Tag Archives: suicide

Suicidal ‘Screaming’ Lord Sutch, as remembered by inventor John Ward

John Ward with some of the many Malcolm Hardee Comedy Awards which he designed and made

Eccentric inventor and designer of trophies for the late Malcolm Hardee Comedy AwardsJohn Ward also writes a weekly column Ward’s World for that esteemed publication the Spalding Guardian.

Yesterday, they published a piece by him about anarchic politician and comic rock ‘n’ roller ‘Screaming’ Lord Sutch who committed suicide 20 years ago this week.

Perhaps that should have read ‘comic politician and anarchic rock ‘n’ roller’.

Screaming Lord Sutch holds the record for losing in UK Parliamentary elections – more than 40 between 1963-1997.

Since the article was published yesterday, there has been a lot of reaction and feedback.

John Ward tells me:


The key question asked is why he committed suicide.

Nobody really knows. In these cases, how can anybody be in a position to really know for sure? The recorded ‘verdict’ is one thing; the real reason only he knew.

He used to ring me at odd hours to talk about anything ‘daft’ or run ideas past me. The general feeling is he was a manic depressive behind the mask. (Think of Tony Hancock maybe?)

John Ward and Lord Sutch fêted by Time Life

On one occasion, he rang to ask if I knew we were both on the same page of a Time-Life book – part of a series titled Library of Curious and Unusual Facts – he pointed out he didn’t mind sharing the page with me!

Another time, he rang to ask if I was busy. He put the phone down at his end, then I heard things being moved about which lasted about five minutes or so. Then he came back to the phone to tell me he had moved his mother’s sideboard around, then her display cabinet which she had her china pieces in, then he proudly told me that he had had a ‘cabinet reshuffle’.

His mum (glad she and mine never mingled!!!!!) was a card in her own right.

I rang on one occasion to speak to him – they lived in the same house in Harrow – and, bearing in mind the many times I had spoken to her before, she asked:

“How do you know my David? Did you vote for him? How do you know I’m his mother cos you called me Mrs Sutch and he don’t have a wife you know, not now anyway…”

It was worse if you forgot the time of day and rang while he was in bed. Most days he rose after 1 or 2 in the afternoon – like most in the ‘show business’ as he would have got home in the early hours of the morning after a gig.

She would usually say: “My David is in bed – I’ll go and get him/fetch him – hang on.”

Then she would put the phone down on the table in the hall and you heard her go clumping up the stairs, stand at the top of the landing and then shout out: 

“David – are you still asleep or not?” (!) 

After a muffled reply from his door, it was then clump-clump-clump back down the stairs and she would pick up the phone and say:

“I think he’s coming down…”

Not 100% positive, mind – just ‘think’. 

This could take anything from mere minutes to hearing “Your tea’s ready and on the table” at my end before he came to the phone.

But, in fairness, he didn’t clump-clump-clump down the stairs.

It was so surreal it reminded me of The Goons with Minnie Bannister & Co…

“Is that you, Min?”

“Oh… You’re not sure?… I’ll ask you later then, when you know…”

I am glad I was in the ‘wrong place at the wrong time’ otherwise I would never have met this amazing and unique man.


John tells how he met Sutch in his Spalding Guardian piece.

The full version is online.

 This is an edited version…

(L-R) John Ward, James Whale and Screaming Lord Sutch were hit by a power cut and a blizzard


Initially I had no idea I would ever be meeting David Edward Sutch but we were both individually booked to appear on a late-night television chat show some years ago – rather inspiringly called The James Whale Radio Show – that went out late from (then) Yorkshire TV in Leeds, live on a Friday night.

We got on okay as we did the show, which suffered a minor power cut live on air due to a blizzard hitting the area, but we coped.

Afterwards, we eventually got back to our hotel at about half past one in the morning, going through snow drifts with our driver complaining he was cold though he had a fur coat on.

Back at the hotel, we realised there was no chance of getting a bite to eat at that hour but, as we had rooms opposite each other, we took our kettles out onto the landing, plugged in and then brewed up a cuppa each, nibbled on the small packets of complimentary biscuits as we chatted and put the world to rights – It always seems to work better sitting on a decent bit of floral patterned carpet and supping tea.

A few months afterwards, after phone calls and assorted meet ups, he made me his ‘Minster of Inventions’ as he was then the leader/instigator of the Monster Raving Loony Party.

For the life of me I could not work out why or how I had upset him so much that he would bestow such a title on me but, in fairness, I never asked.

Our ‘best’ achievement between us – his idea, my design – was a ‘Manifesto Muncher’.

He used to throw other political parties’ written manifestos into it and it churned them out again in the form of toilet rolls – so at least the end product was something to go on.

Lovely sense of humour – Why can’t all politics be like this?

Even though he is no longer with us, the interest in him now, twenty years after his death, never ceases to wane although we live in an age where supposed ‘celebrity’ is seemingly an everyday commodity. No sooner do we get used to one supposed ‘celeb’ then another comes along.

But no sign of there being another David Edward Sutch so far – or even anything like him. And, like him or not, it’s a safe bet he will still be remembered in years to come.

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Filed under Eccentrics, Humor, Humour, Politics, UK

My surprising top ten blogs of last year

(Photograph by Ariane Sherine)

I started this blog in 2010 and it is usually referred-to as a “comedy blog” but, just out of quirky interest, here is a list of what were my Top Ten blogs in terms of hits last year.

This list is obviously more a reflection of who my readers are than anything else…

1) Where the Kray Twins gangster film “Legend” got it all so very badly wrong

2) The practicalities of putting your head in a gas oven: my 2nd suicide attempt

3) Krayzy Days – Why London gangster Ronnie Kray really shot George Cornell inside the Blind Beggar pub in 1966

4) What the REAL Swinging Sixties were like – gangsters and police corruption

5) Hello to the Bye Bye Girls – Ruby Wax’s offspring – two Siblings on the Fringe

6) Creating a Legend – The Krays and the killing of ‘Mad Axeman’ Frank Mitchell

7) What it is like to be on the jury of a murder case at the Old Bailey in London

8) Why Chris Tarrant’s TV show OTT was taken off air – a naked Malcolm Hardee

9) Edinburgh Fringe, Day 12: How to destroy a comedy career & other news

10) The death of an Italian archaeologist who knew so many 20th century secrets

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Filed under Blogs, Crime, Nostalgia

Edinburgh Fringe, Day 26: To feel that tranquility amidst the Fringe adrenaline

Today, I did my annual trip up Blackford Hill, to the south of Edinburgh. The photos below are all from today. The one above was taken in 2010.

The reason I try to go up Blackford Hill every Fringe was explained by me in a book which the website Such Small Portions published in 2013. It was titled Secret Edinburgh, sub-titled A Comedians’ Guide To The City. It had contributions from over 160 comedians and/or people listed in the Comedy section of that year’s Edinburgh Fringe Programme.

Which is why I was asked to contribute, although I was not and am not a performer.

One section of Secret Edinburgh was titled Out of Town and contributors basically wrote about their favourite places which are not in the centre of the city.

Below is my contribution in 2013, interspersed with photos taken today.

_____________________________________________________

When I was newly 18, I tried to commit suicide with pills. This was a bad idea, because I had always been shit at Chemistry in school.

I was persuaded to go into a mental home in Essex, because I had tried to kill myself. I did. But I only stayed two days and one night because they kept asking me questions when I just wanted to be left alone.

I went back to my distraught parents’ home, but it was no better there. Not their fault. So I ran away from home.

I hitched to Edinburgh which was and still is my favourite city. Ever since I was an embryo, I had gone there once a year with my parents to spend a few days with my father’s aunt, who lived in Morningside.

When I ran away to Edinburgh, I slept one night in a multi-storey car park at the foot of the castle rock. I spent another sleeping in the stairwell of a block of council flats. It was very cold.

In Morningside, I saw my great aunt on the other side of the street. I did not talk to her.

Later, I walked up the Blackford Hill at twilight to see the view: the city spread out before me, the castle rising up in the distance on the left; Arthur’s Seat rising in the distance on the right. The waters of the Forth were twinkling in the background with Fife beyond them; the lights of the twilight city were starting to twinkle in the foreground.

It was totally peaceful and now, every time I go to Edinburgh for the Fringe, at least once I walk up the Blackford Hill to feel that tranquility amidst the Fringe adrenaline.

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Filed under Psychology, Suicide

Award-winning UK comic to write play about Twin Peaks director David Lynch

Mr Twonkey promotes his Christmas in the Jungle in Brighton

So I had a chat with Mr Twonkey aka Paul Vickers at King’s Cross station in London.

He was on his way back home to Edinburgh. Last year, he won the increasingly prestigious Malcolm Hardee Award for Comic Originality at the Edinburgh Fringe.

“How were your Christmas in the Jungle shows at the Brighton Fringe?” I asked.

“It was so hot,” he told me. “I don’t think people were feeling… They were… It occurred to me that maybe doing a Christmas show in the middle of the summer isn’t such a great idea.”

“But surely,” I said, “with your act, to do a Christmas show at Christmas would be a silly idea.”

“Well,” he replied, “I was pitching it as The only Christmas show on at Brighton in June. Unfortunately, there was another one called The Grotto. And, when I was flyering for it in the street, people were asking me: What’s wrong with you?”

“You are,” I checked, “still doing Christmas in the Jungle at the Edinburgh Fringe this August?”

“Yes.”

“Have you seen the new Twin Peaks TV series yet?”

“No. But I am trying to write a play about David Lynch.”

“Your previous play was Jennifer’s Robot Arm,” I said.

“Yes. That was more kitchen sink drama/science fiction. This would be about people who actually exist.”

“How are you getting the facts?” I asked. “From Wikipedia?”

“Various sources. There’s a few books about him. The trouble is none of them are any good apart from one which is not bad: Lynch On Lynch, which is a series of interviews with him.”

“Does he know anything about himself?” I asked.

“I would imagine there are a few gaps. But there’s also a good documentary online about someone following him around while he’s making Inland Empire.

“And there’s a book coming out in February 2018, published by Canongate Books which has his full support. I think it’s called Room To Dream.”

“So your play,” I asked, “is about… what?”

“I want to focus on is the time he spent in London. The early part of people’s careers is always the most interesting. He was living in a flat in Wimbledon, making a suit for The Elephant Man.

‘You know, in Eraserhead, there’s a little deformed baby. I think he kept it very damp. I think he used chicken and raw animal flesh, moulded it together and used maggots quite a lot – to eat away the face. And then he kept it damp. His daughter wanted to play with it and he told her: You can play with it as long as you don’t touch it.

“After Eraserhead, he was a cult figure – a young hotshot director – and he had a few films he was trying to pitch. One of them was called Gardenback, which was about a community of people who could only speak to each other by passing an insect between them, either through the ear or through the mouth.

“The studio kept pushing him to write dialogue for it and he couldn’t write any. He said: Well, that’s the whole point: that they don’t speak. They communicate by passing the insect. So that project was shelved.

“Then he had another project called Ronnie Rocket, which was for the actor of restricted height in the Black Lodge. It was like Rocket Man, but he was small and it was surreal and it had villains called The Donut Men. But no-one would pick it up.”

“Jam on the fingers?” I asked.

“Yeah. So then they just gave him a pile of scripts and he picked The Elephant Man without reading it. Mel Brooks was producing it.”

“Mel Brooks,” I said, “once told me that, whenever you get your photo taken, you should always open your mouth.”

“Did he? Anyway, Mel Books had had success with Young Frankenstein as a black & white film and I think he quite liked the idea of re-invigorating the genre and Eraserhead had been in black & white.

The Elephant Man was a big responsibility for David Lynch and apparently it was the closest he ever came to committing suicide. He almost put his head in the oven in Wimbledon during the development process. I was going to have a bit in my play where he puts his head in the oven and it turns round and Mel Brooks comes out from a theatre where he has been viewing Eraserhead.”

“This is live on stage?” I asked.

“Yes.”

“Will the insects from Gardenback take part?”

“They could. But I was thinking focussing more around the fitting of the costume. They gave him six months to make a costume for The Elephant Man based on the fact he had done well with the baby in Eraserhead. And apparently what he created was horrendous. John Hurt came round for a fitting and he couldn’t hardly breathe or walk and certainly couldn’t act in the costume.

Mr Twonkey takes a train and a door north to Edinburgh

“So that process was unsuccessful and a lot of money had gone down the drain and I think that was when he thought about putting his head in the oven.”

“And the costume in the finished film?” I asked.

“I think, essentially, he got someone else to make it. There was a bit of controversy on the set because he was young but had experienced British thespians like Sir John Gielgud and Anthony Hopkins who had been round the block a few times. I think there was a friction with young David Lynch adapting to these older British actors.”

“Maybe they didn’t talk about it,” I suggested.

“What?”

“The elephant in the room.”

“That’s a good title.”

“You just have to make the play relevant to the title,” I suggested. “Would you perform in it?”

“I don’t know.”

“You’re the wrong shape for David Lynch,” I suggested.

“I don’t think I could play him convincingly enough for more than 5 or 10 minutes; then I would run out of steam. It needs to be a proper actor.”

“The good news with a play about David Lynch,” I suggested, “is that there’s no limit to the possible surrealism.”

“It can be a BIT eccentric,” Paul agreed. “It can be a bit Lady in The Radiator in Eraserhead.”

“But it can’t all be that. What would give it real poignancy is revealing a bit of his history that people didn’t know about. The main scene would be the fitting, where it goes wrong.”

“Hold on,” I said, “If you are going to do a show about David Lynch making a costume he can’t make, you have to make the costume, don’t you?”

“That’s true.”

“Is that a problem?”

“It will have to be a good costume.”

“The one that isn’t successful…”

“Yes. But it can be really horrendously bad. That will be good.”

Mr Twonkey and Sir Nigel Gresley, Chief Mechanical Engineer of the Great Northern Railway (1911-1923) and the London & North Eastern Railway 1923-1941). He designed The Flying Scotsman train.

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Filed under Comedy, Movies, Surreal

UK gangster Reggie Kray on criminal slang and his suicide bid in prison

Micky Fawcett (left) with Reggie and Reggie’s wife Frances (Photograph from Micky Fawcett’s book Krayzy Days)

My chum Micky Fawcett gave me a very interesting book on Saturday: Slang by Reggie Kray.

It does what it says on the tin.

It is a dictionary of (mostly criminal) British and American slang words and phrases.

The cover claims it is “A must for Television Viewers, Film Directors and Script Writers.”

It includes some (to me) rare phrases such as:

“He’s at the jack and danny so blank him…”

“Cop for his boat and blow…”

“Get a rhubarb…”

and

“To be slommory…”

But perhaps I have led too sheltered a life.

Written when Reggie had ‘only’ done 16 years

The Slang book was written (with help from Steve Tully) when Reggie was 50 years old and in Parkhurst Prison – around 1983 – when, the book’s foreword says, he had “been in prison now for sixteen gruelling years”.

Reggie was released from prison on compassionate grounds in 2000, eight and a half weeks before he died from cancer. aged 66. He and his twin Ronnie Kray, were born in 1933. They were arrested in 1968 and imprisoned in 1969. Ronnie died in prison in 1995, aged 61.

In the book, Reggie gives his hobby as “Writing” and his ambitions as “To be recognised as an author and to live in the country”.

As well as slang and nostalgic photos of the ‘good old days’, Reggie goes in for a bit of philosophising. It starts:

Reggie Kray (centre) among friends, including actor Victor Spinetti, actress Barbara Windsor, actor George Sewell, singer Lita Roza, comedian Jimmy Logan and actor Ronald Fraser (Photo from the book Slang by Reggie Kray)

“I had hidden myself under the blankets, I was soaking in sweat and blood. Whilst I continued to saw away at my wrist, with a broken piece of glass, which I had broken from my TV spectacles.

“Eventually I fell into a fitful sleep, only to wake up the following morning to the clang of the bolt being drawn across my cell door.

“It seems that my prayers had been answered in a strange sort of way, because prior to this attempted suicide, I had calmly smoked what I thought to be my last cigarette, and said a prayer. My state of mind stemmed from a period of time I had spent at Long Lartin Prison, and my meeting up with a foreigner…”

It is an interesting read.

Micky Fawcett’s book Krayzy Days is arguably the most realistic insider’s view of working with the Krays… as well as some other… erm… escapades.

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Filed under Crime, Language

Don’t take hallucinogenic drugs on the beach until wolf population diminishes.

I have received another missive from this blog’s occasional Canadian correspondent, Anna Smith. She lives on a boat on a river in Vancouver. This is what she says:

A psychiatrist from Imperial College in London named Dr Nutt was on the CBC radio today, extolling the therapeutic benefits of LSD, psilocybin, Ayahuasca and ketamine (not all at once though) to treat depression and to combat suicidal thoughts.

I agree with him that it’s tragic that doctors are not allowed to prescribe these drugs (except for experimental use) when they could be used to prevent suicide.

They were outlawed because they were the only drugs to have a political effect (like making people not feel like engaging in war).

There are some contraindications against hallucinogens – for example in young people and in people predisposed to schizophrenia.

On Vancouver Island, some beaches had to be closed because wolves were attacking dogs.

On a different beach there were guns fired in a dispute over clam licences.

I don’t recommend taking drugs on the beach until the wolf population diminishes and the shootouts die down.

In fact it’s never a good idea to take drugs on a beach. Better to take them on stage in a busy strip club or somewhere near a hospital.

One of my neighbours, the sturgeon fisherman, became concerned because he noticed I was filling up bleach bottles with water from a hose. He thought I was going to drink it. He wanted to give me some plastic jugs of store-bought water and I had a job to convince him that I prefer the water from the hose. My hose is attached to a spigot that is attached to a pipe that is attached to the water main that delivers fresh water from the nearby glaciers on Mount Seymour. It’s probably the best water in the world other than drinking straight from a stream.

Hoses are an important subject of discussion out here.

I don’t mind that.

One of my best friends was called The Hose Guy.

Last night I discovered a Mongolian man singing at the bus stop. After I asked him if he was singing Mongolian songs (as he seemed to be doing) he asked, in surprise, in halting English, whether I was going to Mongolia.

I said: “No. I’m going to Montreal.”

I asked him if there were lots of redheads in Mongolia and he said no. They have lots of grass and lots of sheep. He put his hands on his head to mimic a sheep’s ears because it was hard for me to understand his accent.

Here is a hip hop Smoke Dance which I thought you might like to see.

 

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Filed under Canada, Drugs, Mental health

The continuing fascination with suicide

suicideblogI have written this blog since May 2010 and I have a rough idea how the hits on it work.

On the day I post a blog, it gets big hits.

Slightly less hits the next day.

By the third day, the hits have pretty much stopped.

After that, pretty much – nothing.

Only rare, sporadic hits.

So I find it interesting that, almost every day, one particular blog I wrote pretty much two years ago – on 15th January 2015 – is still getting daily hits.

Not big hits in any way. Small numbers. But steady hits.

The blog was headlined:

THE PRACTICALITIES OF PUTTING YOUR HEAD IN A GAS OVEN: MY 2nd SUICIDE ATTEMPT

These are the figures for hits over the last fortnight. They seem fairly steady. The fact there are any at all for a two-year-old blog is extraordinary. The fact that they are regular and fairly steady is interesting.

Sunday 20th – 38
Monday 21st – 23
Tuesday 22nd – 22
Wednesday 23rd – 12
Thursday 24th – 15
Friday 25th – 26
Saturday 26th – 29
Sunday 27th – 38
Monday 28th – 46
Tuesday 29th – 28
Wednesday 30th – 34
Thursday 1st – 68
Friday 2nd – 59
Yesterday – 39

I have no idea what this means sociologically, but it must mean something.

The blog is HERE.

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Filed under Blogs, Suicide