Tag Archives: prostitute

Edinburgh Fringe… Sex workers, naked men, a Twitter sensation and Alan Carr

One fan of Chris Dangerfield’s act has expert views on shows

Enterprising Edinburgh Fringe act Chris Dangerfield, whose show Sex Tourist is sponsored by a local escort agency, e-mailed me this morning:

“A sex worker with a blog likes my show,” he said. “How nice. She’s also asked me out for a coffee.”

Headed Hooker-tainment at Edinburgh Fringe, it is an interesting blog and no doubt hopes to ape the success of Belle de Jour.

But, as the lady’s fees start at £190 per hour or £1,000 for the night, I am not plugging the blog’s address except for hard cash.

Interestingly, though, she says this:

________

Assaulted with jokes about sex workers from the very first show I saw at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe festival, I’m trying to understand why we’re supposedly the edgiest, funniest material on everyone’s lips right now…

Now that racism, sexism, homophobia and transphobia are less acceptable in main-stream entertainment, it seems like sex workers are really the only ‘other’ people to pick on. Because that’s the real reason that this kind of comedy works; it used to be OK to laugh at people of colour or gays because it used to be OK to think they actually *were* different.

It’s OK to make jokes at sex workers because they in no way could be sitting next to you in the audience, oh no. Sex workers all walk around with red flashing lights over their heads, everyone knows that… Transphobia particularly is still fairly prevalent in entertainment, and anyone saying that the acceptance of drag or ladyboy shows is good for trans rights is fairly misguided…

The unspoken issue here is that, of course, many performers at Edinburgh must also themselves be sex workers or have had sex work experience. Supporting a creative career is very hard to do around a 9-5 job although, of course, other kinds of self-employed or freelance work are probably possible.

________

Now, from naked women to naked men…

Two thirds of the Greatest Show on Legs arrive in Edinburgh tomorrow. Famed for their Naked Balloon Dance, they are the reason why it was widely said the late Malcolm Hardee literally had “the biggest bollocks in showbusiness”.

They have not performed at the Edinburgh Fringe this century and, with Malcolm Hardee dead and Steve Bowditch banned by the Peter Buckley Hill Free Fringe from performing at the rival Alternative Fringe’s Hive venue on pain of excommunication, the line-up is original members (I use the term innocently) Martin Soan and Martin Clarke plus the shy performing wallflower that is Bob Slayer.

They are billed as performing their hour-long show – Aaaaaaaaaaaaarghh! It’s the Greatest Show on Legs – from this Wednesday to Sunday but are now adding what they call a public dress rehearsal (without dresses) tomorrow night at 9.15pm. Well, I’ll be there for sure.

Janey Godley’s viral sensation – on stage tonight in Edinburgh

And I will also be at the other big unbilled gig of the Fringe week tonight – Janey Godley’s one-performance-one-night-only play #timandfreya based on the extraordinary viral Twitter success of her live blow-by-blow tweets about an overheard argument in a train between the titular Tim and Freya.

The half-hour stage version was dramatised by Janey’s daughter Ashley Storrie, who also appears in it tonight.

“It was an amazing conversation between Tim and Freya,” Janey tells me, “Everybody loved it. But it’s no really a play because there’s gaps. I was Tweeting between Glasgow, Carlisle and Oxenhome. So Ashley had to adapt it and introduce new characters to drive the story forward.”

Ashley herself plays the new character Laura and Philip Larkin (no, not that one – he’s dead) is Alec.

“Do you know why they’re called Laura and Alec?” Janey asked me.

“No,” I said.

“Because they were the characters in Brief Encounter,” said Janey.

“And you’re in it?” I asked.

“I play the ticket collector,” Janey replied. “Rick Wilson, the lead singer from the Kaiser Chiefs, called me and wanted to play Tim because he was fascinated by the story when he read the original Tweets. And I got an e-mail from an actress in Los Angeles who wanted to come over and play Freya. This is true! I said, No. It’s for one night and there’s no money! I’m no letting people do that. That’s insanity.

“One really weird thing is that lots of people have been Tweeting me and e-mailing me saying they do a wee Tim & Freya sketch themselves in their office. They’ve been ‘acting’ the Tweets out loud to each other.

“Rick from the Kaiser Chiefs told me he and his girlfriend did that and everybody read it out and an actor Jack Klaff, who was in Star Wars – he played Red something (Red Four) – Ashley recognised his voice on the phone as a man who was in Star Wars… Jack Klaff called me and gave me ideas about what to do with the story, so everybody’s been calling me and wanting to be involved.”

“Rick Wilson really wanted to do it, didn’t he?” I said.

“Yes, he phoned to apologise when the band schedule eventually came through: I can’t do it. I’m really sorry.

“And the comedian Alan Carr,” I said.

“Yes,” said Janey, “Alan Carr was desperate but he has a Channel 4 pilot tonight. He wanted to push a trolley saying Teas! Coffees! Teas! Coffees! which would have been good.”

Whatever happens tonight, like the original train journey, it should be an interesting trip. And as the real Tim – the man on the train – contacted Janey after he read the Tweets, even he might be there in the audience…

Leave a comment

Filed under Comedy, Sex, Theatre

The Daily Mail has its finger on the pulse of Britain – just like Margaret Thatcher did

I’ve had a good few reactions to yesterday’s blog about the Daily Mail – mostly in e-mails, a lot of them knee-jerk reactions, some vitriolic – which is good because, frankly, I had got bored with people occasionally agreeing with me. Admittedly, I did dash the blog off when I was overly-sleepy and a wee bit tetchy.

But I do think there’s an appalling knee-jerk reaction to the Daily Mail in which liberals hate – literally hate – what they perceive the paper says often without reading it or, in some cases, they do read what is written but then translate it into what they think is being said rather than what is actually being said.

One person pointed me to a particularly offensive Daily Mail headline about Muslims.

The complaint was specifically about the headline, which reads:

MUSLIM FANATIC PRISONERS TO BE ‘DE-PROGRAMMED’ USING CONTROVERSIAL TECHNIQUES TO ‘CURE’ THEM OF BELIEFS

Now – I could be wrong here but, to me – it seems impeccable straight reportage as a headline because the words ‘de-programmed’ and ‘cure’ are both in quotation marks. In Fleet Street Speak, this means a newspaper does not necessarily share or even believe what is quoted. The word ‘controversial’ is not in quotation marks. The news item which is being reported within the article might be questionable but the facts are well worth reporting.

Of course, the Daily Mail can also spout bollocks.

But I think knee-jerk liberal reaction to the Daily Mail is a bit like Gordon Brown’s reaction to Gillian Duffy, the 65 year-old Labour supporter whom he called “bigotted” during the 2010 General Election campaign when she brought up a widely-held worry about the level of Eastern European immigration into the UK. She was reflecting a widely-held concern about a genuine potential and sometimes actual problem.

Whether any newspaper is creating or reflecting a public view is a nice argument but it can certainly be argued that the Daily Mail reflects widespread public opinion on a variety of topics.

Whenever I read the Daily Mail, I’m amazed by how downmarket it is. Basically, it is as much of a tacky red-top as the Sun or the Daily Star. It’s designed to look like a quality newspaper, but it’s full of OK magazine style stories.

However, it does have and keeps its finger on the pulse of what ordinary people think to an extraordinary extent.

I remember years ago, the ‘Madam Cyn’ case in which Cynthia Payne was being prosecuted for running a brothel. I was working at Anglia TV in Norwich at the time  and, every morning, all the national papers would arrive in our office.

The other tabloids totally missed the point of the Madam Cyn case. They covered the court case as a sex story.

But the Daily Mail covered it as a quirky, near-comic tale of retired majors with gammy legs, people using luncheon vouchers to buy sex and sheer British eccentricity. And that was what, at heart, the story was. It was not a sex case, it was a Victoria Wood / Alan Bennett / Michael Palin style British comedy.

Indeed, the two 1987 movies loosely based on Cynthia Payne’s life Wish You Were Here and Personal Services were both light British social comedies and the second was directed by Terry Jones of Monty Python’s Flying Circus.

Cynthia Payne’s is the perfect Daily Mail story. It is more saucy than sexy and is decidedly tabloid but with a veneer that makes it seem almost genteel to Middle England. It titillated without being, in Mail terms, dirty.

Around 2004, someone I know had to have her photo taken for an interview to be published in the Daily Mail. She was told not to wear trousers for the photo-shoot as the Daily Mail “doesn’t take photos of women wearing trousers because its readers didn’t like it.”

This mightily impressed me then and it mightily impresses me now. It shows an absolutely brilliant understanding of the Daily Mail’s readership at the time (and perhaps today too).

Female Daily Mail readers probably wore trousers a lot of the time for practical reasons, but their image of womanhood was probably that ‘feminine’ women did not wear trousers and they wanted to see in the Daily Mail what they perceived as feminine women.

It would never have entered my head to be wary of photographing women in trousers (largely because the thought is politically incorrect) but it is a superb piece of commercial psychology.

In the mid-1980s, I worked on two top-rating peak-time Saturday evening ITV series: Game For a Laugh and Surprise! Surprise! There was a rule of thumb on those show. It was not a 100% rule. But it was a strong rule-of-thumb.

It was that we should not have appearing on the shows people with tattoos.

Remember this was the mid-1980s before tattoos were common.

The reason for this non-tattoo rule (as I say, it was not a ban, just a rule-of-thumb to bear in mind) was that viewers felt threatened by people who had tattoos. The mainstream, mass of peak-time viewers felt people with tattoos were down-market, aggressive and ‘different’. A tattoo said ‘prison’ and ‘crime’ to the viewers. And, though it felt a bit odd, it was I think absolutely spot-on in understanding the mass market audience for the ‘real people’ shows we were screening in which ordinary people were the stars.

Ordinary people were watching themselves on TV and they did not (at that time) see themselves as being the sort of people who would wear tattoos.

I should maybe point out that we were encouraged to actively seek out non-white participants to try to prevent the shows being filled with totally white faces.

If you want to hit the mass market, you have to know your audience.

Associated Newspapers – owners of the Daily Mail - have a near-perfect touch – they have pitched not just the Mail but Metro at exactly the right mass readership in exactly the right way. They know exactly what the people who comprise mainstream Middle England want and think. The fact that the Mail does not have big sales in Scotland is interesting.

In both those respects – they have massive appeal in Middle England but none in Scotland – they are like Margaret Thatcher. Her ‘audience appreciation index’ in England always interested me.

The backward-looking view of her is that, somehow, she was disliked by the vast majority of people at the time. That is both true and completely false.

Whenever personal popularity was measured in opinion polls, she usually came out badly. But, when she went to the electorate in a General Election, the Conservative Party got in with large majorities. I think the reason was that people felt, “Ye Gods! She is scary but, if WE feel she’s scary and is bullying us, then she’s going to scare the bejesus shit out of the French and tear the throats out of them and anyone else who might be anti-British.”

People didn’t like her. But, in large numbers, they liked her policies.

Maggie Thatcher initially won power because she read the Daily Mail and Sun and understood what their readers wanted – what Essex Man wanted – like buying their own council houses and buying shares. In later years, she lost her touch because – as she admitted in interviews – she stopped reading the tabloids in case they ‘swayed’ her from what she knew was ‘right’. So she went for the Poll Tax which (though perfectly correct logically) was not something Essex Man wanted. Even then, though, another War win and I reckon she would have romped home.

Her downfall, at the end, was that the Conservative Party got spooked and ousted her because of Poll Tax riots and bad opinion poll results. They ousted her during the first Gulf War. The irony is that, if they had not ousted her, she would probably have bullied George Bush into finishing the first Gulf War decisively by taking Baghdad and ousting Saddam Hussein. An inevitable consequence, I reckon, would have been another massive General Election win for the Conservative Party, changing the next 20+ years of British and world history.

Margaret Thatcher had and the Daily Mail - or, more correctly, its owners Associated Newspapers – have their fingers on the pulse of Britain.

Some, of course, might say “the throat”.

Leave a comment

Filed under History, Newspapers, Racism, Television

Miracles, Part 2: The skeleton of a dogfish and the resurrection of Jesus Christ

I was surprised when the Turin Shroud was tested in 1988 and allegedly turned out to be a forgery made 1290-1390. I’m still not totally convinced it isn’t the real shroud. But, when the tests were taking place, it got me thinking about the crucifixion of Jesus.

I am no Christian, but it did take me back to the Religious Knowledge lessons at my school where our R.K. teacher was an ex-Army padre and he went into so much physical detail about the crucifixion that I had to leave the class. I was a frail wee soul whenever gross anatomical detail was discussed and prone to nausea at the mere thought of the innards of things. Let’s not even mention the skeleton of the dogfish in the General Science lesson.

But I do remember from R.K. that the reason Roman Citizens were never crucified was that it was such a horrendous way to die. You didn’t die from having nails hammered into your wrists and ankles (they were not hammered into the hands and feet, they were hammered into wrists and ankles to support the weight of the body more and prolong the agony). You died from exhaustion, dehydration etc and it could take a week or more to die.

Jesus, according to the Bible, managed to die in one brief afternoon. A bit of a surprise, that. He was then taken down from the cross. Normally, at this point, the Romans broke people’s arms and/or legs to check they really were dead. This did not happen, according to the Bible. Instead, Jesus’ ‘body’ was taken away by a rich man whose personal physician treated the body not with the normal oils used to anoint dead bodies but with medical oils normally used on live but injured bodies. A bit of a surprise, that.

It seems to me entirely likely that Jesus was not dead when he was taken down from the cross. But, given his body had been scourged, had had a crown of thorns shoved on the head and he had been stabbed in the side with a spear, it might take a bit of time for him to recover – let’s say it might take three days before he was up and able to walk around and talk to people. Let’s say he would rise on the third day.

After three days, the lad could have been talking to people – let’s say he talked to the uneducated and fairly simple fishermen etc who were his disciples – and, if you doubted that the Son of God whom you had seen with your own eyes crucified and die was now resurrected… well,  you could actually put your fingers in the holes made by the nails of the crucifixion. There would be no arguing with that.

If you were a simple fisherman or shepherd or prostitute, that would certainly convince you that a dead person had come back to life just as Lazarus had apparently been brought back to life by Jesus himself and you would be prepared to die yourself in the certain knowledge it was true and you had seen God’s only son re-born.

If Jesus had survived the crucifixion, though, with his injuries, he might only last about a week before he died from his wounds and/or disease from the injuries. After that he would die or, to re-phrase it, join his Father in heaven.

No surprise there.

1 Comment

Filed under Religion, Strange phenomena