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Mon, Jun. 2nd, 2008 10:23 am
Ecstasy, transfiguration and death of the hyperaesthetic ectomorph

I first developed a fascination with the persona -- not the clothes -- of Yves Saint Laurent (who's died, aged 71) in the mid-1980s, when I was living in Chelsea. I was a poor man in a rich area, but I was ambitious, and curious to know whether people like me -- fine-boned, effete aesthetes, "homosexuals", whatever our actual sexual orientation -- could succeed in capitalism.

One answer to that question lay in Knightsbridge, where the Yves Saint Laurent shop was a kind of shrine to the most effete, most fine-boned, most aesthetic homosexual of them all, YSL himself. A huge black and white photograph of him -- naked but for his trademark spectacles -- loomed over the Rive Gauche boutique. In this 1971 image by Jeanloup Sieff, YSL seemed to radiate a Christlike spiritual glow. He was both immensely delicate and immensely successful, a sort of Christ who had succeeded in business just by making beautiful things.

YSL joined my list of hyperaesthetic ectomorphs -- Christ, Warhol, Bowie, Sylvian -- whose beauty and talent had allowed them to break through endemic prejudice against their over-refinement to a wild success which would turn even their failings into admirable qualities. Their delicacy, childishness, protectedness, indulgence and narcissism would be encouraged, and mothers, managers and assistants (Saint Peter, Coco Schwab, Pierre Bergé) would protect them from the tough buffetings of the business world, or from petty jealousy. (It didn't always work, of course: Warhol's mother was nowhere to be seen when Valerie Solanas burst into the Factory with a gun. And where was Christ's father when...)

While the art and fashion worlds were the natural habitat of these bespectacled sissies, it was possible to be like that in the music industry too; the New Romantic 80s had thrown up one or two examples. What's more, I was signed to a label, él Records, run by a man who fitted the type to a T: Mike Alway. Mike and I would sit in L'Etoile patisserie on Westbourne Grove debating "semi-ecclesiastical Op Art lime green lanterns" and other abstract absurdities which seemed to us, at the time, to be solid steps on a sparkling, illuminated stairway to glory, albeit in some parallel universe (which turned out, in fact, to be Japan).

One of the ideas I remember discussing with Mike as we sat in L'Etoile, spectacle-to-spectacle and cheekbone-to-cheekbone, was a Momus album themed around Yves Saint Laurent's autumn 1968 Protest Collection, in which -- in a piece of homosexual chutzpah both admirable and derisory -- the designer had sent gold-toggled duffle coats onto the catwalks. What was he thinking? That the rich have the right to protest too? That protest is a fashion statement? That protest is golden? That anything can be recuperated by fashion? That having a cause you'd be willing to risk arrest and even death for is hopelessly rockist and hetero? That paying mocking tribute to such a cause is daringly anti-rockist and gay?



The Protest Collection album by Momus would have featured songs on precisely this issue -- the question of whether chic should or shouldn't be radicalised, and therefore whether the aesthetic and the political have any business with each other (it's a question I still haven't resolved). The cover shot would have doubled as our marketing campaign: it would have featured an image of me, looking as much like YSL as I could in my Ray Ban Wayfarers, double-breasted Jaeger suit and sandals, running into the YSL shop in Knighsbridge and spraying the word PROTEST across the Jeanloup Sieff image of Saint Laurent. I would, of course, have been arrested and sentenced to serve in a prison where I would have been brutalised horribly by thickset bricklayers and swarthy car thieves.

In the end, I bottled the spray can protest and moved on to albums pastiching Mishima and Derek Jarman. But I retain some perplexed, complex affection for YSL, and would like to picture him, today, in heaven, sporting a shy grin, running up some swishy robes for his gorgeously prissy, sissy perfumed peers, too talented to fail, too gifted to live: Jesus Christ and Andy Warhol.

44CommentReply

bugpowered
bugpowered
Mon, Jun. 2nd, 2008 10:37 am (UTC)

Warhol, Bowie, Sylvian -- whose beauty

Warhol, beatiful?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Jun. 2nd, 2008 10:57 am (UTC)

It may not be everyone's idea of beauty, but I think he's much more beautiful than, for instance, Edie Sedgwick.


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(no subject) - (Anonymous) Expand



(Anonymous)
Mon, Jun. 2nd, 2008 10:55 am (UTC)

I used to work on the King's Road in the mid-eighties and I remember seeing you out and about - I even served you a drink or two when I worked at The Dome. What on earth were you doing hanging about in Sloaney Chelsea, Momus? Shouldn't you have been living in an artists' squat in Vauxhall or something?


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Jun. 2nd, 2008 11:05 am (UTC)

It's like that line "she asked me to stay and I stole her room". I was dating a French girl who'd managed to find a tiny bedsit in a flat at 37 Draycott Place shared with a vinyl bootlegger and some Americans in guitar bands. She decided to move up to the greener pastures of Tufnell Park, and I took over her room, which looked out over Bray Place, where braying Sloanes parked their BMWs (it was also the site of the restaurant scenes in "Blow Up"). I was living there on £25 a week dole money, with the government paying my rent. 1985 to 1990, five years. The room had a basin, a bed, some books, a fluorescent tube with a sheet of Chinese newspaper serving as a lampshade, copies of Actuel and Liberation, Leonard Cohen records.

I wrote all my Creation Records albums there, basically. And yes, I'd go to the Dome, or the Man in the Moon, or the French Institute, or the coffee shop in the V&A. Dinner was usually chicken kiev at the Chelsea Kitchen. Lunch would be a jar of bockwurst from Safeways. I'd sometimes go into Our Price next door, and they'd put on "Closer To You", thinking it would embarrass me. It didn't, but it summed up the sort of nympholepsy which defined that odd dole life in Chelsea. Desire for the unnattainable, plus a vague sense of ambition, and a sense that it could only be achieved through a corruption which wouldn't be worth the rewards.


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thomascott
thomascott
Thomas Scott
Mon, Jun. 2nd, 2008 11:05 am (UTC)
Those beastly criminal classes..

Aside from Warhol's questionable beauty, the Christian church's depictions of Christ are purely speculative.

I'm also intrigued by your assumption that the U.K.'s prisons are populated by 'thickset bricklayers'.
Most of the bricklayers I have met display fairly conventional physiognomy, some have even looked quite effete and most are about the last people one would expect to find in Her Majesty's prisons - curiously ivory-tower Victorian sentiments considering your pretended Marxism.


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Jun. 2nd, 2008 11:14 am (UTC)
Re: Those beastly criminal classes..

Myth, in this kind of sketch, is much more important than reality. Who cares what Christ really looked like? It's how he's been mediated that matters, here in Plato's Cave.

As for British prisons, they're no doubt really full of poets, and "ivory tower Victorian" turns out to describe them better than it does me.


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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Mon, Jun. 2nd, 2008 11:46 am (UTC)
lololol coco schwab

bb you're about as effete as Mike Tyson.

Also, hahaha, Napier Bell is Sylvia's mother.


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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Mon, Jun. 2nd, 2008 11:47 am (UTC)

Actually, I'm thinking Mike Tyson is more effete, because of that wonderful mewling little voice.


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trickseybird
trickseybird
Bruce Springsteen, you're not the boss of me
Mon, Jun. 2nd, 2008 11:55 am (UTC)


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imomus
imomus
imomus
Mon, Jun. 2nd, 2008 11:56 am (UTC)

Meanwhile, some oddly macho memories of Yves on the BBC site:

"Yves was a designer of genius but let us not forget his prowess as a go-kart driver. I once saw him beat Michael Schumacher while wearing a bespoke jumpsuit done out in his trademark black.
The mechanics nicknamed him the panther but Yves preferred Le Chat."

YSL as Jeremy Clarkson? Do we all have our own personal Yves?


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Jun. 2nd, 2008 12:17 pm (UTC)

Um, I think it's supposed to be a joke, Momus.


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trickseybird
trickseybird
Bruce Springsteen, you're not the boss of me
Mon, Jun. 2nd, 2008 11:58 am (UTC)

“Shit, I didn’t get any on your hand, did I?” Lou asked as he slipped off his pants.


“ a little, but are you all right?” John asked as he followed him to the bathroom.


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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Mon, Jun. 2nd, 2008 12:15 pm (UTC)

I'M GLAD YOU CARE.


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Jun. 2nd, 2008 12:35 pm (UTC)

Momus, did you ever cross paths with Sebastian Horsley? Seems he lived in Edinborough around the same time as you and was working with Paul Haig at one point.


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electricwitch
electricwitch
For anything, oh! she´ll bust her elastic
Mon, Jun. 2nd, 2008 12:40 pm (UTC)

GTFO SEBASTIAN HORSEFACE.


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trickseybird
trickseybird
Bruce Springsteen, you're not the boss of me
Mon, Jun. 2nd, 2008 12:38 pm (UTC)
PRETTY BOY:

Photobucket


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niddrie_edge
niddrie_edge
raymond
Mon, Jun. 2nd, 2008 03:58 pm (UTC)
Re: PRETTY BOY:

I'd do him.
Isn't it odd how dogs and owners look alike?


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pay_option07
pay_option07
Mon, Jun. 2nd, 2008 04:32 pm (UTC)
who had succeeded in business just by making beautiful things.

Makes me a little squirmy but this is all fodder for Richard Florida.

“ Pretty boys, witty boys,
You may sneer
At our disintegration.
Haughty boys, naughty boys,
Dear, dear, dear!
Swooning with affectation...
And as we are the reason
For the "Nineties" being gay,
We all wear a green carnation. ”
—Noel Coward, 1929 , Bitter Sweet


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kineticfactory
kineticfactory
this is not your sawtooth wave
Tue, Jun. 3rd, 2008 12:11 pm (UTC)
Re: who had succeeded in business just by making beautiful things.

A green carnation, or that evil lily?


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(Anonymous)
Mon, Jun. 2nd, 2008 04:32 pm (UTC)
Women want brutes

Ah, but why do men who say "I just adore women" spend their lives giving them things that make life hell (rip-off clothes, unwalkable heels, extreme personal competition, miserable paranoia), even avoiding intercourse with them. And don't women prefer the opposite of fine-boned, effete aesthetes? Surely if a man wants to 'honour' womankind he'll be pumping iron and punching small dogs?


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Jun. 3rd, 2008 04:07 am (UTC)

Hilarious. Lord Flimsy is indeed such a species. Him and Napoleon.

Also, "where was Christ's father when..." The answer is that Joseph was
surely just as distraught as Christ's mother and siblings apparently were
at the time...


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Jun. 3rd, 2008 04:08 am (UTC)
petite men

Hilarious. Lord Flimsy is indeed such a species. Him and Napoleon.

Also, "where was Christ's father when..." The answer is that Joseph was
surely just as distraught as Christ's mother and siblings apparently were
at the time...


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(Anonymous)
Tue, Jun. 3rd, 2008 01:16 pm (UTC)
Classe ou casse

Il y a la Classe (YSL obviously)
Il y a eu les classes (sociales).
Place aux clashs !



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