The Birthday Party – Nick The Stripper (1981)
I’m including Nick the Stripper because it is a critical component to the premise set forth in the essay ‘Nick Cave, dance performance, and the production and consumption of masculinity’ by Laknath Jayasinghe — in Cultural Seeds: Essays on the Work of Nick Cave, edited by Karen Welberry. (Jayasinghe’s essay is Chapter 4, p. 65, for those who own the book. For those who do not, you may read it online HERE.)
Yesterday, I posted an interview wherein Nick Cave says that he read ‘Cultural Seeds’ and didn’t agree with the essay that characterizes his movements ‘as gay’. I disagree with Mr. Cave in that I don’t think the essay offers a simplified conclusion that his dancing style ‘is gay’. In fact, the author’s premise is provocative and well thought out, and I agree with much of what he writes. For me, the essay’s omission of representative material from Nick’s Bad Seeds years is problematic in any discussion about Nick’s dancing and performance style.
Further, I am troubled that Mr. Jayasinghe reads/characterizes Cave and Howard’s onstage interactions as specifically and intentionally homoerotic while, in the same textual space, he reads/ characterizes Cave’s and Bargeld’s later interactions as normative behavior between male friends. That was my WTF moment and things caved in from there (sorry). I am in the process of writing a longer response but I wanted to get this much of it posted for those who’ve expressed interest in this subject. Here is the relevant paragraph from Jayasinghe essay, ‘Nick Cave, dance performance and the production and consumption of masculinity’:
When viewed within and through the prism of Oz rock culture’s strident heterosexuality and, relatedly, through its subtle homophobia, the kiss functions as an element of gender and sexual transgression. Yet this particular homoerotic kiss is not merely a performance strategy whose purpose is ‘shock value’. In his later performances with the Bad Seeds, Cave often kissed guitarist Blixa Bargeld on the lips, a measure of the mutual respect and admiration between these two friends… [To] contemporary viewers of the clip, as well as those who viewed it upon its initial release, such an act between the two rock musicians largely renders Australian version of male heterosexuality strange. A kiss between Cave and Howard queers the hegemony of a more stridently masculinised Australian rock mainstream (Jayasinghe 72).
I’ll be back soon. 😉 The action cited from Nick the Stripper occurs at time points 3:20-3:54.
NICK THE STRIPPER NOTES:
The Nick the Stripper promo was directed by Paul Goldman and Evan English (edited by John Hillcoat) and shot in Melbourne-Camberwell on 25 Februrary 1981. I found a blog entry by Sam Sejavka (The Ears) who attended the shoot and was filmed. However the segment was not included in the final edit. Sam’s recollections:
I turned up at the Birthday Party’s film clip shoot at the Hawthorn Tip. There were fires burning in a pit bordered by a murky lake, which in turn was bordered by a great sandstone cliff. Bubbles of methane spurted from the surface of the lake, gallows and crucifixes were set up on mounds. I watched for hours until finally – on heroin and booze – I decided I wanted to swim in the lake. I stripped and Troy covered me in body paint. I made my way out to a bathtub, in which they filmed me, as I danced …
It was a filthy night, and the occasion of my most unsanitary injection ever – squatting on the putrid ground of the dump, by the light of one of their witch-fires… Simone was with me. Yet I wonder, where did the gear come from?
To my great chagrin, the bathtub dance never made it into the clip. Apparently, I was too far away for it to be effective … I should just have been thankful that I did not die from tetanus, or hepatitis… GO TO ORIGINAL
- Sam Sejavka, Sails of Oblivion Blog [entry dated 22 Dec 2007].
- The Birthday Party Videography (From the Archives)