In my last blog, a man with no settled name talked about his life in music, comedy and surrealism. One of his names was/is Wavis O’Shave and he became/remains a cult figure from his appearances on Channel 4 TV’s The Tube.
This is the concluding part of that chat…
WAVIS: When I used to do my stuff on The Tube – the surreal stuff – my intention was that people might not really laugh at the time but, three hours later, when they were on the toilet having a crap, they’d burst out laughing.
JOHN: Did you fit in at school?
WAVIS: The school I went to was like a male St Trinian’s. (LAUGHS) Honestly. The teachers didn’t throw pieces of chalk; they were throwing desks at you! They were all barmy with mental health problems.
I stood out because I had some promise. Normally, if that’s the case, you get bullied. I didn’t.
JOHN: The cliché is that, to avoid getting bullied at school, creative people get comedic.
WAVIS: No, I didn’t act the fool or anything; I was just me. But people loved the alleged charisma which I still have a bit left of. So I never got bullied. Bullies – rough lads – just kind-of took to me.
I don’t feel I’ve ever had to act the fool to get by. But I have had to express whatever it is – the energy that comes out… It seems to come out as surrealism. When I was young I thought: Maybe something’s wrong with me.
When I was in my mid-teens, I was standing out like a sore thumb in Newcastle/South Shields. I didn’t want to work down the pit or in the shipyards or wear a flat cap or drink beer or all that. I thought: Is there something wrong with me? So I started reading psychology books.
JOHN: What was your ambition when you were at school?
WAVIS: Well, lots of them in my school wanted to be footballers or rock stars. I was never brilliant at football but I actually had a trial for Newcastle United on August 23rd 1973.
When I left school, the teachers had all these high hopes for me. “You’ll go to college… You’ll go to university… You’ll achieve…”
But, when I left school, I thought: That’s it! I’ve done my bit! I walked straight out of the system.
JOHN: You mentioned earlier in our chat that you’d been involved at the Buddhist monastery in Scotland. So your Buddhist inclinations…
WAVIS: I’ve never claimed to be a Buddhist. I’m non-religious. It just so happened that their system of Vajrayana felt natural to me, like I already had it innate.
Because of that Tibetan connection though, in 2012, there was a Tibetan lama who had found his way to Lincoln, where I was living. He didn’t have anywhere to stay. So I invited him to live with us. He had to keep going back to India for whatever reasons but, whenever he was in England, he lived with us.
This did not go down well with the missus.
The Tibetan lamas are very patriarchal, misogynistic and sexist. We had him living in a caravan. The missus did put up with him but in the end, after five years, I had to sack him. Things weren’t working out.
Every time I came home, it would be like: “You meditate… Meditate… Meditate…” The missus was not liking this and – fair do – there wasn’t the balance there.
The wife drives. I don’t. One day, she was driving the lama and me in our Jaguar. He’s in the front. I’m in the back. Suddenly, the wife lets go of the steering wheel and gets the lama in a headlock. They were struggling. He had never been in a headlock before. He’s not supposed to be touched by females.
JOHN: What was the outcome? I can’t help but feel a car crash may be involved.
WAVIS: Oh no, she wasn’t being irresponsible. She could be a stunt driver in a James Bond movie. Her talents are extreme.
JOHN: It was a brief headlock, then she put her hands back on the wheel?
JOHN: Somewhat surreal.
WAVIS: And it actually did happen.
JOHN: Why did she put him in a headlock?
WAVIS: I don’t know.
JOHN: You never asked?
WAVIS: I remember once, many many years ago, five of us were crammed in a car to go down to a Debbie Harry exhibition in London for the day. It was a long day. When we came back, one-by-one, everyone was going to sleep and then the driver nodded off.
We’re on the motorway.
I was sitting in the back and thought: I suppose I’d better wake him up.
JOHN: No car crash?
JOHN: Vic & Bob took the surreal Geordie crown on UK TV. But you were about eight or so years before them.
WAVIS: If you want to be a household name, you have to have people remember your name and identify your face. That is fame. I sabotaged both by changing my names when they were successful and masking myself in different disguises. I didn’t want to be a ‘household name’.
I actually gatecrashed the music business and television, but I didn’t want to remain in there.
I enjoyed being on the radio. I enjoyed being on the television.
But then I’d scarper.
JOHN: Why didn’t you want to be a household name?
WAVIS: Because then people want to be your manager, bleed you dry, tell you what you can do, tell you what you can’t do and stuff like that. I just wanted to be a cult cult cult. But it was always difficult to suppress commercial interests. Each time, it would snowball; it would get bigger and bigger; and I would think: I’ve got to retreat, because I don’t want to be a household name.
In 1983, Channel 4 offered me a six-part 30-minute series for my character ‘The Hard’, on the strength of my appearances on The Tube.
But I didn’t want to know, because I could have become a ‘household name’. I much prefer radio, where they don’t see you. I didn’t want to be part of ‘Celebrity’. I never set out to be a celebrity. I just shared what I could do and had a laugh with it.
People would say, “You’ve MADE IT in the record business… You’ve MADE IT in television.” They themselves would kill to be in those situations, but I didn’t want to be in either. I wanted to continue doing my sketches and songs and share them… appear for a time… then disappear.
JOHN: Under yet another of your many names – Dan Green – you were an author and researcher on the Wollaton Gnomes – In 1979, a group of children claimed to have seen about 30 small cars each with a gnome driver and passenger wearing yellow tights, blue tops and bobble hats. You researched what happened.
WAVIS: People want to put you in a shoebox. In the case of Wavis, it’s as an off-the-wall performer. But, if you say: “Oh, but I’m also a very serious writer and researcher and have had books published,” they’re kind disappointed. They always prefer the comedy. People would much prefer that I’m just this Wavis character they have seen more of.
But in my own private life – some of it possibly coming from the Tibetan mysticism – as Dan Green – I’ve written about world mysteries and tried my hand at being a bit of a British Poirot.
I – well, Dan Green – did a very controversial American DVD in 2011. I did a tour of American radio stations – I didn’t go there physically. I’ve appeared on Sky TV as Dan Green. There’s millions of Dan Greens, which is helpful for me as I just hide in among them.
Dan Green had a massive website, but I took it down last April. I was Dan Green from about 2005. I faded Dan Green out and retired him last April. He was too time-consuming.
Now I’m retiring Wavis. This chat is his last appearance.
JOHN: So what’s next?
WAVIS: What’s left of me?… I don’t know.
(AT THE MOMENT, THERE ARE CLASSIC CLIPS OF WAVIS ON YOUTUBE ON ‘THE TUBE’ )