Category Archives: Books

A surreal book about a duck army written by a non-existent author

“Mankind has gone. There is now a fierce Duck Army that is determined to take over the world…”

That’s the pitch for a new children’s book Tag Tinsel – A Mission Most Fowl by a non-existent author, Ryan Hasler-Stott.

In fact, Ryan Hasler-Stott is two people – comedy person and Teletubbies insert director John Ryan and Darren Hasler-Stott, of whom more below.

So I talked to them…

John Ryan (left) with Darren Hasler-Stott


ME: Why did you write a children’s book? Because it’s commercial?

JOHN RYAN: No, because we’re both big kids.

ME (TO JOHN RYAN): I talked to you for a blog in July 2021 and you were just about to publish A Mission Most Fowl back then. That was over a year ago.

JOHN RYAN: I think we got a bit distracted. We built an extension. Covid Lockdown happened. My work went. Darren’s work went. He’s an electrician. I wanted to get a new bathroom. Darren is the go-to guy with ideas.

ME: You wanted an electric bathroom?

JOHN RYAN: We got carried away. It started with the bathroom and spiralled. Before we knew it, we were driving diggers round the back garden, digging holes.

ME: Hold on! He’s an electrician; you wanted a bathroom. Electricity and water… Not compatible.

JOHN RYAN: Electricity and water both involve currents.

ME: You have a point.

JOHN RYAN: We wanted to publish a book and build an extension. What I’m saying is we’re not limited by imagination. 

ME: This doesn’t explain the year-long gap in publishing the book.

JOHN RYAN: Darren likes to do things properly. 

Book published with more details HERE

ME: It was just going to be called A Mission Most Fowl. Why is it now called Tag Tinsel: A Mission Most Fowl? What does that even mean?

DARREN: The main character used to have a label attached to him – a tag. Tinsel was the name they gave him. You just put the two together.

ME: The two of you met on a writing course in 1999. Why did you need a writing course? It’s just going to teach you bad rules. There are no rules. 

DARREN: I think it taught us everything we did NOT want to be or do really.

ME: It taught you what you did not want to write?

JOHN RYAN: There were a lot of people there who wrote traditional stories. Boy meets girl; boy loves girl; there’s a misunderstanding; it all comes right in the end. Whereas Darren’s story…

DARREN: I did a short story. Basically about a guy on the run who’s being pursued by a bloke who’s dressed as a magician. A bloke who’s been diagnosed with schizophrenia for hearing voices. But basically he’s house-bound and the neighbour had a dog and, to keep the dog from getting bored, he played the radio all day – talk radio. So he’s driven mad by talk radio in isolation. 

ME: But again: Why did you need a writing course? 

JOHN RYAN: I was working for the Council and I wanted to write and someone said: “No-one’s gonna buy your writing if you work for the Council.” He said: “If you do stand-up comedy, you get to perform on TV. I didn’t want to do stand-up comedy; I just wanted to write for kids. So, literally for my birthday, I signed up to a Writing For Kids course, 

I couldn’t attend the first week because my daughter was going to be born any day. So what did they have next? They had a Creative Writing course. So I did that and met Darren. He supported me getting into stand-up. He came to all my early gigs. He’s got a great sense of humour.

ME: Whose is it?

JOHN RYAN: Terry Pratchett. Very much.

ME: So what’s your own sense of humour?

JOHN RYAN: More Billy Connolly.

ME: So Ryan’s a fantasist and you are an anecdotalist?

JOHN RYAN: Well, I have an observational eye. So, consequently, the Mission Most Fowl story then evolved from a traditional Good v Evil set-up and, along the way, Darren’s kind of Pratchettesque brain came up with ideas that my brain doesn’t even consider. There are a lot of weapons made from unusual objects.

Organic weaponry, exploding fruit… and ducks

DARREN: Organic weaponry. Exploding fruit, an organic supercomputer called MAD – Mission Accessory Device – a MAD computer. 

ME: You and Darren met 22 years ago and it’s taken you this long to decide you wanted to write together? 

JOHN RYAN: Well, no, over the years, when I’ve had ideas for stand-up, I’d run the ideas past him. So we spent a lot of time building an extension, laughing and going: “Here’s an idea!” 

ME: And the plot is…?

JOHN RYAN: Basically, there is a mighty duck army who want to take over the planet. The humans have left Earth. And the only thing between them and all the technology that Man left behind is our team of superheroes who live in a cave. So, to draw them out the cave, the ducks do outrageous things. The team will come out of the cave. And then the ducks will capture them get the technology and all will be well.

But it never quite works out like that. 

ME: They “do outrageous things”?

JOHN RYAN: Yes. So they set up incidents around the forest. They’ve got two brothers who love to dig holes. So they dig holes and set traps. But they can never remember where the holes are. Yeah, they love to dig holes. It’s what they do best. 

ME: When people write books, they’re usually based on their own lives or minds.

JOHN RYAN: I do get worried for him sometimes.

DARREN: (LAUGHS LOUDLY)

JOHN RYAN: We see this very much as a kind of Harry Potter for the 21st century.

ME: …with ducks… 

JOHN RYAN: With ducks, yeah. And, along the way, other animals… There are badgers. 

DARREN: The premise of the story is that The Darkness arrives and changes the world. The Darkness arrives. Humanity goes: “That’s it. We’ve had enough. We’re off.” So they leave the planet and the planet then returns to its default position. 

ME: Its default position?

DARREN: All the continents around the world come back together so you have one big super continent…

ME: Named…?

JOHN RYAN: Pangaea. Some animals perish in The Darkness and others go underground. Once The Darkness clears, the ducks – because there’s more of them than anything else – are gonna be in charge…

ME: You could get sued by The Darkness music group for defamation.

DARREN: We could.

JOHN RYAN: …but, prior to The Darkness, the animals were genetically engineered to work in the military by the humans. So, when the humans went, the animals that had been genetically modified bred and formed their own little cultures.

ME: CIA dolphins with bombs on their backs I can understand. How were the ducks used militarily?

JOHN RYAN: The ducks were a byproduct of it all because some birds were released that had been trained – interbred with other birds – to perform different tasks. So for example, you’d have birds that were hunters or security.

In our superhero team the cat is a psychic cat and she is an empath. The dog is a guard dog but he can breathe underwater so he patrols the rivers. The Aqua Dogs patrol the rivers. The battle chickens were bred for fighting.

ME: And the ducks…

JOHN RYAN: I’ve always had a slight fear of ducks.

ME: Because…?

“They’ve got faces.” – “Frenchmen have got faces.”

JOHN RYAN: They’ve got faces, ain’t they? 

ME: Frenchmen have got faces.

JOHN RYAN: Yeah, but they don’t live near me. You know when you used to go feed the ducks? I never liked ’em come too close to me. Never trusted ‘em. Also sexually they’re very violent. 

ME: Have you had personal experience of this?

JOHN RYAN: I have been to Fairlop Waters. And I’ve seen duck orgies.

ME: There are definitely no CIA dolphins with mines on their backs in the book?

JOHN RYAN: No.They might be in a further book. We have to get past the Yetis first. There’s a whole world of animals that…

ME: Yetis?

DARREN: That’s another book…

ME: Not Yetis…

DARREN: Each book will be a mission that the team go on. A series of missions.

ME: There’s movie potential here. Casting?

JOHN RYAN: Dawn French as a duck. There’s a bee and we see Ardal O’Hanlon playing that part.

ME: Is there a serious point too any of this? Are you sneaking philosophy into a children’s book?

JOHN RYAN: Yes. Heroes may change, but being heroic stays the same…

(… CONTINUED HERE …)

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3rd Colin Copperfield – speechless at Pete Townsend’s staging of “Tommy”

In the last couple of blogs, I’ve chatted to Colin Copperfield about what happened backstage on Jesus Christ Superstar and about his East End upbringing – His sizzling showbiz autobiography It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Zing! is on sale now. 

Over the years, he appeared in over 900 TV shows in 26 countries. He appeared in three Royal Command Performances and on five albums and eleven singles and his multiple West End appearances have included not just Jesus Christ Superstar but also The Who’s Tommy


“Did everything go smoothly?” – (LAUGHS)

JOHN: Tommy was the stage musical based on the Who’s album…

COLIN: Yes. Tommy at the Queen’s Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue. I played the Pinball Wizard.

JOHN: Did everything go smoothly?

COLIN: (LAUGHS) It was the previews… We’d been rehearsing all afternoon. I was in the dressing room with Steve Devereaux, who was playing the father, and I went to say something and nothing – literally nothing – came out of my mouth. I wrote down: STEVE – I’VE LOST MY VOICE! 

He ran downstairs to the production office where Pete Townshend was and said: “Come up! Col’s lost his voice!” 

So Pete Townshend came up.

Pete’s almost deaf from all the years of playing and I’ve got no voice. The understudy could not stand in for me. He said: “I don’t know all the staging of it yet.”

So Pete said to me: “Give me the script and I’ll go on in the wings with a microphone. You mime it all and I’ll sing it in the wings…”

So, on stage, I make my big entrance in my lovely huge outfit with flashing lights on it and everything, I grab the microphone and I mouth (COLIN SINGS) “Ever since I was a young boy, I’ve played the silver ball…”

Pete’s in the wings singing…

I’m miming (COLIN SINGS) “From Soho down to Brighton, I must have played ’em all…” and Pete is singing (COLIN SINGS) “Even on my favourite table…” 

And we sang all the wrong words all through the rest of the song, because Pete had changed the order of the verses round for the stage show.

There was a very famous throat doctor named Norman Punt

JOHN: Punt?

COLIN: Punt. They got him to the theatre and stuck a thing down my throat and he said: “You’ve got a virus.”

Opening night was three nights later.

He said: “The understudy will know it by tomorrow. You must go home. You can’t talk for three days, till you come to the opening night. Until you go on stage in three night’s time, you cannot talk to anybody or sing.”

So I didn’t do anything for three days.

“… with flashing lights on it and everything”

I go on stage after three days and off we go again. My big entrance in my lovely huge outfit with flashing lights on it and everything. I grab the microphone and… the microphone wasn’t on.

Luckily somebody managed to give me another one. 

I thought: I’m doomed! I’m absolutely doomed!

But the show ran for seven months and Pete Townshend was there most nights. It was completely booked-out. Brilliant reviews. It would have carried on, but there was a play already booked in – Flowers For Algernon – with Michael Crawford. Pete Townshend was producing our Tommy and he couldn’t get another theatre in London to transfer it to. We did the cast recording, but I don’t think it was ever released.

JOHN: Why had Pete changed the order of the verses for the show?

COLIN: I have no idea, because it made no difference at all. Though it was longer. The overture was changed to call it the underture.

COLIN: Showbiz is all a matter of luck.

JOHN: Partly. But also talent. You’re a singer, dancer, songwriter. You can also write. Now you’ve written this astonishing book It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Zing!

There’s no money in writing books, though.

“The account was hacked in September…”

COLIN: Not only have I discovered there’s no money, I’ve discovered there’s less than no money… because I got hacked. I only just found out the week before last that my KDP (Kindle Direct Publishing) account was hacked before this book was even released last October. 

I couldn’t understand why I hadn’t got any royalties. Eventually a guy who was good at computers said: “Your money’s been going to a girl with a strange name.”

The account was hacked in September last year right up until now. It’s only now that Amazon Kindle have closed the account that was going to the hacker. All the money I made up till about three weeks ago was going to a hacker.

JOHN: You’ve also written a whole new musical: Paradise Lane.

COLIN: Yeah. Still trying to get that one on.

JOHN: It’s written?

“Written and all recorded. CD’s all done.”

COLIN: Written and all recorded. CD’s all done. Got a very good agent. 

JOHN: It’s credited to Colin Satchell, not Colin Copperfield.

COLIN: When I wrote it a couple of years ago, I thought I should revert to my original name, which I did.

The Australian guy I wrote it with, Dave Mackay – the first record producer I ever worked with – said: “What’re you changing your name for, mate?”

I said: “It’s something new. I thought I might as well revert to my name.”

JOHN: Yes. You have a brand; you should build on the brand. What’s Paradise Lane about?

“It’s based on my dad… down Petticoat Lane”

COLIN: It’s about a market in the East End.

JOHN: It’s a tribute to your piano-playing father?

COLIN: Exactly that.

COLIN: It’s based on my dad, who worked on the stalls down Petticoat Lane Market, selling shoes. The one-size-fits-all shoes he flogged were so cheap that they didn’t fit anybody.

JOHN: So he was a dustman and a piano player AND a flogger of dodgy shoes…

COLIN: Yes, weekdays he was a dustman with some evening busking; at the weekends he was down Petticoat Lane; and, in the evenings, he was stooging at the Theatre in Stratford. That’s a helluva career, isn’t it?

JOHN: I’m surprised he had time to have two children. He lived long enough to see you succeed?

COLIN: Yeah. He lived till he was 80-odd.

Rave Stage review of Wall Street Crash at Talk of the Town

My mum and dad remained down-to-earth. When Wall Street Crash were starring at Talk of the Town (in London’s West End), the venue made a huge cardboard cut-out – huge – of the band – of us standing outside.

We played Talk of the Town a number of times a year: two or three weeks at a time.

My mum and dad came along a few times.

The last time we were there they came up on the train and asked the front-of-house if they could buy the cut-out. They were going to take it home on the train.

JOHN: They must have been so proud.

COLIN: So proud.

JOHN: Why did Wall Street Crash come  to an end?

COLIN: It had just had its time, really. Television variety had finished. We’d been on all those shows – Morecambe & Wise, Cannon & Ball, Des O’Connor – and all the  clubs had closed – Blazers in Windsor, Baileys, Talk of the North, the Night Out in Birmingham – all those.

Back then, we had been able to go from one club to another, but that had all finished and that was the end of the band, really. We had had 25 years out of it.

It had just had its time.

When we started off, our manager, who had managed Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck at the time… We did our first Royal Command Performance at the London Palladium and he was dropping me off at my little flat in Islington. And I said to him: “Jerry, how long do you think we’ve got?”

He said: “If you all behave yourself, I reckon you’ve got a good three years.”

We didn’t do any behaving ourselves but we lasted for 25.

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An East End child, my mum and Dean Martin – Colin Copperfield (2nd of 3)

In yesterday’s blog, actor, dancer, singer and songwriter Colin Copperfield talked about his time performing in London’s West End in Jesus Christ Superstar

He started in showbiz aged 14 and, as well as multiple stage appearances, appeared in over 900 TV shows in 26 countries. His autobiography It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Zing! was recently published.

Colin was born in Forest Gate in the East End of London. 

He told me: “I had a bit of a tough upbringing…”


JOHN: You did 25 years performing with Wall Street Crash but you’ve worked solidly all over the place as an actor, dancer, singer and songwriter because you’re a hyphenate. You can turn your voice and your feet to everything. 

COLIN: I could do it all well enough. I was never the best singer; I was never the best dancer; I was never the best actor. But I could do it all pretty well – not bad.

JOHN: More than not bad, I think, given your career…

COLIN: You’re very kind. 

Early band rehearsal – Colin is centre, behind microphone

JOHN: You started in a band at 14.

COLIN: Well, we did a lot more rehearsing than we did gigs. It was a good little band, though. A couple of the others went on to be session musicians.

JOHN: At 14, you wanted to  be a rock star?

COLIN: I wanted to get out of school, basically. I was so bad at school academically.

JOHN: So was Churchill. 

COLIN: That makes me feel better. I only found out about ten years ago I was dyscalculic (difficulty understanding or learning maths).

I can remember very long Shakespeare speeches but I can’t add anything up. Numbers are a complete blur.

COLIN: Before I was in Jesus Christ Superstar. I had done my bands and a solo cabaret act. I’d done the ships and then I was doing the clubs. I went and worked on the cruise ships and round the Mediterranean for three years. And I did the Superstar cast album before I went to Australia.

The ships were fantastic. We did one-hour versions of West Side Story, The Sound of Music, Oklahoma! As an actor, it was the equivalent of doing Rep. It was a different show every night.

The guy who directed the shows – Jeff Ferris – also worked for Cameron Mackintosh.

Colin’s inspirational mum and dad (at the start of WWII)

JOHN: Your family background was theatrical?

COLIN: My dad Wally worked at the Theatre Royal in Stratford (London) as a ‘stooge’. He was a dustman during the day and a stooge at night. When visiting comedians – all the top comedians – people like Max Miller in those days – used to come in… he worked with a lot of the top comedians just by being a straight-man – a ‘stooge’. 

JOHN: The comedians didn’t have their own straight men touring with them?

COLIN: No. Especially the American comics who’d come over. He’d give them the local references to make.

JOHN: So your dad was a dustman who really wanted to be a showbiz star but he had to support a wife and two children…

The banjo uncles (centre front) with their East End mates

COLIN: Yeah. My dad was REALLY frustrated. My two uncles were very famous buskers.

By day, they were crane drivers around Silvertown Docks, Canning Town Docks, that area. 

But they were also the most amazing banjo players and they played all the local pubs at night – often outside the pubs.

If they were playing inside, my dad would sometimes go along and play the piano with them… which would have been fabulous if he could have played the piano. (LAUGHS) He used to do this technique called ‘vamping’

His fingers could land anywhere. There was no technique to it at all, but it seemed to work.

JOHN: So he wasn’t off-key, but he…

COLIN: He wasn’t OFF-key, but he wasn’t IN-key. It was his own way of doing it. I think my uncles (LAUGHS) played even louder just to drown him out.

JOHN: To play ‘badly’ but entertainingly is really difficult – You have to be a very good piano player, like Les Dawson.

“We worked (safely) with Rolf Harris a lot…”

COLIN: Yes. He was a lovely guy. I worked with him. I used to dance with this group called The Young Generation. We worked with Rolf Harris a lot – on The Rolf Harris Show. After us, with Dougie Squires, they turned into The Second Generation.

I was rehearsing the Les Dawson television showwhen he was massive. We were doing this dance routine and I was waiting for my cue to enter; the door opened and it was Les Dawson.

He went: “You a’right?”

I said: “Yeah. You awright?”

He went: “Naw. I got terrible diarrhoea.”

That was my introduction to Les Dawson. He was a really lovely bloke.

JOHN: He didn’t seem to have a big ego.

COLIN: I was so lucky to work with all the people I did, because I got to work with the end of ‘showbisiness’, really.

Lots of zingy gossip in Colin’s autobiography

The most miserable git we ever worked with was Dean Martin. Miserable sod. We were supporting him at the Victoria Apollo Theatre in London. We were there for ten nights with him. He never used the theatre at all. He would come up to not even the stage door; he would come up to a pass door in his limo and walk straight onto the stage. Afterwards – straight off the stage into his limo and off. He had a little bar made by the side of the stage with curtains round it with all the optics in it and everything.

JOHN: So he did drink a lot? I thought it was just his schtick.

COLIN: Well, no, I don’t think he did drink. Or, if he did, not the nights we were with him. We’d be waiting to go on first. We’d do 15 minutes, then it’d be Dean Martin. He went on straight after us and he never once went into this little bar.

Straight onto the stage. Sing. Mock drunk. And walk straight past this bar to his car.

JOHN: Your mother… Was she in showbiz?

COLIN: No. My brother THOUGHT he could sing and he REALLY wanted to be in show business but he was completely tone deaf. 

JOHN: So, when you were 14, you were a music person. In the rock bands, you were the singer?

COLIN: Yes. I could play the guitar but didn’t: I just purely sang. 

JOHN: But then you got into dance…

Young musical Colin with his encouraging mum

COLIN: Only because my mum – she was a real Cockney – said: “‘Ere. You gotta lose yer accent,” she said, “and you gotta ‘ave more than one string to yer bow if you’re gonna go into showbusiness.”

So the dancing is down to my mum. 

I played with some show bands and dance bands. I did a bit of everything coming up. Then my singing teacher said: “It’s all very well doing all this but you need to get some theatre stuff… They’re auditioning tomorrow at the Prince of Wales Theatre (in London) for the Harry Worth stage show in Great Yarmouth.”

Summer seasons were big business then. They would last three or four months. You could almost go from Summer Season into (Christmas) Panto. I was singing with a show band at the time.

It was an open casting. Number One in the Hit Parade was Tom Jones: Love Me Tonight. I went along and didn’t really know anything and all these hundreds of guys before me in the audition, they were all singing (COLIN SINGS) “My boy, Bill! He’ll be tall and tough as a tree, will Bill. Like a tree he’ll grow…” (a song from Carousel).

At the audition, I gave my Love Me Tonight music to the pianist who was doing the accompaniment and he said: “Are you really gonna sing this?” and I said “Yeah…??”

So I started singing (COLIN SINGS) “I know that it’s late and I really must leave you alone…”

Immediately they said: “Thankyou, Thanks very much, Colin…”

The pianist told me: “Wrong type of song.”

I rang my singing teacher and told him: “One line and they said Thankyou very much…

“What did you sing?”

Love Me Tonight.

“You prat; come round here now…” 

And he told me: “Learn this… (COLIN SINGS) On a wonderful day like today, I defy any cloud to appear in the sky… Go back tomorrow. They won’t remember you.”

So I went back the next day. Same rehearsal pianist. “Thank God, mate,” he said. “You got more of a chance with this one…”

Harry Worth was a very big name in Great Yarmouth…

I sang: (COLIN SINGS) “On a wonderful day like today, I defy any cloud to appear in the sky…” and they said: “Do you want to do three or four months with Harry Worth at The Britannia Theatre in Great Yarmouth?”

JOHN: They didn’t recognise you from the day before?

COLIN: No. And that was my start in proper showbiz.

JOHN: Were you called Colin Copperfield at this point?

COLIN: Yes. Back in the rock bands I was still Colin Satchell but then I started doing my own cabaret act and, for that, I turned into Colin Copperfield. Everybody at the time was called something like that.

JOHN: You did 900 TV shows in 26 countries, 5 albums, 11 singles, 3 Royal Command Performances. 

COLIN: Yes. I was almost as busy as my dad. I was so lucky. A lot of times I was just in the right place at the right time.

JOHN: Well, it’s talent AND luck, isn’t it? You can get just so far with luck. There has to be some talent to last. You have multiple talents and you’re still working. Your mother gave you good advice.

COLIN: Luck is so important in everything in life. Like after I finished on Tommy

JOHN: This was the musical based on the Who album…

COLIN: Yes. Tommy at the Queen’s Theatre in Shaftesbury Avenue. I played the Pinball Wizard.

JOHN: Tell me more…

…CONTINUED HERE
with The Who’s “Tommy” and a brand new musical

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Colin Copperfield (1st of 3) – Behind the quirky scenes of Jesus Christ Superstar

“Oozing energy… sheer delightful naughtiness”

It Don’t Mean a Thing if it Ain’t Got That Zing! is a wildly entertaining autobiography by Colin Copperfield. 

Colin started in showbiz aged 14 and has spent his life as an actor, dancer, singer and songwriter – including 25 years in the vocal group Wall Street Crash.

He spent 3 years on cruise ships, 6 years on shows in London’s West End, including Jesus Christ Superstar and The Who’s Tommy, and he appeared in over 900 TV shows in 26 countries.

He appeared in three Royal Command Performances and on five albums and eleven singles.

He told me: “I’ve recently finished composing the musical Paradise Lane, fingers and eyes crossed coming to a theatre near you soon.”

He was born in Forest Gate in the East End of London. 

“I had a bit of a tough upbringing. I’m 72 now… Now I write songs for other artists and I’m a dance teacher specialising in tap, modern and ballet. I also work as personal fitness trainer.”

Obviously I had to talk to him.

Colin in his Wall Street Crash days…


JOHN: So… Jesus Christ Superstar in the West End.

COLIN: It was just one of those flukes of showbusiness. I was around 28. I was doing singing telegrams to pay the rent.

Superstar needed rock singers for the stage production.

They couldn’t make rock singers out of the traditional people in showbusiness – they were all My Boy Bill singers. They needed rock singers so, when they started, they auditioned people who sang in bands, like I did. But most of the people who sang in bands had no theatre discipline. They could sing on television but couldn’t do theatre.

There was a big problem getting enough good suitable singers. So we very often used to do Jesus Christ Superstar – this is a top West End show remember – with seven disciples. 

We had lots of Japanese tourists coming in and you could see them looking confused. Surely there were 12 disciples???

We – truly – sometimes used to dress the girls with short hair up as boys to sit round the Last Supper table, because you really HAD to have 12 disciples at the Last Supper.

At some points we were all round the table and we’d all link up hands and have to stretch a bit: different arm lengths.

JOHN: It must almost be relaxing performing in a successful, long-running West End show, though…

COLIN: Well, when I was in Jesus Christ Superstar, I was really busy. I was also working at the Stork Club in Piccadilly Circus – doing the midnight show and the 2 o’clock in the morning show. And I was also doing a television show at Teddington Studios with Tommy Steele.

I was doing the Tommy Steele show all day, which was really hard; we were tap-dancing down this staircase all day. Guys were breaking their legs going up and down. I only got the gig because of one of my friends, who was a proper dancer. I went along and it was quite a long rehearsal period – a 2-month rehearsal period –  and then we filmed at Teddington.

I was doing that during the day and Jesus Christ Superstar at night and then I was working at the Stork Club after that. So I was a bit tired. I was getting about 2 or 3 hours kip a night.

Just before the interval, they did this song called Gethsemane

Anyway, one night I’d been tap-dancing during the day in Teddington and then I got to Superstar in the West End.

It was a Saturday night performance – I was knackered.

Just before the interval, they did this song called Gethsemane – everyone’s asleep in the Garden of Gethsemane and Jesus sings this very long song.

It went on for about eight minutes about how he was going to be denied and all that.

At the end of it, Jesus sings (COLIN SINGS) “…before I change my mind…” – then BLACKOUT.

So, there’s a blackout and we all clear the stage – Interval – the audience buy their ice creams. Then, at the beginning of the second half – BLACKOUT – we all come back into our sleeping positions – Jesus is standing there.

So, at the end of the first half, I had got onto the floor; it was a really warm floor; perspex squares; I’m slunk down; Jesus is singing; I’ve fallen asleep. BLACKOUT. Peter and John have gone. Jesus has gone. 

But I’m still fast asleep on the stage. 

They were about to lower the iron curtain; all the lights are up and somebody saw me lying there, more or less under the iron curtain.

“Colin! Colin! Colin!!!”… 

They had to send the stage hands on to wake me up.

All the audience have seen this. So, at the beginning of the Second Act… BLACKOUT… and, as the lights came up, the whole audience stands up and starts clapping and shouting “Bravo!” just as Jesus is about to be denied. Literally, a standing ovation.

I was in Jesus Christ Superstar for three years. I was in it three times. 

JOHN: Three times?

COLIN: I had been in Superstar for about a year, then left to do a show at the Ambassadors Theatre – Let The Good Stones Roll, about the Rolling Stones. I played Keith Richards. That was on for about 8 months.

After Heaven, an unexpected encounter

Then I went to do another show called Leave Him to Heaven at the New London Theatre with Anita Dobson. That came off and I was meeting a mate of mine in town for a drink near the Palace Theatre where Jesus Christ Superstar was still on.

As I passed the Palace Theatre, suddenly Peter Gardner, the company manager, appeared out of nowhere and rushed over: 

“Colin! Colin! You gotta come over, darling. We’ve got nobody to play Peter and Simon Zealotes!”

“Peter,” I said, “I’m going to meet my mate for a drink. I haven’t been in this show for a year.”

“Darling! You’ll remember it, darling! You’ll remember it! Come in! Come in! Go up to the wardrobe department!”

I went in. I went up. New people. Nobody I knew. 

So I go on stage. It’s the Saturday Matinee and I’m on stage with this cast of 35 people I’ve never met in my life. They are all thinking: Who is this bloke?

I was on stage, singing all the relevant songs. And, at the end of it, bless their hearts, the whole company did the Who’s Best and the whole company turned to  me. I didn’t know ANYbody.

I never ever took time off when I was in the West End but, another night, I got Hong Kong flu. Loads of people were off sick. I think some theatres even went dark. I was living in Islington (north London), lying there ‘dying’ in my bed and Peter Gardner phones up: 

“Treas, treas” – he called everybody ‘treas’ as in ‘treasure’ – “you gotta come in, darling. We’ve got nobody to play Peter, Simon or Herod and…”

I said: “Peter, I’ve got a temperature of 104, otherwise I’d be in there. You know that.”

“No, darling, you gotta come in…”

“Anyway,” I said, “I can’t play four parts, because they overlap!”

He said: “Oh, no no no. We’ll work round that, darling.”

JOHN: We’ll kill Jesus early?

COLIN: “We’ll change the story a bit… We’ll send a car for you. You’ve got to come in, darling. We’re in terrible trouble.”

So I get in this car and I really was feeling like I’m dying. 

I got to the theatre and they put me in the first costume and threw me on to the stage. Then they put me into the next costume to play Herod. Then off into the next one… And I have very little memory of the whole thing. I was nearly dead when I did it! Four roles! They had a cab waiting to take me home and I slept maybe for three days.

JOHN: They were able to change your face by putting on different wigs?

COLIN: All of that, but I don’t think it was fooling anybody: Hold on, that short bloke was just playing Herod… Why is he playing the High Priest now? I guess people thought it must have some deep theatrical meaning.

Anyway, one night I played four parts in the same play in the West End, with a temperature of 104.

…CONTINUED HERE..
with the dustman, the buskers and Dean Martin

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Dan Harary (Part 3): The UFOs, the aliens… and then… After They Came…

In my last two blogs, American publicist Dan Harary talked about his life, his PR company, his flirting with the famous and about sex, his rock drummer background and three of his four new books. That was in the last two encounters I had with him. This is, as it were, a close encounter of the third kind…


JOHN: So, your fourth new book… After They Came – out next Spring – aliens… Surely a movie?

DAN: Absolutely! It’s the best thing I’ve ever written.

JOHN: Aliens?

DAN: In 2017, my dad passed away. He was my hero. He worked for the US Government for about 50 years. He invented missiles and radars and drones and satellite stuff. He always said he helped the US win the Cold War.

I’ve been studying UFO research for about 25 years. I absolutely believe there are others out there and they know all about us and the major governments in the world know all about them.

After my dad passed, I asked my mother: “Do you think dad knew about aliens and UFOs?”

My mother told me: “When he first got the job at Fort Monmouth in New Jersey, in the very earliest days, they took him into the vaults and they showed him something and he came home and he was white.”

My mother asked him: “What’s wrong?” and he goes: “I saw something remarkable. I can’t tell you what it is.”

But my mother said he was scared. He was frightened and he never spoke about it to anyone ever.

There’s no way to know what he saw. But I’m pretty sure my dad knew.

Everything he did flew. My dad invented things for the US Government that flew; they all spied on Russia, North Korea, North Vietnam I know, Cuba… That’s what he did for 50 years.

So my dad passed. I went to a diner by myself to mourn my dad and thought: Right, I love UFOs, my dad passed away. What if my dad knew about UFOs?

So I’m at the diner waiting for my sandwich and on the paper napkin on the table I started writing ideas down… and I came up with ATC.

I’m thinking like: ATC?… After They Came?… ATC. After They Came. Yeah! I like that! That was the birth of it.

The storyline is a man turns 60 years old. He hates his life. He hates his job. His children don’t speak to him anymore. He’s depressed. He commits suicide on his 60th birthday.

He swims out to sea and drowns because he doesn’t wanna live anymore.

As he’s drowning, an enormous UFO comes out of the ocean and then, right above him, beams him up into the ship and revives him. There’s two benevolent aliens on board who we learn, through reading the book, have history with this guy’s dead father.

They save the guy’s life and they present him to the world at the Dodgers’ Stadium in Los Angeles.

The Dodgers’ Stadium – shaping up for a UFO encounter

The UFO goes to the Dodgers’ Stadium; they beam themselves down. All the media, the cops, sirens, the ambulances are there. It’s a tribute – a cousin – to The Day The Earth Stood Still.

They basically say: People of Earth, we’re here to help you. We wanna help solve your problems. We’re benevolent. We saved this man. If you have ideas on how we can help mankind, he’s the conduit to us. We have a relationship with this guy.

So they leave; he remains behind.

Now, he just tried to kill himself…

He’s taken to the President of the United States who, in my book, is based on Oprah Winfrey. You remember a few years ago, they said Oprah was going to run for President? In my book, she’s Tameka Winfield, an African American.

She says: “Who are you? How do you know aliens? How did this happen?”

He says: “I have no idea. I haven’t the slightest idea. I don’t know.”

But she sets him up with an office at the UN.

The aliens come once every month to meet with him and they say: “How can we help mankind?”

Every month.

And he’s like: Climate change… Guns… Mental illness… Disease… Water shortages… Famine… Over-population.

Every month he presents a problem and the aliens, with their technology, help to solve them.

That’s the basic premise. I don’t want to give away what happens.

JOHN: That’s a film.

DAN: It’s Close Encounters meets It’s a Wonderful Life meets The Day The Earth Stood Still and the book is coming out next March…

Dan Harary – After They Came

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Dan Harary (Part 2): Seinfeld, sex and party night at the Playboy Mansion…

In yesterday’s blog, I chatted to US publicity guru Dan Harary, who is publishing four books between now and next Spring.

Last month saw the publication of Flirting With Fame: : A Hollywood Publicist Recalls 50 Years of Celebrity Close Encounters

…Dan with Steven Spielberg, Amber Smith, Ann-Margret, Dr Ruth and Jack Black…

The chat continues here…


“I was 24, no car, no money, no proper job, no connections…”

JOHN: You were allegedly Jerry Seinfeld’s ‘very first fan’ in 1981…

DAN: That is absolutely true. In 1981, I had been in LA for about six months. I was 24, no car, no money, no proper job, no connections. I was a gofer for a video company, which meant I had to run for sandwiches and coffee, clean people’s offices and my biggest job was to get my bosses’ cars washed: Jaguars, Mercedes, BMWs… They were all millionaires; I was penniless.

One day I went to the car wash. There were only two people there: me and Jerry Seinfeld. I had seen him the year before, in 1980, in Manhattan and he had been so remarkably funny. 

So, at the car wash, I turn and say: “Jerry Seinfeld?”

“Yeah?”

“My name is Dan. I’m your biggest fan.”

He goes: “Gee. I didn’t know I had any fans.”

We shook hands and I said: “I saw you in New York last year. What are you doing now?”

“Well, tonight I am gonna make my debut on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.”

And that night…

JOHN: …he became a star.

DAN: …he became a star. Yeah. But the funny part of that story, really, is the second half… 

I said: “You and I are about the same age; we both came here from the East Coast; but I don’t have any friends here. Could you and I be friends?”

And he looked at me like this… (ODDLY)… and he says: “Weeell, I don’t give out my phone number, but here’s my business manager’s card”… He gave me the card. Nothing happened…

So, cut to 12 years later… 1993.

Jerry Seinfeld and Dan Harary in 1993…

I’m at a TV Convention in San Francisco. Seinfeld, the TV show, was now very, very popular. Sony Pictures were selling Seinfeld into syndication. 

I’m walking through this TV Convention. Jerry’s there. 

I went up to him and said: “Jerry…”

“Yes?”

“My name is Dan.”

We shook hands again.

I said: “I met you in 1981 at the Sunset Car Wash. It was the day you made your debut on The Tonight Show.

He looked at me and said: “I remember you. You wanted to be my friend.”

He pulls his hand out from my hand. He turns and he walks away.

As we’d first met in West Hollywood, he probably thought I was gay. Who knows.

“…women I’ve loved, lost or chased…”

JOHN: But you’re not gay. Your second book Carrots: A Sex Odyssey is coming out this September and it is…

DAN: …the history of women I’ve loved, lost or chased or never had the courage to love at all and there’s quite a few of them.

JOHN: In the blurb, it mentions you had a 20-year long sex addiction “later in life”. What took you so long?

DAN: I was very shy when I was young, even though I had the long hair and I played the drums and I worked with Bruce Springsteen and KISS and Fleetwood Mac – I did lighting and stage work at The Sunshine Inn. I was a straight-A student in school but, with women, with girls, I was very very shy. 

I was with my wife from the age of 25 to 36. We had two kids. When I got divorced at 36…  I was no longer shy…

From 36 to 56 I became a sex addict. I went wild for quite a while but now I’m glad that period of my life is behind me. 

JOHN: You worked at the Playboy Channel for three years and Playboy Channel events were held in Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion West.

Hugh Hefner and Dan Harary at the Playboy Mansion in 1984

DAN: Most of the times I was there was for events during the day. I think I met Hefner three times; he was very nice. I did go to a few parties there at night. I wasn’t there when people were making love in the pool. I didn’t see naked people, but I saw some interesting things at night. 

The Halloween parties that he had! Celebrities were there and gorgeous 18/19 year-old girls with almost no clothes on. At one of those parties, I had my drink and I’m like the grandfather next to these young girls. They’re like my daughter’s age. 

I’m looking around thinking: For a straight man, this is heaven! There’s a table of shrimp and lobster and steak. And on other table is free alcohol: every possible drink. Garry Shandling and Matt Dillon are there I remember… James Caan. And then the girls! Every girl was drop-dead gorgeous and some were there with their mothers! 

I met this one girl of 19 and her mom was like 40 and they were both equally beautiful.

Dan and Playboy Playmate Kym Malin, 1985

I was single at that time but I was so overwhelmed that, after two hours, I actually said to myself: I have to leave! 

It was too much.

It was just too much.

JOHN: Surely you owed it to yourself to stay?

DAN: I couldn’t. I couldn’t do it. First of all, these girls wanted millionaire, movie star boyfriends. I’m not a millionaire and I’m not a movie star.

A lot of women I’ve met in my life want to use me, OK. Can you help me do my PR? I’ve had actress women, models use me. I like pretty girls and they like to torture me! But that one night at the Halloween party I actually had to leave. It was like being a kid in a candy store but you have diabetes.

JOHN: You must have unfulfilled ambitions? You were a drummer in lots of bands…

DAN: When I was a Senior in high school, a friend of mine who was friends with Bruce Springsteen told me: “Dan, Bruce is looking for a new drummer. Why don’t you consider trying out for him?”

Now I did not like his music at that time. I was into The Who, Led Zeppelin, Cream, The Beatles, The Stones. 

Years later, I came to love quite a few of his songs. Independence Day is one of my favourite songs. But, at the time, he wasn’t famous and I had no connection with his music. So I told my friend: “It’s not for me.”

Had I auditioned, you never know… I had a beautiful drum set, I was a very good drummer, I had met Bruce the year before. He would have known who I was. But, you know, I didn’t even drive? I was 16. Bruce was seven years older than me. If we had gone to a bar, I wouldn’t have been able to play. I was 16. Under-age.

That’s the closest I ever got to becoming a famous drummer.

New York’s Last Rock ‘n’ Roll Mecca…

JOHN: Your third book is Inside The Cutting Room: A Backstage Look at New York’s Last Rock ‘n’ Roll Mecca. It’s published in Spring next year and it’s about the music business…

DAN: The backstory is my best friend from childhood – Steve Walter.  We met in 1968. He and I grew up together. We were in bands together. We worked at The Sunshine Inn together. When I was 24, I went to LA; he went to Manhattan.

He owns The Cutting Room club. My lifelong best friend.

He opened The Cutting Room 25 years ago. A lot of very very famous musicians, rock bands have played there over the years.

JOHN: Lady Gaga was discovered there?

DAN: Absolutely correct. March 2006.

In March 2006, there was The Songwriters of New York Talent Showcase and 19-year old Stefani Germanotta played on my friend’s stage along with about a dozen other young performers.

There was a woman in the audience named Wendy Starland who, when she saw Stefani perform, called a record producer friend and said: “I just discovered the next Big Thing.”

Wendy took Stefani to meet this guy who heard her stuff, said, “You’re the new John Lennon. You’re a good songwriter,” signed her up and, the next time she played The Cutting Room that Fall, they introduced her as Lady Gaga.

JOHN: On your personal website, you describe yourself as “an author, entertainment industry publicist, drummer and former stand-up comic”. The domain name is danhararyauthor.com – danhararyAUTHOR not danhararyPR or just danharary… I know you have your business site www.asburypr.com but danhararyAUTHOR.com implies that writing is personally more important than other things?

“…the new Woody Allen. I was gonna write sitcoms…”

DAN: In Eighth Grade, I was writing short stories and my English teacher loved them; she told me I was a talented writer. I came to LA to be a comedy writer for television. I wanted to be the new Woody Allen. I was gonna write sitcoms. I came close with Seinfeld in 1992. I came close but didn’t sell my script. I came close three times; it didn’t happen. Along the way, I fell in love, got married, had kids. 

I’m a good writer. A lot of publicity, as you know, is writing. So my sitcom comedy writing ambitions veered off to PR. And that’s how I made a living for 40 years. It’s just how it happened. I told my mother: “At the age of 66, I’ve now finally fulfilled my dream of being an author.”

JOHN: So now we get to your fourth book… the one about the UFOs…

DAN: Yes…

(… CONTINUED HERE …)

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Dan Harary (Part 1): Flirting with Fame; insulting Schwarzenegger and Streep…

Dan Harary talked to me from Los Angeles at the weekend…

Dan Harary calls himself “an author, entertainment industry publicist, drummer and former stand-up comic”. He started his own company Asbury PR of Beverly Hills in 1996. Now, 26 years successful years later, he is suddenly publishing four – yes four – books. The first was published last month: Flirting With Fame: : A Hollywood Publicist Recalls 50 Years of Celebrity Close Encounters.

Part of the PR pitch for it is:

“Dan quite often found himself in rather bizarre circumstances while interacting with famous people – like having a staring contest with Barbra Streisand, twice; or smoking a joint in silence with Jill Clayburgh in Central Park; or talking with Billy Crystal about Chinese food at Sid Caesar’s funeral; or introducing his mother to Mel Brooks and finding out they both went to the same high school. Dan’s countless ‘close encounters of the celebrity kind’ are sometimes funny, sometimes touching, and quite often cringe-inducing.”

We chatted at the weekend…


Flirting and skirting but never hurting…

JOHN: FOUR books being published between now and next Spring? Why now?

DAN: Flirting With Fame was from Covid. Last Spring, 2021, I looked at the calendar and I was going to turn 65 and realised the very first celebrity I ever met was when I was 15 years old – Richie Havens, who was a famous singer from Woodstock.

During Covid, I was bored and had nothing to do. Wow! It’s been 50 years since I’ve been meeting and working with celebrities! So I took a piece of paper and just wrote down all the hundreds of celebrities I’ve met or worked with and there were so many of them that I thought: I should just write a book.

When I was in high school, I had really long hair, I played the drums and ran lights and stage crew for a little concert hall in Asbury Park – The Sunshine Inn.

Bruce Springsteen played there quite often; he was considered like the house band. Before it was called the E Street Band, he had a band called Steel Mill, one called Doctor Zoom and The Sonic Boom and then he had the Bruce Springsteen Band.

JOHN: You’ve known everybody.

DAN: It’s not that I know them, John. It’s like in the title of my book – Flirting – It’s like I skimmed with hundreds of very very very famous people. Most of my clients are behind-the-scenes people in the entertainment world. I’m FLIRTING with fame. I’m not famous. Only a few of my clients – like Jay Leno – were famous. But, over the course of time, I’ve been in situations surrounded by a lot of famous people.

JOHN: According to your own publicity for the book, you pissed-off some…

DAN: Arnold Schwarzenegger, sure. I was at an event in Beverly Hills in 1996. He wasn’t the Governor of California yet, but he was a big star. The event was for Milton Berle. You remember Milton Berle?

JOHN: Of course. A comedy legend.

Dan with Sid Caesar – semi-retired but still active in 1987…

DAN: I worked with Milton a few times. I represented Sid Caesar for a couple of years.

Anyway, I was at an event in Beverly Hills for Milton Berle. I knew Arnold Schwarzenegger would be there and my 8-year-old son was a huge fan of The Terminator movies. So I took a photo of Arnold as The Terminator and a white marking pen.

During a break in the festivities, Arnold is at a table with two giant bodyguards and I just tapped him on the shoulder: “Hello. My name is Dan. My son is 8 years old. He loves The Terminator. Would you be kind enough to give a quick autograph?” I have the photo and the pen in my hand.

He looks at me and he goes (CONTORTS FACE) “GHHHRRRRRRR!!!!!”

I say: “Arnold, please. He’s 8 years old.”

“GHHHRRRRRRR!!!!!”

I swear to God. Steam virtually shooting out of his bright red… like he wanted me to burn in a fire…

“GHHHRRRRRRR!!!!!”

Arnold Schwarzenegger: GHHHRRRRRRR!!!!!

He never said a word to me. 

So now I’m like shaking, right?

His bodyguards are looking at me.

I’m like: Come on, Arnold, you can do it! 

It’ll take five seconds.

Come on, man. Please! Please do it!

“GHHHRRRRRRR!!!!!”

Really, it was a stand-off. And, eventually, he realised I was not going to leave without it… So, after quite a while, he finally grabbed the pen and did it and wrote: TO JORDAN – BEST WISHES.

My son is 34 years old now and he has it framed on his wall in his house in Alaska.

JOHN: The thing that most shocks me is that Arnold Schwarzenegger needed two bodyguards.

DAN: They had little earpieces with little curly wire that came out.

JOHN: Meeting ‘stars’ can be strange…

DAN: I was at a photo shoot with Kevin Costner in 1990… Kevin wasn’t a huge, huge star then, so he was very approachable. He couldn’t have been nicer. This was to promote an Earth Day TV special on ABC. 

A lot of executives from Warner Bros and ABC were there and everyone was saying: “She’s coming! She’s coming!’

I didn’t know who. They didn’t tell me.

“It’s ten minutes till she’ll be here… She’s coming!… Ten minutes!… Five minutes!”

“Who’s coming?” I asked.

They said: “Meryl Streep!”

“Meryl Streep?” I said. “Meryl Streep is coming?”

Carla holding her Oscar for Sophie’s Choice…

She was very famous, of course, and, at the time, was just a few years out from her Sophie’s Choice Oscar. This is MERYL STREEP, you know?

So Meryl Streep’s coming! Oh my God! Oh my God!

I wasn’t a particular fan of hers. I don’t think she’s particularly… I was never a fan of hers ever, but everyone was scurrying around: “Meryl’s coming! Meryl’s coming!”

So I got caught up in it.

The doors open. It’s bright sunshine outside. She enters. She’s all in white. She’s like an angel from Heaven. It’s like Mother Mary has descended and we’re like the peasants in Guatemala or wherever. She comes in and there’s like 20 people in a line. ABC people. Warner Bros people. I’m at the very end of the line. Next to me is a friend of mine named Carla from Warner Bros.

So Meryl goes along the line like the Queen of England. 

“Miss Streep, it’s such an honour”… “Miss Streep, it’s such an honour…”

I’m caught up in it.

It’s Meryl Streep! It’s Meryl Streep!

She gets to me and I’m at the very end of this long line and, by the time she got to me,  I was so nervous I shook her hand and said: “Hello Carla, so nice to meet you…”

She looked at me like the RCA Victor dog, with her head on one side, thinking: “…What was…? Did he just…?

I didn’t really know what was happening. She walked away and then my friend Carla told me: “Dan, you just called Meryl Streep ‘Carla’” and I said “I did?? Really??”

JOHN: I’m surprised you would be overawed by a star: you did stand-up comedy.

Dan stands-up on stage at Hollywood’s Improv

DAN: I did comedy much later – here in LA – 1998-2001. I only ever made $6 from it in total. Jerry Seinfeld made $6 billion. I made $6. I have it framed. I did it because, when I was in Sixth Grade, I had a teacher who used to make students go to the front of the classroom and give an oral report. She tortured us: 

“Stand up straight!… You’re slouching!… You’re mumbling!… Speak louder!… Speak softer!… Don’t look at your nose!”… All she did was criticise. So I had a fear of public speaking from the age of 12.

And, for a publicist, it’s really not good to have a fear of public speaking.

So I took a class at the Improv in West Hollywood with one of the owners and the graduation of the class was to do 8 minutes on stage at The Improv. Next to my son being born, it was the most nervous I ever was in my life. I almost threw up before I went on stage. My mother was there; all my friends were there. 250 people. I was shaking; nervous; my heart was pounding; I was a nervous wreck. But I went out and did my thing and I survived.

I’m not a natural stage performer. I’m a drummer. I was in bands all my life. Playing in a band? That’s easy. No sweat. But to stand up on stage with a microphone and you’re saying your jokes?… It’s very, very scary.

JOHN: I suppose the drummer is at the back and not the centre of attention.

Dan not quite hiding behind his youthful hair and cymbals…

DAN: I suppose that’s right. I had really long hair and you have cymbals in front of you. When I played, my hair used to fly everywhere. My parents saw me play once and someone said to my mother: “That drummer, she’s really good for a girl…”

JOHN: But you weren’t interested in performing comedy as such? Even though you knew Sid Caesar and Milton Berle…

DAN: I represented Sid Caesar for two years, 1987-1989. He paid a monthly retainer to our PR firm to keep his name in the press. He was sort-of semi-retired but still active; he was in good health still; he did guest starring roles on TV. I got him many interviews: at the time he was re-releasing Your Show of Shows on VHS tapes for the first time.

Also he, Milton Berle and Danny Thomas did a live tour of the US in 1988 and I was the publicist – The Living Legends of Comedy Tour

JOHN: That was when you got to know Milton Berle as well?

DAN: Around the same time. I spent a day with him at a TV station in Hollywood. He had written a book called BS: I Love Youan autobiography – and he was there to promote it.

So I’m at the TV station and there’s a knock on the backstage door and this little old hunched, shaking Jewish man with a hat and a coat and a cane came in.

“Mr Berle?” I said.

“Yes.”

“My name is Dan. I’m here to help you out.”

“OK. Very good.”

I took him to his dressing room. He closes the door very quietly.

Dan with switched-on larger-than-life Milton.

I wait about 10-15 minutes and then the door bursts open. He’s standing perfectly straight. Different clothes. Big cigar… “Hi kid! Here I am! Where do you want me?”

I almost asked him: “What did ya do with Milton Berle?”

The man who went in and the man who came out of the dressing room – Two completely different men. 

JOHN: It wasn’t a joke? He had just suddenly ‘switched-on’ Milton Berle?

DAN: Yeah. He BECAME Milton Berle in that 10-15 minutes in the dressing room.

I led him out onto the stage and everyone was so excited. 

But instead of shaking people’s hands and saying “Hello, how are you?” he goes: “Aaah… I don’t like that camera over there! These lights: these can be moved! I don’t like this set! That chair has to be over here! This spotlight has to be…”… and for the next 45 minutes all he did was re-arrange this entire studio that had been created just for him. Everyone was like: What is he doing? But it’s MILTON BERLE: What can you do? All you can do is obey his commands!

JOHN: What happened at the end when he left the set? Did he return to being the old man?

DAN: He did the interview. He was very funny. At the end, he shook hands and was very nice. I walked him back to his limousine and he remained in character. He has the cigar. He’s smiling. He’s not the man who walked in. Now he’s ‘Milton Berle’.

(… CONTINUED HERE… with Jerry Seinfeld, sex addiction and party night at the Playboy Mansion…)

 

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The opening of James Joyce’s novel “A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man”…

James Joyce in Zurich, 1916

Today, 16th June, is Bloomsday – the day on which James Joyce‘s Ulysses (1922) is set.

Joyce’s earlier novel A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916) was on the syllabus at my school so I had to read it.

And I loved it. 

So, for no reason other than the fact this is Bloomsday – and to be quirky – and as an act of self-indulgence – and the not minor fact it is apparently out of copyright – here is the opening of A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man… like all Joyce’s work, best read in your mind in an Irish accent…


The first edition of Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist, published by B. W. Huebsch in 1916

Once upon a time and a very good time it was there was a moocow coming down along the road and this moocow that was coming down along the road met a nicens little boy named baby tuckoo….

His father told him that story: his father looked at him through a glass: he had a hairy face.

He was baby tuckoo. The moocow came down the road where Betty Byrne lived: she sold lemon platt.

O, the wild rose blossoms
On the little green place.

He sang that song. That was his song.

O, the green wothe botheth.

When you wet the bed, first it is warm then it gets cold. His mother put on the oilsheet. That had the queer smell.

His mother had a nicer smell than his father. She played on the piano the sailor’s hornpipe for him to dance. He danced:

Tralala lala,
Tralala tralaladdy,
Tralala lala,
Tralala lala.

Uncle Charles and Dante clapped. They were older than his father and mother but uncle Charles was older than Dante.

Dante had two brushes in her press. The brush with the maroon velvet back was for Michael Davitt and the brush with the green velvet back was for Parnell. Dante gave him a cachou every time he brought her a piece of tissue paper.

The Vances lived in number seven. They had a different father and mother. They were Eileen’s father and mother. When they were grown up he was going to marry Eileen. He hid under the table. His mother said:

—O, Stephen will apologise.

Dante said:

—O, if not, the eagles will come and pull out his eyes.—

Pull out his eyes,
Apologise,
Apologise,
Pull out his eyes.

Apologise,
Pull out his eyes,
Pull out his eyes,
Apologise.

The wide playgrounds were swarming with boys. All were shouting and the prefects urged them on with strong cries. The evening air was pale and chilly and after every charge and thud of the footballers the greasy leather orb flew like a heavy bird through the grey light. He kept on the fringe of his line, out of sight of his prefect, out of the reach of the rude feet, feigning to run now and then. He felt his body small and weak amid the throng of the players and his eyes were weak and watery. Rody Kickham was not like that: he would be captain of the third line all the fellows said.

Rody Kickham was a decent fellow but Nasty Roche was a stink. Rody Kickham had greaves in his number and a hamper in the refectory. Nasty Roche had big hands. He called the Friday pudding dog-in-the-blanket. And one day he had asked:

—What is your name?

Stephen had answered: Stephen Dedalus.

Then Nasty Roche had said:

—What kind of a name is that?

And when Stephen had not been able to answer Nasty Roche had asked:

—What is your father?

Stephen had answered:

—A gentleman.

Then Nasty Roche had asked:

—Is he a magistrate?

He crept about from point to point on the fringe of his line, making little runs now and then. But his hands were bluish with cold. He kept his hands in the side pockets of his belted grey suit. That was a belt round his pocket. And belt was also to give a fellow a belt. One day a fellow said to Cantwell:

—I’d give you such a belt in a second.

Cantwell had answered:

—Go and fight your match. Give Cecil Thunder a belt. I’d like to see you. He’d give you a toe in the rump for yourself.

That was not a nice expression. His mother had told him not to speak with the rough boys in the college. Nice mother! The first day in the hall of the castle when she had said goodbye she had put up her veil double to her nose to kiss him: and her nose and eyes were red. But he had pretended not to see that she was going to cry. She was a nice mother but she was not so nice when she cried. And his father had given him two five-shilling pieces for pocket money. And his father had told him if he wanted anything to write home to him and, whatever he did, never to peach on a fellow. Then at the door of the castle the rector had shaken hands with his father and mother, his soutane fluttering in the breeze, and the car had driven off with his father and mother on it. They had cried to him from the car, waving their hands:

—Goodbye, Stephen, goodbye!

—Goodbye, Stephen, goodbye!


…and here is Molly Bloom’s closing soliloquy from the climax of Ulysses

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British newspapers… a novel tale of devious deals, phone hacking and death

The Lion of Fleet Street is a novel about a British tabloid newspaper reporter – one of the ‘big beasts’ of Fleet Street – the centre of the newspaper business at the turn of the century.

It is written by Patrick Symes. He worked as a freelance reporter for national newspapers, radio and television for forty years, specialising in sport. He also ran a news agency covering news and sport throughout the South of England.

So he knows the inside stories.

He has written (as  Pat Symes) 12 non-fiction books about international sportsmen.

The Lion of Fleet Street is his first novel.


JOHN: You’ve written factual books before. Why a novel now?

PATRICK: I just wanted to see if I could do it. I got to a stage in my career where I was winding down. I had sold the news agency and I did a wee stint as a lecturer in Journalism at Solent University in Southampton which was also coming to an end… and I was having cancer treatment.

I was fit and happy and looking forward to my dotage and then suddenly I discovered I had prostate cancer and then kidney cancer. I’ve had one kidney removed. Then the cancer moved to the lungs, which is where it is now. I’ve got a few nodules there.

JOHN: And, at the moment…?

PATRICK: I’ve had numerous scans. I’m never going to beat it; the tumours are there. But it can be contained and coped-with, I hope. So you just plod on in those sort of circumstances.

I had started a book. I don’t even know why. But I thought: Well, I’ll continue it.

JOHN: Why this plot?

PATRICK: One of the good things about journalism is you meet so many people and come across so many incidents and you store them away. I got this idea based on, I think, the funeral of one of the ‘big beasts’ in Fleet Street. I remember that time – the turn of the century – quite vividly. 

It was a massive turning point in the world of the media and how news was disseminated.

Most of my career, if I was covering a football match, I would have to pick up a phone and dictate the report to a copy typist. That was also the way these ‘big beasts’ in Fleet Street operated too; they had these huge, inflated reputations because theirs was the only conduit for news. 

But suddenly there was a twist and a change and the internet came in, though it wasn’t much good to begin with. I remember thinking: Well this is never going to catch on.

Now, of course, we all live by it every day.

It wasn’t just that, of course. Radio and television were becoming more sophisticated and news was being blasted at us all day long.

JOHN: How were radio and TV becoming more sophisticated in news coverage?

PATRICK: It was more instant. TV had taken over the role of newspapers. There was regional television, regional radio stations with quite sophisticated news production. During the day we would know instantly if the Prime Minister resigned. There was no point newspapers printing that as ‘news’ the next day. 

I think I got the tail end of Fleet Street in its pomp. And there was more money around.

“I think I got the tail end of Fleet Street in its pomp…”

News (in newspapers) has become softer now; it has to be very showbiz orientated.

Many of the ‘big beasts’ took hefty pay-offs and disappeared off to their gardens,; one or two others – like my man in the novel – stayed but didn’t really know how to adapt. Their salaries were quite large. New, younger, management came in with new, fresh ideas and decided that the old type of journalism was largely redundant. 

My man, with redundancy hanging over him, teams up with a phone tapper – although many of the journalists of that time did it themselves. He comes up with a couple of stories that give him a front page lead and he seems to be restoring his reputation, but redundancy is still very much hanging over him.

In desperation, he listens in to a police tape – this was at the time of the Milly Dowler murder

A certain person is going to be arrested, but my protagonist mis-hears it

When his story appears on the front page of his tabloid, the Sunday Argus, it becomes obvious fairly soon afterwards that his story naming the wrong man had been obtained by illegal means. My protagonist’s life is in ruins but he finds another story which involves… There was a hotel in Eastbourne, near Beachy Head which specialised in giving a ‘last night of luxury’ for would-be suicides.

JOHN: This was real?

PATRICK: I don’t know. Beachy Head is a very spooky place. The wind whistles there and there are all these crosses on the edge of the cliff where people have jumped…

JOHN: Really?

PATRICK: Yeah.

JOHN: You went there?

“Beachy Head is a very spooky place. The wind whistles there… where people have jumped…”

PATRICK: Yes. And I was standing there minding my own business, taking in the atmosphere when two people from a church vigilante group came up to me and said: “Can we help you?”

I said: “Why do you think I need help?”

They said: “Number one, you haven’t got a camera. Number two, you’re standing there with your hands in your pockets, deep in thought… If there’s anything we can do to help you…”

JOHN: So you said “I’m a journalist”… and they said “Jump”…?

PATRICK: (LAUGHS) 

JOHN: All first novels are autobiographical, so…

PATRICK: Phone tapping WAS rampant throughout Fleet Street at that time. It was so easy. They were all expected to do it – on the tabloids anyway – and some fairly prominent people in the newspaper industry of that time got away with it. News International are still paying off victims of that nigh on 20 years later.

JOHN: Have you an idea for your next novel?

PATRICK: I went to a school that had part-boarders and there was a very encouraging English teacher there. He got sacked because he was fiddling around with some of the boy boarders.

He became an actor. His name was Roland McLeod.

He never rose to any great prominence, but he was in Worzel Gummidge and Some Mothers Do ‘Ave ‘Em and The Goodies and so on. He tended to play the bank manager or something similar in sitcoms.

He suddenly got the gig of his life when he appeared in Coronation Street – a 6-month or  a year’s contract – and there was a big, big build-up when he was going to propose to Emily Bishop (one of the central characters). A huge build-up. It was in all the papers.

Eileen Derbyshire (as Emily Bishop) and Roland McLeod (as Bernard Morton) in Coronation Street

I didn’t know he was in Coronation Street at first, but you couldn’t avoid it. I mentioned his background to some colleagues in the office and they said: “You ought to put that up to the News of the World. They’d love that!”

Walking behind the newsdesk at the time, by coincidence, was a guy who heard the words Ryde School and he said: “Oh! I went there! I was a boarder and I had ‘difficulties’ with teachers.” So it suddenly became a revenge mission for him and it took me over, really.

I thought: Well, he didn’t do ME any harm…

So it was a real crisis of conscience for a day or two but, in the end, greed overcame my conscience and I rang the News of the World and, of course, they loved it.

I went back to my parents’ house to see if they had any school reports signed by him, which they had. It became a front page lead in the News of the World, I’m afraid to say.

I was well-remunerated, as you can imagine.

The News of the World found him on the day before publication, boarding a plane at Luton Airport. They tapped him on the shoulder and said “Roland McLeod… It’s the News of the World” and he said “I’ve been waiting for this for 30 years”.

It was an astonishing admission when you think about it. 

JOHN: What happened on Coronation Street? Did they pull him as a character?”

PATRICK: I think his role was finished anyway; he had proposed to Emily Bishop and she had said No.

He still got bits and pieces of work afterwards, so I didn’t feel that bad about it. I could justify it by saying to myself that, in many respects, he…

JOHN: …got his comeuppance.

PATRICK: Yes. He did deserve it. 

JOHN: Kiddy fiddling is serious stuff…

PATRICK: Once the News of the World revealed it, he had a speech ready and he said something along the lines of “Homosexuality is a curse. It’s not what I wanted to be.” He tried to justify himself. He had a prepared statement.

JOHN: Over your 40 years in the business, you must have encountered lots of stories which never got published… Did you think of putting them into the novel or future novels?

PATRICK: Little bits and pieces. You knew about people who were on the fiddle. There were stories which suddenly ‘died’; they just didn’t appear.

JOHN: I mean, Jimmy Savile. There would have had to be real, solid, cast-iron evidence to print a story while he was alive.

PATRICK: Yes and he, too, gets a mention in the book. Every newspaper tried to nail him at one stage or another. But they never had solid proof and, if he thought they were getting too close, he would always say: “Well, I’m a national treasure. I’ve raised £50 million through my charity walks and things. Do you want people to know you stopped me doing those?”

… Some of Pat(rick) Symes’ sports books…

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Cult creative performer/painter The Iceman turns children’s book author…

Anthony Irvine – The Iceman – appears occasionally in this blog.

I first auditioned his stage act – melting blocks of ice – in 1987.

In a later incarnation – AIM – he added painting to his creative output. Some of his fine art can be bought from the Saatchi Art website.

For example, a painting of his first ice block – Crazy Larry’s Painting – is currently on offer at a bargain price of £4,280.

And now Anthony has become an author…


JOHN: So you are now an author as well as a performer and painter…

ANTHONY: I have a literary background. When I was a young man, I studied literature at a very ancient institution.

JOHN: Bedlam?

Debbie’s fantastical adventures with Antarctic animals…

ANTHONY: It’s a children’s book called Lockdown Melter.

JOHN: And you presumably wrote it during the Covid block-down…

ANTHONY: Yes. I thought of everybody suffering. It’s a fantasy where a young child – Debbie – is frustrated with the situation and escapes with the aid of Lappy, a polar bear – a small polar bear – who she meets in her bedroom and she goes on this adventure to Antarctica.

To facilitate this adventure, Lappy instructs her to get some ice cubes from the fridge freezer. The ice cubes are put on her head and there’s a magical transformation and she goes on this journey.

The idea is that Antarctica is a pristine, beautiful, relatively-undamaged place that we can all go to; the animals are in harmony and, in the story, the penguin says…

JOHN: The penguin?

ANTHONY: Yes, the penguin… There’s a penguin… As I wrote it, I thought: This is an amazing parallel to my Iceman stage act. It retains an ice theme. In a sense, I melt blocks of ice to achieve purification. Similarly, Debbie is finding something away from this world really – saṃsāra and all that.

JOHN: Saṃsāra ?

Anthony Irvine – his self portrait…

ANTHONY: The Buddhist concept of suffering. Do you chant?

JOHN: Not as far as I know.

ANTHONY: Lockdown Melter was a very simple story but I quite liked it, so I approached a publisher, Olympia, who have an imprint called Bumblebee who have published it.

JOHN: Well, if you write a good children’s story that doesn’t date – it’s a fantasy – it’ll sell forever and internationally.

ANTHONY: You can get it from WH Smith, Foyles, Browns Books, the Book Depository, Waterstones, Amazon, the lot…

JOHN: You should tell Waterstones you will do a signing of the book AND melt a block of ice the same time. That should get people in. Does JK Rowling melt blocks of ice in a bookshop? No. She’s just not trying hard enough.

ANTHONY: Perhaps I should go Banksy-style and sell a book that melts. You know his picture that shredded itself? 

JOHN: Yes. The water from your melted book might be worth a fortune.

ANTHONY: Is it technically possible?

JOHN: I dunno. You are The Iceman. Why become an author?

ANTHONY: I used to tell stories to my young son and I guess I’d always had the thought I might write a children’s story. It is really for young children. The idea is young children could read it themselves or parents could read it to them; it’s more like a picture book. So then I realised I had to get the pictures.

The illustrator is actually Greek: Sofia Stefanis Pons. She did some nice – I think dramatic – illustrations. My pictures were declined as being too ‘rough’. But hers are great.

Debbie meets Lappy for the first time… illustration by Sofia Stefanis Pons…

JOHN: So do you have an idea for a second book?

ANTHONY: Yes. I like the innocence of Lockdown Melter.

When I was a child, I was very unhappy at one point and I built an arch with stiff cushions. I went through the arch and discovered I was happy. So the Lockdown Melter idea is simple but it is like going somewhere and attaining awareness. It’s the same principle.

Debbie goes on a journey. She meets animals who are nice to her and she finds the Antarctic world all very beautiful and something happens at the end which I can’t give away. But I think the idea of the story is the idea that human beings – the human race – need help and in this story it’s the penguin who gives that help.

JOHN: The penguin?

ANTHONY: Yes, the penguin… There’s a penguin… Next time I think Debbie might go to the Sahara.

JOHN: Difficult to work ice blocks into that story.

ANTHONY: An ice block could bring irrigation to the Sahara… I think if this first book is successful I WILL continue with the writing idea.

Anthony Irvine’s educational Thespian Follies, coming soon

I have already written 13 little plays for drama classes in schools. That book is due to be published soon. It’s called Thespian Follies.

It’s an educational resource; I’m going quite mainstream, aren’t I?

Ice blocks were my life and still are my life to some extent but I feel I have to do a bit more. My next ambition is to write a Channel 4 type series: a bit like The Outlaws but based on car rental. When I was in debt at one point, I did a job at Hertz car hire, cleaning cars and taking them out to the Army and so on: that’s a ready-made situation comedy.

JOHN: You could call it Hertz of Darkness.

ANTHONY: I was thinking of calling it Hurts… That’s my next project.

Maybe writing will displace painting in time, but at the moment my main activity is still painting. I’m trying to sell Bill Bailey a painting; I’m playing tennis with his accountant this afternoon.

I sold a painting to Mark Thomas at the Electric Palace in Bridport recently. He was on tour and I hadn’t seen him for about 40 years. He gave me his book and I sold him a painting in which he appears.

JOHN: You are a born entrepreneur. JK Rowling will have to start learning how to melt blocks of ice…

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