Tag Archives: Clint Eastwood

How to edit your script and not be invisible at the Edinburgh Fringe (etc)

To be pompous… and, if I can’t be pompous here, then where can I be?…

If you fancy yourself as a wordsmith on stage or screen, my advice is to write as little dialogue as possible.

If your work of genius would work as well on radio as it would on stage or screen, then it needs visuals added.

Television is not radio.
Movies are not radio.
The stage is not radio.

That’s a big thing of mine.

If a script will work on radio, then it is probably a bad script for stage or TV/movie production.

Having said that, Johnny Speight and a lot of Galton & Simpson TV shows are all dialogue….

So what do I know?

One Foot in the Grave, though, has loads of visual gags. There’s a gag where the phone rings and Victor, asleep on a chair, sleepy, reaches down and picks up a small dog.

The tortoise episode has visual gags aplenty. There are loads of surreal visuals in Grave which don’t rely on spoken words.

And, of course, allegedly the British public’s most beloved and memorable TV comedy sequence is not Ronnie Barker’s “four candles” routine nor John Cleese’s ‘dead parrot’ routine but the visual gag from Only Fools and Horses.

Just because something ain’t got spoken words doesn’t mean it ain’t a good piece of scripting.

Clint Eastwood says he told Sergio Leone to cut acres of his character’s dialogue out of the original script of A Fistful of Dollars. He told Sergio: “I can do those two lines of dialogue by just one look”.

The 2mins 40secs pre-credits opening of Sergio Leone’s Once Upon a Time in The West is brilliantly scripted but has only three short, totally inconsequential lines of dialogue.

So write a stage or screen script.

Then go through it and try to cut out as many words as you can because, if you can, they are unnecessary.

Then go through it again and try to cut out as many of the necessary words as you can and replace them with something visual.

If words can be cut out and the point made visually, that’s miles better – though, if it’s for a stage performance, the people at the back have to see it. So subtle eye movements may be invisible.

And I get SO annoyed when performers sit or lie on the floor in venues bigger than the ones they are used to.

It may have worked in some room above a pub with an audience of 5 but it don’t feckin’ work when you are sitting in the audience at the back of a non-tiered room with even only three rows of people seated in front of you. If the performer’s head is below the heads of the people sitting in the front row then the odds are that even the person sitting in row 4 can’t see it clearly if at all.

End of pomposity. Raises eyebrow. Slaps forehead. Says nothing.

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My Kinky night… Plus showman and creative midwife Adam Taffler talks sex

Malcolm Hardee 10th Anniversary Show 2015

Adam’s show in memory of the iconic comic Malcolm Hardee

Yesterday, at the Soho Theatre in London, I talked to comic Elf Lyons for a future blog.

Then I was due to talk to showman Adam Taffler about a show he is arranging at Up The Creek in Greenwich to mark the 10th anniversary of Malcolm Hardee’s death by drowning.

“Is it confirmed yet?” I asked him.

“Yes, Monday 2nd February at Up The Creek,” he said.

Then comic John Robertson appeared.

John Robertson (left) with Adam Taffler yesterday

John Robertson (left) be-hatted with Adam Taffler yesterday

“Bloodshot eyes at the window,” said John Robertson.

I have no idea what this means, but he and Adam started discussing their hats.

“I was just talking to Elf Lyons,” I said. “She always wears a hat. She said I would look good in a Panama hat.”

“A Panama with your usual Hawaiian shirts would look good,” agreed Adam.

“Elf asked what you do,” I told Adam. “And I couldn’t explain. Bits and pieces of everything.”

“I’m doing a Burns Night at the end of this month,” he said. “We’re going to do a ceilidh – a Scottish Independence Referendum dance. You get everyone who was for Yes on the right and everyone who was for No on the left and you get them to dance together. It will be really funny.”

“It needs a punchline,” I said.

“It does,” said John Robertson.

“I don’t do punchlines,” laughed Adam, “I am an artist.”

“Where is the Burns Supper?” I asked.

Burns Night without any battling monks

Adam’s Burns Baby Burns! without monks

“In the ecclesiastical colosseum of St John’s at Hackney.”

“Do they have monks fighting in Hackney?” I asked.

“One of Henry VIIII’s mistresses is buried there,” said Adam.

“You have to admire his stamina,” I said. “Six wives and multiple mistresses. Why are you suddenly doing Burns Nights?”

“I love ceilidhs,” said Adam.

“This will not help me explain to Elf Lyons what you do,” I suggested.

“I am,” said Adam, “just making it up as I go along.”

“He is a human dynamo,” said John Robertson. “He is a pathfinder.”

“He is a man with a false moustache,” I said.

“It’s real,” said Adam. “I am a midwife to people’s dreams.”

“It could be a real moustache with a false man,” said John Robertson. “But this is getting like a Philip K Dick novella.”

And with that, like Keyser Söze, John Robertson left without a limp.

“Are we talking about your date with a person from the media?” I asked Adam.

He had told me that, after seeing me, he had a romantic assignation.

“It is a silent date,” he replied.

One of Adam’s many business ventures is a series of regular Shhh Dating events where people, in effect, do speed dating with each other but without saying any words.

Adam Taffler behind Metro

Adam told me this would be the first sight his date would see

“Why are you having a silent date?” I asked.

“I dunno.,” said Adam. “I just thought it would be fun.”

“This is after your Free Love period?” I asked.

“Not Free Love,” said Adam. “The Sex Positive scene I was getting to know a little bit.”

“It sounds like Free Love to me,” I told him.

“It’s just another form of creativity,” said Adam. “Oh!!! That will sound so shit in your blog!”

“Things do,” I said. “In print, ‘Sex Positive’ may sound like a randy man with a false moustache going round knobbing people.”

“It’s a real moustache,” said Adam.

“I have to go to the toilet,” I told him. “Alone. I will leave my phone recording.”

While I was away, Adam talked to my iPhone.

“John thinks I might say something interesting now,” Adam told my iPhone, “but actually I have nothing to say. That is the reason I don’t perform stand-up comedy. But I do do other things like ceilidh dancing and nudie dancing in the moonlight.”

When I came back, Adam told me: “So, this summer, I got invited by my friend who runs an event called the Summer House Party. It is about 300 adults from the Sex Positive scene. It’s like a mini Burning Man. There are loads of different creative things. You can hang-out, do face-painting, do hot tubs and it builds to this big event on the Saturday night and there’s a playroom and I don’t know if we should talk about this, John.”

“It will be in print forever,” I agreed.

“It might sound wrong,” said Adam. “It’s such a sweet thing but might sound dodgy… OK… I went along to the Summer House Party and I was running some of these Shhh Dating workshops and it was great fun and, on Saturday night, there was a big party and, in one room at the party, there were lots of people having sex with each other… So it was like any normal party, really.

“What I want to say is it was really creative and artistic and human, but I suppose you could say that about dogging. What it looks like to me is there’s this whole spectrum of sexuality all the way from dogging and… what’s that other one where you fuck and never see them again?”

“Sheep worrying,” I suggested.

“Maybe,” said Adam. “But this is more like you form friendships and hang-out together. Sex Positive means exploring sexuality and doing it safely. But there’s another thing which I’m starting to understand a bit now… about gender identity. In this scene, you’re not supposed to refer to someone as a He or a She or a Man or a Woman until you ask them first, because there’s a lot of transgender people in the community and some of them got really upset. People are saying: Let’s throw away the whole notion of gender. It’s so passé. So that’s kind of interesting.”

“This is going to sound a bit Californian in print,” I said.

“It is, I guess,” said Adam.

“Anyway,” I said, “earlier, you told me you had now decided to be more into single relationships.”

Adam Taffler

Adam limbering up for his silent date in London last night

“That’s right,” said Adam. “This summer I had the whole awakening of this scene and meeting lots of different people and exploring lots of different things but, actually, I think I prefer to have a deeper relationship with one person.”

“And this media person you are seeing tonight is female?” I asked.

“Yes, I date women. I’m not homosexual.”

“Animals?” I asked.

“Only squirrels,” said Adam.

“And professionally?” I asked.

“I’m just trying to survive and build. I’m trying to do things that excite me and it excites me to have a room of 500 people dancing or feasting or having sex. In a good way. Or squirrels. Or to take artists and ask them what they ACTUALLY want to be doing and then to make that happen. That also excites me.

“I don’t want to do a normal job,” said Adam. “and the things I’ve done before are coming back again this year and getting better and some really cool people are starting to ask me if I want to work with them. Which is great. I like interesting experiences. How boring is that as a sentence in your blog? I wanna touch people. That’s what I wanna do. It could be in a show, in their brain. That’s what excites me. And, again, that’s probably going to look terrible in print. But I’m doing stuff and it’s fun.”

With that, Adam went off to have his silent date with a media person and I went off to see the Kinks’ musical Sunny Afternoon with my eternally-un-named friend.

Sunny Afternoon - The Kinks

Last night I saw Sunny Afternoon & remembered drunk Kinks

Our last two theatrical excursions together – Charles III and Great Britain – were not triumphs, but things are getting better. We saw a preview of Clint Eastwood’s American Sniper at the weekend – I thought it had surprising depth; she said it was OK. And Sunny Afternoon could not really go wrong with Ray Davies’ songs and an exuberant (I thought slightly over-directed) production.

I saw The Kinks perform a couple of times in London in the 1970s. They started off slightly dull but, after about 10 or 20 minutes, they appeared to get drunk and were absolutely superb.

My eternally-un-named friend told me she thought Sunny Afternoon was: “Fantastic! Possibly lose the thrust stage as unnecessary and distracting. But fantastic singing, dancing, costumes and – literally – swinging from the chandelier. Fantastic!”

After the show, in the walkway from Charing Cross station to Hungerford Bridge, I looked ahead and saw Adam Taffler walking towards me. It turned out, in his youth, he had known Kink Dave Davies’ son.

“How did the date go?” I asked. “Did you manage to keep totally silent?”

“For the first 40 minutes,” he said. “We ordered a bottle of wine without talking.”

“How?” I asked.

“I wrote it on a Post-it note.”

“That’s cheating,” I said.

Adam Taffler

Adam Taffler on his return from a successful romantic silence

“It was great,” said Adam. “It was fun. She found it a bit difficult at first and we had a 5-minute talking break, but we broke that initial bullshit of This is who I am and this is what I do. We got to know each other really well through not talking to each other and the rest of it was just a dream. We’re going to date again next week. She’s a really intelligent, lovely girl.”

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Lionel Richie squatted in a London council flat and how comic Barry Ferns gives financial support to Michael Palin

Barry Ferns won last year’s Cunning Stunt Award (Photograph by Keir O’Donnell)

Barry Ferns/Lionel Richie won 2014 Cunning Stunt Award (Photograph by Keir O’Donnell)

Comedian Barry Ferns lives directly opposite Monty Python star Michael Palin in Gospel Oak, London

Last year, he won the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award.

Barry Ferns, not Michael Palin.

“I’m helping Michael out at the weekend,” Barry told me yesterday.

“Doing what?” I asked.

“I paid a cumulative sum of £200 to take my father to see the live Monty Python show. It’s his birthday.”

“Michael Palin’s?” I asked.

“My father’s.”

The other Lionel Richie (Photo by Eva Rinaldi)

The other Lionel Richie in performance. (Photograph by Eva Rinaldi)

Until one month ago, Barry was legally called Lionel Richie.

The beloved American singer-songwriter, musician, record producer and actor.

“It must have been exciting,” I suggested, “for Michael Palin to live opposite Lionel Richie for a time.”

“I have been Lionel Richie for seven years,” said Barry. “I went bankrupt as Lionel Richie.”

“Did you plan that?” I asked. “I have never done it myself, but going bankrupt can be quite profitable.”

“These are the Deed Poll forms,” said Barry.

I looked at the forms. They did indeed show that Lionel Richie was changing his name to Barry Ferns. Well, the forms actually said:

BARRY RICHARD SALVADOR FERNS

“Salvador?” I asked.

“I added a Salvador.”

“Why Salvador?”

“Because it’s so ridiculous.”

“Good movie,” I said.

Barry Ferns, comedian and caterer

Barry Ferns, the man named after a Latin American country

“If I ever write an autobiography,” said Barry, “I am thinking of calling it My Seven Years as Lionel Richie.”

“I am still not quite sure,” I said “why you became Lionel Richie.”

“In 2001,” said Barry, “I started sticking stickers on things which said THIS BELONGS TO LIONEL RICHIE.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Because I found it very funny… The idea that Lionel Richie was going round acquiring things and then sticking stickers on things. That was in 2001.”

“To publicise a show?” I asked.

“No. Though I had taken a couple of shows to the Edinburgh Fringe before and I did another one in 2004. Its full title was The OAP Comedy Spectacular (Guaranteed Winner of The 2004 Perrier Award or Double Your Money Back From Their Pensions). We got a load of old age pensioners to perform in a sketch show.”

“And now Monty Python has followed in your footsteps,” I said.

Barry aka Lionel atop Arthur’s Seat

Barry/Lionel – Arthur’s Seat, Edinburgh

“In 2007,” Barry continued, “I wanted to make Edinburgh look like it belonged to Lionel Richie. My two thoughts were: It would be hilarious if I were called Lionel Richie. And it would also mean I couldn’t get sued by Lionel Richie for claiming things belonged to him. Because I legally WAS Lionel Richie.

“So, in 2007, I changed my name to Lionel Richie and went bankrupt and the show was called This Sketch Show Belongs to Lionel Richie and I also did a show as Lionel Richie in 2008 but, in 2009, I was just working so hard to get my life back in order… and I was squatting as well.

“I lived in the best squat in the world. Mock Tudor mansions on Swains Lane in Highgate. They’re all council houses. There were three flats next to each other and some law had come in that only one flat was legally allowed to be occupied, because they shared bathroom facilities. Some Council directive had come in which said this. So I filed down the hinges on one of the doors and lived in one of the flats for free for a year.”

“So I can genuinely say Lionel Richie was squatting in a London council house for a year?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Barry.

“I once had a chat,” I told Barry, “with Clint Eastwood in his living room in Wolverhampton.”

“The real Clint Eastwood?” asked Barry.

The other Clint Eastwood

The other Clint Eastwood, who really does not live in Wolverhampton

“No,” I said. “There was – probably still is – a whole sub-culture in the West Midlands of (I guess) out-of-work sheet metal workers listening to country and western music while dressed up as cowboys and cowgirls and going to shooting clubs at the weekend. Clint Eastwood had a Wolverhampton accent and had big pictures of the Old Wild West on his living room wall.”

“That’s brilliant,” said Barry. “I like the pockets of humanity that you wouldn’t expect.”

“I think I might become Gwyneth Paltrow,” I said.

“Please do that,” said Barry. “Let’s have a yearly name change thing. I could be Princess Grace of Monaco.”

“I think,” I said, “in the UK you’re not allowed to call yourself certain things like King, Queen or Lord.”

“Ah, no,” said Barry. “that’s right.”

Grace Slick of Jefferson Airplane,” I said, “wanted to call her child God but then changed it to China. I don’t know if she was banned from calling it God or just changed her mind. China is not so good as God for phoning up and booking tables at restaurants.”

“God…” mused Barry. “How can I psychologically harm my child immediately from birth?”

“Well,” I said, Lewis Schaffer’s children are called…”

Lewis Schaffer: the face of a multiple killer

Lewis Schaffer in Nunhead Cemetery (Don’t even go there)

“Hold on, hold on,” said Barry. “Lewis Schaffer has procreated?”

“It is a frightening thought, isn’t it?” I agreed.

“Is he a working father in the sense of Is he there all the time?

“Don’t even go there.” I said.

“I think,” said Barry, “that the whole of Lewis Schaffer’s life should have parentheses added after it – (Don’t even go there).”

“Well, Lewis is going to enjoy this blog,” I said, “because it will mention his name and two people will have been talking about him.”

Barry Fern’s Edinburgh Fringe show this year is called The Barry Experience.

It always is when I meet him.

It would be interesting if he changed his name to Lewis Schaffer for seven years. He would get another Edinburgh Fringe show and it would make Lewis Schaffer very happy.

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An unsettling story about an illegal gun and “an awful lot of firepower out there”

In a recent blog, I mentioned that mad inventor John Ward – a man of often admirable creative eccentricity – used to have a gun licence for several weapons. It was not something I ever found reassuring.

He now tells me this true story…

_____

One evening in the early 1990s, before the Dunblane massacre, I was at my local shooting range. It was not unusual for members to bring guests.

The evening went on its merry way with members blasting away at paper targets and seeing who had the best score. Then, at the end of the night, as we were clearing up to go home, a guest who had been watching asked:

“Does anybody mind if I use of the target area?”

No-one did.

So he went to the boot of his car, dragged out a bag and walked back to the shooting area which was a wall about twenty feet high and twelve feet wide made from old wooden railway sleepers because, as well as being a ‘stopping point’ for all the bullets fired in its direction, it ‘soaked up’ the bullets and prevented any ricochets.

The guest unwrapped his weapon and it was a German MP 40 machine pistol – also called the Schmeisser sub machine gun – of the sort that is a staple of World War 2 films when the German side is shown with automatic weapons – think Where Eagles Dare. It is the cheaper-made model that derived from the MP 38 but, for all that, it still killed folk efficiently.

Its magazine holds 40 rounds of 9mm ammo. It is not a sporting gun by any stretch of the imagination and, as such, was/is a banned weapon on these shores for obvious reasons and can only be legally owned by a very few people or dealers who hold a Home Office Section 5 Licence.

So we stood there with our mouths wide open and the silence was deafening. Our guest then inserted a magazine into the forward section of the MP 40, cocked the weapon, turned to us and said:

“I’m not sure how this is going to go as I have had it years and I’m not sure what noise it gives out.”

With that, we put our fingers in our ears – we had already cleared away our ear defenders/ear muffs – and… BBBBBBBBBBBBRRRRRRRRRR as our guest emptied a full magazine of forty 9mm bullets at the target area in about ten seconds – much like Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood in Where Eagles Dare in fact!

As the smoke cleared, he turned to us and said:

“Well! – that seemed to go alright, didn’t it?”

And, with that, he took the magazine out, thanked us, proceeded to put it back in the bag with the gun and took it to the boot of his car and drove off.

Afterwards, oddly, nobody could recall just who had brought him along as a guest…

For the next few weeks, I scanned the newspapers to see if there had been any ‘bank jobs’ done locally but there were none.

That was almost twenty years ago.

All this was and is illegal and, if caught with an MP 40, one’s future holiday arrangements might be arranged by Her Majesty for the next twenty years, but the streets of this country are nowadays awash with far more of this sort of stuff than ever before.

There is even more firepower in the MAC-10, which has 32 rounds of 9mm held a stick magazine housed in the pistol grip – a .45 calibre option was/is also available. The MAC-10 can empty its magazine in about 2 to 3 seconds flat.

It was put on test by the SAS but they refused to adopt it as it was inaccurate unless  – I quote – “you were having a fire fight in a telephone box”.

The MAC-10 is now a common fashion accessory among British drug gangs.

There is an awful lot of ‘firepower’ out there, perhaps some of it nearer than you might think.

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