Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Some Mothers do 'ave 'em and Me!



In 1973 we moved to Northampton; it seemed near enough to London and only cost £1.35 day return on the train with an extra 16p for the car park – we were actually in a place called Hartwell which is about eight miles from the town centre, and not too far from the Motorway – the M1 – so I could also catch the London train from Wolverton too; plenty of choices.
I hadn't worked too much in 1973 as we had a baby boy in July and after we sold our other house the house we were going to move in to had fallen through so we'd been staying with my parents in Birmingham till we found another.
An actor friend said he knew an actress who was recruiting for a team of people to sell portable central heating in Edgware so I arranged to meet her.
She gave me the usual promises about how much money I'd earn and as Edgware was only a few stops down the motorway I agreed. We had to meet in at a certain place each evening and then attack an estate called Carpenders Park, you go up that way and you go that way, kind of thing. Then we'd meet up and tell her how many appointments we had arranged for her!
There was another guy call Michael Mundell on the job too; he had been in Crossroads (an evening soap opera on ITV) and so had I so when we knocked people's doors in the neighbourhood people recognized us.
'There's a man from Crossroads at the door' was one of the cries then the family would come and look. I thought it was fun; for some reason they thought I would be very rich but the only work I can remember from that year was a Brylcreem commercial and a commercial for Hedex Seltzer – when they came out people would recognize me from those commercials too. I never minded being recognized and signing autographs but I know people who don't like it.
I earned a small fortune from the Brylcreem and a few hundred from the Hedex in repeat fees when they were screened.
In fact I could write episodes about the central heating period, how someone would come to the door and just look at me then go away; then someone else would come and look and as I had cottoned on very quickly to what they were looking at I just played along.
I think I was shooting an episode of Z Cars onece and some old lady came up and said 'Are you filming Budgie?'
Budgie was a TV series with Adam Faith, and I said yes, he's just gone for a cup of tea. People would recognize me from the Guinness Commercial https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzzPtypCrUE and I would sign the autograph, Arthur Guinness.
But back to the central heating -the bottom line is I didn't earn any money to speak of apart from £15 basic per week but I didn't sell anything – and neither did Michael.
I looked him up, before I wrote this, and found he died about ten years ago of a heart attack. I know he went to Australia where he wrote and acted so - RIP.
One day I called home and my wife mentioned that my agent had called. Now my agent in those days was a strange woman who spoke very fast and I think had some kind of speech impediment. I had studied speech for three solid years at drama school but could never figure out what impediment she had.
I had to call her back from a phone box and the gist of the call was that she had put me up for the Michael Crawford situation comedy series Some Mothers do 'ave 'em, which was a huge hit at the time, and they had come back to offer me a job.
She told me it was only one line and I said I wouldn't be interested. I don't remember what she said but a couple of weeks later someone from the BBC called and wanted to know where I was and that I was supposed to be at rehearsals.
I told him the story and he said 'well come if you want' so . . . I decided to go in straight away.
I called my agent and she denied or couldn't remember me turning it down and then admitted that I had and said she had told me to turn it down myself but the fee was £45, which was the minimum fee at the BBC, in those days, for a week's work, and I should take it or leave it.
I was getting fed up with the central heating sales, in any case, so I said I would do it.
By the time I got there (North Acton) the rehearsals had finished and I could see through the window Michael Crawford in the rehearsal room talking to the producer/director and referring to the script.
I didn't know where I came in, with regards to the script, but the floor manager told me I would find out the next day at the start of a week's rehearsals.
Yes it was one line which was 'Yes Sir! Three one four.'
The episode was set in the RAF where Frank Spencer had served and the incident was in flashback. Half a dozen RAF men were in the billet, getting ready, etc: cleaning boots, writing home and generally relaxing. 
In comes Frank Spencer and as soon as he came in one of the other lads ad libbed a line 'hello Frank; how's the wife?'
He said the line, which hadn't been written, on every run of the scene for the whole seven days – Hello Frank; how's the wife?
At the end of the little scene the officer enters so 'Stand by your beds' from the corporal and when the officer opens the door he closes Frank's wardrobe just as Frank had stepped into it.
Then the officer calls all our names – yes that's when it comes in Yes Sir! Three one four. Then he says Spencer and Frank's voice can be heard from the wardrobe which falls over and down some stairs and . .
First of all let me explain that my number wasn't necessarily 314 (I'm not that anal) I just guessed that for this.
And that was it. But we ran it two or three times a day for the whole week before went to the TV centre to record in front of a live audience, and each time hello Frank, how's the wife?
Does that sound boring? Well it was. So each time we did it I would pretend to do it the way Marlon Brando might do it by writing my line on my hand and reading it; it was a bit of fun.
Then on the last two days we went in to the studio at the Television Centre. The wardrobe falling down the stairs was very critical as Michael Crawford was supposed to be in it. The first time they tried it the wardrobe fouled on the banister and broke in two.
It wouldn't have been very funny if Michael was in it.
So that was that for the day; outside the studio they were doing Top of the Pops and a pal of mine was working on it so he suggested we meet up for a drink afterwards so I went in to their studio and they were rehearsing – stood next to Roger Daltry as he was waiting to go on and then went for a few drinks in the BBC club. 

After that we went in to the recording and there I am on the left – dear oh dear.
Michael Crawford was very nervous the next day before the audience came in; he must have walked ten miles around the floor but eventually the audience came in and before we shot it he was sitting waiting on the bed and the guy who put his line in came up on to the set and Michael looked at me and said How's the wife? As soon as he saw him.
Well all went well but because I'd been playing around with the Marlon Brando but I kind of fluffed my line as it made me laugh – but I don't think the audience noticed.
There he is (Michael) just landed after the stunt and there I am on the extreme right.

And that was it; it went out not long after that and then a few months later it went out again – so I got paid again. Not the £45 but nearly that much. It was very popular so it went out again – and again and again. Each time it went out the fee was based on the minimum amount that it was for the time it went out so it went up and up.
When I was in LA it was broadcast about twice most years and each time it was broadcast I received the current minimum fee for a week's work. I had a few payments of $900 or so and these fees were all based on the original £45.
It went out this year sometime but I only received about £40 as there is now a new pay scale.
Someone I knew from school – David Rock his name was – contacted me via the Internet. He had left our school when he was about ten as he had moved house and then he went to commercial school, as they were called in those days: they had grammar schools, Art Schools, Technical Schools and Commercial Schools. All gained through the 11+ although the 11+ was not the only chance you had. There was a 12+ and 13+ too.
Eventually David Rock spoke to me on the phone and told me he had always envied me as he would see me ride a post office motor bike along Ladypool Road, where he lived, and I seemed to be having fun and always speeding. Then he asked me something: how much do you get from Some mothers do 'ave 'em each time it was on?
I told him but he didn't believe me.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

East Side Story.


There was supposed to be a kind of nod to West Side Story at this year's prom, which is a big music occasion on BBC TV. The Henry Wood Promenade Concerts, to give it the correct title but known to us all as the proms; they come from The Albert Hall or, as the Americans say, Albert Hall – without the definite article.
I don't watch every one but quite a few especially if there is something by Philip Glass; but I like traditionalists to: Mozart, Shostakovitch etc – one of the greatest concerts was when we were at The Los Angeles Philharmonic to a Shostakovitch concert; we took our daughter and husband and they happen to be going to one of the proms this year.
But getting back to West Side Story which is based on Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet where the family Montague and the family Capulet are traditionally in logger heads against each other. Romeo and Juliet are the issues of each family, Romeo being a Montague and Juliet a Capulet.
An American soprano was booked to sing Tonight at The Albert Hall but after a few objections she withdrew. 
Objections? 
She wasn't Puerto Rican.
I don't know how many Puerto Rican opera singers live in Britain let alone sopranos and as it was only to sing some songs from the musical I don't think there should be any ethnic qualification. Maybe not even to do the whole production, I don't know. The music and book are American written by Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim.
Originally it was going to be called East Side Story and it would have been between two New York gans: the Irish and the Jews – of New York, of course. 
Bernstein and Sondheim were both Jewish but eventually went for New York white gang (The Jets) and the Puerto Rican gang (The Sharks) – I'm not looking things up so I hope I've got them the right way around. 
They were both street gangs, a bit like The Bloods (African American) and The Crips (The homies), and that's what substituted for the families Montague and Capulet.
When I first started as an actor I was taught that I would have to play all kinds of ethnicities, dialects and accents and maybe be required to fatten up (with a fat suit) – a lot of people do when they play Sir Toby Belch for instance even though I have never seen anything reference to his weight or shape in the text.
The fact that Maria, in West Side Story, is from Puerto Rica doesn't mean that a singer has to come from there to qualify to sing the song.
Surely I'm allowed to sing I Belong to Glasgow, Take Me Back to Dear Old Blighty or Born in the USA without having to come from there.
It's the same with the magical pronouns in popular song – he, she, him, her – it doesn't matter what sex you are you can sing what you like; you don't have to change the words. 
Let me sing Danny Boy without having to deny that I'm gay or pretending to be a woman.
Don't spoil the language people – it's the greatest language on earth; you don't hear the French arguing over the use of the word actrice or acteur. But they do over here!



Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Ahmed Chalabi and the WMD


So what happened to Tony Blair? I read somewhere that the powers that be – the courts – are looking for a way to try him for going to war with Iraq as the lawyer for a former Iraqi general argues that the former PM should face trial due to legal precedent set during Nuremberg hearings – Nuremberg hearings? Where they tried the top Nazis – Hermann Göring, Rudolf Hess and the rest of them. Would you put Tony Blair in that company?
When I left this country to make my way in Los Angeles around August 1994 he was the bees' knees. On his way up with his super duper new Labour Party, the leader of the opposition and the scourge of the then Prime Minister, John Major. He had been a follower – a close follower - of the Labour leader John Smith and when Smith died of a heart attack Blair took over.
Rather like the time when Hugh (I will fight fight and fight again for the party that I love) Gaitskill died leaving the way open for Harold Wilson. When it was Wilson's Labour Party it was a different kettle of fish. No sooner had he taken over the party, won an election in 1964, when there was a big out-flux of investment money from Britain to anywhere else.
At one time, because of that, no one was allowed to take more than £50 out of the country when they went abroad. That's how bad it was.
Then the Chairman of the Mirror Group, Cecil King organized a coup – yes a real coup. They met in an office in Fleet Street – I remember it was a privileged place which was allowed to use a coal fire in a smokeless zone. King organised the coup and what they were going to do and . .. it didn't come off, of course. Among those at the meeting was the Chairman of the Bank of England, Sir Basil Smallpiece (aptly named), Lord Mountbatten and Tony Benn. You can judge a leader by the team he picks; Tony Benn leaked it to The Guardian and saved the day.
They didn't trust Labour then, so you can imagine the shenanigans if Jeremy Corbyn is ever Prime Minister.
With Blair, Labour did what Bill Clinton did in America by ruling from the centre – only they did it from the center as our computer spell checks keep reminding us.
He was the main actor behind the Northern Ireland Peace Process and, whilst it has not achieved everything, he is responsible, partly, for peace in that place.
Tony Blair was a million miles from Wilson and made a pact with Gordon Brown, over dinner in a London Restaurant, to decide which one of them was going to be the Premier.
As I mentioned before, you can judge a leader by the team he picks – also it tells a lot about a man if you look at what he eats. The restaurant was chosen by Blair and Brown didn't like the bill o' fare – he wanted steak and chips and Blair was an early cordon bleu aficionado possibly preferring houmus and bean sprouts.
The two agreed to have Blair as PM with Brown to take over after spending time as the Chancellor of the Exchequer – the money man. It might be said that he was the best Chancellor of the Exchequer of the century. Blair was the suit and Brown was the brains.
When Blair handed over to the reins of the party (and the PM) to Gordon (he gave away our gold) Brown, a very decent talented man, he had to succumb to the jibes of the nameless ignoramus who regularly introduced the BBC programme Top Gear for a while who, whilst being interviewed on Australian TV, said that Britain was being governed by a one eyed Scotsman – yes a nameless idiot. (Brown lost an eye playing rugby).
That one eyed Scotsman virtually saved Britain's bacon during the world 2008 financial crisis.
Since coming back to live in London, I have realised that a lot of people hate Tony Blair and blame the invasion of Iraq on to him and only him. How could this happen? One man cannot go to war without a vote in Parliament.
We lived in America during the Iraqi war; Blair never even came in to the equation on the news and neither did Ahmed Chalabi.
He was one of the main characters in the invasion of Iraq, one of the main characters in that terrible war which killed many civilians; one of the reasons they went to war was Chalibi and for Chalabi's ambition. And there he is above.
Ahmed Chalabi was an exile living in the United States when George H W Bush issued statements saying the best thing to happen would be the elimination of Saddam Hussein; the Iraqi rebels saw this as encouragement with promises of help but the Americans abandoned the Iraqis and left Saddam to murder any rebels that tried.
So between the Gulf War and the Iraqi invasion Saddam Huissan ruled the roost in Iraq with his policies of mass murder, telling all he had nuclear weapons and was about to use them. The people of Iraq and the world were looking for another leader, a Gandhi, a Mandela, a man of charisma and they came up with Ahmed Chalabi – a man who had embezzled money from a Jordanian Bank, a man who was exiled from Iraq and a man who wanted to be the Prime Minister, President or leader of Iraq – in fact all three.
He had the information that Saddam did, indeed, possess Weapons of Mass Destruction – WMD – (I won't put WMDs as it should be WsMD and that can't be right).
The information went from Chalabi to the secret powers, the spies, spooks or whatever, and this got back to the CIA.
Inspectors were sent to Iraq; Saddam had moved the weapons. 
More inspectors: Saddam was still pounding his chest, pretending to have what he didn't. The inspectors couldn't be sure and I'm not even going to go in to the fact that there was a mysterious death of one of them but . . . .
You can look all this up if you want to but when Colin Powell made the statement to the UN, stating that they had received reliable information, through the British, that Saddam had WMD he made that man – the man with him in the picture –
stand behind him. He was the leader of the CIA and that is where Powell got the information and the CIA, through the British, which was assured by embezzler Ahmed Chalabi that it was true. “Saddam was dangerous and needed removing.”
Chalabi assured the west that the weapons were dangerous, Saddam had purchased some kind of barrel, I seem to remember, and other stuff for his weapons.
At the time the vice-president, Dick Cheney, was facing impeachment threats. His company was going to be used during the war by supplying equipment as with the Eisenhower warning of the Industrial Military Complex and he with Bush, Rumsfeld and the other cronies decided to invade Iraq.
Tony Blair came along and gave them credence – they were going to do it anyway, with or without Blair; with or without Chalabi – who wanted to be Iraqi leader don't forget – and there is a time when you don't know when to go to war or not. I am not a pacifist but I don't ever want war because of that, I am against it but a few years ago there was another vote in parliament here and the Labour Party were successful in stopping the then Prime Minister David Cameron from going to war and the reason they voted against – which is what the result was – was the reaction and flack from the Iraqi war - which shouldn't be a reason.



Sunday, April 8, 2018

Pantalones de orina

                                                      Dave Allen

I was watching a drama/documentary on TV the other night about one of my real favourite comedians; Dave Allen. He was a unique comedian and most of his material was to mock the Roman Catholic Church in Ireland. And who could blame him having being brought up in a catholic school in Ireland in the thirties and early forties.
There was one little scene in the film which reminded me of my time at school in Birmingham when I was learning to read; so how old would I be? Six or so.
My teacher was Miss Prime and she was a spinster of about forty; I have worked this out judging the time it was and what went on.
Now – I have told this story on stage in my one man show many times from the year 2000 to 2010 at theatres and colleges in Los Angeles and theatres in the UK.
I was sitting at the front of the class and at the other side of my tiny little desk, facing me, was Miss Prime. I can't remember if she had a book or was reading mine upside down and we shared leg space under my desk. How she made herself so tiny to do this task is beyond me but maybe she was sitting, for the only time in her life, spreadeagled? I don't think we knocked knees or anything like that but I was being tested on a page in a book; a simple book, I should imagine, and, as I have already told you I was about six.
The time was fifteen minutes before midday and the lunch break was at noon. So I had that fifteen minutes to go before I could go and empty my over filled and bursting bladder.
I have always been a bit of a pisser, never ever able to hold it. For example, when I was playing at The Hexagon Theatre, in Reading, I would travel along the motorway, after the show, to where I was staying with friends in Barnes, which is a suburb in London.
Each night we would have to stop whilst I had a pee on the hard shouder – we played there for a week so we stopped seven times – couldn't help it. (by the way I'm fine now; thanks for asking).
Back to the class room: I knew I needed a pee as the teacher sat down to test me.
If you were a casting director you would cast Miss Prime as a strict teacher; the character in The Singing Detective would have suited her. She had her hair pulled straight back from the forehead and in a very tight pony tail gripped up at the back. She wore no make up and wore very thick stockings and sensible shoes; I knew this because my mother never wore sensible shows – always high heels when out.
When Miss Prime sat down I was bursting. I had been to the loo at play time but the third of a pint of ice cold milk I drank at ten fifteen had gone through me.
At the same time as I started reading I started to fidget; I couldn't help it as my wee was nearly coming out; I was starting to leak. She told me to stop fidgeting and to read the page starting at the top line; this I did.
When she asked my why I was fidgeting I told her I needed to go to the lavatory.
'You need to go to the lavatory?'
'Yes miss.'
'Well you can go at twelve-o-clock and not until.'
So I started to read again. The words didn't come out too clear as I was really suffering.
'You can go if you want to – but you will come back and read the page instead of going to dinner.'
We all called lunch dinner in those days – I mean Dickens had only been dead a hundred years!!!
Judging from my age I was probably still speaking with a slight Irish accent, so I would be saying far instead of for, wark instead of walk and walk instead or work! So being corrected and not knowing what she was talking about made things worse; that and her stare!
I struggled on, reading and struggling and feeling the urine running in to my underpants and down my legs. I tried not to let it go and it started to hurt. She looked in to my eyes, she could see I was in pain, but she insisted on forcing me to read on.
Eventually the school bell went and I ran to the boys bogs and let it rip; so my relief so much happiness, so much steam and how cold the pee felt in my underpants.
I didn't stay to school dinner that day; I went home. I knew the way even though it was six hundred metres away which is a third of a mile or so.
I went along Hertford Street, turned left at Saint Paul's Road, right at Moseley Road and right into South View Terrace where we lived in a tiny house. There wasn't a tiny stream but there was a railway line.
My mother wondered what I was doing home and I showed her my little pair of short pants and my soaking underpants.
She took them from me, helped me get clean and fed me.
Then she walked me back to school; in her bag she carried my underpants; she came in to the class room and confronted Miss Prime.
She took the underpants out and held them up to the teacher; 'is that any way to send a child home from school' she said.
I was frightened that she was going to shove the pants into Miss Prime's face. Also I knew she had an Irish accent, which would let everybody know that I was Irish, as if they didn't know, and would say bloody a lot and I didn't want her to do that – but I can't remember much more about it.
Twenty five years later I was in a soap on television, which went out every evening at 6.35 so a lot of people saw it.
My mother was at the Alexandra Theatre, in Birmingham one evening and who should see with a load of kids? Yes – Miss Prime.
They recognised each other and Miss Prime came across and said 'we see Christopher on television a lot – we're very proud.'
And my mother said 'do you remember his pissy pants?'



Wednesday, March 28, 2018

Night Must Fall


I was listening to Desert Island Discs the other day and the guest was Anne-Marie Duff; now there's a name to conjure with. She is an actress, although she calls herself an actor, and hit all the headlines in her portrayal of Saint Joan at the National Theatre, here in London.
That was about ten years ago and I was still living in Los Angeles in those days so I didn't see it. I have never been to the National in any case I probably wouldn't have gone in any case.
I'm not one of those actors who never go to the theatre as I love it, but she mentioned a quote by Michael Gambon saying he never goes to the theatre as you don't see pilots going to the airport to see their pals taking off. It's a funny quote but the pilots shouldn't be performing despite some of the headlines of late.
In the interview, on Dessert Island Discs, she was asked how she felt when she waited back stage waiting to go on that first night for Saint Joan, was she nervous, apprehensive or anything and she replied that she felt full of energy. It was a huge audience and she felt as if she was going out at Glastonbury like a guitar god about to take the place apart . . . and I got to thinking if I had ever had that feeling and my thoughts went back to when I did a play called Night Must Fall.
I have done a few plays since, where I had a showy leading role, but I never got that feeling again.
Night Must Fall was written by Emlyn Williams who was also an actor so he set it up perfectly for himself: a murderer who chopped off women's heads and kept them in a hat box; plenty of quotes from the bible, in the wonderful Welsh accent, Richard Burton as opposed to Max Boyce, to be played with charm. charisma and everything any actor would die to play. The play is a bit creaky and melodramatic but, even though it's hard work for all, well worth while.
I had first heard of the play when I was at drama school: when some of you go out and into rep you will do 'Night Must Fall' although I doubt of any of you here today will play Danny . . . was the kind of encouragement we got from a very strange teacher at college who would take up about ten blogs to describe; I won't mention him by name but he was called Richard Ryan.
We moved to Northamptonshire to try and get on the housing ladder and be within easy access of London and I contacted the local theatre to see if they were doing any casting.
Some time later they called and asked me to come in for an interview and I was cast in The Alchemist by Ben Jonson – someone must have dropped out for that to happen, I thought, and that is what had happened.
So it was good to drive in to Northampton each day for rehearsals; it was my first job in the theatre after leaving drama school, although I had worked at Birmingham Repertory Theatre, Birmingham Rep, whilst still at college, and since leaving had worked on television in The Newcomers, Crossroads, Z Cars and quite a few others. It did seem at one point that I would have some kind of TV career without ever working in the theatre but it didn't work that way as for the next ten years or so I did more theatre than TV.
When I was doing The Alchemist one of the cast asked me if I would ever consider joining the company for a season and I said I would consider it, of course. A few days later another cast member asked me the same thing and said they would pay me £40 a week; that was good money for those days as I had £10 for my little episode at Birmingham Rep four years earlier. Again I said that that sounded okay.
A few days later I got a call at home to see if I would come in and have a chat with the artistic director and I made the appointment.
After the small talk the director told me that the manager of the theatre bar had been asking him for years if they could do his favourite play Night Must Fall and he would usually tell the guy that he would if ever a Danny came along.
He said 'the bar manager came to see me the other day and said we've got a Danny haven't we?'
That was me, of course; the director said 'Now about money; we always think that £30 is a good wage here' and I said 'What about forty?' he said 'thirty five' and I said 'okay!' and that was it.
I didn't hear from them for a while after The Alchemist finished; I did some filming in Belfast and Bangor in Ireland and round about the end of July, I noticed that the new season had started at the theatre; they published the cast in the newspaper and I wasn't mentioned.
So that was that; I thought I should have accepted the £30 per week.
I also noticed that a guy my age was also in the company so I got to thinking.
Mmnnn!
Eventually I got call to meet them 'in the pub' one of the lunchtimes; I went along and it doesn't take a great deal of skill to notice which ones the actors are in a pub!
I could see the guy of my age and when I was within earshot, although he didn't think I was, he said to the woman he was sitting with 'now we know.' 'yes now we know' she said.
It was quite obvious to me that he thought he was going to play Danny – or Dan as it appears in the cast list; in fact he told me this when I met him on a train about 10 years later.
After this I went to the library and borrowed the play – there were lines upon lines upon speeches on nearly every page and I thought this is going to be hard work.
We gathered on the stage for the first 'read thru' on chairs and one or two people wanted to sit by me – it was quite obvious because one said to another 'I wanted to sit by him' and 'I saw him first!'
So at least two members of the company, including the fella from the pub, thought I had a problem with my hearing.
When we broke for coffee an old grand actor, wearing a black Crombie overcoat came in to the green room to say hello and wanted to know why everybody else had a script except me as I was still using my library book.
'It was different in my day' he said in his wonderful baritone voice 'we would always give the leading actor the script first.'
Of course I remember that after all these years; who wouldn't?
There were indeed a load of lines and I had two weeks to learn them; half way through rehearsals a notice went on the notice board with the cast of the next play; another lead role this time in Alan Ayckbourn's Time and Time Again.
This went on for a further eleven months, apart from a break to do five episodes of General Hospital for ATV and it was wonderful. Going to the notice boards to see what the next play was and what you would be playing is the most wonderful thing for an actor.
But the first night of the play came; I started the play wearing a messenger boy's outfit that a hotel messenger would wear complete with the pill box hat.
The stage direction was that I was to enter smoking a Woodbine cigarette and when I came on to the well to do drawing room of an old lady I flicked ash on the carpet which got a huge laugh – so I was in.

The other thing I wore was a kind of short jacket and a bow tie. I think I had the idea, being a little charmer, that he should be like a ventriloquist's dummy.
The play was set in the 30s.
My pal came to see the first night and was with me back stage before I went on; I remember him saying 'aren't you nervous?' because I didn't look it but I knew I had it all; not in an overconfident way, as I was wary of that, but everybody else slowly left the backstage area. My pal first as he had to go to his seat, and then, one by one the rest of the cast.
The cards were there in their silence, their make up tins laye bare with their good luck charms and paraphernalia and eventually I was ready.
So I stood up and went in front of the full length looking glass in the dressing room and looked very closely in to my eyes and everything came to me; I knew it was a full-house which was just under 600 and, like Anne-Marie Duff, I could see the determination in my eyes as I strode up there to be a Guitar God!



Friday, March 23, 2018

Good Night again.


I quite like this post. For some reason a lot of people have looked at this recently. One requested I put it up again - I wrote it Christmas 2013 so not that long ago; it intrigues me that they are still being read.


For a little while – well quite some time to be honest – when I first went to America I had never actually been in to anybody's house. Never crossed the portal which separated their public and private lives. I had seen inside their houses many times through the magical world of the movies but that was fiction.

Sometimes I would sit and look at a family sitting at an airport or restaurant and try to listen in to their conversations to see if they would somehow drop the American accents and call each other mate. When the great Australian writer (and broadcaster) Clive James first came to Britain he would think the same about the English accents but he was listening to received pronunciation (RP) like Stephen Fry or John Cleese and I was expecting the more common type like Liverpool, London or even oo ah rural. But that wasn't the only thing I listened for; I couldn't believe that they actually said 'have a nice day' or 'have a good one' or even called each other honey or hun!

I would look at their clothes at the airports and wonder if the men were dressed for golf or travel as their clothing seemed strange; all the naff things from Britain seemed to be acceptable in America: baseball hats and white socks, for example.

I used to love the 1950s movies where white socks were worn – Martin and Lewis films; SupermanWhite Christmas etc. I longed for those fashions when I went to America and in Los Angeles I found them. I loved the 1950s look of LA, the Superman buildings downtown, the 1950s architecture and the fantastic winged motor cars on their never ending freeways but do you know what I never heard? The phrase 'good night.'

Straight away I'm going to be called a romancer or someone having problems with the truth as I did hear it from time to time, but when I stayed at various people's houses I didn't hear it at all.

I was listening to David Sedaris on the radio last night, who was talking about his family and it reminded me of this phenomenon; he said 'my family never said good night; they just disappeared.'

That's what I mean; David Sedaris lives this side of the Atlantic now and has probably noticed that over here people have the manners to excuse themselves when leaving a room and if they're not coming back it would be 'good night' or 'goodbye.'

When I stayed with people over there, or even lived with them when I first got there, I would notice that when it was bed time, they would just disappear; never a good night, kiss my arse or nothing.

One time I was watching TV with the landlady, when I first arrived and I went to the loo. I was out of the room less than three minutes and not only did she not say good night, she turned the TV off and left the room in darkness; not thinking that I might want to finish watching the programme or even moving my stuff from the chair I had been sitting on.

Sometimes she would disappear for weeks – never saying where she was going or even when she would be back; not that it was my business but you know what I mean.

That was when I first went to America; for the first eighteen months I was by myself; living in a shared house at first and then in an apartment by myself. I had gone from evenings of my children kissing me good night to me having to kiss my own arse for company and in this season of good cheer let me be one of the many people to wish you good night and if I'm the only one, you'll have to do what I did – kiss your own arse goodnight.

Which reminds me of a few lyrical lines from the days when everybody expected to be blown up by a nuclear bomb:

So when the nukes come raining down
It's great to be alive, well
World War Three can be such fun
If you protect and survive
Protect and survive

For they give us a four-minute warning
When the rockets are on their way
To give us time to panic and Christians time to pray
So when you hear the siren's going
Place your head between your thighs
Whilst maintaining this posture
You can make a final gesture
And with a little muscular pressure
You can kiss your arse goodbye