Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Merry Christmas! Tree lights and reindeer!

The lights are up on the Christmas tree at the bottom of my garden and around the grotto - well, shed!

And here are some baby reindeer - well, deer - foraging for the last of the windfalls around my apple trees:

Saturday, 25 October 2014

Monster Mash video by The Daisy Chains

Here's a treat for Halloween. Britain's saxiest sextet, the all-girl rock'n'roll band The Daisy Chains have just released a crazy black and white video of the Monster Mash. Click here to see it. And look out for my interview with these queens of the vintage scene in a forthcoming issue of Classic American.

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Jerry Lee Lewis 'Rock and Roll Time' album review and 'The Knox Phillips Sessions' album review

The cover of Jerry Lee Lewis' new album
Rock and Roll Time finds him outside the
Sun studios where he first recorded 58 years ago.
Dig those flip-flops, Killer!

Goodness gracious, there’s a whole lotta Jerry Lee Lewis around this autumn, including a brand new album, an album of previously unrecorded material from the 70s and an authorised biography.

I’ve had all three for a while now and can say Lewis fans are in for a treat!

The new album, Rock and Roll Time, which comes out at the end of this month is one of the best Jerry Lee has ever recorded. It’s a taut 30 minutes of verve and energy up there with his 2006 duets album Last Man Standing and older classics such as his eponymous Elektra album from 1979. You’d never think the Killer was pushing 80. He sounds no different to he did aged 45 as he hammers into one of the greatest songs he’s ever cut, a blues number by Bob Dylan called Stepchild.

Other album highlights include the title song, a beery anthem penned by Kris Kristofferson, an energetic romp through Sick And Tired and an inspired cover of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s Mississippi Kid.

A growling Blues Like Midnight continues the strong thread of blues tunes while the double time piano on Chuck Berry’s Promised Land takes us out on a high.

Blasts from the past!
A private stash of previously unreleased
Jerry Lee Lewis music from the 70s
on new CD The Knox Phillips Sessions.
The album of previously unreleased songs is called The Knox Phillips Sessions and dates from the early 70s. At the time, Jerry Lee was riding high on the country charts and playing sold-out shows all over the world but that wasn’t enough to satisfy his insatiable appetite for making music. So after recording country songs in Nashville by day, he’d book Knox Phillips’ studio at midnight to record a wider variety of music for fun.

The opening Bad, Bad Leroy Brown may prove too wild for some tastes. The Killer was playing for fun, making things up as he went along and probably never expected the track to be heard. It might have been a rehearsal or just something to vent his unedited creativity on.

As the album progresses, things get a lot tighter. A medley of Chuck Berry songs - Johnny B. Goode and Carol - rocks on the very edge of control. A mash up of Music! Music! Music! (“put another nickel in the Nickelodeon”) and the instrumental Canadian Sunset, meanwhile, show a previously unseen side of Lewis’ musicality.

Best track is the closing Beautiful Dreamer which Jerry Lee turns into a narration, telling the story of 19th century composer Stephen Foster between singing snatches of one of his most famous songs. This song should have been on one of Lewis’ country albums of the time and we can be grateful to Knox Phillips for finally making it available.

I’ll be reviewing the new book, Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story in a forthcoming issue of Country Music People, so will save my comments on it till then.

Until then I can barely say how much I’m enjoying Rock and Roll Time. I gave it a 5-star review (the maximum stars) in this month’s Country Music People, but really it deserves even more than that. Ten gold stars, perhaps. I haven’t stopped playing the album at least two or three times a day for the past month and it gets better every time.

I don’t think I’ll ever get enough of Stepchild. But then Sick And Tired really rocks. And Blues Like Midnight... aw, every track is brilliant!

One girl who’d really love Rock and Roll Time is Natty Smalls, the bullet-bra-wearing rockabilly heroine of Polka Dot Dreams by Julia Douglas. Click here to read the customer reviews of this vintage clothes-clad rockabilly romance.

Saturday, 20 September 2014

Ireland's Own - The Last Dance

There's nothing like a surprise treat to brighten the day, so it was wonderful to open my post box this morning and find a copy of Ireland's Own... which contains the first story I've written for them. It's called The Last Dance, and the cover date is 26 September if you'd like to read it.

Thursday, 18 September 2014

George Hamilton IV - memories of a country star

George Hamilton IV
1937 - 2014

Woke to sad news this morning that George Hamilton IV died yesterday, following a heart attack at the weekend. Hamilton came to fame in the 50s, when he was the teen idol singer of A Rose And A Baby Ruth

He went on to have 40 country hits, including the chart topping Abilene. His travels abroad earned him the title, The International Ambassador of Country Music. He was particularly popular in the UK, where he appeared at the first of the legendary Wembley Country Music Festivals and went on to host the BBC's TV coverage of that long-running event. He later played the part of narrator in Patsy Cline: The Musical on the West End stage and in several UK tours.

Over the years I interviewed George many times and was always impressed by him as a person and performer. In the Patsy Cline musical, for instance, his co-star Sandy Kelly was outstanding as Cline. But Hamilton stole the show with his smooth, seated performance of A Rose And A Baby Ruth. At the song's climax, he smoothly slid a Baby Ruth - an American chocolate bar - from his pocket and with that small but perfectly timed action proved he was worth his weight in theatrical gold.

I first interviewed George at a hotel in Croydon. I was a young music writer and wore a leather biker jacket with a painting of Jerry Lee Lewis on the back. George never forgot that jacket. In 2012, I bumped into him backstage at the revived Wembley country festival and the first thing he said was, “I remember that jacket you used to wear...”

The festival had some big names on the bill including Reba McEntire and Lonestar. But the two moments I remember best both featured George. The first was a moving duet on Me And My Old Guitar, which he sang with Raymond Froggatt. Later in the show, westerrn swing stars Asleep At The Wheel brought George out as a guest to sing Abilene with them. The Wheel features some of the finest musicians in the world, their set had the best sound balance on the night and it was gratifying to hear Hamilton backed by such a superb musical arrangement.

Hamilton entered a recording renaissance in his latter years. In 2001 he recorded a stunning album of traditional Irish songs with his Patsy Cline co-star Sandy Kelly. More recently, he recorded albums of Texan honky tonk and country Gospel for acclaimed label Heart of Texas.

He toured the UK annually, often in a Patsy Cline-themed show with Kelly and also as a solo performer, often in churches and other small venues. I especially remember sitting in the front row for his tribute to Luke the Drifter, the Gospel music alter ego of Hank Williams, the Father of Country Music. Ever the gentleman, he introduced me to the audience and mentioned my recently published book about the Irish entertainer, Dominic Kirwan.

Hamilton was a compelling narrator and he held the audience spell-bound as he wove the story of Hank in with his songs. A couple of years ago, George recorded his show on the CD A Tribute To Luke The Drifter - The Other Side Of Hank Williams, and it’s one of the best country music recordings you could ever buy. The moment when he describes Hank’s death is spine-chilling.

More recently, Hamilton released a Christmas album of spoken stories set to music, called The Christmas Storyteller. Nobody could tell a story like George and he had me in tears on every other track. I urge you all to get a copy and listen to it fireside this Christmas Eve.

There will be many tributes to George and many will no doubt concentrate on what a perfect gentleman and all-round nice guy he was. I won’t argue with that. He was the nicest man I’ve ever met - and the only singer to send me a Christmas card every year with a personally written message thanking me for whatever reviews or articles I’d written about him. But amid the tributes to him as a person, I’d hate the world to forget that he was also a superb performer. As a narrator and spoken voice recording artist he was the best in the business.

George was also one of the hardest working men in the music business. He was due to tour with Kelly again next month in a second run of dates in the Patsy Cline 50th Anniversary Tour - a tour so popular it was in its second year.

He will be sorely missed. My condolences go to his childhood sweetheart and wife of 58 years, Tinky, and two sons, who include fellow country star George Hamilton V.

Patsy Cline
Click here to read George Hamilton IV's memories of Patsy Cline.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Christmas greetings at Roys of Wroxham

Writing magazine fiction, I'm used to working a couple of seasons in advance. Editors are currently looking for Valentine's Day stories.
But's that's work, not the real world. So I was shocked to walk into the food hall of Roys of Wroxham - the World's Largest Village Store - and see the face of Father Christmas grinning at me from a box of biscuits.

Surely shum mishtake, I thought. They must be clearing out last year's stock. But no. On the next aisle were chocolate santas and reindeer.

Guys, please! It's September. Autumn's barely started. I don't want to sound like Scrooge but can't we confine Christmas to winter at the least? Just saying!

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Kathy Bates grows beard!

Here's Kathy Bates as you've never seen her before - as a bearded lady in the new series of American Horror Story: Freak Show. Her co-stars include a strong man, a lady with two heads and another with three breasts, in a series set in a carnival of the bizarre in 1952. The show debuts October 5.

But what's life like in a real life freak show? Read a full chapter on the Circus of Horrors and the history of freak shows, including a step-by-step guide on how to swallow a sword (yikes!) in Circus Mania - The Ultimate Book for Anyone Who Dreamed of Running Away With The Circus by my altered ego Douglas McPherson. Click here to buy from Amazon the book the Mail on Sunday called "A brilliant account of a vanishing art form."

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

Up, up and away!

Just spied this balloon flying over my garden. What an uplifting way to travel!

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Certified Circus Fan!

Back in April, I promoted World Circus Day by talking about circus for an hour on American internet radio. So it was nice to be rewarded with this certificate from the international circus patron, Princess Stephanie of Monaco.

For a romantic tale of life and adventure in the big top, read my Julia Douglas romance, The Showman's Girl. It's available as an ebook or to borrow as a paperback from your local library.

Thursday, 7 August 2014

Whacky Races - 2CVs in 24-hour Challenge

2CVs are go!
TV and movie cars often become one of the most recognisable parts of a show's brand. Who can forget the General Lee - the orange Dodge Charger in the Dukes of HazzardDel Boy's Reliant RobinLady Penelope's pink Rolls, Starsky and Hutch's red car with the white stripe, Herbie the VW Beetle or the Batmobile?

I like to give the characters in my stories interesting cars to drive, so the superannuated crime-fighters of the Blue Rinse Brigade chase villains in an equally aged and rickety maroon and cream Citroen 2CV.

The same car, with a pink and yellow paint job, shows up in Polka Dot Dreams.

"Do we have to wind it up before we get in?" wonders vintage-clad heroine Natty Smalls?

"No, you just have to put your feet through the floor and run," says boyfriend Matt.

There's something inherently clown-car-like about a 2CV. So it was amusing to find the plucky little French favourites feature in this year's only 24-hour endurance race, in a contest organised by the Classic 2CV Racing Club at the twisty-turny Anglesey Circuit in Wales on August 30 - 31.

Can you see his feet?
It's the club's 24th anniversary race. I'm still not sure if they really do have to put their feet through the floor and run, though... or just pedal really fast!

Wednesday, 23 July 2014

Live like Natty Smalls at the Vintage Festival's Classic Car Boot Sale, September 20 and 21

If you want to rock back the clock in a set of cool retro clothes, give your home a mid-century make-over or even pick up a classic car put September 20 and 21 in your diary.

That’s when London’s Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park in Stratford will be hosting the Vintage Festival’s Classic Car Boot Sale, alongside the Park's very first free mobile art fair, Portability: Art on the Move.

The event is expected to see more than 200 classic cars, with over 100 opening their boots for shoppers.

The weekend will also host a second event celebrating ingenious and extraordinary mobile art vehicles from across the country. From the smallest portable theatre, to a giant travelling seagull, a poetry potting shed and a fully functioning artist's studio on wheels - art vehicles on land, sea or air will come together to explore how artists have been taking their art out and about.

Dennis Hone, Chief Executive, London Legacy Development Corporation, said: “With a cornucopia of vintage clothes, cars and bargains, and our fascinating celebration of mobile art vehicles, this looks set to be a great weekend of art and culture on the Park.”

Launched last year at London's Southbank Centre, the Vintage Classic Car Boot Sale has proved incredibly popular, attracting around 8000 visitors a day from across the UK.  This festival-feel shopping event will host more visitors and classic car eye candy including vintage fashion, accessories, homewares, crafted products from independent designers, pop culture memorabilia and vinyl record traders offered amidst street theatre, impromptu musical performances, vinyl only DJs, an impressive display of classic cars, buses, vans and bikes and a gathering of the finest mobile eateries serving street food, coffee, cocktails and craft beer from vintage wagons.

Polka Dot Dreams
Because everybody
needs some
Natty Smalls!
And don't forget, for a taste of the vintage scene, follow the adventures of retro gal Natty Smalls in Polka Dot Dreams by Julia Douglas. Click here to read the 5-star reviews on Amazon
Or check out a copy from your local library!

Tuesday, 15 July 2014

The Obscuritones - rockabilly rebels

In this article, which originally appeared in Britain's coolest car mag, Classic American, I meet London's rowdiest rockabilly rebels, The Obscuritones, and hear all about their modern music and vintage style.

Purist or customiser? Do you want a fifties ride that looks and sounds like it did when it left the factory? Or would you prefer it chopped, lowered, rodded and given your own zany contemporary twist?

Just as it is for car restorers, the world of vintage clothes and vintage music is similarly split between authenticity and originality. Rockabilly rebels the Obscuritones are proudly in the latter camp, with joint lead vocalist Joey Hill happy to describe the six-piece as “the black sheep of the rock’n’roll scene.”

Distinguished by the harmony vocals of Hill and Jane Dobson, and the lead guitar of the group’s third female member, Sam Kidman, the group define their hot and smoking sound as “The Andrew Sisters singing with the Stray Cats after a night out with the Cramps!”

“It’s not our mission to be authentic,” Hill continues. “We love the music of the 50s but we also bring in all the music we’ve grown up with. So spy, surf, garage and ska... it all goes into the Obscuritones machine and hopefully something good comes out the other side.”

The Obscuritones was founded by Australian-born Kidman who recruited the other members via free-ad website Gumtree.

“My boyfriend’s a DJ and he got me into rock’n’roll,” says Kidman. “I wanted to start a band that incorporated all the music that I like - rock’n’roll, rockabilly, 60s garage and ska - but it’s ended up more rockabilly and rock’n’roll.”

Hill came from a rock’n’roll family. Her dad Brian Hill is the guitarist in Mike and the Rhythm Stars, and she recalls, “There was always a lot of Buddy Holly and Roy Orbison being played in the house when I was growing up.”

But despite her rock’n’roll roots, Hill came to the Obscuritones from punk band The Lost Cherrees with whom she played her very first gig at legendary venue CBGB in New York.

This article as it originally appeared
in Classic American
“It was a baptism of fire and a crash course in rock’n’roll,” Hill enthuses. “The club was exactly as I imagined it - a real dive, covered in graffiti. I’m a massive Blondie fan and it was really exciting to be on stage thinking Debbie Harry trod these boards!”

The Obscuritones have travelled all over Europe and released their first vinyl single, Angel Eyes, on French label Rydell Records. There’s an explosive video for the song on YouTube, but an impromptu live video of the band performing Rockabilly Boogie at the Castle pub in Southend has proved to be an even bigger internet hit. Opening with shots of American hotrods parked on the prom outside, the clip perfectly captures the gritty spirit of the British rockabilly scene, although Hill says it wasn’t planned like that - or, indeed, planned at all.

“A friend of my dad’s came over from Italy to film my dad’s Vincent motorbikes. He decided to film our gig and we weren’t prepared at all.” In fact, Hill admits with a giggle, “It was probably one of the worst gigs we’ve ever played! So when the video went past 100,000 views we were completely shocked. Now it’s past 700,000.”

Both of the above songs can also be found on the band’s self-named debut CD, The Obscuritones, which is released on their own label, Brockwell Records. The disc includes a surfing instrumental, Brockwell Beach, penned by Kidman - so is that a real place, perhaps in her native Australia?

“It’s actually named after Brockwell Park in London,” says Kidman, who lives across the road from that green space. “So it’s not exactly a beach - although it used to have a paddling pool!”

Other original songs on the album include Bad Mood, which Hill admits is a tad autobiographical. “I can be a bit of a brat on stage... and a bit of a brat in real life! So that song’s kind of: I’ve got the hump and you’re gonna pay for it!”

Rockabilly fashion has always been part of the subculture’s allure, and Hill admits she got into the clothes before the music.

The Obscuritones on stage at the Blues Kitchen
“The quiff and leather jacket for the guys, red lipstick and victory rolls for the girls... it’s instant glamour - exciting and a bit naughty at times.”

On stage, Hill and Dobson favour reproduction 50s clothes from Hell Bunny, Vivien of Holloway and Collectif.

“I’m too lazy to rummage around for proper vintage,” Hill admits and, with such a strong vintage influence on current high street fashion, she adds, “Some of my favourite dresses are from H&M.”

Double bass player Andy Bavington wears Freddies of Pinewood jeans and Mr Ducktail t-shirts - Mr Ducktail being the rockabilly barber of Carnaby Street, famed for his switch-blade haircuts and own brand hair grease.

Kidman is more of a rummager, scouring the vintage shops around Camden market for colourful country and western shirts and bowling shirts. Glancing through her wardrobe, she says, “Some of them are repro shirts from the 80s. I’m not fussy if something’s original. If I like it and it looks cool, I’ll buy it.”

For their hair, Hill says, “I’ve been to Mr Ducktail’s for some cuts and styles, but generally we do it ourselves. There are so many hair and make-up tutorials on YouTube. You just need a bit of trial and error - lots of hairspray and pins.”

The Obscuritones play regularly at London’s Blues Kitchen and Hill says the capital’s rockabilly scene is booming. “You could catch a rockabilly band every night of the week if you wanted to. It’s an exciting time to be playing this type of music and long may it reign.”

As to why rockabilly seems to get rediscovered by every generation, Hill says, “It’s just absolutely timeless. It’s about wild abandonment, passion, excitement, rebellion... and I don’t think those things go out of fashion. At the Blues Kitchen it’s a young audience, a lot of students who go there to let their hair down and have a good dance - and that’s what we try to give them. It’s just one of those genres that everyone wants to dance to.”

Buy Polka Dot Dreams
- because everybody
needs some
Natty Smalls!
So that's the Obscuritones. But what of Duke and the Bop Tones? Never heard of them? They're the rockabilly band that help to make Natty Smalls a singing sensation, along with her shady manager, the Scottish Teddy Boy Cameron Swoon, in my novel set in the vintage clothes and music scene, Polka Dot Dreams. Click here to read the five star customer reviews on Amazon.

Friday, 20 June 2014

Whatever happened to the PG Tips chimps?

Do you remember the PG Tips chimps? Their adverts, including the famous one about two removals men (well, monkeys) trying to get a piano up a flight of steps were funnier than most of the actual programmes. But did the chimps enjoy themselves as much as the viewers?

Apparently yes, they really enjoyed dressing up, but it's said they found retirement from the spotlight hard to cope with. Transferred to Twycross Zoo in Leicester, they missed interacting with humans and found it difficult to integrate with other apes.

42-year-old Choppers, below, is the only one left now after her lifelong friend Louis (who played Mr Shifter in the removals ad) died last year. Does she look so sad because she's remembering the days when she was a star (That's her, above, as Ada the tea lady)? Or is she just gasping for a cup of tea?

The rights and wrongs of animals in entertainment has been a thorny issue for more than a century. Did you know the first calls to ban them were made exactly 100 years ago when the Performing Animals Defence League was formed in 1914? Click here to read the 100-year history of attempts to ban animals in entertainment.

Wednesday, 28 May 2014

Thomas Chipperfield, Britain's last big cat trainer

My cover story on Thomas Chipperfield
in the Telegraph magazine

24-year-old Thomas Chipperfield comes from a family that has been training animals since the Frost Fair on the frozen Thames in 1684. Currently appearing with Peter Jolly's Circus, he is the only lion and tiger trainer left in the UK, and if a proposed ban on wild animals in circuses comes into force next year, he will probably be the last.

Click here to read my review of Peter Jolly's Circus, one of the last traditional big top shows still providing a glimpse of the sawdust circle the way it used to be.

And whether you're for or against animals in the circus, click here to read my exclusive interview with Thomas Chipperfield, Britain's last big cat trainer, in the Daily Telegraph magazine.

What can a cat man do?
Thomas Chipperfield and Tsavo the lion
relax before the show - and contemplate their
future if a ban on wild animals in the circus
comes into force next year.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Hollywood Hearts for under a quid!

Love, glamour and showbiz collide in seven glittering stories

In HOLLYWOOD HEARTS journalist Claudia and actor Grant's lives are entwined from the West End to Broadway and LA, but will she ever be able to tell him how she really feels? 

Dancer Pasha and singer Russell share a special bond in BREAK A HEART, but will their backstage friendship blossom into something more? 

In THE FIRST TIME amateur DJ Tina interviews a singing legend... who just happens to be an old flame. 

Louise seeks country music fame, but will she also find love on CHRISTMAS EVE IN NASHVILLE

Is THE LAST DRIVE-IN PICTURE SHOW really the end for Miranda's dreams, or could it be a new beginning? 

Buckingham Palace maid Lizzie, meanwhile, rubs shoulders with royalty in A LIFE OF LOYAL SERVICE

These starry tales by Douglas McPherson have already wowed hundreds of thousands of My Weekly readers. Find out why for less than a quid! Click here to buy Hollywood Hearts from Amazon.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Dress like Natty Smalls at Bettina Scarlett's Mid-Century Market

Natty Smalls?
It's certainly an uncanny lookalike of the
red-headed Polka Dot Dreams heroine at
Bettina Scarlett's last Mid Century Market
at Christmas

If you'd like to dress like Natty Smalls, the irrepressible bullet-bra-clad rockabilly filly in Polka Dot Dreams by Julia Douglas, make a date to attend Bettina Scarlett's Mid-Century Market on April 12.

Who is Bettina Scarlett? In the following article, which originally appeared in Classic American, I found out all about the go-to gal for vintage fashion events management.

Bettina Scarlett
Mid-Century Market

If you went to the Rockabilly Rave last summer - and what sort of square are you if you didn’t? - you may have bopped into the Vintage Fashion Revue and seen a collective of retro cuties wiggling down the catwalk in a selection of dresses and swimsuits like it was 1956.

Elsewhere on site, and at other events like the Hotrod Hayride, you may also have noticed the Atomic Girls, a sexy sextet of 50s-style cheerleaders busy promoting next year’s Atomic vintage festival.

Both the fashion show and the promo girls were organised by former retro pin-up model Bettina Scarlett who operates a one-stop service for the promotion of all things vintage, and who rocks a neat retro look herself.

Although new in business, Bettina was raised on rockabilly. Her dad, the DJ Rockin’ Shades, runs the Fireball Rock’n’roll Club in Lowestoft and the family home was a stone’s throw from such long-established coastal gatherings as the Hemsby Rock’n’roll Weekenders and the Wildest Cats In Town Teddy Boy festivals in Pakefield.

“I saw so many original artists by the time I was 13,” Bettina recalls. “I saw the Comets when I was 12 and that was probably one of the best bands I’ve ever seen.”

When not bopping to her dad’s rock’n’roll records, Bettina watched old MGM musicals from the 40s and 50s with her mum and grandmother. “I always wished I could look as glamorous as the ladies on screen and yearned to have dresses as beautiful as theirs.”

As an adolescent, Bettina explored different music and different looks. “I went through phases of being a goth, a punk, a hippy...” But by the time she was 17, she was into the punk-rockabilly hybrid psychobilly, which took her back to her rock’n’roll roots. Her renewed interest coincided with a fresh injection of blood into the rockin’ scene.

“When I was younger, it was mainly people of my parents age who went to the clubs and festivals. Then, when I was about 18, all these young people started coming and we all became friends. We’d go to Hemsby and Great Yarmouth and then down to London.

“At the time I was dressing rockabilly: leopard skin and cherry print; jeans and bandanas in my hair. Then a few friends started getting strongly into the vintage look. I started looking on ebay, and once you start you get addicted. It kind of went mad from there!”

Enid Collins handbag
-the must have accessory
Among Bettina’s biggest vintage weaknesses is for the ornate box handbags of 60s designer Enid Collins. “They’re really popular with the girls on the scene. I’ve got more than a dozen - and just bought another.”

At university, where she studied fashion promotion, Bettina was the only vintage girl on campus. But she quickly discovered that there’s a rockabilly scene everywhere if you know where to look.
“The first week I moved to Kent, I walked into Chatham town centre and saw a rockabilly band busking. I asked them where the clubs were and they told me about a place where they have bands every week.

“It’s a niche scene,” Bettina admits. “It goes through the mainstream every now and then with singers like Imelda May. But it’s always been extremely popular. When I tell people about the weekenders and how people travel from all over the world, they can’t believe it’s so big.”

Bernie Dexter
- an inspiration
Having always loved the classic 50s pin-up look, Bettina began modelling in her late teens. Among her best-known pictures is the Bernie Dexter-inspired stockings and telephone pose that graced the poster for Hemsby 47.

Bettina counts the American pin-up Dexter as one of her heroines and now a friend - “She supports me in everything I do.” Dexter, in fact, flew 5000 miles to star in Bettina’s fashion revue at the Rockabilly Rave.

During her final year at uni, Bettina organised a vintage fashion show with burlesque and rock’n’roll at Proud Cabaret in London, with proceeds going to the Royal Brompton & Harefield charitable fund. The show was such a success that it prompted her to put her modelling days behind her and go into events management under the banner Bettina Scarlett Presents.

As well as organising fashion revues and photo-shoots, Bettina offers a styling service for aspiring pin-ups and will act as a personal shopper for those in search of the perfect vintage look.
“Just tell me what you’re looking for and I will hunt high and low for the perfect outfit,” Bettina promises.

Don't miss the Mid-Century Market
April 12
You'll find 50s clothing and homeware,
a vintage tea room and rockabilly DJs
- and it's not just for the ladies; there will
be a pop-up barber's shop to
spruce up your vintage bloke
as well as hair stylists to give ladies
the perfect victory roll.
Bettina personally favours the reproduction 50s clothes of OuterLimitz designer Di Brooks. “I wear her stuff all the time. For the last Rave she made me a fringed white pencil dress. Every time I see her at a festival I end up buying something, because she has just the look that I’m going for. I also buy a lot of stuff from Lady K Loves. OuterLimitz do a lot more dresses and evening wear, and Lady K does very good value day wear in the £30 - £100 range.”

Among her genuine vintage items, Bettina singles out “a lovely white circle skirt with a school motif: pencils, noughts and crosses... there’s so much detail it’s amazing. I found it in a car boot sale at the Rave.”

Bettina recommends reproduction for wearability and value, but warns against the inauthenticity of some manufacturers. “You only have to look at photos from the 50s to realise that some things would never have been worn, so why do they make them like that?”

Bettina also suggests studying old photos on the internet when it comes to creating the perfect hairstyle. “Then practise, practise and practise until it looks perfect. Or try hair and make-up companies like Vanity Box and Lipstick and Curls.”

The appeal of mid-century fashion for Bettina is its sophistication. “It’s so glamorous. You’ll never get a dress like you would in the 50s. It was an amazing, outstanding feminine look. Women don’t dress like that now and it really upsets me that people just don’t make the effort in what they wear anymore.”

Make that most people, however. Bettina Scarlett and her fellow followers of vintage fashion make the effort every day.


Treat yourself to a vintage present at Bettina Scarlett’s Mid-Century Market, Saturday April 12 at:
The Hammersmith Club
11 Rutland Grove
London W6 9DH

Polka Dot Dreams
because everybody
needs some
Natty Smalls!
And don't forget to treat yourself to some Natty Smalls! In the form of Polka Dot Dreams by Julia Douglas. Click here to download it on your e-reader or check out the paperback from your local library.

"I love the 50s era and got so caught up in the heroine, Natty's, sense of style that I went and bought a dress just like one she would have worn! A fun romantic read."
- 5-star customer review on Amazon.

Click here to read an interview with Natty Smalls - singing sensation!

Treat yourself to some Natty Smalls on Valentine's Day!

With Valentine's Day fast approaching, why not indulge yourself in the romantic adventures of Natty Smalls, the bullet-bra and girdle-clad vintage clothes-mad heroine of Polka Dot Dreams?

Fleeing a failed romance with a celebrity chef in London, Natty returns to her seaside home town and promptly falls head over high heels with Matt, the handsome but nervous owner of a rock'n'roll-themed ice cream parlour and pink and cream 57 Chevrolet. There's only two problems. Matt's married - so will Natty's head be turned by the mysterious Scottish Teddy Boy Cameron Swoon who plans to make Natty a singing sensation?

Click here to download Polka Dot Dreams by Julia Douglas from Amazon.

Polka Dot Dreams has two 5 stars reviews on Amazon including this one: "I love the 50s era and got so caught up in the heroine, Natty's, sense of style that I went and bought a dress just like one she would have worn! A fun romantic read."

Or check out the paperback from your local library.

Click here to read an interview with Natty Smalls - singing sensation!

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

5 Tips for a lousy 2014

How are your New Year's resolutions holding up? Haven't made any? Uh-oh. According to Californian motivational speaker and author Shawn Anderson, you could be in for a year as bad as the last one.

Check out Shawn's 5 Tips for a Lousy 2014 - and if any of them sound like the way you're living your life, scroll down to the next post for some tips on turning your live around in the next 12 months.

TIP #1: Set less than spectacular goals. 
Set your sights low. Who needs goals...right?

TIP #2: Be afraid of taking risks. 
Want more of the same limited success? Don't risk anything. Just keep walking the exact same status-quo road.

TIP #3: Watch a lot of TV. 
Want to stay stuck? Watch TV! Undoubtedly, there will be lots of mind-draining shows on that will absolutely allow you to waste your time.

TIP #4: Act like a victim. 
It has to be somebody's fault you aren't where you want to be...right? Blame your boss for not paying you enough. Blame your spouse for you being unmotivated. Blame your parents for how you were raised. Blame the government for not having a program to help you. The reason you are stuck in life must be because of one of them!

TIP #5: Give up. 
You're too old and too broke to start over now, so don't even try. Just quit. And point fingers. And watch TV.

Click here for some better options!

For some more positivity go to

Saturday, 4 January 2014

7 bad habits to quit - if you want to get more done in 2014

What are you planning to quit in 2014? Smoking? Booze? Chocolate? I always say I could give up all three - but I'm no quitter!

But if you'd like to get more done in 2014, here are 7 bad habits you SHOULD quit, according to Californian motivational speaker and author Shawn Anderson:

HABIT #1: Quit hanging out on Facebook. 

"Facebook is a fun way to kill time," Anderson says. "But that's what it does: it kills time. Time that could be used to create, inspire and build." 

HABIT #2: Quit Keeping Up With the Kardashians.

"Filling our heads with unedifying TV doesn't do a lot to help us achieve a better life," Anderson comments. "Instead, exchange an hour of TV time to build your own dream rather than a celebrity's dream." 

HABIT #3: Quit staying up late. 

"The surest way to be unmotivated on a Monday is to stay up late on a Sunday. Want to feel energized? Watch a few more sunrises."

HABIT #4: Quit spending money you don't have. 

"Having the freedom to do what you want in life starts with not being chained down by financial obligations. Give your credit card a rest."

HABIT #5: Quit working at a job you hate. 

"Nothing saps the life out of you more than working at a job you hate. Find something else."

HABIT #6: Quit hanging out with negative people. 

"If you have people in your life who drain you of all that is positive, ask yourself 'Why in the world are they even in my life?'"

HABIT #7: Quit pointing fingers. 

"Take a massive leap forward and take responsibility for where you are in your life. It's not your boss's fault...or your spouse's...or the government's that you're not where you want to be. It's your own cause-and-effect decisions that have you sitting where you are."

"Why would we ever want to live a life that makes us unhappy?" Anderson says. "We read everywhere about what we need to do to be successful. But I believe if we just change a few of our habits, we'd be much closer to leading a life we love." Anderson continues, "Sure some of the seven items on the list may sound harsh, but if we don't stop doing them, the lousy results we will produce later will feel a lot harsher."

All sounds good to me. For more positivity from Shawn visit

Friday, 3 January 2014

Clowns - Don'tcha just love 'em?

Just trying out my new camera! (Scarily, the blink detector came on when I took this shot! Not sure which one blinked - and not sure I want to know!)