So I was standing against a wall in London’s ICA arts venue last night when this man approached me and started talking. He told me he was a poet/musician/singer and that he used to perform under the stage name ‘Me’.
But – and I am telling you the truth here – he told me he had to give up using the name because getting bookings was so complicated. He would phone up and say he wanted a gig and be asked: “What’s your name?”
“It’s me,” he would say and, as you can imagine, the conversation continued with more and more complications, misunderstandings and slight friction from the venue manager who thought he was taking the piss.
His real name is Roger Atkins. He thought I looked like Graham Chapman – “the dead one from Monty Python” and performed one of his own poems Who Goes To Soho? to me as we stood against the wall. There is a version on YouTube.
In fact, last night I was at the ICA to see Iggyfest: Blah Blah Blah – a live performance of Iggy Pop’s entire 1986 album performed by The Passengers fronted not by Iggy but by ‘The Countess’ Alex Zapak.
I am not the greatest of Iggy Pop aficionados so, when Alex took her top off, I said to comedian Martin Soan, who was with me: “That’s a bit unnecessary.”
“It’s what Iggy Pop used to do,” Martin reminded me. “Take his top off.”
Martin also, inevitably, had another anecdote about our chum, the late, great comedian Malcolm Hardee.
“Did I ever tell you about Malcolm and his relationship with the sea?” he started.
“You mean he drowned?” I said. “I knew that.”
“Not in the sea,” said Martin. “But every time we were on our Greatest Show on Legs tours, right from the very early days when we were doing Punch & Judy, a lot of it was by the sea. Malcolm used to get his trunks on and go out into the sea with me.”
“It’s the reverse of what you would expect,” I said. “Malcolm putting clothing on.”
“He used to get in up to his chest,” said Martin, “and then do this thing with his hands to make a squeaking noise and then ask me: Do you know how to body surf, Mart? He said it every single time we were in the sea together.
“I then used to say to him: No, Malcolm, how do you body surf?
“And he’d say: Well, what you do is you get into the water up to your chest like this and you wait for a wave to come along. You’ll feel your feet touch the bottom and, just as the wave’s gonna break, you push up with your feet.
“And I’d say: Alright, Malcolm.
“He did this every single time we got in the water. The squeaking noise with his hands and then Do you know how to body surf?
“So, we are in Bali, on a stopover on the way back from appearing in Australia and, by following a pig, I found this…”
“By following a pig?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Martin. “By following a pig. Most of the beaches in Bali are black, so…”
“Did you often follow pigs at that time?” I asked.
“I followed this pig through the undergrowth,” Martin continued, “and I came across this white sand beach which was idyllic with a Bacardi/Coke advertisement type beach hut with a bar.
“So I go back to Malcolm and tell him: You gotta come to this place because it’s brilliant! – The reason being that the whole beach was full of very fit topless German girls in white thongs.
“Malcolm said: Do we have to walk? He wanted a taxi.
“I said: We’re going to have to walk through a bit of a jungle. It wasn’t far; it wasn’t dangerous; but it was a bit of a walk.”
“And you had found this by following the pig?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Martin. “So, we eventually see from up above this white sand beach with all these beautiful German girls in white thongs. Topless. We get to the beach. Off come Malcolm’s trousers and he gets his swimming trunks on, which were one grade up from knitted swimming trunks and he had a piece of string holding his glasses on.
“We wade out and look back to the beach and this idyllic thatched bar with all the topless girls drinking.
“Malcolm does the thing with his hands – squeak squeak squeak squeak – and asks Do you know how to body surf, Mart?
“No, Malcolm, how do you body surf?
“Well, what you do is you get into the water up to your chest like this and you wait for a wave to come along.
“We did that and this massive wave came along and threw us towards the beach up and down and over and round and round. I didn’t know where the fuck I was and the wave landed me and Malcolm on the beach, exhausted, out-of-breath.
“We were starting to raise ourselves up from the sand when we got the backward draft as the water went back into the sea and it literally sucked me and Malcolm into this white sand and ripped our trunks off.
“We got up and Malcolm went straight over to the bar and we sat there bullock naked and both ordered one of those coconut and parasol drinks.”
“Were the topless ladies impressed?” I asked.
“No,” said Martin. “And the other thing… when people didn’t know Malcolm… his body with his swimming trunks off, of course, was covered in blotches and pimples and spots – and people just didn’t want to sit near him. Especially if you were German and had a lovely tan.”