On my radar: Billy Corgan’s cultural highlights

Estimated read time 4 min read

Born in Chicago in 1967, Billy Corgan is the frontman of the Smashing Pumpkins. The band have released 12 studio albums, including Atum: A Rock Opera in Three Acts (2022–2023); he has also released music solo and with the supergroup Zwan. He owns the National Wrestling Alliance, and is the subject of US reality TV series Billy Corgan’s Adventures in Carnyland. Along with his wife, Chloe Mendel, he runs Madame Zuzu’s Tea House in Highland Park, Illinois. The Smashing Pumpkins are on the UK leg of their The World Is a Vampire tour until 14 June; tonight they play the O2 in London.

1. Film

The Boy and the Heron (dir Hayao Miyazaki, 2023)

A still from The Boy and the Heron.View image in fullscreen

I went with my son, who’s eight, to the local arthouse. It’s about a boy who loses his mother quite young, which certainly touched me because, in a way, I lost my mother when I was four, when she was institutionalised. It’s a beautifully animated movie, but a bit cryptic. As we were leaving I asked my son to explain it to me. He went: “Well, it was about a boy and a blue heron.” Sometimes it takes a child to tell you that the truth is right in front of you. It was a beautiful moment between my son and I.

2. Concert

Mozart’s Requiem, Lyric Opera of Chicago

The conductor Enrique Mazzola, baton raised.View image in fullscreen

I recently saw a performance of this with Enrique Mazzola as the conductor. It was probably 60 people in the choir, 60 musicians on stage and another four soloists upfront singing. Of course, I’d heard Requiem on recording before, but seeing it live with a world-class orchestra was almost like a religious experience. When you’re standing in front of one of the all-time greats, listening to seven different melodies and polyphony – it’s a level of genius I can’t even contemplate, much less emulate. It’s a humbling experience.

3. Restaurant

Del Rio, Highwood, Illinois

The exterior of the Del Rio restaurant, with a neon light shining the nameView image in fullscreen

There’s an Italian restaurant here where I live. It was originally a tango bar, where servicemen would go dancing in the 30s. It’s been in the same family for almost 100 years. It has all the original decor: a vintage tin ceiling, a deco bar. There’s stuff pasted on the wall that’s probably been there for 80 years. It’s a true relic that has somehow survived: the perfect meeting of past and present. Unfortunately, even though I’m a consistent customer, there’s only one thing I can eat there, which is the gluten-free pasta.

4. Collection

The Bozeum

A poster for the Bozeum showing merchandise branded with Bozo the Clown.View image in fullscreen

Fans of The Simpsons, of course, know Krusty the Clown, who was based on Bozo the Clown, the most famous of which was in Chicago. Recently I was invited by the actor David Arquette, who now owns the Bozo franchise, to go see a guy who’s the biggest Bozo collector in the world [Tom Holbrook]. I got a private tour of his Bozeum, which was pretty cool. Because it was such a merchandising cash cow, you can imagine what they could sell to kids: toys, dolls, soap, toothbrushes – anything a child would want, they put Bozo’s name on it.

5. Song

Kid Tigrrr – Skin

Kid Tigrrr sitting on a staircaseView image in fullscreen

Kid Tigrrr is an independent artist I’m fond of, and she recently put out a song called Skin. Her music is kind of shoegazy: if you’re a fan of, say, My Bloody Valentine or Slowdive, it would be in that genre. She performs a lot on her own, which is very brave, just her and a guitar. I’ve never seen her live, but she posts clips all the time on Instagram, so I feel like I have. I’ve written to her to encourage her to follow her own muse.

6. Book

Every Man for Himself and God Against All by Werner Herzog

Werner Herzog, with a bird on his shoulder, on the set of Fitzcarraldo in Peru.View image in fullscreen

I enjoyed Werner Herzog’s memoir. His style is very laconic: he talks about these harrowing details where he almost loses his life multiple times, and speaks about it in such a calm German way that it’s almost shocking. I guess that’s in his film-making as well. There’s a story where he’s in a helicopter, shooting a movie on one of the most dangerous mountains in the world, and within minutes they’re in a full-blown whiteout snowstorm where you can’t even see your hand in front of your face. They were trapped up there for days and almost died.

Source: theguardian.com

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