There was almost too much to see at the Queer Perspectives event in London’s National Portrait Gallery so once we had grabbed a large glass of wine it was a joy to bump into the indefatigable John Sizzle on DJ duty. Spinning his mercurial mix of camp classics and 80’s anthems he looked like the bastard love child of Cher and Terry Thomas, Sizzle always exudes the right mix of cool allure and dizzy affability that means he’s an absolute fuck magnet to the diverse crowd attending tonight’s event.
Next up was a short talk by artist and curator Sadie Lee about the life and times of the most extraordinary character: Charles-Geneviève-Louis-Auguste-André-Timothée d’Éon de Beaumont (aka Le Chevalier d’Eon). Described as an 18th century diplomat, soldier, spy, and trans celebrity he/she certainly lived life to the full and had an extraordinary bold and unapologetic streak. Working as a spy holding ‘The Kings Secret’, she gave serious shade to the English whilst in Russia and then to the French whilst in England. She demanded recognition of her female gender from the French government and the King Louis XVI agreed and even offered her a wardrobe of women’s clothes as part of the settlement. Some nice bits of schmutter in gold I shouldn’t wonder – sweet deal!
On my way to the final event I passed a lady in a pink dress lying on the floor. My first thought was she had slipped on my chardonnay but no – this was the Queer Life Drawing led by artist Becca Human with an intently focused crowd sketching away.
And finally on to Room 20 where the legend that is David McAlmont celebrated his musical icons including Eartha Kitt, Dusty Springfield and Julie Andrews. The setting was extraordinary with the immense picture by Sir George Hayter from 1833 called ‘The House of Commons’ forming the backdrop to the gig.
Now I’ve seen David sing many times as part of McAlmont & Butler and have heard tracks he has worked on with David Arnold and Michael Nyman as a solo artist. Tonight however this incarnation of David McAlmont (who has a recent degree in Art History) interspersed classics songs such as ‘Stormy Weather’ with jaw dropping pictures of Tallulah Bankhead and Billie Holiday in a Harlem nightclub; Eartha Kitt playing drums with James Dean; and a cheeky photo of the classical statue of Hercules owned by Cardinal Alessandro Farnese. David delivered a witty and snappy critique of the art and its place in an often hidden gay sub culture which was sometimes surprising but always fascinating.
The session overran but David managed to finish with the glorious Grace Jones and a perfectly sassy rendition of La Vie en Rose. With that the Gallery staff ushered us out into the cold London night with visions of heavenly queer art and divine divas ringing in our ears.
Review and photos by Queerguru Correspondent JONNY WARD