Monday, August 8, 2016

Shameless Monday Camp Explosion: So Special

Thus, the Camp sensibility is one that is alive to a double sense in which some things can be taken. But this is not the familiar split-level construction of a literal meaning, on the one hand, and a symbolic meaning, on the other. It is the difference, rather, between the thing as meaning something, anything, and the thing as pure artifice.
- Susan Sontag, Notes on Camp

By 1981, Miss Helen Reddy had been telling the strange tale of her Angie for half-a-dozen years, and by then her performance was as close to pure artifice as a profoundly sensible young Aussie woman could get.

Stunning in her lamé pantsuit, she's both a convincing storyteller and somehow entirely divorced from her macabre story; that the backup girls are working from sheet music only makes the whole thing that much engagingly odd. I also think that she picked up a tip or two from Miss Gloria Swanson when they worked on Airport 1975, for surely there's a touch or two of Norma Desmond here - effective, if possibly distracting.

Miss Reddy doesn't get enough credit. She had a solid pop career, a highly respectable number of hits, and even a (sadly curtailed) brief renaissance a few years ago. Wondering what was up more recently, I was sorry to learn that she's now a resident of the Motion Picture Country Home, that last resort sanctified by the memory of Norma Shearer (forever seeking her lost world as Mrs. Thalberg, Queen of the Lot). Reddy, it seems, is as lost to dreams, these days, as ever Angie Baby was, and it's not disrespectful, I think, to hope that she still has her radio by her side...


  1. I don't know why, but every time I see Helen Reddy I think Billie Jean King.

    1. She's definitely on that '70s femme-to-butch continuum - the one that has Karen Carpenter at one end and BJK pretty much on the other, with stops at Helen, Anne Murray, and Janis Ian en route.

      Unlike a couple of those gals, though, Helen is apparently resolutely non-Sapphist, which came as something of a surprise...

  2. I am as perplexed as to why the lovely Miss Reddy was appearing on Top of the Pops ("Live" or otherwise) in 1981 as I am by her fabulously Cruella DeVille performance... Campness abounds! Jx