Tag Archives: moral

How Fringe legend Mervyn Stutter was inspired by the Daily Mail & male nudes

Mervyn Stutter was at home with his self-portrait yesterday

In yesterday morning’s blog, I mentioned the current censorious state of the Edinburgh Fringe Programme and Fringe legend Mervyn Stutter’s reaction to it, as well as the fact that performer Martin Soan had told me The Greatest Show On Legs intended to perform their naked balloon dance in the street outside their Fringe venue, to attract an audience.

After reading the blog, Mervyn e-mailed me: “It reminds me that I wrote a song about the Greatest Show on Legs for BBC TV. Looking for it now…..”

Mervyn has been performing at the Edinburgh Fringe for 26 years – 5 years doing solo shows, then (including this year’s) 21 annual Mervyn Stutter’s Pick of The Fringe shows in which other acts (very carefully chosen by Mervyn) perform highlights from their own Fringe shows.

Yesterday afternoon, by coincidence, I had to take a friend to see a solicitor in Bournemouth. (Don’t ask.) Mervyn lives in Christchurch, just beside Bournemouth. So, of course, the lure of hearing a song about The Greatest Show On Legs and the possibility of getting a free meal and drinks was too much to ignore and Mervyn and his wife Moira fell for our “we haven’t eaten” ruse.

What he told me perhaps gives a glimpse into another, different social era.

“In the mid-1980s,” Mervyn told us, “I had to write songs for the first ever BBC daytime television programme, Open Air. The two presenters on the pilot were Pattie Coldwell and Alan Titchmarsh and the series itself was presented by Pattie and a very thin Irishman, just off the boat, called Eamonn Holmes. It was in the days when the topical song was popular and wasn’t ridiculed, as it has been a lot since.

“Pattie put me up for it and I had to send a tape in of several topical songs so the producer knew I could do it.

“In the Daily Mail that week – Tuesday 26th July 1986 – was an article headlined Anger Over BBC’s Nudes.”

Daily Mail outraged at nudity

The article started: Outraged people in a TV audience walked out of a show hosted by an MP when three naked men danced on the set with only balloons to protect their modesty.

The pilot show for a new TV discussion programme called Day To Day had been chaired the previous Sunday by Robert Kilroy-Silk. The show had been about nudity and audience members had included ‘moral campaigner’ Mary Whitehouse, the streaker Erika Roe, Page Three girl Linda Lusardi and, according to an outraged Daily Mail, ‘teenage girls’ .

The Greatest Show on Legs performed their naked balloon dance to – again according to the Daily Mail – great outrage.

The report claimed that “Clean-up campaigner Mary Whitehouse has registered a formal complaint with BBC Director General Alasdair Milne, demanding ‘that the people responsible for this outrage should be disciplined’.”

Publisher Ian Critchley’s wife, the article continued, was in the audience and he “was considering legal action against the BBC for shocking her”. In those far-off golden days, ladies had to be protected by their husbands and were unable to cope with such manly things as taking legal action to protect their own modesty. Mr Critchley warned, possibly echoing the Daily Mail’s own outaged thoughts: ‘The BBC are on the slippery slope to depravity’.”

The presenter of the Day To Day pilot, Robert Kilroy-Silk, was always a staunch defender of the arts and bravely told the Daily Mail: “I was simply helping some friends at the BBC and had nothing to do with the balloon men. They were not my responsibility.”

However, in their final sentence, the Daily Mail quoted the BBC as pointing out: “Most of the audience thoroughly enjoyed it”.

“So,” Mervyn told me yesterday, “I wrote a song called One Little Prick about how outrageous it was, which ended:

If the audience did get up and leave, of course.
It would be The Greatest Show on Legs

“I did it on the audition tape for Open Air, but whether it was ever broadcast, I can’t remember.”

Mervyn played the song for us in his dining room yesterday evening and, with luck, he may turn up singing it during The Greatest Show on Legs’ own performances at the Edinburgh Fringe this August… and, of course, at the much-anticipated (at least by me) Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show on the final Friday night of the Fringe.

So there we have it.

An insight into the anarchic way in which people may or may not be booked to appear in shows at the Edinburgh Fringe.

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Filed under Censorship, Comedy, Music, Television

Why Roman Polanski’s glamorous rape-excusing friends should be ashamed

I once had to make a television trailer for a documentary on the Waffen-SS. It was very difficult to cut together any pictures that did not make the SS look glamorous because most of the footage was actually shot by the Nazi regime itself, therefore it had a Triumph of the Will style about it. Wonderful angled shots of smart, black-uniformed men marching down steps in formation. The Nazis tended not to film the Waffen-SS butchering men, women and children. Bad for the image.

Let’s be honest, Hitler’s Third Reich made good films and had a great sense of visual style in the design of their uniforms, their architecture and the staging of big-scale live events. But that doesn’t mean that The Holocaust was a minor matter and that Adolf Hitler “should be forgiven this one sin”.

I always find that, if you take an opinion or an event – especially on moral questions – and re-position it into an extreme situation, then that clarifies the opinion or event. My extreme situation is Nazi Germany.

If an argument works put into the context of Nazi Germany, then it probably works in general. Which brings us to Roman Polanski.

His glamorous showbiz chums sit around saying that he should be ‘let off’ the sex abuse charges on which he was found guilty in the US – and on which he jumped bail – in 1977. They say that he should be forgiven his trespasses because (a) he is famous, (b) he is or was a good film director, (c) he had a bad time in the War and (d) it all happened a good few years ago.

I admire Polanski’s earlier films.

But he drugged, raped and buggered a 13 year old girl. This is no small matter and the facts are not in dispute.

If Hitler were found living in Surbiton, the fact the Holocaust was a long time ago and he had had a difficult childhood would not quite merit ignoring what was done and letting him off with a slap on the head and “Don’t do it again, you naughty boy,” said in a disapproving tone.

I recently mentioned in passing on my Facebook page that when IMF boss Dominique Strauss-Kahn, charged with attempted rape, was initially refused bail, one reason the judge gave for not giving him bail was the fact that Roman Polanski had done a runner on a rape charge.

Someone pointed out to me that the girl victim in the Polanski case “has been trying to drop charges for the last ten years… She has said that all of the publicity for this incident has hurt her more than the actual crime itself… She’s suffered enough; let it drop.”

Well, if Hitler were found living in Surbiton, the fact that the Holocaust was a long time ago and the people who suffered would be upset by a trial would not affect what crimes had been intentionally committed.

Raping a 13 year old is not right. Buggering a 13 year old is not right. And, equally, jumping bail to avoid a jail sentence for drugging, raping and buggering a 13 year old girl is not something to be ignored just because you used to be a good movie director and it happened a while ago.

The fact Polanski’s original trial judge in 1977 was running for public office, desperate for self-publicity and sounds like he changed his mind on giving Polanski a custodial sentence does not enter into it. I imagine some of the judges at the Nuremberg Trials were scumbags; it does not mean that Nazis found living in freedom 30 years later should not be tried.

My bottom line is that, if you drug, rape and bugger a 13 year old girl and then flee abroad to escape a custodial sentence, you deserve to be imprisoned for a considerable time. The fact glamorous showbiz names champion Roman Polanski and, in effect, say he should be pardoned for artistic merit nauseates me. Hitler was a painter and commissioned good movies. I don’t think his artistic merit or the artistic merit of Leni_Riefenstahl enters into it.

You can read the 37 page transcript of the Grand Jury proceedings against Roman Polanski in 1977 HERE.

According to the girl’s testimony, after giving her champagne and a Quaalude, Polanski sat down beside her and kissed her, despite demands that he “keep away.” He eventually, she said, “started to have intercourse with me.” Later, he asked the 13 year old: “Would you want me to go in through your back?” before he “put his penis in my butt.”

Asked why she did not more forcefully resist 43 year old Polanski, the teenager, who was 13 at the time of the rape, said: “Because I was afraid of him.”

The girl sued Polanski in 1988, alleging sexual assault, intentional infliction of emotional distress and seduction. In 1993 Polanski agreed to settle with her and according to the Los Angeles Times he agreed to give her half a million dollars. Reportedly, she was still trying to get part of this money from him in 1996 but she and her lawyers later confirmed the financial settlement was completed.

The girl publicly forgave Polanski in 1997, twenty years after the rape and buggery.

In 2009, Lech Walesa, former President of Poland, argued that Polanski “should be forgiven this one sin.”

I say fuck him.

Details of what was in Polanski’s 111 page Polish Secret Service file are HERE.


Filed under History, Movies, Politics, Sex