"Go West, Young Man"
15 Sep 1981
Writer: John Sullivan
Del Boy: David Jason
Rodney: Nicholas Lyndhurst
Waiter: John Wilmore
Leaping into the 1980s now. This is because the sadomasochistic bar and club tourism of “Cruising” aside, all the interest in the late 70s was to be found in depictions of the disco and bathhouse scenes. The final couple of minutes of the 1980 “Taxi” episode “Elaine’s Strange Triangle” are set in a gay bar which ends in a big disco dance-off - but I’ll get around to covering that instalment for different reasons another time.
“Go West, Young Man” is the second episode of the first series of “Only Fools and Horses”. The sitcom, written by John Sullivan, followed the lives and exploits of cockney market trader Del Boy and his younger brother Rodney and their incessant abortive get-rich-quick-schemes. Del Boy’s ambition and pretensions play off Rodney’s combination of more education but greater naïvite.
This very early episode before the programme had any reputation is mostly just a sequence of assorted funny scenes which don’t have much greater coherence. It’s the scene where the pair visit a supposedly upmarket bar with hilarious consequences that we’re interested in. The gay interest here falls into two halves.
The first is Del’s interaction with the obviously gay waiter. The spindly snootiness of the waiter (nose cast high in the air and pursed lips) is compounded by his homosexuality, producing a performance that is supercilious and camply insinuating. This play’s off Del’s unfounded sense of sophistication and also the general British inability to deal with service staff. So Del’s frustration at being humiliated raises Del’s hackles. However the lines about the waiter being an (arse) “bandit” and “backs to the walls” probably have no greater satirical import at Del’s expense. These are the sort of things men of the time would say, and these lines get a fairly round, and I think unironical, laugh from the audience.
Having established the darkness of the club this is the set-up for the second gay gag, where the two are appalled to discover that the two women they to chat-up are women. So it’s yet another gay bar with transvestites. From the back they’re plausible, but from the front they are obviously just some blokes. Part of the jokes is the undermining of Del’s unfounded confidence in his deductive technique and mastery of any situation. Del’s and Rodney’s subsequent horror and frenzied escape is the comic equivalent of “gay panic”.
The epilogue in the disco show the sort of references the audience would be expected to recognise: The Naked Civil Servant and the humorous drag act Hing and Brackett.
D: Is it always as dark as this in ‘ere? Or are they holding a dummy run for a coal miner’s convention?
D: What d’you you don’t know? I thought you said this was one of your regular clubs.
R: Well I might have exaggerated a bit when I said ‘regular’.
D: mmm. How many time you been ‘ere then?
D: Never! What you bring us in ‘ere for then ?
R: It looked alright from the outside.
D: ‘It looked alright from the outside’! That’s what the Christians said about the coliseum. You berk!
R: Not much action for a nightclub, is there?
D: Probably something to do with the fact that it’s only (struggles to look at watch) half past seven. Last time I come out with you Rodney.
R: Is that a promise, you moaning git!
W: Ooooh! Parlez-vous francais?
W: Yeees. What can I get for You?
D: Erm. I’d like a Caribbean stallion.
D: Well, er, it’s an exotic cocktail, innit? Created for the discerning palate of the international jetset. Roger Moore drunk one in ‘Live and Let Die’.
(haughty) I wouldn’t put anything past Her.
Riiight. (to Rodney) And for you
R: Half a lager, please.
(D looks at him slightly appalled at his lack of aspiration.)
D: (nods head back at departing W) Is he a bit …funny (imperceptibly waggles head)
R: I dunno
D: Yeah, he is, definitely a bandit, that one. Tonight we dance wiv our backs to the wall, Rodney.
(discuss why R broke up with last girlfriend, turns out she was turned off by his policewoman fetish)
A half a lager for sir. And a Caribbean Stallion for Mandingo. That’ll be seven pounds.
D: (handing over ten pound note) Seven quid?! Blimey, I can get that for three quid where I come from.
D: (as W moves away, mutters to R ) What’s he on about - Jersey?
W: (turns around to lean near D) By the way, the barman said, would you like some evaporated milk with that?
D: (cheerily waves waiter closer, then face goes harsh) Tell the barman to go and get stuffed (takes money off waiter’s tray)
W: Thank you. Sir! (stalks off)
D: (mutters) Thank you Sir.
R: (looking behind D) Del. Del!
(nods head behind D. D swivels around. Sees the back of two women with long cascading hair at the bar. D turns with pleased expression to speak to R)
D: No. Not now (checks watch) it’s only twenty to eight. If we pull ‘em now we gotta buy ‘em drinks all night.
R: We could take ‘em back to the flat!
D: That’s an idea! We can have ourselves a little party.
R: Yeah (really excited) Go on Del! You can charm a tortoise out of a shell, you can.
D: Now you! (gets up, adjusts tie, pulls at watch, gets out cigar) Look, learn, and listen!
D: Drink up. we’re leaving
R is ecstatic, slapping thighs. R sucks his cocktail down
R: You’re great. You’re the last miracle left on this earth (slaps D on back)
D: Shut up! And drink up, will ya!
R: Yeah, yeah. Are they a couple of ravers?
D: (said almost to chime with R’s last line) They’re a couple of geezers.
The two women suddenly swivel around their seats, to reveal two men. They have heavy stubble, and heavy make-up around the eyes. From the front the long wigs are fairly bad, and the dresses hang poorly on what are quite masculine physiques. They smile ingratiatingly at the two.
R: I didn’t know it was that sort of place!
D: Right blinding night I’ve had! I’ve become a member of a gay club, discovered me brother’s a pervo, and had a close encounter with two dockers in drag! (takes drink) You better not tell anybody about this, Rodney. I’ve got my macho reputation to uphold
R: Don’t be Silly, Del! I’m hardly going to go around bragging that I saw my own brother trying to date a couple of transvestites.
(when R shortly draws R’s attention to two women at a table)
D: A couple of birds? Probably Hinge and Brackett out having a pint.