Monday, July 18

Task 9: Fancy Dress.

(Before I undertake this task, I would just like to point out that in New York City, it is still only 11:19 am. So let's have no bickering over midday deadlines, shall we?)

Historically, I have always baulked at the concept of fancy dress, on the grounds that I have a natural aversion to making myself look ridiculous. (Intentionally, that is. "Accidentally" is quite another matter.)

Invited to a "come as a film title" party in 1985, hosted by an old University friend from whom I was rapidly growing apart (particularly after she became an immigration officer, and started rather pointedly asking all my non-Caucasian friends where they were FROM, as well as regularly declaring that all Africans were liars), I took the path of least resistance. Turning up at the party wearing a star-shaped badge made out of silver foil, and carrying an onion, I explained that I had come as Paris, Texas.

Noticing the baffled looks (let's just say that the citizens of Wembley aren't always what you might call an "arthouse" crowd), I then seized a upturned plastic bucket from the kitchen, sat on it, and declared that I was Pale Rider.

Still no reaction. Hmm, tough gig. Lowest common denominator time, then. In desperation, I inverted the bucket, parked my arse inside it, and shrieked "Look! I'm A Private Function!"

As the collective prissy-minded disgust of suburban North London's off-duty civil service rained down about me, I swore never to attempt fancy dress again.

Until the karaoke party in 1991, that is. Having spent all afternoon trawling the charity shops, four of us (two boys, two girls) squeezed ourselves into various bits of 1970s tat, and turned up as Abba. With a detailed dance routine to Gimme Gimme Gimme (A Man After Midnight) already worked out, we fancied that we would be the hit of the night.

Until we entered the flat, and realised that 90% of the rest of the party (which was also 90% gay male) had interpreted the "fancy dress" theme as "wear as little as possible, and flash as much toned and tanned flesh as possible". Predictable, once I'd thought about it. With all and sundry affecting not to notice us, as they cooed and schmoozed over each other's lycra shorts and teeny-tiny cut-off denims, we slunk into the farthest corner, wishing we had something to change back into.

In a full length black and silver lurex gown (which scratched like buggery), a crimson crocheted skull cap, a shoulder length auburn wig and baby-blue eyeshadow, I had hoped that my transformation into "Frida" would reveal me as a stunning-looking drag queen, with style, chutzpah and pizzazz. Unfortunately, I merely resembled a sad old slapper with a bigger nose than usual (how did that happen?), shit hair, and all the grace and deportment of a docker in fishnets.

Since then, I have never dressed up again. Not once. Until now.

So, okay. If I must... I should like to come as Miss Mish. Big wide-brimmed hat, exquisitely embroidered gown, fab bag, fuck-off stillies - and, of course, that cigarette holder. Darlings, I might have made a godawful drag queen in 1991, but I shall make a GORGEOUS one in 2005.

As Miss Mish, there can be only one choice of music: There's No Business Like Show Business, from the Ethel Merman Disco Album. Her theme tune, her calling card, her mating call.

Never heard it? Well, now's your chance...

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