Channel 4 take a gay perspective on the traditional family festival of Christmas with a star-packed variety gala. Tom Lappin cops a sneak preview of the first ever lesbian and gay festive special.
‘Why be out when you can be in‘?‘ is one of the provocative catchlines attached to Camp Christmas. Channel 4‘s festive variety show. along with a batch of more dubious puns. ‘Now we don our gay apparel' goes the line in the carol. and over the festive period. the channel won‘t quite be outing Santa. but will be
celebrating the queer angle all the way.
The festivities kick off with Rul’aul's Christmas Ball in which America's butchest ‘supermodel‘ and cross-dresser offers a bizarre hour of heartfelt musical entertainment. Guest singers include Elton John and Boy George. with the music padded out with sketches and video Christmas cards from the likes of Nirvana and Little Richard. If RuPaul's ‘act‘ is essentially a one gag (and you will) affair. no expense has been spared on the punchline.
The highlight though is Camp Christmas. hosted by popsters Andy Bell and Melissa Etheridge. an affectionate pastiche of all those old American apple- pie specials with Perry Como crooning carols in a polo-neck sweater. The guests read like a roll call of the great and gay. encompassing Armistead Maupin. Stephen Fry. Quentin Crisp. Sandra Bernhard. Lea
and Jimi Somcrvillc.
‘We really like the idea ofthose traditional Christtnassy shows. with all that schmaltz.‘ says co- producer Caz Gorham. ‘but because all the Christmas programming is very orientated towards family. we felt that we ought to broaden that out and have a very g traditional show. with the twist that everybody in the i show would be gay. even though it wouldn’t be a f speciﬁcally gay show. but light entertainment.‘
Gay performers appropriating and gently sending up the kitscher elements of straight culture is nothing new. but a few Daily Mail scribes and rentaquote bishops started grumbling about sacrilege. especially ' when they got the show confused with the same , channel's documentary on prostitution. ‘We had one
bishop phoning tip and asking. “What. you mean to
say there are no pimps. prostitutes and drug addicts in your programme?“ ‘ recalls a bemused Gorham. As it is. Camp Christmas won't offend even the 7 most delicate sensibilities. featuring as it does all 1 those classic Christmas songs (in new arrangements courtesy of Vince Clarke). top stars and cute
Andy Bell and Melissa Etheridge croon ‘My Favourite ihings' ior Camp Christmas De Laria. Julian Clary. Martina Navratilova. Sir Ian McKellen. Lily Savage. Bob Downe. Polly Perkins. Anthony Sher. Simon Callow. Pam St Clement. Pedro Alrnodovar. Justin Fashanu. Pierre Et Gilles
i sketches. Simon Callow and Anthony Sher do their I bit to reclaim panto camp. ‘Pantomimes tend to have a rather nasty way of using campness.' says Gotham. -‘all poofy innuendoes and that sort of thing. Simon and Anthony do the same stuff but from a gay point of view. which gives it a kind of satirical cdge.’ That’s about as close as the show is going to get to E sexual politics though. ‘We weren‘t trying to make a gay show.‘ Gorham stresses. ‘but we (lid want to show that there are these people who are all very high proﬁle celebrities and they are all gay and all wanted to get together to do this thing. It‘s a show that everyone is going to enjoy.‘ Perhaps nearer to a direct snook cocked (so to speak) at beloved ‘family values’ is The Alternative Queen 's Message delivered at the traditional time of Christmas Day afternoon. by Britain's ‘queen in . exile' Quentin Crisp. Channel chiefs are keeping 3 tight-lipped about the content of the message. but i there will be pink roses. glitter and sequins in abundance. Beat that. Liz. Rul’aul Is (,‘hristnuts Ball is on Channel 4 on Tuesday i December 2/ at [0pm. Camp Christmas on i Christmas Eve at IOpm. and The Alternative Queen 3‘ ’ Message on Christmas Dayal 3pm.
__ Drawmg on
There is a statue which stands on the grass beside Woodlands Road in Glasgow. A bearded cowboy in a ten- gallon hat sits on a two-legged horse. hundreds oi buses thunder past each day, but only the older commuters recognise it. It’s lobey [lesser irom Glasgow’s Wild West, the comic-strip creation oi artist, Bud lieill.
A documentary made by Murray Grigor could change all this. His hour- long programme, Budgies Repaired Saturdays brings ileill’s cartoons to llie using animation. (in a black and white comic-strip set, the jokes are
' gliterati such as Billy Connolly, Una
Billy Connolly pays tribute to Bud lieill : relived by Glasgow’s old-time show-biz
McLean and Jimmie MacGregor. Charting the artist’s lite, iniluences, evolving style and sense oi humour,
the programme is a glorious tribute to
i a Glaswegian star.
Bud iieill was brought up on a diet at low-calorie cowboy iilms. He went West in his mid-twenties to Canada when his parents emigrated and returned to Glasgow with an American comic drawing style and a highly tuned wit. lieill then started to work tor the inkies, churning out cartoon strips which soon gained a cult iollowing. Queues allegedly ionned at street corner newspaper stands and thousands oi people were kept uproariously amused until his death in the 1970s.
With a cast oi characters including Rank Baiun; Pawnee Mary; tied a long- suiiering baby with a huge dummy, as
| well as numerous old wiiies, budgies,
American Gls and trams, lieil’s cartoons were Glasgow seen through a warped mind. But they caught something which was in the air, whether it was poverty, love or
escapism, and poked iun at it. ‘l’ll no bother washing you tonight,’ Ned’s mother tells him in one drawing. ‘l’ll just throw you in wi’ the dishes.’
‘lie was a surrealist,’ a greying critic stresses in the programme. ‘lio he was l Dadaist,’ cites another. The truth is i that in real Iiie, Neill was an . eccentric. Apart irom his own brand oi 5 wry observational humour, he called ; his house, ‘Dimview’, just to annoy his toiiee-nosed neighbours, and once locked himseli in his garage, blind drunk and told everyone he was trying to kill himseli. No one believed him and even when he did die, his pet parrot, in keeping with his own art, called ‘Goodbye’ as the coiiin was being carried out at the house. (Beatrice Colin)
Budgies Repaired Saturday: A Wake ior Bud lteill is on Scottish TV, 2 . January, 5.20pm. i
The List l7 December l993—l3 January l‘)‘)-l 81