Tag Archives: Dean Martin

The new female comedian who is my flatmate at the Edinburgh Fringe

For anyone who read my blog yesterday and may be wondering, my co-host Kate Copstick did not turn up at our increasingly prestigious Grouchy Club yesterday afternoon. She woke up in agony in the morning. With luck she should be at our show today. No doubt more brief news will follow tomorrow.

Someone who was at yesterday’s show, though, was my Fringe flatmate Sara Mason. She is a relatively new comedian who is picking up a few gigs in Edinburgh plus a few tips for a future Fringe show.

“So,” I said, introducing her, “you are an American, Swiss, French, English errr God knows what you are…”

Sara in an Edinburgh selfie taken today

Sara in an Edinburgh flat selfie taken today

“I was born here in Britain,” she said, “and then my parents emigrated to America when I was ten, to Beverly Hills in California. We were originally supposed to go for five years – my father was at UCLA (lecturing on psychoanalysis) – but he never came back.”

“And you went to Beverly Hills High School,” I said.

“I was two years ahead,” explained Sara, “because I had been through the British school system, which was better, so I was 15 when I finished high school, not 18 like them.

“I have a brother who is sadly no longer with us. He was on heroin and was a drug dealer and had the honour of being the worst student ever to attend Beverly Hills High School. Eventually they chucked him out. He had long hair and people said we looked alike, although he was 6’5” and had dark long hair and he was cool and I wasn’t very cool. I was into theatre, which was deeply uncool in Beverly Hills.”

“Why was theatre uncool?” I asked.

“In the Theater Dept,’ said Sara, “we were into theatre and Shakespeare and opera and classical music and I was a bit nerdy. I was on the Principal’s Honor Roll. That was so uncool at Beverly Hills where I should have been shooting up… although I did my fair share of drugs,

Beverly Hills High School’s gym

Beverly Hills High School’s gym, never knowingly understated

“Your friend would take eight tablets… and so, next week, you would take ten to make sure you had outdone them.

“They would do one hit of acid so you would say: I’m gonna take two!

“It culminated for me one day when I took four and had a really bad trip. But that was after having taken LSD every day for a year. I did all my SATs on LSD and did very well.”

“What,” I asked, “is an SAT?”

‘Your exams to get into university,” explained Sara. “I wanted to go to Drama School and my father was having none of that. So, secretly, I forged my parents’ signatures and transferred myself out of all the courses I would have needed to take to get into UCLA – because there’s a minimum. I talked my counsellor into the fact I was going to be an actress, so I should do drama classes and French classes and English and History but not the Maths and Science requirements.

“I thought I was very, very smart and got a job between classes, but I didn’t calculate for the SATs, because I scored so highly on the SATs in spite of the LSD that I WAS offered a university place anyway. So I ran away from home.”

Photo of Sara by Nathalie Kerrio

Sara in a photo taken by Nathalie Kerrio

“You knew the film producer William Castle, didn’t you?” I asked. “I know of him because, as well as Rosemary’s Baby, he produced The Tingler, where he wired up the seats of cinemas to an electric current and, at the shocking bits of the film, the audience were literally given an electric shock.”

“He was a lovely man,” said Sara,”with a huge cigar and was almost like a caricature of a film producer. But it wasn’t just him I knew. Debbie Reynolds was the local scout mistress for the Brownies in Beverly Hills. Can you imagine that?

Jamie Lee Curtis was in my brother’s class; her sister was in my class. Dean Martin’s daughter used to come to school in a yellow Jensen sports car or a Corvette and she had a diamond bracelet with great big diamonds spelling out the letters of her name. I had a bracelet made out of string. I was completely piss-poor and I wasn’t cool.

Joan Fontaine’s son had a crush on me when I was ten. It was so embarrassing! He used to follow me round and I had never heard of Joan Fontaine. He used to follow me around and sing I Carry a Torch For You!… I was thinking: You’re ten years old! I want to kill you! You are embarrassing me! Beverly Hills High was really odd, a surreal experience.

“My brother was cool from Day One. He managed to get arrested in primary school for drug dealing, but they had to let him go, because it was kitchen herbs.”

“Kitchen herbs?” I asked.

Sara (right), with Claire Smith of The Scotsman & Bob Slayer

Sara (right), with Claire Smith of The Scotsman & Bob Slayer

“Oregano, catnip, parsley…”

“Does that work?” asked someone in the audience.

“With nine year old kids…” said Sara. “That was his first arrest.”

“That is very entrepreneurial,” I said, “to sell parsley to kids.”

“My brother was so sharp,” said Sara. “Such a business brain. My brother used to lock us in his room and weigh out the drugs and I would help him, thinking: One day, they might think I’m cool. Although his friends used to call me Luscious. That was even worse. It was so embarrassing.

“My brother used to pretend he didn’t know me at school. On the other hand, Morgan Mason – James Mason’s son – used to tell everyone I was his sister.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Just to tease me. That was Beverly Hills High. It’s scary, because so many of them are dead now.

Sara in her favourite tree in Beverly Hills

Sara inside her favourite tree in Beverly Hills

“I went to the High School reunion and everyone I met was saying: I’ve been sober for 20 years. I go to AA every week. Every single person: Oh! I used to be on cocaine. Oh! I used to be alcoholic. If they’re not dead from a drug overdose or AIDs, they’re going to AA. All that money and all that corruption.”

“Well,” I said, “that’s the censored version of Sara’s life up to the age of fifteen.”

“That was a very censored version.” agreed Sara. “I remember at lunchtime when we were 13 or 15, we would all sit in the girls’ toilet, cross-legged on the floor, rolling joints, smoking them, smoking cigarettes and practising giving blow jobs on a banana. We didn’t un-peel the banana.”

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Even if you get famous you are probably going to end up an unknown nonentity

At the Edinburgh Fringe last week, I was talking to someone about the fame of Tony Bennett, the great crooner from the golden era of crooners. He even played Glastonbury because he is so famous as the great crooner from the golden era of crooners.

More of him later.

I got home from the bubble of the Edinburgh Fringe yesterday, where reviews and the number of stars each show gets is all-important.

Hold on. Was it yesterday I got home? No, it was Monday. My mind is fogged.

I got home from the Edinburgh Fringe two days ago to find The X Factor has re-started on ITV1 or, at least, programmes in which vast auditoria are filled by excited punters watching the auditions for The X Factor… and Celebrity Big Brother is doing rather well in ratings terms on Channel 5, though I do not recognise anyone on it except the paparazzo with pink hair, Jedward and (because she seemed drugged out of her head) someone I realised was Kerry Katona (and because people keep calling her “Kerry”).

This demonstrates two things.

Edinburgh really is a self-absorbed bubble.

I am out-of-touch with Heat magazine.

And celebrity is fleeting.

That’s  three things.

My mind is fogged.

But I do know there are two clichés of showbiz success.

One is the overnight success and the other is the scenario of plodding-away-for-years, ‘paying your dues’ and then becoming famous.

Of these, the overnight success cliché is easier to comprehend. Talent shows like The X Factor and Britain’s Got Talent are like job interviews and non-showbiz viewers can understand that. Showbiz talent shows are like The Apprentice – which has the format of a glorified job interview – with added glitter and stardust.

To the ordinary punter, Michael McIntyre is an overnight success much like an X Factor contestant. It seemed like he was a total unknown one week and, within a month or so, he seemed to just come from nowhere to achieve what punters regard as superstardom.

But last year sometime (my mind is fogged) he said he did not want to crack America because “it’s taken me long enough to sort things out here and I don’t want to start again somewhere else.”

Whether that is actually 100% true and he doesn’t actually want to crack America, I don’t know. But he has certainly paid his dues. He was toiling away for years, mostly unseen, and has eventually succeeded through solid, dogged hard work and talent.

Many others with exactly the same degree of talent or more, also working doggedly for their big break are, of course, still toiling away and will never get even a tenth of one percent of the public recognition Michael McIntyre has received.

Michael McIntyre deserves to be successful.

So do many other equally talented performers.

So, perhaps, do some of the X Factor hopefuls.

But they won’t be.

Because talent is not enough.

Dogged determination and hard work is not enough.

Paying your dues is not enough.

The three ingredients for potential success are talent (not always 100% necessary), dogged determination and pure luck.

The joker in the pack is that many vastly talented people have a self-destructive streak. They have the seeds of their own failure within them.

One of the oddest problems is that many performers, confident on stage, are painfully shy off stage. This means they are terrified of self-publicity when off-stage. Being themselves is a terrifying thought, so they ironically do not want and/or do not understand self-publicity.

But without self-publicity, it is unlikely they will succeed.

And, as several years of Big Brother show, even with rampant self-publicity, celebrity is fleeting.

When I was very young, the biggest comedy and entertainment name on British television was Arthur Haynes. His scripts were written by Johnny Speight.

Ask most struggling professional British comics today who Johnny Speight was and they may know because of Till Death Us Do Part.

Ask them who Arthur Haynes was and they will look at you blankly.

Who was his long-time TV straight man?

Nicholas Parsons.

The also-ran has become a star; the megastar is forgotten.

Because the other way to achieve fame is to out-live the competition.

Tony Bennett – the great crooner from the golden era of crooners?

Bollocks.

There was Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Perry Como, endless others.

At the time, Tony Bennett was way down the list of crooners. But he outlived them all, so his place in the running-order of fame has risen.

Perry Como was a megastar.

I hear muffled cries of “Who?”

Exactly.

Fame is like a TV weather forecast.

Everyone thinks it’s important to pay attention at the time but, ten minutes later, you can’t remember it.

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