Category Archives: Eccentrics

Anna Smith’s memories of ‘perverts’ and Canadian strip clubs last century

Anna Smith retouched her nose in this late-20th century picture…

Over the years Anna Smith, this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, has been sharing current life insights from Vancouver and memories from her colourful past as an exotic performer. These have occasionally triggered other people to share their own sociologically-interesting memories.

On 15th April last year, I posted a blog headed A ‘PERVERT’ COMMENTS ON HIS MEMORIES OF A STRIP CLUB IN CANADA IN THE 1980s

This was actually a collection of various people’s reactions to a 2014 blog.

Yesterday, someone calling himself ‘G Man’ commented on the 2021 ‘Pervert’ blog:

Awesome post! I remember coming here in 1995 when I was 18, the only place that would let me and my friends in at the time. It was wild and reminds me of how great the city was at that time. Even though by that time most of the ladies that performed looked like they could’ve have been our grandmothers…lol!

and a Dave Hughes responded to that ‘G Man’ comment with:

By 1995 some of them were grandmothers!!!

Anna Smith last night sent me her own reaction to ‘G Man’:


Hahahahaha….

Well, that sounds like he was there before I got to be Granny-age, but glad to hear my friends were working at Le Strip as long as they could. Too bad the business closed or I’d still love to go back there as a 63 year old and do a 14 day shift (seven days, seven nights), like I used to. It was so much fun!

It was well before cell phones proliferated but, being strippers, we required certain amenities – like a shower, a bidet and of course a payphone which was a large sturdy device installed on a central wall in the dressing room… so we could make our bookings at other clubs, check up on our babysitters and our boyfriends.

So, while we were getting ready to go on, we would sometimes be witness to some funny conversations…

Like: “No, I am not giving you a blow job. No. No. No. You are NOT getting another blow job till I get back the keys to my Chevrolet Camaro!  NO!”

Another time, we heard a fabulous black dancer from California named Goldielox telling us how furious she was with R.D., because he had stolen her very expensive fur coat in Montreal. 

Goldielox was called that because she had very long blonde hair. She had quite the act. She was a statuesque and perfectly formed woman, with a toned body and large breasts. She arrived on stage wearing a flashy costume, roller skates and a top hat. She would eventually take off her bra but place her breasts into the top hat and skate around like that for a while.

It was Goldielox who gave me the job to go to Newfoundland, the best paid job, and one of the funnest I ever had. She had been booked to go there because a new club had opened up, just outside of the capital, St. John’s. They wanted a big act to open the club. It was the first strip club in Newfoundland.

“What am I gonna do, Nurse Annie? – I don’t want to go to NEWFOUNDLAND on my BIRTHDAY! But I can’t let them down… Would you please do it for me? It pays $1,400…” 

That was about four times more than I’d ever been paid, so I jumped at the chance and had a fantastic time. I even went out on a cod fishing boat and caught a cod to bring back to Toronto and bought some nice hand-knitted toques for my parents.

At the end of that week, Goldielox showed up in Newfoundland to do her act the following week. We were both staying in an old hotel on a main street in St John’s, because the new strip club didn’t have any accommodation. We were driven out there every night by the club owners.

Goldielox was in an upbeat mood. She was having fun teasing the very young hotel clerk (who had never met a Black person before). She tried to give him diction lessons, which was funny because she had a heavy drawl herself and he had the Irish-sounding Newfoundland accent. She’d had flyers printed up advertising her show and put on her stage costume with the top hat and took off on her roller skates, up the steep and foggy cobbled streets of the port city, calling out, whirling around laughing and handing out flyers to everyone she met.

The ‘perverts’ back in Toronto were true fans, who loved our different characters and the friendly way we interacted with them from the stage as much as they loved our not-always perfect looks – according to the standards of the 1970s. And we loved most of the regulars for all their foibles… 

…like the guy who paid us cash for prints of our lips on paper napkins; the three buddies who always went there whenever their mate had extra money to share with his friends to tip us. And the three old geezers who sat in the front row and sometimes got a bit carried away. One time I looked down and noticed the three of them enthusiastically wanking in time with the music. 

There was also the charming, rotund, inebrieated Catholic priest who stood just inside the front door and routinely propositioned us with offers of filet mignon dinner. A fascinating offer but we squeezed past between him and the ticket booth.

And there were the teenaged boys who ran up the two flights of worn carpeted stairs on a dare and then stood blinking and panting in the darkness before being reprimanded and quickly expelled… and the University of Toronto engineering students who called annually to hire the beautiful Roxy (who had long blonde hair, full breasts and apparently wasn’t afraid to ride a horse) to play Lady Godiva, for a university prank and a photo op.

One time, after the club brought in ‘private table dances’ an older Chinese man paid for a private dance and spent the whole time silently staring directly at my muff, as if he was hypnotized. At the end, he asked me quickly: “Do you like Chinese food?”

The Toronto strippers have always been pretty good at organising themselves. 

When the City of Toronto tried make us get licensed as ‘Adult Entertainment Parlour Attendants’, we fought back because we thought that sounded insulting. We were not attending to anything or anyone. And we worked in bars and theaters, not in fucking PARLOURS for fuck sake. We were entertainers not ATTENDENTS!!! 

So eventually the city backed down and licensed us as ‘Burlesque Entertainers’. 

We still had to pay a huge annual fee for our licence, though, and wait in line with hundreds of taxi drivers at the start of the year and have our photos taken for our wallet-sized ID card.

I lost that card somewhere along the way. Too bad. It shows a black and white photo of me looking young and furious and it didn’t have an expiry date on the card, so it was fun to have on hand, whenever I was asked to produce a government photo ID. It was always accepted as such, though not the most common identification there was.

The stripper ID cards provided years of employment to two senior city official inspectors, whose full-time job was to casually saunter into one of the hundreds of Toronto strip clubs, order a beer and watch all the shows, take discreet notes and then afterwards figure out which of dancers did or did not have licences. 

They always seemed to be in a good mood.

There have been several non profit organizations started by strippers in Toronto, including C.A.B.E. (Canadian Association of Burlesque Entertainers), Maggies, which was recently featured in a Rolling Stone article and a new one Work Safe Twerk Safe which I only recently heard of, but it seems very effective and informative.

OK, back to sleep for me now. 

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Filed under Canada, Eccentrics, Sex

Stories of legendary UK comic Jimbo…

This week, esteemed comic Noel James posted an announcement about a last minute act appearing on the bill at his Cafe Play club in Mumbles, Swansea,Wales, this Saturday, 6th November.

The act is the legendary and sadly not widely-enough fêted UK comic Jimbo (not to be confused with Australian comic Jimbo Bazoobi)

The news on Facebook of our British Jimbo’s booking elicited a fair number of comments, almost entirely from other comedians:


Jimbo: the man, the myth, the mirth…

Andy White
Did my first ever gig with Jimbo. Didn’t gig with him again till a couple of years ago. He was proper funny.

Mark Hurst
First Jimbo gig I witnessed he was introduced, made his way thru the audience, onto the stage, paused briefly at mic, as if about to speak, then carried on, off the other side of the stage, back thru the crowd and straight out the pub door…

Jez Feeney

yep I saw similar… hilarious

Noel James
ha ha yes sounds like Jimbo at his best.

Addy van der Borgh
One of the funniest opening 5 minutes I’ve ever seen… fiddling with the microphone, the mic stand, starting to speak, stopping etc. Great timing.

Noel James
Addy van der Borgh – so that’s where you got the idea from !!

Addy van der Borgh
I was first! Actually it’s an old commedia dell’arte thing. So there x

Adam-Morrison Jones
Absolute legend.

Neil Masters
Once at a gig on Tottenham Court Road in London, Jimbo took the mic outside of the pub so nobody could see him. Then he started to interview himself , sort of Voice 1. “please speak.” Voice 2. Lots of weird sounds and silly grumbles for 3 minutes then baritone “NO!” Then back inside , bowed and left the stage.

Andrew Max O’Neill
Amazing.

Mark Hurst
Then there was his first open spot at the Comedy Store. This was in the days when the open spots went on at the end, about 2am. He went on, did a bit of muttering and mic-stand fiddling, then collapsed into a heap on the stage. The MC not knowing what he was doing didn’t know if it was part of an act, stood at the side for a minute, that seemed like an hour, with people shouting out, whilst he lay motionless. Eventually, MC had to step over him, “Jimbo, let’s hear it for Jimbo.” At which, he jumped up and bounded off’.

Phil Davey
yeah i was there for that. compere was Kevin Day. Kim Kinnie was absolutely furious.

Dan Willis
Heard he once stripped naked,
Walked off leaving his clothes,
Never returning to get them..
I’ve gigged with him about twenty odd times – mostly doing gags, but I did see him setting fire to his own hair, without any apparent plan for when it took flame…

Phil Dins
Fantastic act. X

Gary Sansome
Great guy, I remember him doing a set at Huddersfield University and just walking straight out of the venue from the stage. Hope he is well.

David Hadingham
In the early days me and Jimbo (of course back then he was known by his real name James Fancyknot) shared a flat together where we would come up with all these great ideas, I wonder where he is now?

John Mann
Ha. Was discussing his antics only today with Alan Francis and Geoff Boyes.

Jez Feeney
Bloody hell???? Maaaaaaaaaalcolm!…..saw Jim at Sunday Night with Malcolm Hardee many a time… always an occasion… didn’t recognise the photo at first… proper old school… wonderful.

Glad he’s still around …would love to see him on Michael McIntyre’s Roadshow.

Steve Day
The story, and I assume everyone knows this in one form or another, when he was offered a paid gig in a pub somewhere out of London. Travelled there, but due to low audience numbers the landlord pulled the gig but agreed to pay the acts. Jimbo says since he’d come all this way he’d do his spot anyway. Goes on, is Jimbo for ten minutes, finishes.

The landlord says, “I’m not paying you for that!”

Noel James
his hair’s a bit whiter, but he’s still around, still gigging.

James Sherwood
Jimbo did my favourite ever topical gag. He described a story in that day’s paper about a pig farmer who hid some jewellery in the sty, the pigs ate the jewellery, now he has to comb through their excrement to get it back. “So I’m looking at this story and I’m looking at it… and COULD I THINK OF A JOKE?”

Matthew Baylis
A million years ago I did a writing day that jimbo was at – run by Chris Head. Jimbo had worked up a set (with Chris) as a drunken old-school comic dressed in a hideously believable Vegas style suit. It was mostly physical comedy and noises but it was quite brilliant and highly bookable.

I saw him at a gig a month later and he had dumped the routine and was back to ‘normal’.

John Fothergill
Did a minute or two then climbed out of the window behind the curtains and left in his car when I was mc in north London once.

Noel James
if i’d known he was this popular i’d have booked him to headline!

Ian Stone
He turned up at the East Dulwich tavern one night. He’d travelled from Milton Keynes with a moose head. He got introduced, walked on with the moose head, did the gig and never mentioned it, left the venue and then got the train back to Milton Keynes.

Robin Deb
Climbing out of the window at the Comedy Brewhouse and just… going home. oh, some punter complained they paid a fiver so he dropped one in her pint glass and then left…. HERO!

Mark Hayden
I’ve gigged a few times with Jimbo. I remember some silver suit or something that he wore that was out of the seventies or something. He also came and did Mr Ben’s gong show in Leeds. I asked him in my email to him are you sure as it’s a long way to come and do a gong. Sure enough he turned up. He must be nearly 80 now.

Dan Antopolski
He once did a bit shoving dogfood into a soft toy dog’s face that Sean Lock said was the funniest thing he’d ever seen.

Matt Kirshen

First time I met Sean, he was delighted to hear that Jimbo was still going. As as I am right now.

Pete Cracknell

He turned up at an open mic spot at The Father Red Cap, a gay pub in Camberwell. The audience were expecting Drag, flamboyance and music. They got Jimbo. It didn’t go well.

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Twonkey’s Greatest Twitch, Princess Margaret and the Pub Quiz Mafia…

Paul Vickers with clock sans cuckoo spoke on FaceTime

Twonkey aka Paul Vickers is back at London’s Soho Theatre on Tuesday with a new show. 

Well, sort of.

I talked to him on FaceTime. He lives in Edinburgh.


JOHN: You didn’t play the much-cut-back  Edinburgh Fringe this year.

PAUL: No, because it kept wavering. I was due be doing it at Dragonfly again, but then that got closed for two weeks because of a Covid outbreak.

JOHN: You’re coming down south for your Soho Theatre show: Twonkey’s Greatest Twitch. Didn’t you have a Twitch show before?

PAUL: Yes, there was Twonkey’s Ten Year Twitch. This one is more like a ‘Best of Twonkey’ show.

The difficulty is selecting what the best is. I’ve just chosen what I think the best bits are and hope people will agree with me. I mean, really, Twonkey started as a joke and just got out of hand. 

It was something I did off the cuff. I didn’t think: Oh, I’ll be doing this for over ten years. I just thought: I’ll do one Edinburgh Fringe and see what happens. But then you get addicted; you get on the treadmill of doing it.

I am feeling a bit like James Bond, in the sense that I’ve created a franchise and I feel like I’m getting to the point where I’d like to pass it on to someone else.

JOHN: Who else could do a Twonkey show though?

PAUL: Princess Anne was on the list.

JOHN: Have you asked her? It’s worth asking because you’re likely to get a reply from some official which you could quote… Who else?

PAUL: Peter Crouch, the footballer. John Craven was mentioned.

Twonkey’s greatest latest seen soon in Soho

JOHN: Why would Princess Anne be ideal to do a Twonkey show?

PAUL: It was thought she might give it a bit of dignity. But Princess Margaret was the fun one. She used to get stoned with the Incredible String Band, apparently.

JOHN: And now it’s too late…

PAUL: Yes. But I feel like Roger Moore gearing up for Octopussy. It won’t feel like that once I get going again. At the moment I’m in that nervous period.

It will be like Diamonds Are Forever when I get going.

JOHN: You haven’t performed as Twonkey for a while, because of the lockdowns…

PAUL: Yeah. I’ve been more into band stuff. (More on his band Paul Vickers and The Leg in my blog of February this year)

JOHN: Are you going to do less Twonkey and more music?

PAUL: I think it might be a bit like that, yeah. We were gonna try and incorporate a band thing in the new show, but we’re not really ready: it’s such a long process with the band.

JOHN: Your shows tend to have music in them, but you mean the band could actually be part of a Twonkey show?

PAUL: That could happen. I’ve always wanted to do that. The main thing that stops me is expense and all the Edinburgh Fringe venues are basically just like a plug in the wall. It would have to be a big enough venue to fit six people with equipment on the stage.

JOHN: Anything planned after the Soho Theatre and before next year’s Edinburgh Fringe?

A cultural dessert – the Custard Club

PAUL: Well, I did write another show that I had been going to do in 2020: Twonkey’s Custard Club. I had an elaborate idea involving custard as currency and where desserts had become the main meal.

JOHN: That works for me.

PAUL: I was all geared-up to do it at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2020, but then all the lockdowns happened and I couldn’t do anything for almost two years.

JOHN: So why are you not doing Twonkey’s Custard Club as your Soho Theatre show?

PAUL: Well, I kept opening the Word document and I thought: I don’t know how I feel about that now… There had been enough time for doubts to creep in. Previously, there had never been enough time for doubts to creep in because, every year, I barely had enough time to get a coherent show together for the Fringe.

I think everyone’s gone through this thing where you had a structured life and, during the pandemic, it wasn’t there any more. And then you start thinking: Do I really need to do that any more? Is that important? Do I LIKE doing that? It’s quite stressful.

Paul Vickers and The Leg – all six members of the band…

All those things came into the equation, so I became a bit more serious. The new band album is quite serious. I got quite into that during the pandemic – crafting a really good album.

JOHN: What was Twonkey’s Custard Club like?

PAUL: There was a book that had 100 pages with the same picture on every page. It was a tankard and a sleepy/romantic Alpine scene. There was a whole bit about if that book did exist, how would you interpret it? You would probably automatically think there might be a slight difference between the pictures and start looking for it. But there was no difference.

JOHN: Was any custard involved?

PAUL: In that bit, no. It was not custardy that bit. It wasn’t ALL custardy.

There will be a couple of custard songs in the Soho Theatre show – the ‘Best of’ show – despite the fact they’ve never been heard by anyone before.

JOHN: Seems reasonable.

PAUL: If the gig at the Soho Theatre goes well, that’ll help me make my decision on what to do.

If everyone’s like You can’t stop doing that! That’s great, Paul! that’s one thing. But, if it ends with people booing and asking for refunds, then… (LAUGHS)

Twitch bound… the Wobbly Waiter from Twonkey’s Custard Club…

There are some amazing puppets that Grant’s made for the show. The Wobbly Waiter of the Custard Club has got leg braces and everything. It was going to have custard and wobbly things on the plate. You bomb about and create absolute chaos with him because it’s very heavy and impossible to control. So it’s the perfect foil for comedy activity. 

JOHN: You haven’t done Twonkey at all during the pandemic?

PAUL: Well I did a pub quiz as Twonkey in a little pub called The Hoppy in Edinburgh and that went really well. That was the first time I’d done Twonkey in ages.

JOHN: How does Twonkey do a pub quiz? Surreal questions?

PAUL: Well, there’s a lot of things I do that make it not work.

JOHN: Is that the basis of Twonkey? Making it not work.

PAUL: Essentially. For example, at the pub quiz, I was forgetting to read out all the answers and no-one had any idea who was winning, not even me because I had forgotten to count it up.

JOHN: What happened at the end?

PAUL: My brother tried to make sense of it all and we did crown a winner.

Woodland Creatures bar, home of an unconventional pub quiz

JOHN: You had hosted pub quizzes before?

PAUL: When I did it on Leith Walk, I used to do it at a place called Woodland Creatures. But the trouble with pub quizzes is that people take them very seriously and the Edinburgh Pub Quiz Mafia came round. I was like the new kid on the block.

JOHN: Who are the Edinburgh Pub Quiz Mafia?

PAUL: Well, there’s a few of them that do the pub quiz circuit. Some of them do five or six pubs. I used to think the host for a pub quiz was probably a local schoolteacher with a bit of knowledge and time on his hands but – nah – it’s much more cynical than that.

The Pub Quiz Mafia were like: What’s this guy up to? Because I was going against the conventions of pub quizzes…

JOHN: … like giving the answers…

PAUL: …erm… yes. It was controversial at first. I had one round where I showed a clip from a film and people watched it really carefully, thinking the questions were going to be about that clip… but then I’d ask questions about a completely different film.

Paul Vickers aka Twonkey – unconventional is now standard

At the start, it was quite popular. I had a dominatrix doing the score cards. She was in latex and stuff.

She was like Carol Vorderman from Countdown. She was the brain and the discipline of the quiz and I was like Richard Whiteley, sitting there not having a clue what was going on, but being charming in a way I suppose. If I messed up, the dominatrix would keep me in line.

JOHN: She would whip you into shape?

PAUL: (LAUGHS) There was no whipping involved, but she made it known she was displeased. And she got angry with people who weren’t behaving in the crowd. After she stopped helping out, I was just sort of floating because I forgot I was doing a pub quiz. And it turned out that really frustrates people.

JOHN: What were you thinking if you forgot it was a pub quiz?

PAUL: Well, I start off thinking: Oh, this will be fun. And then I lose interest because it’s a pub quiz. I suppose I’ve made it my own. You could say it’s just a bad pub quiz.

JOHN: You should do a bad pub quiz at the Edinburgh Fringe. People would flock to it.

PAUL: Maybe… I will send you a link to my new video: Everyone Loves Custard. It will be in the Soho show.


And he did…
 

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Filed under Comedy, Eccentrics, Surreal

A word with a Ward, Award-maker, leaves worried BBC journo wordless

Dapper designer John Ward, earlier this week, wearing one of his many professional hats…

A couple of days ago, I posted a blog about this year’s Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award for best publicity stunt at the Edinburgh Fringe. The trophy itself – as with all Malcolm Hardee Awards – was designed and made by mad inventor John Ward.

Dr David Weeks’ academic analysis…

Among John Ward’s many other accomplishments are writing a weekly column – Ward’s World – for the Spalding Guardian newspaper and ‘starring’ in psychiatrist Dr David Weeks’ 1995 academic book Eccentrics: A Study of Sanity and Strangeness.

Yesterday, I got an email from John Ward:

“A BBC Three Counties Radio bod rung me up just now – asked me about the Malcolm Hardee Award and asked was I willing to do an over-the-phone interview later today.

“Then he asked me if I had any connections with Edinburgh other than the Awards side. 

“I said: My psychiatrist lives there (as in David Weeks) and then things seemed to get sort of quiet and he said he would ‘get back to me later’.

“I have heard no more.”

Obviously the BBC has to ‘up’ its reporters’ inquisitiveness.

They should have been even more interested by the mention of a psychiatrist and should also have asked the obvious question: “If you live in the middle of England, why do you have a psychiatrist in Scotland?”

John Ward is also featured (among many other appearances) in the 2015 documentary film A Different Drummer: Celebrating Eccentrics by Academy Award winning director, John Zaritsky.

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A DIY guide to getting and making an Edinburgh Fringe comedy award…

This morning, a month after this year’s cut-down-by-Covid Edinburgh Fringe finished, the 2021 Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award winner was announced. Yes, a month after it finished. 

The late Malcolm Hardee outside his childhood home

Alas no attempt was made to link the fact that the Award and the dead-but-impossible-to-forget comic Malcolm Hardee himself are both late.

Normally, there are three Malcolm Hardee Awards but, with no Fringe last year, with Covid still stalking the land and with staggeringly fewer shows at the Fringe this year, it’s a miracle there was any award at all.

As for the lesser Fringe awards… There were no Edinburgh Comedy (aka Perrier) Awards at all this year. And the eponymous TV channel did not attempt to award any prize for ‘DAVE’s Best Joke of the Fringe 2021’.

Fittingly, then, the winner of the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award this year was Will Mars, who announced his own ‘(Some Guy Called) DAVE Joke of the Fringe 2021’.

A cunning stunt indeed.

The TV channel’s annual prize is awarded after multiple allegedly top comedy industry professionals assiduously scout for jokes to nominate a shortlist and the final winner is decided by an allegedly carefully supervised public vote. 

This year, Will Mars just got together a few gags from people’s shows and then wandered up the Royal Mile in Edinburgh trying to find anyone called Dave who would pick a winner from the bunch.

Surprisingly, finding someone called Dave turned out to be almost as difficult as picking a winner.

The chosen winning joke was Masai Graham’s:

“I thought the word ‘Caesarean’ began with the letter ‘S’ but, when I looked in the dictionary, it was in the ‘C’ section.”

The shortlist of other jokes – inexplicably Caesar-centric – which Will had got together included:

Adele Cliff: “The Roman emperor’s wife hates playing hide and seek because wherever she goes Julius Caesar.” 

Ben Clover: “Getting a caesarian is dangerous in Russia. If they open you up and find a little girl, they open her up to see if there’s another.”

Ivor Dembina: “My therapist told me, ‘A problem shared, is a hundred quid’.”

Sameer Katz: “I think Chewbacca is French because he understands English but refuses to speak it.”

Leo Kearse: “Marvin Gaye used to keep a sheep in my vineyard. He’d herd it through the grapevine.”

Will Mars’ own: “My grandparents were married for forty years, but everything took longer back then.”

Tom Mayhew: “Me and my ex were into role play. I’d pretend to be James Bond and she’d pretend she still loved me.”

Rich Pulsford: “I don’t know what you call a small spillage from a pen but I have an inkling.”

The trophy for the one-off 2021 Award itself was designed and crafted by mad inventor John Ward, who has designed and made all the previous trophies.

But you can’t just knock-off a Malcolm Hardee Award in a minute or two. Oh no. Oh my dear me, no. Quality counts.

You need raw materials and then you have to decide what the fuck to do with them…

Once you have ’em, you have to shape ’em and craft ’em…

Then, if you’re talented like John Ward, you have to tart ’em up into a final trophy…

John Ward (he’s the one on the right) with the Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award 2021

John Ward told me: “It’s basically Malcolm’s bonce, with real imitation hair, plus the specs mounted on an ‘H’ shaped base for Hardee.

“I used a BAFTA type theme but tried to take the piss out of it with the silver (on the right) symbolising the bland year and half it’s been with Covid and the golden ray of laughter (on the left) is pure (if that’s a suitable word) Malcolm with a hearty grin.”

“With real imitation hair?” I asked. “From where?”

“From a fabric shop I patronise for such things…”

“Such things?” I asked.

“I use it to make wigs and I buy it by the yard as you never know when you might run out of the hairy stuff…” replied John.

Here is a reminder of John Ward.

Here is Will Mars’ typically non-promotional speech accepting the 2021 Cunning Stunt Award…

 
And here is the base of John Ward’s trophy…

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Filed under Comedy, Eccentrics, Edinburgh

The Iceman offers himself to the Taliban and remembers Charlie Watts

Entrepreneurial Iceman – a self portrait

Yesterday, I got an email from the uniquely entrepreneurial Anthony Irvine aka performance artist The Iceman aka fine artist AIM.

He told me about GIANT – “a new prestigious art gallery in the ex-Debenham’s department store in central Bournemouth” on England’s south coast.

At 15,000 square feet, it is claimed to be the UK’s largest artist-run gallery space outside London. The Iceman told me:”There’s a giant  polar bear in there which I thought was a good omen for me.”

“He has heard back from neither them nor the polar bear”

So he left his business card but, so far, has heard back from neither the organisers nor the polar bear.

Forever entrepreneurial, he has also written an open letter to the Taliban, who surged back into power in Afghanistan this week… in the hope of getting a performance booking from them.

In 1975 he travelled overland via Turkey, Iran (where the Shah was still in power), Afghanistan and Pakistan to India and Nepal, with appropriately long hair, pretending to be a hippy. 

The giant Buddhas of Bamiyan (Photograph from Wikipedia)

In Afghanistan, he stopped in the Bamiyan Valley and, he says, “climbed the rough steps up one of the tall Buddhas carved out of the sandstone rock. At the top, one could actually get into the head. I’m not sure if I experienced immediate enlightenment; more a slow burn…”

The Buddhas were destroyed by the Taliban in 2001.

His open letter to the Taliban this week is worth a read in its original form on his website.

But, for the lazy, I translate it here:


Dear Taliban Team,

I’m not sure if it’s appropriate for me to send Congratulations, but I hope you do better than the last time. 

In 1975, I was in Afghanistan. I went up to the beautiful lakes in Band-e-Amir on horseback. I went to see and enter the incredibly still Buddhas in the Bamiyan Valley. 

Why did you blow them up? You thought them idolatrous? Or is it because you understand the concept of emptiness? Probably not.

The Iceman’s image of Block 223 as submitted to the Taliban

Anyway, if it would help, I am happy to come and melt an ice-block somewhere in your rugged country. But, if I make a mistake, please don’t amputate any of my limbs – I need them for my art work. Give me a Community Care Order instead?

I attach a Polaroid of a previous Block [223] to give you a sense of my performance art work.

Do you think it would be popular in Afghanistan?

I also attach a photo of myself for ID purposes.

Yours sincerely,

Anthony Irvine [aim]


Because Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts died this week, The Iceman also shared with me these two memories:

“I remember seeing him getting a taxi in Hammersmith… also at Knebworth in 1976 when I was meant to be on stage with him but was overwhelmed by other factors…”

“WHAT?” I asked. “Knebworth? Other factors? Tell me more…”

And he sort-of did. 

The Stones at Knebworth, as portrayed by the Iceman/AIM

“The Stones,” The Iceman told me, “had insisted that the promoter should attempt to try to instill a carnival atmosphere at the show by hiring a large number of clowns, buskers and other circus acts, who were supposed to entertain the crowd between sets. I guess I was part of this. 

Chris Lynam booked us. I was in a street theatre group from Penge called Shoestring. I played a character called Private Parts. But I think on this occasion we were less performers and more atmosphere creators, interacting with festival goers. I had designed my own clown costume. I think I also wore a chef’s hat.

“I remember Chris Lynam shouting at me to get on stage but I had challenged myself with an alternative form of stimulus and couldn’t get off the ground. I think my colleagues all assembled on the main stage, but I missed my biggest audience.”

On his website, partly as his 1976 self, partly as The Iceman, partly as AIM, his artist persona, he remembers:


I didn’t make it onto stage, man, but I was booked, man – I let the Stones down, man. Not good to let the Stones down, man, but, like, man, they understood, man. Icespecaimlly Mice Jaimgger, man. Things happen at open air concerts, man, and there’s a lot of stuff going on, man. Things happenin’, man, all the taim, man – all kinds of stuff, man, around everywhere, man. It’s craimzy, man – raimlly cricy, man…


We can but wait with bated breath to see if the Taliban reply and sensibly give him a booking in their new (or do I mean old?) Afghanistan…

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Comic Malcolm Hardee remembered by Australian performer Matthew Hardy…

Malcolm Hardee on the Thames (Photo by Steve Taylor)

In yesterday’s blog, Australian performer Matthew Hardy remembered British comedian Sean Lock, who died earlier this week. 

Matthew also mentioned the late comedian Malcolm Hardee – oft called ‘the godfather of British alternative comedy’ – as “the most outrageous individual I’ve ever known”. 

Eight days after Malcolm’s death by drowning in 2005, Matthew Hardy shared this memory. 

Stories about Malcolm Hardee are plentiful but, to my mind, this one from Matthew may be the definitive one…


Malcolm took my visiting elderly parents out in his boat. Goes up the Thames and on the right was some kind of rusted ship, pumping a powerful arc of bilgewater out of its hull, through a kind of high porthole, which saw the water arc across the river over fifty foot.

I’m on the front of the boat as Malcolm veers toward the arc and I assume he’s gonna go under it, between the ship and where the arc curves downward toward the river itself. For a laugh.

Just as I turn back to say “Lookout, we’re gonna get hit by the filthy fucking water” – the filthy fucking water almost knocked my head off my shoulders and me off the boat. I looked back to see it hit Malcolm as he steered, then my Mum and then Dad.

I wanted to hit him and my Dad said afterwards that he did too, but we were both unable to comprehend or calculate what had actually happened. 

Malcolm’s decision was beyond any previously known social conduct. 

He must have simply had the idea and acted upon it. 

Anarchy.

We laugh… NOW!”.

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The mysterious Iceman’s birth, baptism, Westminster connections and dribbles.

The Iceman crops up in this blog erractically and eccentrically.

He used to be a humorous performance artist, destroying blocks of ice – sometimes by just letting them melt, sometimes using a blowtorch, sometimes blowing them up with explosives. Nowadays, though, he is a painter.

He paints pictures of blocks of ice.

Recently, he did a Zoom call with pupils at the highly prestigious Westminster School in London. I Skyped him to ask why…


JOHN: Why?

ICEMAN: A young sixth former became aware of my work and approached me on behalf of the Westminster Literary Society, which sounded very prestigious.

JOHN: But you’re not a literary creator; you’re an artistic performer and performance artist and now artist.

ICEMAN: Yes but, as you know, I use words, often with “aim” or “ice” in them.

JOHN: Errr… “aim”?

Portrait of the Artist as a mystery man

ICEMAN: That’s the n-ice name I have adopted as a painter. AIM = Anthony, Ice Man. But it always has a deeper meaning…

JOHN: Ooooooh!

ICEMAN: That is the correct response. Ooooooh! Deep. Deep. What are we AIMing for? I’m aiming for something very particular.

JOHN: What?

ICEMAN: Nirvanaima.

JOHN: Yer wot?

ICEMAN: Some people call it Nirvana. I call it NirvanAIMa… The Westminster Literary Society liked the wordplay… I am now a cult figure in the sixth form at Westminster School… I was baptised in Westminster Hall.

Westminster Hall is the oldest surviving part of the Palace of Westminster – ie the UK Parliament building (Photograph by Jwslubbock via Wikipedia)

JOHN: Westminster HALL???

That’s in the Houses of Parliament!

ICEMAN: Yes. The old hall where Charles I was tried. 

JOHN: You were baptised there???

ICEMAN: I had good contacts in those days.

JOHN: Bloody good contacts. Tell all!… 

ICEMAN: Anyway…

JOHN: Forget the Anyway. Why did you get baptised in Westminster Hall and where did you get the water from? There’s no font. You must have brought your own water. What was the font? Times Roman? What connections did you have? Political or Lordly?

ICEMAN: I’m a commoner.

JOHN: So you had a relation who was in the House of Commons?

ICEMAN: As a baby, I was good at networking. I have a little block of ice here…

JOHN: I don’t want to know about your little block of ice. I want to know about the water in your font and how and why you got baptised in Westminster Hall. Does this mean, bizarrely, you have a connection with Westminster School?

ICEMAN: One wonders, with all this synchronicity going around… You have an unhealthy interest in this… I think the person who invited me – at Westminster School – unbeknown to me, took my work very seriously, thought it was deep and funny and the initial subject I was talking to them about was Can Stand-Up Comedy Be an Art Form?… but I turned it, really, into a promotion of my paintings.

JOHN: Your paintings not your ice-melting performance art?

ICEMAN: I am a man of two parts.

JOHN: You’re a man of three parts. One is in Westminster Hall as a baby.

ICEMAN: There was ice in the font. It was February… No, it was April, actually.

JOHN: You remember ice in the font?

ICEMAN: I sensed it… Anyway… One of my audience at Westminster School was called Cecilia. She said she laughed so much at my Zoom meeting that her eyeliner ran.

JOHN: Where did it run to?

Iceman and duck talk to Westminster scholars

ICEMAN: My duck was there. You remember my duck? You blogged about it.

JOHN: How could I not?

ICEMAN: But the thing that I appreciated was that my art – seemingly genuinely – was being appreciated by a new generation. Now they can’t stop sending me emails. And even their English teacher said how deeply moving and funny it was at the same time. They had a block of their own. They called it Alice.

JOHN: Alice?

ICEMAN: – Al-ice.

JOHN: Aah! So you’ve inspired new ice artists?

ICEMAN: Well, they say I have inspired them. They are painting lots of pictures and they are going to send me a booklet of all their pictures. It has been a stimulus for their writing and art.

JOHN: But will they cough-up to buy a painting from you? How much would it cost?

ICEMAN: I dunno. If they gave a fiver each, how big is the Sixth Form?… £500?

JOHN: That’s quite cheap for your ice blocks.

ICEMAN: They haven’t replied to that e-mail.

JOHN: This would be you selling them not a block of ice but a…

ICEMAN: …a painting of a block. Yes. I know you met me when I was a performance artist, but my main creative activity now is painting, though still using the motif of blocks of ice. Every painting has a block of ice. I told the Literary Society that, when I look back, I see the blocks as stepping stones to my later career as a painter.

JOHN: But if the past blocks are stepping stones, they will melt, so your future career is uncertain.

ICEMAN: Yes, but I’ve got there now. A painter called Alfred Wallis reminds me of myself. He was part of the St Ives Group in Cornwall, but he was really a Cornish fisherman and he painted on cardboard, using ship’s paint. Very simple and child-like, which reminds me of me because I tend to paint on mounting board. He was taken up by Ben Nicholson. He was a genuinely naïve painter.

I’m not saying I’m emulating him. I came across him later and realised he’s like me in some ways. He only started painting in his Sixties.

The Iceman in full flow… His art is not easily accomplished… It is a combination of art and art-if-ice

JOHN: Back to your birth. Where was your father born?

ICEMAN: In Aberdeen. But I was born off the King’s Road in Chelsea. I think there might be a plaque there. It was a bit more bohemian in those days. I broke free and became The Iceman.

JOHN: Did you go to university?

ICEMAN: I can’t give too much information about myself without demystifying myself.

JOHN: When you were 19, what did you want to be?

ICEMAN: I think I wanted to join the Royal Navy.

JOHN: Why?

ICEMAN: To do ice patrols…

JOHN: Of course you did. But, at 19, did you decide you wanted to be a creative person of some kind?

ICEMAN: I think I had an idea of being some kind of actor. But then I recognised the limitations of that field.

JOHN: What are the limitations?

ICEMAN: Spouting forth other people’s words. I guess I became a performance artist but not one of your heavy Marina Abramović types. More of a slightly humorous performance artist. When I played comedy clubs, they said I should do art galleries; and art galleries said I should go and do comedy clubs. That’s the story of my life.

I ran into Arthur Smith. I said to him: “I never had success.” He said: “You had your moments”.

JOHN: Well, you’ve done better than Van Gogh did in his lifetime.

ICEMAN: That was one of your greatest blogs – The Iceman out-sells Van Gogh… You don’t remember! You don’t know your own blogs!

JOHN: I send the recordings off to some bloke in China and he transcribes them and puts them online. I seldom read them. But I remember the duck.

ICEMAN: You have a sort-of tabloid journalist’s eye for a good headline.

JOHN: Yeah: The Iceman was Lord So-and-So’s Son

ICEMAN: No.

“a bit of blue tarpaulin attached to it that looked like a fish.”

JOHN: You sent me an image of a new painting of a block yesterday.

ICEMAN: Yes, it is called The Tombstone Block. It has a lateral flow test thing block and The Iceman was in PPE outfit and it had a bit of blue tarpaulin attached to it that looked like a fish.

JOHN: Anything seems reasonable. Has the pandemic lockdown inspired you to create more things than you would otherwise have done?

ICEMAN: At one stage I created  a regular routine of painting more or less every day. Recently it’s more like one a fortnight.

JOHN: They take about a week to complete?

The Iceman amid his recent art, holding an old Polaroid

ICEMAN: About five minutes. (LAUGHS) But the build-up… I do think about it prior to the event.

I used to take Polaroids and, when I started painting, I was painting my interpretation of those photographs. But, when I ran out of photographs, I started painting more from memory.

And, more recently, I’ve painted more from a concept.

The block I did with Stewart Lee at the Royal Festival Hall – I imagined it going to Gravesend, Richmond Bridge, the North Sea, lift-off into space, then to a neighbouring universe. I’m getting more away from the basic literal block portrayal.

JOHN: How are sales of your paintings going?

Shrewd buyer (left) of a second Iceman painting – thaims 16

ICEMAN: I’ve just had an order from a previous buyer. He’s the Head of Music at Monkton Combe School. Many years after buying the original one – LidO –  based on Tooting Lido where I did a block, he became interested in a painting called thaims 16, which is basically a boat with an ice block on it… and the other one he likes is more abstract. I tried to get him into three figures, but he’s whittled me down to £50.

I like the fact I’m now painting. That has given me a completely different experience from performing. When you perform, you’re interacting in rough and ready ways. But when you’re painting you’ve usually alone. They are both intense, but completely different experiences.

When I paint, I think it’s the one time I forget about… well… For all my limitations as a painter – because I’ve had no training – I think what I bring to it is a spontaneous feeling. In one way, that relates back to the performance art work, which was always rough and ready.

I like using oils because, on canvas, they can emulate the ice block effects… I like dribbles.


The Iceman’s Zoom chat with the boys and girls of the Westminster Literary Society is on YouTube… The video lasts 29 minutes…

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A fond memory of eccentric – and very noisy – comedy performer Chis Luby

John Ward made the Malcolm Hardee Awards

Mad inventor John Ward is a man of many parts, many of them going spare. He designed and built the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award trophies and I have occasionally booked him on TV shows. 

One was in 1988 on the weekly ITV series Prove It! Participants had to ‘prove’ they could do something bizarre.

John now writes a weekly column for the Spalding Guardian newspaper and today he remembered fellow eccentric Chris Luby. Here are some of his memories:


The late Chris Luby was absolutely brilliant at ‘noise impressions’ such as a WW2 spitfire starting up, going down a runway and into battle, trains on the underground that to the untrained ear sounded very real plus many more.

I first met him some years ago when we both appeared on an ITV telly show called Prove It! presented by Chris Tarrant

We both recorded the pilot show plus both appeared in the first episode while I appeared in the whole series on a thirteen week basis presenting assorted inventions and gadgets.

Chrises Tarrant and Luby

Day one was rehearsal day with everybody involved getting to know each other, then going through our paces plus a studio run-through, then – all those still breathing – off to our designated hotels for a clean-up before dinner.

I was on the same table as Chris (Luby) for dinner/supper and it was an experience sitting there, looking at the menu while hearing about The train now leaving platform whatever… and going through to Kings Cross station, with all the assorted sounds and voices.

He sat there, menu covering his face, making these noises and, apart from the fact they were ‘spot on’ and very realistic, my thoughts were: “Does he ever stop!?”

He was doing his impression of whatever plane it was as the waiter came over to us to ask if we were ready to order. I said we would, just as soon as my companion came in to land.

The look on the poor waiter’s face was a classic as he didn’t know what was going on but then nor did I… but I was learning – I hoped.

The first night we spent in the lounge bar area of the hotel and, yes, he carried on going like a good ‘un with his assorted impressions of objects and people.

Eventually it was off to bedtime and I did sleep very well all things considered as it had been a really long day.

So imagine being woken up the next morning by what sounded like a detachment of the Grenadier Guards at the bedroom door, ‘marching on the spot’ outside.

I know I had asked for an alarm call but this was pushing it a bit.

I then heard what could be called a sergeant major’s ‘rallying call’ or “Git ‘art of bed, you ‘orribel little man!!!” as it dawned on me (well, it was by then daylight) it could be only Chris Luby. 

Does he ever stop? I asked myself.

Chris Luby – N0-one ever slept in HIS shows

His initial appearance had him in a Coldstream Guard’s uniform, coming through the middle of the stage curtains, making the sounds of a marching regiment… hobbling on crutches as he had broken his leg a week or so beforehand.

Culture didn’t come any better than this.

He used to perform about a twenty minute act consisting of assorted ‘sounds’ or noises, many military based and he made a decent living from it on the comedy circuit.

Sadly there is not much on the internet about him apart from the fact he passed away in January 2014 following an accident at his home when he tumbled downstairs.

That ended the life and sounds of ‘The Man of Many Noises’.

He wasn’t what you might call a ‘mainstream’ entertainer but anybody you mentioned his name to in ‘the show business’ always broke into a smile as they all seem to have a Chris anecdote.

He was one of those unique but talented people that, once met or seen, never forgotten.


SoundCloud has an audio clip of Chris Luby impersonating an RAF fly-past at the legendarily raucous church funeral of Malcolm Hardee in 2005…

…and YouTube has a clip of John Ward (though sadly not Chris Luby) on Prove It!

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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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