BBC Bans Bowie

LONDON: Brixton-born figurehead of the gay-rock revolution David Bowie met with a ban on footage his Mainman company supplied to the BBC for its Top of the Pops programme.

As a Mainman man, Hugh Attwooll, told Gay News: “They say it’s a matter of taste, but no-one who’d seen the last few weeks’ Top of the Pops programmes would seriously think of the BBC as an arbiter of taste.”

The footage, shot by David’s usual photographer, Mick Rock, was of Bowie and mime-king Lindsay Kemp doing a mime act to Bowie’s overtly gay single John I’m Only Dancing.

Instead of the Mainman/Mick Rock film, the BBC showed a film of people on motorcycles.

Hugh Attwooll at Mainman, said that he, too, could not see the relevance of the footage that the BBC showed.

Kemp Bashing

19721001-03LONDON: Mime artist Lindsay Kemp was beaten up in his home when he got home from the premiere of Ken Russell’s Savage Messiah, in which he has a role.

And when the police arrived they found the ends of cannabis cigarettes in an ashtray, and Mr Kemp ended the night being interviewed about the drugs by Scotland Yard drugs squad men.

He said afterwards: “It all happened after I returned from the premiere – and it was the worst night of my life.

“I called in the police in the first place because I genuinely thought a man was trying to murder me – a man had too much to drink and just went beserk.

“I was covered in blood and in a terrible state when I barricaded myself in one of my rooms and called Scotland Yard from an extension after the main phone had been tom out from its socket.

“I’ve gone through an awful experience – confronted with a hammer and cut about the body. I had also seen my flat wrecked.

“By the time the police arrived it had quietened down and there seemed no cause for alarm.

“Then the police spotted about half-a-dozen roaches (cannabis dog-ends) in an ashtray.

“I told them I certainly hadn’t smoked them. In fact I’m not at all interested in drugs myself, although I don’t disapprove of people smoking cannabis, which I consider far less harmful than alcohol.”

Gay Liberation Films

The 26th Edinburgh International Film Festival includes two short documentaries about Gay Liberation, one British, one American. The British film, Come Together, shot in early 1971, was made by John Shane (not his real name, it seems, which is hardly a shining example of liberation). It is colourful, confused and rather appealing, like GLF itself. There are restrained examples of meetings and demonstrations, and the film is held together by crosscutting with interviews of half a dozen or so varied representatives of the movement. Political statements tend to cancel out: GLF must ally itself with the struggle of all oppressed people, GLF must concentrate on Gay issues. By its warmth and vitality the film should (if they ever manage to see it) convey a message of hope to timid provincials wistfully longing to escape from their closets. To straight society it says, successfully I think: homosexuals are real people, not the stereotypes you try to make out of us, and we want a fair deal.

By comparison the American film, Some of Your Best Friends (University of Southern California, directed by Kenneth Robinson) is more coherent, more searching, perhaps just a shade clinical. What basically gives it its different flavour is the more abrasive American situation, and the correspondingly more determined and purposeful action of Gay militants. A meeting is told how a landlord has tried to evict a Lesbian by force. John Platania (a screen natural) describes with vigour and humour his arrest by a police agent provocateur and the subsequent court case. We see the Christopher Street West parade of 1970, catching just a glimpse of that famous Vaseline jar float, and fascinating action shots of the take-over by GLF of a meeting of psychiatrists assembled to hear a lecture on aversion thereapy. In an attempt to range across the whole activist scene, there are shots of a meeting of the Westside Discussion Group, a more CHE type of organisation, and someone makes the entirely valid point that most people cannot be expected to jump from the closet to the streets in one fell leap.

But the impact of this sequence is vitiated cinematically by the fact that the participants did not want to be identifiable on the screen. Let us face once and for all the truth that those shadowed faces and wingbacked chairs are horribly counterproductive, reinforcing in the public mind the image of the homosexual as a lurking, inhuman creature of the dark.

In the same programme (now I wonder why?) a preview of a film made by Brian Mahoney for Scottish Television about our incomparable Lindsay Kemp. The title sequence contains the most quintessential Lindsay, as with his sweet-sad-vulnerable face he stands and creates some of those fragile, Cocteauesque drawings. The rest is perhaps a little thin, despite some charming shots and a commentary that contains interesting apercus: his work, he says, is about failure, as the work of great clowns usually is. I said a preview, but it seems that someone in STV has had cold feet about the full frontals, and so Scottish sitting-rooms will stay unviolated for the present.