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My gay day in Soho yesterday and, later, seeing women’s armpit hair in Stockwell

Me and my new friend in Soho yesterday

Me and my new boy friend in Soho yesterday

So, I was at a gay bar in London’s Soho yesterday afternoon, talking to this young ‘boy’ with stubble on his chin. I did not ask his name and we went into an alleyway beside the Vue cinemas in Leicester Square where he asked me: “Do you want me to take my penis out?” then stuck his hand into his trousers and started rummaging around.

But more about that later.

I was in another bar a couple of weeks ago – the Soho Theatre bar – and Zuma Puma aka Nelly Scott told me:

“I was in this film and one of my teeshirts was a little bit shorter and I was thinking Oh no! What if they’re really upset? and I was walking round the set trying to cover up the fact that I’m a woman with armpit hair, when it’s actually like a matter of pride for me. I was thinking What if this is unacceptable for this character?

“But you were playing the part of a killer,” I said. “A homicidal female psychopath.”

“Exactly,” said Nelly. “Why would she be shaving her armpits? – When would she have the time in between killing people?”

“Why are you so proud of your armpit hair?” I asked Nelly.

Michael Brunström stands in a bucket of water

Michael Brunström stands in a bucket of water

“I love it,” she told me. I love the texture of it. I like stroking it. I like how it keeps my arms warm. And I like my own smell. That’s another bonus. I would wear it as a perfume.”

Last night, I went to her always extraordinarily bizarre weekly Lost Cabaret show in Stockwell which she comperes as Zuma Puma. Somehow the sight of Michael Brunström standing in a bucket of water passionately reading a random article from a Yachting magazine seemed quite normal in the context of Lost Cabaret.

Sharney Emma Nougher (left) & Zuma Puma raise their arms

Zuma Puma (right) and Sharney Nougher raise their arms

After the show, Zuma Puma and Sharney Nougher showed me their armpit hair.

I was very grateful.

It was a fairly ordinary day.

I am always grateful for small kindnesses.

So back to my gay afternoon in Soho yesterday…

The young ‘boy’ I met asked five men in the gay Ku Bar if they fancied him. Three did. Well, two did and one said: “Only if you are in the process of transgendering.”

Juliette Burton as herself

Juliette Burton as herself

A shrewd observation, because yesterday was Day Five in performer Juliette Burton’s week of shooting partly-hidden-camera video inserts for her upcoming Edinburgh Fringe comedy show Look At Me (co-written by comedienne Janey Godley). It is about how people’s external image affects how people perceive them as people.

“Each day has been challenging in different ways,” Juliette told me yesterday.

DAY ONE 

Juliette dressed as what, merely for understandability’s sake, I would describe as ‘tarty’.

“It had the biggest reaction from other people,” she told me. “I was dressed in a costume that was inspired by The Only Way Is Essex, Big Fat Gypsy Weddings and Jordan before she became Katie Price. I started at King’s Cross, then got on a bus to Soho Square and walked through to Covent Garden. Wherever I went, people stared at me and some of the looks I got – we’ve looked at the video we shot – were so disdainful and so scornfuI. I did not do anything tarty. All I did was walk past dressed in a particular way.”

DAY TWO

Juliette partially made-up, with and ‘old’ cheek and throat

Juliette during her transformation, partially made-up, with an ‘old’ cheek and throat

Juliette was made up to look like an old lady.

“That was more liberating in some ways,” she told me, “because I was less noticeable. But, in some ways, it was more emotional.”

“How?” I asked.

“You’ll have to come and see the show,” Juliette said. “It was a sad day.”

DAY THREE

Juliette wore a ‘fat suit’ and was made-up to look fat.

“That was very difficult for personal reasons,” Juliette explained, “because there were some emotional things going on inside me that I hadn’t anticipated. The prosthetics were very good and the character was confident and bold and bright. I was about a size 18 in the prosthetics. I wanted to reclaim my experience when I had been that size, because I used to be a size 20. I wanted to reclaim how I felt about myself back then.”

DAY FOUR

Juliette under cover, literally

Juliette – literally under-cover

“I thought this was going to be my hijab day,” said Juliette. “The hijab is what Moslem women wear when only their face and hands are exposed. The niqab only exposes their eyes and hands. I thought the hijab I had ordered online had a headscarf and a black dress but, in fact, it actually had niqab headgear as well.

“So sometimes I dressed in a niqab, sometimes in a hijab. That was very interesting because most people don’t bat an eyelid if you walk round London like that, though there were some experiences I had that were quite shocking.

“What I hadn’t anticipated, again, was the internal journey. There’s stuff that goes on psychologically that I hadn’t anticipated.”

“But, to find out, I’ll have to come and see the show in Edinburgh?” I asked.

“Absolutely,” laughed Juliette.

DAY FIVE

Juliette (left) and the reaction of friends Lizzy Mace and Frankie Lowe

Juliette (left) arrives at Ku Bar + the reaction to her changed personality by her friends Lizzy Mace and Frankie Lowe

“Well,” said Juliette, “That’s today. I’m dressed as a man and you say I make quite a good man.”

“You look like a rather effete South American boy,” I told her. “You could maybe make money selling yourself in Rio during the World Cup.”

Make-up artist Sarah-Jane Lyon had given Juliette a false Adam’s apple.

“And I’ve got a bulge,” said Juliette. “A foam penis. Do you want to see it?”

“No,” I said.

“Don’t you want me to take my penis out?” Juliette asked.

“Don’t you want me to take my penis out?”

“Don’t you want me to take my penis out?” Juliette asked.

“No,” I said. “Not down an alleyway in Soho. I’ve seen too many real ones on stage.”

“So you’re bored with penises?”

“I’ve been too close to too many pricks,” I said. “I worked at the BBC.”

“It’s a foam penis,” said Juliette.

“I would prefer to see Martin Soan’s singing and dancing vagina,” I replied.

That was yesterday in a Soho alley.

Today Juliette is in Stoke-on-Trent shooting extra footage for her pop video to promote Look at Me.

And, on Sunday, she is back in London, to shoot more hidden camera reactions to her superficial appearance.

“I will be wearing pink underwear,” Juliette told me, “and fishnets, a wig, flippers, snorkel, body paint, absurd make-up and I will have a giant glittery purple peanut on my head and be carrying a bright pink dog. A real one.”

“What will the dog be wearing?” I asked.

“The dog will be wearing a tutu, of course,” said Juliet matter-of-factly.

“Of course it will,” I said. “Do you have armpit hair, Juliette?”

There is a promotional video for Look At Me on YouTube.

and also one for Zuma Puma’s Lost Cabaret shows

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Filed under Comedy, Gay, Psychology, Theatre

Attractive Norwich sheep in a pub; Gary The Goat charged in an Australian court

The Bishop of Norwich was in no way connected to the sheep

The Bishop of Norwich was not involved

In May 2011, I wrote a blog about cat wrestling and a sheep in a pub in Norfolk. It seemed like a good idea at the time and is fairly normal stuff for Norfolk.

At the time, Norwich comedian Dan McKee told me a tale about a local pub – the Ironmongers Arms:

“The peculiarities of the old Ironmongers Arms knew no bounds,” Dan said. “The landlord had no tongue, but he did have a pet jackdaw which hopped around the bar and Friday night entertainment consisted of a young lady singing the hits of Tina Turner. She didn’t sing to karaoke tracks but actually sang over the original Tina Turner records on the juke box and she just tried to sing louder than Tina’s vocals…

“Then there was the night somebody brought a sheep in for a pint. We asked him why he had come in with a sheep and he replied: Well, I couldn’t very well leave it at home.”

Yesterday, I got an e-mail from Howard Posner in Norfolk. It read:

“A friend of mine just referred me to your old blog on the tale of the sheep. The sheep was, in fact, stolen from a field on the way back from a rugby game at Beccles in 1976.

“It travelled on the rear seat of a old Ford Cortina. I was in the front seat. The sheep was very placid and was taken into the pub by some of the University of East Anglia’s rugby fourth team (The Rams). I played for the team on and off for three season (two of which went undefeated).

“At the time, UEA’s first team was called the “u’s” and consisted of a lot of lads who were prepared to train regularly and drink a lot. The second and third teams were made up of those who failed in their efforts to get in the first XV. And the fourth team was made up of ‘social’ students, plus a couple of junior lecturers and a chef from the kitchens at Fifers Lane – who had quite a lot of ability but no desire to conform.

“Our pre-match routine was to meet in a pub somewhere and consume beer in such quantities that we would often arrive at the game with less than the requested fifteen players. Luckily, most of the opposition where of a similar sporting standard.

“As the fourth team, we adopted the Ram as our emblem and acquired a rather large advertising hoarding for pure wool with a sheep on it. The sheep was called Louise and we took this with us to all our games and wrote the results on the hoarding.

“On the way back from winning in Beccles on that fateful night, we decided that it would be more appropriate to have a live ram. There were lots of sheep in the area and we ‘acquired’ one. How were we to know the difference between a male and female sheep? We picked that particular sheep because it was the prettiest in the field.

“Our destination was the usual one, the Ten Bells pub, who would not let us in with a sheep. But the landlord of the Ironmongers Arms was happy to allow in at least fifteen drinking men and a sheep. Sadly, the sheep would not drink the beer, which I recall was high quality Norwich Bitter. When it urinated in the bar some of the liquid was mopped up into a pint glass and was quite favourably compared to the Norwich ale in look and smell. As the evening progressed, our numbers swelled and we moved on.

“When Spencer’s night club would not let us in on the grounds that the sheep was not a member, it was taken away. I was told it was released in a field of other sheep (not its own) but there was a tale, never substantiated, that it was actually taken to the Wild Man pub, escaped and was last seen heading towards the Cathedral. I like this version better.”

Coincidentally yesterday, comedian Bob Slayer also updated me on the progress of Gary The Goat, best friend of Australian comic Jimbo Bazoobi.

Bob’s adventures with Jimbo and Gary The Goat as they crossed Australia last Spring were partially blogged about here last year and Bob is about to publish an eBook about their joint exploits.

Gary The Goat reads the charges against him

Gary The Goat reads the charges against him in Australia

As I mentioned in a blog last month, Gary The Goat was recently disgracefully arrested for eating some grass and (police allege) some flowers.

As a result of this arrest, Gary The Goat’s Facebook page, which had 400 likes, zoomed up to 8,500 likes and the first post about the case went viral, had 25,000 likes and was seen by nearly half a million goat-fascinated folks…

The latest news is that Gary The Goat is going to court next Wednesday, accused of ‘damaging vegetation without authority’.

“Earlier this week,” Bob Slayer tells me, “FOUR cops arrived at Jimbo’s place to deliver their ‘brief of evidence’. It is a 200 page document. So far, I’m only half way through reading it.”

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Filed under Animals, Comedy, Crime, Drink, Humor, Humour

Comedian Bob Slayer, the gay pub and the relationship with a famous comic

Bob Slayer yesterday with partner Shirley and two lucky cats

Yesterday, with my eternally-un-named friend, I went to comedian Bob Slayer’s home for dinner.

Bob had a bad cough, but regaled us with tales of his early days as a jockey. He broke his back and had to stop riding horses.

It also turned out, not surprisingly, that his mother was born in a pub. Bob, more often than not, downs at least one pint in a single gulp during his stage act.

“My mum was born in the Wheelbarrow Castle pub at Radford in Worcestershire,” he told me, “which my great-grandfather owned and it went out of the family for a long time, but my uncle has recently bought it to bring it back into the family. They lost the farm – my other uncle lost the farm because he pissed it away.”

“Is he alive?” I asked.

“Yes,” Bob replied.

“Then that’s potentially libel,” I said.

“No, I don’t think it’s libel,” said Bob. “Uncle John would say Well, I did piss it away, yeah. My youngest uncle Martin was in short trousers while John was pissing the farm away. Martin is Gemma, my cousin’s, dad – she’s the one you met who helped me run The Hive venue at the Edinburgh Fringe

“My Uncle Martin re-bought the Wheelbarrow Castle but what he didn’t realise at the time was that he had bought a gay pub.”

“Ah,” I said, “so this is the pub where you suggested we go see The Wurzels perform in October.”

“Yes,” said Bob.

“A gay pub with The Wurzels performing?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Bob. “And, in this pub, my mother was born.”

“Was she gay?” I asked.

“I don’t think so,” replied Bob. “but I was at a wedding once…”

“A gay wedding?” I asked.

“No but, at my other cousin’s wedding… He was the first of my cousins to get married… and my uncle came up and said I think it’s about time you heard all about Guzzleguts. And I asked What’s that, Uncle Anthony? And he said When your mum was a teenager, she used to be called Guzzleguts. 

“My mum is one of nine… Well, eight, because Uncle David died last week… but all the brothers would drink in the family pub and they would play pool and people would be travelling through and they’d hustle them and it would get to the stage where they were pissed and they’d lost money and big stakes were going down and they’d say Ah! I bet even our sister could beat you at downing a pint! And these big bets would be put down and then my mother would be brought in and two pints put down on the table and my mum would Phrooom! guzzleguts this pint down. And that’s where I get it from.

“Apparently they also used to interrupt her doing her school work – she was a real swot when she was a teenager – lie her on the bar, put a funnel in her mouth and they would pour three pints into her and they would have had a bet on that – We bet you our sister can down three pints in under so many minutes.”

“And this is where we are going to see The Wurzels?” I asked.

“Yes,” said Bob.

“You told me,” I prompted, “the original Wurzel died in a tragic Marc Bolan style car crash?”

“More tragic than Marc Bolan,” said Bob. “Marc Bolan was a very influential and interesting musician, but he wasn’t really up there with Adge Cutler.

“The band was originally called Adge Cutler and The Wurzels… Adge was driving home from a gig in Hereford in his MGB sports car 1974 and he ran into a tractor and died and I think that’s the most rock ‘n’ roll death ever.”

“No connection with combine harvesters?” I asked.

“Well,” said Bob, “I was originally told he ran into a combine harvester, but that was an exaggeration. It was a tractor. He was full of cider as well, I’d like to say. Cider and acid. That’s a bloody good combination.”

“Lots of drinking in Archers country?” I asked.

“It was very interesting for me to learn about alcoholics,” said Bob, “in a family where they are all pissheads. Their attitude towards alcoholism was Well, you could tell she had a problem, because she hid it. We ain’t got a problem, do we? Cos we don’t hide it. I was taught that when I was growing up: You’re not an alcoholic if you don’t feel the need to hide it.

“So,” I asked, “alcoholism was not so much a warning as an aspiration?”

“I think so,” said Bob, “yeah,” and then he had a coughing fit.

“How many brothers and sisters do you have?” asked my eternally-un-named friend.

“I’ve only got one brother,” said Bob. “But I’ve got fifty cousins… I’ve got nine uncles and aunts and most of them are re-married, so…”

“Not 49 or 51 cousins but 50 exactly?” I asked.

“Well, it might be 51 by now,” said Bob. “We do get the odd extras. But they’re all really ugly….” He turned to my eternally-un-named friend: “Going back to this conversation earlier where you decided that 99% of sex-changers do it for the wrong reasons, based on the ones you knew… John here has met one of my cousins – Gemma – at the Edinburgh Fringe, so he would extrapolate that they’re all gorgeous but she is the only one. She is the exception that proves the rule that all the Fernihoughs are ugly as… I’m also related to Ted Edgar.”

“Who?” I asked.

“A showjumper,” replied Bob. “And I’m related to George Formby.”

“No,” I said.

“Yes.” said Bob. “George Formby was a jockey, from a horse racing family. The Edgar side of the family is related to George Formby’s dad. His sister is like my cousin’s great-grandmother.”

“The frightening thing about living in the 21st century,” I said to my eternally-un-named friend, “is that, before we get home, Bob will have changed the Wikipedia entry on George Formby so that all this is true.”

“Look at it now,” said Bob.

And I did. The Wikipedia entry said:

In 1921, three months after the death of his father, Formby abandoned his career as a jockey and began appearing in music halls using his father’s material. At first he called himself George Hoy, using the name of his maternal grandfather, who came from Newmarket, Suffolk, where the family was engaged in racehorse training.

“George Formby Senior – George Formby’s dad,” said Bob, “was a performer and used his money to set up racing stables. George Formby became a jockey to please his dad and had maybe twenty or thirty 2nds – he had loads of rides – but never rode a winner. He was going to take over the stables but, when his dad died prematurely, his mum persuaded him to go on the stage.

“His sister took over the stables and that’s the side of the family that has relations to my mother. My mother’s grandmother was George Formby’s sister; so my mother’s great-grandfather was George Formby Senior.

“George Formby was born blind or he didn’t open his eyes until, at the age of six months or so, he had a violent coughing fit and opened his eyes for the first time.”

“No,” I said.

“Yes,” said Bob. “Check Wikipedia.

I did.

The entry read:

Formby was born blind because of an obstructive caul. His sight was restored during a violent coughing fit or sneeze when he was a few months old.

“I’ve even got George Formby’s chest at the moment,” said Bob, “with this sore throat and the coughing. Coughing was quite a thing in the Formby family. George Formby stopped being blind after he had a coughing fit. His dad George Formby Senior had been neglected by his parents and left out; he often slept rough and he ended up busking and that’s how he got into performing, so he had a bad chest and later TB and that’s what killed him. He would often cough up a lung on stage but make a joke of it and bet the audience he could out-cough them.”

“So he was an early TB star?” I asked.

“It’s getting late,” said Bob.

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Filed under Comedy, Drink, Horse racing, Music, Theatre

Being world class performers won’t sell albums if you’re not available on iTunes

Bobby Valentino and Paul Astles in London last night

In December 2010 I blogged about the wonderful Paul Astles and Bobby Valentino, both world-class performers. They should be living in mansions in Surrey in unhappy marriages and down to their last million like other rockers of a certain age.

Bobby has performed and recorded with Bob Dylan, Tom Petty, Mark Knopfler, et al and wrote/played the “annoying violin hook line” on The Bluebells’ classic hit Young at Heart.

I went and saw Paul and Bobby perform again last night, at their monthly Brockley gig in South East London.

“Friendly Street” – not available for download nor in shops

They’re still brilliant. As is their new-ish album Friendly Street.

“When did you record it?” I asked Paul after the show last night, while Bobby was getting me a copy from the boot of his car.

“We did it in the summer of last year,” said Paul. “I can’t remember when.”

“Where?”

Charlie Hart’s. He used to play with Ronnie Lane and Ian Dury. He’s Bobby’s next-door neighbour and our old friend and he’s got a studio. He’s playing around London with Slim Chance now.”

At the moment in London, you can stumble on the most unlikely, highly-talented musicians playing in the most unlikely of venues.

“Why’s your album not on iTunes?” I asked Paul.

“Just because I’m not together enough to do all the PayPal and bank accounting and all that kind of stuff you have to do.”

“How can people buy it, then?” I asked.

“Only if they see us. It’s a rare and precious thing.”

“You could be selling around the world on iTunes,” I said. “Not just in the UK.”

“Well,” replied Paul. “A man contacted me on my Facebook account from New York and asked me if I would send a copy of Friendly Street to him, so I did and he sent me a cheque for whatever £10-and-postage is in dollars. He was a very nice man.”

“You should put the album – and the individual tracks – on iTunes,” I told Paul. “You might find you have fans in Texas or you might become a big hit in the Ukraine. As far as I know, Right Said Fred are still mega-stars in Germany – they were a couple of years ago – and they make a very good living. Here in true UK, Right Said Fred are yesterday’s one-hit wonders; in Germany, as I understand it, they’re still selling shedloads.”

“Weren’t they Princess Diana’s favourite band?” Paul asked.

“Well, there you are,” I replied. “You can overcome any set-back. You have to be on iTunes. If you put your album on iTunes, the two of you might become a hit around the world.”

Even if they only became a cult hit in China or India, they could be living in mansions in Surrey in unhappy marriages and down to their last million.

Everyone should have aspirations.

And there’s still time. It just needs luck and distribution.

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The Greatest Show on Legs return and Malcolm Hardee flashes to girls in pubs

Martin Soan without otters last night at Pull The Other One

If you are of a nervous verbal disposition, dear reader, progress no further in today’s blog, as it contains urinary details and uses a lot of Anglo Saxon language which may upset the delicate amongst us.

Last night, I went to Vivienne and Martin Soan’s always-extraordinary monthly Pull The Other One comedy club in Peckham, South London. The bill included (in alphabetical order) Holly Burn, Stephen Frost & Steve SteenCharmian Hughes, Darren Maskell and Arthur Smith plus juggler Mat Ricardo with (among other things) his still-jaw-dropping and unique pulling-the-tablecloth-ONTO-the-table-under-the-crockery routine. Oh – and Frost & Ireland and Martin Soan himself. Quite a night.

One of several great things about Martin is that you never know what he will appear as.

Last month, he appeared briefly as an armchair. This month, he had a group of performing otters.

Martin and Vivienne Soan also run a monthly Pull The Other One club at the Half Moon in Herne Hill where they are going to host a series of Edinburgh Fringe try-out shows – Monday to Saturday for one week – 9th-14th July. One show is likely to be Mark Kelly’s Stuart Leigh – The Stewart Lee Tribute Act, which I blogged about a few days ago.

Another will be a reunion of the Greatest Show On Legs. They were (and, for special occasions, occasionally still are) a merry troupe originated by Martin which used to include the late Malcolm Hardee and a variable line-up of other performers including Steve Bowditch, Martin Clarke (aka ’Sir Ralph’), Chris Lynam and even  Dave ‘Bagpipes’ Brooks. One, some or all of those may appear at Herne Hill, except Malcolm –  as death by drowning tends to preclude live performance.

“I thought we could do a bit of the old madness and a bit of the new madness,” Martin told me last night.

“So are you actually taking a Greatest Show on Legs show up to Edinburgh this year?” I innocently asked.

“Of course not,” Martin replied, “because none of us can afford it. But if someone paid us to go up there then we would go up there and do it. We have new ideas and there are the great old ideas.”

Mindful of what has happened in the streets and bars of Edinburgh with previous incarnations of the Greatest Show on Legs, I suggested: “Wouldn’t it be easier to get people to pay you not to go up?… Edinburgh Council, for example.”

“That’s a very good idea” Martin said.

“So what are you going to do at Herne Hill?”

“I’ll stage manage a bit of madness,” he replied.

“How do you stage manage Greatest Show on Legs routines?”

“Very very easy,” he said. “You just have to negotiate the egos involved. In the end, they enjoy it.”

“You were telling me the other night after Mark Kelly’s play,” I reminded him, “about people pissing in the wardrobe. What happened again?”

“At one Edinburgh Fringe,” Martin reminded me, “Malcolm and I shared this room and he came in really pissed in the middle of the night and I was barely awake and he opened the wardrobe door and pissed into the wardrobe… and that was supposed to be funny… Oh yeah… I had a big laugh about that… after I came back from the fucking laundrette.”

“Your clothes were in the wardrobe?”

“Of course they fucking were, John – it was a wardrobe!”

“And then?” I asked.

“And then a succession of young men came into my bedroom every night after that and pissed into my wardrobe.”

“And onto your clothes?”

“I never put anything into the wardrobe after the second night. There were three blokes who did it and they all thought it was hilarious. I thought it was fucking stupid. Why emulate someone who has done it already? But Malcolm thought it was hilarious. Ha ha ha. Of course he fucking did.”

“Was Malcolm’s friend Wizo one of the blokes?” I asked.

“Of course he was,” replied Malcolm. “Wizo was a great one for emulating Malcolm. The flashing bow-tie is the classic.”

“The flashing bow tie?” I asked.

“You don’t know the flashing bow tie?” Martin said incredulously.

“I don’t know the flashing bow tie,” I explained honestly.

“For fuck’s sake, John!” said Martin.

“I know nothing,” I told him.

“Fucking hell,” said Martin. “I must have told you this, surely?”

“I have a terrible memory,” I suggested.

“OK,” said Martin. “So this is in the early days. It’s a Saturday so we are obviously going on a pub crawl that night. In the afternoon, Malcolm goes down to a joke shop. This is a long time ago when things worked with batteries and bulbs that screw-in like torch bulbs – nowadays they’d have LEDs, but then it was batteries and screw-in bulbs.

“So Malcolm buys this bow tie which has two bulbs that screw into it, connected to a wire that goes under your shirt and down to a battery and a little switch in your pocket. You click the switch and the bow tie lights up. In those days, this was quite something.

“So we’re about to go into the Rosemary Branch pub in New Cross and Malcolm mumbles Look what I got today! then clicks the switch, the bow tie flashes and we all go Wow! Fuckin’ hell – that’s brilliant, Malcolm! Brilliant!

“So we go into the pub and he’s going round to all the girls who see him flashing the bow tie and go Ah! Hahahahahaha!!!! Wow! and Wizo is getting really really jealous and really wants the bow tie.

“We’re on this pub crawl so, every time we get in the parked car and go off – you could drink and drive in those days – Wizo’s saying Gimme the bow tie! Gimme the bow tie! and Malcolm’s saying At the next pub! At the next pub!

“We go round all the pubs, the Duke and blah blah blah and a succession of pubs and Malcolm’s going around being the centre of attention, everyone’s loving him, everyone’s laughing.

“We come to the last pub and Malcolm says Here you are, Wizo, you can have the bow tie. He puts the bow tie on Wizo and he turns round and winks to me because he has disconnected one of the terminals.

“Wizo clicks the button and can’t see under his chin and asks Is it alright? Is it alright? and we say, Yeah, Wizo, it’s fantastic!

“So Wizo goes into the last pub and goes around, stands in front of girls and goes Hah!, clicks the switch, opens his mouth wide and there’s no reaction and no-one’s laughing except me and Malcolm.

“You’ve never heard that story?”

“No,” I told Martin. “I’ve never heard it before.”

“It was fucking genius,” said Martin. “I fucking roared, roared, roared with laughter. Cruel but, God, so funny. It’s almost like an urban myth.”

“Maybe it will be now,” I told him.

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Necrophilia and its place in honouring comedy godfather Malcolm Hardee

(If you are easily offended – or, really, if you have ever been offended by anything at any point in your life – please do not read this blog.)

Yesterday, I had an interesting evening at the Star & Garter pub in Greenwich, where comic Steve Bowditch and ‘Paul The Poet’ hold regular Friday night Open Mic nights to a very traditional London pub audience. It is like a cross between the 1890s, the 1930s and the 2010s. I could imagine geezers having knees-ups at the drop of an ‘H’.

Last night was an even more than normally unusual night because, as well as occasional open spots, there was a tribute to Malcolm Hardee, betwixt his birthday on 5th January and the day he died, 31st January.

There was a table-top shrine with a photo of Malcolm and joss-sticks with the smell, Steve Bowditch claimed, of sandalwood, cedarwood, Brut and Vosene.

The evening included interesting local guitarist Danny Alex, Ian Breslin the acapella punk poet, soiled tissue juggling, selections from Lionel Bart’s musical Oliver! and Greatest Show on Legs originator Martin Soan’s always wonderful-to-watch but painful-to-perform version of Michael Jackson’s Thriller using six rubber bands.

There were also 12 minutes of video clips from Jody VandenBurg’s long-gestating documentary Malcolm Hardee: All The Way From Over There. One of the most interesting quotes in the film is from Malcolm’s long-term chum Jools Holland, who says: “He was like a Dickens character.”

Part of being a Dickensian-style character, I think, was (in public, at least) that he was larger-than-life, almost a cartoon caricature of someone who did not care about consequences.

Martin Potter, who started the infamous Tunnel Palladium comedy club with Malcolm, says in this future film: “He would always do what other people would like to do but didn’t dare do.”

Acapella punk Ian Breslin, who organised last night’s Malcolm tribute, told the crowded back bar at the Star & Garter:

“As some of you know, every time someone famous died, Malcolm would have a bet on the Queen Mother dying too. So, eventually it happens. The Queen Mother has just died but Malcolm has not had a bet on it happening. I’m beside myself to go down to Up the Creek and see what he’s going to say. I’m with a group of people. Some have never seen Malcolm perform before.

“I say to this woman: You do realise he’s going to say something about the Queen Mother in the first five seconds?

He wouldn’t dare, she says.

“I say: He’s going to fucking rip into her in the first five seconds.

No. No, she says, that won’t happen.

So, I say, you want a bottle of vodka on it?

“She shook my hand.

“Malcolm walks on stage and says: The cunt’s dead…

“A bottle of vodka in my hand, yeah?

“People walk out and get really upset and everything.

“Malcolm says: Still a good fuck, though…”

Ian dedicated his next poem/song to Malcolm.

“I’ve had a tee-shirt made,” Ian said.

I was pleased – indeed, humbled – to see it was a photo of the annual Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality which I organise – a microphone rising stiffly at an angle above two circles.

“This is called Dig ‘Em Up…” Ian said.

The poem/song was a sweet little ditty which started:

Had your picture on my wall
Shame you died when I was small
You looked at me through paper eyes

and later included the fine lines:

Thora Hird – Dig ‘em up and fuck ‘em
Nice old bird – Dig ‘em up and fuck ‘em
Mary Shelley – Dig ‘em up and fuck ‘em
Far too smelly – Dig ‘em up and fuck ‘em
Lena Zavaroni – Dig ‘em up and fuck ‘em
Far too bony – Dig ‘em up and fuck ‘em

It is good to see Malcolm’s memory being honoured. The only downside to the evening was at the very end, when Martin Soan told me of his disappointment:

“I thought we should polish it off in the right way for a Malcolm Hardee evening. I was going to get my kit off – fold my clothes very precisely, put my shoes on top of my folded clothes, my socks inside my shoes. But I was told, if I walked back through the bar, they wouldn’t like it. It’s a sad reflection on modern life when an Englishman can’t walk naked through a local pub.”

How true. How true.

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Christmas with Malcolm Hardee: police blowjobs and The Tunnel Palladium

A couple of days ago, I blogged about Digger Dave’s memories of his late friend Malcolm Hardee, the late ‘godfather of alternative comedy’.  He mentioned “the Great Christmas Can Can Tour of London’s East End pubs” by The Greatest Show on Legs, the act Malcolm performed in. This was only one of The Greatest Show on Legs’ pub-crawling performances.

Malcolm wrote about them – and how he started his infamous comedy club The Tunnel Palladium –  in his 1996 autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake

Malcolm drowned in 2005.

_________________

Back in 1983, The Greatest Show on Legs got fed up with touring and we split up as a full-time act, though we’re still going. We’re a bit like the folk group Fairport Convention. We keep having reunions. But when we stopped being The Greatest Show on Legs full-time, I started The Tunnel Palladium, an early alternative comedy venue. It all started by accident.

Every year we did two Greatest Show on Legs Pub Crawls. We selected four or five local South East London pubs where we’d go and give a show for free. We did one Pub Crawl in the Winter, round Christmas; and one in the summer.

One of these pubs we picked was The Mitre in a very rough area of Greenwich, about 50 yards from the southern exit of the Blackwall Tunnel under the Thames. Our show there was on a Sunday night and we couldn’t give it for free because the landlord insisted it was part of his Licence that he had to charge something to get in. So I think he charged £2.

When we did our show, The Mitre was packed: about 300 people were in there watching us.

The Mitre was split into two bars. The Greatest Show on Legs performed in one bar and, in the other bar, there was a stag night for the local constabulary. It wasn’t just a stag night. They had strippers who performed full sex.

They were giving blowjobs and wiping the result on the beer mats and all that sort of stuff. I went into this other bar and was sitting next to a copper who thought I was part of the stag night crowd. In front of me was a stripper sucking this bloke’s knob and I said to this copper:

“What’s that all about?”

“Oh,” he said: “That’s alright. He’s getting married tomorrow”.

After that night, I spoke to this very woman we’d been watching. She said she recognised me because she used to go out with my mate Dexie Doug Davies and it came back to me in a flash. I remembered their relationship and I remembered Dexie Doug complaining that this woman Frances wouldn’t go the whole way but spent 90% of her waking hours giving him blow jobs. (I’ve heard other complaints about other relationships, but they were the exact opposite.)

So there was Frances all these years later putting her considerable skills to good use and presumably getting paid for it.

It was a very odd experience. Two different audiences. A lot of trendy Lefties watching The Greatest Show on Legs in one bar. And, in the other bar, a load of coppers being serviced by strippers.

The next Sunday, I went back and there was a Heavy Metal band on with about four people in the audience and they were just friends of the band. I said:

“Last week, when we were here, there were 300 people. What’s going on?”

So the person who was rock promoter there, Steve Black, suggested I run a Sunday comedy club at The Mitre.

I named it The Tunnel because it was next to the Blackwall Tunnel.

Strangely enough, the landlord had ‘tunnel vision’.

But that was just an odd coincidence.

Martin Potter, who had helped us on the pilot for OTT and the audition for Game For a Laugh became my partner for our Sunday Night at The Tunnel Palladium  shows. We very quickly made some promotional flyers and the club was an instant success.

Our first show was on 8th January 1984

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Filed under Comedy, Police, Sex