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All in the Best POSSIBLE Taste!


Time for an update: I still use film, though. Not vast quantities, but I have a darkroom, and I'm not afraid to use it.

I enjoy every image I take: I hope you'll enjoy looking at them.
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All in the Best POSSIBLE Taste!

26 Dec 2020 8:21AM   Views : 583 Unique : 360


Those of a certain age will remember Kenny Everett’s outrageous creation, Cupid Stunt (and if you don’t, have a look on YouTube!) The catchphrase was that it’s all done in the best possible taste, though it was rather the opposite. If you don’t think the name is funny, you probably shouldn’t watch…

There’s a tendency to think that everything should be tasteful these days: Christmas lights should be fashionably of one colour, rather than the variegated sizes and shapes I remember from my childhood. And I want to make a case for tastelessness – not as the norm, but as an antidote to the Hyacinth Bucket tendency that the Daily Mail encourages. It’s a way of staying young at heart and flexible in thinking: a way to counter intellectual sclerosis.

In films, I have generally quite odd taste (I’m told) – everything Peter Greenaway has done fascinates me on the arty side: the high point of his work may well be Prospero’s Books, a version of The Tempest with every line spoken by Sir John Gielgud, and more nudity than you can shake a wardrobe of dressing gowns at. But sometimes the unarty has its place, too.


The Dutch director Paul Verhoven is not noted for his restraint in action movies, and I want to make a case for Showgirls, scripted by Joe Eszterhas (famous for Basic Instinct) being better than its status as winner of a record 7 Golden Raspberry Awards suggests. Set in Las Vegas, it follows the rise, fall and departure of a stripper, and includes a singularly unkind picture of the top end of Vegas shows and their backers. In the end, the despised heroine kicks seven kinds of brickdust out of a rock god who mistreated her friend, and leaves town. She’s gutsy, honest, and a good mate. Subsequently, the film has achieved cult status and been re-evaluated by some critics and film makers. Anyway, I like it.

Among photographic books, Bad Girls Hotel enjoys a similar cult status.

All the images were shot in the Carlton Arms Hotel in New York. The introduction to the book says ‘nobody in their right mind would ever stay there’ – though it doesn’t explain why. Apparently, it was popular with tourists. Currently, the rate is $80 a night for two guests. No room service, no TV, no elevator.

The big plus is that each of the tiny rooms was decorated by a different artist: and the artwork tends towards the brain-melting. Some might give you nightmares, others, sweet, sweet dreams. That would be a good reason to shoot there. With a wideangle lens: the rooms are around ten feet square.


And the girls. They are colourful, uninhibited, and often tattooed. They match the rooms, and often are juxtaposed with the decorations in a way that is completely different from Verushka’s playful painted nudes (something to look up there. I have the book, from a very long time ago).

Dancers, escorts, waitresses: and, apparently, the occasional medical student (I don’t know which one, sorry: but she’ll be established as a GP or registrar somewhere by now!) Every one is an extrovert, though some of them are quieter about it than others.


Coulter shot with a fisheye lens and corrected distortion in editing – this was in the relatively-early days of digital. The result is a book that lies confusingly between porn (where some of Coulter’s models normally work) and high art, with many subjects suffering from what Kathy Lette describes as ‘margarine legs’. You might not want to stay at the Carlton Arms: some of you might prefer not to know that the place exists. But if Lou Reed’s Walk on the Wild Side has a shady sexy vibe for you, you might want to look Coulter up. The books are out of print, and secondhand copies are rare, possibly expensive.

But beware of imitation… What works once, for one person, doesn’t work repeatedly, and may not work for anyone else. Coulter has a website, based on the success of Bad Girls Hotel and the earlier Crazy Babe. Mining the same seamy seam doesn’t work in the long term (I feel). Similarly, Showgirls came out in the same year as Strip Tease, from Carl Hiaasen’s book of the same name (which is funny in the extreme), with some similar themes. Trying hard to be heart-warming, while playing on having a wholesome star getting her kit off (Demi Moore in this case, as a single mother trying to keep it classy, rather than Elizabeth Berkley taking things way downmarket, who’d made her name in a family TV show), it failed, and with less aplomb than Verhoven’s film.


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dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2064 England
26 Dec 2020 8:23AM
The bio page is from Coulter's earlier book, Crazy Babe: and that leaves you with three options:

1 get a fisheye lens, shoot inappropriate subjects with it, and correct out most of the distortion in editing;
2 book a hotel in New York; or
3 book a crazy model.

I promise a return to better taste tomorrow.
kaybee Avatar
kaybee 19 8.7k 29 Scotland
26 Dec 2020 9:59AM
Taking all 3 choices could make for a very entertaining book - film - life.
AltImages Avatar
AltImages 3 4
26 Dec 2020 10:15AM
I haven't heard of the film or the book. But as you said they sound to be a breath of fresh air in a world that churns out umpteen reincarnations of the same thing. In terms of books one of my lady friends bought me a book for Christmas that would likely fit into your description: the second book by Frédéric Fontenoy. He shoots what looks akin to Victorian erotica exclusively on Polaroid 55 film, that yields both a print and 5x4 negative. Every photograph has a narrative, plus elements reflected in mirrors and always things hidden in the semi shadows (such as two artists wooden posing figures doing 'things'). Here are some of his images if people dare look: [link removed by ePz]
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2064 England
26 Dec 2020 12:40PM
Thank you so much for the link, Paul - I've never heard of FF, but the images are fantastic. A year or so ago, I was looking for almost exactly that kind of image to show to a model... As I think Polaroid 55 film is long gone, these must have been taken a while back. I recall seeing somewhat similar images made more recently by a female photographer, aiming for the overheated atmosphere of a Parish 'house' in the late Nineteenth Century.

Roy - I like Showgirls because Nomi Malone is an unrepentant exploiter of her own sexual capital, and shows no regrets or guilt. So often, such films punish their characters for being sexually free: there is no escape, somehow, from the morality of the past (except for the producers).
AltImages Avatar
AltImages 3 4
26 Dec 2020 1:42PM
I had assumed that ff was using Polaroid 55, not realising that it was obsolete. I'll drop him a line and ask. As he's certainly still producing images. The use of film is no doubt what makes him a 'proper' photographer when it comes to selling photos at auction for thousands!

If you're interested here's a YouTube video that shows him producing one image - from a totally detailed sketched plan [link removed by ePz]
kaybee Avatar
kaybee 19 8.7k 29 Scotland
26 Dec 2020 2:12PM
Paul - Thank you for the links .....amazing work and an incredible attention to detail.
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2064 England
26 Dec 2020 2:44PM
And thank you for the extra link, Paul - fascinating. I note that was from 2012 (at least, that was when it was posted).

The last of the Polaroid stock expired in 2010 (which is not to say that someone may have stockpiled quantities in a freezer), and a project to develop a replacement through Kickstarter funding has, apparently, folded. I must admit that I thought that production had been over much longer than that...
altitude50 Avatar
altitude50 19 24.1k United Kingdom
26 Dec 2020 5:52PM
Following 'Showgirls' Gina Gershon who plays Cristal in the film appeared in 'Bound' a good 'noir' style crime film with some good acting and interesting twists. Worth looking for.
handlerstudio Avatar
26 Dec 2020 6:17PM
I am a great fan of Carl Hiassen...and loved Showgirls, both the book and movie. And yes, John, correctness and "good taste" can be exhausting at times....but then there is the ultimate in bad taste which can never be excused. He sits in the White House for a few more weeks.

saltireblue Avatar
saltireblue Plus
13 14.8k 92 Norway
26 Dec 2020 7:03PM
John - apologies, but we have removed two external links to sites showing adult content.
Blogs are open to all, including junior members and guests of all ages and we have to restrict what is linked to externally, as blogs cannot be made adult only.
AltImages Avatar
AltImages 3 4
26 Dec 2020 7:47PM
John, I've had a reply back from Frédéric Fontenoy. I was right about him using Polaroid 55.

Here's what he wrote: "Yes, all my work is in Polaroid 55, they stopped producing it in 2009... But I still have some left Wink And then I will go onto Polaroid 665... I have a lot of that Wink"
dudler Avatar
dudler Plus
20 2.2k 2064 England
26 Dec 2020 8:00PM
Malc - apologies. I should have realised, of course.

Peter - I felt that the movie lacked Hiaasen's light touch: some of the humour works only on the page, or with a clunky voice-over. And the detective was seriously miscast: in the book he's podgy and not at all like Armand Assante!

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