(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.