29 March 2010

Icons of our time - Action Man.

Born the same year England won the world cup, Action Man is the one toy it's largely acceptable for grown men to enjoy, I'm not sure about actually play with, but just enjoy.
There's no denying it, this twelve inch hero is one cool cat. I'm talking about the original one here - if there was ever any doubt, not the gay new fictitious moulded plastic 'hi-tech' ones.
The original concept was the first of it's kind - a fully poseable 'artist's dummy' style action figure. The first figures available to the UK market were all based on genuine members of the combined armed forces - soldiers, sailors and pilots coming complete with replica issued uniforms and accessories and each containing a dog tag. Until 1970 he was moulded with painted hair, and then we saw the introduction of his realistic flocked hair based on a typical crew cut, in dark brown and blonde. Some even came with facial hair, this was mainly used to add an edge of realism to the adventurer and explorer versions, there was even a footballer introduced with larger sideburns, probably based on George Best.
With a blue, doe eyed demeanour, grabbing hands - introduced in 1973, 'eagle eyes' - introduced in 1976, each Action Man had seemingly been in the same unfortunate incident and bared the same large scar across his right cheek. These were a very realistic toy, and pretty revolutionary at the time of release. Extremely well crafted and built to last, these figures were in no way scrimping on cheap manufacturing costs, over thirty years later many have stood the test of time and are now highly collectable with the real older rarities fetching pretty serious money.

Produced by Palitoy in Coalville, Leicestershire for nearly twenty years, this poseable figurine was manufactured as a direct licensed copy of America's highly successful Hasbro produced "All Action GI -Joe" figure.
As an eighties kid my toy box was full of the usual stuff, anything from ET, He Man and of course Star Wars figures, I loved all that stuff, especially every one's least favourite installment of the original trilogy The Return of The Jedi, try telling a five year old that Jabba and all his crazy cronies and the Ewoks were not the best thing in the world, I had loads of them. However, I dare say the less familiar GI Joe or Action Force as it was known in Blighty were my true favourites, these were kind of like the small scale version of the Action Man, which by their first release around 1982 had all but replaced the original larger Action Man but each one, good guy or bad bared his original face - complete with sensible hair and of course the trademark scar. Around four inches in height and restricted with stiff arms and legs which didn't become bendy until a few years later, these were introduced as direct competition to the hugely successful Star Wars toys. Not fussy, I tended to lumber them all in together and made Jedi's go head to head with Cobra. I'd spend hour upon hour making them batter each other senseless as they went to war in makeshift bases, hideouts and headquarters anywhere from my bedroom to the living room floor and the back garden in summer time with all it's vast open space, secret nooks and crannies which became streams and trenches and the pre mowed lush green lawn, a perfect substitute for a deep blue ocean.
I'd not be surprised if whoever lives where I grew up is still finding a 'Yak Face' or a 'Duke', or maybe a 'Zartan' and a 'Weequay', whilst tending to their borders.
Having an older brother who was a seventies kid, he was more used to the original Action Man, and had actually saved a couple of his figures in boxed condition for my brother and I when we were old enough and responsible enough to play with them. I can recollect a Sunday drive into the hills to some park, up Derbyshire way, Buxton perhaps, or maybe it was Glossop, somewhere which had more swings, a stream and a bigger slide than the local park we'd normally be happy with. We pretty much destroyed them that day, within days of being given them, an adventure within an adventure, one which ended in tragic curcumstances for old Action Man. I can remember dropping mine off that large slide I mentioned, and breaking both of his legs to the point of unrepair. These had sat happily boxed on top of our kid's wardrobe for several years, and we had written them (and any future collectible gain) off, within a week of getting our grubby little mits on them.
I think my enjoyment of the smaller scale version of Action Man led me to not fully enjoy the big, proper version of him in all his glory, I can still hardly put his little roll neck pullover on now, and that brings back instant memories of a frustrated childhood where I'd rather just take Han Solo or Super Trooper out in my arse pocket than piss about trying to clothe that big daft action man who's arms were now the wrong way around because his jumper and smock wouldn't hang properly, and his special 'grabbing hands' kept falling off, not to mention his plus fours snagging on his by now, backward little kneecaps.
So, as an older chap I can fully appreciate the true aesthetic of our old trusty pal, I'd say they are there simply for admiring, sat static on a shelf, abseiling from the picture rail or climbing up a Yucca, rather than throwing around the concrete of the local park and muddy streams of the local wastelands re-enacting The Heroes of Telemark.
Of course playing army goes hand in hand with any normal childhood, but there's one model who's greater than them all, forget the Royal Guards, Snipers, SAS frogmen and Red Arrow pilots, for me and I'd expect many others, it's the iconic Mountaineer, Adventurer/Explorer who is the coolest thing on the planet, his facial hair gives him the edge, an edge that says, he's been there, seen it and done it, his orange smock, rucksack and boots are not a million miles away from anything yours typing would happily wear himself, if so without further ado, I'll stop going on about it, and you can just look at him...

Excellent photos from a fellow flickr

Action Man's early 80's small scale replacement.

Hat, Adidas trainers and The Casual Connoisseur's nod to the great man.

Original boxes, annual and instructions.

Action Man HQ

28 March 2010

Faconnable by Albert Goldberg.

As mentioned down there, I recently got hold of this yachting coat by Faconnable, I'm not too sure when this was first released but I'd say the late 80's early 90's would sound about right. Designed by Albert Goldberg who ran the label from 1961 - 2000 and who's father Jean founded the brand via his Nice tailoring store in 1950, that's Nice as in the Gallic city as opposed to just being a nice little tailors. I've got the same one in slightly different colours and it's a nice piece (sincere apologies for just calling a jacket a piece) you won't see another, I've only ever seen that one three times and I had all three of them.
Whilst it's pretty fruity and sure to turn off as many people as it might turn on, I think this is an ace coat, with a technicolour appearance Joseph himself would probably think is amazing, a good over sized hood, and simple branding, and the one time the orange and red, carrots and ketchup combo actually work together, it's the perfect coat for summer. And I'm one of those peculiar people who'll still wear a coat when it's absolutely sweltering. Perfect for beer gardens, seaside strolls, and canal walks but perhaps not on Canal Street.

26 March 2010

Recent Pick-ups.

Here's a mixed bag of buys over the last month or so.

Faconnable vintage Yachting coat by Albert Goldberg. You can see more about this later whether you want to or not.

Kangol Herringbone 504 tweed cap, 'flat caps are gay/Millwall/stupid blah, blah, blah' I don't care, my head's receding and I've got more hats than Christy's hat factory, besides my Grandad was wearing flat caps before anyone south of the river, and he was cool as fuck.

Vintage untouched 80's Izod Lacoste bucket hat in pale yellow with daft over sized croc, this looks like something Clark Griswold might go fishing in, so for that reason I'm in.

I must have had about a dozen vintage Peter Storm cagoules, and I can't help reverting back to them every now and again, especially in a nice not seen very often yellow. I just like the simplicity of them when all layered up, not to mention that Keith Pratt steez.

Dickies California Selvedge, there's always time for some new denim, and these are pretty cool, you may have seen them crop up in blogland already. Made on vintage looms in Japan from the finest Zimbabwean cotton by a proper old school American heritage brand - this is a jean with a bit of quality and authenticity about it. I don't think these are even available to buy yet and I was lucky enough to bag a pair. I can't wait to break them in.
Sometimes a Lacoste polo is the most generic and obvious thing in the world, but sometimes the most generic and obvious thing in the world is exactly what you want, especially with a bit of sun threatening to pop out soon.

Uniqlo no wale cords, which is kind of a corduroy without the ridge, cord, erm 'Wale'. They were under a fiver in the sale and do a job. So I'm a 36" what of it? I like crisps. They are small fitting.

And a YMC Angling jacket, I've had one of these before in a sickly shade of blue, this is a much nicer colour and can even be turned into it's own pac-a-mac if that floats your boat.
Join me next month when I've sold and then bought loads more fascinating shit.

23 March 2010

From Stockport to Spain in a battered Cortina.

The 1982 World Cup, Espa├▒a'82. Kevin Keegan, Brian Robson, Trevors' Brooking and Francis, Kenny Samson, Bulldog Bobby et al. A World Cup with such illustrious fellow finalists as Honduras, Kuwait, El Salvador and New Zealand, a World cup featuring Scotland and Northern Ireland too.
A world cup which also saw participating teams of the now 'defunct' combined states of The Soviet Union, Yugoslavia and Czechoslovakia taking part. And a World cup where England fans were still very much happy to be 'British' flying the Union Jack, during a time of huge British patriotism, not a year after over six hundred thousand people lined the streets of London, with street parties in the suburbs, to wave the said flag at the Royal Wedding of Charles and Diana. Not to mention a certain conflcit with Argentina in The Falklands starting the same year.
The England kit had as much bright red on it as it did royal blue, this being before the very noticeable shift to the exclusive St George transition which we are used to now.

The journey begins leaving Stockport, Cheshire. England, in an already battered Mark 3 Ford Cortina in a lovely 1970's shade of shit sage green. The boot's lock is secured by string and not a key, the front wing's been obliterated by Calais. A road trip to Spain and back, hundreds of miles via the English Channel and the whole of France. Five lads in a car is a tight squeeze, so I'd imagine just getting there in one piece was high on the agenda far more importantly than getting there in comfort.

Five Stockport County fans set out on the long journey across Europe, including the eccentric 'Captain Beefheart', a real character at Edgeley Park, no longer with us and now part of fan folklore, whom I remember myself from the terraces of the Popular Stand and Railway End. Tales of his travels and table manners leave a lot to be desired, but that's another story, for another time.
Dressed in typical teacher attire, tweed coat, shirt, trousers, specs and shoes, and huge sideburns not unlike oddball racing pundit John McCririck. The captain travelled everywhere with club and country, in a time when there was no real segregation, everyone was lumbered in together, and it was mostly young men, and most with a penchant for hooliganism. Not your stereotypical England fanatic, and certainly not one to delve into seat throwing territory, obviously, but there is an old chant at our place about him 'kicking a copper' at Barnsley. So who knows? an unlikely rebel if ever there was one.
The captain can be seen in the pictorial book A Casual Look stood in amongst England's heritage check and designer labelled real hardcore at a midweek trip to Warsaw in the late 80s.

I don't have a story to go along with, but shamelessly borrowed these photos from Facebook and thought they'd be worth sharing, I'm sure you can imagine what sort of trip this was, the height of summer, alcohol, heat, blood, sweat and tears and a knackered car on the road for hours upon hours. England were as usual, in time honoured fashion eliminated too early, after victories against France, Czechoslovakia and Kuwait. Ron Greenwood's England side were typically denied a place in the Semi's by those pesky Germans. And yes, the battered Cortina made it back in one piece.
England 2 Czechoslovakia 0

Bilbao, and one of the most polluted rivers in Europe (then)

car problems.
...more car problems.

21 March 2010

Interview with Roger Sloman.

Just last night I sat up in my usual insomniatic state watching an old VHS of Rik Mayall's Kevin Turvey - The Man Behind the Green Door. In this, we see the ever reliable on screen 'bastard' familiar character that was actor Roger Sloman playing a maniacal Park Keeper. A familiar face of 80s British television.
Anyway, I'm a sucker for those British 'kitchen sink' and realist dramas, Ken Loach does them very, very well, as does Mike Leigh, and it's in his cult 1976 'play for today' Nuts In May - one of my top five films ever, that could be considered Roger Sloman's finest hour. Being a bearded and slightly balding veggie myself, I perhaps have a little bit too much in common for my own liking with the star of the show, Keith Pratt, played by Sloman, one half of a hippy, trendy couple on a camping holiday in Dorset. An unlikely icon if ever there was one Keith Pratt is uptight, intolerable and fussy, yet unfathomably cool, to me any how. So yeah, last night's crap late night viewing prompted me to dig up this interview from my pals at Proper Magazine issue 5, the interview and following piece was scribed by Neil Summers.

Alison Steadman, Roger Sloman and Mike Leigh, taking a break on location.

The name Roger Sloman probably won’t mean much to you unless you’re a bit of a TV geek or like me he’s one of your heroes. Though once you see his face you’ll go ‘oh yeah him, oh God what was he in?’. The reason for me holding Roger in such high esteem is not for his sterling performance as Mr Foster in the glory days of Grange Hill nor his short but sweet cameo appearances in the Young Ones, Ripping Yarns, Blackadder or Bottom. No, the reason I love Roger so much is because in 1976 he played the male lead in a unique piece of tele-visual drama, namely the Mike Leigh play for today ‘Nuts In May’. His performance as neurotic civil servant Keith alongside his down-trodden wife Candice-Marie (played equally as brilliantly by Alison Steadman) is for me a land-mark in British comedy character acting. Until you have seen a man in a woollen polo-neck sweater threatening to knock a Brummy glam-rocker’s block off with a log before breaking down in tears you really haven’t seen anything. As some people divide the population into those that have taken acid and those that haven’t I decide on who I’m going to be friends with by dividing them into two categories, namely ‘those that find Nuts In May funny as fuck’ and ‘those that watch it for about half an hour without managing so much as a smirk’ with the former being the ones I just to share my crate of Koppaberg/future with. So any-way, that’s who Roger Sloman is, you know him even if you think you don’t and here are some questions the legend very kindly took time out to answer for us.

The character you played in Nuts In May ‘Keith Pratt’ is without a doubt one of the funniest people to have ever graced our screens. How did you come up with all his neurotic traits and obsessive quirks?
As with all Mike Leigh plays there is a process that builds a character. I started out with someone I knew and added bits as we went along.Before Nuts in May Keith and Candice Marie were in a stage play called Wholesome Glory and a lot of the traits and quirks were in place before we started in Dorset.

I also have to say Alison Steadman’s ‘Candice Marie’ is a similarly wonderful character, was it difficult keeping a straight faces doing scenes together? Have you worked with Alison since?
Alison and I always stayed pretty much in character while we were working but there were times when we cracked up afterwards. I have worked with Alison again in a great series called 'The Missing Postman'

The play itself has genuine cult status, are you aware of just how popular it is?
I'm still surprised by the cult status. This year I was invited to a Nuts in May theme party and a lot of people can quote the dialogue. Some Bournemouth film students toured the locations.

What was working with Mike Leigh like? How much of the script was ad-libbed?
Mike Leigh is a remarkable director. I enjoyed every minute. The film was improvised and a script was devised but there were still a few sections improvised on camera.

The scene where Keith loses the plot and attacks ‘Finger’ with a large branch before having a mini-breakdown is quite possibly THE funniest thing I have ever had the pleasure of seeing, how did you manage to make his emotional outburst so convincing and did it take a long time to shoot?
Keith loses the plot because he is backed into a corner and can find no way out but to confront Finger head on which he would rather not do. Having crossed the line it overwhelms him. The sequence had been rehearsed and was shot quite quickly.

Thirty years on, what do you think Keith Pratt would be doing now?
Thirty years on Keith is probably still at the DHSS in a consultancy capacity. Still involved with the Environment but his views don't seem so unusual now. And of course he is as popular as ever with his neighbours!

You’ve got one of the most recognisable faces in the UK, does everyone you meet act like they know you?
Some people recognise me and I have some very nice chats with people.

In a lot of your roles you’ve played people who seem to have quite a short temper, are you anything like that in real life? What things tend to wind you up?
I don't think I have a short temper but then I suppose I wouldn't. I get wound up about Traffic and Reality TV.

What are you up to at the moment and where can we see you next?
I am playing an old soldier in an upcoming Foyle's War and have just been on stage in Manchester in Henry V.

Did you make any New Year’s resolutions?
I tend to have New Year intentions because they are easier and this year I am going to count my blessings!

If you've just read this and are wondering what on earth I'm going on about then find it, buy it and piss yourself laughing at it.
I'm sure it may not currently be available, and is becoming harder to find
which is just criminal. You need to watch it in full, but here are a couple of clips from the film. One and Two

18 March 2010

Nice work if you can get it.

Sometimes you see someone and envy their job, whiIst Premiership footballers and F1 drivers earn inexplicably good money to live out their boyhood dreams, film stars earn bucket loads whilst earning their stripes, whilst one or two others get paid probably very handsomely for a session with Sasha Grey and Jada Fire (look 'em up) I personally like (amateur) photography and a photographer who seems to have a good fucking time is Terry Richardson - fashion photographer from the lower East Side, NYC.
Travelling the world, snapping topless models and working for trendy 'out there' labels seems like a good way to make a living to me. This bloke seems pretty cool, albeit perhaps a little (nay a lot) kinky though, no seriously he is, the book Terryworld will show you all you need to know, and then some. He comes across as the geeky kid from school who got pretty damn lucky.
With his balding hairline, tinted specs, pork chop sidies and handlebar moustache, part geek, part rebel skater punk with a torso of tatts, teamed with the effortless trademark uniform of a white tee and flannel shirt and battered sneakers. He's rock and roll in the sense that he's been there - an ex junkie, member of a punk band and one time 'step son' to Hollywood star Angelica Huston.
Snapped it and most probably shagged it too - not only photographing some of the world's most beautiful women, most likely in the buff, he also appears to have had his merry way with a fair few of them aswell.
The antidote to glossy, glitzy fashion photography, raw, graphic, and groundbreaking, great shots without the expensive equipment. His portrait work is simple, basic and at times autobiographical. Shots of stars against a plain backdrop with little or no tinkering, as it should be, on cameras such as the Yashica T4 point and shoot, and even cheap disposable cameras. To glamorous shoots of beautiful women in stunning locations such as the current Pirelli calendar.
With a mixed bag of clients such as indie labels and magazines from Vice, Supreme, Stussy, to the likes of Penthouse, GQ, Vogue and Sports Illustrated.
Most photographers tend to stay behind the camera, but Terry Richardson kind of breaks that mould, perhaps a tad self serving at times. Sticking his face in and seemingly getting pictured with who he himself is photographing like a super fan trying to take it all in, a personal memento? or pure self indulgent, who knows? I reckon it would be hard not do the same too, if I was surrounded by cool people, the naked flesh of supermodels and hip hop honeys, and then the President of the United States, Obama himself. I just don't want to see his or anyone else's willy though.

Terry Richardson, Terry's Diary.