Friday, February 22, 2008

"Burt Bacharach on Amyl Nitrate" (Benito in coversation with The Wet Spots)

(Unedited version. For Sydney Morning Herald edit click on the title above)

“Songs For Singing Swingers” by Benito Di Fonzo.

“A big problem I run into is dry rot,” says John Woods, one-half of the singing, swinging comedy duo The Wets Spots. He’s giving me tips on how to op-shop for smoking jackets. “Avoid polyester at all costs,” he adds.

The ‘sophisticated sex comedy’ of the Canadian duo first came to the attention of many through their viral video ‘Fist Me This Christmas’ which became a seasonal hit.

“It’s been a great calling card for us,” admits Cass King, the other half of the husband and wife duo on the phone between sets in Sweden. “That’s how we got gigs in South Africa and the UK, people started coming to us. The first video we did, ‘Do You Take It In The Ass,’ was downloaded almost 3,000,000 times. The Christmas one has been popular but it’s more of a specific audience the fisting audience.”

The Wet Spots combine the sweet sounds of 1930s cabaret, swinging 60s, and Cole Porter style tunes with comic-erotic tales of their bi-sexually polyamorous relationship. Like Burt Bacharach on amyl nitrate perhaps?

“That’s an excellent description,” says King.

Woods prefers, “Monty Python by way of the music Hugh Hefner would be listening to in his space-age pad in the 60s.”

Says King, “We like to juxtapose beautiful music with very direct language about sex. In our universe there’s no taboos so it’s perfectly normal for a husband and wife lounge act to come out and be singing about bottoming, fisting and oral sex.”

While in Sydney they’ll be playing The Studio at Sydney Opera House as part of Sydney Gay & Lesbian Mardi Gras. However their unique blend of the sacred and profane has seen them play everything from fetish venues where patrons can have sex on premises to a Unitarian church in Santa Barbara explains Woods as he no doubt pulls up his sock-garters and tops up his pipe and brandy snifter.

“All the local bars in town turned us down for being too smutty so the promoter wrote an irate letter to the editor of the local paper, [then] the local Unitarian church wrote saying you can use our church hall. There was some kafuffle in the church about whether we were appropriate so they had watchdogs sitting in the audience ready to shut it down if need be. One of them came up to me after the show and said ‘I didn’t really know what to expect but I think what you are doing is actually a ministry.’”

King certainly seems qualified to minister on kinkiness, having worked as a sex columnist and at Womyns’Ware (sic), an award winning sex-toy shop in their native Vancouver. “They’re like a really high-end hardware store,” she says, “they find the best tools for the job.”

Woods stresses that The Wet Spots are entertainers first and foremost, “because if something hopes to educate first and entertain second it’s probably not going to be very good at either.”

Nonetheless King admits their shows have helped many couples. “It happens all the time, people come to us after shows and say ‘Gee I’ve always wanted to try spanking and I was afraid to ask my girlfriend and after the show we were talking about the spanking song and then she said that she’d always wanted to try being spanked and now we spank each other all the time!’”

So perhaps if people have a closeted kink they can come to the show and chances are The Wet Spots will address it in song. Then on the drive back to Gosford you can tell your partner that you’ve been wearing their old school uniform while they were out taking the kids to soccer training and were wondering if they’d dress like Pope Benedict when they get home?

“Well,” says King, “we like to say that the people in the suburbs laugh because they think we’re kidding and the people in the city laugh because they know we’re not.”

The Wet Spots also address what they see as important social issues, particularly in America, says King.

“Selling a dildo is actually illegal in many of the states so we thought that was ripe [for satire.] One of our stories is about a woman who was doing home sex-toy parties. She got caught with more than six vibrators in her trunk and they charged her with possession with conspiracy to distribute.”

Do they worry about getting in trouble with the law themselves, perhaps for inciting the use of a proscribed marital device?

“I think it falls under freedom of speech,” says King. “I’m not sure if Canadians have the right to freedom of speech in America. I hope so.”

While most bands have a motto of ‘what goes on tour stay on tour,’ surely The Wet Spots polyamorous inclinations would make them happy to swap singing, swinging partners on the road?

“Well they don’t have to be talented darling,” says King.

“Oh boy,” says Woods worriedly. “You know it’s always so hard to say how that might play out. [However] we have met some really wonderful people on tour that way. The funny thing is that in some other areas of our lives such as going out and partying till dawn we’re actually a little bit conservative.”

Then Woods’ voice perks up as he adds, “but you know what? Come talk to us after the show, we’ll be out in the lobby selling our CDs just like every other performer.”


(908 words)

Benito Di Fonzo

“The Wettest Of The Wet Spots”

Starring The Wet Spots (Cass King & John Woods)

Wednesday 27 to Friday 29 February at 9:30pm.

The Studio, Sydney Opera House.

(A New Mardi Gras Festival Event)

Bookings (02) 9250 7777


Monday, February 18, 2008

Benito's review of "Juno"

As I watched director Jason Reitman’s most recent film Juno this past Valentine’s Day with my girlfriend it seemed appropriate that just that week we had been fighting over changes to my studio/loungeroom that would or would not be made when she moved in.

As one grows older one makes sacrifices, of space, time, and general convenience. The young protagonist of Juno deals with such issues with a level of humour and wit rarely seen in American cinema.

Essentially Juno tells the story of a teenage girl who falls pregnant, and the people, from the unwitting father, to her own parents, and the future adoptive parents of her unborn child, that she encounters as she deals with this coming-of-age event.

At the heart of Juno is Diablo Cody’s sensitive and brilliantly crafted script that gives a rare insight into the lives of real, intelligent human beings. In fact these people seem more ‘real’ than the production line of aspiring celebrities one encounters on so-called ‘reality TV.’ Those people are monkeys performing to a production company’s suggestions and the perceived desires of their fellow viewers. Juno’s world is populated with real people with their guard down. People doing stupid things, like we all do, and then dealing with it without losing their sense of humour, an example that undoubtedly more of us should follow.

The dialogue is sharper than Oscar Wilde on free wiz. The characters are likeable in their pure human fallibility, and with fascinating and surprising story arcs. The acting from the likes of J.K Simmons as Juno’s father and The West Wing’s Allison Janney as her stepmother is beautifully natural. There is also the return of Jason Bateman as a thirty-something failed rock muso who many will empathise with just as others see him as a shallow cad. Michael Cera is also impressive as dorky but lovable father of the little bastard-to-be. The most impressive performance of all, and the one that I predict will make this film last the test of time, is that of Ellen Page as the smart and spunky Juno MacGuff herself (the name comes from Roman mythology apparently.)

I met Jason Reitman, son of Ghostbusters and Animal House director Ivan, last year when he was in Australia promoting Thank You For Smoking. He was a surprisingly down-to-earth, jokey guy, and his darkly goofy sense of humour shines through Juno as it did through Thank You For Smoking. It is this that stops Juno becoming a ‘worthy’ and dull soapy-style cautionary tale, but rather an optimistic coming-of-age story with a healthy sense of irony.

Interestingly the film is produced by John Malkovich who obviously has a keen eye for a good script. Juno is undoubtedly one of the finest blends of drama and comedy to come out of Hollywood in a long time. If only I could deal with my human relationships with the wit, wisdom, ease, and humour that these characters do then my life, and my loungeroom, would be a very different place.