BIOGRAPHY PAUL BAILEY Three Queer Lives (Hamish Hamilton $314.99)
Paul Bailey has written an enchanting book about three English eccentrics: 19208 music- hall star Fred Barnes. forgotten 40s novelist and actress Naomi Jacob and Call My Bluff panelist. Arthur Marshall. Bailey is illuminating and generous about all three lives. admiring their outrageousness and refusal to conform.
‘As a young man. queer used to be the voice on the tongue of bigots,‘ says Bailey.
‘l‘m very happy to now appropriate queer. I'm working class in origin. There were no books on my shelves in my home as a child. I became a bookish child. I lived in books. Yet the books and plays I read in the 50s only had gay heroes who were too sensitive for this world. I got so fed up of them committing suicide in the last chapter.‘
Bailey went on to write his own novels. winning the Somerset Maugham Prize for his first novel. At The Jerusalem and being nominated for the Booker prize twice.
Three Queer Lives is an easy. fascinating read. especially the first autobiographical section dealing with Bailey's search for role-models and love as a young man. To finance himself through acting school. he worked behind the counter of Harrods. and it was there he almost mistook the strange. butch Naomi Jacob for J.B. Priestley. 'I read fourteen volumes of Naomi‘s autobiography and ploughed through lots of her awful novels.‘ he says. and his meticulous. loving research sings off the page. Jacob lived in a lesbian menage a trois in Italy. and spent World War It dressed as a bogus captain lllSp(3(,llllg the troops.
Fred Barnes’ life is probably the saddest. His signature
COMEDY KAREN DUNBAR King’s Theatre, Glasgow, Thu 25—Sat 27.
Karen Dunbar is a phenomenon. It’s not so long ago she was hosting karaoke nights at Sadie Frosts, playing trashy 80$ disco music in Bennets, or mounting a Fringe show at CC Blooms. The CC’s show had a seating capacity of 75, now Karen’s commanding
an audience of 1600 at Glasgow’s Kings’ Theatre nightly.
‘I wouldn’t knock CC Blooms,’ she says. ‘They gave me the space to perform in, they helped with the publicity and, especially,
they let me do karaoke and that was how it all started.’
Consisting of singing, stand-up and sketches karendunbarlive is an extension of the show she did at the Citizens’ earlier in the year. Her musical accompaniment and support is provided by the multi- talented Tom Urie, who has been playing piano and guitar on
Tuesday nights at the Polo Lounge for many years.
Dunbar has always been a hard worker and was a familiar personality on the gay scene, DJing, hosting quizzes, karaoke, usually two or three hours a night, five nights a week. It’s a more intense kind of tiredness she feels just after an eight-week shoot for the new series of Chewin’ The Fat. Dunbar has also been a filming a new quiz show coming out on BBC Scotland in October. ‘
As the lead female in Chewin’ The Fat , Dunbar is given the opportunity to stand out and show her versatility. Aided and abetted by great wigs and costumes, her gift for mimicry and pathos have established her as a firm favourite. Her characters, particularly the lonely old lady who runs the corner shop, the randy old soul confined to a home, or the no-messing clerk up the job centre, are macabre, perverse and wholly plausible in equal measure. These woman capture something of the alienation at the heart of urban living. Most importantly, they are side-splittineg
‘When I had just begun the first series, one of my dad’s pals commented, “I see Karen’s on the telly. What part does she play?” And my dad commented back proudly, “Oh, all of them”.’ Not
surprisingly, her dad will be at the Kings’ performances. Hailing from Ayr, but inspired by Shirley Bassey,
Lauren Hill and Bette Midler - ‘not just the singer, the whole package’ - Karen adores live performance. '— She feels very fortunate and remains incredibly grounded. ‘After the first series ended, I went back to my bar job. It was only in January that I finally gave up karaoke. Never get big-headed.’ (John Binnie)
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Bailey is illuminating about Barnes, Jacob and Marshall
song, which he penned himself. was ‘The Black Sheep Of The Family'. He experienced incredible wealth and died in terrible poverty.
Arthur Marshall. gentility itself. was famous for calling all the men in his regiment by female names. Like Alistair Sim, he loved nothing more than dressing up as a school headmistress. As a critic, he reviewed only books which were tripe. yet his criticism was always fair and guaranteed to make yOu laugh.
Thank goodness Bailey has rescued these three lives from oblivion. He makes us understand and admire them. Their queerness made them. Bailey's writing is a delight.
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for Lothian Gay & Lesbian Swilchboard's ever popular Halloween Ball taking place at lllf: Assembly Rooms. Edinburgh. Sat 27 Oct. A key event in the Edinburgh gay calendar. there's a ‘218t Century Kilts Fashion Show' and a whole range of music for everyone's tastes. The Tattiebogles provide ceilidh music. [)FOQTCSSSI‘.’O swing comes from Miss Edith Burge and DJ Trendy Wendy is on the decks. Tickets at 815 are available on 0131 5:36 8997.
VOLUNTEERS ARE desperately needed for Strathclyde’s Lesbian & Gay Switchboard as its weekend helpline has had to close due to lack of staff. Whether it’s the perception that there’s less need for helplines as the media saturates us with gay lifestyles or there is a general falling off in community spirit, this is a crisis. Other voluntary organisations, including Lesbian Line report a similar drop in numbers. ‘There are still the same amount of calls coming in to Switchboard, requesting information and help, but we don’t have new volunteers coming through,’ says Ali Stewart, co-ordinator of Stonewall. If you fancy putting something back into the community, and at the same time want to build up basic counselling skills, please phone 0141 332 7203. The next intake of new volunteers will be Thursday 8 November.