02/03/2011

The Magnificent Leigh Bowery

He is personally one of my favorites. I will be posting more material in the future about the flamboyant, much-missed Leigh. This is just an introduction to his world.

Leigh Bowery (1961- 94), a man of gargantuan scale physically and culturally, a transvestite performance artist, fetishist designer, leader of the band Minty and theatrical giver of birth. 
Bowery is considered one of the more influential figures in the 1980s and 1990s London and New York art and fashion circles influencing a generation of artists and designers. His influence reached through the fashion, club and art worlds to impact, amongst others, Alexander McQueen, Vivienne Westwood, Boy George, Antony and the Johnsons, John Galliano, the Scissor Sisters, David LaChapelle, Lady Bunny plus numerous Nu-Rave bands and nightclubs in London and New York which arguably perpetuated his avant-garde ideas.




I called Leigh when I was putting my autobiography together, needing some dates and gossip on his infamous nightclub, Taboo. He was very charming and helpful. He asked me if the druggy section of the book would be ‘horribly apologetic’, adding in that heavily affected voice of his, ‘You were fantastic as a junkie, that was my favourite Boy George period.’ I laughed. It was typical Leigh, Miss Contrary, Scary Mary. I first met Leigh when he made some stage clothes for me. Of course, I’d seen him and Trojan around the clubs. How could you miss them? I went over to Leigh’s kitsch council flat in the East End. It was surreal. Leigh was in his Benny Hill day look: shop dummy wig and child molester clothes, surrounded by all this swirling 1970s bad taste. I had heard that he was an evil witch but thought he was a doll. Actually, I was in awe of him. Leigh made me two floor-length A-line coats. One was covered in gold hairgrips and the other had huge angel wings jutting out the back. They made me look fatter, which was probably deliberate. Leigh didn’t have the same size prejudices as the rest of us. He celebrated his fleshy proportions and turned them into a gorgeous fashion statement. I think that’s what I loved about him most; he pushed it in your face. Like the night he swanned into Daisy Chain in a puff-ball face mask, sequined boots with a matching push-up bra. Except for those garish trimmings, he was butt naked. A fake vagina rug hid his manhood, which I am told was substantial. Rachel Auburn said it was like a huge bruised banana. I remember staring at his big butt and thinking how brave he was and that he was quite sexy because of it. There is no question that Leigh was hiding himself behind all that spook drag, but still it was revolutionary. The rest of us used drag and make-up to disguise our blemishes and physical defects. Leigh made them the focal point of his art. I suppose some people thought of him as a ridiculous attention seeker, which he was, but there was so much more. He VI a brilliant fashion designer, art director and master of disguise. When he played the role of a prostitute in my video ‘Generations of Love’, directed by Baillie Walsh, he became the part. I know he could have been an outstanding actor if he had desired. Leigh hadn’t even begun to tap into his creative potential. That’s why he has to be remembered. A journalist at the Guardian once asked me if Leigh could seriously be called art. I said that if a pile of bricks can be called art, then Leigh most definitely can. How perfect that he died 0 a visual high. Refusing to be just another AIDS statistic, Leigh ordered his close friends to tell the world that he wasn’t in hospital but gone to farm pigs in Bolivia or gone on holiday to Pal New Guinea – no Darwin death-bed turnarounds for Leigh Bowery. When I heard Leigh had died, I cried. Just like I cried when my teenage idol Marc Bolan hit that tree. The world had lost another couture icon, another mirror ball.
Goodbye butterfly, Goodbye Satan’s child.
 

Boy George

Leigh Bowery and the unimaginative crowd:

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