Tuesday, June 30, 2015

The Pull Corder.

Some time ago I stayed in a flat in west London. It wasn't exactly a tower block but I was on the 10th floor which was high enough for me.
Next door to our block was another block which was a kind of twin building; Siamese twinned, actually, or is it politically correct to call it conjoined. (I put this in just in case I offend other conjoined buildings).
I suppose it really was a single building with two different front entrances.
In from the front door of my flat was a hall with a door immediately to the right in to the kitchen – or should I say a doorway as there was no actual door.
Opposite the kitchen was a door to the sitting room, the door next to that was to the bedroom and oblique to that was a door to the bathroom.
Let me digress slightly to say that when I first went to live in America one of the first things I noticed was that bathrooms had light switches – over here they don't. Over here the bathrooms have pieces of string or rope with a slight weight on the end which is pulled to operate the lights; I believe it's commonly known as a pullcord. They make a fairly loud click when used which can usually be heard all over the house; in my case the flat.
Also when I say oblique I really mean at a right angle to the bedroom door.
On the adjoining wall to the bathroom was another bathroom of the flat in the next building – the same building, really, but as I've explained there are two main entrances so a different address; a different building.
It would take me some time to get to that flat; in to the lift, down 10 floors, into the other building and up 10 floors in their lift – the ground floor being the ground floor, the next one up the first floor and so on.
The walls and floors were quite deep so no sound would ever be heard from another flat; except for the pullcord; and that went with a loud pop.
I noticed it the first evening I stayed there; I was watching television and I heard the familiar sounding pop from the bathroom. Not my bathroom, I thought, I'm the only one here, and sure enough that was the case.
Over the next week or so I heard the clicks at all hours of the day and night.
Something happens here when a big occasion is on television, like a football match or variety show or even the day JR was shot on Dallas; there is a boost in electricity supply when everybody, it seems, puts the kettle on – and/or flushes the loo.
Then I noticed that sometimes when I was watching the football I would go to the loo at half time and just before pulling the pullcord I heard it being pulled next door; was that person a football fan? Was that person male or female?
Sometimes I would get in late, or get up in the night for a pee and . . .. click!!! The bathroom switch from next door.
Man or woman?
Old or young?
Attractive or . . . . ?
Who knows, who knew? I certainly didn't.
I started monitoring the pullcord clicks to see what kind of television programmes were on when the pullcord was popped and what time of day or night was the most popular.
It didn't necessarily have to be a guy for the football – women like football these days too – even in doze daze (those days).
The clicks would come on at the time of television commercial breaks in classic drama serials. As most of the classic drama serials were on the BBC, where they don't have commercials, I knocked any theory I got from that on the head.
Then I got to notice that the first clicks would start on a regular basis at around 6.00 am; now was that when he or she was getting out of bed or when they were finished in the bathroom and were going out for the day at that time?
Mmmmm!
What kind of person would have to get up at 6.00 am? Maybe a different kind of person who had to leave home at that time?
You never know.
Lew Grade, Lord Grade, would give an interview to anybody – journos, actors, anybody, but it had to be at 7.00 am – it might even have been at six?
So it could have been . . . . . Lord Grade?
No, don't be silly.
The main question I asked myself and what I really wanted to know is was it male or female? Young or old? Or more to the point fancy-able or not fancy-able?
Apart from standing outside their flat door how was I to find out?
One evening I was watching a late movie; The Searchers, directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne and when it had finished I went to the bathroom and when I clicked the cord the same sound came from next door.
Male or female?
Maybe a John Wayne fan, 4 out of 10, a fan of westerns, 6 out of 10 or a John Ford fan – 10 out of 10 – no! 9 out of 10.
Maybe just a fan of The Searchers as it's one of my favourite films of all time.
The next time the TV schedules arrived I checked the films to see if any westerns were due to be shown; not one.
A few nights later, I was watching Double Indemnity and the same click click of the cord happened just after it had finished.
Not only a John Ford fan but a fan of film noir – could this person be the love of my life, one who likes the same things that I do.
After a few months I got to know – worked it out to a certain extent – that my neighbour liked westerns, film noir, was a football fan and supported either Chelsea or Fulham and was . . I couldn't figure out the sex.
I had looked out of my window a few times in the mornings to spy on people going out between six and eight in the morning and couldn't get a pattern.
Then I realised they may go by car and the car park to our building was underneath.
I didn't have a car so never had a need to go down there but there was a lavatory. I could go in there and peep with the door slightly open. It was only a small car park so I could see all of it quite easily.
The first day nobody either came in or went out between those two times but as a few people would try and use the facility I decided to call it off before I was arrested. I don't know what I would have been arrested for but to be taken away, even on suspicion, with the word lavatory in any potential charge, is not a good idea or tag to have next to your name.
Maybe my mystery neighbour went to work on a bike.
I have to say I did look for someone with a bike coming out of next door but it wasn't to be.
Not long after my snooping in the car park, I went to one or two screenings at the National Film Theatre; they were doing a retrospective of Billy Wilder and when I went to a screening of Some Like It Hot there was a Q&A afterwards with someone who had worked on the movie.
They discussed the famous hotel in San Diego, the Coronado, and the Coronado Beach, where some of the movie was filmed and The Lot, in Los Angeles where they did the interiors. The Lot used to be Warner Brothers and later I worked there and I'd also been to the famous hotel in California.
One of the questions, to our guest, came from a fairly attractive woman; aged maybe around 35; what intrigued me was that she had taken her coat off and was wearing a Chelsea tee shirt.
That isn't much to go by, I know, but a little later on, when I got on the tube, I noticed she was on it too.
I had to change at Notting Hill so wondered if she would be changing there.
Seemed a little far fetched so I put it out of my mind.
Football fan, maybe Chelsea, movie fan, liked Billy Wilder mmmmmm.
When we pulled in to Notting Hill she got off the train with me and walked towards the Central Line.
On the Central Line she sat almost opposite and when the time came for me to get off, she got off the train too.
I caught up with her on the platform and said 'I saw you at the Billy Wilder.'
'Yes' she said 'wasn't it wild.'
'Certainly wild.' I said 'it couldn't get any wilder.'
She looked at me and then the penny dropped.
'Sorry' I said.
'Billy Wilder!' she said and laughed.
By this time we were outside and walking together.
'Do you live around here?' I said.
'No. I live in Beaconsfield; I just park here.'
'Oh' I said.
We rounded the street to where I lived and she had parked right at my front door.
'Good night' I said as she got in to her car.
'See you sometime.' she said.
She closed the car door and drove off; as she did a man, whom I knew waived to her and came in to my front door.
'Hi' I said.
'Hi!'
'Do you know her?' I said.
'Not really. She used to live next door.'
I never heard the pullcord sound again.
Not till just now – and I don't live there any more.



Monday, June 15, 2015

The Digital Age

Like most people I have been watching television for years. I watch it every day and enjoy it and I know a lot of people say they don't watch it much and do.
I remember there was a link, many years ago, when the BBC managed to get a live picture from New York.
I looked at it and looked at it and there they were; people actually walking along the street in New York; or it might have been Washington DC?
The programme was being introduced by Richard Dimbleby the most famous British Broadcaster of all time; he whom The Dimbleby Lecture is named after, the Dimbleby this and the Dimlebey that and these days also famous for being the father of the Dim Bum Bums – David and Jonathan.
Seems strange that a man of such immense imagination and experience should name his sons after two biblical characters. I mean what's the matter with Cane and Abel??
I can't remember too much about the broadcast apart from the people walking and living all those many miles away from where I was sitting, but I have seen these things grow over the years to where they could actually speak to people and have a conversation with them in Africa and places as far and even farther and with even stranger sounding names.
When they spoke their lips would match the sound - just like on a film.
Sometimes they would speak to people all of ten miles away from London and again – their lips matched.
These days, because everything has gone digital and automatic (I mean I can't even misspell because, because it corrects itself automatically) the picture is so clear on my digital TV; it's even clearer on the HD (High Definition – or Hi-Def) but you know what? They can't even get the lips to match when speaking to someone in the same town.
The wonderful HD channel breaks up all the time so I hardly bother to have it on and the digital music on MP3 only has one third of the quality of a vinyl record.
Even the cassette tape with its hissing is better than MP3.
And do you know why? Because (it corrected it again) MP3 only has one third of the quality of real life – and vinyl.
If you have two voices singing or playing an instrument and they are playing the same note you will only hear one. You may be kidding yourself as you walk around with ear phones shoved into your ears and loving the effect of hearing in both ears – the stereo effect – but it won't be like sitting in front of an orchestra or a group or band; even though you think it is, and even if you have the big head set, which I fear is coming back into fashion, just to really signal that you are listening to something else in case someone asks you a question, makes some kind of communication with you, asks you directions or is shouting “get out of the way of the lion” at you.
I see some people on the tube wearing a hat, reading the paper, wearing glasses and listening to music as they travel – there is no means of communication whatsoever and no wonder they have to look on the Internet or join a dating site to even get a date – which they have to answer questions about afterwards.
They have no delight any more in merely typing the word afterwards and appreciating that it is the longest word I know which you can type with one hand – the left one, by the way.
The clearest sound these days is Waveform - but it's a big file.
The clearest picture is not digital; it's on film.
If you watch the movie Lawrence of Arabia you will see the clearest picture of all.
There he is; a dot, a tiny dot and that dot on the film will become Omar Sharif.
It will grow and grow until it becomes one of the biggest movie stars of the 70s – a man that would gamble his last thousand dollars on a horse – in fact he and Peter O'Toole lost all their fees from Lawrence in a casino!
Wouldn't you sooner be one of those type of men or be married to one than an accountant?
My whole point is, aren't we sacrificing quality for speed and convenience?
The shot I mentioned of Omar Sharif's entrance was sacrificed itself because David Lean said he wanted to use the whole shot of the mirage image to Omar getting off the camel but had to cut away because he didn't think the audience would stick with it; but when I saw a re-cut of the film he didn't do it.
Have a look here and enjoy it – the only thing is, you will be watching that through a digital device so you will lose some quality because film is always better – it has light shining through it.



Monday, June 8, 2015

Movie Star.

I had quite a bit of reaction to the last post I wrote about LGBT and Hollywood, apart from the comments, and they were mainly about the building I lived in and the movie star or stars etc.
Well it was a lively building and I loved every minute living there. I couldn't go out of my front door without meeting someone from the business. They might be a screenwriter, a director, producer an extra or whatever. But the one thing in common most of them had was a script – a screenplay. It was somewhere either in their bag or their apartment, but it existed somewhere.
They didn't flaunt it at you but you knew it existed somewhere so it didn't matter who you met, whether it was someone for the first time or an old friend; you would never bring up the script.
To be fair a lot of people who had scripts lurking and were fully fledged members of the writers' guild kept it to themselves.
But the building itself was wonderful.
I am not one of those people who don't like actors – there are lots of actors like that and I'm not one of those; I love them.
I love the stories about old jobs, old experiences and the like but actors who are arseholes you avoid.
The movie star on our floor was an experience; 'there's a movie star living in there' is something you kind of ignore. But this was an actor who had been compared to Brando in his life. He's been in some of the greatest latest movies – The Usual Suspects, Pulp Fiction, The Mask etc.
He was a dangerous actor. 
That label has been used for actors who wouldn't be able to blow the skin off a rice pudding but this guy was the real deal. 
He was in a movie with Ben Stiller where the pair of them would throw themselves into an unbreakable glass window about 20 floors above Century City. He was playing a drug addict, a drug dealer and . . . . that is what he was in real life.
I got on with him very well and one time we were at a party together and he said 'let's go out and party – and I guarantee it won't cost you a dime.'
I kind of suspected that it would be for more than a drink or two so I didn't go. Those days are gone, Joxer!
One night I was woken by a ruckus in the street below. I went out on to our balcony and there he was, arguing with a taxi driver.
'Okay' he said, dancing around like Mike Tyson, 'give me your best shot.'
Apparently the taxi driver had over charged him; he told me they (taxi drivers) took a lot of the air out of their tyres so the clock would show more miles!!!!
Go figure!
Now this was a fella, who received something like half a million dollars for a recent film, was eventually kicked out of the building for non-payment of rent.
When he left he had wrecked the apartment – the bathroom, the kitchen; all smashed.
You see the poor fella was hooked on heroin.
Afterwards he came to the building on a regular basis and I would introduce him to my children in the lift and he was so quietly spoken you wouldn't believe.
Once in a while I would see him in a bar somewhere and he would throw his arms around me like I was his brother.
He went to New York, at one time, to do a TV series and whilst there he was arrested when he tried to buy some drugs – it was in all the papers.
And still he worked.
Our building had CCTV all over the place. One time he came back and instead of coming up to our floor to visit our neighbour – where he collected his mail – he went downstairs to the laundry room.
When he got in there he put a balaclava (ski mask) over his head and went into the parking lot, which was next to the laundry room. There he went up to a new Lexis, removed the number plate then disappeared.
How do we all know this?
CCTV.
All on there as clear as a bell. He stole the plate or plates – I think they're called registration plates over there – to sell them for drug money. He would sell them to someone who would use them in an illicit act; who knows? Robbery, murder, mayhem!!
The Lexis belonged to someone who lived on the floor below and the manager of the building watched it all on the security video and told the guy. 
The guy said he wanted the plates back and if they were returned straight away nothing more would be said.
Somehow our next door neighbour managed to get in touch with our hero and he returned them.
Did you ever hear of TMZ?
It's a TV station or Internet channel which collects gossip on TV and movie stars etc. 
It either stands for Two Mile Zone or Ten Mile Zone, in any case the manager of the building sent the footage to them and our poor old movie star was all over the TV shows and gossip places for the next week or so.
Now!!!!
Did he do it on purpose? He was filmed coming out of some very smart places and being mobbed by paparazzi asking about the plates.
The manager, by the way, stood at about 6'7” and was built like a brick shit house. He had a booming voice but . . . yes there was a but about him which I never quite figured out. 
He told me about his script and I went to see it at a local 99 seat theatre; it wasn't bad.
He was a jazz drummer of Italian extraction and he hired a grip, who lived in the building, called Gonzo to be the handy man. It was a good choice as grips on movie sets are usually the strong guys, handy with their hands and usually with a full tool box.
So Gonzo was hired and he did a good job. However it got too much for the poor fella as he had too much to do and it was getting to him and one day he had a stroke.
Not a big one. I went to see him the next day at the hospital and he was trying to put a few words together and exercising his lips. But he couldn't walk and was in tears.
Then he called me and asked me to come and pick him up. When I got to the hospital he could walk – with quite a limp but he could walk.
He came home and after about a week he was walking and talking fine. 
You could tell he'd had a stroke but he was managing.
That's when the manager decided to sack him.
He sacked him because not only did Gonzo want paying he wanted reimbursing for the money he had laid out on materials. The manager said he hadn't given him permission to spend on the materials which left Gonzo broke.
So the manager gave Gozo an eviction noticen for non-payment of rent.
By the way, the first time I went to Gonzo's apartment I noticed that just inside the door, by the wall, was a baseball bat.
Things didn't go Gonzo's way so the writing was on the wall and he would have to leave.
Before the stroke the manager and Gonzo were up each other's arses; going to the Home Depot Store together etc.
So Gonzo decided, under the circumstances, to kill the manager.
We lived on the 5th floor facing beautiful Runyon Cannyon but above us there was a penthouse. In the bigger penthouse was someone called Doris who came in one day and saw the Manager and Gonzo struggling on the floor.
Gonzo had tried to rip the manager's eyes out and when Doris got out of her car she saw them and, as she said to me, I thought Gonzo was fucking him!!
They got rid of poor Gonzo and the last I heard the manager had put a restraining order out against Gonzo.
So there we are:

Here is a little taste of The Rare Auld Mountain Dew – just me and my banjo:



Tuesday, June 2, 2015

LGBT

Lou Read
Still here folks!!

There was an item on News Night here which started 'how many cross gender people do you know?' and the article went on to discuss Bruce Jenner.

Well I have known and know quite a few; you see I lived in Hollywood which attracted all sorts. When I lived in Hollywood first, there were quite a few cross gender people in the building and some prostitutes, drag artists and strippers. They were all very gentle people and I never feared being robbed or mugged in the street but since moving out of that building I did hear that someone fired a gun through a ceiling because there was too much noise upstairs!

That building was every thing that Lou Read would sing about but I never saw a Candy Darling.
Candy Darling and Andy Warhol

The next building with the wonderful view of Runyon Canyon and the sweeping palm trees against the expansive blue sky was also rife with the, shall we say, the darker side of life.

Our parking lot (Car park) was under the building and we would access it with a remote control and one day I met a trumpet player (he told me he was a trumpet player, he wasn't playing it) who was having a little problem with his car. He was under the hood (the bonnet) fiddling with it and I kind of gave him a hand. He got to know me and called me Chris and I knew his name too.

Another day I was standing by the lift (the elevator) and he came and stood by me and he was in a woman's dress, high heels and the rest of it, with someone who lived on the floor below us – 'Hi Chris' he said and I said hi back. No explanation and none needed.

I felt kind of good when he went (he was a 'he' as he was a cross dresser) because we both genuinely felt that no explanation was needed.

The person he was with was also, at the time, a man; but he was cross gender. He had been a married man with three children but felt he was a woman and the last time I saw him he was waiting for the operation to change sex – just like Bruce Jenner.

In a really messed up place, his children, who were quite grown up, were the nicest and most well balanced people for their age that one could wish for.

His wife too met a man on the Internet and the last thing I knew they had moved in to the two bedroom apartment (flat) too.

Okay I'll forget all the brackets and Anglo/American translations – oh one more, which I get asked all the time is the difference between an apartment and a condo – a condominium; they are the same only a condo is what you own and an apartment is what you rent. Apart from in New York where they are all apartments.

But when the man on the TV asked how many cross gender people do we know he was right to assume that not many people in the boonies and the burbs know any, so maybe it's a bit too early to have them campaigning for political contenders – but they're quite harmless I can assure you,

The one thing you will notice in most buildings in Hollywood, if you keep your eyes peeled, is the daily visit or visits, of the drug dealer. I saw a few and they were all the same; youngish white men and the ones I saw had red faces.
In a place dominated by the sun the only people you might see with red faces would be tourists and, I have to say, the drug dealers who came to the buildings I lived in.

On the same floor as us, just two doors away, lived a minor movie star.
A really good actor and he would take all kinds of drugs – heroin mainly and he was out of control most of the time.

One time the cops were called because he was threatening to throw his girl friend over the balcony – we were on the fifth floor – but when the cops arrived through the front door, he was nonchalantly going out the back.

His explanation? He was rehearsing for a scene he had in a move! Go figure.

By the way – I had most of Lou Read's albums till CDs took over.



Monday, May 11, 2015

Sunset Boulevard


When I first got to Los Angeles the first place I headed for was Sunset Boulevard; I had heard of it and I really needed to see it.

Many years ago we lived in Shropshire and we could receive TV from the Midlands, North West and very faintly Wales.

One night I was channel surfing and a movie came on the Welsh channel; it was very foggy as we were receiving from the back end of our ariel, and even though I had to watch as if I had double cataract eye sight, I was intrigued by the movie.

It was about an ex movie star and William Holden was in it and it was – of course you know – Sunset Boulevard. (above)

It has been one of my favourite films ever since.

In those days there were no VCRs, DVDs, TIVO or anything else – if you didn't catch the TV show there and then, you'd never get another chance till the movie came on again or was shown at some cinema doing a retrospective or something.

So that's why I headed there that day – I went up and down the strip and the first thing I noticed was the state of the road surface – what is called in Britain the Tarmac.

It was full of pot holes and cracks and that's something I got used to in Los Angeles. That and the fact they they called the road the pavement and the pavement the sidewalk!!

I can't remember exactly how long Sunset Blvd is but it must be about 25 miles.

It starts off in down town and is the continuation of Caesar Chavez Blvd. The full title is Sunset Blvd West and I bet Sunset Blvd East was before they named the eastern end after that great union leader.

When Sunset reaches Hollywood it forks off to the left and Hollywood Blvd goes straight ahead starting at about number 3,000 or so. Then when it reaches 7000 it is at La Brea Avenue – known as La Brea – and on Hollywood on the corner of La Brea it's also around number 7000. All the streets down La Brea – Hollywood, Fountain, Sunset, Santa Monica Blvd – have a number near number 7000 on each corner. So you can never get lost in the City of Angels and how could you not love a city with such a name; Los Angeles.

Between 7,000 and 8,000 Sunset is a bit busy with loads of restaurants, hotels who offer 4 hour renting periods (what for, I wonder), recording studios and – oh you name it and Ralphs (which I've mentioned before) is called Rock'n'Roll Ralphs because the supermarket is open 24 hours a day and artists from the studios would go into Ralphs in the middle of the night – I saw Christine Aguilara there once and she didn't tell me how to spell her name!!

From 8,000 it is a very different Sunset, just after The Directors' Guild, and that's where Sunset Strip starts.

There is The House of Blues (where I saw Percy Sledge, one day), The Comedy Store (which was a famous club in the fifties) and where James Dean is supposed to haunt – and not long after that, I'm afraid, it becomes uninteresting.

At around 9,000 is the famous Hamburger Hamlet which the exposé book 'You'll Never Eat Lunch in this Town Again' was written from and about – but that is on the 'odd' side of the street.

At 9000 is a huge building full of the people who run Hollywood – the agents.

There are bigger agents in other parts of LA in Beverly Hills, West Hollywood, but that's the end of the corporate part of Sunset.

A little way further west you will pass the street where Frank Sinatra lived, a bit farther and you'll pass the street where Elvis lived when he was in Hollywood and then when you go even farther west you used to pass a big pink house that belonged to Englebert Humpadink; it was originally built and had a strange shaped swimming pool, by Jane Mansfield. It has now been demolish, by the way.

Then on to Brentwood, where OJ Simpson lived and killed, Pacific Palisades, where Speiberg lives and then on to the end which goes straight on to Pacific Coast Highway which you've all seen with the Pacific in the background and way out to the Neptune Fish'n'chips where the motor bikers hang out.

Not bad fish'n'chips but why would anyone from these islands ever eat fish'n'chips any where else?

As you turn right on to the PCH there is a great fish restaurant called Gladstones, if I'm not mistaken, which is fairly expensive; I was in there one day and asked for fish'n'chips and I asked the waitress what came with the fish'n'chips and she said French Fries!!!!
So there we are – hope all is still good there and there are the same crazy people knocking around – running backwards, dying their hair green, breast transplants bigger than France and glorious weather.

Why do I hanker after such a place?

They've just voted David Cameron back in here, that's why!
Pacific Coast Highway.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

77 Sunset Strip.

There was a TV Series called 77 Sunset Strip; in the 50s or maybe even later, and it starred Efrem Zimbalist Jr and Edd (Kookie) Byrnes, amongst others.
Edd got the nickname Kookie as that was the name of his character and it kind of spread in to his private life.
Edd was also in the movie Grease; he played the famous deejay who came along to judge the dancing contest and he looked the same as he did in 77; hey I called it 77 as if I knew it personally.
He wasn't a great actor, he was kind of a third banana in it as Efrem (my pal – I mean I don't want to type out Zimbalist again, do I) was the main man.
Now Edd hasn't died, or anything, in fact he's 80!!
 


There was a hit song called Kookie, Kookie! Lend me your Comb he was featured in with Connie Stephens and if my memory serves me well it's a kind of rap as Edd couldn't sing – oh here it is https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MT9QZBGyXjU
Edd was in the pilot of 77 where he played a serial killer who combed his hair all the time.
The detectives caught him, sent him to jail and he was executed but . . . .
He was so popular with the girls that they brought him back as a regular in the show.
The first thing I did when I arrived there on Sunset Blvd, was to look for number 77 Sunset Strip and Sunset Strip is on Sunset Blvd, West Hollywood.
At the end of the strip is a coffee shop called Dukes where I had breakfast from time to time and that I suppose is about as far west as the strip goes which is number 8909; Dukes is right next door to the Whiskey-a-go-go where bands like The Doors got their start and when I went there it was too see a group called The Super Chunks and I discovered America humour when I asked the man on the door if they had pineapple testicles – yes it got the same laugh then.
The Laugh Factory is on the odd side of Sunset at 7901 (which is the north side), and the strip starts west of Crescent Heights which is 100 yards west so, shall we say, at 8,000 Sunset Blvd and ends at around Duke's Coffee Shop at 8909 Sunset but . . . and this is something I am only just finding out as I looked the street address up . . . . . it has closed down.
That's really bad news and kind of changes this post!!
Duke's was a place where all the rock'n'roll greats ate; they would arrive bleary eyed after a gig next door and is (or was) really a part of rock'n'roll history and like everything else it's bitten the dust.
The Sunset Bar and Grill, further east on Sunset (yes the same place as the Joe Walsh song) has been beautified just like everywhere else.
I mean look:
 

 










How can a place like that close down?
A moments silence!!
 So when I looked for 77, I found that there was no such number – the place they used for the series was owned by Dean Martin and was at 8532 and when I got there it was The Tiffany Theatre.
That has interesting history if you want to look it up but it's the place where Eddie Izzard got a break when he came to LA.
His pal, Eric Idle, bought every seat in the house for Eddie's show (no I don't know him but I'll still call him Eddie) so he was a success.
Now I see The Tiffany Theatre has gone too – it's made place for re-development.
Everything is re-development isn't it?
One of the greatest cities in the world is about to be beautified too – London.
They are ruining Soho – I'll be there on Tuesday getting my haircut – and a lot of craftsmen from Burlington Arcade, Mayfair, are being turfed out to make place for, as they call them, flag ship companies. You know who they are without me typing their names.
The phrase is everywhere in the west end – coming soon: flag ship companies.
I have great memories of those great places and if those photos of Duke's doesn't make you feel a little sad – a little sad for the memories you won't be able to revisit or a sadness that you never will have that great experience – you are welcome to your nut cutlets and muesli.
More about the strip next time.



Sunday, April 12, 2015

Horace and Ada.


I've written on here before about Horace and Ada; when am I going to write the novel? Who knows – they may be part of a novel. They came in to my mind earlier this week.
It was the centenary of Billie Holiday and when I went in to the bedroom – the radio is always on in there - I heard someone mention it on Woman's Hour. In fact I went in at the end of a song by her, and the song was followed by 'I bet people are clapping all over the country, after that.'
Do people sit at home and clap at the end of songs?
What about when watching television when someone finishes a song?
Really?
No they don't – they can't unless they've gone mad.
You're saying they do – they sit there and clap; well that means you do.
You're mad!
Must be.
As my dad used to say, when we tried it as children 'they can't hear you.'
And he was right.
When I went to the movies in Los Angeles people would applaud at the end.
I always put this down to the fact that people from the film industry, who might be in the film– actors technicians etc – would be in the audience. In fact they were and I would see people like Jeff Goldblume but you know – I wouldn't put it passed the people of the rest of America; the fact that they clap.
But what has this to do with Horace and Ada?
When we were little kids we lived in a very small house – two up and two down and one of those down was a small kitchen which my mother managed to squeeze everything into – fridge, washing machine and any gadget she saw at the Ideal Home Exhibition each year.
If anything like that ever got delivered, by the way, the people delivering would have a long walk as you couldn't get a vehicle near the house and we were about 50 yards (child yards) from the road.
South View Terrace (remember from before?) but there was no view as a factory called Locomotors blocked it. The view would have been of Moseley Road and maybe, Moseley Road Swimming Baths which I wrote about on here a few years ago and that post still gets quite a few hits – not as much as My Teenage Love Story – but I digress.
So back to the small house – well a cottage, really, with a 20 yard (child yard) front garden.
So the man with the delivery would have to walk down the lane, till he reached a wall and after the wall he would only have about – put it this way - he wouldn't be able to spread both arms out as there wouldn't be room.
Unless he was Mickey Rooney – but as far as I know he didn't come.
When our parents went out, they would ask Horace and Ada to come around and sit with us as baby sitters. They liked this as they didn't have a television; they had a radio, which we could always hear, as Horace was very deaf. He had some hearing but had to wear a big hearing aid into both ears. The poor fella was also blind and carried a white stick; in fact he had one fifth of his sight in one eye.
So when they came around to watch the television, Horace would have to sit two or three inches from the screen if he was to see anything at all. I suppose he just saw a flickering light. He would sit slightly to the side so as not to block our view and we would sit on the sofa with Ada.
There seemed to be lots of variety shows on in those days and every time a singer stopped singing, Horace and Ada would clap and cheer. I didn't want to say what my dad would say 'oy! They can't hear you' so we would clap as well.
The other thing we would do was put the lights out so we could only see each other from the television glow and that of the fire.
I have no idea how old Horace and Ada were but to us, and my parents, they were an old man and an old lady. I think their name was Melia but we called them Mealey, and Ada called Horace 'lol. These days he would be called Laugh Out Loud, wouldn't he. He never did, though; laugh out loud, that is.
He must have really loved Ada as she shouted and swore at him from morning till night about the burnt toast he took to her in bed each morning after he'd lit the fire for her. We would hear all this from next door – the shouting and the swearing; maybe that's where the expression fucking Ada came from?
Billie Holiday
 

Thursday, April 2, 2015

d'lection!!


Well here I am still kicking – I left things a bit late writing this as I had the flu and – would you believe – fell out of bed in the middle of the night, hit my head on the bedside cabinet and hurt my eye. Blood all over the place; making me look as if I had been 12 rounds with Mike Tyson.

But all is clear now and what has happened?

For a start the election campaign has started here; this is the first time the country – this country - has had a fixed term election; beforehand the Prime Minister would just call an election for three weeks after the announcement, but because we (they for some of the time) have had a coalition for the past five years the first thing they did was change the law. The reason being is the government has to win more seats in parliament than the rest of the parties put together. This is so that every policy, change of law, election pledge and the rest of it can be voted through. If one of them is ever NOT voted through the leader of the opposition can put forward a vote of no confidence in the government and another election has to be called – at any time.

That's what it's been like forever but now it's changed and the election is on May 7th – always a Thursday.

When I was a little boy at school, there was to be a general election – it was imminent, it was the old days – it had to be I was a little boy.

I was the little immigrant kid and the teacher was telling the class that there was to be an election and said 'nobody knows when it is likely to be.'

Of course I put my hand up and said 'I know when it is, Miss.'

And the teacher shouted 'Nobody knows when the election is, Christopher; get outside till I call you back in.'

So I had to go and stand outside; I was too timid to say that it was going to be on a Thursday as all elections are on Thursdays here, but I have to say that a little fella, maybe not even nine years of age, to notice that General Elections (and others) are on Thursdays was quite brilliant for one so young.

But the teacher was having none of it, she sent me outside and my career as the number one political analyst in the world crashed to the floor at that particular moment.

Since Christmas we have been bombarded with the pretend election; a bit like in America where they have fixed terms. Fixed terms mean long campaigns and in America they are anything up to two years. The next Presidential election there is 2016 and you will see the campaigns starting pretty soon. Not pretend ones like over here but the long long process of selecting a candidate from each party.

There is a system there in some states, where people gather together and elect their candidate without voting – or without a secret ballot – and I think one of the states that do this is New Hampshire and it's called the state caucus; people get together and discuss, with the candidate, if they will vote for them or not and then they have to commit. No secret ballot – so when people openly vote for, say, Obama, he can see who's voting for him (how do you think he was voted in) and he can choose these people as delegates to go to the convention with him and vote for him and his veep.

But not here.

Oh no.

In America the two – or three – people who are standing for President will debate on tv.

But not here.

Oh no.

It's not a Presidential election here – it could be possible, that the Prime Minister's party could win the election but he (Cameron) might not regain his seat; quite possible.

In the sixties when Super Mac was the PM he resigned because of health reasons – not his own, maybe Christine Keeler's – and Lord Home was selected by the men in great suits to be PM.

LORD Home.

As if that was bad enough his name was pronounced Hume!!

So he had to drop his peerage and look for a seat – one was found of course but it just goes to demonstrate what could happen.

This time the leader of the Liberal Democrats, Tory Boy Clegg, will probably lose his seat; he says he won't but he will!!

What will happen there I don't know.

As I say there are no debates here – but they had one the last time; Gordon Brown (the PM) – the man who saved the world; David Cameron – the man who wanted to save the world; and Tory Boy Clegg – the man the world saved.

They got together on TV after a lot of hooing and haaing and farting about and Clegg won. Tory Boy Clegg was all set to be the most powerful man in Britain – next to Jeremy Clarkson – but what happened? The people didn't vote for him; they hardly voted for his party but the few seats he did win gave the Tories a majority as he (Clegg) chose to support them in the house; for a price.

The price?

To have a few members of the Liberal Democrats in the cabinet and make Clegg Deputy Prime Minister; a post invented by Tony Blair to keep John Prescott quiet. It was a bad thing to have Prescott against you – as a right hook during the campaign proves – so they invented a job for him.

And what does all this have to do with the price of a hill of beans?

They are all – all of them – all the leaders of the parties standing in this election are having a debate tonight. Plaid Cymru, The Green Party, The Labour Party, The Conservative Party, The Liberal Democrats, The Scottish National Party and UKIP.
 
All of them with hardly a format - it'll be like a fish'n'chip shop on a Friday night!

UKIP???

Yes, ladies and gentlemen of America; just like the Tea Party of America; an extreme right wing party who are more like wolves in sheep's clothing. I can't believe that people are being hoodwinked and they are being hoodwinked just like the people who voted for The Tea Party in America because of their ignorance and they can somehow see an easy way out.

Watch this space!!



Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Superman - Birdman

When I was a little boy I had one hero – one hero, that is, before Roger Bannister ran the sub 4 minute mile – and that hero was Superman.
As soon as I set eyes on the serial my little boy's life changed.
I got all the comics and remember him going back and meeting Helen of Troy and not believing her when she said she came from the fifth century before Christ by asking how she would know about Christ if she died before Christ was born; loads of other stuff I learned which I have forgotten about now, but I was such a young little lad that I didn't realise that Lois and Clark's names were based on - Lewis and Clark, the pioneers that discovered America by land and claimed the North West for the United States – or something like that. 
 
In fact, who knows, Lois and Clark might not have been based on the great 19th Century explorers at all, but I didn't care; I became Superman and I told my brothers.
They didn't believe me till one of them asked where my cloak was and I told them; under the bed, of course.
I showed it to them; there was a dark thing under there and they might have believed me. Our bedroom window was over a bay window so I could get out quite easily, walk along the ledge and shimmy down before they made it to the window to see where I'd gone.
I never actually tried to run along the garden and fly; that surprises me now thinking back on it but maybe in my heart of hearts I knew I wasn't really Superman at all and didn't want to face up to reality.
When he was old enough I took my son to see Superman at the movies and when I took him up to bed each night after that I would hold him out so he could fly up the stairs with his fist clenched like Christopher Reeve; his son likes Superman too and flies to bed each night in the same way, I should think.
But I dreamed of flying; I dreamt loads of times about it and I still do; I don't fly like Superman I lift up from the ground and I can travel but . . . I always have a problem landing.
When I saw Birdman – the film – the other day, it all came back to me.
He lifted up and flew at one point. 
And I wondered how he was going to land!! 
Now this is strange because the film appeared to be shot in one long continuous take – it wasn't, I know, but it appeared to be; at the beginning of the film he is sitting in his dressing room (Michael Keaton brilliantly plays an actor in a play) levitating.
It is a film about the production of a play – when he leaves the dressing room to rehearse a scene, he says to his assistant (played by the brilliant Zach Galifianakis) 'try and stop so and so acting' which is one thing the Americans always try to do as they don't like overacting.
There was also a lot of script improvising in their play – why say three lines when you've already said it in one – theories about art: what it is and isn't etc.
A terrible woman, wonderfully played by Lindsay Duncan is the critic of the New York Times who can, and threatens, to close the play.
"I'll kill your play" she says.
A lot of it's fantasy mixed with reality but I would recommend it to everybody especially actors so when I got home and went to bed and slept I . .

. . .  didn't dream about flying at all; not yet in any case.
Someone once told me that if you fly in your dreams you have illusions of grandeur – well maybe I do; I mean why else am I an actor? Sometimes I do wonder.
If I am doing my one man show – either of them – I just go on and do it, but when I'm not doing it, like now, I wonder where I get the audacity from; I have been doing solo performances for fifteen years and each time I get involved I still wonder if it will come off; maybe it has something to do with my flying dreams where I fly like Birdman. Not like Superman who goes head forward; maybe I'll fly like Superman in my dreams one day.
Sometimes when I can't get to sleep I think about a tall building in North Acton; I worked there plenty of times for the BBC years ago, and the canteen was on the top floor.
If it was sunny people would sit outside to eat and looking over the wall we could see, through the mist, Greater London.
I lie in bed sometimes and think of that building; walking over to the door of the veranda, getting on to the wall and floating across London. 
I can feel the wind in my face as I fly like Superman; I can see the tube train below, the A40 road before it became a motorway and I head west over green grass and winding traffic.
But I don't go very far as Superman; I doze off and go into another world; another world where I no longer fly like Superman but like Michal Keaton in Birdman.
 Up right and proper wearing an overcoat.



Wednesday, February 25, 2015

A day in the life . . .

There I am – above – that was in the BBC Shakespeare series As You Like It with Helen Mirren – no I'm not fighting Helen Mirren!!
That thing in my right hand is my sword – it seems to be angled right at the camera so you can't see it properly.
It's not my hair, of course, and that thing at the top of my legs is a small cod piece.
The other fella, by the way, seems to be tied up in knots and believe me if he'd known the photo was being taken he would have bent his head around. The photo was taken by one of the ace guys who take the tennis photos at Wimbledon each summer.
The photo below is going back even farther – or further - I am on the right and the play we were in was called The Alchemist by Ben Johnson – not the runner, the 17th century playwright.

On the left, looking very elegant and proud is Julian Fellowes (now Lord Fellowes) of Gosford Park and Downton Abbey fame, and in that photo you can see something similar at the top of my legs – yes a cod piece. 
The other fella, nearer Julian, is the (now) famous wine expert Oz Clarke but the fella with his hand out is now a mystery to me. 
Rather a large one – I got these two photos from the Internet but I'm sure I have originals somewhere.
I did The Alchemist at The Royal Theatre, Northampton and we stayed on in Northampton to live for some years. That's where we brought the children up in a small village about six or seven miles east and it would take over an hour to get in to London on a good day.
A year or two after that photo was taken I was walking through the market square in Northampton when I stocky young fella with long hair and a beard came up to me. He seemed to be dressed in many colours and he said – 'hello boy; you that fella with the cord pace; ent that right?'
Yes, I said.
'I remember that cord pace in that play.'
I asked him if he went to the theatre much and he said no that he only came that once.
He was with a girl and I could see he had a few drinks on him. Tom, his name was, and it turned out that he was quite famous as a singer of folk songs and led a folk band. We talked for a while and went for a drink in, I think, Shipman's bar just off the market square.
I bumped in to him lots of times after that and sometimes we would have a drink and maybe end up at his place. I can't remember where it was but he had loads of musical instruments around the place and I was never sure if it was his place. Those were hazy days and one time I bumped into him London near Ward's Irish House in Piccadilly and whilst we were there an old friend of mine walked in with his dog.
I can't remember what kind of a dog it was but Tom looked at the dog very carefully and said to my pal 'I think his trousers are too short.'
What Tom was doing in Piccadilly that day I don't know but my pal wanted to know if I could do a West Indian accent 'course he can' said Tom 'he can do any accent you like. I saw him doing Walsh and carckney – you name it.'
'I thought you didn't go to the theatre?' I said.
'Oh I snuck in once or twice' he said.
So my pal said his friend wanted someone who could do a West Indian accent to go to his flat to read his play.
'You go and do that' said Tom.
'He's a white West Indian' said my pal ' says he Irish.'
'He'll be from Barbados' said Tom 'you heard the saying “Hell or Barbados?”'
So Tom wandered off and I went up to Muswell Hill to my pal's friend's flat.
When we got there he sure was a white West Indian and he'd written a play 'I need to hear this' the guy said and he poured a large whiskey for me.
We sat down and read it and my pal read the other English part.
My accent wasn't that good – more Jamaican – but the whiskey flowed and we had a few laughs reading the play.
When we finished the play we played darts – with an air pistol.
We were shooting tiny coloured darts at an ordinary dart board and there was a lot of cheering and shouting if we hit the bull and the playwright's wife went out to fetch more whiskey. When it came back it flowed again till it was time to go.
I got to Euston Station just in time to catch the last train to Northampton which was ten minutes past midnight.
As I walked along the platform a loud voice shouted and there was Tom carrying a small bottle of whiskey.
We walked up through the carriages and there sitting on one of the seats I met someone else I knew. An actor called Raynor Burton and he was with his pal who was strumming on a guitar.
Tom passed the whiskey around and we sipped from the bottle as we travelled up to Northampton. Raynor and his pal were going all the way to Birmingham and as we travelled, sipped and laughed, Raynor's pal went into one of my favourite Bob Dylan songs Lay Lady Lay; it was beautiful.
You would think we were a nuisance, singing and drinking and laughing, but no. 
I could see people were smiling and we sang a couple of folk songs with Tom to the fore and then the guitarist starting singing 'Where do you go to my lovely?/When you're alone in your bed' and the whole carriage joined in.
Not too many people as it was the middle of the night and when we finished we had reached Northampton.
Tom left the whiskey with the boys as they continued the other half of their journey to Birmingham and we wandered off in to the night.
I never saw any of them again but when I looked Tom up on the Internet just now I saw that his name was Tom Hall and he played with a band called The Barback Riders and he died twelve years ago.