In a week when Germaine Greer published her spirited celebration of beautiful boys, the loveliest of them all returned to a cinema near you. There was a moment last Tuesday evening when I gazed into the eyes of Macaulay Culkin and thought I'd gone to heaven. How can anyone, male or female, be that physically perfect?
Actually, as Macaulay is Kylie-sized, he barely reached my waist, but he graciously shook hands and turned that astonishing gaze upwards in my direction. It was mesmeric. He is a twentysomething trapped in a 12-year-old's body. When he speaks, he is strangely disconnected, but then, is that really surprising with that weird father, that friendship with Michael Jackson, that Home Alone megastardom, that "retirement" at the ripe old age of 14? He is, as my male companion wistfully noted, definitely heterosexual. He has a girlfriend these days, and a career that's kind of spluttering back to life, via his stage appearance here in Madame Melville and now his starring role as a ketamine-fuelled bi-sexual murderer in Party Monster, the true story of the New York club host Michael Alig who despatched his drug dealer back in 1994.
I can't recommend Party Monster too highly. The soundtrack is a gas and the look of the movie perfectly captures that era in the early Nineties when a bunch of kids in extraordinary costumes revitalised the dreary New York club scene. It's directed by Fenton Bailey and Randy Barbato, who brought us Manhattan Cable on Channel 4 all those years ago, and cult documentaries such as The Eyes of Tammy Faye and Monica in Black and White. The true story of how out-of-towner Michael Alig burst on the New York scene and entranced Peter Gatien, owner of the Limelight, was entertainingly told by his former friend and flatmate James St James in the book Disco Bloodbath, and turned into a documentary by Bailey and Barbato shown on Channel 4. Now they've fleshed the story out as a low-budget feature with the help of Killer Films (Boys Don't Cry and Far From Heaven), with Marilyn Manson and Chloe Sevigny in supporting roles. Seth Green is excellent as James St James, but from the outset, our hearts belong to Macaulay, as he sucks us into his mad, mad, mad world, of themed parties - in nightclubs, in McDonald's, in the back of trucks, in hotel suites, anywhere, any time, with the inevitable massive drug consumption and constant techno beat. When our man finally decides to chop up Angel, his ex-lover and drug dealer, in a fit of pique, you feel nauseated with yourself for being captivated and seduced by this gorgeous boy.
Of course the reviewers hated it, but then Germaine's book was attacked too, before it was even published. The very idea of a 60-plus heterosexual woman devoting time and energy to a lavishly illustrated hymn of worship to perfectly smooth skinned pubescent boyhood drove journalists and reviewers crazy. She had to be a pervert, or seriously sad, a middle-aged pederast according to one Australian journalist. Of course Germaine's book is well written and scholarly, and she takes great delight in reclaiming the adoration of the male form for women, and providing an excellent history of portraiture on the way, from Michelangelo to Van Dyck to Annie Liebowitz. For too long there has been a double standard - it's perfectly acceptable for middle-aged heterosexual men to ogle schoolgirls on catwalks and in fashion magazines, where they are used to flog everything from jewellery to frocks. It's also acceptable for homosexual men to fantasise over teenage boys, providing of course they are over the age of consent. Take Tadzio, the object of Dirk Bogarde's admiration in Visconti's classic movie Death in Venice, a gay pin-up for decades who now triumphantly adorns the cover of Professor Greer's weighty tome. Naturally the real Tadzio, now a 46-year-old unemployed musician in Stockholm, finds this kind of attention a despicable curse. He wants to be valued for who he is, not how perfect he seemed at 15.
Tonight, on The South Bank Show, Germaine will be having great fun expounding her thesis that as most female nudes until the 19th century were not painted from life, it is the male form that truly represents physical perfection. Of course she's been called a hypocrite by those who can't cope with the godmother of 1970s feminism daring to enjoy images of boys young enough to be her grandsons. But she raises an important point - so much tosh is written and spoken about sexuality. It's perfectly OK for me to find Macaulay Culkin unforgettable - it doesn't mean I want to rip his little white underpants off and leap on top of him. I'll leave that to all those schoolgirls who stalk boy bands like Blue. My love is on a higher plane.
Polly put a pinny on
Michael Portillo, on the other hand, gets more smug and smarmy by the day. I can't believe this man was once a gay icon, who revealed he had a brief homoerotic indiscretion decades ago while at college to The Times. Now, of course, Michael, like Macaulay, is re-branding himself - as a caring sharing grounded man of the people (ie a television presenter) and last week we were treated to the nauseating sight of him trying to look after four children in Liverpool in When Michael Portillo became a Single Mum on BBC2. While his charges were mostly an unloveable bunch, it was the sight of Michael in his Asda uniform chatting with colleagues in the canteen that really made me reach for the sick bag. In terms of shameless self-promotion, this was right up there with all those undergoing colonic irrigations on Channel 5's Celebrity Detox a few months back. And the gift of getting his hour-long promo aired at exactly the moment when the hapless IDS is on the rack! Polly must have been ecstatic. There is no celebrity, from Posh to Liz Hurley, as shameless in the art of self-promotion as a politician seeking a platform.
Last week saw dozens of art events all over London, the largest of which is the Frieze Art fair in a marquee in Regent's Park. Full marks to the organisers for getting commercial galleries from across Europe and America to come and exhibit here, making an unmissable event showing an extraordinary range of contemporary painting, sculpture and installations. You can see some of the best artists from the recent Venice Biennale along with completely fresh names from Eastern Europe and Russia. At the packed opening party people were being asked to volunteer to roll down a large ski slope covered in astro turf. When it comes to participating in happenings, I think I'll stick to the kind that Michael Alig was so brilliant at, accompanied by loud music and a packed dance floor, even if it means I may have to dress up as a Leigh Bowery clone.Reuse content