Tag Archives: dwarf

If you see a ginger dwarf lying on the ground, would you think: “That’s odd!”

Tanyalee Davis: a big comedy talent from Canada

Last night, comedy critic Kate Copstick and I were in Covent Garden to see the Maple Leaf Trust’s annual Hilarity For Charity gig with profits going to the Canadian Centennial Scholarship Fund.

On the bill were Canadian comics Ryan Cull, Tanyalee Davis and Tom Stade.

Afterwards, we had a drink with Tanyalee.

“I am hopefully getting new hips in the next two years,” she told us: “I have the hips of a 90-year-old with the mentality of a 19-year-old.”

“So what’s next for you now?” I asked.

“Starting on Monday,” she told me, “for the next couple of weeks, I’m going to be FaceTiming and Skyping with some disabled performers in Vancouver who are going to be doing stand-up pretty much for the first time at a three-night event in Vancouver at the end of May. On May 4th, I’m going to Vancouver and working with them in a rehearsal space.”

“May the fourth be with you,” I said.

No-one laughed.

“Why do these people wanna be stand-ups?” I asked. “All stand-ups are mad.”

“I dunno,” Tanyalee replied. “Who knows? Everybody wants to give it a go.”

“What,” Copstick asked, “is your advice going to be?”

“They have sent me some of their material,” replied Tanyalee, “and… there are no jokes… But maybe that’s the problem of seeing stuff as written words. I’m not the best writer by any means but I sell it with my performance. So I’m hoping, once I meet these people on Skype and I see them doing it, I will have advice on their writing and how they perform it. I have just seen the bare bones so far. I’ve been in the business 27 years, so I have some experience.”

“Who has chosen these people?” I asked. “Are they self-chosen?”

“They’re part of a non-profit-making theatre company called Realwheels. They got a government grant to fly over an international performer to mentor.”

“You are Canadian,” I said, “but you live in the UK in Norwich. I have lived in Norwich. For heaven’s sake, why are you living in Norwich?”

“Because I’m part of an anti-bullying campaign,” Tanyalee told me. “A self-empowerment campaign called Great As You Are. I go into schools and work with little snot-nosed kids, but I absolutely love it. It is really rewarding.”

Copstick and Tanyalee in London last night

“Are we talking children-children?” Copstick asked.

“4-7 year olds. Our programme was for a three-year pilot but we’ve already accomplished everything in two years. We’ve now done 4-11 year-olds and maybe 1,000 more kids than was intended. We are putting in another funding application with the Big Lottery Foundation. We want to expand. There are 400 schools in Norfolk and we are only doing 16.”

“Were you ever bullied?” Copstick asked.

“Absolutely. I still get bullied. Oh my God! It’s constant. The other night, some girl came up and just started pushing my (electric mobility) scooter. People yell at me in the streets: Fucking midget! Chase me. Stop dead in front of me going Ahahahaha! and laugh and point at me. And I’m like: What the fuck is your problem?”

“Is that,” I asked, “just in London?”

“In the UK.”

“Moreso than in Canada?” I asked.

“God yes. Nobody’s ever done that to me in Canada.”

“Why is that?” I asked.

“I dunno. I think it is more the drink here. It’s just weird. But that’s why with me doing comedy and hopefully getting on more shows I really want to bring to light how fucking horrible people can be…”

“Yes,” Copstick agreed.

Tanyalee continued: “… and the fact I still get bullied. I’m an adult, a 46-year-old and I still get bullied. I tell the kids that and they’re shocked. I give them an example of when I was by the London Eye a couple of years ago – a tourist area, hundreds of people – I was looking up, wasn’t paying attention and I drove over the kerb and I tipped over and the scooter fell on top of me. There were hundreds of people and not one person stopped to ask me if I was OK. People are so stuck to themselves with blinders on, especially in big cities like London. Everybody’s on their phones: Oh! Ooh! That didn’t happen!

“Even what happened on Westminster Bridge last week (when a terrorist mowed-down pedestrians with a car), there are pictures of people walking past on their mobile phones and there is blood and a person lying on the ground.”

“Nobody ever looks at anybody,” said Copstick.

Kate Copstick and Tanyalee Davis – surely a future double act?

“It’s a Big City mentality,” said Tanyalee. “It’s in Vancouver and Los Angeles and New York and here. We have just gotta get to where we’re going. Get the fuck out of my way! But, I mean, if you see a fucking ginger dwarf lying on the ground with a scooter on top of her, you would surely think: That’s odd!”

Copstick said: “There is probably some kind of police code: Dwarf down!

“Like Black Hawk Down!“ agreed Tanyalee. “Yeah.”

“Maybe,” I suggested, “it is because you are ginger.”

“Yeah,” said Tanyalee. “Maybe that’s the problem. There was this kid (in Norfolk). He was 14 but super-tall for his age and his headmaster told me the boy had had to move school four times because he had been bullied because he had ginger hair. In Australia, they don’t call them ginger; they call them ‘rangas’.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Orangutans,” said Tanyalee.

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Filed under Disability, discrimination, Humor, Humour, political correctness

The pros and cons of sex workers

Amsterdam’s red light district De Wallen

My eternally-un-named friend told me yesterday that she was concerned my recent blogs may have tended towards sleaze and that some of that sleaze might seem to rub off on my blog.

I am not that concerned.

As I have said before, I do not necessarily agree with what I quote other people as saying in my blogs. If I were to make a desperate attempt to get into Pseud’s Corner, I look on this blog as a series of (with luck) interesting, occasionally funny (both haha and peculiar) insights into sometimes otherwise overlooked corners of social history in the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Pepys into ephemera if I were really desperate to get into Pseuds’ Corner.

In September last year, I ran a blog headlined The great showmen and conmen of London: why I am proud to be British.

In it, I mentioned in passing a dwarf called Roy ‘Little Legs’ Smith who, in the 1960s, had allegedly worked for gangsters the Kray Twins as an ‘enforcer’ and had later appeared in The Beatles’ Magical Mystery Tour film.

This week, that blog got a comment:

I knew Little Legs briefly, towards the end of his life. He would visit his literary agent who had offices above ours in St. Martin’s Lane. Roy would pop in to visit us and have a sup of his ‘cold tea’ before tackling the second flight of stairs. He was quite a character and some of the stories you mention he told to us. Other stuff we later found out when his Obit was published.

I replied to the person who posted that comment, asking if they knew anything more about ’Little Legs’. I said:

He’s one of those interestingly vivid characters who simply disappears from human ken unless they are written about in print – even if it’s cyber print… Oh how I wish I’d talked to that bloke who used to walk along Oxford Street for years with a placard saying sitting was bad for you…!

I got this reply about ‘Little Legs’:

I wish I could remember all of his tales – but sadly some 20 years or so have elapsed since those days. I have a clear memory of Roy sitting in our office and telling Debbie and myself that he would marry us excepting that he already had a wife. I know he talked about his days with the circus and of his family but much more I can’t now remember.

 AM Heath, his literary agents, shared our building. Roy’s stature meant he couldn’t reach the latch on the door exiting onto St. Martin’s Lane – our acquaintance began when I heard him jumping and whacking at the latch with his stick and went down the stairs to open the door for him. And after that, he would often stop in on his way in and out of the building and pass the time with us.

Stanley Green, gone and doomed to be forgotten?

As for the man in Oxford Street with the placard:

Stanley Green – as a teenager in my first job near Oxford Street, I regularly saw Stanley Green with his placard. He was an object of fascination but not enough of a one for me to risk starting a conversation with him or taking one of his pamphlets.

I too am glad these people are not forgotten.

All that was a gentle lead-in to this…

I posted a blog yesterday headlined Comedian Chris Dangerfield spent over £200,000 in 18 months on having sex with Chinese prostitutes in London.

When I linked to it on my Facebook page, my account was immediately locked and a message came up saying there was a “site issue”. A few minutes later, the account was unlocked, but the posting had been removed.

I can only assume that the Facebook computer took offence at the title of my blog and presumed that anything with the £ symbol and the words “sex” and “prostitutes” might be some lady (or gent) of the night touting for business.

Strangely, the words I used in a previous blog title – Top comedy critic Kate Copstick spends $2,500 on prostitutes in Nairobi, Kenya – did not trigger any computer reaction.

But there have been several human responses to yesterday’s blog.

One (from a man) said:

Nothing quite like sloppy one-hundred and seconds on a woman who has probably been gang raped, people smuggled, beaten, pimped and possibly had her passport stolen, to be extorted back from her. Pretty funny really. Especially paid for by crack. ha ha! More people like Chris would improve the universe.

Another other reaction (from a women) was:

The percentage of sex workers on this planet who are raped or “extorted” is being sensationalised.  Certainly rapes and extortions are terrible events but the numbers are actually minimal compared to the vast majority who choose this line of business because it offers better hours, more fun and ten times the money than other work. This is especially so in impoverished countries where the other choices are demeaning dangerous domestic labour  or equally dangerous mindless repetitive jobs in  garment factories….If we really care, we need to focus on eradicating poverty, not prostitution.

I have to say that my tendency is more towards the first of those two reactions. But the strange thing I have found over many years is that (and I don’t think I am imagining this) the people who mostly believe prostitution should be legalised seem to be women and the people who tend to think ‘sex workers’ are trapped in a profession they would not willingly choose tend to be men.

I have never quite come to terms with why this should be.

But I am open to explanations.

***

There is more reaction to my blog about Chris Dangerfield HERE.

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Filed under Nostalgia, Sex

The offensive ’N’ word? Why not just call a spade a spade and Jew a Jew?

Five days ago, I wrote a blog about IQ and Mensa in which I used the phrase “mental retard”. The next day, it was re-published in the Huffington Post.

A couple of days later, having read the Huffington Post piece, a lady called Hannah irately tweeted me saying that “calling vulnerable people ‘freaks’ really shows your true character” and that “comparing people with special needs to freaks” was unacceptable.

Well, I think she missed the point of the piece, in which I argued that people “whom doctors used to call ‘mentally retarded’” and members of Mensa – incorrectly described routinely as “geniuses” – are both freaks by mathematical definition because they each make up less than 2% of the population.

More interesting, though, was that our Hannah (who I presume is American) said “your use of the word retard is offensive”.

For some reason – possibly because the American Colonies had a high percentage of religious extremists among their early, socially influential immigrants – PC has taken more root in the US than in the UK.

For example, I really do not see what is wrong in calling Red Indians ‘Red Indians’. They are neither ‘red’ nor ‘Indian’ but neither are they ‘ethnic Americans’ (the PC description). They are no more ethnic Americans than anyone else is ethnic anything. As far as I am aware, we all came from the Rift Valley and “white” and “brown” people are just watered-down, second-rate blacks…

The objection to the term ‘Red Indians’ seems to be in calling them ‘red’ whereas, I would have thought, the objection should be in calling them ‘Indians’, which they are clearly not. It’s a bit like St Petersburg being re-named Leningrad and then being re-named St Petersburg. Does it really change the city? If ‘Red Indians’ were called something incorrectly and it was used perfectly unobjectionably for years, why change it?

Words are just words.

Which brings us to the word “nigger”.

There is a centrally important dog called Nigger in 1955 movie The Dam Busters. The dog is black; the word was not felt to be offensive in Britain when the movie was made. How on earth they screen it on TV now I do not know, because the word is deemed to be unspeakably offensive. It would almost need a warning before the screening.

I once heard someone argue (I have a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach that it was the unjustly vilified British comedian Bernard Manning) that finding the word ‘nigger’ offensive and the word ‘black’ inoffensive is ridiculous because they mean exactly the same thing and, in fact, ‘nigger’ has a more noble historical lineage.

When and why did ‘nigger’ suddenly become offensive? It seems to have been re-defined as racist because mindless racist wankers in the Southern states of the US used it as a term of abuse. But it was not widely used elsewhere as a term of abuse, just as a word. Nigger = black = nigger.

The (Jewish) American comedian Lewis Schaffer, who grew up in New York, says that, in his neighbourhood (or, if you insist, his neighborhood), he never heard the word “nigger” used at all when he was growing up – it was just never used by the Jews he knew. They said “schwarz” (ie black). When (as a child) he first realised ‘nigger’ was a ‘banned’ word – a ‘shocking’ word – he had an overwhelming urge to run down the street shouting it out repeatedly (though he did not). Not as a term of abuse to black people, but just because he had suddenly found a word which could potentially shock adults. He wanted to use a ‘bad’ word; he did not have racist thoughts.

It is not my original thought, but what on earth is the logic in ‘nigger’ being an unsspeakable word for so-called ‘white’ people to say when it is an often perfectly unobjectionable word for ‘blacks’ to say? This bizarre piece of double-think seems to me to be in itself an example of racial prejudice.

I think the term ‘black’ is almost more offensive than ‘nigger’ because it is a ridiculous word.

I have a friend of Indian (‘proper’ Indian, not Red Indian) origin who finds it ridiculous that she can sometimes be classified as black. She quite rightly insists she is not black, she is a brown colour – and a very lovely brown colour. Or, as Americans would claim, color. Very few of even the directly-African-origined people classified as ‘black’ in the US and UK are actually ‘black’. They are variations on brown.

I went to college with someone from Sierra Leone. He was black. President Obama is not black. Not even remotely. I saw him on TV yesterday standing next to President Sarkozy of France. Their skin looked almost the same colour.

Yet President Obama – visibly not a black-skinned person – is called ‘black’ as a term of respect.

With Red Indians, on the other hand, ‘red’ is racially unacceptable.

Words are words and are often what they are through historical accident.

Words do not break bones; sticks and stones do that. Words, in themselves, are not insulting; the intention of the people saying them may be.

If the word ‘spastic’ is said to be unacceptable because it was sometimes hurled at people as a term of abuse, why change the word? Why not mount campaigns to change people’s perception? People’s perceptions are to blame; changing the word changes nothing.

If you do not use the word, the people who use the word will still have the same unacceptable misconceived wankiness in their brain. Changing the word is trying to mask symptoms. It does not cure the disease.

It is how you treat people that is important and what you think which is important.

Words are just words.

If gay people are said to be 10% of the population then, mathematically, in a reasoned argument, you could say they are ‘freaks’ although, personally, I think 10% is a bit too high to be called freaks.

If a definable group of people – let us say members of Mensa – are less than 2% of the population in a way that can be defined by allegedly scientific testing, then they are freaks.

‘Mental retardation’ was a phrase which was long used at the other end of the testing spectrum. The phrase, I suspect, was used because it was more acceptable than previously-used terms and was therefore thought-of as being kinder and less offensive. It is now pretty-much non-PC (which is what I implied in my previous blog). But why?

My new Twitter chum Hannah objected to me using the (as I implied) outdated term “mental retard”. She said she objected to me “calling vulnerable people freaks”.

I would argue that her use of the term “vulnerable people” could be considered appallingly demeaning.

Look.

A dwarf is a dwarf. A midget is a midget.

A word is a word.

A Jew is a Jew.

A Scotsman is a Scotsman.

Just because people have, in the past, hurled the word “Jew!” at people in an attempt to be offensive, does not mean Jews should now be called ethnic Eastern Mediterraneans. The fault is in the racist wankers. Changing the word does not make any difference.

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Filed under Language, Racism

The great showmen and conmen of London: why I am proud to be British

I saw a special screening of Showmen of the Streets tonight – a 45-minute documentary about street performers of the 1930s-1960s and their precursors. People like The Earl of Mustard, The Road Stars, The Amazing BlondiniPrince Monolulu, The Man with X-Ray Eyes, The Happy Wanderers (who I just about remember playing Oxford Street in my erstwhile youth) and Don Partridge aka ‘King of the Buskers’, who actually managed to get into the UK hit parade and who hired the Royal Albert Hall in 1969 to stage a show called The Last of The Buskers with some of the great street performers of that and previous eras.

A couple of characters not in the film whom I remember are Don Crown and ‘Little Legs’.

Don Crown used to perform an act with budgerigars in Leicester Square and various other places. I used him on TV programmes a couple of times but, the last time I met him, he was a broken man: he had become allergic to feathers.

True and sad. Though I see from his website that he seems to have recovered and performs on the South Bank in London.

The other character I remember was a dwarf called Roy ‘Little Legs’ Smith who was a busker himself, but he also used to collect money for street performers. A busker would play the queues in Leicester Square and Little Legs would go along collecting money in, as I remember it, a hat. The theory – which proved true – was that it is almost impossible not to give money to a dwarf collecting for a busker.

Little Legs appeared in the Beatles’ film Magical Mystery Tour. He died in 1989 and, according to his obituaries, he had worked for the Kray Twins as an ‘enforcer’ in the 1960s. Indeed, a book Little Legs: Muscleman of Soho was published in 1989 which traced, among other things, “his long career as a street entertainer and card-player”. In 1999, his nephew stood as a candidate for Mayor of London.

I merely pass this on.

The DVD of the documentary Showmen of the Streets is being released in a couple of weeks time.

Director John Lawrenson – who used to perform the ‘ball and cup’ magic routine in London’s streets – is currently preparing a new film about great hoaxers, including William Donaldson (aka Henry Root) who wrote to prominent public figures with unusual or outlandish questions and requests and published their replies.

Also in the film will be the late but glorious Fleet Street hoaxer Rocky Ryan who, among other career highlights, persuaded major British newspapers to print stories that sex and drug orgies were taking place on Mount Everest and that the Yorkshire Ripper was being let out of Broadmoor to go to the local disco as part of his rehabilitation into society. He also managed to persuade several Israeli newspapers that Adolf Hitler was alive and well and living in Golders Green… a famously Jewish London suburb.

It makes you proud to be British.

Although Rocky Ryan was Irish.

But let’s not get into that.

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Filed under Comedy, Movies, Theatre