VELVET TONGUES in the Midlands

rainbow-barcode-VTs-Nottingham_2Monday 20th November 2017
19:30 at ROUGH TRADE5 Broad Street, Nottingham


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A t-shirt idea for Halloween?


Order here:


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“The Male Perspective” at Menier Gallery, London

My video of the exhibition:

The Male Perspective, a major exhibition based on the male figure

Exhibition dates: 17th – 21st Oct 2017
Private view: Tuesday 17th October 6.30-9pm
Gallery Hours: 11am – 6pm Tuesday – Friday 11am – 5pm Saturday.
Menier Gallery. 51 Southwark St, SE1 1RU

Six figurative artists are hosting a major exhibition based on the male figure. Work in this exhibition ranges from playful to political, erotic and domestic and showcases the diversity of current British figurative art in the 21st Century.

This exhibition is supporting The Albert Kennedy Trust, a charity that ensures that all lesbian, gay, bisexual and trans young people are able to live in accepting, supportive and caring homes, by providing a range of services to meet the individual needs of those who would otherwise be homeless or living in a hostile environment.

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The Boy in Purple: Homoerotic India, 2017

17191471_10154162188591401_2773004053753737926_nThis year I decided to cheat winter by spending the last 28 days of the season travelling around India, a country which I found to be as colourful as expected and much more intense than I could have ever anticipated. A country of extremes, India never ceased to overwhelm me. My little Indian adventure was packed with exhilarating moments of wonder and shock, as well as with beautiful sights; no least, the local men. My first point of contact  was New Delhi, where I was faced on my arrival with a striking ephemeral vision: The Boy in Purple. Whilst stuck in a traffic jam on a taxi from the airport, I saw this young man sitting on a public bench, wearing a purple shirt and black trousers. There was something intense and calm, ancestral even, about his body posture and about the concentrated expression on his handsome face. Like so many things in India, his position seemed carefully posed as if to be photographed by tourists; and, like almost everything in Delhi, he seemed covered in dust. But the dust could not overcast the splendid beauty of his dark brown skin, the masculine bony structure of his sexy body or the vividness of the purple shirt. I did not manage to take out the camera on time to photograph him but his looks left a strong imprint on me.

17155709_10154158714866401_3779111799841135959_nIt was my introduction to the many homoerotic delights India had to offer. I am talking, for example,  about the young male couples holding hands, kissing each other’s cheeks or wrapping their arms around each other’s waist and shoulders; about the men casually pissing against the walls of the city in bright daylight or carelessly scratching their balls; about the men publicly getting down to their underwear to bathe in the lakes and rivers – with the occasional flashes of genitals through the wet wraps; about the body searches (in airports, temples and the underground) ending always with a pat on the buttocks not granted by the required scrutiny.

17021446_10154158715881401_3265324055854540720_nYet these public displays of manly sensuality should not be perceived as expressions of gay love, which is still illegal in India. 2013 saw the return of Section 377 of the Indian Penal Code, inherited from British rule, which states that non-procreative sexual acts (including consensual gay sex) are punishable with life in prison. It is anyone’s wonder why procreation should be such a priority in a country as notoriously overpopulated as India. And, although this law is rarely enforced, it sadly perpetuates social condemnation and pushes gay lifestyles underground – even if some slow progress is luckily being made. In fact, based on my limited experience, Section 377 is not affecting the use of dating apps like Grindr or Scruff, which are very popular amongst gay Indian men.16999067_10154145641066401_3696673186305583532_n

And here there is something to be said about colour, skin colour. Obviously, in India you will not see profiles stating “No Asians”. Most users indeed self-define as South Asian and often use phrases like ‘Made in Delhi’ or ‘Indian Delight’ as their profile tags. Yet I did see app users announcing that they were looking for GWM (Gay White Men). Similarly, a message I received from a boy in Mumbai read: ‘Hi How r u; I like white men; so hot; where r u dear; I meet u; where you stay’. And Arjun, a young man I met through Grindr and who drove me to a gay men’s sauna in Delhi, said unprompted: ‘Indian men don’t do it for me’.

17361818_10154188539371401_8883700701238367646_nI will not report here my experiences at the (illegal) gay spa but I will say that it was difficult for us to locate it and when I noted that, based on Google maps, the venue should be near a Hindu temple dedicated to the monkey god Hanuman, Arjun dismissively said he didn’t care about religion, adding: ‘Most gay men in India are not religious’. Somehow the statement rang a bell.

When I arrived in Delhi, I had no pic on my Grindr profile and one of the first messages I received was from a hijra or hijda (India’s third sex). Whether inter-sex, transgender or emasculated eunuchs, hijras are very angry individuals. And who can blame them? All the hijras I encountered wore red saris. The first one was a Muslim, entering the gorgeous mausoleum of Sufi saint Hazrat Nizamuddin in Delhi. The second one was getting a fabulous henna tattoo at the Main Bazaar of the capital city. The third one was on the train in Mumbai. She was walking through the passengers, touching first their shoulders and then their heads, begging for a few rupees. I was part of a European group of tourists and the hijra spared us all except for our tour guide, Zibran, who was a local. When she noticed his handsome face, she caressed the stubble on his chin. He reacted with a macho shrug as if to indicate he had nothing to do with it. He went on to explain: ‘He is not a he; she is not a she. Nobody will employ her so she has to beg’. As Indian author Khushwant Singh wrote in his phenomenal novel “Delhi”: ‘They say, take woman, take boy— okay! But a hijda! That’s not nice.’ Ironically, in a country where a hermaphrodite version of one of their most powerful gods, Shiva, is devoutly worshipped by Hindus, hijras are treated worse than the untouchables. 16996499_10154140268866401_6512247868279165876_n


But I want to  finish on a positive note, with a reference to the medieval monument Qutub Minar, the remains of the earliest Muslim settlement in Delhi, a gigantic minaret rising a few meters away from the gay sauna I visited, casting a phallic shadow over that site of forbidden manly pleasures.



Ernesto Sarezale –


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‘Re: defining beauty’ an exhibition of male nudes, November 2015

[An abridged version of this piece appeared in Out in South London radio programme’s WordPress blog in November 2015]

‘Re: defining beauty’ an exhibition of male nudes, 3 -7 November, at the Leyden Gallery, London E1 7LE

Tucked away in a labyrinthine corner of the City, just off Liverpool Street, the Leyden Gallery hosts for five days in November a collective art show focusing on the male nude. The exhibition showcases the work by members of “Nude for Thought”, a London based group of gay artists who hold weekly life drawing sessions with exclusively male models.

The group was partly created out of frustration with mainstream life drawing outlets, which apparently still tend to focus on the female body. It is still difficult for the male nude to find a place in the mainstream art scene. So it is fortunate that this exhibition found its place in central London.

The standards of the artworks on display are high. Most of the exhibits are paintings and drawings, including – as one would expect – a  good share of skilfully portrayed young men with athletic bodies in flattering poses. Yet “Nude for Thought” is a very diverse group and, next to figurative depictions of the fit and the muscular, one can also find less conventional pieces that purposely attempt to “redefine” (male) beauty by moving away from traditional canons.

Some of the artworks present alternative body types (the odd middle-aged man, a couple of skinny youngsters). Some other pieces have a conceptual edge, such as a couple of largely abstract paintings where nudity and masculinity are obliquely hinted at by the presence of male undergarments, or a series of portraits of men staring at mobile phones, subtly alluding to the narcissistic self-absorption propitiated by modern technologies. Other artistic media in the show include the moving image (a striking video installation showing a male body from within) and sculpture (fragmented statues of winged warriors).

By posing questions about gender, sexuality and the concept of beauty, this exhibition successfully makes a case for the role of the male nude in contemporary art.

Ernesto Sarezale –


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Naked Boys Reading, April 2014

[An abridged version the following piece was meant to appear in 2014 on a London Cabaret website, but for reasons still beyond my comprehension, the article never saw the light. Things have changed somewhat since 2014 but the event is still running, now every two months at Ace Hotel, Shoreditch and sporadically at many other venues in London and beyond. Three years and a bit later I make the piece public here for your delectation] 

Naked Boys Reading is a provocative literary event hosted in the sweaty depths of Vogue Fabrics, a cavernous basement in Dalston, every two months. The name of the event begs many questions. Can male flesh and literature mix? Does the event live up to the promise of making “your pervy literary dreams come true”?

The soirée is well attended by a predominantly male gay crowd. Despite the salacious title, the eye candy is not restricted to the stage. Fashionably dressed and carefully coiffured, the men generally range in age between the mid-twenties and the mid-thirties. The atmosphere is sexy and the audience members around me are as beautiful as (if not more than) any of the boys onstage.

The proceedings are officiated by the fabulously outrageous Sharon Husbands, a tall, larger-than-life, bearded lady impersonated with knowing charisma by performance artist Justin Hunt. Sharon’s camp speech is full of innuendo and lurid commentary, intent on reminding us that we’re all there, after all, “to see cock.”

There are five readers and all get fully naked. True: two of them position themselves or their props in such a way that they obscure the sight of their genitalia from most of the audience. But one other stands with aplomb, letting his manhood hang with plump assurance. Another one is so obviously aroused that, even if flaccid, the tip of his penis shines with pre-cum. Yet another one repeatedly massages his member to ensure it doesn’t shrink. I won’t discuss further the boys’ exposed tender parts, but I must disagree with Sharon’s joking remark that “no one looks nice naked when you’re sober”. Whilst sober, I find all five boys very beautiful undressed.

But it’s not all about the flesh. The night has a strong literary side. Each reader contributes a different interpretation of the theme of the night: “blues.”

Focusing on the theme’s musical meaning, singer Warwick Lobban beautifully performs a few songs and reads an informative summary of the origins of blues as a jazz genre.

Tall and blond Alex Craddock reads from a cooking recipe involving blueberries. His confident, seductive reading is pregnant with double entendre. But, when references to cream and lard elicit titters from the audience, he remarks: “You all have dirty minds.”

Polish Jack Dickson brings us some Christmas blues with a moody unrequited love story he found online. As a non-native speaker, his reading falters sometimes, but still manages to keep us engaged.

Next is Pat Cash, an up-and-coming poet who treats us to a movingly tender passage from Jamie O’Neil’s gay novel “At Swim, Two boys.” Pat’s passionate and eloquent delivery makes the audience gasp.

Finally, dancer Zachariah Fletcher combines a short Shakespearean passage with a text dealing with an episode of excessive masturbation that leads to “aching blue balls”. His reading is full of sexy charm.

It’s refreshing that the event celebrates beauty in bodies that do not necessarily conform to fixed over-defined muscular models imposed by the media. Yet the naked boys tonight are predominantly smooth, pale, slim and young. I won’t complain that the boys are too pretty, of course, but I miss the wider representation of male beauty that I have seen in past editions of the soirée.

At Naked Boys Reading you get sexy literature and cock in equal measure. But, despite shameless Sharon’s best prurient efforts, the event is essentially a wholesome affair. A bit naughty, but mostly harmless – and endearing. And so much more fun for that.

Ernesto Sarezale –

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KAOS Nightclub (and Performance Space)

[An abridged version of this note appeared in QX Magazine, November 2014]

There are many different KAOS for me.

First there was KAOS in what looked like a squatted flat in Hackney, where I was first exposed to the captivating wonders of the musical collaborations between Othon Mataragas and Ernesto Tomasini and to the poetry of Stav B, for example.

kaosThen there was KAOS in a former underground toilet in Spitafields, where I once did a nude multimedia performance in front of a small but heterogeneous and enthusiastic queer/fetish crowd (which eventually led to an exciting poetry/musical collaboration between Othon the other Ernesto and me).

Then, of course, my memories of KAOS are inextricably linked to the much missed Stunners in Limehouse, where one could witness a prodigious mix of the wildest characters engaging with each other in ways so uninhibited and wondrous that could not even be dreamt by the most extravagant storytellers. If it didn’t happen there, it would not happen anywhere.

Intrigued now about how its reincarnation at Elektrowertz is re-shaping KAOS yet again.

Ernesto Sarezale –

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Boylexe, Nov 2012

Good evening. My name is Ernesto Sarezale and I am a “boylesque artist”. Apparently.

“Boylesque” (as a term to refer to an act where a boy does burlesque strip-tease, often with gender-bending connotations) is a wonderful neologism with which I had been familiar for quite a while. But it was not until two or three years ago that I saw the word applied to me. I think it was on Time Out. I cannot remember the exact context now but I do remember I was described as a “boylesque poet”, which I quite liked. But my “boylesque credentials” do not end there. Just a few weeks ago I proudly participated in a competition called “Boylesque Idol” at Madam Jojos, where I was the first runner-up (not to mention similar runner-up postitions at “Hip Hip” and “The male Tournament of Tease”, both at The Bethnal Green Working Men’s Club, in the early days of the burlesque revival in the UK – or how about winning the Erotic Award for Poet of the Year 2010?).

Boylexe_Poster-without-infoBut enough about me. I’m here to write about Boylexe, the male younger sibling of “Burlexe” in Soho. When I found out that Boylexe mixed male burlesque, strip tease, theatrical elements and storytelling, I knew it was a show I could not miss as it seemed to contain elements very close to my own “poetry tease” (or “boylesque poetry”), with its combination of spoken word and clothes removal. So I was very happy I had the chance to attend on 28 Nov 2012 the second, and last, night of the second running of the show.

I’ve often found entering the Shadow Lounge to be a rather intimidating experience as one soon finds oneself surrounded by beautiful people: well-dressed punters and very attractive bar staff, both of whom can make one feel somehow self-conscious. This impression was magnified on Boylexe night, as, just before the show was to begin, one was faced with the very attractive performers mingling sexily among the good looking audience (a balanced mix of smartly dressed ladies and dapper gay boys).

If I had to use two words to sum up Boylexe, those words would be: ‘energetic’ and ‘colourful’.

More words: 80s disco with a splash of yellow.

There’s a lot to commend Boylexe but the highlights for me were the playful gender-bending transgression in Mr Mistress’ accomplished reverse strip-tease and the intense sensuality that handsome Randolph Hott managed to elicit with the hint of the drop of a towel. Magical moments.

Also worth mentioning is the powerful singing voice of Kele le Roc, who gave us a few energetic musical numbers as well as delivering one of the most meaningful – and beautifully performed – monologues of the night. Let’s not forget either Phil Dzwonkiewicz’s sexily menacing turns and Miss Cairo Mascara’s naughty sassiness, as well as Teddy Boylesque’s vigorous dancing and “innocent” eroticism.

A minor quibble for me was that the theatrical elements involving spoken word were a little bit “hit and miss”: not all stories – and deliveries – were as strong and engaging as one would have expected. But, as I say, this is very minor and subjective.

The many strong points of Boylexe more than compensated for any quibbles. The boys were pretty and enthusiastic; the girls, glamorous as can be; and the show was overall full of energy and flair.

Although “full on” and explicit at points, with a good deal of flesh exposure, the show never came across as sleazy or seedy. It was also nice that, when male genitalia were on display, pubic hair was not always trimmed – and definitely not shaved. I like the natural look.

Boylexe worked as a wonderfully sexy and wholesome way to spend a midweek evening in the West End, all aided by the glamorous surroundings of the Shadow Lounge. Just a shame events like this are not staged more often in London.

Ernesto Sarezale –

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Edinburgh Fringe Shows: August 2010

Monday 9 August 2010: BARE

This play about the criminal underworld of bare-knuckle boxing was our first show of the Fringe this year apart from a snippet of gay Asian comedian Paul Sinha’s show at the Sunday FUNdraiser at the New Town bar and the Hammer and Tongue slam where I participated – both of which were very entertaining.

‘Bare’ works very well as a piece of physical theatre. The acting is great throughout and the collective violence scenes are performed with energy, conviction and adrenaline-pumping precision. A lot of work has gone into reproducing the lingo of the criminal underworld, delivered with gusto. However I was disappointed with the script. The dialogue felt hackneyed and redundant at times. The storyline is rather thin and, in my view, the disjointed, non-linear, structure of the play detracts from any real emotional engagement with the characters. But it largely does as it says on the tin: a powerful adults-only, violent, foul-mouthed, in-your-face, testosterone-driven piece of physical theatre. Three stars at least.

Wednesday 11 August 2010: THE CALL OF CTHULHU

The show was hosted fittingly at the Hill Street Theatre, a haunting Masonic Lodge with intriguing Freemasons’ symbols on the walls. The Call of Cthulhu stands out for the impressive acting range from its single performer, who plays convincingly 3 or 4 different characters. It starts with a wonderfully dark, passionately performed monologue. However, I felt the show lacked variety. I found it difficult to follow. Too abstract, even for Lovecraft standards. The phrase “self-indulgent” sprang to mind. Not the way I would have adapted a Lovecraft text for the stage… But very competently produced.

Thursday 12th August 2011: HARLEKIN

Derevo’s widely acclaimed show had its moments, many of them very pretty. Scenes I particularly enjoyed include: the effect of having two competing audiences clapping both sides of the curtain, a red capsicum used to represent the heart pouring out of the chest of the male protagonist & then being carelessly devoured by his ruthless female lover, the wooden cross of a nursing nun turning into the wooden support from which hang the strings of a puppet, a female performer crossing the stage as though she was a cut-out paper doll. The three performers in the show were great. But, by and large, the show failed to engage me. There was not much in terms of story, in my opinion. It was all form over substance – as seems to be the norm at the Fringe this year from what I have experienced… (Am I being too fussy?) But, yes, it was pretty and atmospheric.

 Monday 23rd August 2010:  Musings on the fortune of sex and nudity in the Edinburgh Fringe

Do nudity and sexual content get bums on seats at the Fringe? The jury’s out on this. Shows with naked flesh and sexual themes still get a good deal of media coverage. However, the nudity and the sex can still make people very uneasy and audiences have been known to walk out en masse because of their appearance in a show. I can think of two or three people who walked out of  ITNOTF because of that and I was told this also happened during the (sexually explicit) play Lady C. According to this blog, it also happened in the middle of the Malcolm Hardee Documentary. Can one really believe the (increasingly frequent) journalistic claims that nakedness and explicit sexual content do not shock audiences anymore? Allegedly, though, in 2010, shows have not been conspicuous for their exposure of naked flesh. If we are to believe this blogger from The Stage: “Another shocking thing we’ve noticed is that this year, for the first time in years, we do not have the usual unofficial nudity list going on our notice board. None has been spotted.”   Where have they been looking?

Ernesto Sarezale –

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New York-San Francisco, Sept 2009

gerrifiedIn his latest travel to NYC and San Francisco, Ernesto Sarezale performed at New York’s Bar 13 (LouderARTS) and the Bowery Poetry Club, and at San Francisco’s Poetry Mission and Queer Open Mic, culminating in a well received feature set at PERVERTS PUT OUT; Ernesto ate Mexican, Salvadorian, Thai, Chinese, Italian, Neapolitan, Indian and USAmerican; he walked over Williamsburg Bridge though never got to Brooklyn; skinny dipped in the Atlantic and the Pacific; danced naked with porn stars; he met flickr contacts in the flesh; tipped go-gos at a Manhattan rooftop terrace to the sounds of Horse Meat Disco’s Jim and Severino; he tipped, tipped, and tipped again (!); Ernesto was Gerrified for a photographic installation at a Lower East Side arts space; he saw cock at The Cock in NY (and at pretty much every other bar in SF, actually); he rubbed shoulders with Amanda Lepore and Flotilla DeBarge at Chelsea, with Chi Chi LaRue at SoMa and with François Sagat at the Folsom Fair, where he also had a glimpse of Suppositori Spelling; Ernesto met and chatted with lots of lovely people, including: Emanuel Xavier (prominent queer Latino poet and founder of the original Glam Slam in NY), Larry Bob Roberts (SF queer scene legend), Alan Reade (Oakland-based fab performer and writer), etc.; Ernesto pinched himself several times, and, hey, yes, he was awake, quoting Quentin Crisp: ‘It’s like in the movies’…


San Francisco, Sept 27 2009. A scene at the Deco Lounge, post-Folsom Bearracuda underwear party:

After 9 nights in the U. S. of A. someone asks the question:
‘Were you in BUTT magazine?’
Before Ernesto gets to answer, the boy says: ‘I bet you get this all the time’.
Ernesto answers: ‘I have heard that one before’.
‘So it is you!’
‘What’s this BUTT magazine anyway?’ asks his cute friend with low hanging balls, wearing nothing but a pair of sneakers.
‘Alternative porn’ is the pragmatic answer.
The cute naked friend puts his arm around Ernesto’s shoulders and says:
‘OK, take a photograph of us and send it to BUTT magazine!’
The friend creates a rectangular shape with his fingers in front of his eyes and mimics the sound of a camera flicker.
‘He’s got photographic memory’ summarises the naked cute boy.


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