David McGillivray has been described as “the Truffaut of smut” and (by Jonathan Ross) as “a comedy legend”.
He has appeared in this blog at various times – in 2015 touting Trouser Bar, his film of an allegedly hard-core alleged script by the late Sir John Gielgud… alleged, that is, by everyone except the worried guardians of the estate of Sir John Gielgud.
Lawyers’ letters, threats and phrases ensued.
In 2017, he was in this blog touting Doing Rude Things, a reissue of his book on dodgy soft-core porn films.
He has a bit of previous in touting.
When I arrived for this week’s launch of his autobiography Little Did You Know: The Confessions of David McGillivray, people who had already bought copies were feverishly skimming through the index to see if they were mentioned.
“A huge amount of those people,” David told me, “will have wanted to check for libel. Some sighing with relief when they found they weren’t included.”
Comedian Julian Clary’s approved cover quote for the book is that it is “a meticulous account of a life so sordid I think each copy should come with a complimentary sanitary wipe”.
The book’s press-release says David McG’s autobiography was “eagerly-awaited”. I think it might equally be said its publication was “desperately feared”. I can do no better than quote from the possibly understated PR blurb:
“The grandson of an acrobat and briefly the UK’s youngest film critic, McGillivray wrote his first film when he was 23, then moved on to a succession of cheap shockers and skin flicks. After Prime Minister Thatcher dealt killer blows to the UK’s independent film industry, McGillivray found alternative employment in radio, TV and theatre, becoming Julian Clary’s long-serving scriptwriter. Around the year 2000 he put these careers temporarily on hold to dabble in another form of exploitation, but one closely associated with the more secretive side of show business.
“In this sensational memoir, McGillivray takes us through the cocaine-lined world of London’s media industry, the tragic heights of the AIDS epidemic and the sinful celluloid backstreets of Soho… McGillivray hosted London’s wildest parties at his home. They were attended by some of the biggest names of stage, screen, music and fashion. The revelations of what went on under the figurative noses of law enforcement agencies and the literal noses of McG and his high-flying guests are not for the faint-hearted.”
Julian Clary introduced David at the book launch thus:
“I thought I put it about a bit in my youth, but this makes my love life seem like an afternoon at the Women’s Institute… McG has said on several occasions that he will never work again once this book has been published, but I don’t think we should get our hopes up. I suspect some seedy project will catch his eye soon…. (maybe) a long-lost lesbian porn script allegedly written by Mother Teresa… You will know and understand David better after you have read this book, but you may cross the road when you see him coming.”
The next day, David and I had a chat in the sinful celluloid backstreets of Soho – well, in the pleasant environs of the Soho Theatre Bar in Dean Street.
JOHN: You had trouble getting this book published.
DAVID: Oh yes.
JOHN: When did you start it?
DAVID: 2000. So many re-writes; so many lawyers. Libel was a huge problem in the early editions. It was very stressful. I got very fed up with the process and put the idea on the shelf in 2015, but then I met the publisher Harvey Fenton of FAB Press and I thought maybe it was his cup of tea, because he is the man who gave us Cinema Sewer and Satanic Panic.
It has taken another 2 or 3 years. Now the book comes out officially in the shops on 1st August but, if you pre-order, you will get signed copies sent to you from 1st June. After so many versions and God knows how many lawyers, apparently it will now leave me legally in the clear. There is a disclaimer at the front to tidy up any loose ends:
The inclusion of a person’s name or likeness in this book does not imply that the person has at any time bought, traded or accepted as a gift an illegal drug from the author or has used an illegal drug from any source. Some names and identifying features have been changed.
JOHN: People in the film business? The theatrical business?
DAVID: (LAUGHS) Oh yes… all media. It’s been a colourful life and I’ve indulged in all manner of things in my 71 years.
JOHN: Knowing a lot of it was unrepeatable for legal reasons, why did you start it?
DAVID: I thought there was a story about what was going on at the turn of the century and, while everyone seemed almost supernaturally obsessed with the end of 1000 years and convinced that planes were going to fall out of the sky, I thought there was something else going on. I knew there was something else going on, because it was going on in my living room every Friday night for five years. So I wrote about my own life, particularly around that period, 1998-2003. But the lifestyle I was indulging in those five years stretched back to my teenage years, so I thought I might as well write about my entire life.
JOHN: You said: “…going on in my living room”.
DAVID: That is the essence of what the book is about.
JOHN: Your living room?
DAVID: Yes… Well, it was mostly in my basement. It was a four-storey house in a very charming crescent in Kings Cross.
JOHN: At the time when it was gentrifying…
DAVID: When I moved there in 1995, it was still very rough indeed. By the time I left two years ago, it was completely unrecognisable. The old community I knew had completely gone and the rest of the street was virtually rented out for Airbnb. I didn’t like that.
JOHN: So, parties in your basement on Friday nights for five years… Details?
DAVID: I don’t know where to begin… I was a party animal and all that that entails.
JOHN: What does it entail?
DAVID: An enormous amount of activity every Friday night.
JOHN: Activity? Only Fridays? What happened on Thursdays in your basement?
JOHN: You are a tease.
DAVID: I’m a wicked tease. Well, I used to be in the exploitation movie business. I want people to buy the book and be surprised.
JOHN: “Used to be”?
DAVID: Well, I haven’t done any of those sort of films since 1977.
JOHN: What about Trouser Bar – the one allegedly – ooh, err – definitely not written by John Gielgud?
DAVID: I think it is a work of ar…
DAVID: Art. It’s not an exploitation film.
JOHN: What happened in your house on Saturday mornings?
DAVID: Hangovers and Oh God! Why did I do it? conversations.
JOHN: You are being reticent, but the book is over the top.
DAVID: It’s excessive, yes.
JOHN: But detailed and true. You kept diaries.
DAVID: From the age of 12. I have diaries from 1960 to today and haven’t missed a day.
JOHN: Can worried participants in your life expect a sequel?
DAVID: Almost certainly, yes, because a lot has happened since 2015 and you have blogged about some of those incidents.
DAVID: I don’t regret anything I’ve done at all. One should only regret the things one hasn’t done.
JOHN: Any other films on the horizon?
DAVID: I’m still trying to find a director for The Wrong People – based on the novel by Robin Maugham. It’s a quite expensive feature film; one I can’t finance myself. I bought the film rights. More controversy: “It’s unfilmable” and all that. At the moment, nobody will touch it with a bargepole. But I WILL get a director for it and the film WILL be made.
JOHN: That sounds like a threat.