The late comedian Malcolm Hardee has been called the greatest influence on British comedy in the last 25 years. He knew everybody.
His friend Steve Taylor looked at the 95 photos of Malcolm’s infamous Tunnel Palladium club mentioned in my blog of a couple of days ago – and the references to Johnny Edgecombe, the man who triggered the Profumo sex scandal which brought down the Conservative government in 1964 – and it reminded Steve of one occasion in the 1980s when Malcolm Hardee introduced him to someone else who was very famous…
“At the time,” Steve tells me, “I was running my Laughingas comedy clubs (which I started with Phil Cool) in various Lancashire venues and I used to visit London often looking for new acts.
“I had been told about Malcolm’s club The Tunnel by Jasper Carrott‘s manager. I just introduced myself to Malcolm and tried to sell him Phil Cool, who was on the verge of the big time. Phil came down with me the next week and soon after that played The Tunnel and stormed it.
“After that, I often stayed with Malcolm and his partner Pippa and was rewarded with the honour of lending him money and cooking. With limited facilities it was usually a roast dinner and, of course, Malcolm being Malcolm, he often managed to get a lot of it down the front of his shirt and jacket.
“On this particular visit, for some unknowable reason, Malcolm felt obliged to treat me like a real tourist.
“On my previous visit, I had been roped-in to drive the van and play Wizo’s part in a Greatest Show on Legs tour. We did Salford University, Theatr Hafren in Wales, the Royal College of Egham and a couple more. No comedy clubs, just theatres and the Uni. I did most of the Greatest Show on Legs routines but sadly not the naked balloon dance. I was obviously far too pretty. The time before that, I had helped Malcolm move house.
“But this time, for some reason, he decided I was a tourist.
“So Malcolm says OK, Steve from Up North, what do you fancy doing today?
“I suggested we could go into town and maybe he could introduce me to some of his famous showbiz mates.
“He said that we would sail into the centre of London in his boat.
“This was always a risky proposition, but we got there safely and moored somewhere near Waterloo. (The return trip took hours as the tide was stronger than the motor on the boat.)
“Anyway, I found myself outside Waterloo station and Malcolm took me over to a guy selling flowers and introduced me to him with the words: Oy Oy, This is Steve from Up North.
“Pleased to meet you, the guy says and we leave.
“There you are, says Malcolm as we walk on, That was Buster Edwards, the Great Train Robber… If you want, I can introduce you to a bloke who knows Charlie Kray….. and there was me thinking we might have been having dinner in Langan’s with Michael Caine!
“Did Malcolm react to this anti-climax? Of course not.
“Every minute in Malcolm’s company was quirky.