, the action never slowing down or appearing hackneyed. There’s enough sex of both stripes flying around (Cuervo’s girlfriend Vivi is particularly memorable), the crime scenes are exciting – edited by Juan Carlos Macias, and there’s enough humor and downright insanity to keep you riveted to the screen. The film utilizes equal helpings of smoldering Fifties-style jazz and early Sixties garage rock (Wild Thing/Land Of A 1000 Dances), and the cinematography by Alfredo Mayo is colorfully dynamic. With three main leads that look like they belong more in a fashion magazine than in a police station line-up, Burnt Money has enough style and crime to keep any film lover happy.


Most religious films will kill you with their stodgy righteousness, but there’s never been a film like Luis Bunuel’s “Simon Of The Desert”.

Originally intended to be a part of a religion-based trilogy (with Pasolini and Fellini) that never saw the light of day, “Simon” is a 45-minute film about Simon, a deeply religious man in the 4th Century who stands on a high platform delivering platitudes about the glories of God. Townfolk flock to his high podium in the middle of the desert to offer him goats and sheep, some are crippled and sick begging for religious healing. Simon is played by Claudio Brook, who I instantly recognized from Santo and Neutron Mexican wrestling pictures as the evil, debonair villain. What a killer resume!

Simon is most attractive to Satan, who drives up to his platform in a coffin, which opens up to reveal a cheap, slutty Silvia Pinal. She keeps trying to seduce him to come down from his platform, but he repels her every time. Her role not only seems to be parodying traditional images of Satan but of Biblical femme fatales like Samson and Delilah.

She finally wins as Satan as always does and whisks him away to NYC 1965, both now hipstered out in The Peppermint Lounge listening to a loud, noisy garage rock band belch out a tune called “Radioactive Flesh”. And that, folks, is how you make a movie.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

A Dubstep New Year

Happy New Year, Everybody! There are several ways one can look back on the past year: since nobody made any money this past year, we have to begin searching for smaller, simpler triumphs. Things I asked myself: Did I look better in 2012 than I did in 2011? The answer is “YES”, life was a lot tougher in that year of Hard Knocks but I looked fabulous all through it. So, in that case, 2012 was a great year. Did I eat better dinners in 2012 than I did in 2011? The answer is “YES”, as long as I ate at home and stayed out of overpriced, discourteous restaurants. Actually, my cooking and baking skills were at their peak in 2012, so not going out to pricey restaurants was somewhat less than tragic. Did I make better menswear and accessories in 2012? The answer again is “YES”. I made some great tops and jeans and bags this past year. I’m not going to go crazy and start my own label, but I’ve reached a point where my stuff is more exciting than most of the shit I see at H&M or Urban Outfitters.

Bangarang - Skrillex

What else made 2012 memorable? Discovering :
1. Robert Cormier, YA noir writer, brilliant author of “Tenderness”, “I Am The Cheese” and “Fade”.
2. The short stories of F. Scott Fitzgerald and Elmore Leonard. Leonard’s westerns are some of the most savage fiction I’ve ever read.
3. Electro-Swing, the most switched on music I’ve heard in ages, preferably the works of Parov Stelar (Austria) and Caravan Palace (France).
4. Dubstep, which has been around for years with a gigantic following, and I’ve finally come around to enjoy it and understand some of it.

Just to usher in the New Year with my latest obsession I’ve decided to post some of my favorite dubstep videos. I chose to post these ones because they actually have production values in them as opposed to simply posting a bunch of live stuff. These video in no way represent the best dubstep out there, but they may represent the best produced videos I’ve seen so far.

Bass Cannon - Flux Pavilion

Shown above is “Banagarang” by Skrillex. Although I’m not a big fan of his I thought this was a pretty cool video depicting a bunch of bad kids busting crimes, and the song’s pretty awesome, too. Also shown is “Bass Cannon” by Flux Pavilion, a really cool number with a killer drop. My favorite video of the bunch is probably “Centipede” by Knife Party from Australia. Their video’s clearly influenced by David Cronenberg’s film of “Naked Lunch” with the Forties-era exterminator. The music’s completely killer, too.

What is it that makes dubstep so appealing to me, you ask? Well, I like the ones that are slow and plodding with an explosive drop, creating the same kind of sensation that vintage metal used to rock. There’s a sort of Sabbath-type rockin’ beat going on these tracks with synthesizers rockin’ out the heavy melody instead of the usual drone of brain-melting guitars. In other words, it’s still Rock & Roll, in fact it’s as Heavy Metal as it gets in this day and age.

Centipede - Knife Party

Not all dubstep is dirgey, of course. I’ve heard some pretty poppy stuff verging on “American Idol”-type fluff employing dubstep elements, and this is probably the stuff that sells the most. The only dubstep that I like that isn’t Metal is this weird trio from San Francisco called Beats Antique, who play an exotic belly dancing groove while mixing up some dubstep style. Another amazing artist from the Bay Area is a guy called Bassnectar who’s worthy of your attention. My favorite album from him is “Divergent Spectrum”.

Make sure you get the right mix because a different remix can change the entire sound and tempo of a track. Personal favorite dubstep tracks I recommend:
Shinobi and Mingatron– Ming
Unison – Porter Robinson (Knife Party remix)
Head Crusher and Zombie Attack - Venometrix
Subway Hopping- Audiophile 021
50 Caliber- FuntCase
Doomsday- Nero
Blurgh!- Cookie Monsta
Oh! and Stop- Boys Noize

I can’t imagine a style of music more fitting to suit the rough and tumble rebop of the past two years and more importantly, to usher in the coming year aka 20-Lucky 13. It’s loud, hard and heavy, just like the best things in life. Cum feel tha noize.