Isn’t gossip a wonderful thing?
Yesterday, following on from my blogs about The downside of being a dead celebrity and Famous two-faced showbiz pond scum, I was having a wee e-chat with Scots comedian Stu Who about the “celebrities” we’d met.
He told me: “My own personal nemesis was XXXXX, who I found to be a particularly rude and lecherous auld cunt, when out of the public gaze… Lechery, of course, is no sin, but when a position of power is abused by touching-up young runners and crew in a ‘joking’ way, I just can’t keep quiet and had a couple of altercations with XXXXX …. not a nice man!!!”
This interested me, because I had heard XXXXX was a groper, but wasn’t sure if it was true because I’d met him briefly twice and both times he seemed very amiable, gentle and uncle-ish; he fitted his ‘family entertainer’ image perfectly.
Stu told me, though, that he found dealing with people like XXXXX “was all counterbalanced beautifully by some of the really nice people I have also had the privilege to encounter and work with… Some of them I literally ‘hated’ on TV before meeting them and I was subsequently gobsmacked to find out how cool and friendly they were in real life… Bob Monkhouse being the most notable.
“He’d been my pet hate for decades with his plastic appearance and gushing superficiality, but he turned out to be really pleasant, courteous and astonishingly supportive to this daft Glaswegian who’d been hired to do his warm-up for the Lottery shows.”
I have never heard anything bad about Bob Monkhouse whom I greatly admired. He was known for his great love of slapstick and his collection of comic silent movies. We had him as a guest on the very slapsticky children’s show Tiswas and his only stipulation up-front was that he should not be custard-pied in the face.
There was no problem with this and he mentioned it right up-front when he was booked; but none of us could figure out why he didn’t want to be ‘pied’ – it seemed perfect for his image and he was in no way pompous; he was a lovely man. Our only wild guess was that he wore a wig – but we had never heard of him having one, I have never read of such a thing and it didn’t look like he had a wig. So, to this day, it remains a complete and utter mystery to me.
I’ve been luckier than Stu Who.
I’ve actually only ever worked with one person who played the “I’m a star” bit.
People told me Chris Tarrant was a bit up himself when Tiswas first hit big but, when I encountered and later worked with him, he was a joy: a total laid-back professional. He was nothing like his image – he was a highly professional, highly sophisticated, cigar-smoking reflective fisherman – and a good bloke.
I’m sure his anarchic image can survive that description.
But you can never tell what people are really like.
A few years ago, at a special National Film Theatre screening of her father Anthony Newley’s indescribably odd film Can Hieronymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness?Tara Newley confirmed that her mother Joan Collins had decided to divorce him after attending the premiere of the movie. According to Tara, Joan had never seen the finished film before that screening. And, if you have ever seen the autobiographical movie (in which Anthony Newley, Joan Collins and their children all appear), you can see why she divorced him. I seem to remember reading an interview with Joan Collins in which she loved him but couldn’t live with him.
I am not surprised.
I once tried to book Anthony Newley on Channel 4’s The Last Resort With Jonathan Ross and failed.
I talked to his agent while Newley was in the US and before he came to London to appear in a West End stage show. The agent was happy for him to appear on The Last Resort and Newley was keen to appear on the show. The trouble was that our TV show transmitted live from 10.30pm in Wandsworth and Newley was on stage until around 10.30 in the West End.
It would probably take him at least 10 minutes of show over-run, applause and rushing out of the theatre (still in costume and make-up) to get out onto a street where a car could pick him up. He was even prepared to ride pillion on a motorbike to do the journey. But there was no way to guarantee at that time on a Friday night in London that he could be got to Wandsworth and into the studio in time for any meaningful appearance on The Last Resort.
So we had to abandon the idea. No problem.
We had wanted him on the show. He had wanted to appear.
We were all the best of chums and no-one was to blame. It was just one of those things.
A couple of weeks later, I got a phone call in the Last Resort office.
“Hello, it’s Tony Newley,” the voice on the other end said.
He was phoning from his shower in a Park Lane hotel. I could hear the water in the background.
“Can you believe they have a telephone in the shower?” he asked me.
He said he wanted to apologise for not being able to appear on our show.
I said there was no problem because it was just the timing which had proved impossible. We would have him on in future in a flash if we could.
But he wanted to say sorry.
There was no need for him to make the phone call and certainly no need to make it to me – I was merely the show’s researcher, not the producer.
But he made the call.
I always thought very highly of him after that.
I still don’t know if Can Hieronymus Merkin Ever Forget Mercy Humppe and Find True Happiness? is a good film, though. And I have seen it three times. It is certainly bizarre.
But Anthony Newley, on the basis of my one phone call with him, seemed a good man.
On the other hand, though, on the basis of two brief meetings, XXXXX seemed OK to me.
Who can tell?
Gossip is an in-exact art.
NB… I should point out that XXXXX, a well-known entertainer, is definitely not any of the people named in this blog and I have never mentioned him in any previous blog.