entertainment

Eurotrash's 6 sauciest, silliest and gayest moments: from Tom of Finland to safe sex ballet

Narrator Maria McErlane reflects on some of the show's most iconic (and NSFW) episodes, featuring Lily Savage, J. Alexander and more

2022-09-30

Commentary: Maria McErlane; Picture: Provided

2023 marks three decades since the debut of the most fabulously sexy and lovably trashy TV show in history: Eurotrash.

Where do the years go?!

To mark the release of the Channel 4 hit on DVD and digital this month, we asked Maria McErlane, known as the charismatic narrator of Eurotrash, to revisit some of her favourite episodes from the show's 16 series - and the result is pure nostalgia!

Julian Clary sees bare bums in Amsterdam

"How lovely to see Julian Clary looking beautiful in all his finery. Sending him to Amsterdam for Holland's Annual Queen's Day was a genius move and he fitted in perfectly! It was quite an early episode of Eurotrash and the content on this particular segment was a little outrageous for the early 90s. To see men kissing and gyrating was quite out there, despite the post-watershed time slot.

"I think I remember being told to read the narration in as straight a manner as I could. Yes, it was of course filled with innuendo and double entendres, but I can hear a certain prissiness in my voice, attempting to convey the information in as matter-of-fact way as possible.

"Eurotrash was pretty forward-thinking in its representation of the LGBTQ community, and it was refreshing to see this on screen. A view not shared by everyone; we were constantly battling with an army of disgruntled viewers who felt we were tipping over the line of what was and wasn’t acceptable. Both Eddie Izzard and Graham Norton also presented segments for the show.

"Watching this clip had me wondering what all those gorgeous men are doing now? Having passed the baton on to the next generation, they're probably all really into gardening and antique restoration. Reliving their glory days through the antics of their younger counterparts!"

J. Alexander walking that walk long before ANTM

"Seeing J. Alexander when he was teaching up-and-coming models how to walk the catwalk was hilarious. Especially as he went on to judge America’s Next Top Model! J. makes it look so easy to get that perfect swagger. In my opinion it is easy if you have nine foot long legs (she says bitterly).This was the very first episode of Eurotrash and oddly, I remember it really well. I think it was the shoes.

"I loved the clips of Naomi Campbell falling over in her Vivienne Westwood shoes - the very same pair I went out and purchased after voicing this episode. They were madly expensive but the most comfortable shoes I have ever worn, as the crazy height of the heel was drastically reduced by the almost four-inch platform. Sadly, they are now gathering dust under my bed somewhere. I must take them out for another spin around the dancefloor before I get too old."

Jean Paul Gaultier being adorable in an interview with Amanda Lear

"I completely loved Amanda Lear, who looks absolutely amazing in this interview with Jean Paul and was almost certainly mid-50s by then. It’s funny to hear her talking about getting her first face lift, and saying: "Oh no, not yet, I don’t need it yet!" Like she hadn’t already had a fair bit of work done!

"Amanda was born in 1939 and her heyday was really the mid-60s where she modelled for Paco Rabanne and Ossie Clark and so on. Salvador Dali took her as one of his many lovers and when she told him she wanted to paint, he apparently said, no she couldn’t, "as it was only men who had talent. A talent that they kept in their balls." Not very progressive there, Salvador! I suppose that lays to rest the theory that Amanda Lear was a man. (It seems out of date for my commentary to say 'TV or not TV.') That was a popular bit of gossip that she was clever enough to go along with, as it made her all the more mysterious. She was, as she says here, "the girl [a lot of gay men] would like to be."

"In the 70s and 80s, Amanda was the queen of disco in the gay world, was friends with David Bowie and Brian Ferry and reinvented herself endlessly as a singer, artist and TV presenter. A role model for Madonna perhaps? My absolute favourite fact about Amanda is that she was married to a man with the improbable name of Alain-Philippe Malagnac d'Argens de Villèle. Bravo Ms. Lear!"

Armistead Maupin on Tom of Finland mastabatory material

"As a woman with many gay friends, I was familiar with the wonderful work of Tom of Finland. Born in 1920, his highly homoerotic drawings of utterly gorgeous butch and masculine men put paid to the notion that all gay men were fey creatures.

"His work showed an almost cartoon-like perfection of the macho muscle man with tight bottoms, huge packages, rippling six packs, broad shoulders and beautiful faces. As a very young Armistead Maupin says in this clip 'they were images for masturbation' in a world before the internet. Tom of Finland was born Touch Valio Laaksonen and had a massive influence on late 20th century gay culture.

"If you look at the characters in the band that became The Village People, there is clearly an enormous amount of influence from the pictures of Tom of Finland. After his US success, almost overnight, Tom’s work was being shown everywhere and he became part of the mainstream. He died just two years before this segment on Eurotrash was shown. Was it high class art or was it porn? Whatever your view, you can’t deny the beauty and lusciousness portrayed in his work."

A serious food critic reviews a drag queen restaurant

"To send the late restaurant critic Michael Winner to Paris and a restaurant staffed by drag queens must have looked good on paper, as Winner was known for his irascible, no nonsense approach. He certainly didn’t suffer fools gladly. He was, however, charm personified and seemed to take a boyish delight on all that Le Corse restaurant had to offer.

"This was a restaurant with drag queens as a gimmick. A time when men who dressed as women were somehow marginalised, despite their glamour and fabulousness.

"This segment made me feel a little bit sad. It was drag queens as a spectacle, but somehow in the shadows. A specialised restaurant for people to gawp and in all likelihood, grope. 30 years is a long time, but now we have mainstream TV rejoicing in the artistry and skill of some of the most inventive and beautiful drag queens. It’s no longer about dressing as a woman, it's a whole other genre of beauty that demands its own categorisation. This, in my humble opinion, is progress. I applaud the notion of being who the hell you want to be. Sashay away to the naysayers!"

Lily Savage goes to Berlin to rent condoms (above, at 5:12 mark)

"What a thrill to see Lily Savage in all her glory. Since Paul O'Grady retired her many years ago ('getting her ready took so long,' he said) life has seemed empty without her. But there she was in Berlin, having a good old moan and flicking through the German equivalent of the Yellow Pages (remember those?) to find all that Germany had to offer.

"You could hire an Alsatian, a donkey and virtually everything and anything you wanted. Lily settled on renting a condom. Something of a misnomer, as surely the purpose of a condom is a use-once-only policy? She settled on a service that delivered condoms to your door with a minimum order of 10. You could choose from 30 different types and 10 of the little buggers would cost you twenty quid.

"Oh, those were the days. Lily with her glorious dark roots, beehive and leopard print. Getting the condoms in for a filthy weekend. Bring her back, Paul O'Grady. You know you want to."

Eurotrash is on DVD and digital now