Glamour icon? London-based model, DJ, and scene-maker Alejandro Gocast is making an impressive go at that status. I first stumbled across Gocast on Facebook, as part of the revived New Romantic club scene in London that I’ve long admired and written about here on DeepGlamour. Arising in the early 1980s, the New Romantics represented a creative, dressed-to-impress music and style movement, post-punk, post-disco. Now, more than 30 years later, Gocast is one of a new generation of New Romantic club kids. And he cuts a spectacular image in modeling and club photos. I interviewed him exclusively for DeepGlamour.
CH: How do you describe what you do? I think of you as a model, a glamorous nightclub personality, and a DJ. But give DG a fuller picture of what you do?
Gocast: I would describe my career as an eclectic one. As well as being known for what you have mentioned in the London scene, I also have a career in luxury events management. My life is not a simple one. It can be challenging at times keeping up with schedules, appointments, club nights, friends, family—the list is endless, but then again life is for the living.
CH: Where are you from? Your Model Mayhem profile says you are from Latin America, with parents of Mexican and German descent, respectively. How old were you when you moved to Britain?
Gocast: That is one tricky question. I am actually British, although I was born in Mexico. I have lived in London since a very young age. However, my mother language is Spanish, therefore (unfortunately) I do not have the honor of speaking with an English accent. My “genetic” background has indeed German from my dad’s side and Mexican from my mother’s. I hope this all makes sense.
CH: You have such a distinct look, one that I would describe as exotic and androgynous. Not what most people might think of as a typical male model. How would you describe your style image? And how did you discover and develop that image? (Did you get started in the new New Romantic club scene in London, or was it some other inspiration?)
Gocast: My image definitely started in the London club scene. I used to go out to “normal” clubs and bars, but always feeling that I was not quite suitable for them, I started to look for a more arty environment and played around with different looks, which I still do. Since I have always had a thing for the New Romantic style, I decided to become “re-born” into a new way, more in sync with my inner personality and my personal opinion in life, which is a very simple one: be who you are.
CH: What musicians and bands are atop your current playlist? What musicians and bands are lifelong favorites?
Gocast: I have a wide range of taste when it comes down to music, and also quite extreme. I go from hardcore metal to Kate Bush. My personal music player is full of extremes. I do not really focus my attention to one artist or band. Since you asked, a few on my playlists at the moment are Garbage, JLo, Amanda Lear, Tribal House, Korn, Dead or Alive, Donna Summer, Kate Bush, Siouxie and the Banshees… see what I mean?
CH: You've worked with numerous artists and designers. Perhaps one of my favorite of your collaborations has been with Marko Mitanovski, a favorite designer of Lady Gaga. When I first viewed his fashions, I was truly astonished - they are strange and intriguing and elegant. Anthropomorphic creatures in black and white. How did you come to model for Mitanovski?
Gocast: I met Marko at one of my clubs, “THE FACE.” He was a guest there, and the moment we met we knew we would be working together. It was the right chemistry and we also get along really well. It is indeed a pleasure to work with him. I can’t wait for his next collection! I love his dramatic design style.
CH: Is there a designer you wear most often right now?
Gocast: I wear a lot of pieces from various artists, and it is just a question of blending and matching them to create my night-out style. I recently worked with Dane Goulding, who designed for the Spice Girls. He has some truly amazing pieces.
CH: You've been in a few fashion-art short films. I thought "The Dionysian" released in 2011 was really beautiful, and you looked darkly enchanting wearing lace and a high collar. And enormous spidery eyelashes. What was that experience like? What sort of direction were you given in the film, in terms of posing or projecting a certain image?
Gocast: This film was shot in London, in December. It was a very cold night and the director knew exactly what he wanted. Since we shared the same vision, I fit perfectly in the film. This film is going to an exhibition in Paris this year. I have worked behind and in front and the camera for a few years now, and the experience is always the same for me, exciting and always looking forward to seeing the final creation.
CH: You starred in another fashion/art film called "Perform Nijinsky," which was produced by the very talented cabaret performer Mr. Pustra. Clearly the film was something of an homage to the early 20th-century Ballet Russes legend, Vaslav Nijinsky. Can you tell DG more about that film project?
Gocast: Pustra is a good friend and I am also an admirer of his work. Together with Dorota Mulczynska, the vision of a morphed early 20th Century Ballet Russes was created into a short film, celebrating and honoring Nijinsky.
CH: Do you often do your own make up for photo shoots and club nights? Or do you more often work with a make up artist?
Gocast: For photo shoots I do work closely with Stephanie Stokkvik, a Norwegian high fashion make up artist. I have learned so much from her. If you have time, have a look for her on the net—she is amazing! When I go out, I normally “paint my face” on my own.
CH: Who is your top style icon?
Gocast: I am afraid I do not have one.
CH: When you travel around on everyday errands, to the grocery and laundromat and whatnot, how do you look and dress?
Gocast: You would not recognize me, that’s all I call say. I try to go under the radar when out and about on my personal life in order to give some space to myself and my close friends and family.
CH: When you aren't working, what do you do for fun?
Gocast: I am a bit of a geek. I own a PS3 and a whole bunch of games. I enjoy also watching horror movies with friends.
CH: What is your dream vacation destination?
Gocast: My other half loves traveling, and I have been lucky to have been to and seen some amazing tropical paradises. My favorite places.
CH: Do you have favorite perfumes/colognes?
Gocast: Yes, I am currently about to finish “Un Jardin Sur Le Nil” by Hermès, and my next fragrance will be from Diptyque Paris.
CH: What are your go-to make up and skin care products?
Gocast: Any good moisturizer does, really, not any favorites in particular.
CH: What professional goals do you set for yourself? Are there particular photographers, artists, or designers you long to work with? Or, do you have something else in mind quite different from what you are doing now?
Gocast: I am shooting a few more fashion films this upcoming year and planning on starting some sketches for my own collection. However, I must keep this under wraps. I am pretty much open to work with anyone - as long as the chemistry is there, anything is possible.
CH: What are your New Years Eve plans?
Gocast: I am spending New Years Eve with a good friend of mine. She runs a club in Bricklane, from which I will also be throwing another infamous club night soon. It is a very intimate space with limited capacity, which is just what I like.
Some 30 years ago, the New Romantic music movement reignited a return to sophisticated glamour and elegance in pop music sound and style. Next Tuesday, December 18, one of the quintessential New Romantic bands, ABC, will celebrate that moment in time with a special performance at London's Theatre Royal Drury Lane. Fronted by the blonde, statuesque singer Martin Fry, the band will perform its 1982 debut album, The Lexicon Of Love, backed by a full symphony orchestra.
“Thirty years is insane but the album still purrs along like a Bentley,” Fry recently told the Daily Star, drawing a comparison to another sort of glamour icon.
The album is lush and romantic, even without an orchestra. Readers might recall hits off the Trevor Horn-produced album, such as "Look of Love" and "Poison Arrow." But one need not even care for the music to appreciate the grand vision put forward by the artists and, indeed, the genre—both then and now.
At the height of disco, punk, and guitar-rock dominance in 1978, the band started out in Sheffield, England as an unremarkable-looking experimental electronica band called Vise Versa. But, as lore would have it, Fry's band mates suddenly discovered he could sing, and the band completely remade its sound and image, replete with skinny, matching 1960s-style suits and perfectly coiffed waved back hair. As the frontman, Fry pushed the style statement further by dazzling audiences in a now-iconic gold lamé suit.
It's interesting that so many years later, Fry's music aesthetic may have evolved beyond the New Romantic Lexicon sound, but his on-stage fashion presentation remains one of thoughtful elegance: expertly tailored suits made on Savile Row. Some are made of brightly colored dupioni silks in blues, purples, and oranges. As often, they are more subdued charcoals and periwinkle-grays. All are usually paired with simple ties and an ornate, statement belt buckle. The overall effect is that someone has made a very deliberate and respectful effort to dress for a specific special occasion—an audience, a show.
Long ago, a friend told me that he once imagined himself as Martin Fry, an elegant, mysterious man off on any manner of James Bond-style international intrigues and adventures. Perhaps that image also sprang from an oddly-conceived spy-thriller short film called Maptrap intended to promote Lexicon. Directed by Julien Temple, the film featured the band traveling in danger and intrigue behind the Iron Curtain. I think that captures as well as anything the vision Martin Fry and ABC intended to inspire—the illusion of a beautiful, glamorous life.
Described by The Independent as a "glamorous gold chameleon," British singer-songwriter Alison Goldfrapp projects strong, stylized imagery in all her performances, whether on screen or on stage.
I suspect she's just showing off here in demonstrating that with super-slick audio and visual production values—and the right pair of legs—glamour can even shine through gritty images of ashtrays, toilets, and garbage:
The retro Studio 54 stuff doesn't hurt either.
Whatever else she has going for her, she seems to have the glamorous art of being photographed with an indirect gaze and obscured eyes down to a science:
Eating lunch in the mall food court the other day, I happened to see this Taylor Swift video from 2008. I was struck by the costumes. The men and women's clothes were inspired by completely different periods.
The man, who seems to have stepped out of a Jane Austen novel, is channeling the Regency styles of the early 19th century.
The video isn't, of course, a period piece. Its imagery is meant to evoke a fairy-tale romance. Vaguely 18th-century court garb spells "princess," while a black suit with a bit of ruffle at the collar and cuffs says "olde time gentleman lover" without being too jarring to contemporary eyes. (You don't want him looking like Adam Ant or Roger Daltrey in the highwayman post below.) Plus there's the Jane Austen connection.
Completing the mashup are the song's lyrics, which compare the high-school lovers not only to a prince and princess but also to Romeo and Juliet, who were from a still-earlier period. I suppose it all just proves that young love is timeless.
To travelers on dark English roads in the 17th and 18th centuries, highwaymen were dangerous criminals. But to the general public, before and after, these mysterious bandits, some of whom styled themselves as fallen gentlemen or Cavaliers, were glamorous figures. Ever since, they've been the subject of song and story.
The Beggar's Opera, featuring a love story surrounding the condemned highwayman Macheath, was a mega-hit when it debuted in 1728 and continues to be performed. (This video is from the 1983 version, featuring Roger Daltrey as Macheath.)
With all due respect to Adam Ant and Roger Daltrey, to me the highwayman will always be the romantic title character of Alfred Noyes' 1906 poem "The Highwayman," here set to music by Loreena Mckennitt.
Glamour, however, always conceals something, and in the case of glamorous outlaws, that something is often neither particularly attractive nor even impressive--as this debunking of Dick Turpin, one of Britain's most famous highwaymen, demonstrates.
Dmitri Tymoczko, a composer and theorist who teaches at Princeton, recently published a book titled A Geometry of Music. The book includes some remarkable geometric models (such as the one shown at right) which he uses to argue that despite various stylistic differences, there are enough commonalities in Western tonal music from the late Middle Ages to the present to consider it an “extended common practice.”
Tymoczko himself assumes that anyone who reads his book will already be able to read music and have studied music theory. And without that background his book would be impossible to follow. Interestingly, he recognizes that there is gap between our widespread ability to enjoy music, and the arcane intricacies of music notation and theory. Early in his book he writes:
I find it useful here to consider the analogy with magic. A stage magician uses various tricks to cause the audience to have extraordinary experiences—bunnies seem to disappear, beautiful assistants seem to be sawed in half, and so on. Enjoying a magic trick does not require you to understand how the tricks are done; in fact, understanding may actually diminish your astonishment. Nor is the magician’s “ideal audience” composed of professional magicians: the point is to perform the trick for people who will genuinely be fooled. In much the same way, I understand composition to be a process of using technical musical tools to ensure that audiences have certain kinds of extraordinary experiences. When composing, I make various choices about chords, scales, rhythm, and instrumentation to create feelings of tension, relaxation, terror, and ecstasy, to recall earlier moments in the piece or anticipate later events. But I do not expect listeners to be consciously tracking these choices.
Tymoczko goes on to suggest that consciously trying to track these choices may interfere with falling under the spell of the illusion, just as knowing too much about how a glamorous illusion has been achieved might weaken the illusion. Tymoczko writes that listeners who do try to track the specific means by which the illusions are achieved “are like professional magicians watching each others’ routines—at best, engaged in a different sort of appreciation, and at worst too intellectually engaged to enjoy the music as deeply as they might.”
Another mathematically gifted composer named Milton Babbitt taught at Princeton before Tymoczko, but his attitude was almost the opposite. In contrast to Tymoczko’s interest in listeners who are not “professionals,” Babbitt famously wrote that he didn’t expect laypeople to enjoy his complex music, saying that it was written for a specialist musical community analogous to the specialist community of professional mathematicians.
Tymoczko notes that it was not until the 20th century that some composers (such as Babbitt) began using musical materials in ways that they realized that most listeners find “off-putting.” Geoffrey Miller, in his book The Mating Mind, points out that such a strategy can be an effective way of generating an “elite aesthetic.” Miller writes that elites “often try to distinguish themselves from the common run of humanity by replacing natural human tastes with artfully contrived preferences.” Thus if the vast majority of people around the world prefer consonant sound combinations, then working primarily with dissonant combination is one possible way to separate your work from “common” tastes.
In contrast, Tymoczko asserts that the “traditional strategy—writing immediately attractive music that also contains deeper levels of structure—is as potent as it ever was.” Not surprisingly, composers following the traditional strategy have often been relatively close-mouthed about their techniques. After all, if one of your intents is create works that might cause non-professional audiences to have extraordinary, spell-binding experiences, why would you risk diluting that experience with cold-blooded discussions of esoteric techniques? In contrast, composers keen on impressing other specialists have often taken an active part in pointing out the intricacies of their technical innovations.
Like Tymoczko, I prefer that creative artists, like magicians, use their technical tools to help audiences have extraordinary experiences, and then maintain some measure of mystery about how they managed to fashion their magic spells. Let some sense of magic remain. If I want to know more about their techniques, I can always buy and study the score. But when I attend a performance, I am hoping to be beguiled.
A small battle takes place each day at the dental office where I get my teeth cleaned. One dentist likes rock music, and if he gets there first, the radio is set to a oldies rock station for the day. If the other dentist gets there first, she sets the radio to a country-western station.
Last week, hearing the music, I assumed that she had gotten there first, but it turned out that on that day she had rebelled against the system. The radio had been on the rock station for several days, and deciding she could not take hearing Cher one more day in a row, she had changed the channel.
Because music often serves as a cultural marker, I assume that cosmetics companies think carefully before choosing singers as representatives. CoverGirl has chosen country singer Taylor Swift (seen above) as one of their current faces, and it would be fascinating to know the demographic considerations that were discussed when they were considering her.
Viva Glam has chosen Lady Gaga as a current representative. In this advertising photo for them she looks far less made-up than she usually does in public appearances. Nonetheless, it reveals a different approach to makeup—reflecting the more over-the-top notion of glamour that Lady Gaga favors. She already serves, for example, as do Cher and Madonna, as a favorite singer for drag queens to impersonate.
Carrie Underwood, another country singer, has a contract with Olay cosmetics, and she seems an apt choice to appeal to a demographic of slightly more mature women than would Taylor Swift or Lady Gaga. It must be fascinating to hear the frank pros and cons that are brought up when cosmetic companies are discussing decisions about product representation. Appealing to their target customers is no doubt big business in terms of sales.
Muses are an ancient concept. For millennia creative artists have appealed to the Muses to grant them eloquence beyond their normal grasp. The nine mythological Greeks Muses are depicted dancing at left. Classical Greek writers typically began their longer works with an appeal to the muses for inspiration. In this vein Shakespeare, in the prologue of Henry V, has the chorus wish, “O for a Muse of fire, that would ascend The brightest heaven of invention….” The play that follows contains some of the most vibrant speeches ever written in the English language.
From our psychologically aware perspective we might quickly dismiss Shakespeare’s appeal for a “Muse of fire” as an Elizabethan conceit, a fanciful metaphor of no consequence. But perhaps the imaginative process of conjuring up fanciful imagery (a fiery Muse) can sometimes inspire creative artists to go beyond the boundaries of their “normal” imagination. And perhaps the magical power of muses to inspire comes in part from the power of images to spark our imagination.
The concept of muses is still current. The TV show Project Runway has fashion designers compete against each other, and their models are frequently referred to as their muses. In some episodes the designers are challenged to design for specific women, who are referred to as their muses for that week.
The traditional nine Greek muses were all goddesses, and, as symbols of artistic fertility and grace, this seems logical. Real women have served as muses as well. Dante Alighieri met Beatrice Portinari when he was nine. He fell instantly in love, and she became his muse for the rest of his life. Dante was obliged by parental contract to marry another woman, and when Beatrice died at age 24, much of Dante’s later work was inspired by and dedicated to the memory of Beatrice. Hector Berlioz was twelve when he met eighteen-year-old Estelle Dubeuf, and he was so smitten with her that she became a life-long ideal to him. In each case a relationship existed with the muse, but the romantic relationship the artist desired was only possible as an act of imagination.
Choreographer George Balanchine was noted for finding his muses in flesh-and-blood ballerinas, and he married a number of them. But when he fixated on Suzanne Farrell, there was an age gap of more than 40 years. He created some of his greatest roles for her, and though she was happy to dance them, she resisted his desire to marry her. The relationship between them seems symbolized by his choreographing of Don Quixote. He cast Farrell as Dulcinea and himself as Don Quixote, as seen in this photograph.
Terpsichore was the Greek muse of dance, and this personification seems more apt and inspiring to me than an abstract noun like “Dance.” “Dance” seems inadequate, too generic, to represent the in-the-flesh experience we might have watching a physically beautiful person dance. “Terpsichore” seems closer to creating a image that symbolizes a thrill that touches both mind and body. Real-world sensuous beauty can trigger a frisson of excitement that is unforgettable, as expressed in these lines by poet Wallace Stevens:
Beauty is momentary in the mind— The fitful tracing of a portal;— But in the flesh it is immortal.
Stunned by encountering real-world beauty that must for some reason always remain beyond their grasp, artists sometimes respond by making their desire incarnate in their art form. And—as with Dante’s poetry, Berlioz’s music, and Balanchine’s choreography—when that desire is masterfully fashioned into an integral aspect of a sensible form, the resulting art can itself inspire a sense of awe, magic and glamour.
[The Italian Renaissance painting of Parnassus which shows the Muses dancing is by Andrea Mantegna.]
The awards season provides various fashion spectacles, and the Grammys are usually the most outrageously flamboyant. This is especially true now that music videos and elaborately costumed stage acts have become part of the popular music business. Artists coming to the Grammys have to choose who to come as—their onstage persona, or a person glamorously dressed to attend a fancy awards ceremony.
Lady Gaga has become so known for outrageous costumes that she would risk disappointing her fans by attending in more traditional attire. Her costumes are so singularly outré that it would difficult for others to wear similar clothes without seeming to imitate her. Her Grammy costumes were on most of the worst-dressed lists that I saw on the internet, but viewing her outfits as clothing rather than as costumes misses the point. She costumes herself onstage and offstage as “Lady Gaga.” Her costumes remind me of the commedia dell’arte tradition, in which characters like Columbina wear masks and heavy makeup, as seen in the carnival photos at left and below. Like Gaga, the Columbina figure was typically portrayed as bold, experienced, and frankly erotic.
Country-western women, on the other hand, are free to dress like glamorous movie stars. Their performance costumes range from jeans to beautiful evening gowns, and in their videos they are much less prone to place themselves in surreal environments calling for surreal costumes. Taylor Swift attended in a lovely gown that would have been appropriate for the Oscar red carpet.
Rock and rap stars have an interesting problem. With some notable exceptions, their performance costumes tend to emphasize anything but fashionable haute couture clothing. They usually perform in some variation of urban street clothing, sometimes made over into something flashy for the stage. So for them to “dress-up” in a way that suggests a Vogue or GQ sense of style might seem to distance them from their fan base.
Some performers solve this problem by not trying to “dress-up” at all. Others manage to put together outfits that retain a sense of “street,” but still look stylish. Unfortunately, in other cases their efforts to “dress-up” end up making them look like night clubbers, pimps, hookers, drug dealers, or people on their way to a prom in a horrible dress or tux. Others, such as Rihanna, have a personal interest in high fashion, and use awards ceremonies as a reason to wear their finest. All of the women mentioned can be seen in the following video:
[Photo of the bird couple by Nahlinse. Photo of the masked woman by Alaskan Dude. Both used under the Flickr Creative Commons License.]
New year, new decade. Reflecting back on the holiday season I realized that The Nutcracker had come up several times in conversation. One family had taken their children, another person’s best friend had been once been cast as Clara, and so on.
The Nutcracker is glamorous on many levels. Ballet itself is one of the most glamorous forms of dance, as has been discussed here before. The orchestra, especially as used by a composer like Tchaikovsky, can be a glamorous sound machine (more on that in a moment). And the costumes and stagings of this ballet are often captivating.
The Nutcracker plot joyously celebrates aspects of the winter season that are often denigrated because they seem more pagan than religious. Some historians argue that Christmas is celebrated on December 25 because that was the Roman date for the winter solstice, a tradition time for celebrating the return of the sun and longer days. The Nutcracker acknowledges that festive parties, colorful decorations, and receiving gifts are memorable and exciting, especially to a child, whatever the reason for celebrating.
The ballet’s central character Clara is an adolescent poised between childhood and young adulthood, and she has desires and longings in both domains. Boys remain mischievous and clueless about her dreams of the future. But in this ballet’s dream a prince arrives and transports her into a magical world. No wonder that countless young ballet students dream of being cast as Clara, and that mothers take their daughters to see this timeless fantasy.
I do not mean to slight men here. The ballet was created by men. The ballet is based on a story by E.T.A. Hoffman, and the story adaptation, original choreography, and music were all done by men. In Hoffman’s original story the heroine is named Marie and the nutcracker is Drosselmeyer’s nephew. How he came to be a nutcracker is a complex story involving magic spells, and Marie’s love for him eventually lifts the curse and he becomes himself again.
In the ballet Drosselmeyer’s ability to create life-size mechanical dolls makes him seem a kind of magician, and sets the stage for dreams of giant mice and toys that come alive to battle them. Scenes like this are bound to delight children.
Yet Clara’s trip to the land of the Sugar Plum Fairy is a dream of transformation into adulthood, and in that land Clara becomes a woman and a prince becomes her escort. In her dream Clara becomes a princess-to-be whose life is filled with fancy costumes, elaborate entertainments, and dances that show her perfect poise as a adult.
Tchaikovsky’s music plays a major role in the success of the ballet. Tchaikovsky had a keen ability to create musical textures that can stimulate a listener’s imagination. At the same time his ballet music is easy enough to follow that we have mental room left to take in the dancing. This same openness also leaves room for his ballet music to interact with our imagination, allowing us to project auras such as “mystery” and “longing” onto what we are hearing. (Densely intellectual musical textures such as fugues seldom allow this.)
In creating ballet music that seems glamorous, Tchaikovsky became a kind of conjurer. By developing an awareness of how particulars sounds and musical textures could stimulate a listener's imagination, he used that awareness to create music that encourages listeners to generate imaginative illusions.
In the following Pas de Deux between Clara and her prince (Bolshoi Ballet production), no words need be spoken. Clara’s prince becomes her ideal consort. He is there for her whenever she needs support to display her poise. Tchaikovsky’s music supports them both. One of his friends bet Tchaikovsky that he couldn’t compose the theme for a pas de deux with a scale. Tchaikovsky asked if the scale could go downward. When that was allowed, Tchaikovsky took the bet, and won with the main theme of this music. Tchaikovsky’s ability to create something extraordinarily evocative out of simple material demonstrates his deep understanding of what works as ballet music. His music captivates our hearing, but leaves enough room in our minds to appreciate the staging and dancing, and even to imagine that we are feeling something similar to what these dancers are feeling. And that is a beautiful illusion to experience.
[Clara’s Gift photo by adjustafresh. Pas de Deux photo by violscraper. Both used under the Flickr Creative Commons license.]