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Varda the Message
A Daily Dose of Velvet Goldmine Trivia ~ A Little of What You Fancy Every Day

If you're arriving at Varda The Message at this juncture, we regret to inform you that Brian Slade has left the building. Our mission – a year of Daily Velvet Goldmine Trivia – has been accomplished. However, darlings, you can always pick up the needle, place it back at the beginning and get into the groove. Read all about us here. Yes, we're that vardathemessage mentioned by Todd Haynes on the VG Blu-ray commentary.
Feel free to stay and wander around the archive, friend us for any updates or leave comments.

Updates are archived here

A most heartfelt thank you to the brilliant Iris Out, without whom this site would be far less vivid.

It's been a gorgeous, gorgeous time, my dear minskys, thanks so much for dropping by.
38 excess of opinions / And your opinion, darling?
So a few Sundays ago I shook out my Marc Bolan style corkscrew curls, put on some glitter eyeshadow, my Bowie/Tilda leggings, a silver jacket, my Lindsay Kemp designed Swatch watch and took a 6:45 am flight to Chicago to see the David Bowie Is exhibit at the MCA. Also on the schedule for the day was a screening of Velvet Goldmine followed by a Q&A with Todd Haynes and Sandy Powell. It was like ComicCon/Christmas morning for Glam Rock aficionados.

David Bowie Is is a gorgeous exploration of DB from his earliest days to now. The V&A developed the show with permission to access Bowie's own archive. He's saved, repurchased or been gifted items in the show including costumes, artwork, hand written lyrics, etc. As you enter you are given a headset that narrates the exhibit. Its on a GPS system so the matching audio syncs as you walk through the areas. You can linger or skip what interests you. Oddly you don't communicate much with others which makes it a bit of an isolated experience. The exhibit has been touring the world and Chicago is the only stop in the U.S., although it will go on to Paris, Melbourne Australia, and Groningen the Netherlands.

If you can't get to Chicago, or the above cities, I highly recommend you consult this website and see if the documentary on the exhibit is playing near you. It's a one-night-only screening in mid-November and very much worth the effort to get there. It was filmed on the closing night of the V&A exhibit and presented by their curators and includes guests like Kansai Yamamoto and Jarvis Cocker. Watch the trailer here.

So on to the Todd and Sandy Q&A. It was moderated by film professor Bruce Jenkins, who started with some informative overviews of Todd Haynes' and Sandy Powell's work. He quickly turned it over to the audience that, to a person, lavished praise on both Todd and Sandy before asking intelligent questions. Their enthusiasm in discussing their collaborations matched the audience's interest. It was a very indulgent hour & a half to explore their work. "Less a Q&A and more a love fest," declared Professor Jenkins in his closing remarks.

I had about 4 hours of sleep and had just absorbed 60 years of David Bowie in 3 hours so I was nervous when Professor Jenkins pointed to me and I was handed a microphone. But I introduced myself as the person behind vardathemessage and Todd was so gracious on complementing the site. He had tried to contact me in 2012 for help in preparing for the Blu-Ray commentary track (dream job!) but it was a silly email mix up that prevented that (much weeping). But since it lead to him also praising vardathemassage on the commentary track itself, it all worked out. I realize that you don't hear me thank Todd on the audio but it was because my eyes were tearing up and I wouldn't have been able to speak. I did mime my heart fluttering to him, so he understood what his words meant to me. I fangirled him, he fanboyed me, it was a dream come true.

Here's the transcript of the Q&A. For those of you interested, I'm at about 1:16:45.

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4 excess of opinions / And your opinion, darling?
Dear Sweet Darlings,

We are less than a week away from the event of the century: Todd Haynes and Sandy Powell are doing a Q&A after a screening of Velvet Goldmine as part of the David Bowie Is exhibition in Chicago. This brilliant show from the Victoria and Albert Museum is touring the world and the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago is the only U.S. stop.

The date is this Sunday October 5. Screening of VG at 1, Q&A at 3:15-5. It is not sold out as of this moment. It would be fab to see some of you there!

David Bowie Is, now through Jan 4:

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3 excess of opinions / And your opinion, darling?
One night, eons ago when I was waitressing at an art bar in Tribeca, these two angelic faced young men, tourists from Germany, had finished their meal and were paying their tab when they asked with complete sincerity, in beautiful, slightly accented English, Where is this Wild Side? At first I thought they meant the West Side but they clarified that they were interested in that famous place, The Wild Side. As I enthusiastically explained about the Warhol crowd and the characters in the song their faces dropped. They had come all the way to New York City to take a walk there. How does one"s initiation to the "underground" of pop culture happen?Collapse )
1 excess of opinions / And your opinion, darling?
Dear Sweet Darlings,

So many of our obsessions are represented at museums this year. The academics have analyzed Glam Rock and now the curators have at it. There's a Bowie retrospective at the Victoria & Albert Museum. Glam! The Performance of Style is now at the Tate Liverpool. Stateside we've got Punk: Chaos to Couture at The Metropolitan Museum this summer.

There's a thrill to hear this and then almost immediately a critique of what they will get right and get wrong. Of course this is a highly opinionated and totally subjective topic. The V&A show seems to anticipate that with the title "David Bowie is". As he once said, "I guess I am what the greatest number of people think I am. I have no control over that at all." As the owner of a $500 book about Ziggy Stardust who has never seen Labyrinth, I understand that Bowie fans share a quirky demographic. No matter what the exhibition is about, it's damn thrilling to have the new album.

Glam! The Performance of Style seems like it's throwing a very wide net to be able to make it about ART rather than NME. The curator, Darren Pih, certainly has read "Please Kill Me," and includes the Max's Kansas City/ Warhol scene as the beginning part of the story. And while several films are included in the show, as well as screenings of others, there's apparently not a mention of Velvet Goldmine, which certainly was a landmark in the reassessment and appreciation of the Glam era, in particular noting the origins of glam in the drag, underground and art school scenes. We can't imagine the curator hasn't seen it.

vardathemessage started on the fifth anniversary of the VHS release of Velvet Goldmine*. At that time it was difficult to find links to illustrate and illuminate the entries - Wikipedia was just emerging, Tumblr was lightyears away in internet time - and you can see that it still has some not so fab images, sorry. Now that VG love is all over the internet, let's not forget that in many ways Todd Haynes rediscovered the era and put it back on the cultural map as something more than a punchline. Glam was out of fashion in 1998 - this was the year Madonna was wearing cowboy boots afterall, and even Bowie was chuckling as David Letterman mocked a photo of Ziggy Stardust. Now that TRAFOZSATSFM is 40, Bowie has a new album and a retrospective at the V&A, it's hard to believe that for a very long time Bowie was considered a weirdo rather than a pioneering artist. And even then, when he was at the height of his fame during the 80s, many considered Ziggy just a slightly embarrassing best ignored experiment of his early career.

Being on the wrong side of the pond, I won't be able to see the V&A and Tate shows, so those of you who have seen them, please free free to give us your take. And certainly correct me if I'm wrong about the Glam! exhibition having no mention of Velvet Goldmine.

*To give you an idea of how ancient history that is, the VHS was available for $125.00! This is because the first buyers of the VHS were the rental shops who were expected to recoup the cost in rentals. So the next best thing was later that summer when the used copies of VG were put on sale for something like $14.99.
And your opinion, darling?
including this perfectly apt take on Velvet Goldmine, by Dennis Lim:

"The common knock on Haynes — that he's overly cerebral — came up most often with "Velvet Goldmine," which remains his most underrated film. Some found its layered, referential game-playing antithetical to the Dionysian spirit of rock and roll, but in Haynes' best work — and in some of the most inspired glam rock (Roxy Music, for instance) — intellect and emotion go hand in hand.
Although Haynes is obviously steeped in glam lore, the film's parallel-universe mythology, with its mix of quoted and imagined histories, original and counterfeit songs, annoyed some purists. Since its release, though, as numerous fan sites suggest, it has found an obsessive following among younger audiences. And no wonder — in its delirious jumble of fact, extrapolation and wish fulfillment, "Velvet Goldmine" acknowledges and demonstrates the transformative promise of pop music. More than a mash note from a fan, it's a film that powerfully conveys the sensual and imaginative experience of fandom."

Read it all here at the L.A. Times.

*Bolded text is our doing.


And your opinion, darling?
Rocking the VG purple and orange (is he wearing nail polish?)


And your opinion, darling?
Darlings, I'm attempting to get up to speed with this whole 21st century social network thing that you minskys are all probably quite literate with - anyone who knows how to add the Tumblr and Twitter buttons to the top of my page, kindly advise.

A Little Birdie Told Me
@Swishpan Twitter is where I'll post things to do and see, and especially repost tweets like when Christine Vachon recommended vardathemessage earlier this month!

Tumblring Down
Since I come across many fab glam photos that aren't necessarily directly related to the posts here I'm sharing these via vardathemessage.tumblr. It's been inaugurated with a lovely double exposure of Iggy Pop from "the man who shot the seventies" photographer Mick Rock.

By the way, on LJ itself there are several galleries: Gallery Overview.
Images that illustrate the entries to Vardathemessage.
Additional Glam and Rock & Roll history images.
Scans of Creem and After Dark magazines: Vintage Views via fabulous Back Issues.

Big Brother Baby, All the Way
is what I feel about Facebook. However, you may wish to friend Micko Westmoreland, aka Jack Fairy, to see his behind the scenes photos of the Velvet Goldmine shoot.
And your opinion, darling?
The commentary on the Velvet Goldmine Blu-ray has revealed a wonderful discovery about Maxwell Demon's green alien. We cited the influence of Lindsay Kemp but Todd says that the inspiration for the truly fabulous green body makeup is actually Roddy McDowall as Ariel in The Tempest. Although he starred in the 1960 TV production, (which you can watch on youtube which shows another take on the costume), this photo was taken two years before for a LIFE magazine article about Broadway stars, "Actors Get Their Dream Roles". Roddy created the makeup himself. "I had to like this a lot to play it on television," he said. "It took four hours to get into costume." The fantastic look was truly worth it.

As a child, Roddy McDowall played Joe, the devoted owner of the faithful collie in Lassie Come Home, (along with his lifelong friend Elizabeth Taylor) and he is probably most famous for Planet of the Apes.

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And your opinion, darling?
and delirious! There is something surreal and thrilling hearing Todd Haynes say this at the beginning of the commentary:

"We're going to take a little trip through memory lane. A ton of great music and history is crammed into Velvet Goldmine. In fact virtually every line of the dialog comes from something. And more than what I would have been able to remember without the work of some amazing websites like vardathemessage, which have been annotating the film closely for years. And I just felt that the film and the fans deserved as thorough a recollection as I could muster, so I do have a bunch of notes I'll be referring to, but I want to thank those sites for helping me collect this stuff."

Swooning as I type....

The commentary is a treat and the picture quality is just breathtaking.

Blu-rays play on a PS3 by the way.

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15 excess of opinions / And your opinion, darling?
Dear Sweet Darlings,

I'm thrilled to tell you that Velvet Goldmine will be released on Blu-ray on December 13th with commentary by Todd Haynes and Christine Vachon! Additionally, the new cover includes Christian Bale along with Ewan and Johnny.

With the Elizabeth Taylor auction at Christie's (the proceeds of which will go to her AIDS Foundation) and the release of the new DVD, it's going to be a very glamorous day!

Liz and Dick Dave - click to enlarge:


4 excess of opinions / And your opinion, darling?
There is a wonderful interview with Todd Haynes over at The Onion AV Club about I’m Not There. He was asked about the reception his films have received.

I think all my films can be enjoyed. In fact, they've often surprised me with how they're received. A film that had the hardest time, at least initially, was Velvet Goldmine, and it's the film that seems to mean the most to a lot of teenagers and young people, who are just obsessed with that movie. They're exactly who I was thinking about when I made Velvet Goldmine, but it just didn't get to them the first time around. Now we have all these different ways for movies to get to people. People can live with them over time and pass them around like special secrets. The movies all live their own weird lives, which is so cool.


3 excess of opinions / And your opinion, darling?
A delightful darling just gifted me with a copy of the VG issue of American Cinematographer magazine! The fascinating, if a bit technical, article about the choices made by DP Maryse Alberti and Todd Haynes is available on-line and I have quoted it extensively. However, there are a few wonderful photos in the issue. There are some stills (all by Peter Mountain) that look just like film clips but this picture of Todd and Maryse on set is new to me:
Todd Haynes and Maryse Alberti on location

The caption: "Hmm, who played lead guitar on Ziggy Stardust?" In the midst of the shoot, Haynes ponders pop history while Alberti does a credible impression of Velvet Underground drummer Mo Tucker. Says Haynes, "I like Maryse's style as a person, so our working relationship has a great deal to do with the fact that we communicate very well."

Shooting Maxwell

And I love this one of Johnny taking a break from the platform shoes and getting into hightops. no, it's not drunk scanning, they look like they are going downhill but the photo is printed that way.

Another pertinent bonus in the issue: behind the scenes on Performance.

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6 excess of opinions / And your opinion, darling?
Fittingly, we end with what Todd has been doing since he made Velvet Goldmine. Happily, he had a critical success with Far From Heaven. This February 2003 article from The Independent at the release of Far From Heaven explains what we have to look forward to:

At the start of 2000, he drove to Portland, Oregon, and wrote Far From Heaven in 10 days in a friend's house. "I started to meet all these awesome people there – musicians, painters, weirdos, just these great minds. So I stayed. Sometimes I've thrown parties for 300 people, half of whom I don't even know." He chuckles at the naughtiness of it.

On that drive to Portland, Haynes played Bob Dylan tapes for the first time since college. Now he's preparing to make him the subject of his next picture. There are two kinds of Todd Haynes film. The female ones – Superstar, Safe, Far From Heaven – have rigidly controlled, almost fetishistic visual surfaces, and heroines with harshly chiming names. These alternate with wild, flamboyant, male-oriented works: Poison draws from three contrasting genres, while the various tones and textures of Velvet Goldmine could not be counted on all your fingers and toes. Haynes tries to offer an explanation for this pattern of neat film/messy film – "In those that deal with women, the references are more singular than multiple ... the male films have more erotic pleasure I think" – but it doesn't get us terribly far.

Still, the cycle continues. The Dylan film will be sprawling and multi-layered. "Seven characters will share the film, and they'll represent aspects of Dylan during different periods. But they'll look nothing like him. One will be an 11-year-old black kid. The one who most resembles Dylan will be a woman. It's going to be a multiple refracted biopic." Far out. The amazing thing is that, unlike David Bowie, who threw a hissy fit when Haynes asked to use his songs in Velvet Goldmine, Dylan himself has given the project his blessing – and, more importantly, his music. "I can use whatever I like," beams Haynes, returning to fan mode. "It's in ink!"

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6 excess of opinions / And your opinion, darling?