Tag Archives: Greenwich

Comedian Malcolm Hardee’s two bids to get elected as Member of Parliament


Today is General Election Day in the UK.

Below are three extracts from the late Malcolm Hardee’s increasingly prestigious autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake (reviews HERE), published in 1996


Politics has never had any great effect on my life. I remember when I was a kid Labour seemed ‘common’ and the Conservatives seemed ‘not common’. That seemed to be the case.

When I was a kid, I remember a Mr and Mrs Minns.

On the left side of their bay window, they had a poster saying:

VOTE CONSERVATIVE

And on the right side:

VOTE LABOUR

I wondered how they got on together. They seemed very happily married.

Malcolm Hardee’s election reaction

I stood for Parliament in the very important Greenwich by-election in 1987 when Rosie Barnes stood for the SDP and Deirdre Wood was standing for the Labour Party. Everyone expected Labour to win in Greenwich but Rosie Barnes won.

I was supported by The Rainbow Alliance, who were loosely linked to The Monster Raving Loony Party. They linked up on this election and I met David – Screaming Lord – Sutch. He was broke and living with his mum at the time. He was ringing up from phone boxes trying to get his £500 deposit together.

The Rainbow Alliance was run by a peculiar old hippy called George Weiss. He had got a lot of money from his parents who were in the jewellery and silverware business and he’d blown it by gambling and betting on himself winning these elections, which he never did. I think he is convinced that one day he will win. He wanted computer-based referenda and Peace and Love all over the world. He always wanted to be a ‘personality’ but never managed it. His idea of humour was carrying a Gonk about – one of those stuffed toys that were popular in the 1960s.

George had come to the Tunnel Club which I ran and he wanted Jools Holland to run for The Rainbow Alliance in Greenwich. Jools didn’t want to appear to be a fool, so said he didn’t want to run but agreed to be my sponsor and Rainbow George put up my £500 deposit.

I ran for election under the banner THE RAINBOW ALLIANCE BEER, FAGS AND SKITTLES PARTY and we got an enormous amount of press and TV coverage because everyone thought it was going to be the last by-election before the General Election.

It was a good laugh, especially when I went to the count. The Great British public’s ignorance knows no bounds. It must be the easiest thing in the world to put an ‘X’ next to a candidate’s name. Some people had put ticks. A few had put marks out of ten. Some had voted for them all.

I got 174 votes. I beat the Communist Party. And I beat the National Front, which takes some doing because there’s strong support for them in the area.


In fact, Malcolm’s memory about the exact number of votes he received was – much like Malcolm – not exactly 100% dependable…

Numerical accuracy put on one side, Malcolm continued…


At that time, the comedy agent Addison Cresswell was very left wing and was handling all the Red Wedge tours. He phoned me up and went mad at me because I was standing. He thought I’d take votes from the Labour Party which might have an effect if it was a close-run thing. In the event, their candidate lost by a lot more than 174.

If I had thought more seriously about it, part of my Manifesto could actually have won it for me. This was Bring Charlton Athletic Back to The Valley. Charlton is the local football club and The Valley was their ground. At the time, they had to play at Crystal Palace’s ground. If I had got the whole of the Charlton Football Supporters’ Club on my side, I would have got enough votes to win it. Four years later, they did form a Valley Party for the local elections and they did get a counsellor in and did get Charlton back to The Valley.

My other Manifesto ideas were a cable car for pensioners to the top of Greenwich Hill (This has since been successfully suggested by the Millennium Committee)…Proper rides at the funfair and proper prizes….Bringing proper fog back to London for old times’ sake….And concreting the Thames so people can travel about easier.

I’ve always felt detached from politics because Government represents authority whether Labour or Conservative. The strangest thing I noticed, when I was in prison, was that prisoners always had a better deal under a Right Wing government. Parole came in under a Conservative government. One-Third and later One-Half Remission came in under a Conservative government. I also used to think that, when a Conservative government was in power, the prison officers themselves were happier and therefore the prisoners got treated better.

*  *  *

I stood for Parliament again in the 1991 General Election and put up my own money because you get a free mailout to every constituent in the borough. That’s about 42,000 people in Greenwich. I simply selected the addresses of people who might turn up to Up The Creek and got a mailout to about 10,000 people for nothing. Normally it would cost £2,500 in postage alone; it only cost me my £500 Election Deposit which I lost by standing.

*  *  *

I’m thinking of running for Parliament again and think I have a bit of a chance this time. Someone once called himself the Literal Party at a by-election and he didn’t lose his deposit because a lot of people voted for him thinking he was the Liberal Party. He had used the same typeface as them on his election literature. He got loads of votes. Nearly got in. The real Liberal candidate complained because he reckoned he would have got in if this bloke hadn’t ‘stolen’ his votes.

So I’m going to call my party Old Labour.


In fact, despite writing the book in 1995, Malcolm (and I) got the date wrong. The General Election was in 1992 not 1991. There is a BBC News clip on YouTube of that 1992 Greenwich election result being announced, with Malcolm reacting behind the officiating electoral officer.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Humor, Humour, Politics

Malcolm Hardee’s Wibbley Wobbley boat has re-appeared somewhere else

Malcolm & girlfriend Andree at the Wibbley Wobbley in 2002

Malcolm and his girlfriend Andree Jenni standing by the Wibbley Wobbley in 2002

The tribute banner’s initial position...

A brief fortnight ago, anarchy was celebrated

A couple of weeks ago, I posted a blog in which Malcolm Hardee Award winner Becky Fury and I went to Malcolm’s old floating pub/comedy venue The Wibbley Wobbley.

It was moored in Greenland Dock, Rotherhithe, by the River Thames in London.

There were some very amiable squatters living in the boat, putting on monthly performances. They had been there for several months.

Suitably anarchic slogans adorned the sides of the boat.

Today’s Pantomime Horse Race in Greenwich

Today’s Pantomime Horse Race in Greenwich was interrupted

Today, while watching the annual Pantomime Horse Race in Greenwich, I got a message from Evening Standard comedy critic Bruce Dessau telling me that the squatters had been evicted; the Wibbley Wobbley had been towed away from its berth and would be broken up.

On the left, two gangways lead to where once the Wibbley Wobbley floated

Two sad gangways (left) lead to where the Wibbley floated

Bruce asked me for a quote which he could add to the news item he had written on his Beyond The Joke website. I gave him a quote but suggested he should just make up a much better one and claim that I had said it – something of which I think Malcolm would have approved.

Alas, he just quoted the load of old cobblers I had thought of:

The Wibbley Wobbley (orange marker) in its old berth in Greenland Dock

The Wibbley Wobbley (orange marker) in its old berth in Greenland Dock. Malcolm Hardee drowned there in 2005.

“I thought 2016 was bad enough with Bowie, Prince and Manuel from Fawlty Towers dying, but this has really pissed me off.”

It’s not a great quote, is it?

The moral to this part of the story is:

If someone or something snuffs it, don’t ask me for a quote.

After the Pantomime Horse Race finished in Greenwich, I went to Greenland Dock in Rotherhithe, where the Wibbley Wobbley had been moored and where Malcolm had drowned in 2005.

The boat was, indeed, not there.

But I spotted it in the adjacent South Dock Marina.

The Wibbley Wobbley tonight, in its new berth at South Dock Marina

Wibbley Wobbley tonight, in a new berth: South Dock Marina

Coincidentally, before he bought the Wibbley Wobbley, Malcolm had lived in another boat in South Dock Marina and, ironically, I had fallen in the water there and almost drowned, myself, while carrying Malcolm’s vacuum cleaner onto the boat.

As always, it is better not to ask for too many details.

The banners which had been adorning the Wibbley Wobbley two weeks ago had, tonight, been removed.

Now under more secure lock and key in South Dock Marina

Now under more secure lock and key in South Dock Marina

But the boat itself looked perfectly OK; not ready to be scrapped.

As I left, I heard two people connected with the dock talking about the Wibbley Wobbley.

“The thing is,” one said, “if you get rid of squatters, they’ll just find somewhere else.”

A bit like memories, in that respect.


ADDITIONAL STUFF

theshippingpress_websiteThe Shipping Press account on Twitter posted an image of workers removing the Wibbley Wobbley from its original berth in Greenland Dock with text which said: “So called pirates left after trying to sink her! They converted upstairs into 7 bedrooms-and left a big mess.”

The Cockney Rebel account on Twitter commented: “Pirates on resisted removal by order of LBS ( )again! 2 make way for yuppie eatery!”

Leigh Miller replied: “How did this happen without notice? Admiralty Writ necessary- did anyone investigate?”

Cockney Rebel: “Don’t know yet. LBS very good at smash & grab doing what they want & abusing rule of law…to please developers!”

Leigh Miller: “There must be a worldwide shortage of brown envelopes by now….”

Cockney Rebel: “…mountains of used empties in every Labour/Tory Town halls also rumour has it massive stash at GLA/County Hall!”

https://twitter.com/theshippingpre1/status/807217946644856832

THERE IS AN UPDATE ON THIS STORY HERE.

 

4 Comments

Filed under Comedy

How do street artists make money and who is this trendy DRB matchbox guy?

DRB (left) and Ben Oakley at the exhibition yesterday

DRB (obscured left) & Ben Oakley at the exhibition yesterday

Yesterday, I went to the Ben Oakley Gallery in Greenwich, to see the last day of artist DRB’s exhibition Firestarter – basically matchboxes custom-made by DRB.

But we are not talking normal matchboxes here, we are talking Art.

Some of DRB’s matchboxes are now in the Victoria & Albert Museum’s collection in London. The boxes are being displayed at a gallery in Hong Kong in about a week and DRB has a duck with hands for ears which is in Boston in the US at a liquid arts venue.

“When I trained as a printmaker,” DRB told me, “there were no computers – well, there WERE but they weren’t on my radar – and then, just as I graduated, computers basically made me redundant. All of my printmaking skills were irrelevant and I had to learn how to use computers.”

“And you do now?” I asked.

“Yeah. All of my creative career has been computers, so I’ve done websites, videos and all that. I had a creative career but, twenty years later, I’m doing printmaking again.”

“Though the world is different…” I prompted.

Ceci nest pas un Magritte - c'est un DRB

Ceci n’est pas un Magritte de Belge… C’est un DRB de Sarf Eest Londres.

“I trained to be a gallery artist,” DRB said. “I expected to be represented by a gallery and paid by a gallery. Whereas now a lot of my friends are street artists. They essentially represent themselves – on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook – and they don’t even show in galleries because their work is selling before it even hits a wall. Whereas I’m still a gallery artist. I do put things on the streets but, essentially, I think of whole shows whereas those guys will do just one piece and it sells before it hits the wall.”

“How does that street art thing work?” I asked.

“They have maybe 20,000 followers online,” explained DRB. “They have huge followings. They’re like rock stars compared to traditional painters. What they’re doing is they record every stage of the journey – their ideas, their sketches, their preliminary, everything – and people engage them on their social media.”

“So,” I asked, “I say I’m going to paint a giraffe on a wall next week and someone buys it before it hits the wall?”

DRB looks at a wall of his boxes

DRB looks at a wall of his boxes in Greenwich

“No,” explained DRB. “They call themselves street artists in the sense that they put something on the street first. So, if they make something, it has to go on the street first – that’s their own rule – and then they’ll make a print edition of it and sell it to people who liked it on the wall.”

“Do you do street art?” I asked.

“I put things on the street,” DRB replied, “but that’s just me being playful. I’m not really a street artist, I’m a gallery artist.

“I did study fine art, so I was a gallery artist for about four years, I had a residency in Norway for a year and there’s work of mine in Australia all up the west coast. I painted walls there when I was in my twenties in the 1990s and they’re still touching them up. Not graffiti. More like murals… They don’t know who I am.”

“So they maintain your artworks, but they don’t know you originated them?” I asked.

DRB’s publicity for the Ben Oakley exhibition

DRB’s publicity for the Ben Oakley exhibition

“There’s a town – Carnarvon in Western Australia,” said DRB, “where there’s a 20 foot wall with a mural. I was in the papers for that. I got run out of town by the police. I was about 20. I’ve had a creative career but, in terms of recognition it’s been this last year. I had my first solo show in Hoxton last summer and I’ve had about 20 shows since then.”

“Are DRB the initials of your real name?” I asked.

“No. It stands for Dirty Rotten Bleeder…It’s a play on words with the printing term ‘bleeding’ – printing that goes over the edge of another image or the edge of the displayed area. I call myself Dirty Rotten Bleeder like I could call myself a Messy Print Maker.”

DRB, the faceless artist at his Firerstarter yesterday

DRB at the last day of his Firerstarter yesterday

“Have you got a website?” I asked.

“I’m making one,” said DRB. “I find it hard to write. I have a blog, but what I tend to do is get really wrapped up in paradoxes and all of that and it doesn’t read in a way I would want someone to read it. “

“But you said you know how to design websites,” I said.

“Well” replied DRB, “there’s a difference between designing the look of something and populating it with content – actually putting words in there. And it’s harder to write words about yourself; I could probably write something about somebody else.”

“Tell me about it,” I said.

1 Comment

Filed under Art, Painting

Vaginal knitting and seven new morals which I learnt in the last seven days

The last seven days have been a week of oddity and surrealism…

Blackfriars station proudly proclaims its modernity

Blackfriars station proudly proclaims solar power, but is cold

LAST THURSDAY

I am at the new Blackfriars station, which spans the River Thames. It cost millions and took forever to build. There are solar panels built into the roof. A large ad proudly says: The biggest solar bridge in the world. Generating up to 50% of the station’s energy.

Yet, on the side of the platforms, the glass only reaches halfway up to the roof, allowing gales to blow in over the top from the Thames on both sides at head level. It will be Arctic in midwinter.

Moral: Even people who know what they are doing do not know what they are doing.

Freedom Pass - You can come but you can’t go

Freedom Pass – You can come but, for some, you cannot go

FRIDAY

I get around. The London transport area is divided into six zones. I know two people. Both are over 60 years old. One lives in Peckham, South East London. One lives in Elstree in the north west, which is in Zone 6, within the M25 orbital motorway which encircles London.

Because he is over 60+, the person in Peckham can get a Freedom Pass which allows him free travel within London. The 60+ person in Elstree cannot get a Freedom pass because he lives in Elstree, which is in London’s Zone 6 but is postally in Hertfordshire not a London borough. So the 60+ person in Peckham can visit the person in Elstree for free. The 60+ person in Elstree has to pay £8.90 to visit the person in Peckham. On the same trains.

Moral: Even well-meaning bureaucracy will bugger you. 

Greenwich Christmas tree netting 1

Human Christmas netting: first insert your human in the tube

SATURDAY

I am in Greenwich, in a rush to go somewhere. As I pass a collection of Christmas trees being sold on the pavement, I notice a group of people are putting one of their friends into a Christmas tree netting machine to take photographs. Very funny, I think. I take two photos quickly on my iPhone and hurry on.

Greenwich Christmas tree netting 2

Human Christmas netting: then push him in

I later think: Perhaps they actually did put him through and netted him up. I should have stayed to take the third picture.

Later still, I hear that his friends did indeed truss him up in a net and he was last seen hopping along the road.

Moral: Always hope for a climax, even if it is late coming.

SUNDAY

I am phoned by a market research company “on behalf of the Metropolitan Police” wanting to ask me questions related to “social research”. I ask: “Are you cold-calling me?” – “Yes,” the man replies.

Telephone Preference Service logo

TPS will protect you against SOME calls

I am registered with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS) so that companies are not allowed to cold call me.

“What law allows you to cold call me?” I ask.

“We do not need to act under any law,” replies the man.

“So you are telling me you can act outside the law?”

“No”

“So you are telling me that any market research company can phone me up and ask me questions without me asking them to?”

“We are not doing market research; we are doing social research,” said the man.

Émile Durkheim, early social researcher

Émile Durkheim, early social researcher… Perhaps turning in his grave due to bullshit

I later find out from a Facebook Friend that social research companies “are actually required by law to only call randomly generated numbers, so that survey results cannot be skewed.” He had worked for a social research company and told me: “I don’t now how many times I had to explain that to someone as they swore down the phone at me about being on TPS (by company policy I wasn’t allowed to put the phone down unless they did first.) In the case of social research where it is important that no bias appear in the results, as said, it is the law that the numbers have to be randomly generated. Therefore TPS cannot apply, and these companies are exempt.”

It appears that the TPS covers sales and marketing calls but not calls carried out by market research companies who are doing social not market research. So a market research company doing marketing research cannot call you but a market research company doing social research can.

I had asked the man on the phone: ”So any social research company can phone me up and ask me questions which I have to answer?”

“It is voluntary,” he told me.

“So fuck off, then,” I told him and hung up. As I now understand it, I should not have hung up because, if I did not, he could not end the call and would have to still be holding on, however long it took.

Moral: The law is an ass out of which turds emerge.

StPancrasChristmasTree2013

A safe picture of St Pancras station in London

MONDAY

I am at St Pancras station and see that the police who occasionally meander around the station carrying sub-machine guns are now doing so in threes. This seems a bit excessive. They also walk close together, Surely this makes them an easier single target? I want to take a picture of the police officers, but decide it might be unwise.

About one minute after this, I go into the Gents toilet. A man dressed as a banana is telling a man at the hand drying machine that using the hand drier spreads germs into the air. I want to take a picture of the man wearing the banana suit in the Gents toilet, but decide it might be unwise.

Moral: Bananas always have comic potential, especially in toilets.

MargaretThatcherQueenSoho_flyer

Gay girl Margaret Thatcher Queen of Soho

TUESDAY

I see Margaret Thatcher, Queen of Soho at Theatre 503 in Battersea. It is described as “a drag comedy Christmas musical extravaganza”. For me, as a heterosexual man, this does not bode well. But it is absolutely gobsmackingly good with jaw-dropping levels of production and direction. Amazing. You should see it. The script whizzes along. The production and direction are out of this world. Amazing for a Fringe show. Staggering.

Moral: The old and new meanings of the word Gay can sometimes coincide. 

Il Puma Londinese - whatever that means

Il Puma Londinese – whatever that means

YESTERDAY

Comedian Giacinto Palmieri persuades me to go see a show at an Italian-language fortnightly comedy club in London’s Soho called Il Puma Londinese Lab or, more fully, Laboratorio di Cabaret – Il Puma Londinese. I neither speak nor understand Italian. Giacinto tells me I should go because he knows I like new experiences. Within reason. Buggery and long mime shows are beyond my limitations.

I have directed Czech TV voice-overs in Prague and Danish/Norwegian/Swedish TV voice-overs in London. Usually, with European languages, the intonations are the same even if you don’t understand the words. In North Korea, they might as well be talking Martian and I suspect they often are. North Korean TV announcers have a breathless excitement because (I presume) they are overwhelmed by the honour of living in such historic times ruled by such godlike people. But back to Italian comedy.

Romina Puma warms up the audience last night

Romina Puma warms up her Soho audience last night

Il Puma Londinese was tremendously enjoyable. It was started and has been run for the last two years by the energetic Romina Puma (not to be confused with Canadian Puma Zuma who runs the Lost Cabaret comedy evenings). Romina Puma could enthuse the inhabitants of a mortuary into being a joyous comedy audience up for a night of fun (although I would advise her against this).

Who cares if it sounds racist or xenophobic or cliché – Italians always sound excitable and exciting when they speak because there are more syllables spoken per second than in average English delivery; and the up-and-down variation in tone tends to be greater. It is in the nature of the spoken language.

Il Puma Londinese ended in a sing-song

Il Puma Londinese ended in a very festive sing-song italiano

Last night, there were three English speaking acts sandwiched in the packed Italian bill at Il Puma Londinese. The equally packed audience included a group of Spaniards who enjoyed it as much as I did.

I even picked-up on a few Italian words which I could half-understand so that I half-knew what was being talked about. The words Nigelissima, Coke and vaginal knitting stood out.

I may have mis-heard that last phrase.

Although perhaps not.

The audience laughed a lot.

Moral: Italians and Italian comedy clubs are fun. But listen carefully.

1 Comment

Filed under Bureaucracy, Comedy, Eccentrics, Equality, Italy, London

The Santa Claus comedian, mad crowd funding and a crime wave in Greenwich

My car last night - without its numberplate

My car in Greenwich last night – without its number plate

The London Borough of Greenwich which rather grandly markets itself as Royal Greenwich has a good image… unless you live in their council flats.

The Up The Creek comedy club is less than a 30 second walk from the centre of Greenwich and less than a 30 second walk from a shambolic crime-ridden area where the ever-uncaring Council shits on tenants, ignores anti-social behaviour, where gangs have had running gun battles and where, apparently, it’s unsafe to park your car at night.

I had my car window smashed in December 2010 and blogged about it.

Nothing was stolen because of my (cheap but wonderful) Toyota’s excellent double-locking system.

The same thing happened in February 2012 further along the same street. This time, whoever did it actually climbed in through the smashed window of the double-locked door, went through the interior, lowered the back seats and got access from the inside to the boot. A SatNav was stolen from a not-immediately-obvious cavity.

After that, I never parked in that road at night and, if I had to park my car at night at all in Greenwich, I parked it a 10-minute walk away near the police station.

Last night, my eternally-un-named friend and I had dinner with performers Vivienne and Martin Soan at their home in Nunhead, Peckham, where they were preparing this Friday’s Pull The Other One show starring the oft-name-checked (especially by himself) Lewis Schaffer. Then I drove to Greenwich to pick up some belongings from my eternally-un-named friend’s flat. I parked in a nearby well-lit road under a lamp post at a T-junction overlooked by flats, where anyone trying to do anything to my car could be visible. When we came out, 50 minutes later, both the number plates had been stolen off my car.

Don’t talk to me about Greenwich. There is a video on YouTube of what the area was like in March 2011.

Slightly cheerier, were two reactions to my blog yesterday about crowdfunding.

Los Angeles based comedian Nikki Lynn Katt contacted me because she reckons I am a “comedy ninja”.

I have no idea what this means and sometimes I think the loss of the American Colonies was not necessarily a negative factor for our Sceptred Isle.

Still, enthusiasm – though clearly un-British – can have its plus points.

Nikki Lynn sent me a message saying: “I intend to win a Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award from you at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2014. Unless, of course, you decide to fund my Edinburgh show and then it becomes a conflict of interest for me to win the award 🙂 In the meantime, I’m wondering if you’d be interested in covering my Kickstarter campaign.”

She is raising crowdfunding to make a comedy electronic dance music EP record titled Dance Your Hate Away. One of the songs on the proposed album starts:

When I’m with you I want to die
I want to slit my wrist and I don’t know why
When I’m with you I want to bash in your head
But I don’t and then we fuck instead

Nikki Lynn Katt’s dancing technique still needs a little work

Nikki Lynn Katt’s dancing technique still needs a little work

She is also learning to burlesque dance and hardly needs my help either with that or with the fundraising.

So far she has raised 130% of the funds needed for her $5,000 EP – with $6,510 pledged and 11 days to go. Ever-enterprising and with commendable Colonial enthusiasm, she has now added to her Kickstarter page the words: “We can record 10 songs instead of 5 if we raise $10,000!”

The incentives to contribute, of course, vary.

For $1 you get a digital download, she says, of “my entire existing catalog of music! You will immediately receive everything I’ve ever professionally released!”

“For $55, she says: “I will give you a private burlesque dance performance in your living room for you and your friends (provided you live in Los Angeles). I’m going to bring a friend as well to keep it safe and, to make it super clear, you can’t touch me! I set the delivery to March of next year but this could happen sooner if you have a compelling reason, like you want me to dance at a house party you’re throwing, for example.”

For $85 you get a hand-crocheted scarf. She explains: “Sorry for the high cost, these take a long time to make!”

For $150, you get dinner with Nikki in Melbourne, Australia, between November 18 and November 20, 2013. You have to pay for the dinner.

For $200, you get a date with Nikki in Los Angeles. She says: “The differentiating factor between this reward and the Dinner With Nikki reward is that on a Date With Nikki she will actually consider you as a potential romantic prospect. She is single, after all. All genders are welcome (this is when bi-sexuality really comes in handy!) A chaperone will be provided… Nikki is a lady, no funny business on a first date!”

All this Colonial enterprise and enthusiasm is no doubt admirable, but I rather tend towards the other response I had to my blog on crowdfunding.

It came from British comedian Ray Davis. He hopes to raise £750.

Totally unexplained image on Ray Davis’ appeal page

Unexplained image on Ray’s Indiegogo page

On his page on the more dubious Indiegogo website (regular readers of this blog may remember comic Laura Levites getting financially messed-around by Indiegogo) Ray says:

“The purpose of this project is to raise funds for no real purpose – I plan to do absolutely nothing with any monies raised except perhaps waste it on frivolity.”

He adds:

“I have of course not formatted this pitch, provided a video despite advice that it increases contributions by 114%, a web site and even started sentences in lower case and with a connective – in essence I’ve done all I can to provide an empty petri dish.”

If you contribute to Ray’s appeal, some of the temptations on offer are…

If you donate £1, you get  “An Original Thought” – If you have a Twitter account, Ray will “tweet you an original thought (no guarantee it’ll be witty or inspiring though). Estimated delivery: December 2013.”

For £25, you get “My Tweeted autograph – possibly worthless…but you never know, one day, eh?”

And – the biggie – If you donate £100 or more, you get Broken Christmas Tree Decorations (delivery date in January 2014)”

Ray explains (without resorting to capital letters):

“you know what it’s like – you always lose some tree dangler over the festive period (and we have a cat so odds are high) – any damaged or broken will be boxed and shipped at my expense – plus a genuine on paper autograph.”

So far, Ray has raised zero of his hoped-for £750 funding with 56 days left.

But he makes me feel proud to be British and I wish him well.

Bob Slayer AKA unexplained Rachel

Is this the face of Santa for 2013?

In late news… This morning, I received an e-mail from comedian and indefatigable self-publicist Bob Slayer. It reads:

“I have just been asked to be a Christmas Santa at a shopping centre – and I think I am going to take it. I have offered to dye my beard white which I think might be the clincher… Santas seem to get quite well paid.”

Reading this, I realised that I myself have Santa potential. If I re-grew my beard, it would by now be white and I already have a Santa stomach already in place.

Alas, I think I may be missing the required Ho-Ho-Ho factor… Bloody Greenwich!

1 Comment

Filed under Comedy, Crime, Crowdfunding, London, Music

UK comedy roundup: How Malcolm Hardee made his trousers fall down & why Bob Slayer was naked in Norway

With my eternally-un-named friend and Martin Soan

With my eternally-un-named friend and Martin Soan (photograph by saxophonist & compere Vivienne Soan)

Yesterday, my eternally-un-named friend and I went round to Vivienne and Martin Soan’s back garden. It has Astroturf on it to stop weeds coming through.

Vivienne said she was thinking of speaking in German when she introduces one of the acts at this Friday’s Pull The Other One comedy club. As I mentioned in a blog last time she compered Pull The Other One, I am confident this German language thing will explain itself in a few months.

In the meantime, Martin Soan seems to have put together his very complicated Village Hall Experience show for Peckham, sponsored by Southwark Council and supporting The Fostering Partnership. He told me he is also building a large carrot for some comedian at the Edinburgh Fringe.

“How is your penis going?” I asked him as we left.

“Very smoothly,” he replied. As previously mentioned in a blog, he is building a giant male member for another comedian’s Edinburgh show. It is not the first time Martin has been involved with genitalia at the Fringe, both carefully-crafted handmade ones and real. Not least because he and the late Malcolm Hardee used to perform the Naked Balloon Dance as the Greatest Show On Legs up there over many years.

My eternally-un-named friend and I then went to visit Jacki Cook and Jonathan Hale, who run the Emporium vintage clothes shop in Greenwich.

But not for much longer.

In less than two weeks time, they are closing their shop after 27 years.

“I don’t know,” said Jacki, “what all those scruffy old comedians are gonna do. Malcolm Hardee used to buy a new suit from us every week – sometimes two a week, depending what capers he got up to. He liked to roll around in a Savile Row suit. That was Malc. He never bothered to clean them; he just bought a new one from us every week.”

My eternally-un-named friend (who used to work for Malcolm) told me:

“Malcolm used to ‘distress’ jackets when he got them. I remember he undid the stitching round the arm of one jacket when he got it.”

Malcolm with distressed shoulder in Up The Creek office

Malcolm with distressed shoulder in his Up The Creek office last century (photograph by my eternally-un-named friend)

“Why?” I asked.

“It just gave it a dishevelled look,” she told me, “and that’s the way he wanted people to see him. But the actual clothes he wore were really nice.”

“He liked to wear trousers that were slightly too big for him,” said Jacki, “so that, if he breathed in, he could make them fall down.”

Jacki & Jon’s shop is closing, but they are going to continue their business online – they have rented costumes in the past to television companies and big scale movies – everything from Mission Impossible I & II and Steven Spielberg’s Munich to Dagenham Girls.

When I got home to Borehamwood last night, waiting for me, inevitably, was a bizarre message from comedian Bob Slayer. He has just come back to the UK from Norway.

Bob Slayer (left), naked atop a Norwegian caravan

Bob Slayer (left), naked atop a Norwegian caravan – of course (photograph by the Norwegian comedian Christer Torjussen)

“They said at Oslo Airport,” Bob told me, “that I couldn’t take a bottle of wine onto a plane. I disagreed. I showed them I could take it onto a plane in my tummy. I opened it up and drank it at airport security. It is quite a nice place to hang out and have a tipple.

“I am now trying to get back from Leicester, but I got on the wrong train. thus turning a one hour journey into a three hour journey…  In other news, I can report that the Corby trouser press in my Holiday Inn room was less effective at re-heating last night’s kebab than I thought it would be.”

The great and the good of Edinburgh have allowed him to run a bar in his new Bob’s Bookshop venue at the Edinburgh Fringe next month. I am not necessarily convinced this is a good idea.

In the title of this blog, I included the words: WHY BOB SLAYER WAS NAKED IN NORWAY.

In fact, I have no idea why he was pictured naked, standing on top of a caravan in Norway. I suspect neither does he – nor does the good Lord.

Some things have – and, indeed, require – no sane explanation.

They just are.

1 Comment

Filed under Comedy, Humor, Humour, Norway, UK

Comic Malcolm Hardee was persuaded to change the start of his autobiography

I Stole Freddie Mercy’sBirthday Cake

One day, the original version of this book may or may not be published

When Malcolm Hardee and I wrote his autobiography in 1996, the editor at Fourth Estate publishers persuaded Malcolm to change the opening of the book to one which I thought and still think was a much less interesting opening. This is the way Malcolm’s book – I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake – originally started:

___________________________

I stole Freddie Mercury’s birthday cake. He was one of the most famous pop stars in the world and I was booked to perform nude at his 40th birthday party.

The Kray Twins seemed to split their lives into 95% criminal activity and 5% Showbiz. I’ve tried to go for 95% Showbiz intermingled with 5% criminal activity, but I only had about 3% of the success the Krays had.

Apart from me there’s no showbiz in the family, as far as I know, but my grandfather was born behind Greenwich Music Hall, which is now Greenwich Theatre. And when I was in Ford Open Prison I read a music hall book which mentioned an act 200 years ago called ‘The Great Hardeen’. A magic act. He was Greenwich-based like me, so I wonder if there was any link-up there.

When I was one day old, my Dad bought me a train set. It was a steam train and ran on methylated spirits in a little container underneath the train. It was bigger than your normal train set with a big circular track. What you did was set light to the methylated spirits and this started the piston. My Dad set it up in the hall. He didn’t let me play with it. You know what fathers are like. He set it off and it went so fast centrifugal force took the train off the rails and it set light to the carpet. (Nearly burnt the house down.)

My mother wonders if this may account for my early interest in setting fire to things.

I was born in Lewisham Hospital on 5th January 1950. But after I was born I was almost immediately whisked off to an orphanage in Ware, Hertfordshire. My Mother was in a sanatorium with tuberculosis and they didn’t allow fathers to keep their babies then. My father was working all hours on the River Thames as a lighterman.

My mother came out of the sanatorium when I was 2 years old. She quite reasonably wanted to go out and have a good time. So I was brought up by my two doting grandmothers really. They were poles apart.

My mother’s mother was the down-to-Earth, down-the-Bingo type. She’d worked in Service when she was younger – as a maid or something.

My father’s mother put on big airs and graces. She was a docker’s wife, but thought she was sort of royalty and she used to take me up to the Cafe Royal where we’d sit around and have a cup of tea. Another treat she used to give me was to go and see various relatives laid out after they died. She loved a funeral. The biggest news she ever gave my mother was that she had worked it out with funeral directors that my mother could go in the Hardee family burial plot – as long as she got cremated.

When my mother came out of hospital, we moved into Grover Court, a 1930s block of flats with flat roofs. We were in No 20 and there were about 100 flats. It was almost like a village in itself just because of where it was – set off the road.

I’ve almost always lived near someone famous. In Grover Court, I grew up next to Val Doonican. When we moved from there, Michael Leggo lived next door to me. He later invented Mr Blobby. After that, I had a flat in Lee Green and three doors up was Mark Knopfler from  Dire Straits. (I never talked to him.) Later there was Jools Holland – he lived over the road from me in Blackheath. (I did talk to him.) And now I live about five doors away from Miss Whiplash. Dire Straits played in local pubs in Deptford. There was a definite Deptford sound in music. It’s been covered in a book called South East London Rock and Roll. There was Squeeze, Dire Straits, The Flying Pickets. They all came from Deptford. They all sound different, but that’s not my fault.

At Grover Court, we lived in No.20 and Val Doonican lived at the back of the block with his mum. He wasn’t famous then. He used to sit in an armchair on an old porch, playing a guitar. He must have been in his mid-twenties. He taught me the mouth organ when I was about ten or eleven. There used to be an apple tree outside and we used to nick apples. Not him. Me and some other boys.

He came over here from Ireland with  a group called The Four Ramblers and three of the Four Ramblers lived in Grover Court. The others were a bloke called Pat Sherlock and a bloke called Pat Campbell.

Pat Campbell went on to be a Radio Luxemburg disc jockey and Pat Sherlock produced a Sunday night telly show called The Showbiz Eleven. based on football teams. They used to have The TV All Stars on one side and The Showbiz Eleven on the other. The Showbiz Eleven were the sort of people you didn’t normally get on telly – like Norman Wisdom. Pat Sherlock had a son called Barry Sherlock who was a couple of years younger than me and Barry was my mate. People in these ‘football teams’ used to come round to visit Pat Sherlock, so I used to see Tommy Steele and people like that.

In November 1957, when I was seven, I remember the Lewisham train crash happening behind my house. ‘The Great Lewisham Train Crash’ they called it in the papers. It was caused by the very thick fog which you used to get in those days. I remember foggy winters and very hot summers. I suppose it was foggier because they hadn’t passed that smoke law and we all used to have coal fires. (All that’s gone now.)

Several railway lines cross on two levels at Lewisham. There are three at the bottom and one that goes over the top. On a foggy day in November, two trains collided in the middle. Shot up in the air and knocked a whole train off the top. About 117 people died. My Dad’s garage was next to the line and afterwards there were railway wheels in it. A brick wall at the back had to be rebuilt after it was hit by a fire engine coming to rescue people.

I remember my Aunt Rosemary was in the house with her husband, Uncle Doug (though he wasn’t  my real one). He was meant to have travelled on the very train that crashed. They heard it on the radio.

I didn’t hear anything and I think I was sort of hidden away afterwards. A woman called Mrs Fantos was the hero of the crash and she went out to the main road and commandeered cars and blankets and stuff. The injured were brought into the car park space probably suffering from post-traumatic shock although, of course, they didn’t ‘have’ that in those days.

The next day I think the showbiz bug got into me. I climbed onto the flat roofs. The TV cameras were there to film it and I was up on the roof waving while they were carting dead bodies about. I felt excited because suddenly these little flats in South East London were the centre of almost world attention.

We used to play on bomb sites in Lewisham. I found old gas masks and all that sort of stuff. There were lots of bomb shelters we used to play in and there were still people who had gardens with the Anderson shelters in.

It was the Fifties, so it was still a bit bleak after the war. Rationing never affected us too much because my Dad worked on the river. They used to have all the cargo coming in, so we got bananas and things. Legally. My dad never stole anything – he was a very honest man. People who worked on the River tended to get more goods than other people. I know he didn’t steal anything because he was known as ‘Honest Frank’ Hardee.

My dad was a lighterman on the River Thames. A lighter is a barge. A lighterman pulls the barges along. He did that all his life. And his Dad before him and his Dad before him. A big family thing. It was a job for life really.

The family assumed I would do that too, but I turned out quite bright – in fact I got the highest grade in the Eleven Plus at my school. So I ended up going to grammar school. Lucky I didn’t go on the River, as it happened.

My dad was a bit eccentric. We used to go on holidays on boats. He used to work on boats then he used to take us up the River on a boat for a holiday.

He used to do impressions – Maurice Chevalier. Every time he got drunk he sang: Thank ‘eaven for leetle girls. That was the only one he could do. He sounded like Maurice Chevalier a bit. (Except he wasn’t French and couldn’t sing.)

____________________________________________________

Malcolm Hardee outside Grover Court in 1995

Malcolm Hardee photographed outside Grover Court in 1995

Malcolm Hardee drowned in 2005.

There are currently three annual Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards in his memory.

This year, they will be presented during a two hour variety show – The Increasingly Prestigious Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show – at the Edinburgh Fringe on Friday 23rd August.

Leave a comment

Filed under Books, Comedy, Publishing