The Legend of Leigh Bowery

Theme week!

Recently I’ve enjoyed passing on filmic oddities that I’ve stumbled across so I thought I’d make more of a concerted effort to hunt such things down. All this week I’ll be showing documentary videos – some you may have seen, others hopefully not.

I was reminded of today’s subject the other day when I cycled past a gallery opening just in time to see Eva and Adele making their entrance. The duo bill themselves as a living work of art, a claim which few in the modern era can more justly brandish than the late, brilliant Leigh Bowery, the boy from Sunshine, Australia.

There’s such a surfeit of riches in Charles Atlas’s 2002 documentary The Legend of Leigh Bowery. Central to it all, of course, are Bowery’s mind-blowingly inventive costumes, the product of a world-class couturier with a clientele of one. Nightmarish, grotesque, obscene, operating so far outside the framework of costuming convention in their construction, intent and effect as to form some separate artform with – again – a single exponent.

The Salvation Army, The Fall, Gary Glitter, Boy George, Mr Pearl, Lucian Freud, terrifying nightclubs, even more terrifying daytime TV, the art of getting ready and the best manager Burger King never had: much of life is here. Best of all are the interviews with Bowery’s lovely, bewildered family, especially his father’s gift for understatement: “I think,” he says at one point, “Leigh was probably a little bit more complex than we knew.”

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11 comments

  1. I’ve seen this film a few times, it truly astounds and occasionally disturbs. Your description of Bowery’s art/life is spot on. This is a must-see for anyone who is interested in what’s beyond the pale. Great post!

  2. oh my god i love Leigh Bowery so much

  3. -From a (presumably) free ride to college to working at a Burger King? That’s reality smacking a middle class kid in the face. I wonder what he did for money after that. On second thought, no, haha.

    -The interviews with his peers are gems. Boy George *wishes* he was Leigh; Michael Clark has not aged a day. And was Rachel Auburn tipsy or shy?

    -The Queen’s solicitor defending a cottaging charge is something I would have to see to believe. Is it actually true?

    -The first time I saw Leigh was in “Wigstock,” where he did his birthing routine, and only thinking about it now after seeing the way he treated his ‘child’ is it a little disturbing. The poor dear. I guess she knew what bargained for.

    -Who else has a burning need to know Leigh’s middle name?

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