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Title: Dressed to thrill
Author: Carmen Keats

DRESSED TO THRILL

JUGGLING MADDIE HAYES, SYLVIA PLATH AND DOROTHY PARKER, ACT ONCE AGAIN ATTEMPT TO CONJURE UP THE ESSENCE OF PERFECT POP. CARMEN KEATS COMES FACE TO FACE WITH CLAUDIA BRUCKEN AND SCRAPES THE MASCARA OFF THE MASQUERADE

“Because these times, people don’t listen to lyrics, they don’t give a damn. No one picks it all to pieces like this.”

Here comes Thomas, into the breach with both sides burning.

“Anyway, I react to music very much like painting. And if you went to, say, de Koening, who does abstract painting, and said, “hat’s this red bit here?, he’s say ‘F*** off’. Although we’re very pleased that you picked it up, it was a very interesting question.

“What frightens me? Hay-oy-oy. Death! I’m frightened that nuclear waste is getting transported through the area where I live. I’m frightened that I have to trust other people for my future. And of anything nuclear. Or Gulf War. Freaks me out every time. I’m on high edge now.

“And sometimes I feel trapped by my body. Like, if I’m not doing anything for it, if I’m not working on it, I feel imprisoned. Swimming is essential for me, then I have control. When I can feel myself being fit.”

And what doesn’t frighten?

“Glamour. Sophistication. When I do our tribute to Morrissey, ‘Heaven Knows I’m Miserable Now’, I have a lovely white dress and a bunch of white carnations. This is to symbolise virginity. I don’t know why, but people didn’t get it. Even here in London, astonishingly. Then at our recent show, I thought, you know what would look chic is very tight, sexy dresses…”

If Act were a shape, what shape would Act be?

“A candelabra.”

CLAUDIA Brucken fancies being in the movies, but she’s already typecast. To most people, she’s silly little Susan Alexander, the hopeless singer who marries Orson Welles’s Citizen Kane and can’t get a gig ‘til he builds her an opera house.

For now, she’s a bit of a performing poodle, juggling with toys too big for her to catch. She wants her audience to range for teenies “to Liberace fan”. I bet she lip reads “Dallas”, she probably admires Thereza Bazar on the quiet. She’s an old-fashioned girl and she can’t see the wood for the very attractive trees.

“The single – ‘I Can’t Escape From You’ – is all about all this obsessiveness when you are in love, how high an edge, an nerve you come, your whole life is reflecting, is he going to call you, are you gonna see him tonight or not, or is he gonna look at you. And I still feel that every day. And it’s growing.”

“Into love and out again, thus I went and thus I go.

Spare your voice and hold your pen – well and bitterly I know

All the songs were ever sung, all the words were ever said

Could it be, when I was young, someone dropped me on my head?” – “Theory”, Dorothy

“I have always been scared of you,

With your Luftwaffe, your gobbledygoo.”

- “Daddy”, Sylvia Plath

“My worst nightmare? Well, I’ve had quite a few about Hitler, and gas chambers. I think that’s possibly very much because I am German and it follows you through your whole life. Especially in school, from fourth class on ‘til you finish school, this is your main subject and you explore it in every little corner, from every viewpoint. Just to make sure something like this won’t happen to the German race at all any more. You see, also to understand it. We’ve got loads of guilt, from generation to generation. To not forget such a thing.

“But I always dream Hitler is now, and Hitler is maybe American. And this time, I’m the helpless victim.

“Sometimes I have two week’s great dreams, then no dreams at all, and suddenly one really bad dream. Sometimes dreams about witches being in my house. I mean, I don’t particularly believe in witches.”

It’s not Claudia Brucken’s fault she got married to arty-farty pop-writer and record company playboy Paul Morley. You can’t help falling in love, they tell me. So Claudia did it, and now she’s having to pay with her credibility. She’s a cryin’, talkin’, slieepin’, walkin’ livin’ doll motivated by him, apparently.

So, what do you do when you’re married to the guy, tell the world you think his ideas are a pile of puke? Tell him to keep his hands to himself? She’s still stuck on his label, for better or worse, and with her mate Thomas Leer engaged in trying to make a go of an LP called “Laughter, Tears And Rage”.

Someone with his nose stuck in a big book is helping, and the result is a Titanic all covered in fairy lights, sailed by people who only know about pretty inflatable dinghies.

“If I have a shiny gun, I could have a world of fun,

Speeding bullets through the brains

Of the folk who give me pains” – “Frustration” Dorothy Parker

In the roughhouse, Dotheboys Hall atmosphere that is ZTT this week – what with Holly Johnson shooting his gob off about contracts and Trevor Horn’s hefty wife and ZTT supreme Jill Sinclair doing likewise – Claudia and Thomas look like Cattle Annie and Little Britches, clinging to a milk bottle, riding the rapids. An instrumentalist and a girl singer who likes prancing about in fancy dresses, with a number of quite awful songs, a few entertaining ones and the occasional bit of neat phrasing.

They want to make a simple pop record, because that’s the kind of thing that’ll sell, but they’ll hallow art because she’s in love with someone who tells her that’s where it’s at. And in the bottleneck that must be head office, the bows and arrows are out.

“Jill Sinclair said something very nasty about me last week which I was very disappointed with, she said that, you know, the only reason Claudia Brucken is still on the label is because she married Paul Morley. She said that they personally, Trevor and Jill, weren’t guilty of anything Holly’s accusing them of, so indirectly putting the blame on Paul…”

All hands on deck, I think.

“Great googly-moogly!” – David Addison, “Moonlighting”

THERE’S an Act advert out about now lumping Dorothy Parker, Sylvia Path and Maddie Hayes into a wild triumvirate. Maddie Hayes is a character in a comedy show, played by Cybil Shepherd. In case you were unaware, this dame is “a great exhibitionist”. Fascinating, revelatory, though my interlocutors are at a loss to explain the Hayes godhead. And don’t see why they should

“You see, you take three names, you put them together like this, putting a film character with Sylvia Plath, you just play with that, to make people have a quick laugh, or grin or get something out of it. It’s not to be taken and questioned seriously.”

It’s odd, though, how all these women had such creaking failures of personal lives; I never saw the funny side before. Maddie Hayes is pregnant and telling her secretary of this over the Ansafone while she sobs her head off…

“Oh, that was a good episode, aha ha hah!”

Dorothy Parker died drunk and alone in a hotel room…

“Dorothy Parker. Yes, ah… but a f***ing amazing writer!”

And Sylvia Plath, f***ing amazing poet, sticks her head in the gas oven because old bugger Ted Hughes whips off with some floozy.

“She put her head in the over?”

You’d think Paul could’ve explained. But it doesn’t stop here.

“The thinker is a fool? Er, well that was just a jingle, you see, one song on the LP that’s just a jingle made out of one line – I think – introducing the next song, which is “Laughter”. You see, which is not about thinking.” Claudia laughs, tries to think, licks those lips with the curious lipstick patterns and turns vast, worried eyes on Thomas, but he can be no help to her here.

“Or saying, whoever thinks is a fool,” she continues.

As far as Claudia’s concerned, anyway, it’s nonsense. Am I supposed to argue?