Occasionally, The Iceman turns up in my blog.
As my avid reader in Guatemala will know only too well, The Iceman’s stage act involves attempting to melt a large block of ice using increasingly desperate methods.
I first met him in 1987 when I auditioned him for Channel 4 TV’s The Last Resort With Jonathan Ross.
I would have booked him.
The powers that be did not agree.
Now, with Robert Wringham, he has a new book out called Melt It! The Book of The Iceman.
It is illustrated, according to publishers Go Faster Stripe, “in thrilling Instamatic colour”.
I met The Iceman for a chat on London’s South Bank and co-author Robert Wringham (see my May 2022 blogs) joined in from Scotland via FaceTime.
THE ICEMAN: Last year, John, you mentioned my book Thespian Follies in a blog and, about five minutes before I met you today, I got an email from the drama people, saying: “You have been selected to receive an award regarding your publication Thespian Follies and we have an item to post to you.” Isn’t that lovely? It’s a New Author award.
JOHN: And now there’s your new book Melt It! You’re on a roll…
THE ICEMAN: The exciting thing is there’s a lot of fine art in this book.
JOHN: So how did this book Melt It! come about, Robert? You wanted to be put in touch with the Iceman and I gave you his contact details.
THE ICEMAN: I was at the top of the Himalayas, I think.
ROBERT: The thing I knew about the Iceman was that he took a photo of each block and recorded it in a ledger. I thought: Ah! Maybe that would be a nice photo book! and he was amenable to that but he only had 56 Polaroids.
JOHN: How many ice blocks had you melted over the years?
THE ICEMAN: That’s a good question. I used to be meticulous, but… Somewhere between 800,000 and 5 I guess.
JOHN: So basically you’ve done a 184 page book with 56 photographs of different blocks of ice.
THE ICEMAN: There’s a lot of text as well…
ROBERT: I had not known that, as well as taking Polaroids, he was painting pictures of the blocks. I wanted to interview him to get some answers, at last, about his motivations, because there are people that want to know. And I wanted to know. We spent a day together at Battersea Arts Centre and we ended up with a 15,000 word interview with no waffle.
So I approached some publishers and they all told me to get fucked. But then Chris from Go Faster Stripe saved the day. He’s got the right audience for it. Thousands of people with an interest in niche or fringe comedy and a lot of them know of The Iceman and want answers too.
THE ICEMAN: Rob was very good at glueing it all – freezing it all – together. He is hard-working; he’s a grafter; he works fast.
ROBERT: I’m always worried that I’m going to lose interest or that other people will lose interest.
THE ICEMAN: Rob is resuscitating The Iceman and I’m game for anything. After my retreat in the Himalayas, it’s time to be back. I like working with Rob.
JOHN: You can see royalties on the horizon?
THE ICEMAN: Money is not my main priority.
ROBERT: We may do a book launch in London.
JOHN: Simon Munnery wrote the Foreword to the book and Stewart Lee wrote the Afterword. They are both big fans. Stewart put you on at the Royal Festival Hall.
THE ICEMAN: Yes, and Simon wrote quite an incisive Foreword – He concentrated on an ice block in Sydenham at the Greyhound pub. I think it was Block 126. He said it was “beautiful art”. I was quite touched by that.
ROBERT: Neil Mullarkey described your set with the repetitive music – the one I saw for The Last Resort With Jonathan Ross – as…
THE ICEMAN: …a riposte to showbusiness…
ROBERT: When Neil saw that act, he said the only people in the room laughing were him, Mike Myers and Ian Macpherson.
THE ICEMAN: …and Ian Cognito.
JOHN: I wonder whatever happened to Mike Myers.
THE ICEMAN: He died didn’t he… on stage… like all the greats.
JOHN: Mike Myers?
THE ICEMAN: Ian Cognito. He used to bang a nail into the wall at the start of his shows. The audience was scared from the word Go.
JOHN: He was certainly tempestuous. You don’t bang nails into walls, but you have turned from performance art to fine art painting of late…
THE ICEMAN: I’ve actually got a formal exhibition at the Guggleton Farm Arts – ‘The Gugg’ – in Dorset. It’s on 7th July to 5th August this year (2023). Four weeks of solid ice work. It’s a farm. I’m in the pigsty.
THE ICEMAN: (LAUGHS) Well, it’s an art community farm now. It’s owned by the Countess Isabel de Pelet. I’m going to have ‘security’ there.
JOHN: What? To try and keep you out? They have specifically talked to you about security? Why?
THE ICEMAN: I used to live on a houseboat on the Grand Union Canal.
JOHN: That’s not an answer.
THE ICEMAN: It was called the Tivoli… It sank… It was a converted lifeboat… I can ask the Countess if she will stock my book. That’s why I need security.
JOHN: It’s a farm; they’re used to having stock. She’s turned the farm into a gallery?
THE ICEMAN: It’s been going 25 years, but not many people know about it.
JOHN: They approached you?
THE ICEMAN: I approached them. A friend had an exhibition there. I thought: Ooh! They could exhibit MY art! And they said Yes… You know I worked in a circus? I know all about animals.
ROBERT: …and in a chicken factory.
JOHN: You worked in a chicken factory?
THE ICEMAN: You need to read the book.
JOHN: Long ago I met someone who used to ‘sex’ chickens. It’s very difficult with animals that small to…
THE ICEMAN: …to see?
JOHN: Yes. To see the relevant bits. And it matters because of breeding. It matters if they’re male or female. So he made lots of money travelling the world checking the sex of chickens at speed. If your book doesn’t sell and the ice work dries up, you could look into becoming a chicken sexer.
THE ICEMAN: It sounds a bit intrusive to the chickens’ privacy.
(THOUGHTFUL PAUSE BY JOHN AND THE ICEMAN)
ROBERT: Look! The book is full of The Iceman’s beautiful art.
THE ICEMAN: I’m glad you got the better quality paper.
ROBERT: Yes. This is the book I’m proudest of. It’s so… so pure…
THE ICEMAN: Pure… Pure…
ROBERT: There’s not a single regret in it.
THE ICEMAN: Pure… Pure…
ROBERT: When I look at my other books, there’s always some weird phrasing or something I wish I’d done differently. This is just a perfect book.
THE ICEMAN: What more can we say to ‘sell’ the book? I want to be a businessman like Andy Warhol said.
JOHN: He did?
THE ICEMAN: He said “Good business is the best type of art”.
ROBERT: I don’t like that quote.
JOHN: No. Surely art is the best type of business?
ROBERT: Ice is the best type of art.
JOHN: What’s your next project, Robert? How can you follow The Iceman?
THE ICEMAN: By turning the book into a hardback.
ROBERT: Yes. An Iceman hardback. Also, I’ve written a novel.
THE ICEMAN: Is that The Man in The Bath?
ROBERT: Yes. Well, it’s actually called Rub-a-Dub-Dub, but it’s all about a man in a bath. (MORE ABOUT THAT IN A PREVIOUS BLOG.)
THE ICEMAN: I love my rubber duck. (MORE ABOUT THE DUCK IN A PREVIOUS BLOG.)
ROBERT: There was going to be a rubber duck on the cover of Rub-a-Dub-Dub, but I’m not sure now.
THE ICEMAN: What about your James Thurber thing? You were going to go to the States.
ROBERT: That’s a long way away…
JOHN: …about 3,000 miles.
THE ICEMAN: He’s very keen on James Thurber.
ROBERT: Things like that generally. I like short humour.
JOHN: Charlie Drake?
(A LONG, LONG PAUSE, THEN…)
THE ICEMAN: Poor… Poor…
JOHN: I did Latin at school. Now I’m reduced to this…
(THE ICEMAN’S WEBSITE IS HERE…)
(…AND THERE IS A BOOK TRAILER ON YOUTUBE… )