On Sunday, I went to the Up The Creek comedy club in Greenwich. The club was started and run by comedian Malcolm Hardee until he died (drowned) in 2005.
I went with a friend. We both knew Malcolm.
She had known him for about 20 years and had worked with him at Up The Creek. I knew him for about 20 years and, in 1996, wrote his autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake. He could have written it himself but he – correctly, as it turned out – reckoned he’d never get round to actually doing it.
“Avalon have got me a deal with Fourth Estate to write my autobiography,” he told me. “Fuck it, I won’t do it. You’ll have to do it. I’ll split the advance with you 50/50.”
“Nah!” I told him. “You can do it. I’ll just be prodding you to write it. You’ll do it all. We can split it 90/10 in your favour.”
Eventually he persuaded me to increase my percentage to an 80/20 split in his favour.
This isn’t the way negotiations are supposed to go: me trying to take less, him trying to give me more.
Weird. That was everything connected with Malcolm’s daily life.
Last Sunday was the first time either of us – my friend and I – had been to a show at Up The Creek since Malcolm drowned almost exactly six years ago. Sunday had been Malcolm’s own unique nights.
So it was slightly strange. Like being in a parallel universe.
Everything inside Up The Creek was vaguely the same but slightly different.
That was everything connected with Malcolm’s daily life.
At home, he occasionally put a live goldfish in his mouth to get attention – I saw him do it twice. It was often said of Malcolm, with a lot of justification, that he never had a stage act – his life was his act.
We are talking here about a man who, when we were writing his autobiography, almost forgot to mention until the very last moment – after the first proofs had been printed – that he had once been detained and questioned by Special Branch officers when he was found in the middle of the night on a hotel balcony outside the then prominent government minister Michael Heseltine‘s room, wearing nothing but a pair of socks and a leather coat containing £5,200 in cash and a pack of very pornographic playing cards. (He thought it was a friend’s room.) I have spoken to people who were present at the hotel; they told me the Special Branch officers looked slightly stunned.
I felt much the same watching a Sunday comedy show without Malcolm at Up The Creek on Sunday.
Malcolm almost forgot to tell me the Special Branch story because it was not that unusual an incident in a very unusual life.