The Wylde Interview: Andrew Logan
A RIOT OF COLOUR
BRILLIANT, BONKERS AND BRAVE: IN THESE INCREASINGLY BEIGE TIMES ANDREW LOGAN SHINES FORTH AS A VIVID BEACON OF INTENSELY HUED CREATIVITY. AS HE PREPARES TO STUN LONDON ONCE MORE WITH HIS LEGENDARY BALL THE ALTERNATIVE MISS WORLD, HE CHATS TO PIPPA BROOKS ABOUT DIVINE, DRAG AND DISAPPEARING TRIBES.
PORTRAITS BY ETIENNE GILFILLAN
Andrew Logan is regaling us with marvellous stories, while seated on a lipstick-red couch, in a spectacular fire-orange raw-silk suit (hand-made for him in Varanasi) that beautifully complements the cobalt-blue walls, which feature his mirror portraits of friends.
The sculptor and performance artist’s London pied-à-terre radiates and reflects colour from every surface, as does Logan, from every pore. If you didn’t already know, as well as being an artist, Logan is a legendary party-giver, a muse (Rei Kawakubo of Comme des Garçons dedicated a whole section of her AW07 men’s collection to Logan’s style and had him walk in the show), yoga teacher and now, hotelier. Everything Logan does in life is touched by his artistry, and nothing is worth doing unless it is with joy!
For almost half a century, Logan has been staging his now legendary Alternative Miss World pageant, for which he is both host and hostess. Logan has been bending gender since the first glorious, inclusive show in 1972 and, while many of the contestants are in drag, the remit is somewhat wider than “passing” or being the most beautiful. In fact, it isn’t really about winning, either, although, of course, there is a winner. Everyone, from Logan’s sister Janet – who has entered every time – to R.O.S.A.B.O.S.O.M, a robot built by Bruce Lacey in 1985, is on an equal footing and performs right up until the end. On 20 October this year, Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre will be hosting the AMW for the second time, following its sell-out event in 2014. That’s another thing: these are not annual events, Logan will only stage one when it feels “right”.
Upon seeing Richard Gayer’s 1980 film of the 1978 AMW as a teen (with its perfect theme tune I Wanna Be A Beauty Queen sung by the perfect Little Nell), I wanted to run to London to live among the artists, performers, freaks and beauties I saw having a riot on stage and backstage, while Logan and Divine presided. To a teenager obsessed by the Warhol Factory, this felt like the UK equivalent, but with more of a sense of humour. We’ve met over the years, but this is the first time I’ve had Logan all to myself, and he is an enchanting raconteur. There is no doubt he is an important artist, but also, like Derek Jarman, he’s one of our key catalysts, around whom an alternate orbit flourishes, and whose influence is felt just as strongly today as when he first strode on stage, flagrantly half- man, half-woman, back in 1972.
Wylde: First of all, I want to ask about fashion, because your Alternative Miss World host/hostess costume is an artwork in itself every time. And this autumn issue of Wylde coincides with the AMW you will be holding at The Globe in October. I’d love to hear the story of the costumes; so many notable fashion names to drop, all archived at your Andrew Logan Museum in Wales.
Andrew Logan: The earliest one was from a jumble sale! I saw the costume in a box in Brize Norton. They knew exactly what it was; it was from an old routine where they would tango across the stage as one sex and then dance back as the other.
Very music hall!
Very! And then Bill Gibb did the second one because the first one fell apart. Then, the following year, Zandra did a Zandra Rhodes on top of a Bill Gibb.
That must be the only Rhodes/Gibb in existence!
I have it in the museum; that was ’78… then from ’81 it was Zandra. The next one she’s doing is
Psychedelic Peace. So that’s going to be quite a look!
And don’t the design team Whitaker Malem always make the male half of your costume to
Yes, they started in ’91.
You and Zandra are best friends as well as artistic collaborators… she took you to India for the first time. Did India change your life?
Yes. It enhanced it. Everything I’d been working on before was all India – the colours, everything was there. It was so me. Now I go every year, in the winter. I hate February in Europe; so dreary, the sky is extremely low. In Goa in late January it’s blue sky, 35 degrees, the sea’s warm, you don’t get out of the sea because you’re cold, you get out because you’re all wrinkly!
I was looking at your Instagram yesterday and loving your Jewellery Parade around London’s Elephant and Castle district in May this year. How did the locals like your show?
We were circulating round the shopping centre and the bus stops. In the end it was enchanting. My favourite part was when we had a tea break – this event was between 3pm and 4.30pm, the longest fashion show in Paris is only 20 minutes. There’s a wonderful Colombian café in the shopping centre and we got there and the samba band was playing, everyone was standing on the tables, going wild!
It looked like fun! You have so much energy for interaction and collaboration, and spreading the love of your creative world.
It’s true. It’s like when I do the AMW, people say: “Why do you keep doing it?” And I say: “Well, when I come on that stage I feel this wonderful magic and warmth that you don’t get anywhere else. I don’t know why, and there should be a lot more of it…”
You usually change the venue for the AMW every time. What made you choose to stage it again at the Globe?
In the Globe, anywhere you sit, you are in contact with the stage. You’re almost in physical contact with the stage, you feel part of it. That’s a magical thing. A theatre of that shape is what people want. Last time the director wasn’t sure about it at all, we had so many restrictions; no filming, this, that… then when it started, that all melted away and they said: “Oh, you’ve got to come back next year!”
There is a lot of royal imagery in your performance work and I wondered if you watched the Royal Wedding recently?
Well, if we’d been at [Logan’s former studio] the Glasshouse we would have had a party, but here it’s not really possible, so I didn’t watch it at all. Actually, I went to East Street Market. It’s Afro-Caribbean… divine! The wedding outfits at the market in the sunshine… the piles of oranges! I just stood and looked at the oranges for at least five minutes. So that was my celebration. I did go afterwards to a Wilton Way street party and there was a young man there wearing two wedding dresses who wrote the music for [hot new musical] Everybody’s Talking About Jamie. There was lots of singing songs, then we went and ate at Violet Bakery – they made cake for the Royal Wedding, apparently.
Did the move out of your studio The Glasshouse in Bermondsey to base yourself in Wales feel like the end of an era?
It was, really. It was a community centre for the arts and I loved doing that, but sadly we weren’t able to stay. A model, I can’t remember her name, rather flat face, very successful, lives there now…
Lily Cole, that’s it! My world’s changed. That’s why my museum in Wales is so important. It’s quite mad because it’s very remote – there are more sheep than people!
How are you adjusting to the change?
Change is very good. It gives you a boost. It’s difficult but it’s so good for one. So, in Wales I have a new studio which is a shed that Michael [Andrew’s partner] built me. I get out of bed, go down the stairs and across the road. I’ve got all the works of art of my friends out, so immediately you’re in touch with your place quite quickly. I’ve got a lovely Pegasus rocking horse made out of metal. At the moment I’m finishing Pat Quinn’s [from The Rocky Horror Picture Show] portrait, and a local artist, David Morgan, is painting me; he does classic oil portraits. When he’s painting you, he uses a mirror so that he can paint your tones upside down, rather than a vision of you. I’m also doing a huge portrait of Jeanne Moreau, because I love her. I was brought up on Jules et Jim, all the way through her career, did you ever see Viva Maria?
With Sixties hair! And haven’t you just purchased your local hotel in Wales? I’m dying to hear about that… Are you going to actually run it as a hotel?
Yes. So it’s given me a destination place, and it’ll be great for the museum and a great place to stay. It’s 400 years old, called the Lion Hotel. The handover is this Thursday and we’re going to plant a tree to commemorate 400 years of the hotel and the fact we’ve got it. Downstairs we’ll open in the summer, upstairs we’ll wait until winter. The rooms are perfectly OK as they are, but I want to base them all on the elements: Air, Fire, Water and Void.
I wanted to talk about the first documentary about you, made in 1980 by Richard Gayer, because it was such a culturally important capture of the glorious, inclusive bubble of joy and diversity that is The Alternative Miss World. Filmed in 1978 – these were not particularly enlightened times – here was an event which celebrated transformation in every sense of the word. Equality, freedom, joy and, very importantly, humour have always made this parade utterly unique and special. And of course, Divine was co-hosting with you, which was perfection!
It was! And a beautifully made film that sadly never really got the distribution it deserved. Gayer approached us originally because he was very interested in disappearing tribes. After AMW he ended up in Africa. But he thought we were a disappearing tribe. We had so many premieres of that film. At the Cannes Film Festival, we stayed in Colette’s chateau; we never went anywhere! I always remember Divine saying: “What you do is: you come down in your outfit, go along the carpet, have the paparazzi, then you go in and slide out the side door!” Then we’d all go back to party at the chateau!
Big entrance, small exit!
Exactly! When Divine slept, the building shook, from his snoring! The times we had!
And of course, you shared a studio space with Derek Jarman in Butler’s Wharf around this time; what a hub of creative genius that was!
There was no one else there. We had no toilets, we had a portable lavatory thing and we’d have to take it from six floors up, along the front of Butler’s Wharf and tip it into the lavs – which is now that posh restaurant Le Pont de la Tour! Every time I go past there I think of all the shit we used to throw in there… wonderful memories! The court scene for Derek’s film Sebastiane was shot in my studio, in Latin, and it was extraordinary. Lindsay Kemp did this performance surrounded by dancers with huge phalluses, and they all ejaculated! We decorated the whole studio, everyone who was anyone in London at that time was in that scene. I remember I had a yellow felt toga made up, and I had some words, I had to say something in Latin and I had a three-dimensional plate of the Eiffel Tower as a pendant. Sadly, there was a fallout between the editor and Derek, and the editor was so incensed he destroyed all the footage.
It’s hard to imagine now, but there wasn’t a club scene in London at the time when you were holding your first legendary parties.
You have to remember that in the Seventies the artistic community was very small and it was barren. In those days you worked and you went home, or you went to the
pub. There was no scene, there was no club structure at all. So, me doing these parties every week, they became the parties of London. I was once called the Andy Warhol of London.
The “scene” was round at yours! Tell me some stories; how about the one about the Sex Pistols’ first gig being at one of your parties…
Malcolm [McLaren] rang me up and said: “I’ve got these kids and they’re going to be bigger than The Beatles; can they come and play?” I said: “Of course!” The studio was 2,000 square feet and had a huge corrugated iron roof, which I’d lined with polythene because all the rust was falling down and, when they started playing, the reverberations off the studio roof were deafening! Everyone ran into the Gold Room, which was a Portakabin I’d painted gold; I think Jordan and Vivienne [Westwood] were left dancing!
Tell me more!
We did an opera one time, another time we did a dinner and dance…
Who did the food?
My friend Chrissie. We started with smoked mackerel, served on a page of Vogue! All the rising stars were serving: Janet Street-Porter, dressed in that Allen Jones outfit, Zandra; David Hockney came because he was still in London.
Oh, there was the time that Divine was at Gay Pride and he had to do a performance on a boat in the middle of the Thames. He climbed onto the roof of the boat and there was Leigh [Bowery], Divine was at the top of the stairs and Leigh didn’t say anything, he just started to roll down the stairs and that was how they met… it was wonderful! At the 1975 AMW, we had a blackout and everyone panicked. Towering Inferno [1974 disaster movie based in a burning skyscraper] had just come out, so everyone was petrified! Piggy came as the Statue of Liberty and he had a flaming torch. I was wearing Zandra Rhodes chiffon, trying to stamp out this fire!
You are incredibly prolific, with work ranging from huge public sculpture to small, mirrored pieces which are worn as jewellery. Your portraits in glass bridge the gap between art and interior pieces – the portrait of Rei Kawakubo in your hallway is one of my favourites – and you tirelessly, it seems, hold workshops and give talks to inspire and encourage creativity. I’d love to see one of your beautiful Cosmic Eggs on the Fourth Plinth in Trafalgar Square, or your huge, mirrored Pegasus.Where are your Pegasus sculptures now?
One’s in the Vitro Glass Museum in Mexico, and one’s with Anthea Eno in her garden. There’s my Millennium Pegasus in Dudley on a roundabout at Exit 2 on the M5, and a small Pegasus nearby in suburbia sitting on top of a column.
I’m quite obsessed with your Cosmic Eggs; can you tell me about them?
They are made of tiny bits of mirror with all the galaxies on the surface, and because they’re mirror, they’re like black holes. They suck the reflected images into them. There’s one in the plaza of the American Visionary Art Museum. The place I’d love to put one is in that white hall in the British Museum; it’d be gorgeous!
The streets I walk through seem decidedly beige after a few hours in Logan’s presence, and it’s London’s loss that he is now based mainly in Wales. Though the fact that soon one will be able to book the Void room at the Lion Hotel in Berriew is some consolation…
THE WYLDE QUESTIONNAIRE: ANDREW LOGAN
The Alternative Miss World is based around the elements like Fire, Water, Air and Void. Which
one would you use to describe yourself?
All of them! I embrace them all… I couldn’t have just one.
Your own parties are legendary. What is the best party given by someone else that you’ve ever been to?
My brother Quentin lives in a hamlet outsideNorwich. He’s very involved in Morris dancing and the music scene and he asks all his music friends from over Norfolk to his parties. He collects pallets, builds a fire in the garden, puts up all these old tents and people camp for the night and they’ll sit round the fire and people just play banjos or guitars. It’s very inclusive and memorable.
Is there anything that shocks you?
Do you have a signature dish?
I’ve been with Michael for 46 years. The first thing is to set up your jobs, so you know what you’re doing; I do the cooking. I knock up a dinner in 15 minutes so that I can go back to work afterwards. So it’s vegetables, fish, sometimes chicken. In India, I’m a vegetarian.
Do you collect anything?
Ha ha… story of my life! My excuse is always: “It’ll be good for work!” I was in the Atlas Mountains with Zandra – and, of course, she’s even worse than I am – and we brought all these rocks back that people were selling off trestle tables. We had to ask other people to carry our luggage at the airport, which of course you could never do nowadays!
Did you have a role model growing up?
Well, my reading was the Greek myths, so I think my role model would have been one of those magical people from that time.
Have you ever done 100% drag, or always 50/50?
[Roaring with laughter] What a wonderful question! No, I never have, and I doubt I ever will!
Where are you happiest?
In my heart.