Tag Archives: Danny Baker

Namedropping in Soho: How I got no blog from Arthur Smith & Barry Cryer

The Big Four’s Edinburgh Fringe 2014 brochure, as launched

Big Four’s Edinburgh Fringe brochure had a very noisy launch

I went to the launch of the Big Four venues’ Edinburgh Fringe brochure last night. It was held downstairs at the Soho Theatre in London.

Amid the noise and sweat, I bumped into comedian Arthur Smith.

He claimed (you can never be too sure with Arthur) that he had bumped into Gilded Balloon venue owner Karen Koren just a few minutes before and she had asked him to go on stage and introduce the launch, but he was a bit vague about what was actually being launched.

“I don’t want to be over-prepared,” Arthur told me, “so, even though I appear to be going on stage to introduce this event we’re at – whatever it is – I don’t know where I’m performing at the Fringe or when – but I do know I AM on.”

In fact, he is performing for ten days (15h-24th August) at the Pleasance Courtyard.

“I must arrange to do a blog with you,” I said. “I have a blog-jam at the moment. Too many blogs recorded and not yet posted. But you’re worth it.”

“I’m going upstairs to have a fag,” he said. (Note to US readers: a fag = a cigarette)

This seemed like a good idea at the time. Go and stand outside the Soho Theatre and talk to Arthur Smith briefly while he smokes a cigarette. He has a quick fag. I get a quick blog. Arthur is always quotable.

“What are you doing at the Fringe?” I asked.

Old grey eyes is back at the Fringe

“Have there been lawyers’ letters?” – “A number of them.”

“I’m reprising my Arthur Smith Sings Leonard Cohen, Volume 2 show from last year,” said Arthur. “Which is a bit lazy in a way: I’ve never done that before. On the other hand,  I enjoyed doing it.”

“Did Leonard Cohen enjoy you doing it?” I asked.

“I can’t say too much about that,” said Arthur. “You’ll have to come to the show. I’m sorry, I can’t comment further on this.”

“Have there been lawyers’ letters?”

“A number of them.”

“Really?”

“No. Well, I have had a letter from a lawyer, but he’s a friend of mine. He sent me a birthday card.”

“So, what are you doing at the moment?”

“I’ve just come back from four days rambling with a rock star, a solicitor, two actors and a reprobate. And I’m doing a bit of a tour here and there. I’m around the country doing a one-man show, I’m reprising Leonard Cohen and I’m re-training as a carpenter.”

AAAHHHH! I thought. Here is a jolly light-hearted blog about Arthur Smith rambling around the countryside with a rock star, a solicitor, two actors and a reprobate.

But it was not to be.

At this point, comedy promoter Hils Jago of Amused Moose walked up, heading towards the launch.

The moral is Never stand outside the Soho Theatre with Arthur Smith. People he knows will pass by.

“Come and be in John’s blog,” offered Arthur.

“I’m fine,” said Hils Jago. “I’m quite happy being out of John’s blog.”

“I am thinking of getting people to pay me not to be in it,” I said.

“I’ll give you £5 if it can just last another two minutes,” said Arthur. “I’ve finished me fag.”

“Already?” I asked.

“I only ever smoke half.”

The throbbing downstairs launch at Soho Theatre yesterday

Sweaty downstairs launch – London’s Soho Theatre yesterday

Then comedy writer Barry Cryer walked up. He had escaped from the throng downstairs, possibly to get some air.

“It’s John’s blog,” explained Arthur.

“My increasingly prestigious blog,” I corrected him.

“It’s John’s increasingly prestigious blog,” said Arthur without much enthusiasm, “Barry, I want to ask you a bit about this launch do. They’ve asked me to say something.”

“I don’t know what the score is,” said Barry. “All I know is the volume downstairs  is already astonishing.”

“It’s the Big Four,” explained Hils.

“The Free Fringe?” Arthur said, feigning ignorance.

“Well, there are now four free fringes,” I said innocently. “The Free Fringe, the Free Festival, Bob Slayer’s Pay-What-You-Want and the Freestival.”

“I’m going to start one up with Barry Cryer,” said Arthur. “The Old Men in The Meadows free show, every afternoon.”

“We could do an operatic one,” suggested Barry. “The Free Faustival.”

At this point, comedy actress Sally Phillips walked up on her way to a meeting.

When Barry met Arthur met Sally yesterday in Soho

When Barry met Sally with Arthur Smith yesterday in Soho

To repeat. The moral is Never stand outside the Soho Theatre with Arthur Smith. 

Arthur and Sally chatted.

“Are you doing the Gilded Balloon again this year?” I asked Barry.

“Yes,” he said. “Been doing that for eleven years, but Ronnie Golden and I are going up together separately this year. So I‘m performing with Colin Sell from the radio show. We’re going to have a piano on the stage (at the Gilded Balloon).”

“A grand?”

“No, an upright. A concert grand would take up the whole of the stage in the Wine Bar.”

“Are you going to be tinkling the ivories yourself?”

“No, no. I can just about sing, but…”

Barry then told me a story from which I will extract the comedian’s name, in case it is misunderstood.

Barry Cryer, comedy storyteller, yesterday

Barry yesterday revealed he has not met two Popes

“(Name of comedian),” said Barry, “who I was with the other day – one of my oldest friends – Two friends of his came to see me do a gig with Ronnie Golden and told (name of comedian): We didn’t know Barry could sing! And (name of comedian) said Of course he can. He used to be black!

I laughed.

“I must tell Brian that,” Barry mused.

Is Lewis Schaffer here?” I thought.

“Sally – Barry,” Arthur interrupted. “Barry. Do you know Sally?”

“I know and respect her,” said Barry.

“There’s no-one,” said Arthur, “that Barry hasn’t met…”

“With the exception of two Popes,” said Barry.

“Which two?” asked Arthur. “Oh yeah, Constantine and…”

“I want to ask Sally what she thinks,” said Barry. “There’s a spirited debate downstairs. Do you like women being described as actors rather than actresses?”

“I don’t care,” said Sally. “It just seems a bit pointless.”

Maureen Lipman and I had a real up-and-down argument,” explained Barry. “She said Of course we’re actors! and I said You do the same job in the same way, but do you call a waitress a waiter?

“Yeah,” said Arthur, “but you don’t call a traffic warden a traffic wardeness.”

After my Edinburgh Fringe chat show in 2013, Arthur Smith left Edinburgh (Photo by  Brian Higgins)

Immediately after my chat show in 2013, Arthur fled Edinburgh a broken man (Photograph by Brian Higgins)

“Are comedy women comediennes?” I asked. “Janey Godley calls herself a comedienne and she’s from Glasgow, so it’s not an affectation.”

“I try to avoid…” started Sally.

“I’m with Maureen,” muttered Arthur.

“We did a Comic Relief together years ago…” said Barry.

“Yes,” said Sally.

“…with Mel Smith,” continued Barry. “We were supposed to be comedy writers sitting round a table. You were there and he was supposed to be the producer of EastEnders and we had no lines. He just kept looking at us going Ideas! Ideas! Ideas! It was a running gag. So we had to get someone to keep us going through the afternoon. So Danny Baker was there…”

“Barry,” said Arthur, “Sally’s come to meet someone…”

“It’s like Tourette’s with me,” said Barry. “So I got the mobile out. I said I”ve gotta leave. I’m doing the warm-up for Eminem tonight. So that became the running gag. Baz has to leave. He’s doing the warm-up for Eminem. Mel said: Baz, what do you do before Eminem comes on? And Danny Baker said (in a posh English accent) Are there any motherfuckers here from Northampton?

Arthur said: “Poor Sally’s just…”

And, at that point, the merry throng broke up.

I lament the loss of a blog about Arthur Smith rambling with a rock star, a solicitor, two actors and a reprobate.

And – Did I mention? – The moral is Never stand outside Soho Theatre with Arthur Smith. 

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Passing glimpses of other people’s lives: The Beatles, Frank Zappa, Keith Moon

Martin at around the time I knew him

Martin, around the time I lived in the flat with him

Yesterday, someone mentioned Martin Lickert to me.

Almost three years ago, I mentioned him in a blog.

When I was at college, I lived in a cheap bedsit. One of the other bedsits was rented by Martin Lickert who, at that time, was John Lennon’s chauffeur. This was before the Beatles broke up and they were still based at their Apple building in Savile Row.

Martin was 21 at the time.

The bedsits were in a flat in Langland Gardens, Hampstead, run by a Jewish Austrian woman called Mrs Gilbert who had fled from the Nazis before the War and who lived on the premises. Martin insisted on calling her Mrs Giblet, though not to her face.

Martin told me he lived in a bedsit because he was rarely home and only needed an occasional single bed to be unconscious in at night. Although, one night, I had to swap beds with him as I had a double bed and he had to entertain a girl called Juliet from the West Country. Bizarrely, the swap was reversed when I met a girl called Karen from the West Country. It was complicated. You had to be there. It all related to the positioning of Mrs Gilbert’s bedroom.

When Martin was around 14 years old, he had started a band.

Robert Plant (later of Led Zeppelin) was the singer, Chris Wood (later of Traffic) played sax & flute and Stan Webb (later of Chicken Shack) occasionally played lead guitar. Martin played bass guitar. They performed at the Seven Stars pub in Stourbridge, West Midlands, for £8 a night.

A few years after we both left Mrs Gilbert’s bedsits, Martin accidentally appeared in the truly awful Frank Zappa movie 200 Motels. He played the part of Jeff Simmons, the Mothers of Invention’s bass player.

In 200 Motels, Martin replaced old Steptoe

In 200 Motels, Martin replaced Steptoe

The real Jeff Simmons had left the group before filming began and Frank Zappa had got British actor Wilfred Brambell (old man Steptoe in the Steptoe and Son TV series) to impersonate Jeff by wearing a wig. Noel Redding (of the Jimi Hendrix Experience) was going to overdub the sound for Wilfred Brambell’s mimed guitar-playing.

But Brambell walked off set in a rage after a few days and Frank Zappa said: “The next person who comes through that door gets the part!”

The next person who came through the door was Martin Lickert, by then Ringo Starr’s chauffeur. Ringo was in the movie and Martin had gone out to buy some tissues for his employer who had a ‘permanent cold’.

According to an interview he later gave, Martin could remember very little about filming 200 Motels. He said:

“My memory is clouded by my habits at the time, but I do remember an evening at a hotel in Windsor where we all stayed. Lucy Offerall (of The GTOs) had the hots for me, and I had gone to bed. My room in the hotel was on the second floor and Keith Moon was in the room next to me. Lucy persuaded Keith to shin across the window ledge, in the pouring rain, and break my window to allow Keith into my room and to let her in. I woke next morning, covered in broken glass and Lucy.

“I never played any live gigs with the Mothers. We were supposed to play the Albert Hall directly after the filming of 200 Motels, but the gig was cancelled after the orchestra complained to the Albert Hall about the bad language. We got as far as the steps. And I was supposed to go to the States with the Mothers after the film, but I was ill and that was the end.”

Martin the barrister in 1993

Martin Lickert the barrister in 1993

After a short period back with Ringo Starr, he worked as a promo man for CBS Records, became a bookmaker (in the UK, that means taking bets on horse races) and then, in 1986, he qualified as a barrister, specialising in prosecuting drug cases for HM Customs & Excise. He must have had an interesting life.

I accidentally stumbled on him online in 2001 and we exchanged e-mails.

He wrote:

“I spend most of my time prosecuting for H.M. Customs and Excise these days. Talk about poacher turned gamekeeper. I am married with two daughters and live in Crouch End. My main hobby is horseracing and I have a horse in training. Last week, a film crew from Meridian followed me around Newmarket when I went to buy a new horse. The item is to be used on Twiggy‘s new chat show which is to be networked on Sunday afternoons. It’s a long story as to how this came about.”

We intended to meet up, but never did.

I regret that.

Martin Lickert died eight years ago, on 7th March 2006, aged 58.

So it goes.

On YouTube, there is a clip of Danny Baker interviewing Martin on a TV show in 1993.

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