REVIEW: Miss Kittin and Thee Hitz

French electro dame and potty-mouthed performer Miss Kittin took London by storm on Tuesday…


Miss Kittin

As you may already know, Miss Kittin is back with a new album led by the single Bassline:

It’s a very minimal single for Miss Kittin and relentlessly 80s-infused as we have come to expect from the singer. However, her new album is a surprisingly romantic record.

She wowed the crowd with one of her new songs ‘Flash Forward’ which seemed to be a sort of love story that mingled flash photography puns with deeply felt anguish. With hair and make-up that channelled Xena the Princess Warrrior, Miss Kittin led the dancing with her own unique brand of moves – Kraftwerk meets Krafts foods with a teaspoon of fascist Germany.

Supported by legendary London DJ Hannah Holland (the girl behind Batty Bass), Miss Kittin played to a packed crowd in East London’s fashionable XOYO venue. Light-headed and frisky following a rare day of English sunshine, the audience raised the roof and the show descended into a Miss Kittin sing-along.

Things really kicked-off when her song ‘Rippin Kittin’ came on. 200 or so people all chanting “Please, I want a silver kitchen knife, I feel like taking a life” was quite a religious experience. It was great to see Miss Kittin singing live too, alternating mics as she dashed to-and-fro between centre-stage and the mixing desk.

After playing some of her new material Miss Kittin had no qualms in throwing in the crowd pleasers, including some of her early noughties work with Felix Da Housecat like ‘Requiem For A Hit’, ‘Silver Screen Shower Scene’ and ‘Madame Hollywood’ which sounds as fresh now as it did then –

When the first pokey notes of ‘Frank Sinatra’ came on the audience started screaming. Dryly, Miss Kittin waved her mic into the crowd’s face a bit and said dismissively “Of course, you all remember me for my most stupid song!”

A well-respected name in electronic music, Miss Kittin has remained a marginal star for nearly 15 years now. Perhaps with the release of her new album she will finally receive a slice of the mainstream cake critics have been promising her for years.

When ‘Silver Screen Shower Scene’ was preluded by a Madonna ‘Vogue’ interlude Miss Kittin showed how she doesn’t take herself too seriously.

Arriving on stage in a white headdress looking like some kind of rare Pokémon (a Meowth possibly?), she finished the concert in an Ann Summers style kinky nurse outfit.

Still, beneath the cheeky provocation, silly sexual lyrics and A-List mockery there lurks a more powerful artist within Miss Kittin. Watching her live and close-up brought new layers to her songs. At particular moments she exposes a level of intimacy and pain that is crushingly real. We all know her for her sexual wordplay and satirising of celebrity culture, but the other half of her repertoire hides some meaty love songs about rejection and unreciprocated lust.

When the audience stampeded for an encore she strutted back to the microphone and said simply “I don’t have an encore yet. Sorry!” and disappeared into the wings.

Behind the smoke and synths, Miss Kittin is a fascinating artist, an electro poet of sorts, and it’s great to see her marching militantly forwards on her own, in search of her violentine.

You can buy Miss Kittin’s new album Calling From The Stars NOW. The eighteen track treat will be a welcome addition to those never-ending summer nights.

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Follow Frère Jack on Twitter @jackcullenuk

Top 10 French Pop Songs!

According to London based DJ Bob Chicalors…

Bob Henderson

Frère Jack asked DJ Bob Chicalors to pick out his favourite French songs of all time…

Bob is a London based music journalist, DJ and one of the team behind London’s “global pop” night Voyage Voyage, currently hosted by Vogue Fabrics, a bar in Dalston, London.

Voyage Voyage has a cult following of gay guys and their straight allies who love Eurovision, Swedish pop music, Middle Eastern “hip-shakers” and generally the kind of amazing foreign pop songs that we all love but don’t tend to hear on generic nights out.

So let’s get cracking. Bob! What are your favourite French pop songs?

“Rather than go for Top 10 French songs, like ever, instead I’ve chosen songs in French, and with a cheesey / electro pop bias”

Give the page a minute or two to load the YouTube embeds, and then crank the speakers up – Allons-Y!

“Les Rita Mitsouko” by Marcia Baila

Bob: You can spot the French boys when we play this, they go a bit crazy and a nostalgic haze glazes over their eyes. We don’t know why, but we love playing it.

“Alizee” by Moi Lolita

Bob: A proper cross over hit. We know this because there are about ten copies in charity shops all over North London alone.

“Laissez Moi Danser” by Dalida

Bob: It’s a bit “YMCA”, but Dalida seems to awaken everyone’s inner queen. Drunk gays will explode in dramatic hand gestures and pearls are clasped.

“Je Veux Te Voir” by Yelle

Bob: It’s hard to pick one single Yelle track as we can play pretty much anything and the crowd loves it, so here’s where the love affair began.

“Sans Cri Ni Haine” by Marie-Mai

Bob: A Robyn Cover IN FRENCH. It’s win win for the Voyage DJ policy.

En Apesanteur” by Shy’m

Bob: She stole our heart, new years eve 2012. We got it back this year and gave it to…

“Sur Le Fil” by Jenifer

Bob: If there was any justice in the world, you would hear great pop songs like this in bigger London clubs like G-A-Y. We’ve long since accepted that our world is a cruel hostile one and that our wishes will continue to go ignored.

“Love Song” by Vanessa Paradis

Bob: This is so understatedly amazing, you’d be forgiven for thinking on a first listen that it’s a bit rubbish. You’d be wrong.

“Je Ne Parle Pas Francais” by Girls Aloud

Bob: You know how bad the English are at speaking French? Yeah, that.

and finally…

“Voyage Voyage” by Desireless

Bob: A song so good they named it twice. We named the club night after it, and it’s the one song we always promise to play in one Kate Ryan/Bananarama form or another.

The next Voyage Voyage night is next week on Friday 19th April, in Vogue Fabrics from 10pm until 3am. There’s a Facebook event page here.

Bob will be there so you can say hello, have a dance and maybe a even buy a drink and try your luck with him! You can follow Bob on Twitter @bobchicalors

Frère Jack will also be parting there too! You can follow me as ever @jackcullenuk

What are your favourite French pop songs? What would make your Top 10? Leave a comment below so we can check your songs out and have a boogie!

Top 10 French Songs

EUROVISION 2013: Top 40 Entries

Frère Jack brings you the entries for this year’s Eurovision song contest. Starting with the worst and finishing with the, er, “best” …

marco-mengoni4-586x450

Okay, so this has nothing to do with London life or French culture. But somebody has to take Eurovision seriously in London. If we took Eurovision seriously in England then we’d send someone like her:

dori_Adele

Or her:

Rita-Ora-009

Or them:

OneDirection-2012_608x376

But what are we sending instead?

THIS:

Bonnie-Tyler-002

So. Eurovision is hosted by 2012 winner Loreen’s stomping ground Sweden this year, taking place in the city of Malmo. There will be 26 songs on the night. That means some of the songs below will be KNOCKED OUT in the semi-finals. They take place a few nights before in Sweden, so all 40 artists have to fly out to Malmo, and then some of them are knocked out and just get to watch the finals from their seat in the audience!

What kind of a pansy needs to follow a football team when you have Eurovision? Eurovision is fierce! And it gets very messy…

svetlana_loboda

Luckily for us (France and the United Kingdom), we automatically go through to the final, because we basically pay for the entire contest along with Italy, Germany, Spain and Sweden. This seems to piss off the other countries, but HELLO, if you pay for a party – you get to go to the party. Any time Greece feels like paying for Eurovision, just drop us an email.

It might take a minute or two to load all of the YouTube embeds in this piece, so be patient! And you can tweet me any thoughts along the way @jackcullenuk. But here we go, let’s get this party started. Only six weeks until the big night, let’s start familiarising ourselves with the songs…

CROATIA!

Mizerja by Klapa s Mora

Sorry to make you the bottom of the list Croatia, but come on – this entry is like a How-Not-To guide for a gay wedding. It almost definitely won’t be going through to the final, so you lads may as well go ahead and make a restaurant reservation somewhere in Malmo for May 18th.

Why six men need to sing this song is beyond me. The first guy to sing is admittedly quite hot. But yeah, this is like really bad background music in a really bad shopping centre. And even under those circumstances I’d ask the store management to turn it down.

ICELAND!

Eg a Lif by Eypo Ingi Gunnlaugson

Sometimes they do well in Eurovision. 2013 is not one of those times. From the country that brought us Bjork we here have one of the most boring songs I’ve ever heard. Let me know if you make it past 30 seconds.

MACEDONIA!

Pred Da Se Razdeni by Esma & Lozano

Wait a second. Macedonia are submitting a pop star who looks like this:

Macedonia

Joined on stage by this:

Macedonia2

And supported by two backing singers who look like they’ve been plucked out of a cash machine queue:

Macedonia3

Even by Eurovision standards – good luck Macedonia!

LITHUANIA!

Something by Andrius Pojavis

Poor Andrius, I reckon he’s probably a nice guy. But he sounds like a drunkard slurring his way through a Lightning Seeds karaoke session. It’s worth watching the video though for the audience pan (around about 2:05) and you see all the Lithuanians sitting in their chairs clapping in time. Twee.

LATVIA!

Here We Go by PeR

Wow – a boy band without any good looking members, that’s a novel gimmick! Even The Wanted have at least one and a half boys who are fuckable. The top comment is from a Eurovision expert: “Oh my God. Latvia not in the final. Awful. Sorry” – Agreed.

Moving on…

GREECE!

Alcohol Is Free – Koza Mostra & Agathon Lakovidis

When I saw the title I thought we might be getting an amazingly bad interpretation of Club Tropicana. But no. This song is so Greek it hurts. The video has some relatively sexy men with beards dancing in kilts, but honestly, I’m selling it up here. Why couldn’t Greece rustle up Sakis Rouvas again? I love a bit of Greek Sakis with my feta ballad:

12 Sakis Rouvas photo

ROMANIA!

It’s My Life by Cesar

Brilliant stuff! A falsetto singing man in a suit. I kind of like Cesar. But this gimmick has been done too many times in Eurovision before. Sorry to spring Bruce Willis on you without warning, but Romania’s entry reminds me of that alien opera singer in the Fifth Element:

It might be Cesar’s life, but it certainly ain’t his Eurovision year.

SWITZERLAND!

You And Me by Takasa

Apart from the first ten seconds which sound like the Peaches classic Boys Wanna Be Her, this song is rubbish. I would hang around and make jokes, but we’ve got a lot of songs to get through, and “rubbish” said it all really.

And now I’m fantasising over the idea of Peaches performing at Eurovision!

CYPRUS!

An Me Thimase – Despina Olympiou

Nothing to write home about. Have a fun holiday in Sweden Despina.

ARMENIA!

Lonely Planet by Dorians

On a par with the third best Christian rock band in a due-to-close Wiltshire baptist church. Did Armenia not get the memo: this is a song contest. In the past Armenia have had some great Eurovision entries, like the epic Inga and Anush in 2009. Again though, it’s worth watching this video if only for the adorable Armenian TV audience. Clap not.

MOLDOVA!

O Mie by Aliona Moon

God she’s annoying.

ISRAEL!

Rak Bishvilo  by Moran Mazor

The title means “Only For Him”, I think she’s bluffing don’t you? I totally love Israel’s face this year though:

Israel Eurovision

Shame about the song. It’s like they’ve taken the slow bits from Like A Prayer, binned the good stuff, and then rolling pinned it all out into something even slower. I’d be surprised if Israel made it into the final this year. Israel have taken themselves way too seriously these last few song contests. It’s like they’ve forgotten the glory days of Dana International.

IRELAND!

Only Love Survives by Ryan Dolan

It’s an OK effort and at least Ireland have submitted a dance song, but it’s just a bit forgettable. Called ‘Only Love Survives‘, something tells me this song won’t. I think even Jedward were better representatives of Ireland. At least Jedward look like pop stars. Whereas this. This. Hmm. Yeah. Next…

Oh by the way, well done folk. We’re fifteen songs down. Only twenty-five to go. But remember – it gets better! Here’s a photo of Ryan Kwanten’s arse as a treat for being so patient:

naked ryan kwanten

*Lick*

AUSTRIA!

Shine by Natalia Kelly

There’s definitely an ember of charisma somewhere in this song by Natalia, but she’s hardly Natalia Kills. Also, is it just me or does she look like Nathalie Casey? Well, Nathalie Casey playing her character Donna in “Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps”...

Nathalie Casey

natalie-casey

Ok you probably don’t who Nathalie Casey is in France. That’s fine. Don’t worry about it. “Two Pints of Lager and a Packet of Crisps” was a fun TV sitcom over here, but it’s not exactly Ab Fab.

ALBANIA!

Something by Someone

Whatever. NEXT!

ESTONIA!

Et Uus Saaks Alguse by Birgit Oigemeel

The first two notes sound like East 17’s song Stay. The rest isn’t so good. It’s a shame, the singer is very pretty. I can’t believe she’s called Birgit Oigemeel. This song’s alright I guess.

BELGIUM!

Love Kills by Roberto Bellarosa

This song clearly thinks quite a lot of itself. Let’s hope Roberto gets his eyebrows done before the big night, they’re sort of reaching across his face to greet each other.  This song unfortunately breaks a major gay pop rule of mine – having a song with the same title as a Robyn song. Because you’re never going to beat the Robyn song. Want a song called ‘Love Kills‘ ? Well here it is Roberto:

Imagine Robyn entered Eurovision! The other twenty five finalists would just resign. With the exception of Israel possibly.

SPAIN!

Contigo Hasta El Final – ESDM

Well Spain go through to the final  no matter what, that’s why they can not only afford to have a song which means “With You Until The End”, but they can have a really bad song called “With You Until The End”. They obviously don’t want to win.

ENGLAND!

Believe In Me – Bonnie Tyler

Talking of countries who don’t want to win… The gay community here in London are really embarrassed to be entering this song into Eurovision, sorry guys. Yes, it’s Bonnie Tyler and she’s a pop legend. But this song? Really? She better glam it up on the night with glitter canons and naked men. Unlikely though, since she fancies herself as a bit of a Marianne Faithfull. Still, we can hope for some curlers to go in the night before.

Today they released the official BBC really bad remix of this song too.

A poor rip-off of Blondie’s “Maria” and Shakespeare’s Sister’s “Stay”. I hope Debbie, Siobhan and Marcella strike Bonnie off their Christmas card list for this.

Wake Up

Ok we are now entering the better half of the songs! You’re more likely to actually see these entries in the final…

SERBIA!

Ljubav Je Svuda by Moje 3

Who doesn’t love a Serbian girl band! This is Moje 3, Serbia’s answer to the Pussycat Dolls. The best bit in the song is where they all look at each other and with no explanation stop singing the lyrics and just go  ”Lalalalalalalalala”. What a corker! I hope the girls have fun in Sweden.

FRANCE!

L’Enfer Et Moi by Amandine Bourgeois

Oh it’s you guys! And could a song get any more French sounding? I quite like this Amandine lady, I bet she’s a right hoot at weekend with her leg up on the bar in Banana Café. But let’s be honest – this isn’t a Eurovision song. I can just imagine Moje 3 from Serbia throwing her bitchy looks in the Malmo make-up room.

HUNGARY!

Kedvesem by ByeAlex

This chilled out number is quite catchy after a couple of listens. It’s the sort of thing you could imagine on a Jean-Pierre Jeunet movie soundtrack. Originally this was slightly slower but it over ran by a few seconds so they had to speed it up. What you see above is the sped up version and it’s not as good as the original. On their head be it!

BELARUS!

Solayoh by Alyona Lanskaya

Ooh it’s that Alyona again! She’s quite a Eurovision veteran, having been disqualified in the past after a crisis on the domestic front with a bit of Belarus votes fixing. This year she originally entered with a song called “Rhythm of Love” which was great (and ended up in my Gay Times Top 5), however, she has now scrapped that and will be entering with this song “Solayoh” instead. I preferred the song before.

It wouldn’t be a proper Eurovision song contest without at least three acts who think they’re Shakira.

Here was one of my favourite Shakira wannabes, the sexy Hadise from Turkey in 2009 with “Dum Tek Tek”:

SLOVENIA!

Straight Into Love by Hannah

This is actually my favourite song from Eurovision 2013. However, I’ve put it at this place in my chart as I’m thinking realistically – it’s very dancey, there’s a dub-step break, and so it’s risky. It reminds me of some of Britney’s dancier album tracks off Femme Fatale. I’ve got high hopes for Hannah – I hope she makes it through the semi-finals and nails it on the night.

I love the bit in the video where she straightens out her skirt too! I’ve seen some rehearsal plans from a Slovenian website this morning and can confirm that she will be joined on stage by at least three male backing singers – so that’s good. Go Hannah!

SAN MARINO!

Crisalide by Valentina Monetta

Oh my God! Valentina Monetta is back! Do San Marino only have one singer? Valentina entered last year with her amazing song about Facebook:

It seems this year she’s invested in some hair curlers and gone for a ballad. Boooo.

Valentina’s Facebook song is one of my favourite ever Eurovision entries, and not even that made it through to the final. I actually went to see Valentina sing the Facebook song live at a performance in London (don’t tell any of my friends that). San Marino – I love you, but clearly you’re cursed by the cross.

SWEDEN!

You by Robin Stjernberg

Ok, so I’ve put this song quite high up in my chart because let’s face it – it’s going to do well. It’s really cheesy and sounds like something Coldplay could have released. In other words, utter bollocks but massively accessible and popular.

It’s a shame Robin isn’t a better looking singer. His face is all podgy and shiny like some sort of Disney sea anemone. Also the story of the song irritates me for some reason, it basically says “You helped me get here. You’re not here now. But I’m here, and isn’t that bloody fantastic!” A tiny bit arrogant perhaps?

BULGARIA!

Samo Shampioni by Elitsa & Stoyan

I know “Samo Shampioni” sounds like something you might avoid on a menu when on holiday, but I have a soft spot for these girls. Their first single “Kismet”  looked like something from the entertainment corner of a terrorist organisation’s TV channel. The song was deselected for copyright reasons, which means the writer (stupidly) wouldn’t allow it to be in the contest. You have to watch their first entry though if only for the drummer:

Let’s hope the writers are alive and well.

AZERBAIJAN!

Hold Me by Farid Mammadov

It’s sexy Farid from Azerbaijan with a power ballad! He’s probably one of the two best looking men in this year’s contest (the other is yet to come). I don’t like songs like this, but I admire Farid and think this song will probably do well. Everyone loves Azerbaijan too, especially the presenters on the night who get to say “Twelve points to AZ ER BAI JAN ! ”

GEORGIA!

Waterfall by Nodi Tatishvili & Sophie Gelovani

There’s something compelling about this duet. Of course we have to like Georgia too because they get such a hard time from Russia, and they always use their videos to try and show us how beautiful their country is geologically. And yes, it is. This song sounds very similar to something I’ve heard before, I just can’t place my ear on it just yet.

RUSSIA!

What If by Dina Garipova

Talking of Russia, here they are with their song “What If”. It’s very boring, but I’ve placed it high up in my chart because it’s a reasonably well-written ballad with a piano score so it’s bound to do well.

I love that Russia have a song called “What If” too. What if Russia started treating gay people like human beings? They certainly produce enough gay porn.

FINLAND!

Marry Me by Krista Siegfrids

Love it! It’s Krista, Finland’s answer to Ke$ha and Katy Perry. This song even has its own video and Krista has her own VEVO channel! “Marry Me” is a fun pop song about Krista’s determination to get married – and we sure as hell can relate to that can’t we!

DENMARK!

Only Teardrops by Emmelie De Forest

Oop, someone thinks they’re Celine Dion. She’s actually a big singer over in Denmark, Emmelie De Forest that is. Again, not my cup of tea, but I can just smell success on it. She’s very attractive too and manages to look like she’s not wearing any make-up – the Eurovision definition of rebel.

THE NETHERLANDS!

Birds by Anouk

This highly unusual Eurovision entry might be the show stealer on the night. The slightly minor key off-kilter melody is quite effective, I can imagine Europeans going crazy for this song.

Still, it does sound a little bit like the theme tune from the 1990s British sitcom Birds Of A Feather:

Top 5 Eurovision 2013

UKRAINE!

Gravity by Zlata Ognevich

When a song sounds like a Disney theme, it’s going to do well at Eurovision, especially if it’s sung by a pixie. This imposibly Disneyfied ballad from Ukraine is destined to do well, especially with its step-up in tempo just before the first minute’s out.

Again though. This song really sounds like something else, I just can’t place it. Please do leave a comment below if you can think of the song that this sounds like, thanks!

MALTA!

Tomorrow by Gianluca Bezzina

Check out this quirky little number from Malta! It gives that Bruno Mars a run for his money. The video is fun, the models are hot, the song is very summery and fresh, has an acoustic guitar riff running through it, and yeah – the crowd will love it. Don’t get me wrong, I would never spend my free time listening to this song, BUT, it will do well at Eurovision.

GERMANY!

Glorious by Cascada

Here she is! It’s Cascada representing Germany. I was surprised to discover that Cascada can actually sing. You’re not alllowed to mime in any stages of the Eurovision song contest, which is why so many pop stars are scared to enter. But yeah – Cascada really goes for it, the song’s catchy and most of all – it’s the only song in this year’s contest that actually enjoys itself, presumably because Cascada is more than comfortable already in her status as a global pop act.

This song actually sounds like a single too, which is more than you can say for a lot of Eurovision entries.

ITALY!

L’Essenziale by Marco Mengoni

Marco is this year’s Eurovision hotty. Ok, it’s slim pickings in a tournament that is nearly all girls. Italy have a reputation for doing well at Eurovision in recent years with men sat at pianos. The problem is, they’ve not been that good looking. Marco is here to change that.

He so thinks he’s the Italian Robbie Williams, and there’s something quite sexy about that disillusion. Hashtag: #Sideburns

NORWAY!

I Feed You My Love – Margaret Berger

And so we arrive at our most probable winner for Eurovision 2013! Margaret Berger face with her song “I Feed You My Love”.

Norway won not too long ago with Alexander Rybak’s “Fairytale”. So that could effect their chances. Still, this Massive Attack style electro ballad is right up Eurovision’s street, and the competition is even lower than usual this year.

Thanks for reading my Top 40 of Eurovision 2013. I hope I’ve introduced you to some new songs and that you’ve started to formulate your own opinions as to who might do well come May.

Do let me know your favourite entries, either leave a comment below or Tweet me @jackcullenuk

TÊTU meet cute French actor Gaetan Vettier and director Antony Hickling on the Thames!

Frère Jack spent the day hanging out with  film director Antony Hickling and his young French muse Gaetan Vettier at the London Lesbian & Gay Film Festival…

Amanda Lawson Gaetan Vettier Antony Hickling

Director Antony Hickling has been making big ripples in the arthouse film world with his latest short film Little Gay Boy ChrisT is Dead! The film has recently been scooped up by Pecadillo films for a UK release, and L’harmattan in France. It will also be appearing at various film festivals following its success here in London: The Désir Désir festival in Tours, a screening in Manchester on the 15 of May , and then festivals further afield such as Lisbon and even Tel Aviv!

If you cast your mind back to last October, TÊTU wrote about the film, calling it “un court qui dérange” !

WATCH THE TRAILER AGAIN HERE:

I interviewed Gaetan (his first ever interview I believe) for Gay Times a couple of months ago too. You can read the piece here: “Blood, Sweat and Twinks

And so last week, when Antony and actor Gaetan both came over to London to speak at the BFI’s gay film festival, they gave me a call and invited me to meet up with them at the London screening and to hang out with them on the Thames (in the freezing cold snow!)

Sexy Gaetan arrived first:

Gaetan Vettier

I whisked him away to the BFI’s press delegates lounge, where people with press passes can have free tea, coffee, fruit and cakes. However, Gaetan wasn’t so impressed.

Frère Jack: “Are you not going to have any cake?”

Gaetan: “No. Whenever I come to London I want Burger King. I want to go out and find a Burger King! I fucking love Burger King! We only have McDonalds in France.”

It’s funny hanging out with Gaetan in the BFI building as there are pictures everywhere showing him in the film, bent over naked and gagged like this:

Gaetan Vettier

Most people in the press lounge have already seen the film and so they recognise him. I ask Gaetan to pose next to a copy of the BFI’s gay film festival programme, on the page where his photo is:

Gaetan Vettier

Frère Jack: So where are you from in France?

Gaetan: Rennes in Brittany.

Frère Jack: And how did you end up being in all of Antony Hickling’s films?

Gaetan: He advertised on the internet, on a casting site not a gay site, saying he was looking for a transvestite or an androgynous boy. So I replied to that and got the part, I played a transvestite hooker in his previous film you see.

Frère Jack: Do you think he’s in love with you? Are you his muse?

Gaetan: I don’t think so, no. I just fit the part well and we work well together. He’s a very strict director but I think that’s a good thing.

Frère Jack: Are your friends at drama school jealous that suddenly you’re doing so well, you’ve been plucked out of obscurity and here you are talking at screenings at some of the world’s most famous film venues?

Gaetan: I’m very lucky, but my friends have been really supportive. They’re not jealous at drama school, I think they’re perhaps curious though because of the nature of these films and the things I have to do in them.

Frère Jack: I suppose lots of actors start off playing gay roles, but yeah, getting fisted is quite an entrance! Has your mother seen the film?

Gaetan: Haha! No. I don’t want her to see it, just because, you know, you see everything!

Suddenly Brian Robinson walks past, the chief programmer at the BFI’s gay film festival. I ask him to pose with Gaetan for a picture…

Brian Robinson BFI

Brian Robinson (in his fabulous fur coat) congratulates Gaetan on being in the festival, and welcomes him to London. Then he asks Gaetan something in French.

Frère Jack: What did he say?

Gaetan: (smirking shyly) He asked exactly what you just asked. Has my mother seen the film!

Frère Jack: I think she should know about it at least, she’d be proud of you!

Gaetan: Oh yeah, she knows. I just explained that maybe she shouldn’t watch and I don’t think she will now that I’ve explained.

We’re joined by Amanda Dawson, another cast member from Little Gay Boy. She’s from Stockport in the North of England:

Amanda Dawson actress

Amanda Dawson plays Gaetan’s mother in the film. They have quite a controversial relationship that pushes into incestuous territories:

Amanda Dawson

Frère Jack: Amanda! It’s lovely to meet you, I love your role as the mother in the film. How are you feeling about it all?

Amanda: Really good thank you. With this film in particular it actually helped me on a personal level, I had various body image issues and I dealt with those through being in the film.

Frère Jack: I was just asking Gaetan if his mother’s watched the film, and he said he doesn’t want her to see it. Has your mother seen it?

Amanda: It’s funny you should ask that, I was discussing it with my family the other day. You see there’s my mother, but I also have my own children too who are adults. Some of them understand what I’m doing and that these films carry a certain importance. But others, like my mother, are less understanding. They don’t disagree with it, I think they’d just prefer it if I got a regular part in Coronation Street!

Frère Jack: Would you take a part in Coronation Street?

Amanda: You know I think a show like that would be really fun, and obviously it would be great work. But you have to take things as they come. I studied with Antony years ago, and I gave him a call one day just to see what he’d been upto and it was just perfect timing, he said “I’ve got a role that you’d be great for”

Frère Jack: Has it been hectic working with Antony since he’s over in Paris?

Amanda: It can be tiring travelling around but I absolutely love Paris, it’s magical, when I’m there, ooh I just love it! I’m one of those people who likes to look up, like at the buildings around me and stuff, and when I’m there I love just looking around at all the beautiful architecture and the old houses, it’s wonderful.

Gaetan goes for a cigarette outside on the Thames with Amanda:

Little Gay Boy Christ is Dead

Meanwhile, Antony Hickling the director has arrived:

Antony Hickling

Although he lives and works in Paris, Antony studied and lived in Britain for quite sometime.

The group of us are ushered into the auditorium as it’s time for the screening. Beforehand the trio answer some questions and introduce themselves to the audience:

Little Gay Boy Christ is Dead

The film goes down particularly well and there’s firm applause afterwards. Lots of people rush up to Antony, Gaetan and Amanda afterwards with their praise.  I like how the film is a marriage between French and English cinema. Set in Paris, but starring a mix of French and English actors, the script is bilingual too, flicking from English to French.

Out on the Thames I snatch the chance to talk with Antony the director.

Frère Jack: Antony hi! Before the film you said that the experiences Gaetan goes through in the movie were very personal experiences for you. Do you mean the actual filming process with Gaetan, or do you mean to say these things happened to you?

Antony: Oh no, they’re all personal experiences that happened to me. The posing on the casting couch with the creepy photographer, the visits to the underground bars, the homophobic attack on the subway.

Frère Jack: So you were once attacked on the underground in Paris by a homophobe?

Antony: Actually that happened over here. The experiences are based on my time in various places, not just Paris but also Manchester and Bristol in England.

Frère Jack: Would you say Gaetan Vettier is your muse?

Antony: Yes, he’s a muse definitely. I tried to base my next project around an older bearded character but I couldn’t do it, I couldn’t get away from using Gaetan again. He just has that perfect twinky boy look and so I love working against that with the content.

Frère Jack: So you’re now working on a third film?

Antony: Yes. It’s called Holy Thursday, the Last Supper. I’m also working on a documentary called ‘The End of Cruising’

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It’s time for Frère Jack to go. So I say my goodbyes and leave the boys on the South Bank. Make sure to see Little Gay Boy ChrisT is Dead, look out for it at this summer’s gay film festivals around the world.

Gaetan Vettier

Jack Cullen

“La Manif Pour Tous” Fail to Impress Londoners

Despite having a big Heaven hangover Frère Jack went to Trafalgar Square to look at the homophobic group who call themselves “La Manif Pour Tous” and to support the gay rights counter-protest…

La Manif London Protest

While most families spent their Sunday afternoon relaxing and having some quality time at home, some people decided to wake up early and force their kids to protest in the freezing cold for three hours against gay rights today…

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It was shocking, and reminiscent of the horrible Nazi youth scene in Cabaret in which children start singing “Tomorrow Belongs To Me”. About twenty young children were made to stand on the base of Nelson’s Column and shout anti-gay chants while holding placards they couldn’t even read.

Statistically, some of these children will grow up to be gay. God help them, their parents are insane! My parents are heterosexual but they would never have subjugated me to a political protest. Usually when we went on day trips to London my parents would take me to a gallery, or a museum and perhaps a trip to Hamleys if I was lucky!

However. London were not ready to take this crazy group “La Manif” lying down. Hours before they even arrived, a rainbow flag had been installed on the North terrace, and a counter-protest began…


Gay Rights London

Londoners raised their own home-made placards effectively telling La Manif to fuck right off…

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Despite La Manif’’s insisting “we are not homophobic – we just don’t believe that gay couples should be allowed to marry” (??) It was obvious to most present that this group are a big bunch of gay-haters.

This very simple sign said it all for me:

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The gay rights activists present had a fun time and saw the humour in the situation. The thing is, England likes the idea of gay marriage, and we’re going to have it very soon. So La Manif were basically wasting their time. And ours. But it was important for us to show La Manif that London’s gay community will always stand up for their city and their rights.

Below here Jen and Alex pose for TÊTU’s camera:

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Things got quite exciting when a gay rights activist stormed onto Nelson’s Column and flashed her tits to the entire crowd, joining the child cast of La Manif, and shouting her support for gay equality…

Eliza Goroya Activist

Bizarrely none of the La Manif parents intervened and took their small children away from the scene.

I met up with the activist afterwards, her name is Eliza Guroya. You can follow her on Twitter. Here we are together…

Jack Cullen

The counter-protest group began to move into the La Manif protest under a giant rainbow flag, Roman invasion style. Apart from there was lots of smiles…

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Meanwhile my friend Dylan and I decided to walk around Trafalgar Square giving out some virtual awards. Here they are:

THE AWARD FOR HOTTEST HOMOPHOBE

Never a tough contest. Our eyes caught a glimpse of this cutie holding a La Manif flag pole in the crowd…

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Strangely he was wearing a woolie hat with the Norwegian flag on it. Norway was of course the first Scandinavian country to legalise gay marriage, and the sixth country in the entire world I believe. So – bad choice of hat boy! He refused to look directly into the camera and he also refused my offer to take him for a drink after the protest, but I did manage to take this hot snap:

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THE AWARD FOR MOST FABULOUS HOMOPHOBE

Well this was difficult, so many fur hats and sunglasses to choose from. This woman was the best though. It’s such a shame she hates the gays because we totally love her:

Most Fabulous Homophobe

The runner-up for most fabulous homophobe was this lady clutching a symbolic piece of an indoor plant…

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We also loved these three old homophobic ladies who kept dropping their La Manif pamphlets. They had a right old giggle about it. They just couldn’t get their homophobia together in time…

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…Oh well, better luck next time ladies! Oh no wait – there won’t be a next time! Well I hope they find a new hobby, and one that they’re better at.

THE AWARD FOR BEST COUPLE

Well there were lots of sweet gay couples who gave up their well-earnt Sunday afternoon to come and stand up for their rights. My favourite couple though was Simon and Bryanne from Ealing who have been together for twenty-six years:

Bryanne And Simon

That’s a lot longer than most of the straight couples who turned up today. When it emerged that one of the La Manif’s main speakers was actually divorced, Bryanne had good fun leading the chant “WHERE’S YOUR WIFE? WHERE’S YOUR WIFE?” Classic.

MOST ICONIC PROTESTER

Several London scene icons turned out to support gay rights and tell La Manif to go home, but my favourite had to be Al Pillay…

Al Pillay

She’s a great performer with a cult following. Not usually wrapped up for winter, you must take a look at her website. She usually looks like this:

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Al had a great time joining in with the anti-Manif chants, which included “BON VOYAGE! BON VOYAGE”, “EQUAL RIGHTS” and the occasional “Oh fuck off you lot!”

Generally speaking, although I am of course biased, the gay rights supporters in the counter-protest were much more attractive, happy and healthy looking than La Manif’s sad old lot. Here are two young activists who came out to give La Manif the middle finger…

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Talking of the middle finger, here’s a funny story from this afternoon, this La Manif member started mouthing off at some gay people…

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So this bearded gay man went up to him and shoved his wedding ring finger in the homophobe’s face and yelled “THIS IS MY WEDDING RING FINGER”. And then he stuck his middle finger up at the homophobe and yelled “AND THIS IS MY FINGER FOR YOU!”

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The homophobe didn’t take it too well, but the police soon marched him off to loony land on the other side of the square…

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Talking of loonies. This guy was one of the worst:

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His name is Alan Craig and he was one of the La Manif ring leaders. According to him “two men cannot be naturally intimate and consume one another by an activity”. Sorry to break the news to you Alan – but you’re wrong, and I can send you some video links if you like.

He also went on about how “David Cameron has bananas in his ears. He is not listening to us. The government are not listening to us”.

Er… yes they are. We’re represented by our MPs, who we vote in, and they passed the gay marriage bill! *Pulls hair out*

This guy was scary too:

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His tone of voice was simply frightening, definitely Nazi-like, and he rambled on about how we’re all made of X and Y chromosomes. Why can’t homophobes understand this? Yes, we are born of a sperm and an egg, but that doesn’t mean gay people can’t get married!! That doesn’t mean infertile people can’t get married. That doesn’t mean straight people should be necessarily encouraged to get married. Get it into your thick skulls! Apples and Oranges.

He said gay marriage would put the future of the human race in danger. Er – EARTH CALLING LA MANIF – the earth’s population is spiralling exponentially out of control. There will be a next generation, straight people will still continue to have 3, 4, 5 and six children. What a prick. And SPOILER ALERT – gay people can have children too.

This guy was a particularly massive prick:

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According to him if gay marriage is legalised then “marriage will no longer be marriage”. Er… you’re wrong again there. It will still be marriage, but gay people will be allowed to do it too. It’s a development of marriage for the better. Societies and cultures evolve, like Google Chrome or Pokemon.

A GAY RIGHTS VICTORY:

Ultimately, La Manif did their best to have a loud miserable day of ranting things that didn’t really make sense. But most of Trafalgar Square was empty. La Manif’s numbers were embarrassingly small. The counter-protest wasn’t that big either, but that’s because most gay people in London have already put this debate to rest. Gay marriage is coming!

It was nice to see so many students and young gay rights activists like Eliza and this student photographer called Tom who is still at school:

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If anything, La Manif did a good job of riling the gay community enough to re-politicize a young generation of gay people who were in danger of becoming apathetic about their human rights. So thanks for that La Manif.

Frère Jack hopes that everyone in La Manif has a safe journey home. I don’t think I’ll be inviting any of you to my gay wedding in the future, and I also think your parenting skills are questionable having seen the freezing cold tears on your children’s faces today. Those of you whose children are gay – I hope you find it in you to update your social attitudes.

Thanks to all the counter-protesters today, both gay people and our straight allies. It was a fun afternoon. La Manif have already lost their vitriolic battle.

You can follow me on Twitter @jackcullenuk

Right. That’s enough of this now. I’m off to a cabaret show. None other than Jonny Woo and the Gay Bingo Trinity. Some of us have lives to lead.

Frère Jack xx

French group to stage Anti-Gay Protest in London!

I cannot believe this is happening…

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French group “La Manif” will stage a protest In London against the passing of the English gay marriage bill

Most French people who live in London support equality and think gay people should be allowed to get married. Why else would you move to a forward-thinking mecca like our own? Many French people in London will be disgusted to learn that an anti-gay marriage protest is being organised in the city centre by a group who hail from France.

But alas, here we are. A French organisation called “La Manif pour Tous” are going to stage an anti-gay protest on Sunday 24th of March against the passing of the gay marriage bill right here in our very own London. Journalist Scott Roberts broke the story on Pink News earlier today.

Boris Johnson will hopefully be put under pressure by the British media to call off the ridiculous protest and save Londoners (and tourists) from having to endure loud hatred and vitriol in the heart of our capital city.

Is it just me, or is this evidence enough that these guys are a totally fucked-up bunch:

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Using your own kids as accessories in a political protest. Really?

But what would I know about children? I’m gay. I don’t come from a family. I grew on a tree, or did I come free with a Billie Piper CD? I forget.


Earth calling anti-gay marriage people…

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I don’t know if La Manif know this, but the British public are overwhelmingly in favour of gay marriage! The debate is over, go home, get a new hobby. Your protest is going to achieve nothing. It’s a waste of your time! Also you’re doing it on a Sunday – shouldn’t you be in church hearing the one about the ark?

Our prime minister David Cameron wants gay marriage. The majority of our politicians want gay marriage. After years of tireless debate and column inches, we’re getting gay marriage and the bill is set to pass.

So who exactly are this group “La Manif pour Tous” ?

They refuse to shine a spotlight on any kind of leader. Correct my French if I’m wrong, but I think their name translates as “A bunch of sad fucking misery-indulging brainwashed tossers” ?

When La Manif aren’t giving up their free time to attack gay rights, they like to create racist posters like this:

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When they’re not doing that they like to start immature arguments in the French press. For example they kicked off about the word “Maternelle” which means primary school in France because it stems from the word for mother. La Manif argued that if gay couples were going to send their adopted kids to school then maternelles would need to change their name, because some kids wouldn’t  have mothers.

Clearly they forgot that single-dads have existed for thousands of years and that some kids don’t have mothers. They also failed to address the fact that lesbian couples’ kids actually get twice as much mother than your typical family portrait, and so maybe their kids should be sent to “supermaternelles” for awesome kids who have two Mums?

I don’t know. I don’t care. I’m giving you an example of the messy kind of insensitive crap that La Manif like to rattle on about.

Some rumours have suggested that… *Scooby Doo denouement gasp* … the Catholic Church are behind the group. La Manif are certainly getting money from somewhere. They’re not backed by any kind of government and they certainly ain’t selling many t-shirts. Perhaps Ann Widdecombe’s won on the scratchcards and gone on an anti-gay protest spree for shits and giggles. Who knows.

So why are a French group protesting in London?

I know right. We have our own psychopaths to deal with.

The reason is a larger protest is going to happen in Paris on the same day, and so this Trafalgar Square anti-gay protest will be like the British limb of it. The one in France actually looks pretty menacing. The group even have a creepy countdown to it on their website like it’s a fucking wrestling match.

La Manif did a big rally in Paris two months ago, but it was arguably a MASSIVE FAILURE after a nicer group of sane Parisiens staged a successful anti-anti-gay march. So I suppose this protest on the 24th is La Manif’s anti-anti-anti-gay march? When will it occur to them that they could just chill the fuck out and, I don’t know, buy a packet of crisps?

So what will happen in London on Sunday 24th?

A bunch of bigots will turn up in Trafalgar Square with some hateful signs and slogans, lower high-street anoraks and flasks of weak tea.

I find it funny that the protest will be in Trafalgar Square, named after the Battle of Trafalgar and home to Nelson’s Column . In other words –Britain’s biggest monument to French defeat. Where are La Manif going to host the after-party, Waterloo?

Trafalgar Square is also home to the National Portrait gallery. One of their most popular exhibitions in recent years was the Gay Icons exhibition. Members of La Manif might be interested to know that the exhibition featured this portrait of human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell who has fought tirelessly across decades for marriage equality:

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Why was Peter Tatchell’s portrait included? Because London is a pro-gay city. We fight for human rights, free love and we celebrate those who campaign tirelessly FOR equality, not against it.

So what should us decent Londoners do about this protest?

Well it’s hard to combat La Manif in a media arena when they don’t even have a public leader and when they strive to be so structurally anonymous. (Why are they like that anyway? Isn’t that a bit sinister? You wouldn’t see Jesus hiding in a web forum with a blue silhouette for an avatar. He’d be right out there on Twitter with his water-into-wine gif)

Members of London’s gay community could possibly go to Trafalgar Square on the 24th and protest against their protest. But is it worth our time? These guys failed in Paris and they’re going to fail here. Perhaps we should just ignore them?

Many of us are used to waking up in Trafalgar Square on Sunday mornings anyway, with a kebab under our heads as a makeshift pillow. Trafalgar Square is around the corner from Heaven you see, Britain’s biggest gay club. Perhaps Heaven could hold a super late party so that we can all stumble out into Trafalgar Square at nine in the morning blowing neon plastic whistles and ululating?

Maybe Nicole Scherzinger could come along too if she’s not busy? We could send her into the protest on a fortified rhino, lassoing her microphone around? Maybe she should launch an anti-bigot boomerang to promote her recent hit of the same name?

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So what is the conclusion?

Basically, La Manif need to get the memo:

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“Vous n’ êtes  plus à la maternelle!”

Or the English translation:

La Manif Gay Protest

“GROW THE FUCK UP!”

Frère Jack will keep you updated with information about any kind of anti-protest protest that might take place on March 24th. Perhaps we could take some strings of garlic and Madonna-style crucifixes to fend the French bigots off with?

But until then, let’s stop giving these backwards people the publicity and negative energy that they so hollowly crave.

- – -

Follow Frère Jack on Twitter @jackcullenuk

“I came to London for Gay Pride in 2001 and never left”

It’s time for Frère Jack to meet another Gay French Londoner…

Flavien Cortes

GFL #006

Name: Flavien

Profession: Restaurant Manager at Balans

Age: 31

Moved to London: 2001AD

Residency: West Kensington

Origins: Nice

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Everyone on the London gay scene knows the restaurant chain Balans. Famous for their steaks, cocktails and late closing times. Sweet-toothed celebrities rub shoulders with peckish proletarians in the famous Soho haunt. The music in their Old Compton Street restaurant is upbeat, the lighting is suave and some of the waiters are deliciously camp.

Down the road from Balans there’s Balans Café, and then moving outwards there are five others in London, and five in Miami of all places. So as soon as I heard that their Kensington branch had a French manager who was gay Frère Jack just had to meet him…

Staff Balans

Hi Flavien! So you’re from Nice, how did you end up moving to London?

It was quite funny actually. I met this dancer from London, he came to my home town in France as part of the Starlight Express tour. We met on the gay scene and I showed him around the place. He said I could go and visit him in London any time, and so for my 20th birthday party I planned a trip over for Gay Pride. And that was that – I never returned to France!

Wow, so you just moved into this dancer’s place?

He let me stay for a couple of weeks, he was gorgeous and I liked him but I was young and we both knew it could only really be a summer romance. I met another guy at Gay Pride though who offered me a job in a hotel.

Which hotel was that?

It was the Athenaeum in Mayfair. It was great for me at the time, one minute I was a student in Nice and then suddenly I was serving Margaret Thatcher and Michael Douglas in this London hotel. Joan Collins had her hen party at the Athenaeum while I was there. It was so fun, but after a while it go too much and I decided to ditch the hotel side of things and move into the restaurant industry.

So what was the Nice gay scene like?

Obviously nowhere near as good as London. I came out when I was 18 and there were two clubs and about four bars. The main club is still there, it’s imaginatively called “The Klub”. But the recession killed the gay scene in Nice. I believe The Klub is still there but most of the other bars have closed or turned straight.

Do you still visit France?

No. I fell out with my family over my sexuality. They chose not to understand what was going on, my mother is very Catholic and my father has some Spanish routes too. I’ve not been back for four years now, but it would have been the same if I’d stayed in France.

You say the Nice scene declined, but since you moved here in 2001 you must have noticed change on the London scene too?

Oh yeah – definitely. Like Rupert Street bar over there, that used to absolutely packed. These days it’s usually quiet in there. G-A-Y has changed too, I didn’t like it when they took the dancing upstairs, you used to be able to just walk in and people were dancing around. I try to avoid Vauxhall now too, I went through a bit of a crazy drug phase years ago, and that’s all behind me now – I’ve no interest in it. I associate those bars with those years and so I don’t like to revisit them.

What do you like best about London?

The theatre. France has nothing like it. Even in Paris there’s no equivalent to the West End, they just have random theatres dotted about.

So you like musicals. Any favourites?

I love musicals. Avenue Q was my favourite, the songs were quite risqué but so hilarious like “It’s OK To Be Gay”, “The Internet’s For Porn” and “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist”. I loved the character Kate Monster too, the whole show was so clever in how it poked fun at society.

Have you ever seen Wicked?

I have, I think it’s a lovely story. The most moving musical that I saw here was Blood Brothers.

Are there any good French musicals?

I loved one called Starmania. Tim Rice made an English version called Tycoon starring Peter Kingsbery.

Do you struggle with understanding the English, some of the jokes can happen so fast?

Not really, in fact I only hang out with English people now because the truth is I’m starting to forget French!

So what do you miss about France, anything?

I do sort of miss how laid back life is there. But the good thing about London is if you want to go out then there’s always someone else who wants to go out. There’s always something to do here, never a quiet moment. Another thing I miss is Zazie.

Zazie?

Yes, Zazie! She is my favourite singer, very famous in France, and yet over here nobody has a clue who she is – nobody!

I’ve never heard of Zazie.

Exactly.

Do you miss French food?

I can buy my favourite type of cheese in the supermarket here so it’s all good!

Thinking about that song “Everyone’s A Little Bit Racist”, have you ever experienced racism in London?

No, but it’s funny you say that, in Nice there was a different atmosphere. Over here in London the immigrants are a complete mix and so we have loads of people from Australia and Scandinavia who are very cool about coexisting with the gay community. In Nice the immigrants were almost all from North Africa and they brought their intolerance of homosexuality with them which was really quite frustrating.

That’s interesting, I’ve never thought about how France and England differ in terms of their mix of immigrants.

Yeah. On a lighter note, another thing I love about England is the wine glasses, they are SO MUCH BIGGER! Look at that (points at a normal English wine glass) – it’s huge! Also the selection of wines in restaurants is great. Here in Balans we have such an impressive wine list. If you go to a restaurant in France sometimes they’ll only sell stuff from that particular region which makes no sense.

What’s your favourite dish here in Balans?

The tuna steak definitely, that’s another thing they just don’t have in France.

And your favourite cocktail?

I think our Porn Star Martinis are pretty special…

…I fucking love them here! They’re so much better than the ones in the restaurant across the road from me.

Yes they’re very popular. But I was going to say my favourite is a Cosmo. They can’t make Cosmos in France either.

You’re really bitching about France today!

I know, it doesn’t matter, I’m never going back Jack, I’m here for good!

Is there anything else you want to get off your chest?

Yes – Why didn’t Queer As Folk come onto French TV until like ten years after it was made?

One thing I don’t like about Balans, sorry to bring a downer on the interview, is some of the tables that are on corners and you sit on sides of the table that are next to each other instead of across from each other. Like, where are both of your legs supposed to go?

Ah, they’re good for intimate dates though, some people prefer them. And also you’re very tall.

Was Balans kind of new when you joined?

No it started in the early nineties.

And there’s a “Mr. Balan” right?

There is indeed. Mr. Prady Balan, he’s the owner.

Is he gay?

No he’s straight actually. But he’s a very nice gentleman and he runs a brilliant company. Honestly, I’m not just saying this because I work here, but the service at Balans is brilliant, and I’ve worked in 5 Star hotels. And for the kind of service you get, the food is very reasonably priced.

So to a French person visiting London, where would you recommend?

I love Camden. A good day out in Camden, it’s very busy but in the daytime it’s just the most eclectic experience, I love it.

Thanks Flavien!

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And in case you were wondering. Here’s Zazie:

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Follow Frère Jack on Twitter: @jackcullenuk

UPDATE:

A reader called Jérémie who is a fan of Zazie wrote me this touching note about her: http://textup.fr/47857ko

He also wanted me to include this picture of Zazie:

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Admittedly she looks a bit better in that picture than in the one I chose!

“VEUX-TU M’ÉPOUSER” said one tarte to another

Frère Jack received a mystery gift this morning…

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It was delivered by a big man on a motorbike who looked a bit like Logan McNeil:

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“Is this from you?” I asked him. “Sorry mate. sign here please”. Just as well because I was inappropriately dressed to meet a secret admirer who looked like Logan McNeil, I was wearing a pair of non-matching rugby socks and my hair bleach dressing gown which looks like a prop from Psycho.

So who could the package be from? There was this clue on the front…

Charlie Bigham Valentines Day

That could be me on the left, too much lipstick, knocking back a glass of white. But who is Charlie? I’m pretty sure all the men I’ve met in Soho lately had exotic names like Jushan and Dochen.

I ripped open the neatly ribboned package and to my surprise found two pies inside! Regardez:

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And spelt out in pastry – “VEUX-TU M’ÉPOUSER?” !!!

I then remembered why these pies had been sent to me. Charlie Bigham is a firm that makes ready meals. I don’t know if it’s the same in France, but Londoners are obsessed with “ready meals”, and there are all sorts of posh ones for upper-crust people too busy to cook but too savvy to settle for a cheap supermarket korma.

They sent a press release around saying that to celebrate Valentine’s Day they would be baking personalised pies. I replied to the email saying they should make some to mark the passing of the gay marriage bill in both England and France.

And so it looks like Charlie Bigham has baked some gay marriage steak and ale pies for Frère Jack!

We shoved them in the oven and waited patiently. They smelt incredible:

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And then enjoyed them for a nice Valentine’s Day lunch!

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Tuck in…

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The more I think about it, sending  gay men pies on Valentine’s Day is a pretty good idea. I think everyone should be obliged to bake pies for their gay friends on Valentine’s Day from now on.

If you want  to order yourself some pies you can check out Charlie’s website here.

Thanks Charlie! You may not be a secret admirer, but at least you make good pies!

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Apparently the French for pie is tarte too. How fitting.

You can follow Charlie and his pies on Twitter: @CharlieBighams

And you can follow me here: @jackcullenuk

Happy Valentine’s Day from Frère Jack !  xx

UK bans the French terms “Cul-de-sac” and “Ménage-a-trois” in response to France’s ban on “hashtag”

Frère Jack draws up a list of French words that he wants to ban in English…

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OK, the headline isn’t quite true, but France is banning the English word hashtag. C’est vrai! Schools and media channels in France have been handed a 65-page document listing English words that they want to ban in order to protect the French language. Can you believe French tax payers are cool with paying people to come up with shit like this?

Alongside hashtag, other English words on the black list include blog, take-away and supermodel.

France are so big on their fashion, I’m amazed there isn’t a decent French alternative for supermodel?! There’s the word mannequin which means a model. But you need a way of differentiating this:

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From this:

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The word you’re looking for is SUPERMODEL!

As for blog, it’s an abbreviation of web log, so technically English, but I would say blog is more of a global word? It’s certainly more American English than British English.

And while France are getting stressed about the word take-away, over here we have our own battle to fight with America where they say “carry-out” which is even worse. An ugly phrase that will hopefully never cross the Atlantic, Justin Timberlake even had a song called Carry Out:

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It featured the rather poetic lyric “Take my order ‘cause your body like a carry out” [sic].

But that’s where the French phrase plat à emporter fails. Because plat à emporter only describes the tray of food – not the tacky building with neon lights that Timberlake is comparing his lucky lover to. Meanwhile take-away and carry-out are multipurpose words. You can say “There’s a take-away on the next street that opens late”. Without take-away what will France say instead? You can’t call Chicken Cottage a restaurant!

But if France wants to ban English words, then two can play that game. Here in England day-to-day conversation is full of borrowed French words and nobody notices or even gives a shit. When it comes to food and sex in particular – lots of French words start appearing in English.

Personally, I think French is a beautiful language and I love how it features so frequently in English.

However, just for fun, I’ve drawn up my own black list of 10 French words that are used in everyday English, and I’ve invented where necessary a potential English replacement:

1. Ménage-a-trois

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The term literally means “household of three” and so isn’t a hugely accurate way of depicting a threesome, which in the gay community quite often occurs outside of the household. In my own short life of Ménage-a-trois days I’ve seen an alleyway, a fallen tree, a children’s climbing frame, a beach, a car park and a fire exit. You can menage it up anywhere. But by its haughty French nature the term Ménage-a-trois alludes incorrectly to romantic images of svelte silk-laden bodies warmly entwining in a four-poster bed. The reality though is more often a man on a coffee table with something in each end and so, Threesome is better. Even the French have sacked off using Ménage-a-trois in favour of plan-a-trois.

Did I just use the word svelte? Another French infiltrator!

2. Aperitif

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A small alcoholic drink to “stimulate the appetite”, aperitif is a posh word to mark what is essentially a gesture between a group of hardened drinkers who want to start knocking the alcohol back before they’ve even been handed the menus. In the gay community aperitif roughly translates as “Fuck this, we’ve all got good jobs, not a child to look after in sight, now let’s get fucking smashed”. Not to stereotype gay men as being gainfully employed childless devoted drinkers. Some of us don’t work. I think the word aperitif sounds far too delicate and indecisive for what is essentially affluent liver bashing. The English equivalent? A pre-dinner drink I suppose. But that’s a bit long-winded. Maybe a prelude? An overture? Damn, they’re French too.

3. Cul-de-sac

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The phrase cul-de-sac describes a dead-end street that is usually adorned by a ring of terrifyingly bland houses with hatchbacks parked in front of drawn magnolia curtains. The literal translation is quite fitting – “Arse of bag”. There’s no English equivalent, even though England has thousands of cul-de-sacs, and yet I’ve never seen one in France. They probably do have cul-de-sacs in France, I just haven’t slept with a French guy who lives in one yet.

In fact, do any gay people live in cul-de-sacs? Anywhere? I reckon probably not. Think about it – if you were born gay in a cul-de-sac what would you do? Probably leave the cul-de-sac at the first given oppurtunity and then never mention it again. So let’s just ban the phrase altogether and the apathetic voyeurs who live in cul-de-sacs, whoever they are, are probably quite content playing out their days without a specific term to describe the lonely phenomena that is their lives.

4. Papier mâche

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You don’t have to be a linguist to work out that the English equivalent of Papier mâche is mashed paper. Why we’ve been using such a pretentious loan-word for a messy art form that is pursued almost exclusively by toddlers and gay pride float committees I don’t know. Possibly because it adds a touch of glamour and dignity to a process that is essentially embarrassing, cold, wet, rubbish and a waste of everyone’s time.

5. Soirée

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A soirée refers to an evening of hosted socialising, usually indoors, and preferably featuring large dangly earrings, polite laughter and clinking wine glasses. However, the definition has changed over time and now a soirée could be anything from a group session of watching X-Factor with a bottle of horrible, horrible, rosé to watching your glum friend eat a ready meal in their Kennington bedsit. Soirées have gone downhill. I think night in, describes contemporary soirées better. Oh shit, did I just use the French word rosé back there? Fuck, and there’s no English equivalent. The word literally means pink! I suppose we could call is rosey but people might look at you like you were a bit weird. I dare you to order a “glass of rosey please”. Go onnn…

6. Carte Blanche

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I couldn’t think of an equivalent for Carte Blanche, so I asked Twitter and Hugh Wright came up with the amazing idea of Blanche Card instead because, in his words, “Blanche in Golden Girls always did whatever the hell she wanted”. So for example you could say “I’m loving my job right now, I’ve been given the Blanche card to do whatever I want”. Not a phrase you’ll hear many English journalists saying. Carte Blanche refers to a situation in which someone has enviable levels of flexibility to do as they wish. I think we adopted the French phrase because it carries a certain frisson with it that “blank page” doesn’t offer.

Did I just say frisson? Another word that the French have thrust upon us.

7. Déjà vu

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One of the most common French words to appear in English, Déjà vu doesn’t actually mean the same thing in France. It translates as “Already seen” and can be appropriated to all sorts of literal and figurative scenarios. I think a better phrase could be “Beyon Cé”, because Beyoncé of course had a song called Déjà Vu in which she completely misunderstood what Déjà vu is. She sings “Everything I see is you, baby I swear its Déjà vu”. No Beyoncé, that isn’t Déjà vu. That’s just your neurosis.

Talking of Beyoncé – is her name French? Perhaps we should ban that too and re-title her as Beth or Amy or something. ALSO. Whenever I type French words that carry accents like frère without an accent, my computer doesn’t correct me. But when I type “Beyonce”, my computer goes ape shit trying to add the accent. That’s Apple for you. Or Pomme – as you probably now call them? iPomme. Lol.

8. Avant-garde

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A weird term that means something is forward-thinking or displays artistic innovation. Yet avant-garde as a compound word sounds quite slow and loungey I think. Wouldn’t something like Superhyper or Megafuture or Zoosh-Zoosh be better? I’ve just made all of those up so don’t use them when you’re in England. But like most art terms, nobody is quite sure when to call something avant-garde. What is the definition of “modern” ? What is “art” ? Fallen asleep yet? I have.

9. Vol-Au-Vent

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Now vol-au-vent is a dangerous phrase, it’s impossible to say it in England without making someone smirk and go “Ooh!” while moving their hips a bit. That’s because deep down inside, we all know that vol-au-vents are a little bit shit and that they’ve been surviving on the false credentials of their lofty French name for decades. Rather than find a fitting replacement for the unique term, we could maybe go one step further and…

simply erase vol-au-vents from the canon of canapés!

Everyone would be a lot happier. I mean, what even are vol-au-vents? They’re just underachieving pieces of sausage roll that don’t even contain sausage. They’re so offensive. So let’s just ban vol-au-vents altogether, and they could possibly build a statue to commemorate them in the outskirts of Toulouse. A giant granite monolith to mourn thinly-pastried failure.

Oh shit, did I use the word canapés in that paragraph? Sorry, I meant to say nibbles. Canapés is so established in England now that we can spell it without the accent. Look: Canapes. And Microsoft Word has no problems. Does that make you flinch a bit? Moi aussi.

10. Touché

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A fencing term which is said when somebody comes up with a quip or retort in conversation that exhibits a mildly impressive superiority. The problem with touché though is that it’s a gentle word, and sometimes the scenario requires a celebratory word that is a bit stronger in flavour. I’ve invented a better word: “Tuteef!” It stems from T.T.Y.F.F, which stands for “Take that you fucking FUCK!” What do you think?

Tuteef!

No. Touché is definitely better. It has more aplomb.

And that’s the end of my list!

Surely the real reason the French uses English words like supermodel and weekend is because they work well? And for the same reasons we use so many French words. Can’t we all share and embrace languages like intelligent, reasonable adults instead of being icky and possessive over them? I think borrowing words from other countries is a way to enjoy, enlighten and lightly educated yourself.

Do you agree? Or should English words be eradicated from France?

Leave a comment below, or find me on Twitter @jackcullenuk

Vive la langue!

LONDON: Men’s Fashion Week Report

Nous avons demandé à notre blogueur anglais Jack Cullen de nous faire découvrir les dessous de la deuxième édition de la Fashion Week hommes de Londres – “London Collections: Men” – qui présente des collections d’Alexander McQueen, Nicole Farhi et Tom Ford”

JW Anderson Fall Winter 2013

Chic Alors! It’s been an exhausting but exciting week here in London for “London Collections: Men”. In order to write this report for you I’ve teamed up with Rob Nowill, the menswear press officer for deluxe London-based department store Matches. Rob has helped me to identify some of the major new trends for Autumn/Winter 2013, and as a fashion industry insider he was useful in pointing out all the right faces.

Below you will find my selection of the week’s stand-out shows, followed by a Top 5 major trends. There’s a low down for you on the celebrities in attendance (not many!), and then finally, far more interesting, I chatted to Rob a little about the politics and “fashion science” behind the whole week.

Christopher Shannon Autumn Winter 2013

WHO ARE THE DESIGNERS EVERYONE WAS TALKING ABOUT?

JW ANDERSON

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JW Anderson is the designer that the press went crazy for this week. The Daily Mail (a right wing newspaper over here that has a reputation for being dusty and homophobic in its views) went absolutely bonkers when they saw this show, and gave it this hilariously rude and angry write-up, written as ever by an anonymous reporter.

JW Anderson’s bold designs mixed medieval tunics with elements of school uniform and fetish gear, playing with the boundaries of what the definition of menswear is. All of the models wore tall kinky boots too, which is apparently an Anderson signature move. I asked Rob what he thought:

“This show was absolutely incredible. The best show of the week. He’s a major rising star. Aesthetically his designs are quite similar to someone like Prada. He walks a fine line between sexiness and ugliness that can be a bit disconcerting and off-ish, yet he gets it spot on. The pounding music, the androgyny, those frilly shapes over bare thighs – what a show!”

RICHARD NICOLL

Richard Nicoll

The Central Saint Martin’s graduate has worked alongside Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs in the past before moving to Cerruti where he was creative director of Womenswear. This was Nicoll’s first ever menswear collection for Autumn/Winter. Mixing post-punk with neoclassical designs, Nicoll told the British Fashion Council that his theme was “Dandyish Sportwear”. Rob was impressed with the show too:

“Really strong for a second ever collection. It’s minimal and easy, very sporty. I like the bomber jackets and there was a boiler suit in there that I loved. There’s no fuss when it comes to Nicoll, a very refreshing collection.”

NICOLE FARHI

Nicole Farhi

The French-born designer Nicole Farhi is considered a jewel in the crown of British fashion. Although she studied in Paris, it was the idyllic London suburb of Hampstead where she opened her first store. She still lives in Hampstead to this day.

I borrowed this photo from fashion blogger Joshua Griffiths. He did a really nice write-up of the Nicole Farhi show here on his blog Mr Apparel. The models were really sexy! The clothes didn’t excite me all that much though, as always, Frère Jack is a sucker for a hot model!

Rob: “Nicole’s collection is very tidy and smart. Nothing to scare the horses here. A lot of these clothes are ready to go into stores right away. You could say it’s a commercial collection.”

CHRISTOPHER SHANNON

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A lot of people were talking about Liverpool-born designer Christopher Shannon. Models were apparently sent down the catwalk with gaffer tape stuck to their derrières. I didn’t get the chance to go to his show though and I’ve never heard of him before, so I asked Rob for the low-down:

“It was a brilliant show. His stuff was a  lot more grown-up than usual. He successfully manages to draw upon urban culture without being ghetto-fabulous which is a trap many young designers fall into.”

HACKETT LONDON

Hackett London

Some really sexy boys took to the runway for Hackett. Their show garnered a vast amount of press coverage because it took place in a bizarre location – the crypt of St. Paul’s cathedral (picture below)! How they managed to wrangle that is anyone’s guess, although I’m sure it’s not the first time a line of hot boys have been paraded down there.

Hackett have a very traditional English look that has a rake-ish feel to it. Their well-tailored new designs are set to be a hit with men in the city next autumn.

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WHAT WERE THE MAJOR TRENDS?

Are designers psychic? Is fashion a response to the immediate world around us? Who knows. But when you watch a bunch of fashion shows in a small space of time, trends begin to emerge. I asked Rob to pick out the biggest trends for Frère Jack to rock come Autumn/Winter 2013!

Five new trends, by Rob Nowill at Matches:

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1. ORANGE

“There was lots of orange this time, in several of the shows. Not just ‘orange orange’ but bright safety oranges working all the way down to warm cinnamony oranges.

Frère Jack: So I need to get myself an orange jumper.

“Expect not only orange jumpers and scarves next winter, but orange trousers, orange shoes, the lot!”

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2. OVERSIZED

“This could be the death of the skinny jean – finally! Oversized garments featured heavily in the presentations this week. A very 80s Armani style ran through the shows, lots of volume in general. E. Tautz was showing really big over-the-shoulder coats, but done in a soft and tasteful way. Trouser legs were looking a lot wider. Shaun Samson had some great oversized tunics that the models were wearing with baggy shorts. SIBLING did an over-the-top version too that you’ll see in all the papers. James Long’s show had baggy trousers. So think big!”

Frère Jack: His nipples are amazing.

“Yeah. They don’t make those”

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3. PLAYFUL SHOES / WEARING TRAINERS WITH SUITS

“It’s been a rising tide for a couple of seasons now. Trainers with tailoring or just bold shoes in general for men is a growing trend. Men tend to be prepared to spend more money on their shoes than they will on other staple items so more designers are venturing into male footwear and using it bring their message across. At Matches we’ve completely sold out of Alexander McQueen’s floral tapestry-style slippers. We also have a waiting list on Valentino’s camouflage-print trainers. This week Nicholas Kirkwood shows his firsts mens collection and he had some really playful designs like chevrons going up shoes. Wearable but fun.”

Frère Jack: Won’t it look a bit weird, trainers with a suit, like those commuters who want to go easy on their feet?

“It’s not necessarily really sporty trainers. Just footwear that is more playful and casual than the classic smart shoe.”

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4. CROPPED COATS

“Topman Design had some really nice orange wool cropped coats. In fact it was a really strong season for Topman in general. Jonathan Saunders had some cropped coats in his show too. Those rounded bomber jackets that everyone has been wearing the last two winters seem kind of tired now. Agi & Sam, one of my favourite shows this week, had a brilliant light-hearted take on the classic English gentleman’s coat.

Frère Jack: Doesn’t it just look like when you try a girl’s coat on for a joke when you’re leaving a party?

“No Jack. Look again, more carefully!”

Jonathan Saunders

5. POST-METALLIC

“Metallics are on their way for summer as they were huge in the June shows last year. Burberry’s metallic trench coats are hitting stores as we speak and are going to be everywhere any minute now. Come winter it will be about taking the metallic trend but giving it a different treatment. So Jonathan Saunders had wool coats in his show this week that had metallic-style stripes of  material across the middle and the elbows.

Frère Jack: So reflective surfaces that don’t go over the top?

“Yes. Metallic that isn’t too metallic!”

CELEBRITY SIGHTINGS AT MEN’S FASHION WEEK

Unlike the main London Fashion Week for womenswear, there aren’t so many celebrities at LCM. This is partly because the menswear designers are less interested in celebrity culture. A man is less likely to buy a piece of clothing because a celebrity was photographed in connection to it. Whereas Donatella Versace needs Jennifer Lopez and Kate Hudson at her show because it will get her clothes into the glossies.

However, there were still some A-Listers out on parade this week. I guess the central celebrity of LCM is male supermodel David Gandy:

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Due to the cold temperatures David was forced to put some clothes on this week and he was spotted at almost all of the shows. Having been quoted in the British press as trying to make London the global capital of mens fashion, he has a lot of work to do! Gandy made a name for himself as a Dolce & Gabbana model and now it’s like he’s the figurehead of mens fashion for London.

Another popular face this week was the actor Russell Tovey:

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On the front row for several shows, Russell, star of the British TV series Being Human, takes his fashion very seriously.

Other faces that were spotted out and about included rapper Tinie Tempah, radio DJ Nick Grimshaw and TV presenter Rick Edwards:

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But other than that, the stars weren’t really out for Men’s Fashion Week. Not even a curl of Kate or a Beckham bulge. Some of the shows incorporated “surprise” models though, such as Hackett who featured supermodel Erin O’Connor at the end of their St. Paul’s crypt extravaganza. Having a woman in your menswear show, so edgy.

And finally…

FASHION POLITICS

I asked Rob what developments we can expect following the second ever Men’s Fashion Week here in London:

Has the week been a success?

“It’s been a big step forward for London fashion definitely. In June, at the first LCM, it was all young designers and there was a first-time feel to a lot of things. This time round we’ve had big names like Alexander McQueen and it was really exciting to see designers like Tom Ford doing a presentation. Hopefully we’ll go from strength to strength now.”

Are there any big English names who didn’t show this week?

“Well, yes. Paul Smith shows in Paris and Burberry still show in Milan. If Burberry brought their menswear show back to London then than that would have a huge effect. When Burberry brought their womenswear show back from Milan a few years ago it ensured that all of the major buyers came to London, because they all stock Burberry. All of the major international editors have to come over then too because they all carry Burberry ads in their publications”

Why has this week been called “London Collections: Men” instead of just “Men’s Fashion Week” which is what the public have been calling it?

“Well I suppose it’s not technically a week is it. At the moment it’s a three day event. It’s still a smaller scale thing than womenswear is, but a big step up from before – which was a day tagged onto the end of womenswear week.”

How come there were no unofficial “off-schedule” shows like there are with the womenswear fashion week?

“You have  to remember how jam-packed the womenswear London Fashion Week is. Off-schedule shows only work when you have lots of journalists who can’t get into the main BFC-approved shows. There isn’t time yet for off-schedule men’s. I’m sure it’ll come though.”

Is it true that Topshop are in charge of the whole thing?

“Everything is organised by the BFC, but Topman are the major sponsor of LCM. They help to make it all possible which is why they’re the only high street brand who make a presentation at the moment”

WHO WAS THE HOTTEST MODEL?

There are obviously a lot to choose from, but Frère Jack had a major crush on this guy from the Jonathan Saunders show:

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Please leave a comment below if you know who he is!

And that’s the end of Frère Jack’s fashion report for TÊTU! Thank you to Rob for all of his help, you can follow Rob on Twitter for more fashion expertise @Rob_Nowill

And as ever, you can follow Frère Jack on Twitter @jackcullenuk

If you happen to be reading this article and you’re a gay French man living in London, please get in touch with me on Twitter or leave a comment below. Frère Jack is always looking for GFLs to interview about their experiences in London.

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