Journey through space to the Planet Fabulous, where the Ruler of the Universe will see you shortly.

Monday, November 03, 2003

Webb of Fear

My ongoing disenchantment with London drove myself and the Wife seawards this weekend, to Bournemouth, where the fashion is tartan headscarves and thermos flasks. It has all the trimmings of a gone-to-seed resort, including a raddled pier, a candy-floss stand with product so old it appears to be subsidised by the local sheep shearing industry, and only went decimal three weeks ago. Elderly denizens also favour it, earning it the moniker ‘God’s other waiting room’.


Marti Webb is a third-rate chanteuse that is brought out of storage if, heaven forefend, Elaine Page is too busy. She is not to be confused with Marti Cane, former singer-presenter of Opportunity Knocks who died of cancer a few years back. If you are going to mix up the two, do not point and back away from sea-front pantomime posters crying 'Zombie witch! Zombie witch back from the dead!’ as you will probably fall over, all while your Wife tuts and carried on eating his ice-cream.

So, Marti Webb (alive as she ever was) is currently sovereign of Bournemouth, playing the wicked queen in the production of Snow White on Bournemouth historic and wonky pier. What troubles us is the Dame Webb we know and love would never walk down the wooden walkway with the proletarians for each show. Fortunately, we were delighted to see that it was indeed beneath her, as just before a performance was to begin, we saw the diva bobbing along the surf in a speedboat to come in at the ‘stage door’ at the back of the pier. The following night we were even more astonished to see that the boat was being battered by ten-foot waves and she had to head back out to sea.

We thankfully learned she was all right, as a man with a delightful moustache that seemed to be made purely of extended nasal hair later amended the poster to read ‘Starring Marti Webb (live from Calais!) as the Wicked Queen’. Bless.

It seems that Marti has taken to the water like the proverbial duck, and can be seen on the horizon between shows on her new tuna trawler, belting out ‘Take That Look off Your Face’ from the top deck to all the errant surfers.


It transpires that Bournemouth is not really the quiet get-away we savoured. The seaside setting attracts a lot of gentlemen in ‘the entertainment and hostess industry’ – indeed, the whole staff at our luxury hotel were firmly on our bus; if you placed your hands to any wall within the building, it hummed with that special frequency that makes you think, “You know, I could just bake a cake...” You couldn’t swing a handbag in town without hitting a couple of them.

The Wife tried. He got slapped.

Anyway, I’d managed to book us a table in Bournemouth’s premiere mary nightspot, Rubyz. And it was fantastic. It serves a three-course meal with a juicy side of drag queen. It’s genius! The wine flowed, the singing started, and before long, the whole place was just swaying and doing the ‘why-why-whyyyyyyyyyy Delilah!’s so loudly that we raised the satin Bedouin tent of a roof.

We got chatting to the girls on the next table, who were all here on their first night out after dropping a child each (although not in a Louise Woodward manner). They’d all met in the birthing pool, it seems, a unique and personable way to be introduced to people with your legs in the air (Gertie, take note). Over that way was a hen party in full swing, a riotous time had by all on alco-pops and trying to get way too friendly with the waiters. The Wife popped to the toilet at one point, he came back to find these ill-mannered reprobates draped around me going “We’re your Bond Girls! Na-hahahahaha!” and taking picture after picture for some Argos family album.

It transpired that the woman getting married had a brother. Who was also a drag queen. He arrived during the last part of the set in a fabulous wedding dress, dragged her up on stage and sung It Should Have Been Me. I cried with laughter.

After this, the tables were pushed back and the dancing started. It emerged that most of the ladies in the room hadn’t clocked that the Wife and I were of the mary flavour (despite knowing all the words to the Cher songs the drag was belting out). It also transpired that they’d all seen too much Will and Grace and all wanted a gay best friend of their very own, and he and I were swept along the dancefloor all evening, passed from girl to girl who wanted to know the moves to Tragedy, whether we’d feel her breasts as she’d just had a boob job and wanted to know whether they were good, how to please her man in bed (‘Give him to me,’ is the most honest answer) and all other things that we were at liberty to impart.

Then came the usual ‘So, we couldn’t turn you?’ debate after the third bottle of wine. The correct answer is ‘No, but I love what you’ve done with your hair,’ leaving them distracted yet sated. Honestly, that show will be our downfall.


Rubyz also owns a club. Do not, under any circumstances, go. It was so full it took a full five minutes to push past people to get to the coat queue, chock-full of heaving masses of hair gel, swaying bodies pressed against each other. We stayed long enough to put one foot on the dance floor (the other, accidentally on the Wife’s) for a verse of Kylie’s Slow, and then shrugged and got our coats again.

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