Until Covid hit, I was in charge of The Toad of Shame. An actual toad (but probably a frog) that I found flattened and dried while in the Santa Monica mountains filming.
Rutger Hauer with his Toad and Manuel Baca…
I laminated and attached a lanyard to it.
If anyone did anything to impede the filming process such as phone ringing, being late, breaking something, snoring while rolling etc…, that person would have to wear the Toad for the day, or until someone else did something wrong that day.
Actor Stephen Moyer, who played a vampire on the True Blood series, confirmed:
Our assistant property master @Truebloodhbo Manuel Baca found a flattened toad up at Greer Ranch in Malibu. (This is where we shoot most of our exteriors.)
The three of them “did what any self respecting ‘toad finder’ would do in the circumstances….”
The poor little toad had all the air and blood and gubbins squashed out of him. So Manuel, Mike Horn (on set dressing) and Greg Manke (first assistant property master) did what any self respecting ‘toad finder’ would do in the circumstances. They laminated it. Within a few days it had a lanyard on it.
And before long… When any member of the cast or crew were late, or broke something, or their phone went off… They would be awarded with the ‘Toad’.
At the end of the season, the crew member with the most ‘Toads’ throughout the season would be awarded a rather hideous trophy adorned with golden toads and be forced to make a speech.
The aim is for our fabulous toad to become an industry standard.
This tradition continued when Manuel joined #crazyexgirlfriend. In our final season, the whole show went a little toad crazy, with numerous people getting the toad every day and friend turning on friend to throw someone under the toad bus.
Let us hope the Toad can survive Covid and be revived…
Some of the proud former winners of the Toad of Shame award on Instagram…
My chum Lou is an interesting man: he makes knuckledusters and knows interesting people. Last night, he was talking to me about Paul Fox.
Paul Fox was lead guitarist in the British punk rock band The Ruts. He died of lung cancer in October 2007.
So it goes.
“I used to bump into Paul every now and then at what’s now the Coy Carp in Harefield,” Lou told me last night. “On a Sunday, they used to have a few live bands down there. Paul was inspirational, absolutely amazing, a really sound guy. What a man! Never heard him slag anyone off. When I heard he’d got cancer, I told him: I’m your driver, I’ll look after you.
“One day he was in so much pain and I was getting pain tablets at the time but I didn’t need them any more… He was not getting enough pain killers from the hospital because I think a doctor there knew he’d had a problem with narcotics in the past and decided to keep him a little bit short.
“If it had been anyone else, they’d probably have got as much as they wanted, but he was constantly in pain. I used to say to people: When you meet Paul, please don’t squeeze him; he’s in so much pain.
“But Paul wouldn’t go Argh! get off! He’d just stand there and take the pain.
“So, anyway, I used to help him out with his tablets.
“Once, we were coming back about 2 o’clock in the morning from his sister’s in Hastings. He was groaning; he’d taken some tablets, but they hadn’t kicked in yet and he said to me: I’d rather this was over sooner rather than later. And I told him: Listen, Paul, if you want to make a job of it, I’ll help you.
“Yeah, he said, but, if they come after you and you get caught, you’ll go behind the door for that.
“I said: Stupid as I am, I would be like an Republican soldier. I would have done what I thought was right. OK. I’ll do me bird for it. But, if what I did was the right thing for that person I helped. I’d be like a soldier. I’d say I did the right thing.”
“You mean an Irish Republican soldier?” I asked.
“Yes,” said Lou, “they were very, very committed men, god bless ‘em. Brave men. They weren’t trained like British soldiers.
“So Paul said I’d rather it was over and I said Well, alright. And then I sat there thinking What have I done? I can’t go back. I’ve made a commitment.
“And Paul sat there for what seemed like ages, though it was probably only about ten minutes and eventually he said: No.
We’ll Never Surrender! – The Ruts’ Staring at The Rude Boys
“No what? I asked him.
“No, he said, We’re going to see it out to the end.
“I said: That’s good… Don’t forget the song…
“We’ll never surrender.
“And we had a little laugh about that.”
The Ruts’ song Staring at The Rude Boys includes the lyrics We’ll never surrender.
“Is there anything you want to do that you haven’t done? I asked him. Whatever it is, we’ll do it.
“I wanted to fly,” he said.
“Well, we can do that, I told him. I know a bloke with a small plane.
“Nah! I wanted to learn to fly, he said.
“And did he go up in one?” I asked.
“Well, a bit of him did,” replied Lou. “His ashes were thrown out over Northolt. Some of his ashes. The rest of his ashes, I think, are with his sister in Hastings, god bless her. She told me they were going to be in a wooden box, so I got a little silver plaque and engraved on it …We’ll never surrender!…
“He died in 2007 – six years ago now,” Lou told me.
“My mother died in 2007,” I told Lou.
So it goes.
“When they diagnosed the cancer,” Lou told me, “Paul asked them How long have I got? and the doctor said Ooh, you’ve got a long, long time.
Paul Fox in final gig with The Ruts at Islington in July 2007
“And he asked them Have I got time to write an album? and they said Absolutely.
“A couple of days later, they told him Here, Paul, we made a little mistake. You’ve got a rampant cancer. You may have six months to live. And that’s what he had. About five-and-a-half months. Bosh. He was gone. Bang. Gone.”
“It’s almost better shorter,” I said. “My father was the same. I asked the consultant how long he had left and the reply was Three months to three years and he died almost exactly three months later.”
“We were raising some money for Paul,” Lou told me last night. “We was doing a do. We still do it every year. The Paul Fox appreciation society, mate. We get together once a year and raise a few quid.
“I don’t forget about Paul but, you know, things go on… and then that comes round and I walk into that fucking bar and there’s a picture of him that night – the last night at Islington – and… it gets to me… it’s getting to me now… oh fuck… ”
“Have you seen Blade Runner?” I asked Lou.
“You know Rutger Hauer’s death speech?”
“When I die all those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain,”
“Oh, yeah,” said Lou.
Lou looks at Paul Fox’s poster last night and remembers him
Before Paul Fox died, he had 100 copies made of a poster on which he printed some of his memories.
Lou has No 3 of the 100 posters on his wall.
Some of Paul’s memories on the poster are:
“I was in a band called Hit & Run with Malcolm Owen. He came and played me Anarchy in The UK. We both said We can do that and promptly formed a band. The first two songs we wrote were Lobotomy and Rich Bitch. I can also remember Malcolm giving Sid Vicious a good hiding in The Speakeasy for being disrespectful to his bird. In Malcolm’s defence, Sid was an arrogant cunt.
“I also remember Rusty Egan asking me to audition for the Rich Kids, one of Glen Matlock’s bands after the Sex Pistols. I didn’t get the job because my hair was too long and it didn’t suit the band’s image. Midge Ure bagged the job in the end.
“I remember doing a TV show called The Mersey Pirate which was the predecessor to Tiswas. (In fact, it filled the Tiswas summer break in 1979.) This boat went up and down the Mersey and turned round and come back again. The only trouble was we’d been out partying till the early hours that morning and were feeling slightly rough. We boarded at 8.00am and, when the boat turned round, we kept falling out of camera shot.
“Also appearing on the same show were the guy who played Darth Vader and the Jolly Green Giant – Dave Prowse – and Don Estelle and Windsor Davies singing their hit Whispering Grass. We were skinning up a joint and Windsor Davies walked by and said I used to smoke that in the Army. I bumped into Don Estelle years later when we both appeared as ourselves in the line-ups for Never Mind the Buzzcocks. He remembered that day on the Mersey quite well.”
Paul’s final gig with The Ruts in London on 16th July 2007
On the 16th of July 2007, three months before his death on 21st October 2007, Paul Fox headlined a concert in his own honour, teaming up for one final performance with his surviving band mates and with long-time Ruts fan Henry Rollins filling in for original Ruts singer Malcolm Owen who died of a heroin overdose in 1980.
So it goes. Paul is interviewed about it on YouTube.
Thirty years ago, in 1982, the actor Rutger Hauer improvised a monologue in a film. The original script had read:
I’ve known adventures, seen places you people will never see, I’ve been Offworld and back… frontiers! I’ve stood on the back deck of a blinker bound for the Plutition Camps with sweat in my eyes watching the stars fight on the shoulder of Orion…I’ve felt wind in my hair, riding test boats off the black galaxies and seen an attack fleet burn like a match and disappear. I’ve seen it, felt it…!
Rutger Hauer changed this when the scene was shot in Blade Runner to:
I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.
His momentary improvisation has lasted and been remembered.
The original, written script… it is as if it never existed.
Last night, my eternally-un-named friend was cleaning the top of a very old bedside table. It is possibly 100 years old. Perhaps it was made in 1912 or 1922 or even earlier. Just before – or just after – the First World War. Obviously, being that old, there were marks on and in the wood.
Things had happened to the table – lots of tiny split-second things over the course of perhaps 100 years – which marked the wood. It remains scarred after all this time. The table could easily have been thrown away in the last 100 years. And then the scars would not exist.
Just like people.
At some point, the table will be thrown away and destroyed. Then it will not exist. Even the memory of it will not exist.
So it goes.
In the UK, apparently, many comedy clubs are getting perhaps half as many customers as they did a couple of years ago and are cutting back or closing down. “There is a crisis in the live comedy business” and a group of comedians and club owners are meeting in London tomorrow to discuss what they can do about it.
This is very important to them, because they are talking about their livelihoods, how they earn enough money to (just about) survive. In that sense, it is by far the most important thing in the world.
But, to put their troubles into perspective, here is an e-mail I received from comedy critic Kate Copstick this morning, currently working out in Kenya for her Mama Biashara charity. She tells me about something which happened yesterday.
Doris has gone off to Limuru where there is a problem with a childminder mistreating kids. She calls me from Limuru and explains that they had to batter down the door of the woman’s house at 11.00am and found eight children whimpering, famished and covered in their own poo and pee.
The mothers of the kids are what might be termed chang’aa whores – ie they will have sex with a guy for booze. A little like our time-honoured tradition of crack whores. But cheaper. And more prone to death, blindness and insanity (yer basic side effects of chang’aa – a brew that makes poteen look like a banana smoothie).
The women leave their kids with the ‘childminder’ while they go out at night and do what they do.
Sadly, in this case, the childminder simply dosed them with adult strength Piriton and left them while SHE went out overnight to do what she did.
According to Doris, the police were great: “They beat the women till they sobered up and then locked them in the cells”.
We are probably going to Limuru tomorrow with some food and meds for the kids. But, longer term, there is very little we can think of to do for a baby with a monster for a mother.
I agreed with Margaret Thatcher when she said Society doesn’t exist. It is made up of individuals. ‘Society’ is something made up by sociologists.
Just like History does not exist. It is made up of and by sometimes extraordinary individuals.
At the weekend, amid all the TV and radio reports from Libya and the non-reports about what is happening in Algeria, Bahrain, Jordan and Yemen, there was a tiny news item about trouble in Oman. This reminded me about one of the most interesting people I never met. He was a man you don’t meet every day.
He’d seen things you people wouldn’t believe and, when he died, almost all those moments were lost in time, like tears in rain. His death went mostly un-noticed, but he intersected with History.
In the mid-1990s, I (almost) wrote the autobiography of a Soviet sleeper agent who, let’s say, was called Ozymandias. I have blogged about him before. He believed that the British and the Spanish were the most violent people in Europe. He told me about a British friend called Bill Foxton who, he said, had gone to public school in Somerset, then joined the French Foreign Legion for five years and fought in the Algerian War of 1954-62.
“At that time, a lot of guys in the Legion were German,” Ozymandias told me, “Many of them former S.S. men. Bill told me that during the French Algerian War in the early 1960s, when they entered a village to ‘clear it up’, the Spaniards were the only ones who would shoot babies in their cradles. Even the ex-S.S. men didn’t do that.”
After his experiences in the Algerian War, Bill Foxton returned to England in the Swinging Sixties with lots of money in his pockets and met lots of girls who fancied him and, according to my chum Ozymandias, joined a privately-run special services group. They used to train Idi Amin’s bodyguards in Uganda and there was an incident in Qatar when the Emir’s brother was shot.
“Finally,” Ozymandias told me, “in 1969, Bill was employed as one of a group who were paid to go and kill Colonel Gaddafi in Libya. But they were stopped at London Airport by the British security services and the private company they worked for was closed down. Because of his experience, Bill was persuaded by the British authorities to join the SAS and was immediately sent to Ireland 1969-1973.
In a previous blog, I mentioned an extraordinary true story in which an Irish Republican was kidnapped in Belfast, drugged and put on a plane from Shannon to New York. Bill Foxton was involved in that. He was also a member of the British bobsleigh team in the 1972 European Championships. He was an interesting man.
In 1973, he was sent to fight in the secret war in Oman which, at the time, was called ‘the Dhofar insurgency’ and was said to be restricted to southern Oman; it was claimed the Omani Army were fighting some Yemeni insurgents. In fact, the insurgents were backed on the ground by South Yemeni regular troops supported by East German advisors and troops, acting on behalf of the Soviet Union. Oman was backed on the ground by British SAS troops (plus, in the early stages, the Royal Navy) and by units of the Shah of Iran’s army and the Jordanian Army. The commander of the British forces was an admiral and his problem was to cut the rebels’ supply routes from South Yemen into Oman. The British strategy was to construct three fences along the border, manned by more than 5,000 Iranian troops. Behind these three fences, inside Oman, the war was fought by the British SAS and Oman’s mainly Baluchi army while Jordanian desert troops defended the northern part of the desert in Dhofar province.
In 1975, Bill was inspecting a sector of the border fence when East German troops fired an RPG – a rocket-propelled grenade – at him. He was alone, but managed to jump back onto his jeep and drive off, holding his blasted and bloodied arm onto his torso with a torn strip of his uniform. He held the strip of fabric with his teeth and drove with his other hand, while the enemy troops continued firing grenades at him. He drove about 6km to a British base where a Pakistani medic came out to see him.
“I think I’ve lost my arm,” Bill said through his clenched teeth.
“Well, let’s have a look then,” the Pakistani medic replied sympathetically. Bill let go of the strip of fabric he was holding with his teeth and, when his arm fell out, the medic fainted on the spot. Alan fainted too. They flew him to the British base at Akrotiri on Cyprus, where his arm was amputated and, by the time my chum Ozymandias met him, he had an artificial one.
“I am a big man,” Ozymandias told me, “but Bill has a neck twice the girth of mine. He may only have one arm but, when we met in 1982, I could see immediately he was extremely tough. Red hair, red beard, strong, broad neck. We immediately got on.”
According to Ozymandias, Bill Foxton had won an award from the SAS:
“At that time, Bill had already lost his left arm but was still a serving member of the SAS; he was training in the deserts of Oman with younger SAS troopers closing in on his position from all sides and he buried himself in the sand. He dug a hole with his one good arm and simply buried himself deep underground. The SAS troopers passed over him without realising until he told them and the Regiment was so impressed they gave him their Award.”
After the secret war ended, Bill decided to stay in Oman and started running the Sultan’s Armed Forces (SAF) Beach Club: apparently a splendid, well-organised place with a restaurant full of ex-patriot British soldiers from a wide variety of armies. He had his SAS Award plaque hanging on the wall of his office.
According to Ozymandias, Bill kept a hat in his living room in Britain. The hat belonged to Serbian General Ratko Mladic – who is still on the run for war crimes as I write this. During the Yugoslav wars, Bosnian forces ambushed Mladic’s car in an attempt to assassinate him; he was not in the car but his hat was. So the Bosnians killed his driver and gave the hat to Bill, whom they admired. That was the explanation Bill Foxton gave.
In 1999 he was awarded the OBE for his work in Kosovo.
By 2008, he was working in Afghanistan, running humanitarian projects.
His death was not news except in the local Southern Daily Echo in Southampton. The BBC mentioned it as a ‘human interest’ aside to the Bernie Madoff ponzi scheme fraud story, like a teardrop in rain. His death went mostly un-noticed, but he intersected with History.
Oh – that British plot to assassinate Colonel Gaddafi in 1969, the year he came to power… it was allegedly stopped because the US Government felt that Gaddafi was sufficiently anti-Marxist to be worth ‘protecting’.
In yesterday’s blog, I mentioned actor Rutger Hauer’s famous death speech in Blade Runner and someone complained on my Facebook page that, in fact, I should have credited the film’s writers – the screenplay was written by Hampton Fancher and David Peoples, based on Philip K. Dick’s novel Do Androids Dream Of Electric Sheep?
In fact, it’s almost inconceivable but true that Rutger Hauer actually made up the speech off the top of his head. I saw a TV interview with the film’s director, Ridley Scott, where he said Rutger just went over in a corner and came back with the speech in its entirety:
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain. Time to die.”
It wasn’t in the script; it wasn’t in the book; the director didn’t write it; the actor made it up.
But the guy who complained about my crediting the actor not the writer is quite right in general. People tend to overlook who actually creates movies: the writers. Without them, zilch. A director may be brilliant – for example, David Fincher with Fight Club and The Social Network – but the 1950s French-spawned cult of the director is just as stupid as any other piece of intellectualising about movie-making.
It never fails to amaze me what pseudo-intellectual bullshit some so-called critics spout about the movies. When you create an academic subject, it seems that reality goes out the window and, rather than look at the movies, some people just look up their own arses
Last night, I went to a special screening of Lindsay Anderson’s 1968 movie If…. introduced by Sir Alan Parker. He had chosen If…. as the movie which had most influenced him, despite the fact that its director Lindsay Anderson didn’t much like him and had once (with John Schlesinger) sued him in the courts for defamation of character over a cartoon he had drawn.
In fact, it seemed, Alan Parker had mostly chosen If…. because he greatly admired its director of photography Miroslav Ondricek, not its director.
A lot of film criticism is utter twaddle written from the bizarre ivory towers of academia. I can never get over the stupidity of film courses which claim that the ideal movie is Casablanca and therefore, by extension, people should follow the example of Casablanca when writing a film script.
Casablanca was a terrible mess of movie production. The truth is that the actors – along with everyone else on the movie – had no idea what was going to happen at the end and had no idea if the Ingrid Bergman character was going to go off with Humphrey Bogart or Paul Henreid in the final scene, so could not tailor their performances accordingly.
Virtually each night, after completing a hard day’s shooting, they were given new script pages and script rewrites for the next day’s shooting. Neither the director not the producer and especially not the writers (credited as Julius J. Epstein, Philip G. Epstein and Howard Koch with an uncredited Casey Robinson, based on the play Everybody Comes to Rick’s by Murray Burnett and Joan Alison) – nobody – had any idea what was going on.
So the ideal way to shoot a movie would be (in this ludicrous theory) to start shooting with no finished script and actors who have no idea what their characters think or feel.
Much has been written about the fact that If…. has some sequences in colour and some in black & white. I had heard this was because they had run out of money and (surprisingly in 1968) it was cheaper to shoot in black & white.
Alan Parker said last night that he had heard the interiors of the church were shot in black & white because shooting in colour would have required much more lighting and, as a relatively low-budget film, they could not afford that, so Miroslav Ondricek shot with faster black & white film. The rest of the black & white sequences appeared to be simply random and done on a whim.
As for the auteur theory that the director creates and controls everything, at the summit of this must be Stanley Kubrick, who was a legendary control freak. There are stories of him going to suburban cinemas with a light meter and taking readings off the screen so he would know the intensity of light with which his films had to be screened for optimum viewing by ordinary audiences.
He insisted on take after take after take of scenes – sometimes 50 times for one shot – so that the lighting, framing, acting et al were perfect.
But, last night, Alan Parker said the star of A Clockwork Orange, Malcolm McDowell, had told him that, when cast in the lead role of Alex, he wasn’t sure how to play the part and had asked Lindsay Anderson for advice. Anderson told McDowell to remember the slight smile he had put on his face as the character Mick Travis when entering the gym for the beating sequence in If…. and to play the character of Alex like that throughout A Clockwork Orange. McDowell said it was the best piece of direction he had ever received.
The auteur theory?
Academic film critics?
They might as well get a colonoscopy and stick the camera up their arse.
I watched it five times over the next week. I cried each time I saw the final shot. I bought the DVD from Amazon and watched it with a (slightly younger) friend. I cried at the closing sequence, watching the final shot. One single shot, held for over two minutes. She didn’t understand why.
Clearly the cancer and cancer scares swirling amid my friends must be having their toll.
Someone has put online all issues of the British hippie/alternative culture newspaper International Times (aka “it”).
I was the Film Section editor for one of its incarnations in 1974.
Tempus fugit or would that be better as the Nicer sentence Ars Longa Vita Brevis?
Especially when you look round comedy clubs and you’re by far the oldest person in the room and you don’t laugh as much because you’ve heard what must be literally thousands of jokes told live on stage over decades.
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I’ve watched c-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain.”
With me, it’s flashes of memories from the 1960s.
I remember working at the long-forgotten Free Bookshop in Earls Court. It was really just a garage in a mews and people donated second hand books to it but – hey! man! – wouldn’t it be great if everything was free? I remember going downstairs in the Arts Lab in Drury Lane to see experimental films; I think I saw the long-forgotten Herostratus movie there. I remember walking among people holding daffodils in the darkened streets around the Royal Albert Hall when we all came out of a Donovan concert. Or was it an Incredible String Band gig? I remember the two amazingly talented members of the Incredible String Band sitting in a pile of mostly eccentric musical instruments on stage at the Royal Albert Hall; they played them all at one point or another.
No, I was right originally. It was a Donovan concert in January 1967. It’s in Wikipedia, so it must be true. On stage at Donovan’s gig, a ballerina danced during a 12-minute performance of Golden Apples.
I remember it.
Moments in time.
Like tears in rain.
It’s not true when they say that if you can remember the Sixties you weren’t there.
I remember being in the Queen Elizabeth Hall (or was it the Purcell Room?) on the South Bank of the River Thames in London, seeing the two-man hippie group Tyrannosaurus Rex perform before Marc Bolan dumped Steve Peregrine Took and formed what Tyrannosaurus Rex fans like me mostly felt was the far-inferior T Rex. And the Tyrannosaurus Rex support act that night on the South Bank was a mime artist who did not impress me called David Jones who later re-invented himself as David Bowie. I still didn’t rate him much as David Bowie: he was just a jumped-up mime artist who sang.
No, it wasn’t in the Queen Elizabeth Hall or the Purcell Room. It didn’t happen there. It was in the Royal Festival Hall on Whit Monday, 3rd June 1968. There’s an ad for it on the back cover of International Times issue 31.
The ad says DJ John Peel was providing “vibrations” and the wonderful Roy Harper was supporting.
I remember that now.
But the ad says “David Bowie” was supporting.
I’m sure he was introduced on stage as “David Jones”.
I used to go to the early free rock concerts which Blackhill Enterprises organised in a small-ish natural grass amphitheatre called ‘the cockpit’ in Hyde Park. Not many people went. Just enough to sit on the grass and listen comfortably. I think I may have been in the audience by the stage on the cover of the second issue of the new Time Out listings magazine.
I realised Pink Floyd – whom I hadn’t much rated before – were better heard at a distance when their sounds were drifting over water – like bagpipes – so I meandered over and listened to them from the other side of the Serpentine.
I remember a few months or a few weeks later turning up ten minutes before the Rolling Stones were due to start their free Hyde Park gig and found thousands of people had turned up and the gig had been moved to a flatter area. I think maybe I had not realised the Stones would draw a crowd. I gave up and went home. The Hyde Park gigs never recovered. Too many people from then on.
I remember going to The Great South Coast Bank Holiday Pop Festivity on the Isle of Wight in 1968. I went to see seeing Jefferson Airplane, Tyrannosaurus Rex, The Pretty Things, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown and Fairport Convention. I didn’t go back the next year to the re-named Isle of Wight Festival because top-of-the-bill was the horribly pretentious and whiney non-singer Bob Dylan. What have people ever seen in him?
Moments in time.
Like tears in rain.
Ars longa, vita brevis, occasio praeceps, experimentum periculosum, iudicium difficile.
You can look it up on Wikipedia.
Though equally good, I reckon is the ancient saying:
Time flies like an arrow. Fruit flies like a banana.