Sunday, 4 August 2013

where is arthur sultan, the surrey mystic?

Screengrabs from the 1978 TV film The Rutles: All You Need Is Cash
Whatever happened to Arthur Sultan, the Surrey mystic? It's a question that, probably, no one has asked in the years since The Rutles went to his secret retreat in Bognor for a weekend of Ouija board table-tapping (and the rest). We – okay, I – can imagine that after the tragic departure of Rutles manager Leggy Mountbatten for a teaching post in Australia, and the swift exit of the shocked and stunned Rutles from Bognor, Arthur might have turned to other bands: The Rolling Stones, The Who, Herman's Hermits. Or written an English version of the I-Ching based on cricketing terminology. Or even tried to levitate the local bingo hall in Woking as a protest against inferior-quality Jesus sandals flooding the hippie scene (and to raise the profile of his wholefood shop). More likely, the Maharishi of Bognor is now the billionaire owner of an online psychic hotline based in Singapore, with a 20-year-old 'paranormal investigator' (and actress) girlfriend, and a basement full of clones of himself ready to unleash on the world in the near future. 

At least there isn't such a mystery about the man behind Arthur Sultan – actor, playwright and theatre director Henry Woolf. Woolf was already a seasoned thesp in TV and film when he first performed with Eric Idle in the latter's BBC2 comedy sketch show Rutland Weekend Television in 1975 and then took on the role of Arthur Sultan in All You Need Is Cash, the fake rock doc about beat behemoths The Rutles. A veteran of the avant-garde, with a hefty dose of childhood pal Harold Pinter's kitchen sink, Woolf's on-screen performances notably also include the 1967 film adaptation of Peter Weiss's play Marat/Sade (a play that was still causing controversy and audience walk-outs when the Royal Shakespeare Company staged it in 2011) and early 70s Doctor Who baddie The Collector. For more on Woolf's sinister looks, absurdist drama and unexpectedly scary roles see Familiar Unknown.

roman muradov – a literary pen

Nine writers by Roman Muradov (from top left): Raymond Queneau, Proust, Guy De Maupassant, Chekhov, Tove Jansson, PG Wodehouse, Joris-Karl Huysmans, Nabokov, Kafka
Roman Muradov's fantastic illustration work has featured in The New Yorker, Vogue, The Wall Street Journal and Time among other publications, he's published comic art zines inspired by Italo Calvino and Raymond Roussel (and a Proustian one-pager called Remembrance Of Things Pasta styled in the manner of a Monty Python sketch), illustrated an edition of Poe's The Purloined Letter for Scout Books, and his Yellow Zine doffs the cap name-wise to the 1890s decadence-dominated literary journal The Yellow Book. More of his vintage-style drawing and influences will appear in the autumn, when the London-based Nobrow Press (which I've written about before) bring out Muradov's first graphic novel, (In A Sense) Lost & Found. In the meantime, you can see (and buy) his work on his website and tumblr, Bluebed.

Thursday, 1 August 2013

vogue magazine 1970: clothes for new druids

More from the era when mainstream magazines such Esquire and Harper's Bazaar were running articles about the occult revival, pulp top-shelf mens magazines would have witch becostumed saucepots on the cover and even hypnotists could be hip with their own chart-aimed album releases. This is from the October issue of Vogue magazine in the UK, my current favourite of the Vogue occult fashions – see also Vogue goes spooky, part 1 and part 2.

happy lughnasadh, lammas, freyfixa – the first of the harvest festivals

Kern Baby, photographed by Sir John Benjamin Stone, 1901

"Till recent years a rather common form of the revelry and thanksgiving which have ever taken place at the ingathering of the harvest was the Kern, though it has now died out everywhere except in a few Northumbrian villages.

One of the customs of the festival of Ceres, it had many local variations. It was observed in the northern part of Northumberland at the close of the reaping, not the ingathering. Immediately the sickle was laid down and the last sheaf set on end the men shouted that they had "got the kern". Then a curious image was produced – an image dressed in a white frock with coloured ribbons and crowned with corn ears – stuck on a pole, and held aloft by the strongest man of the party while the rest circled round it. Subsequently it was taken to the barn, set on high, and the merrymakers fell to on the harvest supper."
Quoted from Sir Benjamin Stone's Pictures: Records Of National Life And History (Cassell, 1904)

The kern baby – apparently headless, not a baby, and awaiting some spectral groom – a peculiarly gothic version of the traditional harvest corn dollies.