Tag Archives: birthday party

When Bernard Manning took Charlie Chuck backstage at James Whale’s show

Yesterday afternoon, I had a tea-room crawl around London’s West End with comedian Charlie Chuck. He had come down for a meeting in Soho about appearing in a TV ad.

He told me his girlfriend now has 21 ducks and a Buddha statue in her back garden. To celebrate, we went down to see the ducks in St James’s Park which is a fine example of ornithological multi-culturalism where any number of imaginable and unimaginable breeds intermingle, mostly politely, and occasional light grey pigeons wander randomly about, looking slightly stunned at the surrounding plumage, like drab, grey-suited City gents who have accidentally wandered into the VIP hospitality tent behind the Pyramid Stage in Glastonbury.

Dave (Charlie Chuck’s real name) told me more about his unbilled second show at the upcoming Edinburgh FringeDave Kear’s Guide to the Universe – which I blogged about last week and which he will perform in theSpaces@SurgeonsHall for six days. He has plans to develop this year’s show into an hour-long play called Mister Nobody at the 2012 Fringe and has been discussing with a 1960s ‘celebrity vicar’ what that might involve.

Sitting in St James’s Park, watching a three-mallard duck-fight on the water, Dave suddenly remembered that, when he was a 20-year-old drummer with innocent hopes of a hit parade career ahead of him, he had slept overnight on a deckchair in this very park, the night before an early morning meeting with a record producer in what was then Tin Pan Alley.

He also regaled me with tales of touring Britain for a year in the 1970s as drummer with The Missouri Breaks – backing band for 1950s British rock ‘n’ roll legend Wee Willie Harris. Support acts for Wee Willie Harris on that tour were comedians Bernard Manning and Duncan ‘chase me chase me’ Norvelle.

That sounds to me like one hell of an eclectic tour.

Manning’s act involved going on stage with two large, fearsome-looking bouncers who stood on either side of him while he insulted the audience and the other acts. Seeing the size of the bouncers, no-one ever objected to the insults.

“I met Bernard again on James Whale‘s 40th Birthday Party show,” Dave told me, “and he asked me into his dressing room and told me You’re doing a great job. That’s a great character. I were chuffed. It were very nice of him.”

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Bandages and zumba at the surrealist comedian’s ping-pong birthday party

Yesterday afternoon, I went to surrealist comedian Martin Soan’s birthday party, one of those rare occasions when people playing ping-pong outside in the rain seems perfectly normal. As did Martin’s unique method of extinguishing the single large candle on his birthday cake; something I can only describe as a reverse banger-up-the-bum routine but done in the best possible taste.

Note my careful use of the word ‘possible’.

Martin was still aglow at being the new honorary Malcolm Hardee Memorial Mime champion having seen off a cheeky challenge from a French mime artist during the recent Royal Festival Hall At Last The 1981 Show shindig. That performance did involve all his clothing being blown off by a giant wind machine and Martin seems never happier than ending up on stage naked. Yesterday, though, he remained disappointingly clothed.

It was an interesting party in other unexpected ways, with larger-than-life Bob Slayer (one-time jockey and manager of Japanese rock group Electric Eel Shock one of whom got killed by a fish in the infamous Killer Bitch movie), in co-charge of the barbecue. Bob told me that he was considering putting on rock bands at future Edinburgh Fringes. Not any old run-of-the-mill rock bands, but visually unusual rock bands. I am surprised no-one has done this before, as it does seem in the spirit of the Fringe and would appeal to the same audiences.

Bouncing ball of jollity Charmian Hughes had to leave the party early to go to a Zumba class – she intends to develop the already odd sand dance in her upcoming Edinburgh Fringe show The Ten Charmandments in unexpected ways by incorporating Zumba and traditional Indian dance moves into the traditional Wilson, Keppel and Betty style routine.

“It will probably look much the same as it was before,” she told me with a raised eyebrow and then showed me some of her ballet moves.

Charmian’s ever-dapper magician husband David Don’t was dressed in something not dissimilar to Sylvester McCoy’s Doctor Who costume. His magic sometimes doesn’t work, which makes it all the more entertaining. Yesterday, both of his hands and one leg/knee were swathed in heavy bandages. The last time I saw him perform, his act included a sharp spike under one of several up-ended polystyrene cups and David slamming his hand down onto the cups. There was also a legendary occasion, at which I was not present, when a spectacular act of his accidentally caught fire. And let’s not ever again mention the human dartboard with real darts and blindfolded dart-throwers.

I did not ask David for details about his bandages yesterday. I felt it might intrude on private, if comedic, grief.

I feel I have failed you in factual blogging, dear reader.

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The near-sinking of comedian Malcolm Hardee’s birthday party on 5th January 2002

The late comedian Malcolm Hardee was born on 5th January 1950. He used to put on a birthday comedy show.  This is an extract from my 2002 diary. Malcolm had recently bought the Wibbley Wobbley floating pub in Greenland Dock, Rotherhithe… He drowned a few feet away from the Wibbley Wobbley in 2005.

SATURDAY 5th JANUARY 2002

Charlie Chuck, advertising man Paul (whom Chuck knows) and I went to the first of two birthday parties which Malcolm Hardee is holding this weekend. It was on his new floating pub The Wibbley Wobbley.

When we arrived, Malcolm was dressed in naval captain’s uniform with Russian Convoy medals on his chest. I went to the bow area to say hello to him.

“Go back up to the bar end,” he whispered, “We’re sinking – I’m not kidding – We’re going down.”

And, as we walked back up towards the bar, sure enough, I realised we were indeed walking slightly uphill.

We were all eventually evacuated – maybe thirty of us – and someone suggested the problem seemed to be that they were trying to pump the water out underwater via the pump where water enters.

A fire engine turned up. Then two policemen. Then another two policemen. Then another fire engine. Then another two policemen. And another two. It was a good night for criminals in Rotherhithe. The police were unsmiling and uninterested except when they had chats amongst themselves. The firemen were surprisingly fat. How do they get up ladders?

On the quayside, one theory for the slow sinking of the Wibbley Wobbley was that ice in the recent bitterly cold weather had blocked the pump and a build-up of shit in the septic tank was weighing down the vessel at one end.

The Wibbley Wobbley is not yet insured. No surprise there: neither is Malcolm’s car; and he has two driving licences under different names.

After about twenty minutes, Malcolm told me: “The Coast Guard have arrived. Straight up, a bloke from the Coast Guard has just just turned up because he heard about it. He seems to be in the mood for a party.” We turned and looked at the eight policemen already here. They did not talk to the Coast Guard man.

A well-known comedian was standing next to us with staring eyes, accompanied by a tall dark man who also had brightly staring eyes. Both looked startled at what was happening.

This is no time to be on coke, I thought.

We were eventually allowed back on the ship by the firemen.

Then we were evacuated again and told no-one would be allowed back on again that night.

Then we were let back on board again.

In all, the non-sinking took about 90 minutes.

The eventual explanation was that, indeed, a pipe had got blocked and shit really had built up on board to such an extent that it almost sank the boat and everyone in it.

A simile for many a comedy career, perhaps.

***

POSTSCRIPTS

Malcolm’s friend Deke has continued the tradition of Malcolm’s annual birthday party (well it would be annual, wouldn’t it?)  on the Sunday nearest to 5th January. This year it is this coming Sunday (9th January 2011) from 7.00pm at the Lord Hood pub next to Up The Creek in Greenwich. The event will include performances by Steve Bowditch (ex-Greatest Show on Legs) and a screening of The Tunnel the award-nominated short film about Malcolm’s notorious comedy club The Tunnel Palladium. Deke’s e-mail is dekedecore@hotmail.com … You can see The Greatest Show on Legs – Martin Soan, Steve Bowditch and Malcolm Hardee – perform their Naked Balloon Dance here.

This year’s annual Malcolm Hardee Awards for Comedy will be presented during a special two-hour tribute show at the Edinburgh Fringe – starting at 10.00pm on the evening of Friday 26th August 2011.

There is a Malcolm Hardee Appreciation Society group on Facebook.

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