Currently reading : Andrew Logan picks his favourite outfits from the Alternative Miss World
The Alternative Miss World was started in London in 1972 by artist Andrew Logan. Rejecting the usual categorisations of what a vanity contest usually involves, Logan created these competitions to celebrate the endless possibilities of transformation rather than examining idealised concepts of beauty.
Existing for an impressive forty two years, the competition has hosted a selection of London’s most exhilarating and raw subculture. From Derek Jarman to Leigh Bowery, Divine, David Hockney, David Bailey, Judy Blame, John Maybury and Brian Eno; pioneers of late 20th century culture have either judged, been judged or simply gone to party at Logan’s carefully curated and flamboyant parties. Now in 2014, Logan will be presenting us with the 13th competition at Shakespeare’s Globe, so to celebrate we went to his studio to have a chat about some of his favourite ever costumes created for the competition.
Can you talk to us about some of your favourite outfits. Not necessarily for the performance, more the clothing?
God, there’s so many of them! I’ll start with Burnel Penhaul as Miss Gale Force Wind in 1991. Burnel was known as the ‘Transformer’. He was an extraordinary man, he didn’t drink, he didn’t smoke, he did have a lot of sex though which was the problem; he was HIV ‘group’, as it was back then as HIV didn’t exist.
What year was this?
Late 80s, I suppose. So for a while he was ok and then he got worse and worse and all his friends said you must do something about it, which he did, but by then it was too late. He passed away in hospital.
That’s terrible, what was his outfit that he wore?
As ‘Miss Gale Force Wind’ he had a series of extraordinary outfits. He was a contemporary of Leigh Bowery. He was a very modest, quiet man but he loved dressing up. So ‘Miss Gale Force Wind’ consisted of a 12ft column with shoes about 2ft, he was very tall and then at the top of the column he had a headpiece and then had a headdress above that.
Did he have any skills in fashion design or was he self taught?
Self-taught totally. I tried to get him involved in theatre and I just couldn’t. He would only transform himself, that’s why he was called the ‘Transformer’. However, he was good with gay pride and did mad things for mobile telephone advertising like dressing up as a mobile telephone.
How long was he dressing up for, was it something that he’d done since very young?
Yes, since he came to London. I met him through the Alternative Miss World in 1991.
Was that the first one he was in?
Yes. He was new, had just arrived in London, he entered and he won as ‘Miss Gale Force Wind’. He was extraordinary, all of his outfits were. Talking of strong images and influence, in ‘The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’ film, the costume were Burnel down to a tee. They copied Burnel. ‘Priscilla, Queen of the Desert’ was inspired by the Alternative Miss World. The stage show even more so after it was brought to London. It was like seeing lots of Burnel’s and by then, I think he’d died.
So when did he pass away?
2002, aged 34, so he was very young. It was sad. He was a brilliant man and that was a very outstanding outfit.
How long did it take for him to make it?
He never stopped making. His council flat was covered in glitter and glue, feathers and you name it. He was down the clubs all the time, parading up and down the queues sometimes. Then he started to drink his own urine, which was interesting.
It’s supposed to be very healthy. That’s what you see in the 1995 film of the Alternative Miss World , you see him drinking his own urine as part of his performance.
Fantastic. So you’ve got his actual outfits now, as well?
No, I thought he was such a genius and I realised that he was not going to be known like Leigh Bowery, so a bit like Lucian Freud painted Leigh, I did portraits of Burnel.
What other outfits stick out in your mind that you really loved?
‘Miss Aldershot’ (Michael Haynes) of course, 1981. He came on with the Irish Guards. The catwalk was 250 ft long. He came out as Miss Aldershot with this 1940s hairdo and it was quite extreme.
What was the dress like that he wore?
The daywear was like… with the boots and things and this amazing hairdo. He was tattooed all over, like a body stocking.
What sort of tattoos did he have?
They were all done on bodysuits, they weren’t actually tattoos. Grayson [Perry] did biro drawings on his girlfriend’s body (of the Binnie Sisters) once which was quite similar for one of the competitions, it took him hours. She spent all day wearing what looked like tattoos but were actually done with biro.
Anyway, Miss Aldershot wore this huge green dress, like a doll. We had a cherry picker as the throne and Miss Aldershot couldn’t fit in so we had to shove him in. There’s a wonderful picture with this crinoline in the air. He was marvellous.
Was it all created by himself?
Yes. He was part of the Mutoid Waste company. He did a lot of work with the Burning Man festival in America.
What other costumes did you like?
All the contestants were fantastic. In the last contest I loved Fancy Chance’s third outfit when she came on she came out on this huge silver crinoline, ten or twelve feet tall, and then the crinoline lifted up and underneath was her boyfriend. It was like a Jules Vern submarine, it was all lots of green bubbles and cogs and things.
She also had another outfit where the crinoline came up and then she was hoisted up into the air by her hair.
How did she do that?
The hook was tied to her hair. It was called the ‘hair lift’ in the performance circuits.
Did she train in body modification?
She’s from Korea and they have very strong hair. She’s a very light thing, she’s not big.
Which costumes stick out to you from the earlier shows?
My sister Janet has done every one, Miss Handled, that’s the one Divine was in 1978 in a circus tent on Clapham Common. She came as Miss Handed and she had all these hands all over her black outfit.
And she made that?
No her friend who worked in the theatre did, she’s been in every show since 1972.
Is she going to be in the next one?
Yes, she is
I know, it is amazing. It was like a dress with hands all over it. Funnily enough, it got copied in Paris. It was quite Schiaparelli but a bit more. I think someone had seen it and done it up. I think it was Duggie Fields who’d seen it. In 1981, when Stephen Jones made something, all of the looks ended up in Paris.
What did Stephen Jones do and wear?
He dressed Miss Mash, ‘Miss Potato, Miss Mash’. She was very glamorous and went on stage with some chips. That was a good one.
What happened between the first Alternative Miss World and 1981 in terms of time spans, how many shows between that. What happened in 1986?
In 1986 we put on The Earth Show when we were supposed to do it in Chislehurst caves but got banned by the police
I think they thought people were going to go to the toilet and that the AIDS virus was going to go down the drains and pop up in people’s houses. A shame as it was planned very well with lots of research so that the contestants had the appropriate sized costumes so that they fitted in the tunnels. They could only go to a certain size.
Was there ever an apology to the police about the banning?
No. When we premiered ‘The Alternative Miss World’ film in Leicester Square in 1980, Divine went round and round and round the square and eventually stopped and ran inside the cinema in his white dress.
Why did he run in?
Because the police wouldn’t let him stop
Because we hadn’t bribed them. You had to pay police. In the end they ended up by arresting Miss Piss, we did a party at the Empire bar afterwards, fabulous party. She came out and was arrested by the police.
What was their reason for the arrest?
Public nuisance or something. Basically the police hadn’t been paid. Hopefully that’s changed now, in some circles. Police are very much on edge, you’re either criminal or your police, there’s not much difference between the two.
What did Miss Piss wear?
1978 Alternative Miss World, she came out with a potty and pissed into the potty. She had teeth roll (?) blacked in on everything. She was very popular with some and very unpopular with most.
How old was she in the show?
Mid to late twenties.
Why was she interested in pissing in particular?
I don’t know. If she’s around, perhaps you could ask her. What I’d like to do one day is do a book just on the outfits, as I have all the archive. People say to do it online but you need something physical. There are so many fantastic outfits. It would be wonderful to have a big picture with the name of the person next to it, just to keep. Perhaps, one day. I’d love to do it.
You can buy tickets for the next Alternative Miss World on October the 18th here
Watch the entirety of I Wanna Be A Beauty Queen, a documentary about the contest on YouTube here: