An Italian archaeologist, a Soviet agent and the weird perils of auto-translate

In March 2017, I posted a blog headed: The death of an Italian archaeologist who knew so many 20th century secrets.

This morning, a Comment was left on that blog. I reprint it here without comment by me and without anything cut out, though with some additional paragraphing to make it easier to read…


Much has been said about Maurizio Tosi. Little that Maurizio Tosi as well as a cultured archaeologist among the five best known in the world was a technician rich in intuition. Furthermore, he was extremely astute and had a network of distributed intelligence informants who only did the story good. Marlene Dietrich and prof. Franco Malosso von Rosenfranz, had been equally educated in history as in music by dr. Bechstein Giuseppe Becce.The Vicentine composer of German Cinema had been a pupil of Ferdinand von Richthofen, thus quickly maturing on the story of Monika, the daughter of Hans Ertl, inventor and fellow cameraman of Becce, as well as avenger of the murder of Che Guevara, who later fell very young in an ambush of the spies of Klaus Barbie. In the GDR first, in South America and RFT later, both Prof. Franco von Rosenfranz who is prof. Maurizio Tosi, came from very similar experiences even though they were aware that one and the other could be mutually respectful rivals. Also very different in specialness.

Later, however, they discover themselves linked by the same affinities. Tosi had survived unscathed more than a few traps. Equally Franco Malosso. Between 1992 and 2002 Tosi began to secretly take an interest in the events of his land (Verona). More precisely to the true story of Romeo and Juliet by Luigi Da Porto originated in the district of Arcugnano. In 1307 Tosi ascertained that the thirteen-year-old girl had then migrated to Verona from the Emilei. The story was brought forward and magically made famous all over the world thanks to an Englishman of Sicilian origin who had previously escaped from prison, John Florio (Shakespeare) from Messina because he was a heretic. A legacy told of 2 lovers who tell of a swim they started from the basin of the amphitheater to the beach of “Monticello delle Capra”, the hill on which, 200 years later, the architect Palladio built the villa “La Rotonda” in the style of a Pagan temple dedicated to the God Janus. Its terraces had recently been cleaned up after a reclamation.

The research started by the Vicenza academic prof. Renato Cevese continued to be studied in depth by Prof. Tosi. However, they remained interrupted under threat and a staff member was reprimanded after a brief kidnapping of him. The cause of everything were illegal constructions built near the top of the Amphitheater. It was here that the money paid for the institutional massacre of the Italian judge Paolo Borsellino was invested. Between 1997 and 2002 when the bulldozers destroyed the remains of a centuries-old underground canalization. these works became a beast for the amphitheater. However, in order not to jeopardize operations of undercover agents, the protests for those works were abruptly stopped. Later they were definitively accepted so that the situation normalized. In 2014, with greater impetus, new works resumed thanks also to the funding of local sponsors. The terraces of the theater were repaired and new blocks were replaced with those looted in 2002 (they had been used to form a retaining wall to hold back the washout of the hill excavated to house the foundations of the illegal villas).

The professor was murdered for refusing to ask the sponsors of the amphitheater for the sum of 5 million euros demanded by the hidden Italian institutional mafia. The elimination of him had become a priority for the leaders of the Mafia Dome since the Tosi in retaliation to the request of the 5 million euros, had begun to investigate the realization of the Borgo Berga Court. On the court together with the DESPAR Logistics area owned by the massacre Matteo Messina Denaro, the journalist Marco Milioni argued that there was a Mafia investigation (Ndrangheda). National Liberation Front of the Veneto and then recklessly asked for the demolition of the new illegal court that invaded the view of the “Rotonda”. Tosi also feared the exit of Vicenza from UNESCO.

This concept was best expressed by him through public conferences. At that point, an ecologist informing the staff warned that Tosi would soon be murdered by a member of the criminal gang of kidnappers of the Magliana (a criminal structure used by the Italian government for kidnapping for the purpose of etortion and murder). Shortly afterwards, to avoid inconvenient witnesses, the ecologist who had informed the professor was also shot and killed. A Mossad agent who had mediated for a settlement solution in this institutional extortion also disappeared. Tosi’s death was an immense loss for the international community. In depth and execution, it is comparable to that of the Italian political statesman Aldo Moro, killed by his party comrades. This type of executions are part of those among the most ferocious and shameless extreme criminal operations organized by politics within the Italian government passed under control with the USA after 10 July 1943. Operations in reality never advocated by the massacre of the entire American community.

Before and after these events there were at least 9 murders linked to the attempt by mafias to take over the amphitheater. The Conservator of the English landscape in the Amphitheater was also the victim of as many attacks: Franco von Rosenfranz who, however, although seriously injured, escaped death. The most serious intimidation attack occurred during a show trial against him to cover up the extortion. During the battle spent in defense of the surrounding Amphitheater, his 3-year-old son disappeared. Inside the amphitheater, on the anniversary of the death of prof. Maurizio Tosi, without fuss as for his desire, a bust dedicated to him was inaugurated in memory of his tireless work that the eminent scholar courageously brought forward to the extreme sacrifice. Maurizio Tosi was a victim of the Mafia. . On social media, young Italians who were functional supporters of the mafia extortion defamed him, mocking him. Also in the media cavea of ​​the Amphitheater, near the sculpture carved in the rock depicting the ancient winged canine deity (Winged Lion of the ancient Veneti) Veneti friends have dedicated a stele to him.

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Comic Malcolm Hardee stole Freddie Mercury’s birthday cake. His version 2

On 5th August 1996 (timed to coincide with that year’s Edinburgh Fringe) Fourth Estate published I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake, the autobiography of comedian, club-owner and anarchic bon viveur Malcolm Hardee.

Malcolm: never one to under-anecdote

In it, among many other scarcely credible (but actually true) tales, he tells of the time he did, indeed, steal Freddie Mercury’s birthday cake.

Never one to under-anecdote, in 1995 Malcolm also told the same story in Funny Talk, an anthology of new writing (edited by Jim Driver) about and around the world of comedy and showbiz.

Other contributors included Max Bygraves, Jeremy Hardy, Hattie Hayridge, John Hegley, Ralph McTell, Michael Palin, Jon Ronson and Mark Steel.

Here, courtesy of Jim Driver, is Malcolm’s contribution…


MALCOLM HARDEE ATTENDS
FREDDIE MERCURY’S BIRTHDAY PARTY

7th October 1986, 10.30am

The phone rings.

I pick it up and answer with the usual “Oy! Oy!”

“Hello, it’s Louis here.” An agent. “Are The Greatest Show on Legs still working?”

“Yup.”

“How do you fancy doing a show for Freddie Mercury’s fortieth birthday?”

“How much? How long? Where?”

“£600.Three-and-a-half minutes’ Balloon Dance, Club Xenon, Piccadilly.”

“Okay. When?”

“Tomorrow night.”

So, we’re booked to perform our infamous Balloon Dance for the lead singer of Queen’s fortieth. (This is a routine I do with two other guys, consisting of us dancing stark naked – apart from strategically-placed balloons – to the tune of Tea For Two (cha cha cha!) I ring the other two and they are as keen as mustard. Big Freddie Mercury fans both and, after all, a hundred quid is a hundred quid!


8th October 1986, 8.00pm

We arrive at Club Xenon, 171 Piccadilly, and are ushered to the ‘dressing room’ which in reality is a cupboard behind the stage. There is, however, a small window in the door through which we can peer out across the stage at the celebrity party-goers. The Management inform us that we must remain in the cupboard until we have finished our set. There are four or five other acts, including a Russian acrobat and a midget.

The show begins. Freddie’s in, so’s Elton John, Princess Margaret and Rod Stewart. The party-goers ignore the first three acts, but the Russian acrobat goes down well. It’s the midget’s turn next. We’d been holding him up to the window to see what’s going on and, fuelled by our recently-acquired camaraderie, we watch while he goes through his midget routine.

Freddie’s Management – six blokes in funny suits and ties – come in to the cupboard and inform us that we can’t go on. I’m naked and ready to go. Quite reasonably, I ask why. The Management tell us that our act might be considered ‘gay’. The press are in and Freddie doesn’t want to be considered ‘gay’.

Obviously disappointed, I try to reason with them by pointing out that (1) it’s obvious to anyone that Freddie Mercury is gay, (2) the band’s name is Queen for fuck’s sake and (3) what’s the big deal anyway? I peer through the window and notice Freddie with his tongue down Elton’s throat. The Management will have none of it and insist on paying me off in full. I would have put the £600 into my pocket but, as I was only wearing a sock at the time…

I’m disappointed and disillusioned but, what the hell, there’s a party to go to. I ask the Management if we can get dressed and join in. “After he’s cut the cake,” they reply. Off they go, locking the door behind them. We then suffer the indignity of peering through a 10” x 8” window, waiting for the cake to arrive.

After about 15 minutes, it appears. It’s huge: a great pink cake in the shape of a Rolls-Royce, complete with the number plates FM1. Three burly carriers lay it on three tables for Freddie to cut. He stands behind the cake, the paparazzi stand in front. Freddie grasps a 12” knife in both hands and poses for pictures. He stabs the cake and strides off. The dressing-room door is finally unlocked and I ask the Management if we could please come out and join the party. One of them points and says we can go into ‘that bit’ (the room in front of the stage), but not into ‘that bit’ (an ante room containing Freddie, Rod, Princess, Elton etc). We go into ‘that bit’ (in front of the stage).

‘Our bit’ is full of liggers and hangers-on paying £5 for pints of piss water, in the vain hope of meeting somebody famous. By now I am doubly disappointed. Not only have we not been allowed to perform, but we’re not even allowed to meet anyone we were supposed to perform in front of. By this time it’s 2.00am and I suggest to the others that we fuck off home, especially as I’ve got to get up early with the kids. We head for a side door.

In the corridor by the exit – untouched except for a single stab wound – is Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake. I look at my companions, they look at me and I utter the words I know they want to hear:

“We’ll have that,” I say.

You would never think a cake could weigh so much. We certainly don’t, until we drag it out of the door and to our Ford Transit, (which, as luck would have it) is parked a mere 20 yards away. We open the back and in it goes… well, not quite. There are still three or four feet sticking out the back. And so we drive the eight miles back to my house in south-east London with the back end of Freddie Mercury’s pink Roller sticking out of the back of our battered Transit.

We arrive back at my place only to discover that we can’t get the thing up the stairs. Martin – the sensible Balloon Dancer – suggests we take it to his house, seeing as how he lives on the ground floor. By this time it is 3.00am, but we think, “Fuck it, it’s got to be done.”

We get to Martin’s place and try to take the cake in. Slight mishap: it won’t fit throught his door. By this time, we’re getting good at solving cake conundrums. No problem, we take out the window.

Mission accomplished. We clear the only two tables in the house and there it lies, in pride of place. Drive home. It’s 4.30am.


9th October 1986, 9.30am

The phone rings.

I pick it up and answer with an only slightly subdued “Oy! Oy!”

“It’s Louis…” The agent. “You bastards! You’ve stolen Freddie Mercury’s birthday cake!”

Me (quick as a flash): “No we haven’t. It must have been some teenagers we saw when we were leaving.”

Louis: “Well, the Management have called in the police. That cake cost £4,000.” Click.

I can admit to being slightly worried. A past indiscretion (theft of Cabinet Minister Peter Walker’s Rolls-Royce, fraud, burglary, etc) meant that I spent much of the 1970s in prison.

I ring Martin: “Mart, they’re on to us. I’m coming round.”

I go round.

Martin has a bright idea. “We can’t eat it – it’s too big – let’s give it to an old people’s home. Old folks like cake.”

Brilliant. We phone the local old people’s home which snaps up the offer of free cake for the foreseeable future.

Window frame out. Cake back in Transit.

As we drive away from Martin’s house, I notice a police car coming from the opposite direction. They stop at Martin’s, but luckily don’t think to look in their rear-view mirror. If they had, they would have seen three feet of cake sticking out of the back of our van.

We deliver the cake to the Reynard Memorial Nursing Home. Breathe a sigh of relief and drive home.


9th October, 1986 – 4.30pm

Asleep. The doorbell rings.

Answer door.

Two detectives from West End Central Police Station are standing on my doorstep.

Detective Number 1: “You’ve stolen Freddie Mercury’s birthday cake.”

Me: “No I haven’t.”

Detective Number 2: “Oh yes you have.”

Me: “This is a pantomime.”

Detective Number 1: “Oh no it’s not.”

Me: “Behind you.”

They barge in, produce a search warrant and – believe it or not – two magnifying glasses with which they search for cake crumbs. Needless to say they don’t find any and they leave, vowing to return.

That was almost ten years ago and I’ve not heard a thing since.

Hang on, is that the door?


Inspirational in all the wrong ways…

Malcolm’s extensive and outrageous autobiography, titled I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake, is now out of print but is available on Amazon and elsewhere.

On amazon.co.uk it currently has a completely incorrect synopsis – the result of some uncorrected cock-up in the Amazon system. It’s been like that for at least five years, but Malcolm would probably have enjoyed the anarchy. 

The synopsis currently starts: “For successful classroom teaching, your students need to be engaged and active learners. In this book, there is practical advice that is grounded in the realities of teaching in today’s classrooms on how to be an inspirational teacher and produce highly motivated students…”

Malcolm’s autobiography is indeed inspirational, but in all the wrong ways…

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You will not be paid for what you write “of course”… a not abnormal phone call

Mad inventor and Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award designer John Ward has a varied life. For the last six years, as well as all his other surreal duties, he has written a weekly Ward’s World column of around 1,200 words for the Spalding Guardian newspaper.

John Ward toiling over his weekly Ward’s World column for the Spalding Guardian…

Last week, his column was about telephone scammers.

Today, I got an email from John about reaction to that column:


Following on from my Ward’s World column last week about scammers ringing to tell people that their internet will be closed in 24 hours unless… blah… blah… “but give me your card details and I can sort it” tosh… I have heard of two ‘near misses’ and one who sadly fell for it – all being elderly, which comes as no surprise I suppose.

But the best reaction so far is…

My phone rings on Monday morning…

I am speaking to Andrew, who informs me he represents something called the Lincolnshire Rural Crime Prevention and Awareness Forum. He said he had read my piece online and was quite impressed with it.

He pointed out that the ‘Forum’ bit in the long convoluted title might be changed to ‘Panel’ (as in wooden maybe?) as this was to be brought up in their next meeting of minds.

However, while he thought my column was written ‘tongue in cheek’ (I begged to differ on that), he also thought it would be ideal – subject to my agreement – to reproduce in a new free quarterly county magazine that is in the throes of being put together before being sent to print.

So far so good.

However, the more we chatted, the more it seemed that he would not be ‘terribly’ happy to include the segment mentioning Argos, as this was ‘advertising’ plus, due to the length, it would have to be cut down “of course”.

I pointed out that the Spalding Guardian didn’t have any problems with printing it.

Plus, Andrew said, they could not pay me “of course” as I would be “donating it” for their use “of course”.

I asked him in return if he knew the date when slave labour was abolished or are they still pursuing this line of employment?

The term “of course” was beginning to grate a bit by now I must confess. But, if nothing else, I feel sure, if he gives up what he is doing now, a career at the BBC awaits him… based on some of the ordeals I have suffered with assorted individuals employed there over many years.

By now I was wondering if he was going to ask me for my bank card details but the next bit was quite something.

Would I object to it appearing without my name?

I responded with “Why not go the whole hog and reproduce Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens but leave out the author’s name… You would be on safe ground there as he is now dead.”

Andrew’s pause was acceptable…

… before he asked: “Who is dead?”

After another of his acceptable pauses, he said he thought I was being flippant.

John often gets unusual telephone calls…

So I pointed out that, if I read it right, he/they wanted me to ‘donate’ my writing efforts, for him or A.N.Other to edit as they saw fit, leave out assorted ‘segments’ that didn’t pass their standards plus I was not even going to get a mention, credit-wise, as the original author!

I asked him how much he would like me to donate to their cause and I bade him farewell with an old Russian sounding greeting – with the second word being “off”…

Of course.

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What it takes to bribe a police officer

British hospitality (Photo by Morgan Sessions via UnSplash)

A police officer came round to my home for a chat yesterday. These things happen.

A very nice young man, bright-eyed and amiable.

At a random point, I asked him if he wanted a cup of tea, but then I suddenly thought and said: 

“Oh! I suppose maybe you can’t. That would count as attempting to bribe a police officer…”

He said no, he didn’t want a cup of tea but… “No, offering a cup of tea would not really be bribery…

There was a slight pause.

“…but offering me a bar of chocolate might be.”

“Really?” I replied, surprised. “Why?”

Potential police bribery (Photo by Marqquin via UnSplash)

“Well,” the nice young police officer said, “I think that would count as a gift, but a cup of tea would be just…” 

He paused, not quite sure what the next words should be.

“…being British?” I suggested.

He smiled and shrugged.

Thinking about it afterwards, maybe I should have suggested: “…taking a drink.”

Rather than smiling, he might have laughed.

As I said in yesterday’s blog, English can sometimes – sometimes – be a subtle language.

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ECCENTRIVIA: The joys and perils of writing in the English language…

The funeral of Prince Philip takes place in England today and it seems to have encouraged an outbreak of dodgy journalese… First of all I read this on a BBC post…

One can only imagine what connections the military units had had with Prince Philip on the grass, which is how that can be read.

Later, this more jaw-dropping Antipodean literary blunder was spotted online:

It is easy to make an English language faux pas.

English can be a subtle language, as this Facebook posting (also today) makes clear:

 

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A ‘pervert’ comments on his memories of a strip club in Canada in the 1980s

Anna as ‘Nurse Annie’ around 1979

These blogs can sometimes have unexpected results.

Yesterday, I was talking to someone who wanted to make a short film based an old blog of mine from 2012.

And, about three weeks ago, someone commented on my 23rd October 2014 post What It Was Like to Work in a Canadian Strip Club in the 1980s – which had been contributed by Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, who now lives in Vancouver. She performed at the club in question – Le Strip in Toronto – as ‘Nurse Annie’.

Here, in an edited-down form, are some of the Comments on that original 2014 blog. It includes an odd list of strippers which, I think, gives an idea – I hesitate to say ‘feeling’ – of the era.


Sherry, 12th December 2016

lol i used to dance there many moons ago, best friend owned it for a while, club was an experience for sure.

Strawberry Cher, 28 December 2020

I worked Le Strip one time, was more of a Starvin Marvin girl. That comment is from a Sherry (dancer). Are you Mississippi Sherry? I danced under the name Strawberry Cher. Hope you are well and everything is good for you.

Richard, 5th August 2019

I confess! I worked Le Strip for a short while. I was the fellow in the announce booth, that silver-tongued lucky guy who hailed the arrival of Black Satin, Dolly De Milo, Bridgette, Varushka. 

Recalling Saturdays, there were regulars who formed a small queue at Le Strip’s Yonge Street entrance. One Oriental gentleman, an older man, would be the very first to climb the steep set of stairs into the club. 

It offered comfortable theatre seating, Each performer took to the narrow, eye-level stage for their fifteen minute performance. Refreshments were never offered, 

My mother declined any conversation during my Le Strip days. I never listed Le Strip in any job application.

Richard, 21st May 2020

Months after I quit my announcer gig, my friend and I took our seats in the intimate theater-like audience at Le Strip. The dancer interrupted her performance and shouted out her greeting directly to me. Though but for an instant, it elevated me before my friend to incredible heights.

I witnessed a singularly raucous event at Le Strip just once during my short employment there, an after hours party. It was Varushka who tumbled off the narrow stage at this very crowded do. Everyone there kept all their clothes on. Varushka was the daughter of a high school principal. The beautiful 19 year old became a stripper for any of the multiple reasons girls take on this type of work with her unique background.

Norm the bouncer relentlessly reminded anyone of his Roy Orbison security days. 

I am careening towards my 70th year looking back on my Le Strip days fifty years ago with a kind of fondness.

Brock, 8th August 2020

“…I was the gentleman that gave out the trophy every year…”

I attended Le Strip from the day it opened on Jan 11, 1971 until it closed on Aug 28, 1997. 

Obviously I saw Nurse Annie dance in the 80s. 

I was the gentleman that gave out the trophy every year.

Here is a list of trophies given out. 

Candy Kiss was 71-72. Candy was a great dancer. 

72-73 was Roxanne, a rather shy and nervous dancer because her pubic hair was really long and I thought it “trophy worthy”. 

73-74 was Dianne Da Ville, who had trimmed pubic hair. 

74-75 went to Elaine Paris. She was nervous about going nude. Always danced to Elvis Presley songs. 

75-76 was Lolita, first black dancer to get the trophy. Only about 20, 110 lbs and very nervous about dancing. 

76-77 went to April, black hair and very pretty. Also nervous but liked that the job paid well. 

77-78 was Linda, blonde hair and shy as well.

78-79 was Valerie. She was originally from Nova Scotia and Le Strip was her first club to dance in.

In 80-81, the dancer was Joy and may have been a friend of Nurse Annie. About 5’3″ and blonde. Nervous at the start too. 

81-82 went to Morgana Rivera, a little more curvy than previous winners with a beautiful smile. 

82-83 was Jacky, another black dancer. Also shy when she started. Her husband came to the club to watch her quite often. 

83-84 went to Black Magic, who always dressed in black. Nervous at first but soon got very comfortable. 

84-85 was Cody Barret aka Foxy Lady. She was an excellent dancer who had danced at the club for several years. 

85-86 was Morgana Rivera again, first time a dancer won twice. 

86-87 went to Candice White. Black hair, about 120 lbs who was nervous. Had a mohawk and even shaved her head. 

For 87-88 it was Andrea Royce, who looked like adult movie star Rhonda Jo Petty to me. 

88-89 was a dancer named Red, brown hair sometimes dyed red. Truly stunning young woman. 34 B and a fair amount of experience. When Red danced, every finger had a gold ring on it and a gold chain around her waist. Her belly button had a gold ring and she even had a gold clit piercing. 

89-90 was a dancer named Jacky T, long-time dancer. Stayed at Le Strip until it closed in 1997. Had breast implants and brown hair. 

90-91 was a dancer named Rose, very petite, around 5’3″ and black hair. Shaved herself in a landing strip style. She was very nervous at first. 

91-92 went to Mandy, very shy. First dancer I had noticed had pierced nipples. In fact, first poster Sherry was friends with Mandy I believe. 

After that, I started bringing the trophy to a different club Whiskey-a-Go-Go north of the city.

Nurse Annie mentioned the pervs who were there every week. Even to this day in 2020, I am still friends with several of the dancers and my ‘fellow pervs’. 

The original owner, Howard Devin, sold club in 1980 to a man named Don. He owned in until April 1, 1995. Ray Pope bought the club from Don. Ray and his wife both were ex-dancers so knew more about what is like to be a dancer. 

These days, I’m 73, still live in St Catharines but lost a leg to diabetes. My days there were an incredible time and I will never forget it.

Your truly, the perv Brock.

George, 8th April 2021

During the mid to late 70s I had the Records On Wheels store. I use to go Le Strip mostly for afternoon lunch and day drinking… then back to my store. 

“The cops came in and we hustled the girls out the back…”

I had two of the dancers come to my store to pose topless by two stationary bikes in front of my store while The RPM magazine took photos. We were promoting Queen’s album All That Jazz, which had a fold-out poster inside of topless ladies riding bikes – “I want to ride your bicycle!

I had the girls walking topless inside my store. The place was PACKED… including lots of 13 to 14 year old boys acting like they were thumbing through the albums. The cops came in and we hustled the girls out the back. It was sooo much fun. I still have the picture from RPM magazine.

Brock, 12th August 2020

Some other dancers I remember were Yvette in ’72, married to a laywer, had 2 kids and she got divorced. Nervous at the start. And Angel Eyes, ’73 – she was very pretty. Unusual act because she told jokes as she stripped. 

Holly started at age 37 in 1985. 5″2″ and curvy, she danced to Al Green songs. Once on stage she wore purple high heels, leather outfit. 

In ’76 there was a dancer with stage name Shirley Carson, started around age 42, quite busty. I asked if I could get a table dance and she came out and said she had a problem. I asked what that was. She said she had not taken a shower and was going to sweat a lot. I didn’t mind, so we had the dance. 

One of the most memorable was Gwendolyn, 5’5″ who wore gloves, which not many dancers did. One of her talents was that she could juggle while dancing.

Brock, 2nd September 2020

There was a dancer named Lana. She started in 1979; was first at the Zanzibar in 1977. She was about 5’10” and had brown hair. In high heels she was 6’1″. On her hips was a tattoo of green hearts. She could do a yoga move when laying on the stage and flutter her stomach like a belly dancer. She could do the splits as well. Some people hated her and some loved her. I was one who was a big fan. 

Another dancer named LeeAnn who I remember had a bend in her nose. Only danced about a year, had been a high school cheerleader. Some of the patrons remembered her from those days. Always in heels and a nightgown when she came out onto stage. Nervous at first due to recognition but got to be a pro. Probably left due to her being recognized from high school days.

Val, 14th September 2020

Brock, I used to go there all the time. Do you recall a girl called Amber? (Christine) ?

Brock, 12th October 2020

Hi Val, the dancer named Amber I remember was real name Kim and wore white shoes and an orange top; she was very pale with freckles. She owned a flower shop and got married to a Portuguese man. I think she may have got divorced and I have lost touch with. Is this the same Amber/Christine that you remember or am I thinking of a different Amber?

Amelia, 27th March 2021

Why would any decent person promote this filth and reminisce about this slutty so-called job? Shame on you. You are pathetic.


I asked Anna Smith is she wanted to react to that last post…

She did.

Anna Smith, 14th April 2021

Anna Smith being comely in orange

I can hardly express how sorry I feel for the pathetic individuals who have never experienced the double ecstacy of going on stage, dressed however the fuck you want, and getting paid hundreds of dollars in cash to show your ass. In those days, I frequently enjoyed showing my ass for free, just to remind tourists they were not in New York, but getting paid for so doing was even better.

My “comely bottom” was once even reviewed by Peter Goddard, the esteemed music critic for the Toronto Star. He said that its appearance shattered the lofty tranquility at Convocation Hall at the University of Toronto, during an anti-nuclear concert.

The same eventful showing of my behind was also reported in The Globe and Mail, Canada’s national newspaper.

It was somewhat embarrassing however, because many fine musical artists performed that evening and, unlike Mr Methane, my ass is not musically talented whatsoever. 

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To hell with correct grammar. This is English. What’s right is what feels right.

My chum Ariane Sherine’s 9-year-old daughter is astonishingly creative. It is perhaps not surprising that she is very literate as her mother has been a columnist for multiple broadsheet newspapers and has written books while her father also writes for a prominent broadsheet newspaper.

But she is also very musically and visually talented – again, something in the genes.

Last week, she got a new painting set as an early 10th birthday present and did this:

Admittedly it is based on an image she saw online. But the original has different colour tones, the blossoms on the tree are different and there are no blossoms coming off the tree. The original is a daytime image. Hers is, she says, “around six o’clock in the evening”.

She recently asked people she knows to write honest essays about her for her 10th birthday next week. So she can know what people think of her.

Last night, her mother showed me some of the essay she has written about her daughter. It included the sentence: “I’m so pleased you’re following in the footsteps of your father and I and expressing yourself creatively.”

The following text exchange then followed:


JOHN

I am always a bit vague on this but should it be “your father and me”?

‘You’ is subject; ‘following’ is verb; ‘footsteps’ = object?

But fuck knows how your father and I/me fits in. Clearly I need remedial education.

Genuinely flummoxed.

ARIANE

I have no idea but I asked a friend who didn’t know either – and he is a linguist! 😂


ARIANE: Hi – need grammar help! I want to say that I’m pleased she’s following in my and her dad’s footsteps, but how do I word it? 

“I’m so pleased that you’re following in the footsteps of myself and your father”?

or “of your father and I”?

or “of your father and me”?

FRIEND: I’m struggling too. Whichever way you say it, it sounds stiff and unidiomatic, which indicates to me that it needs rephrasing. Is it possible to mention her father and you in the previous sentence and then say: “I’m so pleased that you’re following in our footsteps”? Sorry I can’t be more helpful.


JOHN (to ARIANE)

The only person who’s going to know is your daughter and we can’t ask her!

Maybe “I’m so pleased that you’re expressing yourself creatively” – to disguise the fact that you, your friend and I are utterly illiterate!

ARIANE

Ha ha! Yes maybe 😂🤣

ME

It’s a sobering fact that you are a multi-titled broadsheet columnist with multiple books out… I was paid by Random House (the world’s biggest publisher) to edit a bestselling book… and your friend was a university lecturer possibly with academic publications to his name…

…and none of us knows how to write a basic English sentence!

ARIANE

Ha ha! To be fair, it’s a VERY difficult sentence! xxx

ME

Hah! Says you!

ARIANE

I don’t think my friend had stuff published in journals. His wife did, and she had a PhD. But he’s no slouch either! 

JOHN

My excuse is that I was mostly educated in Essex.

What’s your excuse?

I bet your daughter knows. She’s already got better vocabulary than we do.

ARIANE

She is amazing. 🥰 

JOHN

I’m off to bed now.

(LONG GAP)

JOHN

…talk about sleepless nights!

I was dozing off and “you’re following in the footsteps of your father and I” started swirling in my head!

The problem is it’s about the possession of the footsteps, not about subject-verb-object. So maybe both “I” AND “me” are wrong.

The actual thing being communicated is “you’re following in your father’s footsteps and in my footsteps”.

So I guess it should be “you’re following in the footsteps of your father and of mine”

But that and “you’re following in the footsteps of your father and mine” both sound ridiculous, so can’t sensibly be used.

I think it’s a balance between being grammatically correct and sounding right.

So it’s a case, as your friend said, of rephrasing … or of just tossing a coin about I and me.

ARIANE

Ha ha! Thanks for email, just read it. I think I‘ll stick with father and I… it’ll do.

JOHN

Yeah. Like I say. To hell with correct grammar. This is English. What’s right is what feels right.

I’m off to sleep now… I hope.

Unless I’m visited by the ghost of Dr Johnson.

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“Bloody Norah!” – Who was she?

Bloody Nora in Assassin’s Creed: Syndicate is totally irrelevant to what follows…

Yesterday, my eternally un-named friend mused on the origin of the phrase “Bloody Norah!” (or “Bloody Nora!”) – a British exclamation used to convey surprise, contempt or frustration.

I had no idea where this came from.

Apparently the phrase is rare or non-existent in the USA and Canada but it is common in British, Australian and New Zealand slang, with “Flaming Nora!” as an alternative.

I think, like many a bizarre saying, no-one really knows the origin.

But the Guardian’s late-lamented Notes & Queries section had a stab at it (with readers’ suggestions).

And here (risking copyright infringement) is what they reckoned…


SEMANTIC ENIGMAS

Who was Bloody Norah and why is she used as an exclamation?

  • Bloody Norah was originally called Norah and the maid for the wealthy Duke Wodingtonshire in the 17th century. She earned the name Bloody Norah after she killed a servant of the duke with a stick of celery. When the Duke caught her repeatedly slapping the bloody corpse with the stick of celery he shouted “Oh dear god, you’re all bloody, Norah….” and, after beating her, he banished her to a basement cell for 3 years.

    When the 3 years was up, the Duke set her free but Norah insisted on working for the Duke. Reluctantly the Duke gave her a job cleaning the stables only to find 4 days later she had killed another servant, this time with a kettle. When the Duke found her once again maiming her victim with the dented kettle, he cried, “Oh, bloody Norah!” and grabbed a horseshoe in an attempt to kill Norah.

    After a long struggle, Norah escapes, leaving the battered Duke cussing to himself: “Bloody Norah!”.

    The expression came from the Duke himself, as he would tell the story of Norah to all he knew and would always refer to her as “Bloody Norah”.

    As the Duke aged he grew senile, he would be heard talking to himself and shouting: “….BLOODY NORAH!!!!……”. And, as people around saw him still as a respected figure in the community, they all started saying “Bloody Norah!” as they all thought the Duke has invented a new cuss word. It has stuck until the present day.
    (Ronnie, Essex, UK)
    I think Norah’s up there with “Gordon Bennett”, “Christchurch Cathedral” and “Blood & Sand” as a way of pretending not to swear once you’ve started. Similarly “God blind me” has become “Cor Blimey” and “By Our Lady” has become “Bloody”
    (Chris Bourne, Brussels, Belgium)
    ‘Nora’ is not a woman’s name but a form of the word ‘horror’. The phrase started off as “flaming horror” (or “flipping/bloody etc horror”) as a cry of dismay/disbelief. In the normal Cockney manner, the final ‘g’ and the opening ‘h’ were dropped to produce something that sounded like “flamin-orror” and that in turn over the years became “Flamin’ Nora!”…or “Bloody Nora” as a stronger alternative. So Nora wasn’t a person at all but the result of an accent.
    (David, Weybridge, England)
    During the 1990s in England a surge of mock-Cockneys arose and with it also surged their use of the irritating rhyming Cockney slang. This was one of the expressions that came about then; you will not find reference to it before then.
    (Laura Evans, Plaistow, London, UK)
    “Bloody Nora!” has been used in the London area for many years, in the same way as “Gawd Blimey!”. In the 1970s I recall an incident in a pub when a female friend arrived inappropriately dressed. When someone remarked “Bloody Nora!”, a Durham associate asked, “Oh, is her name Nora?”. The expression had obviously not travelled that far north.
    (Rob Harrington, Leyton, London, UK)

Basically, no-one really knows…

For example, the first explanation cites ‘Duke Wodingtonshire’ – a title which, as far as I know, has never existed.

The phrase was in common usage well before the 1990s. And “flamin-orror” turning into “Flamin’ Nora!” when said in a Cockney accent sounds more like something Dick Van Dyke might say in Mary Poppins rather than a real Cockney pronunciation.

“Blood and Sand!” – which I have never of heard before – is more cocktail than Cockney.

My eternally un-named friend is also not convinced it is possible to kill anyone with a stick of celery.

If it IS possible, I can only pray she never finds out details of the technique…

…and that talented storyteller ‘Ronnie from Essex’ writes a novel or a screenplay sharpish, incorporating the celery…

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Irresistible US performer Lynn Ruth Miller’s visa struggle to stay in the UK

87-year-old American comedy performer Lynn Ruth Miller is not just an international treasure but a national treasure. And she eventually got the UK government to agree…

Eventually…

Here she explains…


YOU CAN’T GET IT ALL

But I always try. 

I have a little voice inside me that says, “Yes you can!!! If you want it, it is yours.”  

And I listen to it. 

So it was that I decided to move to Brighton, England, at the nubile age of 81.  

A man named Bill Smith promised me a fascinating job, a living wage, a beautiful home and a visa to guarantee that the British Government would welcome me.

I believed him.

I should have known that anyone with such a boring name would be up to no good, but I did not. I just listened to that stubborn little voice whispering, “Go on! Do it! Do it!”

So I did.

I sold my California home, packed up my feathers, tassels and thongs and crossed the ocean, filled with optimism and hope.  

I would begin a new life! I would speak like Queen Elizabeth and learn to drink tea. I would say, “Are you well?” to strangers I didn’t care about and bitch about the weather. I would be British.

It didn’t turn out that way.  

I was housed in a flat above a fish and chips place and fired from my job in three months with no living wage and no visa. I still had an unmistakable American accent and I drank coffee.

But that little voice whispered in my ear, “You can get that visa… You can get that living wage… You don’t have to smell like fried fish… Move on!”

So I did.

I managed to get a ‘tier five’ visa that involved me leaving the country every three months and I moved to London where the action is.  

Then the little voice said: ”You have to find a way to stop running hither and thither. You are not as young as you used to be. Besides, travel is expensive. You have to get a permanent visa. Then you will be safe.”

“What about a living wage?” I asked.

“We will get to that later,” said the little voice.

So it was that I found a lovely sponsor who kept reassuring me that the three month routine was enough and I kept saying, “But it doesn’t give me medical care,” and he said, “Take your vitamins.”

So I did.

But then the worst happened. 

The Home Office disqualified my lovely sponsor and I tried to find another person to give me proper papers. Each one I found either wanted to charge me three times the price of a new home in Chelsea to do the work or else decided I was too big a risk.   

Meanwhile, the little voice kept saying, “Do not give up. You really CAN have it all.”

So I didn’t. 

I talked to lawyer after lawyer and each one said, “The only options open to you are to marry a Brit, study at a University or to be so talented that the British people cannot bear to let you go.”

By this time, I was 86 years old and had lived alone for so long I did not close the bathroom door. My memory was like a sieve and felt I had never had any talent. But I DID have that little voice.   

“If you marry, you will have to cook him three meals every single day and do other uncomfortable things,” it said. “If you study, you will have to use intelligence and that went when you lost your waistline. Try that talent thing. What do you have to lose?”

That was when I stumbled on an angel named Peter. 

He and I consulted more lawyers who told me to give up and go back to America. 

But Peter said, “There must be a way. Do you know anyone who can convince the Arts Council that you are indispensable?”

And I said, “My dogs are dead.”

But the little voice said, ”Just try!”

So I did.

I managed to convince a lot of people who were sympathetic to the elderly to write letters swearing I was a national treasure and, to my amazement, The Arts Council bought it.  

“See? What did I tell you?” said the little voice. “The British love eccentric old ladies.”

But, sadly, the Home Office does not. 

They wrote me and said, “Well, the Arts Council says you are a ‘Global Talent’ from America. But why are you still here?”

And I said, “Because there is a pandemic going on and I had to stay here or die.”

I said this once.  

I said this twice. 

And, finally, another angel named Kate wrote them a letter and so did cherubic Peter and the Home Office buckled. 

“OK,” they said, “we will let her stay. After all she is 87. How long will it be?”

Success at last!… Lynn Ruth Miller can stay in the UK!

AND I DID IT!! 

I GOT IT! 

I AM HERE FOR FIVE YEARS!  

THE BRITISH SAY I AM TALENTED.  

I GET MEDICAL CARE. 

But I didn’t get it all.  

To my dismay, the visa says I cannot work as a sportsperson.  

A tragic end to 87-year-old Lynn Ruth’s hopes of attaining track, field, boxing or Olympic stardom…

No rugby, no cricket, no soccer for me.  

I will have to return my helmet and chest protector to Bat And Ball.

“Stop bitching,” said the little voice. “You win some; you lose some.”

Don’t I know it?

 

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Filed under Comedy, immigration, UK

Lockdown spawns humorous manga CLAMPdown book by UK Wolf man

Ian Wolf is a man with a plan

I am posting this on April Fool’s Day. But it is after midday, so all that follows is true. And today is also CLAMP Day. 

Next year, on 1st April 2022, it may be CLAMP Day 2… or it may not be. It is complicated.

A few days ago, I got an email from Ian Wolf. Although that might not be his name. It is complicated. The email was headed:

Autistic author releasing CLAMP book a-chapter-per-year for free until he finds publisher.

During the UK’s multiple COVID-19 lockdowns over the last 12 months, Ian Wolf decided to keep himself occupied by writing CLAMPdown – a humorous book about his favourite comic book artists – the all-women Japanese manga group CLAMP.

CLAMP is a group of four women who have been creating manga since the 1980s. The group consists of writer Nanase Ohkawa, artists Mokona Apapa (aka Mokona) and Mick Nekoi (aka Tsubaki Nekoi) and designer and art assistant Satsuki Igarashi. 

CLAMP in 2006 (Photo by John (Phoenix) Brown)

Their subjects range from Hindu mythology (RG Veda), ‘magical girl’ kids romance (Cardcaptor Sakura), the apocalypse (X), social commentary (Tokyo Babylon) and fantasy worlds where everything is named after a car (Magic Knight Rayearth) to lesbian sex comedy (Miyuki-chan in Wonderland). 

Frankly, in my view, you just can’t beat a good lesbian sex comedy.

Author Ian Wolf works for the British Comedy Guide website. He is their ‘Data Specialist’: 

“I write up articles for several shows,” he explains, “creating feature articles, reporting news stories, maintaining the TV and radio schedule and so forth. Probably my most famous work is collecting the reviews for all the shows during the Edinburgh Fringe. In 2015, I was given the first and only ‘Unsung Hero’ Award at the Ham Fist Prizes for my work. In 2019, I became a judge for the Increasingly Prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards.”

He also worked as an editor for the television website On The Box, having previously been a TV and radio reviewer for Giggle Beats.

Ian tries panda-ing to Eastern tastes

In early 2020, Ian also became a question writer for a couple of UK peaktime TV quiz shows Richard Osman’s House of Games and The Wall, under his real name (Ian Dunn).

He has also twice been a contestant on MastermindHis specialist subjects were the BBC Radio 4 sitcom Bleak Expectations and the Four Gospels. 

He tells me: “I also wrote in the preface to CLAMPdown that I was a Countdown conundrum setter – but this is a mountweasel. I put in as a trap to make sure journalists are paying attention, as I later mention in the introduction that this is one show I did not work on.”

Ian is from Stockton-on-Tees and has a mild form of Asperger’s Syndrome, part of the autistic spectrum. 

Parallel to comedy, quizzes, Radio 4’s Bleak Expectations and entrapping unwary journalists, another area of interest for Ian is anime and manga. 

Ian as seen in Anime form…

“I wrote a Beginner’s Guide to Anime for On The Box,” he explains, “and I review it for the website Anime UK News.

He was also the manga critic for all 71 issues of MyM Magazine” (2012-18)

I said to Ian: “Just for my blog’s reader in Guatemala, explain the difference between anime and manga…”

“Anime is animation from Japan. Manga is comic books from Japan.”

He has struggled to find a publisher for CLAMPdown partly, he thinks, because of his Asperger’s Syndrome and the niche subject of his book. 

He says: “Having written a comic book (‘comic’ as in ‘funny’) about comic books (‘comic’ as in ‘graphic novel’), I have decided to go about it in a comic (‘funny’) way and so, having set up the Twitter account @clampdownbook, I want to make the publishers come to me, by publishing free entire extracts of CLAMPdown for all to read.”

Chapter 1: From Gay Guys to Genderless Gods covers the origins of CLAMP and their first commercially published work RG Veda, a series loosely based on the Vedic text the Rig Veda and focuses on Ashura, a genderless god of destruction. 

RG Veda, a series loosely based on the Vedic text

Ian says: “I am publishing one chapter of the book online, for free, until a publisher picks it up or the entire book is available for free. If I find no company willing to publish the book within a year, then I will publish Chapter 2 the same time next year.”

If a publisher is still not found, he will then publish a new chapter every year until a publisher does appear or the entire book is available for free online. As it stands, he says, “this would end in 2038, but it could become longer if CLAMP create any new works during that time. 

“Of course, I want a publisher to take an immediate interest in my work and offer me the chance to release CLAMPdown now for anyone to buy. However, if no publisher is currently interested, I’m happy to play the long game. Plus, I feel I can deal with rejection better if it is told to me gently over roughly two decades rather than straight away.”  

As well as manga comics, CLAMP’s work extends into anime TV series. The group have provided character designs for the forthcoming TV anime series Cardfight!! Vanguard overdress, which debuts on Saturday (3rd April).

One of CLAMP’s older titles, occult detective series Tokyo Babylon, was the subject of a planned TV adaptation entitled Tokyo Babylon 2021, but production was cancelled on Monday after production company GoHands reportedly committed multiple acts of plagiarism. There are plans to restart afresh.

“What is your favourite anime TV series?” I asked Ian.

“The sci-fi comedy Gurren Lagann. Think Carry On Pacific Rim – big giant robots, and at one point a woman’s bikini flies off Barbara Windsor style.”

“I will keep that image of an anime bikini flying off into the air in my mind for some considerable time,” I told him.

“In anime and manga,” Ian emphasised to me, “there is something for everyone.”

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