Belfast Telegraph

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Eurovision no drag as Wurst proved best

By Joe Nawaz

We don't look to Europe enough over here. It's almost like we're twice removed, thanks to the shadow of that bigger Euro-septic island to the right of us.

Or when we do have a squint, as depressingly depicted on Stephen Nolan's TV show the other night, it's often with the fearful, xenophobic worry that "they" will be coming over here to take our whatevers. As self-described community leader Jim Wilson introduced us to the paradox of racist posters in east Belfast that weren't really racist, my mind drifted.

Off I went, leaving Nolan's miracle weight loss and the chuntering grind of parochial non-debate far behind, and across the North Sea to the windswept wilds of Denmark.

For it was in Copenhagen last weekend that the camper-than-my-Volkswagen-van kitschfest of Eurovision took place with a sashay, a sequin and more bad English than you'd find in our average struggling secondary school. It was compellingly brilliant – terrible songs and all – and so utterly European. If ever there was an argument against insularity and Jim Wilson, it must be Eurovision.

Question: what does it take for a guy in a fabulous frock to make it in the fickle world of international showbusiness?

Answer: depends where you're from. Over here, the simple removal of lippy, wearing of sackcloth and mindless repetition of the word "Hodor" transforms the glitziest camp act into overnight box office gold. In Austria, meanwhile, if you've got the legs for it, the right frock, and a suitable amount of facial topiary, you can win the Eurovision song contest with a rip-off of a James Bond song.

Which is exactly what the surprisingly hirsute Conchita Wurst did. It was a breathtaking moment – reducing the usually waspish Graham Norton to a soft-hearted heap.

"Maybe I'm just a sentimental old fool," he blubbed. "I know it's camp and silly, but I felt Eurovision did something important there."

The presenters were terrible, of course, that's the Eurovision tradition. One of them, Pilou Asbæk, might have been familiar to fans of fab Danish political thriller Borgen, or as Norton unkindly described him: "Pilou is an actor, not a TV presenter or a comedian – this will become clear." That's another part of the Eurovision tradition; a curmudgeonly Irishman reporting back from the front lines, forging palatable irony from the impossibly earnest Euro-antics on display. A camp firewall, if you like.

Elsewhere, Poland put on a ludicrously outdated display with Slavic Girl, all heaving bosoms and suggestive butter churning. I mean, who churns butter manually in this day and age? "Is this the same Poland who produced a Pope?" asked Norton of no one in particular.

And, of course, let's not forget Eurovision as trusty barometer of geo-political tensions. The Russian entry, while not bad, was deemed wretched by dint of the fact that Russians are currently officially terrible people.

Although, as most of the fellow Slavic states lined up to give it top marks, there was already rumblings in the media that the pesky Russians didn't like a bearded drag act up 'em.

As if homophobia was exclusively their schtick. I'll hazard a wager there were a lot of people across this great continent that didn't like what the divine Ms Wurst was up to – singing brilliantly, with a dress and a beard, but trust Eurovision to become another virtual battleground for settling old, and not so old, international scores.

And if 'big' Jim Wilson, the Newtownards Road half-pint Putin, sat at home on Saturday night spluttering on 'local' tea as a bloke in a dress won a singing contest on the telly, then so much the better.

Being witness to only kind of Belfast shooting that’s acceptable

I was dandering up towards Hill Street the other day, past Established, that hipster coffee shop on the corner, which at any sitting contains more beards than you find in your average Eurovision winning roster. It caused me to wonder that, now we've reached ‘peak-beard’, how many chaps will still be sporting them a la Brian Blessed a year from now? All this hirsute reverie caused me to stumble slap bang into a very serious looking film shoot — for the second series of The Fall, as it turned out.

A stern man in a fluorescent vest waved me across the road, like he was saving me from oncoming traffic, when really I was getting in the way of a rather dramatic looking shot. I hope I'm not giving too much away by saying Bronagh Waugh, who plays the wife of psycho Jamie Dornan, was doing a scene where she was walking and looking pained at the same time. It's a multi-tasking technique that thesps pick up in drama school, I understand. I expect all will be revealed when the second series of aar wee thriller hits the small screen.

I imagine, though, that more unpleasant things happen to women and Gillian Anderson (and Bronagh) look pained. Still, at least it took my mind of bearded men for a bit.

A weird attraction

As in Eurovision, Eastern Europe predominates in the superhuman stakes. At least according to the new Channel 4 hackumentary Man Vs Weird.

In the first instalment, comedian Simon Farnaby discovered the likes of Ivan, a nine-year-old magnetic boy ("wow – it's as if he's swallowed a magnet", said a neighbour), who could hang spoons off himself.

It seemed to be more an adhesive combination of chubbiness and clamminess that kept the cutlery there, though. Then there was Biba, who lived in a Serbian village where he lit up people's lives as a seemingly genuine human conductor.

And not the kind you wanted to take a ticket from. It was a solid, but not quite electrifying, start for the programme.

Switch on...

Games Of Thrones (Sky Atlantic): It turned up the heat with great finale. If it were a book, we'd have turned to the next chapter immediately. Oh, hang on...

Switch off...

Giro D'Italia (various): Bikes! Pink! Lycra! Fight for the Pink! In Lycra! The TV coverage proved, as many cycnics like me suspected, that the Giro was really just a quieter, pinker Twelfth.

Belfast Telegraph


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