Tag Archives: Wally

Origin of the word ‘Wally’ + red-faced Malcolm Hardee and ladies’ underwear

Martin Soan and my eternally-un-named friend last night

Comedian Martin Soan, my eternally un-named friend and I went to a Creative England event at Elstree Film Studios last night, where studio boss Roger Morris gave what I think is the most upbeat assessment of the future of the British film industry that I have heard in thirty years.

When the three of us got back to my home, Martin said:

“Jesus was at Weeley.”

He had read my blog a few days ago about the word ‘Wally’ and how it had supposedly come into the language either via the 1971 Weeley Music Festival or the 1970 Isle of Wight Festival.

“I was there at Weeley in 1971,” Martin told us, “and people did shout out Wally!. But, really, anyone from East London was shouting out Dick-eyed Wal – Dick-eyed Wal. There was this chant Dick-eyed Wal – Dick-eyed Wal.

“Why Dick-eyed Wal?” I asked.

“Well,” explained Martin, “Dick-eyed Wal is East End terminology for saying you’re a fucking idiot.”

Martin was born in Stratford in London’s East End. He explained:

“We used to call – and, to this day, they still do call – pickled gherkins Wallies.”

“So it did not start in the 1970s?” I asked.

“No,” said Martin, “it was something I picked up as a kid. I remember buying pickled gherkins as a kid and calling them Wallies. I don’t know where it came from, but Dick-eyed Wal was the same as a Wally and was basically a prick. We used to call pickled gherkins Wallies and they’re sort-of penis-like and we used to call people Wallies back then because you associated them with penis-shaped gherkins and Dick-eyed Wals.”

“Why were they shouting out Dick-eyed Wal at Weeley?” I asked.

“They were saying Where’s Wally? on the PA system and we were shouting out Dick-eyed Wal – Dick-eyed Wal like What a wanker! What a wanker! I remember it distinctly because I was with a couple of East Londoners and they started it. And the other thing I remember is Jesus.”

“Jesus?” I asked.

“He used to be at very early music festivals,” said Martin, “with a pageboy blond haircut which, even in those days, was just a bit too much and he wore these long flowing kaftans and did this trippy-type trance dancing and he was always down the front. I saw him at various festivals.”

“And was he consciously trying to be Jesus?” I asked.

“I dunno, but everyone nicknamed him Jesus. I heard a story about him years and years later… This guy was celebrated, you know? He went to lots of festivals. And, later on, he had a go at becoming someone in showbiz.

“So he got some B-celebrity folk singer to appear on this show with him at Camden and he billed himself as Jesus.

“The B-celebrity folk singer did his thing and went down OK and then Jesus came on with the introduction: Ladies and gentlemen, here’s Jesus… and just down the road were these gasworks and they exploded. So he walks on the stage and there’s this huge explosion and everyone was evacuated from the building. And that was his only attempt at showbusiness and everyone went away thinking Wow! That’s Jesus, man!

Earlier, at Elstree Film Studios, almost inevitably, the subject of the late Malcolm Hardee had come up. Malcolm used to perform with Martin Soan in The Greatest Show on Legs.

“You wouldn’t have thought Malcolm could ever be embarrassed,” Martin told us. “But he was once.

“He wanted some sexy lingerie for one of his girlfriends so there was this sexy lingerie shop in Lewisham and I said to him, Well, go in and buy some, and he said, No, I can’t do it, I can’t do it.

Why not? I asked him.

I can’t, I can’t, I can’t, he said. So I had to go in there for him. He was too embarrassed to go in.

“The strange thing was I went in and told the assistant I want to buy some sexy women’s underwear and she asked Are you a lorry driver? and I dunno why she said that. She must have just had a lot of lorry drivers coming in asking for women’s underwear. Then she asked me Do you want it in red or black? so I stepped outside into the street and yelled out: Malcolm! Do you want your basque in red or black?

“What did he say?”  my eternally un-named friend asked.

“He just ran off round the corner,” said Martin. “It was so unlike Malcolm. I suppose it was because it was Lewisham and that was where he was brought up, just up the road. Perhaps he was a bit embarrassed because of that.”

“But,” I said, “he never worried about showing off his bollocks to hundreds of people at a time.”

“But it’s like,” Martin replied, “me staying at your house tonight. I’ll get up on stage in front of 300 people and stick my cock in front of a camera and fuck it, but walking naked through your living room with just you and your un-named friend – your eternally un-named friend – it would be embarrassing.”

“I wouldn’t mind,” said my eternally-un-named friend. “I can’t see at night without my glasses and you’ve always had the Scandinavian way, you and Vivienne.”

“Yeah,” said Martin. “In front of our children, but not in front of strangers. Not one-on-one.”

“When I used to visit you,” my eternally-un-named friend said, “people were having baths.”

“Of course,” said Martin. “It’s our house. We can have baths in our own house. But, if I walked through naked in front of John in his living room, I’d feel embarrassed. Walking naked in front of 400 people, no problem. If it was part of a stage show, I’d lay my knob over the top of John’s head like a Mohican.”

“Well…” I said.

“… if there were 400 other people there,” continued Martin. “But coming down into his living room at 9 o’clock in the morning with no-one else there and I lay my knob on his bald head, it would be quite…”

“Let’s not go there,” I interrupted.

“…funny, wouldn’t it?” Martin finished. “But tragic and embarrassing. And no-one wants to see that or have that done to them.”

“Oh,” said my eternally-un-named friend, “I don’t know.”

“With the long winter nights coming on…” I said.

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I wanna tell you a meandering story which ends with a large sexual organ

No truth in obituaries

When the late comedian Malcolm Hardee died, the surprisingly voluminous obituaries quoted some of the many bizarre stories linked to him. But, often, the stories were slightly wrong. It was fairly obvious the obituarists had read Malcolm’s autobiography (which I wrote with him) but were slightly mis-remembering and mis-quoting the anecdotes.

One story involved his genitals getting painted in day-glo paint. It happened at the Glastonbury Festival but at least one obituary claimed he regularly did this at comedy clubs.

Now, because the mis-quoted and mis-remembered stories were printed, the myth will become fact.

Malcolm would have liked that.

Yesterday afternoon, I bumped into top rock fiddler Bobby Valentino in a street in Greenwich.

Somehow, the subject of calling people ‘Wally’ came up – as in “He’s a Wally,” meaning “He’s an idiot.”

I said: “I think that started at some rock festival in the West Country, didn’t it?”

Was it originally Wally from Essex or Wally from Wessex?

“No, Essex,” said Bobby Valentino. “There was a Weeley rock festival in Essex in 1971. I was still at school and a mate of mine, Barry Bartlett or Spot Hughes, came back from the Festival and said, Oh, I’m Wally from Weeley, and, from then on, everyone was called Wallies.”

“The story I heard,” I said, “was that an announcement kept being made Could Wally please contact the organisers about something and eventually people started to yell out Wally! as a term of derision and, when they left the festival and spread out to their homes across the country, the name spread all over the country too. That’s the story, isn’t it?”

“As far as I know,” said Bobby Valentino. (Update for regular readers of this blog: his dispute with PRS over royalties for past work continues.)

When I got home, I looked up Wikipedia, which currently reckons a Wally chant did develop over the course of the Weeley Festival weekend in 1971, but that it had been a continuation of the same behaviour at the Isle of Wight Festival in 1970.

I had heard the term ‘Wally’ had started in the West Country. This seems to have been because (again according to Wikipedia) in 1974, a group of New Age travellers encamped near Stonehenge were being evicted and, to hinder the eviction, they all gave their name as Wally of Wessex.

Stories take on their own life. And, you may have noticed, I have been quoting what is in Wikipedia as fact. Always a dubious thing to do. But people do.

Later yesterday, I got an e-mail from Bobby Valentino:

“After I saw you today,” it said, “I remembered an Edinburgh Festival story which I hope is true.

“Some years ago one of Kirk Douglas’s sons – the one who had the drink and drug problems – fancied himself as a comedian and booked himself a slot at the Festival. At one of his shows, he wasn’t going down at all well, brick-like in fact. He then said completely the wrong thing – Do you know who I am?… I’m Kirk Douglas’s son.

“A quick witted member of the audience immediately piped up: No, I’m Kirk Douglas’s son!  to be followed by another audience member… and another… and another.”

(For extraordinary people who have never seen the movie, this is a reference to the scene in Kirk Douglas’ Spartacus where, at the end, everyone in the hero’s army stands up and says I am Spartacus.)

“As far as I know,” I told Bobby Valentino, “the story is totally true, but it happened at the Comedy Store in London.”

I said this with some authority, having heard the story several times. But who knows if it is actually true?

“I think I might blog about stories tomorrow,” I told Bobby Valentino.

“If you do,” he said, “you should point out that there are two sorts of people who tell stories more than they actually do what they’re supposed to do – musicians and fishermen.

“John Sebastian wrote a song about it called Stories We Can TellThe Everly Brothers covered it and I played it with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers.”

After all this, last night, I went to Vivienne and Martin Soan’s monthly Pull The Other One comedy club in Herne Hill, South London.

In May 2011, I posted a blog about a very weird night there which included, in the audience, a very large black man with one eye, a speech defect, a shaven head and a beard.

He was there again last night and sat right by the stage.

Michael Smiley and audience member last night

About a third of the way through the wonderful Northern Ireland comedian Michael Smiley’s act, which involved tales of coming to Great Britain 30 years ago, the very large black man with one eye, a speech defect, a shaven head and a beard asked in a conversational tone:

“Are you Scottish?”

“No,” replied Michael Smiley to loud laughter. “Are you Pakistani?” he added to louder laughter (including very loud laughter from the black gent).

When the laughter subsided, Michael asked: “Do you love people from Scotland?”

“I am the last king from Scotland,” the very large black man with one eye, a speech defect, a shaven head and a beard told Michael Smiley.

“You’re the last king of Scotland?” Michael Smiley said. “You’re not mate. Let me spread a few more rumours for you. What else have the voices been telling you?”

“You can get on with the show now,” the very large black man with one eye, a speech defect, a shaven head and a beard, said languidly.

“Well,” said Michael Smiley amiably, amid laughter, “if you’ll shut up, I will.”

“Alright,” said the very large black man with one eye, a speech defect, a shaven head and a beard.

“Thankyou,” said Michael Smiley.

The audience laughed and then added in a few ironic Owwwws of sympathy.

“Yeah, yeah,” said Michael Smiley, joining in, “He comes in, sits at the front, shouts out mad shit all the time, I try to get on with my shit, I try to get him to shut his shit up and I’m the feckin’ bad guy!”

The audience roared with laughter.

“I might have to stand up here and wank off a pig for you by the end of the show, just to weird the whole thing up just a little bit more. White middle class Herne Hill come out for a bit of weirdness!

“Just so you can say to your friends tomorrow: You shouldn’t have bothered your arsehole with that new restaurant down in Brixton Village. We were up in Herne Hill last night in the dark like a firecracker and there was a mad black bloke at the front and a really angry Northern Irish guy on stage. That was two stereotypes for the price of one! I couldn’t believe it! All we needed was a fuckin’ midget on a unicycle… There’s an angry lesbian poet on at the end. This is like shit time travelling. All you people who bought your squats in the 1980s are just flipping out now. When you get back to your house, there’ll be a re-run of Boys From The Black Stuff on TV and you’ll come in your pants!…”

The audience roared with laughter.

It was a very weird night

And that is without even mentioning the very attractive young girl Mina The Horse prancing around the stage with a tail sticking out of her bottom or Richard Vranch and Pippa The Ripper giving a chemistry lesson with hula hoops or George Egg producing a large bowling ball from a small suitcase and sharing with the audience the fact that, to encourage their greyhounds to win races, owners smear mustard on the dogs’ arseholes when they put them in the starting traps.

After the show, my eternally-un-named friend who used to work for the late comedian Malcolm Hardee told me: “He once asked me to get a large penis for him.”

This was at his Up The Creek comedy club in Greenwich.

“I think he was being a bit… well, he might have actually wanted it but there was one somewhere – was it in the dressing room upstairs?” she asked me.

“Search me,” I said.

“Or maybe it was behind the upstairs bar,” she continued. “I think it was a prop.”

“You think it was a prop?” I asked. “But it might not have been?”

“You always ask me these things when I’m very tired,” my eternally-un-named friend complained. “It’s not fair. It was a prop. I don’t know what he was actually using it for at that point, because I hadn’t seen it in anything, but then I didn’t see the shows, did I, because I was in the box…”

“So did he…” I started to interrupt.

“…office,” she completed.

“So,” I continued, “did he suddenly just say Get me the giant penis?”

“It was after a show and everything was winding up,” my eternally-un-named friend explained, “and there was a large penis upstairs and I can’t remember now because I’m very tired, but I think it was a papier-mache one. Whether it was worn on the head or on another part of the body I don’t know. Maybe an act had had it and left it behind or whether Malcolm actually wanted it…”

“But you found it?” I asked.

“Well, he told me where it was,” she replied. “I think it was in the dressing room and there was a muddle of stuff up there, but it was obvious which one it was.”

“How giant was it?” I asked.

My eternally-un-named friend held her hands apart.

“That’s about 18 inches,” I said. “What colour?”

“I don’t remember,” she said. “It was the early 1990s and I’m very tired, but I think it was a life-likey thing. I can’t help thinking it might have been some sort of headgear…”

“For a dickhead?” I asked.

“…or a prop,” she continued. “To be honest, I don’t even remember if it was papier-mache. You know who might know? Martin Soan. He might say, Oh yes, there was a giant penis we used.”

“Were there a lot of dickheads around Up The Creek?” I prompted.

“You know what Malcolm was like,” said my eternally-un-named friend, ignoring me. “There was a point where he has this stuffed cat, which you could easily get from the Nautical Shop.”

“That’s where he got it,” I said. “I was there when he bought it.”

But that’s another story.

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