Tuesday, December 06, 2011

In Ken's Spirit...

I am thankful for many things and must acknowledge two of them this morning. Firstly that Ken Russell left a very clear example for artists and those interested in his art alike to follow: be yourself. Religion or gurus can help guide you but the ultimate purveyor is yourself and the art that moves and inspires you. All influences should be seamless and having regrets while being unapologetic is part of life. Originality DOES still exist. And secondly I am everlastingly thankful for my number one fans and friends Par Nordstrom and Grace Isme. I am so thankful for you both. Your generosity and kindness, loyalty and humour means so much to me.

(We keep missing Ken below with best friend and folk singer Barry Lowe the Oliver Reed of Grosewood Films)

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Sunday, December 04, 2011

This alone, if nothing, is worth your memory. Ken Russell....

1. Did not die in hospital. He was at his home sleeping peacefully.

2. Had more than "one hit film".

3. Worked continually and prolifically in stage, photography,  film, television, writing and journalism in a career spanning well over sixty years. 

4. Was thee FIRST major Hollywood/ arthouse/mainstream artist to radically and intelligently challenge the Catholic Church. No one has come close since.

5. Broke down barriers for women, Gays, lesbians, bisexual, transgendered and straight people both on and behind the screen. 

6. Uncredited major influence in The Cell, Black Swan, Amadeus, Immortal Beloved, Moulin Rouge and countless other films.

7. Disproportionately attacked by mainstream media and powerful critics who often claimed scenes existed that simply were not in his films.

8. Catalyst for sparking the revival of Edward Elgar. 

9. Largely responsible for inaugurating the BBC as a (once anyway) world class creative force in the moving image. 

10. Supported other artists throughout his entire career. 

11. Only major Hollywood director to see a major Hollywood studio release banned for almost 40 decades in not only its original but it's edited form as well. 

12. Was thee FIRST major Hollywood/ arthouse/mainstream artist to radically and intelligently mock Nazi Germany and Nazi sympathizers. 

13. Pioneer of the big budget music video.


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Saturday, December 03, 2011

My Greatest Honour As a Performer. Thank you Ken Russell

In sadness there is hidden treasures. A few days ago, I joined the London Times and was shocked with joy and honoured to see that in August of 2008, Ken Russell kindly gave me a long mention, (the third paragraph from the end) in one of his lively columns. Ken's mention is an honour, especially as a "Bulgarian" so please share it with me. (Can't link to his piece because the Times makes you pay.) Truly, I had no idea. I was working non stop in London and had little time to read The Times despite knowing of Ken's column. I may not have met him but to know him is to love him. 

Thank you Ken, happy I could entertain you and Lisi.

My adventures in cyberspace, where it's all about me

Ken Russell, London Times
August 26 2008 12:01AM

On my first exploration of the internet I found myself represented in myriad guises, some of them true

To me the computer might as well be something to play with in the bathtub. But now the siren call of knobs and whistles and a vast territory down the rabbit hole beckons. I've heard that they're selling a picture of me on eBay with a dubious signature. It occurs to me that I might be able to auction off my recently extracted back molar. Time for homage to the great Moloch in my upstairs office.

Like Tommy, the eponymous hero of my film, hooked up inside the Acid Queen's Iron Maiden, I am more or less plugged in by my wife to the basic tools: mouse, cursor, keyboard, the Google search engine.

Looking out of the window for inspiration, I find myself confronted by a gaggle of garden gnomes. So I type in “gnomes” and end up in Elftown.com, where I am cast as a 6ft elf of bluish tint who lives in a magic tree. I immediately refuse all promotions to town council or garbage collection and assert my identity as a singing bard named Mugwump. Let the trolls do the hard work.

Then I'm back to Google. Typing in “goddesses”, I am pulled into a wonderful world of postage stamp-sized pictures of semi-clad, winged women and sacred feminine images. Hmm, this woman with a head like the Chrysler Building looks interesting. A click leads to House of Mercado.com - “an entertainment boutique”. Images slide past of an avant-garde dance troupe dressed in shiny silver techno-suits.

I'm starting to feel queasy. My old reference points are dissolving. I've punched another button leading me to clipmarks.com and the scientific news that visible mutations in the iris of the human eye are linked to poor impulse control. Quick look in the mirror. My iris looks like a powderpuff. Is that good?

Next click to “actors”. I punch in Oliver Reed, and there is a banned still from the nude wrestling scene in Women in Love showing the continuity girl holding a ruler and admonishing Oliver for disappearing behind a screen between takes to give nature a helping hand in a contest of manhoods with Alan Bates.

Now let's try Tony Perkins, whom I worked with on Crimes of Passion. Click and there he is, marrying Ken and wife No2 on the Queen Mary during a break in filming. He was all for the idea but was not ordained. I informed him that he could become a fully paid-up minister of the California Life Church for $5. Bogus? I'm afraid not. As I found out when I tried to divorce my wife sometime later, it was totally legal and binding.

What does the web say about me? Let's start with a Ken Russell reference at something called www.jibjab.com, posted by “dan”. Oh, dear. It's an animated collage of Barbra Streisand and me dancing in hula skirts and coconut bras in Hawaii, fondling our belly buttons and each other. Disturbing yet compelling. Both our bodies have chest hair.

Here I am on YouTube, on Rutland Weekend Television: Pommy - “a spoof of Ken Russell's Tommy” by Monty Python's Neil Innes and Eric Idle. I'm dancing in tight trousers and 6in platform heels, demanding obeisance to my films and preening in song: “I'm a concrete jungle boy”. Catchy tune.

How about the video on YouTube and www.music.songtoday.com - Today is Boring Film Society: the Devils by Ken Russell? Twenty-year-olds pouring out of a viewing room, being interviewed for their thoughts. A charming vote of confidence from an appealing lad: “Ken Russell - I like him - he's a f***ed-up individual.”

Which leads me to the excellent blog by Mark Kermode on bbc.co.uk/blog called Devils Across the Deep Blue Sea, exhorting the DVD release of my film The Devils as a British masterpiece that has been withheld from the public. Brings tears to the eyes.

And here's a site - a myspace.com page using my name! Calls himself “Uncle Ken”. I'm an 81-year-old film-maker with a new autobiography coming out (true) and whose interests are classical music, psychosexuality, crazy zooms and primary colours (also true). Tony Perkins sings in a clip on the website; Joshua Ben Joseph plays while you read text. I'm getting mail from Pasolini, Ralph Vaughan Williams, Aldous Huxley and Alain Resnais! Very cool! Must write back...

Back to Google. My identity is fragmenting with excitement. My third ex-wife is suing her mother's dead lesbian ex-lover. My current wife Elise is lauded in songs all over iTube by several famous songwriters. And here's a love letter just for me in video! Though Shalt Have No Other Boobs Before Me - for Ken Russell. Amanda from Bulgaria, in black rubber, elucidates her “Ken Commandments” to the tune of Wagner's Ride of the Valkyries. She caresses a Ken doll representing her favourite director, pops its head off and tucks said head deep into her cream-puff cleavage. Apparently her site is popular. She also does strange things while lying on a red rubber ball, backside in air, gyrating to Liszt's Hungarian Rhapsody No2. Obviously a homage to my musical biopic Lisztomania.

Google again, and I begin to encounter lies. “Mighty Mark Lawson” reports that I did a striptease on TV to raise money for a film. Another story says that I'm directing a gangster film starring Robert Carlyle, Kevin Spacey, Ray Winstone and Twiggy (a dream cast, but not true). And that is not my signature on the autographed picture for sale on eBay - but I promise my actual, signed back molar will be for sale on eBay in a week. So start bidding.

After a day in cyberspace, I feel I could dive anywhere, find anything. I'm a natural for this sort of addictive treasure hunt. Here's a net interview in which I find fault with “reality - there's too much of it about”. Virtual reality - that's what I'm after.

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