Tag Archives: Richard Harris

Derren Nesbitt: subtly sensitive as a loudmouthed transvestite in “Tucked”

The British movie Tucked is released in the UK today. It has already won, among a clutch of other awards, the Best Narrative Feature Award at the Naples International Film Festival and both a Grand Jury Prize and an Audience Award at Outfest in Los Angeles.

“Like a jewel (and) Derren Nesbitt is its biggest sparkle…”

In the UK, the Guardian calls it a “touching, unexpectedly funny end-of-life drama with a terrific performance by 83-year-old Derren Nesbitt.”

It has pretty accurately been called “a slice of life smeared with glitter, laughter and tears” and the Hollywood Reporter singled out the “two splendid performances” at the heart of it. In London, the Financial Times writes: “Tucked is small but bright and multi-faceted: like a jewel. Nesbitt is its biggest sparkle”.

The official synopsis says it is:

A raw and tender drama about an ageing 80 year old drag queen who forms an unlikely friendship with a younger queen, both struggling with their own issues of gender identity and mortality. As they discover more about each other, they realise how to truly be themselves.

Nesbitt stars with 27-year-old Jordan Stephens, one half of successful British hip hop duo Rizzle Kicks.

Comedian Steve Oram turns up as a drug dealer and comedian Brendon Burns wrote some of the on-stage gags and appears briefly as a club MC. 

But the movie centres on Derren Nesbitt’s extraordinarily sensitive performance as the grumpy, foul-mouthed drag artist Jackie, diagnosed with terminal cancer, with only six or seven weeks left to live and his performance is an award-deserving revelation.

IMDB currently describes Derren as: 

A rather intriguing British actor who first appeared on UK cinema & TV screens in the late 1950s, and quickly found steady work as a rather unpleasant or untrustworthy individual. His cold, yet cunning features had him appearing in guest roles on many UK TV series. 

Derren Nesbitt seemed to be all over TV

It seemed like he was in everything you ever saw in the 1960s  and 1970s, on TV and in movies.

His father was Harry Nesbitt, a comedian and music hall artist who came from South Africa with his brother Max and they performed as a duo on stage.

Derren’s mother was also in the music halls as a chorus girl.

Derren was trained at RADA where he won the prestigious Forbes-Robertson Shakespearian Acting award.

From there, he joined Peter Hall’s repertory company.

I met him a couple of days ago in London.


JOHN: So the casting for Tucked… Here is a film with a rather grumpy, foul-mouthed transvestite. Who is the first person I would think of to play that role? Suave, 4-times-married Derren Nesbitt? Erm. No. Not an obvious choice.

DERREN: (LAUGHS) Exactly, because I usually kill people. Jamie Patterson the writer/director and I became vaguely friendly and I thought: He’s very talented. Then he asked me: “Do you want to play a drag queen and a trans-crosser?” So I said: “This script I gotta read!” I read it and I thought: Absolutely! This is really good!

And I’m glad I’ve been proved right on two points.

One: Jamie has now been signed-up to one of the biggest agents in Hollywood.

Two: the film has done magnificently well in Los Angeles.

JOHN: Great acting. Emotion with your eyes.

DERREN: Well, you can never be anybody else. So what you have got is me as a drag queen in those circumstances. What would I be in those circumstances? And that’s what you try and do.

JOHN: He’s a grumpy old bloke, but he’s sympathetic.

DERREN: Well, he’s a human being. The hardest thing in the world is to present true reality on the screen, but that’s the name of the game.

JOHN: For your role as a nasty Nazi in the Clint Eastwood movie Where Eagles Dare, you reportedly talked to an ex-Gestapo man to get the feel for your screen character. 

Did you do any research for your role in Tucked?

DERREN: Well no, not really. Everybody seems to thing you’ve gotta do an awful lot of research. But not in this particular case, because my family were very famous music hall stars. I was in theatres from the age of 5 and, later on, was seeing drag queens and all the rest. So it didn’t take very much for me to ‘become’ a drag queen.

JOHN: Your father was a comedian and your mother was a dancer.

DERREN: She was a chorus girl, but my father and his brother were the biggest stars in London in 1928. They only retired in the mid-1950s.

JOHN: You were you born in London.

DERREN: I was born at the Finsbury Park Empire. Actually born in the theatre.

JOHN: So you were bound to end up an actor…

DERREN: Well, I was very fortunate. I left RADA and I’d won everything there… 

JOHN: …and then you worked for Peter Hall.

DERREN: Yes. He chose me to go to the Oxford Playhouse. But he only did one play there and moved on and then I was very fortunate. I think the movie Victim was the turning point. And I have never done an audition.

JOHN: You’ve still never done an audition?

DERREN: No. Never. People have seen me in other things and thought: He’s the one.

A film very much of its time – 1975

JOHN: You must, at some time, have wanted to be more than an actor because there was The Amorous Milkman in 1975, which you wrote, produced and directed.

DERREN: Yes, I did and, afterwards, I thought: Well, I’ve done it and that’s good enough. I wrote the novel, then wrote the screenplay from the novel. But then, afterwards, I felt: I’ve done it. So why do it again?

JOHN: Any further writing ambitions?

DERREN: So many people have asked me to write my autobiography…

JOHN: You should.

DERREN: I did. I finished it about two months ago. I thought: Who would want to read it? But I wrote it more as a cathartic thing. Whether or not anyone wants to publish it, I have no idea.

I was in the War in London. I was in the Blitz, right in the middle of it. My first memory is seeing a baby’s head in the gutter. I saw the dead bodies and god knows what else. So I start from then.

Well, in fact, the first thing I ever really remember was my mother throwing me in a bush as a German Messerschmitt came over. (LAUGHS) I never quite trusted her after that!

It is really less of an autobiography and more of a book that happens to be true.

JOHN: What’s the difference between a book and an autobiography?

DERREN: I don’t know. I think an autobiography is a little… a little bit… self… 

JOHN: Navel-gazing?

DERREN: Yeah… Yeah… And I’m more interested in knowing the person. I’ve read a lot of biographies and autobiographies and I want to know the person.

JOHN: People are not interested in facts as such; they’re interested in other people.

DERREN: Yes. It’s boring (if it is just facts).

Funnily enough, years and years ago, Richard Harris – an old friend of mine who was a great drunk – was asked by someone to do an autobiography and he took an advert in The Times saying: :”If anybody could remind me what I was doing between…” (LAUGHS)

JOHN: You said your father retired in the 1950s… After that, he did nothing?

“Lew Grade had a huge affair with my mother”

DERREN: He did everything. He was involved in so many different things. Including the Grade Organisation. Lew Grade was a great, great friend of his. In fact, Lew Grade had a huge affair with my mother and told her: “If he doesn’t marry you, I will marry you and adopt him (Derren).” (LAUGHS) Maybe the biggest tragedy of my life!

Years and years later, I went to the South of France where my mother used to live – she had by then married someone richer than my father – and she asked me: ”How is Lew?”

I told her, “it’s LORD Grade now.”

“Oh,” she said, “many years ago, he asked your father to put some money into some new company he had.”

I said: “Pardon?”

“You know,” she said. “Television. You know, you sell beans and things on television.”

And I said: “Ah!… What happened?”

She said: “Well, your father wouldn’t take Lew seriously. If Leslie Grade had asked him, he would have put money in.”

JOHN: And this company was ATV?

DERREN: Yes, my father could have put £10,000 in at the beginning and…”

JOHN: … and that would have been like putting money into MicroSoft when it started up.

DERREN: Mmmmm….

… CONTINUED HERE

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Comedian Richard Coughlan has been hung up on hooks stuck into in his back

Richard ate a queer foetus for Jesus at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2013

Richard ate a queer foetus for Jesus at the Edinburgh Fringe

“Where did we first meet?” I asked performer Richard Coughlan. “Was it at the Edinburgh Fringe two years ago?”

“You were hanging around outside The Counting House,” he replied.

I have a terrible memory.

“And I wanted to see your show but couldn’t fit it in?” I asked. “I remember I liked the title.”

Eat a Queer Foetus For Jesus,” said Richard.

“That’s my sort of show,” I said. “Your surname is Irish.”

“That’s not my real name,” he replied. “My real name is Richard Harris but, for obvious reasons, I could not use that name to perform. The guy I got it from – Richard Coughlan – was the drummer in a prog rock band called Caravan. He ended up running a pub in Faversham in Kent, where I live, and I ended up working for him.

“Me and him just did not get on and I had started doing comedy. We had a blazing row and I thought: I’m going to take his name and try and make it more popular than he ever made it. Or more disreputable. I think I’ve done both.”

“You could,” I suggested, “have tried to be more famous and more disreputable than the other Richard Harris.”

The infamous scene in the movie A Man Called Horse

The hook scene in A Man Called Horse

“Well,” said Richard, “I have done that famous thing he did in A Man Called Horse with the hooks. I’ve done that.”

“Whaaat??” I asked.

“I did it a couple of months ago,” he continued. “I’ve been wanting to do it for about ten years. I’ve got a lot of tattoos and I used to have lots of piercings but I’m crap with piercings: I don’t look after them well enough, so they always go manky. But I saw a guy at a convention doing this thing with the hanging on hooks and I thought: That looks bizarre and horrific – I would like to have a go at that.”

“The hooks go through the flesh of the chest, don’t they?” I asked.

“What I did,” said Richard, “was hanging on hooks through the back. You’re not allowed to do the chest thing until you’ve had a good go. I found a French guy who could do it for me and I uploaded a video of it happening onto YouTube, but it was flagged and taken down for ‘pornography and sexual content’. I have no idea why, apart from the fact I was in my underwear and was moaning a bit.”

Could this be more Hellraiser than Horse?

Is this a bit more Hellraiser than Horse? YouTube thought so.

“It might be a bit too Hellraiser,” I suggested, “which was a bit sexual.”

“There was nothing sexual about it,” said Richard Harris who calls himself Richard Coughlan. “I’ve always had this thing about doing things which everyone else thinks are a bit weird.”

“You’re not really a straight stand-up comedian,” I said. “What are you?”

“I’ve been lots of things. I originally trained to be a chef. But I’ve been into stand-up comedy since I was nine and I always wanted to do it. My dad had a Billy Connolly vinyl record. To me, Billy Connolly had a funny voice, big banana boots and he swore and said the word ‘jobbie’ – and, really, that’s all you needed at the age of nine.

“All my friends were into Nirvana and grunge music and Oasis or films and I was always into comedy. I had no-one to talk to. I obsessively watched comedy. One of the first jokes I remember hearing was a Roy Chubby Brown joke – You are what you eat and I am a cunt.

Jerry Sadowitz on a holiday with Richard Wagner

Jerry Sadowitz provided the perfect night as a birthday treat

“I went to see Jerry Sadowitz with my dad for my birthday in 2003. He did 90 minutes straight; I’ve never laughed so much. I had always liked him, but it was so hard to get hold of his stuff – the only thing was that Total Abuse Show VHS which had been heavily edited. When I saw him with my dad, he opened with a joke about Stephen Lawrence. Two rows of Indian people walked out during his impression of a Pakistani shopkeeper with Tourette’s Syndrome. A woman got up and threw a pint glass at him and he just ducked and kept going.

“I also saw him in 2007 with my girlfriend. It was at the Underbelly in Edinburgh and I said: We gotta sit at the front and he immediately started abusing me and spat all over me. I thought: This is brilliant! I’ve been waiting for this for years! I’ve finally been gobbed-on by Jerry Sadowitz! He was making a rape joke about my girlfriend who was sat next to me.

Richard Coughlan on a night out in Soho

Richard has now been standing up on his own for 14 years

“I started doing stand-up when I was 21. I’m 35 now. But, when I was starting out, I had the attitude a lot of people have. If you’re a musician and you see David Bowie, you think I could not do that. The only other thing I was interested in was cooking. That, combined with the fact I used to watch Chef! with Lenny Henry.

“So I trained to be a chef. But I decided to quit being a chef when I was working for a guy who literally grabbed me by the scruff of the neck, slammed me up against a wall and threatened to beat the crap out of me because I didn’t put enough salt in the peas. I decided at that moment that I was never going to care enough about someone else’s pea to be a great chef. I respected the fact you have to care that much but, to me, it’s just someone’s dinner. If it’s not perfect, they’re not going to starve to death.

“At the moment, I work about 25-30 hours as a general hand at a fine dining kitchen, but I supplement that with my online stuff.

“I’m on my fourth channel now, cos I’ve been suspended and banned. I don’t know anyone who has had more videos removed. I had one channel with 30,000 subscribers and about 10 million views and that got taken down because there were something like 50 fake copyright claims filed by someone who took a dislike to me.”

“Justified copyright claims?” I asked.

“No. Not one of them. That’s not to say most of my videos don’t contain some genuine copyright violation, but most people don’t really care. I don’t think Michael Bay is going to care if there is a one-second clip of Transformers in a video.

“I set up two other channels and they only went down about six months ago – they probably had about 5 or 6 million hits between them.

The latest Dick Dynasty YouTube channel

The latest Dick Dynasty YouTube channel

“My new channel, that I started about seven or eight months ago is Dick Dynasty 666. And I’m teaching myself to do animation – it is a long slog – because I came up with this idea for a funny mini-series. There was no feasible way you could make it with people and animators either need paying or, if they’re a friend of yours and prepared to do it free, they’re notoriously unreliable. It’s amazing how cheap you can get stuff. I got one animation program for £40 and another for £20.”

“What’s the mini-series about?” I asked.

“It’s based on the English Defence League and the Scottish Defence League and the Moslem paranoia thing taken to a ridiculous extreme. “

“Have you got an aim?” I asked. “An ambition? In general?”

“If I can just do something and I’m happy with it and it’s fun… Working in the kitchen is stressful and it’s not my ideal job, but it keeps a roof over my head and I’m a bit of a minimalist. I don’t look at what I could have. I look at the fact that, globally, I’m probably in the top 5% of people in the world. I could have been a lot worse off.

“I respect ambitious people, but I’m just not that motivated a guy. I just do things. I don’t have a plan. I figure you should just get on with life…

“I got invited to do guest lecturing at Southampton University where they do a comedy degree and, in the fourth year, they do stand-up. I told the students: The problem you will have is not doing your material on stage: it will be doing it as you. I told them: Find five minutes of your favourite stand-up and perform that material. Then perform that same routine as yourself. And then perform your own routine as yourself. That’s the hardest part for new acts. It’s not doing your jokes; it’s doing them as yourself. Like life.”

Richard’s full Eat A Queer Foetus For Jesus show, as performed at the Brighton Fringe, is on YouTube.

… CONTINUED HERE

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Other people’s lives & deaths & ills and what you get if you pay someone £5,000

I very rarely remember my dreams, which I think is a pity.

But who needs dreams when there is reality?

I looked at my old e-diary for things which happened on this day in past years.

Here are extracts from three April 6ths…


 1999

This morning, my mother went to the doctor and saw the other GP in the practice. He took her off the sleeping tablets and painkillers prescribed for her by the main GP and gave her 14 days worth of new painkillers. He said he had no idea what was wrong with her, though he easily found the pain spot.

(My mother died on 13th January 2007 from a heart attack;
the pain never stopped)

I got an e-mail from a friend in the US:

Something terrible has happened – massive car crash, involving my sister. Fractured spine, internal bleeding… car turned over, went in a 7 ft ditch, missed many trees, wheel came off, it was dark and there was no-one about except her friend following her in another car. The problem was the wheel bearing.

(My friend’s sister is still alive; she is fine now)


 2001

I went with my parents to hospital to see my father’s consultant. He said there had been two polyps removed during my father’s colonoscopy. The malignant tumour has been confirmed and he will operate on my father on 19th April for £5,000, cutting into the front of his stomach, cutting away the section of bowel where the tumour is and reconnecting the intestine with the bowel because he says that is easier than reconnecting two ends of bowel. My father was sick after his supper yesterday. Today, after an average sized meal at a Little Chef restaurant, he said: “Big meal. Made me awfy tired, but I enjoyed it.”

(My father died on 27th June 2001 of cancer)

 2003


Extract from an e-mail to me from a friend:

My Mum has had a bad week but today was feeling miles better. Except for a very strange thing. According to my Dad, she saw a ghost during the night. Only my mother can do things like that. She woke up suddenly about 3.00am to find a woman leaning over her bed staring at her, with large protruding eyes. My Mum startled her and she backed off then came close again at which point Mum turned to her side to switch on her hearing aid and when she turned back (a matter of seconds) the woman had gone. Mum very painfully got up and went to ask the nurse if anyone had entered the ward. No-one had.

(My friend’s mother is still alive)

The News of the World printed a story today:

PRINCESS’S SEX SECRET

Movie star Richard Harris had sex sessions with Princess Margaret at a lady-in waiting’s home, it was claimed last night. And when Margaret asked his help in destroying sexually explicit photos of her with small-time actor John Bindon, he called in 60s Torture Gang boss Charles Richardson. The gang leader forced Bindon, who was famous for balancing beer mugs  on his manhood, to hand over the pics for £5,000, according to Harris’s pal Robert McKew. “Richard burnt them, then ordered drinks all round,” said McKew.

(Johnny Bindon died 10th October 1993;
Princess Margaret died 9th February 2002;
Richard Harris died 25th October 2002;
Charlie Richardson died 19th September 2012)

So it goes.

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Malcolm Hardee Week starts to fall apart – ?

What an interesting man Tim FitzHigham is.

If being successful involves a high percentage of sheer luck in being in the right place at the right time, he will soon be mega-famous.

He has his feet and image well inside the differing markets of English eccentricity, mad adventurer type, sophisticated and nostalgic Flanders and Swann entertainment, children’s shows and Andrew Maxwell’s madly OTT Fullmooners alternative comedy shows.

One of those areas must hit paydirt for him at some point, especially as he seems willing to literally break every bone in his body in the quest for a laugh.

He mesmerised me over a drink last night with tales of an English equivalent of  William McGonnagal, lauded like a stand-up comic in Elizabethan times because he thought he was a serious poet but his poems were so crap people loved to hear them.

And then Tim had tales of carousing in Soho pubs with actor Richard Harris, a man of legendary drinking capacity.

And, to top it all, it also turned out (because of an eccentric escapade with a paper boat) that Tim is an honorary member of the Company of Watermen and Lightermen of the River Thames and told me that late comic Malcolm Hardee and Malcolm’s father (a Thames lighterman) are both fondly remembered.

Tim also has access to unpublished and unperformed Flanders & Swann songs, which is something I would certainly like to hear at a future Edinburgh Fringe.

Meanwhile, Malcolm Hardee Week at the Fringe starts, inevitably, to fall apart.

No problem with tonight’s Malcolm Hardee Comedy Punch-Up Debate on the proposition that “Comedians are psychopathic masochists with a death wish” based on a blog I wrote a while ago.

As far as I know, Kate Copstick, Janey Godley, Paul Provenza and Bob Slayer will all turn up to argue the toss at The Hive venue 6.15-7.00pm. Five people; five chairs; two microphones – it’s the Free Festival.

But the lovely Miss Behave, due to host Friday’s Malcolm Hardee Award Show, is now too ill to do it – she has meningitis and is returning to London.

And two people who were coming up to Edinburgh to help me on people control at Wednesday’s/Thursday’s spaghetti-juggling and Friday’s two hour Malcolm Hardee Awards Show – which is really a variety show with an unfeasible number of performers – are not coming.

So I am now desperately seeking a new host and two people to help me. No money on offer. But a free copy to each of the two helpers of Malcolm Hardee’s out-of-print cult autobiography I Stole Freddie Mercury’s Birthday Cake.

How could anyone resist?

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