Tag Archives: newspaper

The Rolf Harris sex ‘arrest’ – Why was he NOT named and why did the police bring Jimmy Savile’s name into it?

Yesterday’s front page Sun exclusive

Yesterday’s front page Sun ‘exclusive’

Yesterday, the Sun newspaper ran what it called a World Exclusive under the headline.

ROLF HARRIS SEX ABUSE ARREST

To most people, the word ‘arrest’ means that someone was detained, was charged and will appear in court in the very near future.

But the police now seem to be using the word ‘arrest’ in a very non-colloquial way. What they seem to mean by ‘arrest’ in any high-profile case – especially anything within an intercontinental ballistic missile’s reach of the headline-grabbing Jimmy Savile paedophile story – is that they have simply questioned someone under caution in a trawl for evidence.

Having a headline saying ‘arrest’ makes it seem that the police are actually doing something. They are indeed doing something, but there is an element of PR-led bullshit rapidly creeping in here.

Yesterday’s Sun story:

WORLD EXCLUSIVE
ROLF HARRIS SEX ABUSE ARREST
TV LEGEND, 83, QUIZZED OVER ASSAULT CLAIM

was more complicated than it seemed.

The Daily Express front page this morning

The Daily Express front page today

The story was actually that the UK TV star Rolf Harris “was held” (note the Sun’s use of the past tense) “over historic sex abuse allegations by police from the inquiry set up following the Jimmy Savile scandal”

There is obfuscation here, again caused by the police’s PR-led attempts to show they are actively doing something.

In fact, the Sun story ‘revealed’ that police had raided Rolf Harris’ home on 24th November last year (he was not there), interviewed him under caution on 29th November last year and arrested him on 28th March this year.

As far as I am aware, this ‘arrest’ means he was questioned under caution, not that he was actually charged with anything nor with any court date pending.

The police were quoted in yesterday’s Sun as saying: “The individual falls under the strand of the investigation we have termed ‘others’.”

The police started off investigating the Jimmy Savile paedophile case and people connected to that. Then, quite rightly, they started investigating totally unconnected claims of (particularly media-connected) non-paedophile sexual incidents brought to their attention.

These cases are labelled by them as ‘others’. But, by saying that ‘the Savile enquiry police’ are investigating these ‘others’, the police PR machine implies the cases are connected directly to the paedophile investigation and this (presumably intentionally) gets the police ‘brownie points’ in the public’s eye.

What interested me, though, was that the Rolf Harris arrest story was not new.

As the Sun reported yesterday in their Rolf Harris ‘exclusive’, “Harris has been named on social media sites by hundreds of thousands of people” and “the world’s media have been camped outside his home since he was first questioned”.

Their story concluded with the line: “Other celebrities arrested include Freddie Starr, Jim Davidson, Dave Lee Travis, PR guru Max Clifford — who all deny wrongdoing — and Gary Glitter.”

The difference, though, is that when those people were questioned – or “arrrsted” as the police phrased it – they were named in newspapers.

The original detention by police of Rolf Harris WAS reported when it happened, but the reports did not name him. Variations of the phrase “prominent children’s entertainer” were used. Why?

On my Facebook page yesterday, referring to the Rolf Harris arrest report in the Sun, I posted:

The only surprise is… Why was this not reported last November?

This resulted in an online conversation between one of my Facebook Friends and writer Harry Rogers.

I reprint it here in full with their permission:

Rolf Harris, much-loved children’s entertainer

Rolf Harris, iconic children’s entertainer

Facebook Friend: It’s wrong to name. The man has not even been charged, let alone found guilty.

John Fleming: Everyone else was named. In this case, variations on the phrase “prominent children’s TV presenter” were used.

Facebook Friend: John, again it’s not impossible someone wishes to cash in on his fame, to set up so to speak.

John Fleming: In this specific case, it’s relevant that I worked in television for several companies… But my point is why were others named but not him?

Facebook Friend: So are you saying name and shame without even being charged? That surely is not reasonable!

John Fleming: I tend to agree. But I am saying either name or do not name. Why were the others named and not Rolf?

Harry Rogers’ current Facebook profile picture

Harry Rogers’ current Facebook profile picture

Harry Rogers: Probably ‘cos he had had such close access to the Royals

Facebook Friend: John, I hear what you are saying, but I don’t feel anyone should be named unless found guilty

John Fleming: Again, I tend to agree with you. But why was Rolf, almost uniquely, not named?… I actually agree with you. There should be anonymity. But, if there is not, then everyone should be reported equally.

Harry Rogers: The BBC reported there were legal restrictions until today and now those restrictions have been eased, otherwise he would have been outed before today

John Fleming: It would be interesting to know what the restrictions were. A super-injunction?

Facebook Friend: The same stigma for men accused of rape. Woman not named, but sometimes they make up stories. The law needs addressing. It’s outdated.

Harry Rogers: Wait and see

Facebook Friend: The sad thing about all of this now is that a man in his eighties will now be remembered for sex charges, as opposed to decades of being a wholesome hugely talented entertaining individual.

Harry Rogers: And if he is guilty? Then what….

Facebook Friend: Well, if guilty very sad because he will be judged as a person for that and not for his wonderful contribution as artist, entertainer and indeed as a well known animal lover.

Harry Rogers: As such a person that you describe he should have known better, if guilty. It is an abuse of privilege that allows many celebrities to believe that somehow they are different to everybody else, but the reality is that they are the same as the plumber or the school caretaker and should be treated accordingly.

Facebook Friend: Harry, this is subject for debate. An error of judgement perhaps 40 or 50 years ago, although not condoning, surely is not revealing of a person’s real character necessarily.

Harry Rogers: Tell that to the Nazis still hiding even now after the holocaust and those who spend their lives hunting them down. If sex offenders had not given way to their proclivities there would be no story here. Sexual abuse and violence are things which harm people for years. As a teenage boy I was raped by a minor pop star and said nothing for years because I felt ashamed, however it did cause me a lot of grief. You think Rolf deserves to be let off for a minor indiscretion, if he did it. If he did do it then he abused a position of trust and power and deserves to face the music. Sun arise early in the morning.

Facebook Friend: I hear what you are saying Harry. Let’s say his crime was just wanking a boy off 40 years ago. Would that be reasonable to pursue charges now? I am not so sure. If it was rape of a child that of course is another matter… My main concern is the naming and shaming before a verdict! Undemocratic

Harry Rogers: I hardly think the police would be wasting so much time and effort if that was the case, but, in terms of naming and shaming, Rolf Harris can easily come forward and defend himself. There isn’t a TV or media outlet that wouldn’t give him a platform to tell his story… And, anyway, child wanking is still an abuse of power

Facebook Friend: Harry, this is the problem. Police keep on wasting time and public money.

Harry Rogers: The pursuit of child sex offenders is not a waste of public money… As a tax payer this is one police activity I am in favour of

Facebook Friend: Harry you are right. My main concern is the naming and shaming before a verdict

Harry Rogers: As I say if he is innocent then let him stand up and deny it and if that is proved to be true then let him sue the accusers for bundles.

John Fleming: I would be surprised (guessing from what I know) if there is any accusation of child sex abuse in the Rolf Harris case. I would be very surprised if it involved boys or under-age girls. The police say it is not directly related to the Savile case; it comes under their ‘others’ category.

Facebook Friend: The accusers probably don’t have millions. It might be the Michael Jackson case that made people think they might cash in

Harry Rogers: Speculation is dangerous

Facebook Friend: So what should I do Rolf Harris is my Facebook friend?

Harry Rogers: Justice is important. The BBC is putting its neck on the line by running the story again so soon after the Savile debacle… As for Facebook, it’s probably best if we all wait and see. I have no idea what the accusations are, neither do I know whether he is guilty of anything, I am prepared to wait and see what happens, however I am interested in the fact that he has been arrested and will watch this case with the view of an abuse victim to see how it pans out. The fact that we know his name is meaningless. It is the evidence that counts. And we are all adults so we are able to make up our minds about it provided it is all out in the open.

Facebook Friend: My problem with this is a man now in his eighties cannot walk the streets in fear of attack etc. This has to be wrong!

Harry Rogers: Rubbish

Facebook Friend: I don’t think so

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Paedophile DJ Jimmy Savile – What I ‘knew’ but never reported years ago

(This piece was also published by the Huffington Post and by India’s We Speak News)

Today’s new front page ‘revelations’

The BBC is getting blamed for doing nothing about Jimmy Savile, although it seems, over the years, five police forces actually investigated stories about him in some way and did nothing.

I worked in British television from 1973 onwards, though only twice on BBC programmes; the rest of the time, I worked for ITV and independent companies. Still, I heard rumours about Jimmy Savile.

The rumours were mostly that he was gay. After all, he was a single, unmarried man who wore bright clothes and had a possibly unhealthily close relationship with his mother.

Now it seems he was not gay.

Oddly, I heard about his dodgy interest in young girls from people outside television and before I ever worked on TV programmes.

In 1970, a girlfriend mentioned to me that, when she had been growing up in Yorkshire and was aged around 14, she went to a live show – I think it was a disco type show – which Jimmy Savile presented. Afterwards, he got talking to her and arranged to meet her later that night.

She did not keep the appointment, because she felt uncomfortable about it and about him.

As anyone who knows me well will tell you, I have a terrible memory, so treat the next memory with sympathy.

At vaguely around the same time I vaguely remember being told another story about Jimmy Savile.

He knew a family with a young daughter. The parents were going away for the night and they asked him to look after their teenage, under-age, daughter. He did not ask then, they asked him and almost insisted. It was almost an honour for them. He had sex with her. They never knew.

So those are my two stories – three if you include the persistent rumours he was gay.

The two stories involving girls now sound as if they were true. The ‘gay’ rumours now sound like they might be untrue. I never particularly repeated the stories to anyone else because they were just that – stories, gossip, rumour. You hear a lot of gossip about a lot of people.

When I worked at London Weekend Television and at Granada TV, I peripherally encountered a major ‘family entertainment’ star (mostly associated with BBC programmes). I was told by people at both ITV stations that he was a well-know ‘groper’ of women. It was widely-known.

But it might not be true.

A friend told me about an Anglia TV executive who chased her lecherously round the board room table, grabbing at her. She was also grabbed-at by a prominent Labour Party politician on another occasion. I know those stories to be true because they were told to me first hand by one of the two people involved.

In that sense, they are stories but not rumours.

At the weekend, someone was telling me that a particular macho British actor and international movie star is gay. I took it to be true because the person who told me knows her gossip. But it is just gossip, just rumour.

Scallywag ‘knew’ it was true – but it was not…

Everybody with an ear to the gossip ‘knew’ a few years ago that Prime Minister John Major was having an affair with caterer Clare Latimer.

Except he was not.

The whole of Fleet Street ‘knew’. It was widely hinted at. Media folk ‘knew’ all about the affair. I ‘knew’. Scallywag magazine – which printed stories even Private Eye would not touch – published pieces about it.

In 1992, the band Soho even included a track called Claire’s Kitchen on their album Thug. The lyrics referred to the affair without naming John Major.

It was only in 1993, when the New Statesmen printed the story, that John Major and Clare Latimer sued both the New Statesman and Scallywag.

Much later, in 2002, it turned out he had not been having an affair with caterer Clare Latimer at all, but with fellow Tory MP Edwina Currie – and it only came out then because she mentioned it in her autobiography.

Yet the gossip about the Claire’s Kitchen affair had been as strong and ‘known to be as true’ as the current long-running gossip about two US actor Scientologists being gay.

But they might not be.

It is just a rumour.

And let us not even mention the stories about a recent Prime Minister being gay or another one having a foreign affair.

As it ‘appens, the rumours about Jimmy Savile were true but they were unprintable because they would not ‘stand up’ in a court or even in a newspaper article, let alone in any BBC investigation. There are all sorts of rumours about all sorts of people. If you are famous, it comes with the territory.

So it is a bit rich when national newspapers blame the BBC for not ‘outing’ Jimmy Savile as a paedophile in the decades when those same newspapers were running ‘Our Kindly Saint Jimmy’ stories but also knew the widespread rumours. Why did they not publish the stories if they ‘knew’ they were true?

The answer is because they did not know beyond gossip. Nor did the BBC.

Now we do.

Mostly.

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The sex abuse stories swirling around dead Jimmy Savile spin out of control

Liberal Democrats rate my blog above normal education

My blog three days ago about the Have I Got News For You Jimmy Savile transcript faked by SOTCAA continues to get a large number of hits. This can only be helped by the fact that, this morning, it is oddly recommended by the Liberal Democrat Voice website as one of its 8 Must-Read Articles for Liberal Democrat Party members and supporters.

It comes in as No 2 in a list of Must-Read Articles, above Free Schools: The Research Lab of State Education, Debunking the Myths Around School Choice and David Cameron’s Inflexible, Thatcherite Party is Being Exploited by Ed Miliband. I will be fascinated to read what is in the Liberal Democrats’ next election manifesto.

I am very grateful for the recommendation, though confused at the political importance or implications of my finely-compiled piece or, indeed, any political significance in Jimmy Savile.

The Daily Mail today seems to disagree.

I am a great admirer of the Daily Mail’s professionalism – something that has brought me a lot of criticism, not all of it constructive…

Should you believe a headline with ?

But, this morning, the Daily Mail is using Jimmy Savile as part of its ongoing BBC-bashing campaign in an astonishingly slapdash and sloppy down-market piece headlined: WAS THERE A SEX RING INSIDE THE BBC? – Jimmy Savile’s colleague ‘procured girls for him’.

It reads like something out of the Sunday Sport.

When I was a student, my main lecturer in Journalism was the Production Editor of the now-closed-amid-shame News of the World. He pointed out to us that, when a question mark was used in a newspaper headline, it often meant that the newspaper itself did not believe the story, but it was just too good a story not to run.

Two scumbags connected by a dodgy caption in the Daily Mail

Today’s Daily Mail article claims an un-named BBC person (who denies it) introduced girls to Jimmy Savile for sex and had sex with them himself. There is also a photo of disgraced Gary Glitter with a caption saying Rocker Gary Glitter has already been implicated in the alleged sex ring. But there is no mention anywhere in the article itself of Gary Glitter.

Now, there may well have been a ‘sex ring’ inside the BBC in the 1960s, 1970s and 1980s, but I severely doubt it. Rampant randiness abounded and I’m sure still does. But an organised sex ring? Unlikely.

The Daily Mail article starts “The Mail has been told that a BBC employee was allegedly given the task of procuring girls for the presenter and other men to molest…”. But there is no mention of any “other men” in the article. It is journalistic ‘bigging-up’ of a slender story.

The article talks of “a former beauty queen” who claims she had sex with Savile because “I just thought this might make me famous” and, a week later, was raped by his ‘accomplice’. The Mail says this beauty queen is “named only as Sandra” but then publishes a full-length photograph of her. The “named only as Sandra” reference is intended to sound mysterious and protective of a victim’s privacy but is bollocks when they print a clear, identifiable picture of her.

I have no reason to suppose her rape did not happen and take place in a BBC office and it is appalling, but the Daily Mail does not help its/her case by quoting her as saying: “There must have been people around because I could hear radio shows going on”.

She could hear more than one radio show being transmitted from some nearby soundproof studios?? That seems unlikely to me, bordering on the surreal. But it is a detail some hack journalist might add in to make the story more vivid.

In today’s newspaper, a second woman who worked as a “waitress at a drinking club in Marylebone” tells the Mail about Jimmy Savile “trying to have sex” with her. The Mail then says it put the “rape allegation” to Savile’s alleged accomplice.

This “rape allegation” can only refer to the beauty queen rape but, by putting the reference immediately after the waitress’ story, the Mail article by implication subtly heightens her groping/sexual assault (which is bad enough) into a full rape.

The ‘accomplice’ told the Mail “he could not remember a drinking club in Marylebone” and the Mail does not name it. No reason why it could not if it existed. This is sloppy reporting.

The Mail says the BBC is now conducting “a forensic examination of documents relating to BBC programmes going back for more than 40 years”. I really doubt that what the Mail says is true.

We could have a long debate about the word’s Latin origin, but ‘forensic’ in everyday speech means “the application of scientific methods and techniques to the investigation of crime”. I really doubt that the BBC is employing forensic scientific techniques to examine the physical composition of the documents themselves.

It is sloppy journalism and sloppy witch-hunting.

It simply muddies the clear waters around the vileness of Jimmy Savile. The clue was in the name – Jimmy sa vile.

Meanwhile, the So It Goes blog’s Canadian correspondent Anna Smith tells me: “I don’t know if anyone in Vancouver has heard of Jimmy Saville.”

Maybe they have other things on their minds.

She tells me her neighbours include “a mysterious sailor from Manchester who lost his ability to speak… a pair of evangelist Vikings who distilled moonshine from mango peelings… an Australian plumber who has spent time in jail in Afghanistan… and there is the story of a luxury yacht stolen by a renegade tuna fisherman and his wife… that story also involves a midget and his mother….”

Life goes on. The world spins, not yet totally out of control.

Just a little odd.

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An extravaganza of comic political ego unleashed at the Edinburgh Fringe

Scots comedian Des McLean is Tommy Sheridan

I am at the Edinburgh Fringe to see comedy shows, so what better this afternoon than a 90-minute play about a disgraced Socialist leader?

Especially as that leader is the OTT, almost cartoon-like, Scottish politician Tommy Sheridan and the play – I, Tommy – is written by Rab C.Nesbitt creator Ian Pattison.

It is a rollercoaster of a story and this is a humdinger of a production.

Just to re-cap, Tommy Sheridan of the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) was accused by the News of the World of going to a swingers’ sex club in Manchester. Tommy sued for defamation, the newspaper paid damages, but then Strathclyde Police investigated, prosecuted Tommy for perjury at the original trial and Tommy was imprisoned. He has now, enterprisingly, in the last few weeks, tried to reclaim the moral high ground by painting himself as a lone hero facing the disgraced, Murdoch-owned, phone-hacking behemoth of News International.

So he’s an anti-hero? Is that why Ian Pattison chose to write the play and negotiate what was a potential legal minefield?

Ian Pattison at Edinburgh Fringe this week

“It’s the character,” Ian told me when I asked him this week. “And the story. It’s the story of a small political party that appeared to be on the brink of if not great things then considerable things. They had six MSPs in Holyrood (the Scottish Parliament) and looked set to build, but then they imploded when Tommy decided to take on the News of the World over these sex allegations.

“A wiser course may have been just to admit it, if he did it, – but, of course, he insists he didn’t – and take a year in the sin bin. That’s the traditional method of dealing with those kind of things if there is truth in them. But Tommy decided he was going to clear his name and took them on. And that was the point of no return. Once you go down that path, well, nobody can quite tell how things will unfold. But certainly from the SSP’s point of view, it was the beginning of the end for them. So it was that kind of trajectory which interested me.”

The play is fast, lively and funny – the story of a Scots ‘Tam O’ Ranter’… Ian has captured the rabble-rousing rhetoric, the sometimes meaningless sloganising and soundbites of a populist politician in full flow.

It’s a barn-storming performance by Scots comedian Des Maclean, gifted with a brilliantly written script. It is also a play of surprising depth about a charismatic real-life character in a story filled with almost child-like optimism and lechery.

“It was such a big story,” Ian Pattison told me, “and Tommy was such a popular guy. He managed to get his side of events all over the press, whereas his party co-workers – the other SSP people – were not as charismatic as a group and made a political decision that, if they couldn’t support Tommy, then they wouldn’t oppose him, which left a media vacuum which Tommy was able to fill with his own version of events.”

I, Tommy + SSP – Sex, Socialism, Perjury

There is a running motif throughout the play of Tommy’s somewhat eccentric mother singing To Dream The Impossible Dream, which pretty much sums up a story so OTT it would be ridiculously unbelievable if it were not true.

I mean, for heaven’s sake, Tommy went into the Celebrity Big Brother house with rap singer Coolio and Mini-Me from the Austin Powers films! You could not make it up.

The play is introduced as “an afternoon of broken dreams, backstabbing and treachery” and you could also add an awful lot of laughter.

Ian Pattison has only met Tommy Sheridan once – shortly before the play emerged.

“Well,” Ian told me, “I suppose you would want to get an idea of what it might be going to be like.”

“What was Tommy like?” I asked.

“Very polite,” replied Ian.

So far, Tommy Sheridan has not sued.

He is too canny for that.

Ian Pattison has cleverly avoided the potential legal pitfalls and Tommy Sheridan has emerged as a morally ambiguous anti-hero in Ian Pattison’s first Fringe production.

Why is it Ian’s first Fringe outing?

“At this stage of the game,” he told me, “I just wanted to see what else I would like to do and, never having done the Fringe, this seemed like a good opportunity. Probably not a sensible move for a man of my advanced years, but I seem to be still here and vertical, which is always a bonus.”

If this does not become a movie or a TV production, then Tommy Sheridan is not the fascinatingly charismatic (if ultimately failed) politician portrayed in this extravaganza of amoral egotism.

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Edinburgh Fringe news: cookies, gays, Jews & will Guardian newspaper close?

It is not just lines of coke confusing life at Edinburgh Fringe

Being at the Edinburgh Fringe can be a bit like the long-gestating new tram system: no-one knows what’s going on. It is like being in a self-contained bubble. The outside world disappears into mist. All the moreso this year as BBC TV News appears to have given up reporting most news except the Olympics. I have been watching Al Jazeera and, superb as they are, they tend not to report too much UK news trivia.

I completely missed the news that London’s Time Out listings magazine announced last week that it is going to become a free publication.

We live – as the Chinese curse goes – in interesting times.

Someone told me this morning that the Guardian is currently selling so few copies per day of its print edition that Alan Rusbridger, the editor, is no longer committed to the print edition and is inclined to cease publication of the printed paper within a year, relying on the millions who access it online. Even now, there is more Guardian content free to access online than in the pay-to-read print newspaper. So why buy it?

Is this true or is it gossip or is it spin?

It is not happening inside the Fringe bubble in Edinburgh in the next three weeks. So who cares?

Meanwhile, Fringe life continues apace. After I saw Half Past Bitch at the Hive yesterday afternoon, its co-star Daphna Baram told me:

Daphna Baram shares cookies yesterday

“Last night I got on a taxi at 5.00am. The driver immediately asks me if I am a comedian and took an interest in my shows. He was in his 50s and he said he was a Scottish Moroccan. I told him that Mina Znaidi, my partner in Half Past Bitch, is Moroccan. He looked at her photo on the flyer and said She’s a good looking woman. Is she good?

“I embarked in praise of Mina’s comedic mirth but he dismissed it all, saying By ‘Is she good’ I mean does she do as she’s told? I was quite shocked and very drunk but not enough to realise that it would probably not be a good idea to quote back at him Mina’s joke: I was raised to be an obedient girl; I never say no to anal… You don’t want to know his reaction.”

Daphna and Mina’s show has a good selling point for would-be punters. They are given free cookies when they come into the room at The Hive. “Our slogan,” says Daphna, “is Free comedy. Free cookies. Free shelter from the rain. Three for the price of none.”

The downside is that the show is only on until Friday.

Wedding Bells? David Mills and Daphna Baram? No.

I stayed on at the Hive yesterday afternoon to see David Mills’ show David Mills is Smart Casual – Free.

“How do you stay stylish in this weather?” I asked David.

“Stay indoors,” he replied.

“I’m the best-dressed female comic in Edinburgh,” Daphna Baram said as she left. “And David’s the best-dressed male comic.”

“I don’t want to be in this competition,” said David. “This is the Fringe. How can you compete with half-naked teenagers doing an all-male version of The Diary of Anne Frank in a sweaty basement?”

“What was that I saw last year on your chat show with Scott Capurro?” I asked. “I seem to remember semi-naked men.”

David celling his show at The Hive

“It was the all-male version of Sweet Charity,” David reminded me.

“Ah, yes!” I said. “Did you enjoy that?”

“Well, I enjoyed watching (chat show guest) Simon Callow try not to pop a boner.”

“Can I say that in my blog?” I asked. “Has Simon Callow come out?”

“Out, John? He was never in!. What are you? Nuts?”

“Well, I don’t follow the ins and outs of gay life,” I said defensively. “Is your show this year your first solo Fringe show?”

“Yes,” said David, “it’s me on a stool looking great talking for laughs. Is your eternally-un-named friend up in Edinburgh with you?”

“No,” I said. “She doesn’t fancy the crowds and the thought of being with comedians en masse talking about themselves.”

“Well,” said David, “it is like being a therapist because it’s just one clown after another talking about themselves. Me too.”

“I’m sure you enjoy it.”

“Are you kidding? It’s a nightmare. This is a complete nightmare. When I do my show on the continent, it’s mostly non-verbal.”

“Do you?” I said, amazed, “But you’re not a non-verbal comedian. You…”

“I was joking, John,” said David. “It was a joke.”

“I really shouldn’t mix with comedians, should I?” I said. “You’re like Dave Allen; very verbal. Including the chair. I guess you never saw Dave Allen in the US?”

Dave Allen – an influence in the US?

“Yeah,” said David. “They used to show Dave Allen on Public Television when I was growing up in Pennsylvania before we moved to the West Coast and I would sit there literally going Who is this old freak with half a finger, drinking and sitting on a stool? I couldn’t understand most of it because the accent was too thick. But the style of it was so great. It was really compelling.”

“Did he actually inspire you?” I asked. “I want to sit on a stool and do that sort of stuff?

“Well,” said David. “I saw it as a kid and many years passed and I was doing comedy and I did a bit of cabaret, sitting on a stool and then it came back to me and I Googled it and found the name Dave Allen and thought That’s it! That’s the guy! and I started watching and thought That’s it! almost like I had retained it in my mind without remembering his name.”

“I suppose,” I said, “that Dave Allen was really doing a 1930s American cabaret format.”

“Exactly!” said David. “I knew that style already from the US scene, but Dave Allen really crystallised it although American cabaret is very different from British cabaret. British cabaret has that end-of-the-pier and music hall element. American cabaret is literally sat-on-a-stool, singing show tunes, bantering with the audience. I was doing that, getting nowhere and simply cut the piano player.”

David will be singing on my two hour Malcolm Hardee Awards Show on 24th August.

“The song I’m thinking of singing on your show,” David told me, “isn’t really a comedy song.”

“I’ll have to hear it,” I said. “But variation is good. If I put it after or before slapstick it might work.”

David’s show at The Hive was followed by one of Lewis Schaffer’s two daily Fringe shows. I made my excuses and left (look, I know Lewis – and The Scotsman gave him a 4-star review today – he doesn’t need me). On the way out, bumped into my Facebook friend Laura Levites. She told me that she and Lewis both came from Great Neck in New York.

Lewis tells me Great Neck is “an iconic location for rich, flashy, post-poor Jews and a smattering of the failed Jews”.

“It sounds like an interesting blog if I can get you and Laura together,” I said.

“I just want to stand next to her,” said Lewis.

Lewis Schaffer counts one of his plates

Entirely coincidentally, through six degrees of accident, my evening was rounded-off by a meal with Lewis Schaffer (an American living in England), Spring Day (an American living in Japan) and Billy Watson (a Scot living in Turkey). That epitomises the Edinburgh Fringe.

At the end of the meal, we divided the cost and Lewis decided to collect our notes and pay the £50 bill with his small change.

This passes for normal during the Edinburgh Fringe.

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EXCLUSIVE! Top comedy critic Kate Copstick’s announcement about her Edinburgh Fringe reviews this August

Kate Copstick makes acts an offer they can’t sensibly refuse

First, the background.

Kate Copstick, doyenne of Edinburgh Fringe reviewers, has written criticism for The Scotsman newspaper for more years than I dare mention. She was also a judge on last year’s ITV1 series Show Me The Funny and, since 2007, has been one of the judges for the annual Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards which I allegedly organise.

As normal, she will be co-presenting the awards during a 10-minute section of the 2-hour Malcolm Hardee Comedy Award Show, part of the Laughing Horse Free Festival in Edinburgh this August… 100% of all profits (ie what audience members throw in a bucket at the end of the show) will go to Copstick’s Mama Biashara charity. There will be no deductions.

There are now three annual Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards:

– The Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality

– The Malcolm Hardee Cunning Stunt Award for best stunt publicising a Fringe show

– The Malcolm Hardee ‘Act Most Likely to Make a Million Quid’ Award

As I mentioned in a recent blog, the most problematic of these has usually been the Cunning Stunt Award.

Most years, there has initially seemed to be a dearth of contenders though, most years, an obvious contender has emerged. However, this is not “most years”.

As Copstick says: “This year is something of a bumper one for Cunning Stunts already – Stu Goldsmith and Caimh McDonnell to name but two.”

Stuart Goldsmith, whose show Prick was ridiculously censored as Pr!ick in the Edinburgh Fringe Programme, reacted by shooting a YouTube video in which he says he will donate £1,000 of his own money to the Waverley Care HIV charity, but will deduct £100 from this every time a critic uses a pun on the word “prick” in their review.

“What’s most important to you?” Stuart asked the critics:  “Looking a little bit clever? Or saving a life?”

Comic Caimh McDonnell took the opposite approach. He said he would pay £100 for every review published by 20th August, offering to spend up to £3,000 “rather than blow it on a costly publicity campaign”.

The point is that PR men and women can cost an arm and a leg. And the Edinburgh Fringe is being taken over by the Big Names with big money behind them.

Now Kate Copstick tells me: “Far be it from me to stop comics coming up with hilarious and ingenious ideas for publicity (just put them in your show, chaps – many shows could do with a bit more hilarity and ingenuity) but I have just got the go-ahead from The Scotsman to tell you that I am:

1. not reviewing anything in a venue of over 500 seats as I do not consider them real Fringe venues and

2. I will be reviewing as many non PR’d shows as I physically can this August.

“To this end,” Copstick says, “if any performer has a show with no PR at all and fears they might get overlooked, my personal email address is copstick@bobbysgirl.co.uk – feel free to send me the pitch for your show. But be aware I am not a very generous person and star ratings can go down as well as up.”

Copstick is the most influential comedy critic at the Edinburgh Fringe.

As the Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards has no paid-for PR, I should point out again – the two-hour long Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards Show hosted by Miss Behave – with awards presented by Kate Copstick and acts including Charlie Chuck and The Greatest Show on Legs (performing the naked balloon dance) – is at The Counting House on Friday 24th August, 2300-0100.

Copstick will not be reviewing it because she’s in it. If you are in Edinburgh, you should come along and see her on the show. It’s free.

If you are a good act without PR people, you should contact her. That, too, is free.

Little else at the increasingly-commercialised Edinburgh Fringe is…

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Duck! The dangers of Chinese subtitles, kidnap and Rupert Murdoch’s flying bus

Yesterday, I went to see a movie The Beginning of the Great Revival (aka The Founding of a Party), which was screening in London as part of the China Image Film Festival. It seemed to be very good film. A sumptuously made movie. Of course, if you work for the state film company, have a virtually limitless budget and you are making a movie about the founding of the Chinese Communist Party, this could help. But I thought I espied a director who had been influenced by Sergio Leone’s historical epics.

I say The Beginning of the Great Revival “seemed” to be a very good film because, alas, despite opening and closing titles with English translations, the actual two-hour long historical epic turned out to be in Chinese with Chinese subtitles.

This reminded me of the time I sat through Sholay at the National Film Theatre when they had accidentally rented a print of the epic Indian language movie with French sub-titles.

I speak neither French nor Hindi but you cannot fail to enjoy an all-stops-pulled-out Bollywood film where (as always) people randomly burst into song and the hero has both his arms cut off yet continues to fight in true action man style. (Both Sholay and Monty Python and the Holy Grail were released in 1975 so I doubt if either ripped off the idea of an armless hero; it must have been the spirit of the times.)

I also do not speak Mandarin nor read Chinese script and my knowledge of Chinese history 1910-1921 is a tad hazy, but The Beginning of the Great Revival was never less than interesting. You can see why in the (subtitled) trailer on YouTube:

I was brought back to some form of reality when I came out of the cinema and read Rupert Murdoch’s iPad-only newspaper The Daily. The front page story was:

DUCK! – Anyone’s guess where 13,000-pound satellite will hit

sub-headed as:

READY TO TUMBLE! Satellite hurtles toward Earth – and scientists can’t say when or where it will hit

This was a story I had never heard of before – and I had seen the lunchtime news on BBC TV yesterday.

“NASA scientists,” The Daily said, “are shrugging their shoulders with little or no idea when – or where – a satellite the size of a bus will fall to Earth. The latest projections last night were that the defunct NASA satellite would tumble to Earth from space sometime this afternoon, but because the satellite is free-falling, the space agency and the U.S. Air Force cannot make a precise prediction about when and where it will hit.”

According to the article, NASA claimed the chances of someone being hit by a piece of falling debris was 1 in 3,200 and the debris would fall along a 500-mile path.

Those odds of 1 in 3,200 seemed surprisingly low to me.

“The only confirmed case of a person being hit by space junk,” The Daily told me, “was in 1997 when Lottie Williams of Tulsa, Oklahoma, was grazed on the shoulder by a small piece of a Delta rocket.”

NASA has apparently warned people against touching any part of the satellite they might find lying around on the ground.

“While it contains no hazardous chemicals,” The Daily reported, “the space agency said people could potentially be hurt by sharp edges.”

Apparently what NASA calls “medium-sized junk” falls back to earth about once a week. Debris the size of a bus falls about once a year. When bits of the Skylab space station (the size of a house) fell onto parts of Western Australia in July 1979, local authorities fined NASA $400 for littering.

I thought I should perhaps check if anything the size of a bus had fallen on London while I was in the cinema watching the glorious founding of the Chinese Communist Party in The Beginning of the Great Revival so I got a London Evening Standard (which is now owned, like the Independent newspaper, by an ex-KGB man).

Its front page news was a story about a boy who had been encouraged to read by the Duchess of Cornwall. I could not find any story anywhere about anyone being killed by a bus from outer space falling on their head so, when I got home, I checked the BBC News channel (no unusual deaths; no mention of death from above) and then checked my e-mails to find one from mad inventor John Ward – designer and fabricator of the highly-prestigious Malcolm Hardee Awards for comedy.

He told me he had been booked by the University of Lincoln to appear on 12th October at something entitled An Eccentric Symposium – Tomato Tomäto.

Among other billed events and speakers at this academic symposium are ‘Project Pigeon’ (“an art and education project that works with pigeons as a vehicle to bring people together”), the World Egg Throwing Championships and a talk on Gender, Exercise and Art by Anthony Schrag, an artist now living in Scotland whose work, according to the University of Lincoln, “focuses on blowing things up, climbing on things and occasionally kidnapping people”.

I could take no more.

I went to bed.

When I woke up this morning, the BBC News channel was reporting that the NASA spacecraft could not be found, but it had passed over the UK twice during the night and was now “the size of a refrigerator”.

They also reported Prime Minister David Cameron’s warning to the world that we live in dangerous economic times.

Fuck the economy. Where is the fridge?

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Filed under China, Eccentrics, Movies, Newspapers, Science