Vintage movie stars

January 31, 2009


Here’s a picture of me as Groucho Marx. I’d just moved down to London in 1986 and this was one of the first jobs I got, demonstrating a game called Quotations at some toy fair at Earls Court. Sadly, Groucho Marx doesn’t make it into the Queens of poll I have just written a piece for; Which vintage movie star gets your Valentine’s vote? You can read my ramblings on Steve McQueen, Cary Grant, Patrick Swayze, George Clooney, and Charlie Chaplin (! Why Charlie and not Groucho?) here. Oh, and don’t forget to vote.

When I worked at the Toy Fair I was jealous of my friends who were promoting another new toy; Battle Beasts. I loved them. The Battle Beasts that is. Well, and my friends. Battle Beasts Battle Beasts, they battle for fun!

I never got to battle for fun, but then my friends never got to meet Peter Fielding and Gavin Wellman. Peter and Gavin, Peter and Gavin, the’re the Divisional Sales Manager and Marketing Director for Hasbo/Bradley! Hmmm, doesn’t have quite the same ring to it.


January 30, 2009

I’ve met a murderer. At the time I didn’t know this. I was with Trev Neal and Cyndi Lauper, and looking back we were all lucky to escape with our lives. This may sound like some kind of fantasy, but it is all true.

I’m a big fan of the only reality TV show worth watching; Coronation Street. Watching the antics of those Northern folks keeps me in touch with my roots. When people ask me if I really think Coronation Street is real, I say “I believe it to be real.” You try using reason and logic in the face of belief; you’ll get nowhere.

Another hobby of mine other than watching Coronation Street is to scour YouTube for old clips of me and Trev. It passes the time, and it also fools me into thinking I’m working and it’s the 20th Century. A week ago, someone put this on You Tube. It’s the Video Grand Prix; a segment of Live and Kicking where the two of us and a couple of guests would fool around while supposedly reviewing the new pop songs of the week. I enjoyed the first minute or so and then I froze in horror. Our second guest was an actor called Gray O’Brien. He was in Casualty. But not anymore.

At some point Gray O’Brien packed in acting and decided to buy a knicker factory in Coronation Street. A knicker factory called Underworld. He even changed his name. He’s now called Tony Gordon. And he kills people. He killed Liam O’Connor. People who watch Coronation Street know this. And yet the police have done nothing. We’ve seen Maria try to unmask him, but now everyone just thinks she’s nuts. She thought he’d killed Jed Stone, but Tony brought Jed back to Coronation Street to prove that he was alive. But Tony’s sneaky, and anyone who watches too much TV will know that Jed Stone, years back, was Hopkirk in Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased). Yes, deceased! If he could appear on TV as Hopkirk (deceased) why can’t he appear on Coronation Street as Jed Stone (deceased).

We we’re nearly murdered. Along with Cyndi Lauper. It’s a fact. Look at those black eyes in the YouTube clip. How did we get those? Tony Gordon had murder in his mind years before he became a knicker king.

I rest my case. And my brain.


Annoying Richard

January 28, 2009

freds-weather-mapMe and Trev have been doing a bit of reminiscing, it comes with getting old. Some of the things we talk about are true and some are false. Sometimes we can’t tell the difference. Did FieldAid ever happen? Here’s something that did happen.

We appeared on This Morning with Richard and Judy a few times back in the 20th Century. They had a man called Fred who did the weather; from a floating mini-UK and Ireland harboured in the dock. I know, to all foreign readers you’re starting to think I’m making this up. I’m not! It’s true! look at the photographic evidence. Fred would jump from the Lake District over to Ireland. The first time we appeared on the map, we both jumped with him, but I missed. I fell in… that caused a bit of a fuss, but that’s another story.

They liked us on the show, and because we’d caused a fuss on our first Fred/map visit, they invited us back for their last show of the series (let’s be swanky and call it a season finale). This time they wanted us to come up out of the water. That’s why we’re dressed like rejects from a Thunderball/Spongebob Squarepants convention.

So, it’s live TV, and the floating weather report comes towards the end of the show. We’re told by one of the production team that we must clamber aboard the map, muck around a bit with Fred, then race up to the studio where Richard and Judy will have a quick chat.


But this was no ordinary season finale. This season of This Morning had been a bit of an ordeal for both Richard and Judy. Richard had been falsely accused of wine robbery; all worked out well, but he had had a bit of a year of it. And he chose the end of the  show to deliver a moving tribute to Judy for standing by him and being his rock. But nobody bothered telling us two flippered idiots. We were just quickly ushered in to stand either side of them and await the interview that never came.

Trev stood to the left of the ever-patient Judy, I stood to the right of Richard. We were in wetsuits and we were dripping wet. Trev held a big plastic crab and I held a big plastic lobster; dripping crab and dripping lobster. We waited for the chat, and as we waited, we waved the plastic crustaceans over the heads of our hosts. Who wouldn’t? Well, most people. But that’s the kind of thing we do. We do it very well.

Richard was mid flow in his praise for Judy,  his eulogy moving many to tears. And then he realised a plastic lobster was being waved above his head. Maybe it was the dripping. Maybe the squelch of a rubber suit betrayed us. Or the perfume of the Mersey. Richard stopped talking. He turned to me and I thought “Ah, here comes the interview”.

“Stop it!”, Richard demanded. And so I did.

Social secretary

January 27, 2009


I’ve become a Social Secretary. How it happened I’m not so sure. I’ve never seeked high office. I was off at a Barack Obama Quiz Night Party when Vicky, the genius behind Note-orious, the choir I am now a member of, said she needed people to form a committee. And somehow or other last night at our first choir practice of 2009 I was voted in as the Social Secretary. This for someone who has enough difficulty just saying “hello” to people.

That’s me above with Phil Denison and Trev Neal. We’d organised a comedy gig in a field. This would be in the late 70’s/early 80’s when comedy gigs in fields were all the rage. You may remember FieldAid in 1983 when comedians with coutryside-related names got together to try and raise awareness about the plight of the field mouse; Harry Hill, Sid Fields, Shane Meadows (not strictly speaking a comedian- he made a short black and white film for the occasion called Somerfields), Lee Cornes, Benny Hill, Bob Mills, Charlie Drake, Chris Rock, Craig Hill, Noel Fielding, Dave Gorman, Eugene Cheese, Glenn Wool, Harry Enfield, Jeff Green, Jimmy Cricket, Joan Rivers, Jon Plowman, Joe Cornish, Katy Brand, Keith Fields, Matthew Horne, Mike Gunn, Paul Thorne, Reece Shearsmith, Reginald D. Hunter, Richard Herring, Rob Deering, Russell Brand, Sean Lock, Tim Vine, Tommy Cooper and Victoria Wood.

It was a pretty big bill, and every comedian who was a big noise in 1983 tried to get their five minutes in that field. We had no hope. Neither of our names lent themselves to any aspect of the countryside. Having said that, a few of the above were lucky to make it. There a was petition sent around by some peacenik comedian trying to get Mike Gunn banned. Mike pointed out that just because he was called Gunn didn’t mean he either liked or even had a gun. They let him in. The biggest fuss was over Dave Gorman. A lot of comedians tried to have him barred. He said he was allowed in because he knew a friend of a friend who lost an arm in a nasty combine harvester accident. Cheeky, I know. And also trying to make light out of a tragedy. The event chairman, Angus Deayton, overruled all objections and let him in.

FieldAid took place a year before LiveAid. By the time of LiveAid these charity types had got their act together. FieldAid was a fiasco; All comedians overrun, and with the exception of Charlie Drake (who did a tight two and a half minutes) the average set ran to about 17 minutes. Jimmy Cricket did 78 minutes! The whole event went on past 8 o’clock and no one thought about bringing any lights. By the time Victoria Wood brought the show to a close at 5.34am there were only four people left in the field.

Still, I remember it fondly, as I’m sure you do if you were there. And it’s legacy? The field mouse is no longer endangered. Job done.

I hope I’ve learnt from events like FieldAid. I hope I can put what I have learnt to use as Social Secretary for Note-orious.

Please feel free to leave your comments, particularly if you attended or performed at FieldAid. I would love to share your memories.

no title

January 26, 2009


Not a lot

January 25, 2009


I’ve been quiet on the blog scene for the last few days. I’ve been thrown into a state of confusion by the appearance of the Paul Daniels blog. When Paul Daniels starts a blog it is time for me to pause and ask “why am I doing it?” I’ve paused and I haven’t come up with an answer. So, for now, I’ll carry on.

It’s The Guardian’s fault. Last week they made me mad by telling me I had to read 1000 books of their choosing. Well, I’m not going to. And now they mess with my mind by pointing out Paul’s blog.  Paul is in Barbados, bumping into Russ Abbott and Cilla Black and Stuart Hall. I couldn’t look back from this point. I never knew Barbados was such a weird place. It’s like a lost episode of Lost– you crash land in paradise and are met by a group of varieticians. That isn’t a word, but I’d like it to be. Cilla Black fixes you up with Stuart Hall who dresses you up in a polar bear outfit and makes you run around obstacles then Paul Daniels makes you disappear and Russ Abbott turns up as Barratt Holmes and tries to solve the whole puzzle. Then there’s a writers’ strike, but blogger Paul takes over and writes a happy ending where they all go to a charity golf dinner where the Moody Blues are playing. This last part is true. As someone might say… only in Barbados.

In one of Paul’s posts he jumps to the defence of Nazi-dressing idiot Prince Harry over his “paki” remark. Paul points out that “paki” is just an abbreviation of Pakistani, and that he wouldn’t be offended if someone called him a “Brit”. Well, it’s a sort of an argument. But I’m sure Paul Daniels is an intelligent man and I’m sure he is only too aware of how our language shifts and reshapes. Sometimes the meaning of a word is not what that word means. I bet he’s being willfully disingenuous. Next he’ll be telling us he’s got lots of gay friends, and then insisting he means cheerful.

Oh, and when I call Prince Harry an idiot, he should take that as a compliment.

I’ve met Paul Daniels twice. The first time was on Going Live! or Live and Kicking, I can’t remember which. I stood about two feet away from him in BBC TV Centre’s Studio 7 whilst, off camera, and for my own amazement and entertainment, he did some close-up magic with a pack of cards. I liked it. A lot.

The second time was in a Liverpool Hotel’s breakfast bar. I was with my double-act other half, Trev; we were going to be on This Morning with Richard and Judy later (possibly the appearance where I jumped off the weather map with Fred but failed to make it to Ireland, bailing out into the Irish Sea). Paul was there because the QE2 was in town and he was entertaining on it. He came down to breakfast with his wife Debbie, and a big pair of binoculars. He strolled over, said hello, and showed us his binoculars. It’s that odd celebrity thing where you don’t know people but there seems to be some kind of “we’re all in this together” attitude, and anyhows, it’s nice if people say hello. He told us how much his binoculars were, where he’d got them from… I think he came over with the attitude that all men like binoculars, and I think he’s likely to be right. He could have brought a torch over, or a drill, or a compass and we’d have happily looked. He spoke so quietly we had no choice but to stare right into his face; half hearing, half lip-reading. I think this may be the secret of magic. Get your (there’ll be a special word for this, but I don’t know it)… get your… victim? Mug?… to look exactly where you want them to look. Then do your magic. And sure enough, when Paul left, our wallets had gone. Only joking Paul.

Paul Daniels is like a short Bing Crosby. I say that having no clue how short Paul is and having no clue how tall Bing is. So, let’s try again. Paul Daniels is like Bing Crosby. He’s got the same look, the same ears. I’d like to see Paul with a pipe. I’d like to see Peter Morgan, writer of Frost/Nixon and other true-life adventures, write a film called Being Bing. Paul Daniels would play Bing; there’d be the golf, the crooning, the pipe smoking, and the darker corners of Bing’s life where he was perhaps not the greatest parent. Paul would make a great Bing, and towards the end of the story he would be joined by Michael Sheen as David Bowie (the Jean Genie) for a moving rendition of Little Drummer Boy.

Singing for Obama

January 21, 2009

barack-bookLast night I went to the East Dulwich Tavern for a Barack Obama Party. I’d watched the Inauguration earlier. Heck, those vows! When, moments away from officially being the President, Barack stumbled and came to a halt on “I will execute-“… a whole world waited with baited breath.  Who? He kept us dangling, but then, phew, picked himself up and became  the 44th President of the United States. Hooray, one and all! *

The pub had their big screens on, showing us the journey from Capitol Hill to the White House. That’s a journey of 1.7 miles. It took him bloomin’ ages! You’re the President now, so you can be a bit cheeky. First thing you should do, before you do any of this “sorting out the country/world” type of stuff, is demand a faster car.

I’ve called this post Singing for Obama because they then had a pub quiz, an American Quiz, and our team was led and created by Vicky, the big cheese behind Note-Orious, East Dulwich’s best choir (I don’t know if East Dulwich has any more choirs; I bet it has, and they may be better. but I don’t care… we’re the best). And we were called Singing for Obama. There were four of us; Vicky, Mark, Emily and me. And we did ok. Here’s some randon answers:






The winning team got 31 out of 44… Ah, I’ve just got it! There were 40 questions, but one was in four parts. 44. Fancy not noticing at the time.

Anyways, they got 31. We got 26. Now that works out at 59%. May not sound too great. But, looked at another way, Barack Obama became President of the United States- that’s PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES!!!… with 53% of all votes.  So now I say pretty pretty good!

* Aha! A bit of research reveals all. Lookee here. If Barack stumbled it was only because he was thrown by the daft old chief justice of the U.S.Supreme Court getting it wrong. Duh! Well done, Michelle K.

Queens of Vintage

January 20, 2009

old-photo2No, not me!

This is me just a few years back. Then, I looked like someone from the 40’s. Now, I look like someone in my 40’s. I’ve used this photograph, not just to exercise my vanity (hey, what’s wrong with trying to enjoy a time when I had hair?), but also to help promote a little bit of writing I’ve done for Queens of Vintage. This is another great site created by my friend Sarah, the genius behind Her Empire is growing, and if I keep using words like genius (oh, and did I point out that she’s lovely too), then she’ll have no option but to give me some proper work when she becomes a big media mogul.

So, take a look at my little article all about records. You know, LP’s, 45’s, EP’s. Not those Guinness type of records where someone sits in a bath of bees for hours. Just how do they keep those bees in there? (Voice in my head… stop it, you know they’re beans.) Yeah, well, bees’d be funnier.


I walked by this sad little toy in the street today. You may not be able to read the piece of paper stuck to it. It says; please take. In working order. Well, sad to say, I didn’t take. For a few reasons. Firstly, I don’t think it was aimed at me. Secondly, I don’t know what it is, or what it is supposed to do, and so I won’t know if it is in working order or not. I hope it goes to a good home and to someone who understands what it is and what it does.

I think we should all have badges that say “Please take. In working order”. We don’t have to wear them all the time. Just when and if needed.

“Hmm, I wonder where the American Institute of Nose Disease is?” How many of you have pondered that in a spare moment? I know I have. Well, I found the answer on my recent trip to America. It’s in San Francisco, in Chinatown. And it’s open.