Archive for August, 2010

My Dog Tulip, J.R. Ackerley’s Ode to Queenie (and dogs the world over)

Posted in 20th century, Anglomania, Gay, J.R. Ackereley, Literature, Siegrfried Sassoon on August 30, 2010 by babylonbaroque

In anticipation of the Sept.1st release of the animated version of My Dog Tulip I am re-reading J.R. Ackerley’s account of his relationship with his Alsatian Tulip (Queenie).

I am looking forward to the release, the animation appears delightful without being saccharin.

They seem to have captured the books odd charm. I do have a few reservations as all lovers of books do when a favorite is put onto film.

First being the “confirmed bachelor” language, Ackerley was out as a gay man, the bachelor reference irritates, let’s see how it is handled.

Another concern is how they will handle his”gentleman  friend”, particularly Freddie Doyle, Queenie’s original owner and Ackerley’s lover.In the film clip there appears to be another man, I hope it’s Freddie.

In reading Tulip , I am eager to re-read his other writings, most particularly his bio My Father & Myself. It’s been a good ten year since I have last picked it up, but it was a great read.

Ackerley was an interesting fellow: accomplished but seemingly shy and modest, reserved yet  openly gay,  he seems to have been a bit of a homebody, yet part of a very smart set, E.M Forster, Siegried Sassoon, W.H.Auden, and Christopher Isherwood were part of his circle.

Sassoon is the character Captain Pugh in My Dog Tulip , I was unaware of that until I discovered the fact during my research. Ackerley’s  description of Pugh/Sassoon illustrates contradictions of perception. Sasoon/Pugh is a married  to the mysterious Cairn collecting Mrs. Pugh. The Pugh character comes off as odd duck, curmudgeonly,distant, more concerned with his poultry then Ackerley’s comfort. They had served in WWI together, but that bond seems to have been weakened as the good Captain is rarely about. Having read the Sassoon bio by Max Egremont, I have a  very different impression of the man, tall,courtly, handsome;dashing in “fancy dress”, devoted  to the great  society beauty Stephen Tennant yet married to that other great society beauty Hester Gatty.

Perhaps Ackerley knew best, they were friends , or perhaps Ackerley himself was also an odd duck. He did allow Queenie/Tulip to poop on  his host’s floor.

a youthful J.R. Ackerley (on right) with his father Roger

Joe Randolph Ackerley was born 4th November 1896, died 4th June 1967

In addition to My Dog Tulip (1956), and  My Father & Myself(1968), he also wrote Hindoo Holiday(1932) (love the spelling of Hindu) and his only work of fiction We Think The World of You (1960). I have not read the last two, I look forward to it.

In closing I enclose My Dog Daisy.

MY Dog Daisy

I know, pink seersucker is REALLY gay.

I also include my other two brats.

My Dogs Buddy (L) and Speck (R)

Good Night

Post Script: In todays New York Times, Stephen Holden gave a thoughtful review of My Dog Tulip.

Click here for review.

Clippings of a MadMan, the collage work of Kenneth Halliwell

Posted in 20th century, Collage, Gay, Joe Orton-Kenneth Halliwell on August 26, 2010 by babylonbaroque

As I seem to be exploring the nastiness of man through art; Punch and his violent antics, Macheath’s brutality towards womankind in Three Penny Opera, I thought I should finish off this unholy trio with some nasty gay antics. In particular Kenneth Halliwell and the playwright Joe Orton.

It’s difficult for a person of culture not to know and admire Orton, Entertaining Mister Sloan,one of the darkest , funniest plays about. Much has been said about Joe, his life, his talents.

What I have been curious about is his oft maligned “lover”, Kenneth Halliwell. I hesitate to describe Kenneth as a partner, lover,  or spouse, as their relationship seemed pretty odious, even without the murder/suicide. Orton , an unrepentant flirt, openly engaged  in trysts that enraged Halliwell, Halliwell morose and apparently so unpleasant that society went to great measures to avoid contact with him.

What has always struck me as curious was Halliwell’s devotion to the art of collage. I must say I am not a fan of collage. Victorian decoupage, charming;  20th century “mixed media”, not so much.

I have read the occasional biography of Orton,his working class background, his sordid relationship with Halliwell, the debauchery in Tangiers.

Joe Orton and Kenneth Halliwell

An unfortunate image, the uncomfortable personal dynamic apparent.

Orton the adorable talented flirt, Kenneth, resentful and betrayed.


What was always in the background  was collage, their Islington apartment, apparently cramped and uncomfortable, was made more so by Kenneth’s clipping and pasting.

Joe Orton

b. 1st January 1933

d. 9th August 1967

All in all a rather  successful wall treatment.

(Although it does remind me of my barbershop, plastered with clippings of hot boys and girls. )

I have known of Halliwell’s passion for collage, but not seen examples of it. I thought it time to remedy that.

Thank God for Google.

Kenneth Halliwell

b.23rd June 1926

d.9th August 1967



Attributed to Kenneth Halliwell.

Untitled, date unknown.

I must say I have little to comment on. The work seems competently constructed, the first handsome with an underlying Cubist aesthetic. The second reminds me of a lot of 60’s graphic art, clipping and pulling across cultures and time. I don’t particularly like it, but I want to . My heart goes out to Halliwell, he was crushed. Orton handsome, young, charming, and  deeply talented. Halliwell, older, not respected, perhaps without any true talent, clipping furiously in their dreary little apartment. Such a sad ,sad mess ultimately ending in a bloody horror.

For that reason alone I would like to admire his work.

If perhaps Orton’s society crowd was a bit warmer, a little less snubbing a lot less bitchy ; if Halliwells work was given a chance, perhaps, just perhaps, that hammer wouldn’t have struck Joe’s head eight awful times. I don’t know, I do know that empathy works wonders.

Early in their relationship Orton and Halliwell went on an artistic rampage, stealing and defacing books from the Islington library. Their creative antics landed them in jail for “theft and defacement”. Seems a bit harsh, a fine would have seemed sufficient.

The following images are examples of this early collaborative work. Perhaps it was a happier time for their relationship. The images are amusing.

Queens Favorite

The Three Faces of Eve

love the kitty

The Lunts

Image above sourced from the always wonderful Feuliton.

Alec Clunes
Storm Drift
All in all, kind of puerile not particularly interesting.
The mischievous antics came to an August 9th 1967 at 25 Noel Road, Islington. The house bears a commemorative plaque to Orton, no mention is made of Halliwell.
A sad legacy.
25 Noel Road
Recquiscat in Pace Messrs Halliwell and Orton
Good Night

Annual Fancy Dress Up Stag, and other naughty boys.

Posted in 19th cent., 20th century, Gay, George Bellows, Reginald Marsh on August 24, 2010 by babylonbaroque

In researching the last post, I stumbled upon an odd photo of handsome young men in costume, half in drag. All clearly having a lark . A very charming image, capturing what seemed to be great fun.

Annual Fancy Dress Up Stag


Louisiana State University

Agricultural and Mechanical students

by Mc Carty (?)

As we live in the age of Foucault and his “sexuality as a construction”, we know we musn’t read too much into these dispalys of male bonding and play.

OK, I won’t read too much into this, but can I at least find the couple in the center adorable?

I understand the notion of identity, social construction, etc. etc. But this camaraderie is very endearing and  apparently tender; is it really possible that intimate  (romantic)feelings were not present. Perhaps wholly chaste, perhaps just “practice”for future marriages.

We are left with a mysterious  un-answerable glimpse into their youthful lives.

Again another detail of these young men at play. Clever costumes, but what’s with the hooded fellow?

Another question raised is the meaning of a “stag party”, this photograph seems to indicate a annual meeting of boys only, “in fancy dress”, celebrating what?

Today we generally associate “stag” parties with a  raunchy get together, the sole purpose being  the intention of “sowing one’s oats” for the last time. Always seemed sordid and un-romantic to me, but there you go. I frankly wasn’t comfortable presenting any of the images that popped up when I googled “stag”.

A final detail, more cute boys in dresses and their admirers in summer whites.

Although I found plenty of images of sordid gatherings , men acting badly with strippers in Craotia and Prague, I found no link to what this Louisiana gathering meant.

I resort to George Bellows ( 1882-1925) magnificent Stag at Sharkeys.

Stag at Sharkey’s


In my vain attempt to find another link, I enclose Reginald Marsh’s ( 1898-1954), super sexy Coney Island.

Coney Island


Granted, a very weak link, but the painting is beautiful.

Perhaps my following image is the strongest link to the “Stag” theme.

Majestic Stag


Wm. Holbrook Beard


National Museum of Wildlife Art

Have a great day.

Afton Villa, a Southern Gothic Tragedy

Posted in Afton Villa, American South, architecture, Belter, George Greig, Gothic Revival with tags on August 23, 2010 by babylonbaroque

This blogging is a curious business, the following , is a suggestion from a reader. In my opinion, a reader of great merit, not only an avid history buff and preservationist, she happens to be the great, great, great niece of the artist George Miller Grieg. Mr. Grieg was the painter commissioned by Queen Victoria, to paint the interiors of Holyrood. I posted about Holyrood and it’s interiors in June. I suggest you take a peek , marvelous stuff.

Through this happy meeting I have been introduced to the fantastic, now lost, antebellum estate, Afton Villa.

Afton Villa

St. Francisville Parish, Louisiana

Gothic Revival plantation

ca. 1840

destroyed by fire 1963

The following images taken by the WPA ( now available through the Louisiana Historical  Photographic Collection) testify to the magnificence of this lost treasure. Always fond of American Gothic Revival, this 40 room plantation house , was a stunning example.

B&W photo, circa 1940’s

charming image

Afton Villa, front entrance

detail of porch

detail of entrance gallery

Definitely my favorite image in the series, the lack of interior shots curious. Perhaps the then unfashionable interiors were not deemed  a worthy subject for documentation.

a particularly romantic image

A striking image showing the stair tower.

Just look at that thing!


Avenue of live oaks.

Southern enough for you??

We all need a gatehouse.

Another romantic view of this great beauty.

Rear view?

I love this shot, slightly ungainly,  a charming quirkiness.

As a contrast to these tasteful images, I present a few of those really garishly colored 60’s postcards I so love.

Rather forlorn image

The reverse describes Afton Villa as “a famous French Chateau (????), now the home of Mr. and Mrs. Wallace Percy’, it goes on to describe “it’s hand carved Rosewood suite”, one assumes Belter or some knockoff.

another image, same room, same “Rosewood suite”.

I love how stiffly formal interiors appeared in the 60’s.

The following is of a bedroom, presumably Master.

The reverse describes the “original Rosewood bedroom suite by Mallard.

Love the crucifix.

I sincerely thank the great, great , great ,niece of the talented Mr. Grieg. I will close with an image of Mr. Grieg from her family photo album, a treasure.

George Miller Grieg



Good Night.



Pirate Jenny and the BullyBoys

Posted in 18th century, 20th century, Bertolt Brecht, George Grosz, John Gay/Beggar's opera, Kurt Weill, Lotte Lenya, Marianne Faithful, The Tiger Lilies, Three Penny Opera on August 19, 2010 by babylonbaroque

As I was having breakfast with the Beloved and his colleague , a dear friend and fellow “shrink”,our conversation naturally shifted from the banalities of life to the State of Man. I am not nearly intelligent enough to keep pace, so I found myself drifting off with thoughts of the dearly loved Three Penny Opera, and in particular the marvelous Pirate Jenny.

Original German poster

Berlin 1928

The Three Penny Opera was inspired by John Gay’s 1728 hit The Beggar’s Opera

The Beggar’s Opera, Act V



The Beggar’s Opera which explores Man’s rather unsavory side provided rich inspiration for the lyricist Bertolt Brecht, who first wrote Pirate Jenny in 1927;perhaps inspired by the London revival of The Beggar’s Opera in the twenties.

With Kurt Weill providing both the music, and the muse, in this case his wife the marvelous Lotte Lenya; Three Penny explores the theme more deeply.

Lotte Lenya photographed by Carl Van Vechten

I love many recordings of ” Seeräeban Jenny”, Nina, Uta, Ella, but one cannot help feeling that Weill’s muse was the finest. This clip from the 1931 film of Three Penny bears that bias out.

This unidentified sketch of our beloved Jenny, captures her spirit in the fashion of George Grosz.

George Grosz was particularly adept at capturing the despair and wretchedness of man. Why his images beguile me as they repulse is perhaps a question best left to an analyst.

Matrose Im Nachtlokal

George Grosz


Grosz certainly captures the lonely despair many have experienced sitting at a bar into the wee hours of the night. Sad  painful hopefulness. Jenny must feel this, hence her desire to chop off the heads of her oppressors. Can’t blame the gal.

I first became aware of Brecht/Weill/ThreeePenny through my first partner Douglas. Douglas had marvelous taste and an incredible love for dark art. He adored Three Penny, and he particularly loved the production starring Raul Julia as Macheath. Douglas fancied a physical similarity to Mr. Julia, he was correct in possessing that vanity.

Raul Julia

March 9th 1940

October 24th 1994

In the following clip, The Cannon Song,Julia captures Man’s brutality, I particulary love the “beefstak tartar” refrain, it has always amused me.

Again I turn to Grosz, his famous “Made in Germany” captures the silly pompousness of so many folks, men in particular.

Made in Germany

George Grosz


What actually inspired my thoughts of Jenny and wretchedness, was the always divine Marianne Faithful and her evocative interpretation of “Pirate Jenny”. I have a particular fondness for the line “as the soft heads fall”, chilling revenge.

I would like to include this clip of the Tiger Lillies “Bully Boys” which illustrates what ultimately happens to all those wretched Silly Bully Boys.

In closing I would like to dedicate this post to the aforementioned Douglas, who ultimately found our wretched state too much to bear.

I miss him and wished he could have seen past the ugliness.

God bless you Doug.

Good night.

The Punch & Judy Show, the original Slapstick

Posted in Bruce Nauman, Commedia dell'arte, Punch & judy, puppets on August 16, 2010 by babylonbaroque

As it is a lovely day here in the City of Angels, a day of good cheer and optimism; I thought Punch and Judy with its domestic violence,  unbridled brutality, corrupt law enforcement, rampaging reptiles, and Satan himself, a perfect topic.

I also happen to be at work on a painting of Mr.Punch, sans Judy;I should say I am currently avoiding that work as I am at work on this blog ABOUT Mr. Punch.

I was reminded of my interest in Punch by my last post on the   Incroyables ( see side bar); these Bright Young things minced about with a large bludgeon-like staff which they referred to as their “Executive Power”. Punch , another silly man with a big stick, seemed a natural progression.

Punch, derivative of the commedia dell’arte character Polchinello has always been a personal favorite.

Making his first appearance around 1662, he was wildly popular in London and Paris, he and Judy did cross the great ocean, gaining  popularity in the Colony, George Washington is known to have laughed at his antics.

Punch and company  initially were enacted on stage by marionettes, economics seems to have factored into the use of hand puppets. With light weight portable theatre and ingenious puppets, it was possible for one puppeteer to act as an itinerant troupe, perhaps a shill in the audience collecting appreciative change. From seaside attraction to seaside attraction, they entertained a vast array of folks.

It is a bit shocking to think that this shrill little hunchbacked fellow, beating on his wife, tossing Baby out the window, outwitting the police , even cavorting with Satan; was/is considered appropriate fare for wee ones. But of course he wasn’t the last fellow of dubious character to gain wild youthful popularity; the vicious antics of the Three Stooges, the stupidity of Homer Simpson, the cruelty of RoadRunner and Wily E Coyote of course come to mind.

By Victoria’s time, some of his antics were notched down a bit, precisely to address this issue; part of  her agenda for wholesomeness and family values perhaps.

A wonderful cartoon by the always wonderful George Cruikshank (1792-1878)

Of course the beatings still continued, domestic violence is always so amusing apparently.

Judy beats Punch

Judy goes down.

“That’s the way to do it!”

Punch triumphant.

Punch en famille.

Love springs eternal, always ready for another round.

Of course no discussion of Punch is complete without a mention of the wonderful magazine Punch. The cartoons have long been an inspiration to me, the dark wit, the attention to detail, the serious treatment of satire.

Punch and his crazy-assed antics inspire today, as this little video clip creepily illustrates; shades of Tim Burton.

“That’s the way to do it!”

The talented dollmakers David Chapman and Paul Robbins have done wonders with the theme.

Really quite marvelous.

Their work captures the spirit of this vintage ensemble.

Even contemporary artists such as Bruce Nauman have explored the theme.

Punch & Judy II, Birth & Life & Sex & Death

Bruce Nauman


tempera and graphite on paper


In my modest way, I will attempt to continue the tradition.

Yours truly at work.

Have a great day.

Post Script

At the suggestion of the ever fabulous Chateau Thombeau , I include this clip from the Stranglers, “Punch & Judy”. I must confess i am unfamiliar with the Stranglers, but the clip includes a bare chested young fellow and is of course thematic. Thank you Chateau Thoimbeau.

The Stranglers, Punch and Judy

Have a great evening.

The Sans-culotte, the People’s Choice

Posted in 18th century, Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, Sans-culotte on August 11, 2010 by babylonbaroque

In fairness I thought we ought to explore the working drones of the Third Estate, the sans-culotte.

the Bonnet Rouge

The sans-culotte, with their pantaloons ,utilitarian skirts and modest fichu  obviously lack the glamour of our beloved Aristo-loving Merveliluisse and Incroyables; that said a visual journey is in order to gain a greater understanding of what happened during the course of a few bloody years.

As members of the Third Estate, which represented 95 percent of France’s population at the time, their garb was in sharp contrast to aristocratic fashion. As the Revolution progressed, nobility pared down the sumptuous aspects of their apparel. Even poor dear Louis XVI was forced to don the Phrygian cap ( bonnet rouge).

My heart breaks for the Queen, she was mortified. From what I have read Louis was more pragmatic about the situation, perhaps recognizing more vividly the symbolic power this silly little cockaded hat had .

The symbolism of the cockade’s coloring represented moderate forces at work; the white of his Majesty mingled with the red and blue of France.

Too bad the red became more emblematic of spilt blood.

The Phrygian cap of course has noble and ancient roots, long associated with the liberty loving Phrygians.

Bust of Attis

2nd century

Hadrian’s reign

This bust is thought to bear a resemblence to his beloved Antinous, certainly  a pretty boy.

If Lady Liberté felt it prudent to adorn herself with the Bonnet Rouge;mere mortals with less radical notions also felt it wise to blend in with the Great Unwashed.The coiffures so admired and emblematic of the now despised ancien regime, had fallen deeply out of favor.

Street fashion became THE fashion.

Armed to the teeth and itchin’ for a fight.

Note how the lower class women were free to expose  their ankles.

A rather romantic image of a sans-culotte, a fresh clean, blood-less pike,

as of yet…

This fellow seems more prepared for the September Massacres of ’92.

I may never forgive the sans-culotte, anymore then I can understand Bastille Day, but I do want to understand and appreciate the oppression that drove such mind-numbing violence.  Those living abroad, including the Brits were baffled by the savagery . Political cartoons appeared lampooning the revolutionary excesses.

Gallows humor perhaps.

political cartoon

George Cruishank



I really like the Mad Guillotine complete with a bonnet rouge.

Another cartoon by Cruishank follows.

Again, the same marvelously animated Death Machines.

Dancing about the Liberty Tree, note Bastille looming in the background.

British cartoon


After the September Massacres of 1792, the British were particularly disturbed by the barbarity.

We were fortunate that our own quest for liberty was far less bloody.

As we continue our quest for democracy, the image of the sans-culotte still has relevance. In my research I stumbled upon this image from Irag. I thought it a fitting end for this conversation. Please check out the site from which this arresting image was pulled, IraqWar.html

Good Night Gentle Citoyen.