(A re-titled version of this piece was published on the Indian news site WSN)
“There’s two interviews I did with you which I don’t remember doing,” Chris Dangerfield told me yesterday in London’s Soho Square. “When we had scones…
“There’s a photo of me with my forehead just sweating and I know I was really hitting the crack hard then. I look awful. And – I don’t know if it’s the same interview – there’s another one when I talk about my mate and his gun.
“They’re the two. I don’t remember doing them. Someone said to me: Why do you keep getting out of your head and doing interviews with John Fleming? and I said I haven’t talked to John for months and they sent them to me and the weird thing about them is that someone’s driving , someone’s doing the talking.”
“George the autopilot takes over,” I suggested.
“When you read an interview that you don’t remember doing,” explained Chris, “and it’s not like 20 years ago – it’s six months ago – it’s like haunting yourself, it’s like you’ve become your own ghost, it’s kind of… Freud calls it ‘oceanic’, like when you stand at the beach and the vastness of the ocean is something you can’t grasp. There’s a photograph of you; there’s words and sentence structures that you know you use. In a court of Dangerfield law, I’d say Yes, that is me, but I don’t remember anything about it.”
“It’s strange,” I said. “You’re actually very responsible and together. You turn up on time. You talk fluently. If you’re off your skull, you should be all over the place.”
“What you’ve got to remember,” said Chris, “is I set up my million pound company when I was taking 2 grams of heroin a day.”
“What million pound company?” I asked incredulously.
“You know about my lock-picking business!” Chris replied, equally surprised. “It’s worth a million pounds if I was to sell it. We manufacture and retail tools to pick locks. In the second year, it turned over more than £1 million and now I’ve got staff – three full-time, a couple of part-time, a couple of consultants. UK Bumpkeys Ltd. We’re the biggest lock-picking retailer in Europe at the moment. There were people on a level with us, but they no longer are.”
“Remind me why this is legal?” I asked.
“Remind me why is shouldn’t be!” said Chris.
“Picking locks is…” I started to say.
“I used to rob houses,” interrupted Chris, “and I never used a set of lock picks. They’re the wrong tools for the job. They’re non-destructive. Lock-picking is non-destructive entry.”
“But, if you’re burgling somewhere,” I asked innocently, “why would you want to be destructive? It’s noisy.”
“Because it’s quicker,” sighed Chris. “If you sit down at two locks and pick ‘em, you could be there a half hour. But if you put a foot through the door… Look, the only times I ever used lock picks for criminal activity – and this is going back 10-15 years – was chemists.”
“So,” I said, changing the subject, “you lured me here under the pretext – and I can quote the text message you sent me exactly – Yes, sweet tits, I have two exclusives for you – biggies – and now you tell me we can’t talk about either of them in print…”
“I’ve got an hour’s TV documentary,” Chris said.
“But we can’t say what?” I asked.
“Not in detail. But I’m writing and presenting an hour’s TV documentary about the usual Dangerfield palate of experience of activities on the margins of society.”
“You should be a copywriter,” I told him. “People get paid thousands of pounds to write things like that.”
“We got the green light this morning,” said Chris. “That’s happening. That’ll be on telly in November.”
“Probably,” I cautioned Chris. “This is a TV company. Things change.”
“Don’t say that, John,” said Chris. “It’s a respected terrestrial TV company. Respectable.”
“Stuart Hall!” I said.
The veteran TV presenter Stuart Hall had admitted 14 charges of sexual abuse that morning.
“Who’s next?” I asked. “Sooty having a threesome with Mr Methane and Sue Lawley? It’s the Rule of Three… Jimmy Savile, Stuart Hall… Who’s next?”
“Ken Barlow, innit?” said Chris. “He’s got arrested, didn’t he?”
“I’m not sure I believe it,” I said. “He’s a Druid and he’s always been a bit holier-than-thou. But then, you think, what sort of man dresses up in robes and walks round Stonehenge at the Summer Solstice?”
“But you hit the nail on the head there,” said Chris. “That is over-compensating. They always do it. All the paedos I knew were like… As a kid, I joined a magic club. I got there early; no-one else was there; it was in their house; this bloke called Xxxxx Yyyyy; and he got out what he said was a magic magazine. To an 11-year-old kid it was like Wow! No way! and the house had magic tricks everywhere: it was like an Aladdin’s Cave. I could only afford little £1 tricks and they had expensive props.
“Then he put this magazine in my lap and I thought Wow!!! and, in my head, I thought I’d be a professional conjuror the following week. And this ‘magic magazine’, when I opened it, had pictures of all blokes. I just felt awkward. I put it down on the floor and he picked it up and said You can look at THAT one and I said No, I’m alright and there was this to-and-fro-ing with the magazine and then, when he’s finally forced the magazine on me, he just started wanking. And the hideous thing about that story is I don’t know the end. I don’t know what happened.
“I don’t remember leaving the room. The story ends there for me, in my head. How did we get onto that?”
“A respectable terrestrial television company,” I said.
“Oh yeah,” said Chris. “My mum is almost going to look me in the eyes now. When she found out I had two celebrity chefs following me on Twitter, she told me: You have MADE it!”
“Getting back on track,” I said, “What’s the second thing I can’t write about?”
“The second thing you can’t mention yet,” said Chris, “is the sponsor for my new Edinburgh Fringe show.”
“Which is called?”
“Chris Dangerfield: How I Spent £150,000 on Chinese Prostitutes.”
“So,” I said, “after last year’s show Sex Tourist, when you were sponsored by an Edinburgh escort agency…”
“The criteria for choosing a sponsor last year,” said Chris, “was that I wanted a certain level of inappropriateness. I wanted people to think: Oh! You horrible bastard! Last year, punters got a discount on the sponsor’s services if they had one of my flyers.”
“So,” I prompted, “this year, you originally thought you couldn’t equal the level of last year’s sponsor…”
“Yeah,” said Chris. “But this year there will again be the opportunity to get some free products from the sponsor. You know who the sponsor is, John, so you know why that’s funny…”
“Have you got a full gig diary?” I asked.
“I’m in a position now,” explained Chris, “where I don’t have to punt for work. My diary has drawings of naked women with wings and I’ve got a giraffe picture. I set myself the task of drawing something that was half-giraffe, half-tank – but sexy. Not comedy sexy. I wanted it to be erotic.”
“Did you succeed?”
“Depends on your tastes.”
“Ah!” I said, remembering. “Ah! Originally we were meeting up because you were going to talk to me about your gig at the Comedy Cafe Theatre next week when you’re doing the last-ever performance of your Sex Tourist show.”
“The tickets sold out three days,” said Chris. “A record selling-out for that venue.”
“That’s a level of success, “I said. “So what’s your goal?”
“I’m there,” said Chris. “I’m doing what I want to do. I wanted to be able to do stuff that I found funny about subjects that I know people like to brush under the carpet and I wanted people to laugh at that. And I’m doing that now.”
“And your next goal?”
“To live in South East Asia in the winter and be a comedian in Britain in the summer. The Edinburgh Fringe show this year about Chinese prostitutes was originally going to be a true story of me being a Lady Boy of the Khmer Rouge.
“Up in Laos and over the borders, there’s this big fight going on between the Chinese Communists and the Lao guerillas, basically over the heroin market – and now the crystal methamphetamine market – there’s the Burmese guerillas and the Marxists as well. And the Khmer Rouge are still in the jungle in Cambodia. It’s a massive fight. You can make the stuff for like £50 a kilo.
“I was going to go out there… go to Phnom Penh,” explained Chris. “I had all the clothes. I had stuff my girlfriend had left. If you looked at my Twitter page this morning, there was a picture of my arse in some stockings. Amazing. I’ll send it to you for the blog.
“Pair of heels, little mini-skirt, bit of make-up, some electrolysis, get a Kalashnikov, get a Chinese No 4 habit – it’s the finest heroin in the world – and give it a go. Meet the Khmer Rouge and come back and tell the story at the Edinburgh Fringe… if I wasn’t dead.”
“And how did this tragically not happen?” I asked.
“I booked a flight to the wrong country,” said Chris.