Wednesday, 24 December 2008

213: Christmas 6

from “Punch”, 10 December 1980
by Stan McMurtry

A rather belated follow-up to Michael Heath’s Gay Christmas from 1974. And no more relevant or contemporary a depiction of gay men. These could all have been drawn anytime in the previous 5-8 years: self-proclaimed queens, fairies, would-be transsexuals, and a broad selection of catty types in figure-hugging trousers and flouncy shirts.

212: Christmas 5

from “Punch” 19 Dec 1984
“New Recitations for Your Party” by E.S. Turner


"'E was young and 'e was tender,
Much inclined to preen and pout,
Not too certain of 'is gender -
There's a lot of it about.

Sorely did 'is father clout 'im,
Saying, "'Op it! On yer bike!"
Telling all who asked about him,
"'E's a bloody pervert, like."

Up to London goes the sinner,
London, stuffed with moral wrecks!
Now 'e knows 'e's on a winner -
'Alf the town is unisex.

Cast your eyes on Master Pretty,
Painted like a circus freak,
Belting out a filthy ditty,
Earning thousands every week.

Fans go mad in every disco!
Leaders in the Daily Mail!
Troops called out in San Francisco!
Even trendy bishops quail.

Every week 'e presses money
On 'is 'ard-up Dad and Mum.
Now their life is beer and 'oney.
Blimey, it's all right for some.

Dad will 'ear no talk of "phoneys",
As 'e spends the ill-earned pelf,
Oft confiding to his cronies,
"Wish I'd tried that lark myself!"

But the girl the boy once fancied
Grieves to let 'er 'ero go,
Weeps to 'ear 'im telling rancid
Stories on the South Bank Show;

Ow she 'ates the late night chatter!
Wogan treats 'im far too nice,
Goggling at 'is Golden Platter
Garnered from the fruits of vice.

'E 'as gone from 'er for ever,
And 'er 'eart is 'ard as frost.
Will she find another? Never
One as rich as she has lost.

See 'er now, 'er nosegay gnawing,
As she weds a lazy git,
Fated to a life of drawing
Supplement'ry Benefit.

She will 'ave a string of kiddies
In a frowzy council flat,
Gossiping with daft old biddies,
And there ain't much joy in that.

It's the same the whole world over,
It's the straights what lose the race
It's the bent what live in clover.
Ain't it all a blind disgrace!


Before the days of television, people were forced to make their own Christmas entertainment, so each member of the family would have their party piece. Comic monologues and recitations, usually in rhyming verse and performed in either cockney or Northern working class accents, were a staple from the days of the music hall. “The Lion and Albert” and “The Green Eye of the Yellow God” are classics of their kind. Probably the most famous performer of these kind of pieces was Stanley Holloway.
By 1984 this is deliberately anachronistic, although since E.S Turner had been writing for “Punch” for some 30 years, he was probably entering into his dotage. Gender-bending pop stars had been a staple of the last 10-15 years, so nothing new there, although these is springboards off the popularity of Boy George and co. I suppose you could argue the piece is about the comic incongruity of musical hall meeting modern pop. It starts off just describing the trend, but the conclusion is a little unexpectedly harsh in its moralising, although these recitations usually finished with some sort of moral.

Tuesday, 23 December 2008

211: Christmas 4

“Harry Enfield and His Christmas Chums”, BBC1, 24 December 1997

Poor old Modern Dad was Richard Preddy and Gary Howe's idea. It appealed to me because I've lots of gay friends who've been through similar experiences. Few parents over sixty understand the 'progressive' comings and goings of their children, but they love them, so they try their best. I based my character on my father, who is from a much more traditional generation, and always tried just-that-little-bit-too-hard with my girlfriends, knowing that, in the modern world, he mustn't voice his old-fashioned disapproval of relationships outside wedlock. If you've ever seen my dad on Watchdog, you'll know how similar Modern Dad is to him. Modern Dad worked so well because Ben, who played my son, and his boyfriend Ewan (Spud from Trainspotting) were so sympathetic. They didn't 'camp it up' - they were just a normal, nice couple. You feel sorry for them, for me and for Mum. The sketch was basically “What if a gay couple had come to stay at Fawlty Towers?”

- afterword from “Harry Enfield and His Humorous Chums”, Penguin Books, 1997


Like the previous piece from “Punch”, this exhumes almost every common gay pun imaginable. The “Punch” parody uses theses clichés because for that public that’s largely what people thought homosexuals were. Gays are funny because this is what gays actually are.

By the times of this sketch, they’re acknowledged to be rather worn-out hack clichés. Each of the clichés is expertly deployed to humiliate the well-meaning but horrifically anxious father for his cluelessness.

210: Christmas 3

from "Punch”, 15 December 1976

From a series of Christmas-themed parodies of assorted minority and specialist journals. “Gay Times”, a minority publication if ever there was one to parody, had recently made the mainstream news because of Mary Whitehouse’s case against the “Gay Times” for blasphemy, which would come to trial in 1977. Never having seen a copy of “Gay News”, I still doubt that this is an accurate parody, since most of the many gay magazines I’ve seen from this period are torn between the need for leftish politics and positive representations. The public’s idea of gay frivolity, as exemplified by Mr Humphries, has little to do with the actual gay world of the time. This is a rather detailed piece, which besides obvious gay clichés and puns (queen, mince, faggots, fairy, etc), probably provides some sort of measure as to how much the generally-informed public could recall about homosexuals.

Quentin Crisp was a minor cult personality at this time, conspicuous for his homosexuality and his contrarian nature. John Hurt had performed as Crisp in the ITV drama “The Naked Civil servant” in 1975. About this time, Crisp was writing occasional reviews and essays for “Punch”.
Proust and Wilde (and an allusion to Reading Gaol) are there as homosexuals whom even the most clueless public will identify.
Casement Diary of course refers to the infamous Black diary of Roger Casement which revealed the Irish politician to have been a promiscuous homosexual.
St Sebastian gets several mentions since Derek Jarman’s film “Sebastian” had been released in 1976.
“British Guards” with phone numbers, refers to the fact that Guards used often to be commonly rumoured to be readily available for cash for a little light nocturnal adult pleasuring.
Several references show that the idea of butch has now extended into actual s&m, to contrast against prissy, effeminated style-obsessed gay clichés.
“Noel” probably is to suggest Noel Coward.
“British Home Stores”, a once popular British chain store becomes “Homo Stores”.

Saturday, 20 December 2008

209: Christmas 2

“The Gays” by Michael Heath in “Private Eye”, 14 December 1984

For what is such a deliberately scratchy and messy style, I think Heath catches something of the blissful epicene self-regard on the face of the twink on the far right.

208: Christmas 1

by Arthur Horner in “Punch”, 7 January 1976

Caricatures of Sir Frederick Ashton (left) and Robert Helpmann (right) as the Ugly Step-Sisters in their annual performance of Prokofiev’s “Cinderella”. Their performance drew a lot from English Christmas pantomimes. It’s not a bad caricature, and only goes to show that when many other cartoonists are attempting a homosexual, it’s based on preconceptions from an actual camp performance such as this. Whether the comment is Helpmann in character as the ugly sisters or just the two real and elderly queens with their sly eyes on the leading man in tights is probably deliberately ambiguous.

Thursday, 18 December 2008

207: Jeremy Thorpe 25

from “National Lampoon” October 1979

206: Jeremy Thorpe 24

Spectator, 7 July 1979
Notebook, by Alexander Chancellor

It is no longer interesting to speculate whether or not Mr Jeremy Thorpe is or ever has been a homosexual. Anyway, it is none of my business. but if he ever did have tendencies of this sort, he has not exactly proclaimed them from the rooftoips. He is not, in other words, a standard-bearer of the Gay Liberation Movement. And there is no reason that I can think of why his acquittal at the Old Bailey, pleasing though it may have been for other reasons, should be seen as any kind of victory for British 'gays'. If anything, I would have thought the opposite, as Mr Norman Scott's performance in the witness box is unlikely to have raised homosexualism in public esteem. So it was therefore not just unlikely, but inconceivable, that a party of 'gays' would wish to crown the celebrations of 'Gay Pride Week' by hiring a coach and roaring down to North Devon to attend the appalling thanksgiving service for Mr Thorpe's acquittal. And yet when this little titbit of unsubstantiated information was cast casually into Fleet Street, it was seized and devoured by every newspaper in sight. It was, of course, an obvious hoax, of which I will not name the perpetrators, for fear that heads might roll and the gutters foam with blood. Suffice it to say that the 'Mr Simpson' who last week telephoned the vicar of Bratton Fleming, the Reverend John Hornby, to announce the planned 'gay' visitation was nothing more than a cruel and malevolent impostor, and not even a 'gay'. The extraordinary thing is that Mr Hornby believed him and sought only to mitigate the embarrassment by declaring that the church would be full (not true, as it turned out) and that the 'gays' would have to make do with accommodation in the village hall, to which the service would be relayed by loudspeaker. Perhaps Mr Hornby's reaction should not surprise us, for on television he appeared to possess in abundance those characteristics which we have come to associate with many of those publicly identified as 'friends' of Mr Thorpe - a disagreeable and slightly sinister appearance and a capacity to say, do or believe almost anything, provided it is in some way inappropriate. If the thanksgiving service was in itself a masterpiece of bad taste, Mr Hornby's sermon was even more so. It was well reported by Ann Leslie in the Daily Mail. 'God is so fantastic', said Mr Hornby, thanking God both for the jury's verdict ('With God, nothing shall be impossible!') and for 'that fantastic resilience' He had granted to Jeremy and Marion. 'My dears, don't you think if it had been you or I in Jeremy's or Marion's'shoes, that we'd be either round the bend or in the madhouse or had a couple of coronaries. . . ?' But enough of Mr Hornby. The really surprising thing was the gullibility of those hard-bitten Fleet Street journalists. Even Mr John Junor, the man who has edited the Sunday Express for countless generations, did not doubt that 'a coachload of poofs' was on its way to Bratton Fleming and practically gave himself a coronary when he thought about it. 'After you with the sick-bag please, Alice' were the closing words of his comment on the subject. But the fantasy world of Jeremy Thorpe has by now enveloped us all.

205: Jeremy Thorpe 23

“Entirely A Matter For You” by peter Cook
“The Secret Policeman’s Ball”, 29 and 30 June 1979

Although only performed for the final two dates of “The Secret Policeman’s Ball”, this monologue by Peter Cook is rightly acclaimed as one of the high spots of 20th century English satire. “The Secret Policeman’s Ball” was a benefit performance in aid of Amnesty International from 27-30 June 1979. Most of the Oxford and Cambridge-educated comedians of the last twenty years gathered to perform their greatest hits for charity. However, a review printed on the morning of the third performance by the “Daily Telegraph”asking where was the satire, stung Peter Cook into writing this stinging parody of Justice Cantley’s summation at the Thorpe Trial. Cook attacked Cantley’s obviously biased and systematic blackening of the prosecution witnesses, and the typical egotistical but cack-handed self-regard of a judge who finds he has the stage. The Trial had only concluded on the 22nd of June. In an age before constant 24 hour commentary on numerous multi-media platforms the case was still relatively fresh news, and Cook encapsulates a moment of outrage at Establishment privilege in the best immediate manner of live cabaret. An edited version of it was printed in the 6 July, 1979 edition of “Private Eye”. To cash in on its notoriety it was also released as a mini-disc “Here Comes the Judge”.

Cook’s performance of a clapped-out judge allows him to weave senile confusion and bigotry with his own distinctive wordplay. So the matter of homosexuality causes him to confuse “he”s with “she”s, “mr”s with “mrs”s, husband with wives, and impute effeminacy all over the place.

Peter Bessell becomes “Bex Bissell” a brand of vacuum cleaner. Cantley had described Bessell as “a humbug”.

Norman Scott becomes Norma confused with Norman St John Stevas, a Tory minister. Cantley described Scott as “a liar”, “a crook”, “a fraud”, “a sponger”, “a whiner”, “a parasite”. "Pink oboe" is supposedly a piece of slang from Glasgow donated by Billy Connolly who was one of the performers, although there is 1959 episode of "The Goons" entitled "The Spy, Or Who Is Pink Oboe?". “Chews pillows” refers to when Thorpe first sodomised Scott back in 1962 - it was so painful Scott had to bite down to stop himself shouting out. An occasional piece of graffiti from this time read “Norman bites pillows”. “Gleadle” is a very Peter Cook-type name, but he was indeed Scott’s physician for a while

Andrew is confused with Olivia Newton-John, a bland female pop singer of the time. Much of Cantley’s summing of Newton was devoted to damning him for his incompetence as an attempted murderer.

Jack Hayward = Haywire, and Nadir Dinshaw = Rickshaw and opportunity to use blatant racism to sway Cook’s fictional jury

Sunday, 14 December 2008

204: Jeremy Thorpe 22

Auberon Waugh’s Diary

From “Private Eye” 6 July 1979


The Thorpe Trial is over and we await the verdict. Judge Cantley's summing up was one of the strangest judicial performances I have ever seen. Sniggering and giggling throughout he insulted the prosecution witnesses one by one, misdirected the jury about the "impeccable" character of the defendants and urged them not to believe Mr Bessell.
I decide to dedicate my book about this dingy affair to Peter Taylor QC, Chief Counsel for the Crown, and Chief Superintendent Challes, practically the only two people who come out of it with any credit.
Towards the end of his second day's closing speech Mr Carman QC said he thought there 'might, indeed, still be a place in public life for his client, Mr Thorpe. I think there may still be a place in public life for me, too. At the next general election I may easily find myself standing not only as a Dog Lovers' candidate, but also for Law and Order and Public Safety, against Frightening and Tendencies in Public Life.


The jury is still out. Thorpe apparently spent the night in hospital in Brixton Prison with an upset stomach. Just occasionally I, too, have suffered from an upset stomach and it can be quite disagreeable, although it has never occurred to me to go to hospital for it.
The other three defendants, being of lower class, spent the night locked in a single cell with two rebarbative Negroes. Although not by nature a left-winger, I feel something about this case stirs the latent Robespierre in me.


The Verdict. Thorpe declared not guilty, as we all knew he would be. How could it have occurred to any of us for a moment that he was anything but innocent?
Speaking for myself, I think it may have been something to do with the double-breasted waistcoats he wears. At my school, prefects were allowed to wear these absurd garments as a badge of office. So many of them were hypocrites, sodomites,and criminal psychopaths that I understandably jumped to the conclusion that Jeremy Thorpe might just possibly be one, too.
Now we know otherwise, perhaps he will consider wearing more conventional clothes in the future.

from “Private Eye” 20 July 1979


At last I have decided on a name for the book. The idea came to me in a flash of inspiration while I was reading from the works of Beatrix Potter to the outdoor servants and farm labourers. I have instituted these readings in protest against the collapse of secondary education in this country, and in rehearsal for the traditional Connolly Night celebrations later this year.
This is what I read from The Tale of Mr Jeremy Fisher:

'The water was all slippy-sloppy in the larder and in the back passage. But Mr Jeremy liked getting his feet wet; nobody ever scolded him and he never caught a cold!"

Suddenly the Idea was born:

Auberon Waugh

Part One: The Tale of a Flopsy Bunny
Part Two: Fierce Bad Rabbit
Part Three: Mr Jeremy Escapes
Epilogue: Let Us Now Praise Famous Men

All these ideas are world copyright and anyone who plagiarises them will spend the rest of his days in a prison ceIl with three rebarbative Negroes suffering from upset stomachs.

(The book Waugh refers to is his “The Last Word: An Eye-Witness Account of the Thorpe Trial”, 1980)

203: Jeremy Thorpe 21

cover of “Private Eye”, 6 July 1979

The “Trial of the Century” ran from May 8th until 22nd June, 1979. The QCs gave good drama. Several of the witnesses disgraced themselves intentionally or incidentally, only adding to the hub-bub of commentary and speculation surrounding the trial. Except for George Deakin, none of the other defendants gave evidence. At the summing up, the judge, Joseph Cantley, made every effort to discredit the prosecution witnesses while drawing the Establishment wagons around Jeremy Thorpe. After almost two days’ deliberation, on 22nd June, the jury acquitted all four defendants on all charges.
Almost all comment then focussed on how the Liberals were going to forward without the embarrassment of Thorpe.

202: Jeremy Thorpe 20

The trial was scheduled to begin on 8 May 1979. The trial had been moved so that there would be no conflict with the general election, in which Thorpe would be campaigning.

At the suggestion of the editor of “Private Eye”, Auberon Waugh stood in North Devon as a candidate against Jeremy Thorpe in the 1979 general election. Waugh’s campaign address was published in “The Spectator”, 28 April 1979, and also in the “The Guardian”. Thorpe’s solicitors attempted to have an injunction slapped on his address and have Waugh committed to prison for contempt of court on the grounds that the address might prejudice a jury. After going back and forth between various courts and appeals, Waugh had no address. He did still manage to receive 79 votes. Thorpe, however, lost his constituency to the Conservatives.

You will, of course, note the allusion to Sodom. Making this piece of satirical political theatre the "Dog Lover’s Party" was a clever stroke. As far as the English are concerned, shooting a defenceless dog is about as perverse and unnatural as a taste for light recreational buggery (vide the Marc Boxer cartoon)


Unaccustomed as I am to public speaking I offer myself as your Member of Parliament in the General Election on behalf of the nation's dog lovers to protest about the behaviour of the Liberal Party generally and the North Devon Constituency Liberal Association in particular. Their candidate is a man about whose attitude to dogs - not to mention his fellow human beings - little can be said with any certainty at the present time.

But while it is one thing to observe the polite convention that a man is innocent until proven guilty, it is quite another thing to take a man who has been publicly accused of crimes which would bring him to the cordial dislike of all right-minded citizens and dog lovers, and treat him as a hero.

Before Mr Thorpe has had time to establish his innocence of these extremely serious charges, he has been greeted with claps, cheers and yells of acclamation by his admirers in the Liberal Party, both at the National Conference in Southport and here in the constituency. I am sorry but I find this disgusting.

I invite all the electors of North Devon, but especially the more thoughtful Liberals and dog lovers to register their disquiet by voting for me on 3 May and I sincerely hope that at least fifty voters in this city will take the opportunity to do so.

Genesis XVIII 26: And the LORD said If I find in Sodom fifty righteous within the city, then I will spare all the place for their sakes.

1 Samuel XXIV 14: After whom dost thou pursue? after a dead dog, after a flea.

Rinka is NOT forgotten. Rinka lives. Woof, woof. Vote Waugh to give all dogs the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

201: Jeremy Thorpe 19

by Michael Heath
in “Punch”, 13 December 1978

Well, as expressions of exasperation go, this is
witty in it dismissiveness. Although, if you didn't know that it was inspired by the surfeit of Thorpean sexual revelations, then it could be taken as a wish for a return to the good old days when homosexuals were invisible or non-existant.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

200: Jeremy Thorpe 18

by Michael Heath
in “Punch” 29 November 1978

This is not quite as appallingly homophobic as it at first seems. In the course of giving evidence, Bessell claimed that Thorpe said of killing Norman Scott, “It is no worse than shooting a sick dog”, which has a certain dramatic irony when you think what happened to Rinka. So Heath is simply reversing it, although the resulting sentiment is callously shocking, which is rather the point of the joke.

199: Jeremy Thorpe 17

from “Private Eye”, 24 November 1978

On 20 November 1978, committal proceedings opened at Minehead Magistrate’s Court. Deakin applied that reporting restrictions be lifted, and so much of the matter of the case was revealed then before the actual trial in 1979. Most of the cartoons about the start of the proceedings were jokes based on the scramble to get seats, but this “Private Eye” cover includes a few dreadful gay-tinted puns, just to remind everyone what is really at stake.

198: Jeremy Thorpe 16

by David Austin
from “Private Eye”, 15 September 1978

There was much foot-dragging by the prosecution service, but finally on 3rd August 1978, Jeremy Thorpe, Holmes, David Holmes, and George Deakin were formally charged with conspiracy to murder Norman Scott.
A little later in September there were suggestions of homosexual shenanigans at the National Liberal Club. The National Liberal Club had originally been founded by the Liberal Party but had been sold on a couple of years ealrier. So this was nothing to do with Thorpe, but David Austin conflates it all into one big Liberals = homosexual satirical shorthand. Whether “Sodom and Gomorrah” is anymore original than the contemporary tittering about Liberal “seats” is another matter.

Saturday, 6 December 2008

197: Jeremy Thorpe 15

from “Private Eye” 11 November 1977

On the 27th October, 1977, Thorpe gave a press conference giving an account of acquaintance with Norman Scott but denying any sexual activity. It was a catastrophic media circus. William Rees-Mogg, however, the editor of the “the Times” ran an editorial in which he avoided any questions about Thorpe’s truthfulness, and instead equivocated about Christian morals and prejudice against homosexuals. This piece is aimed sharply at Rees-Mogg, painting him as a pettifogging trendy liberal vicar (and the main writers at “Private Eye” at this time had some strong opinions about trendy vicars). This parody adopts a deliberate sermon-like style, with all sorts of references to unseemly gay practises, and then resolutely fails to point any finger at Thorpe about his homosexuality, let alone conspiracy to murder. The deliberately addled references to Profumo and Nixon show what "Private Eye" really think though. The reference to "cottaging" arises from the posthumous publication of Tom Driberg's memoir "Ruling Passions" earlier in 1977.

Friday, 5 December 2008

196: Jeremy Thorpe 14

by Auberon Waugh
from "Auberon Waugh's Diary" in "Private Eye", 29 October 1977

After 45 years loyal membership of the Labour Party - years in which it is true to say, I devoted most of my life to the Labour movement and all it stood for - I think the moment may have come for me to join the Liberals.
The attraction of David's Bunny Club may not seem obvious at the present time, but the whole idea of the death penalty for homosexuals has always interested me very much, although I do not approve of capital punishment. Liberals, with their introduction of the bungled execution, seem to have found a compromise which works. Since the attempt on his life, Norman Scott has settled down with a nice young woman who has already given him a baby.
Perhaps the general use of attempted murder to tidy up a party's electoral appeal should be approached with greater caution, although I have always argued that an element of drama is needed to stimulate interest in the democratic process. If all members of an outgoing administration were hanged or imprisoned, as they usually deserve, this might whip up a bit of interest in election results.
The Tories are constantly moaning about how much better their chances would be if Grocer Heath could disappear. Heath is not, of course, a homosexualist, any more than Mr Thorpe is, but nobody can deny that lovely, oyster-eyed William Whitelaw would be leader of the Tories today if it were not for his unfortunate friendship with Grocer. Whenever I make the obvious suggestion to Tory policy groups, they receive it with a nervous giggle. Liberals seem to be made of sterner stuff.

195: Jeremy Thorpe 13

“Lloyd George Knew My Father”
by Alan Coren
in “Punch”, 26 October 1977

It is with a heavy heart and a lovely thick nib that I now set down the dire events in which I became inextricably enmeshed more than a year ago. Events that were ultimately to shake the entire civilised world; or, at any rate, that part of it which feels that man's dark destiny and the future of the Parliamentary Liberal Party are really one and the same thing.
It was at a small souper intime in September 1976 that I first made the acquaintance of Mr X. The acquaintance was Mr Y, and Mr X was very nice about it, really, although I must say he did give me a couple of those very sharp Looks of his when Mr Y and I came in from the balcony, but I think it was only because we just happened to have chosen the same emerald green for our safari suits, and though I says it as shouldn't, you have to be slim for emerald, and Mr X is, well, let's say a little bit portly compared with some people not a million miles from this desk!
Where was I?
Oh, yes, that little supper in Polperro.
Well, after the avgolemono soup (everybody had to bring one course; 1'd done the lime sorbet, which would have been really terrific if I hadn't stopped the car on the way to chat to this nice boy at a Greenline stop, and it went all runny), I was just peeling one of Mr Y's plover's eggs for him (he's got these huge fumbly hands, not one of your delicate ones at all, great big pink fingers like saveloys), when suddenly Lord Z looked up, terribly seriously, and said: "Look here, someone's going to have to do something about this bugger, sorry, this swine who's trying to blackmail the entire Liberal Party with his vile innuendo!"
We stared, aghast! Many a mouth dropped open.
"Vile Innuendo?" enquired W, first of us to recover. "Wasn't he that whippy little Wop that T found on the Spanish Steps during last summer's fact-finding mission?"
"You shut up!" cried T, purpling. "You just shut your rotten face!"
"Stop that!" thundered Lord Z, who can be terribly masterful at times, "This is no time for personal slanging matches. A piece of absolute muck has threatened to sell his grimy tale to the Sunday rags unless he hears from me in folding oncers by the end of the month!"
"Is there any truth in the rumour?" shrieked E.
"There is no truth in the rumour," replied Lord Z firmly. "The person in question, a stoker who is totally unknown to me – “
""Incredible," murmured that spiteful little bitch J.
"- claims to have compromised the entire Parliamentary Liberal Party on the upper deck of a Number Eleven bus during our visit to the London Planetarium last April. "
"1 remember that trip," murmured E absently. "W went all funny when the moon came up. I never realised he had hair on his hands till that moment."
"Never mind that," snapped Lord Z. "The fact of the matter, as many of you here know full well, is that nothing at all untoward happened on that day. Even the stationmaster at Baker Street Underground went out of his way to remark that he had never met a group of gentlemen who had used his Foto-Me booth with more discretion. "
"An absolute sweetie," said J, nodding. "I do like those new little brimless caps they wear."
"You wouldn't say the red piping's superfluous?" enquired X.
"GENTLEMEN!" shouted Lord Z, with rather more force than accuracy. "Can we not address ourselves whole-heartedly to the fact that the great and glorious party of which several of us here are proud members is presently teetering on the brink of outrageous scandal? What are we to do about this awful stoker person?"
"Pay him off?" suggested T. "Personally, I have often found that a bag of boiled sweets and a Judy Garland LP will work wonders on the most - "
"He wants," muttered Lord Z, "twenty thousand pounds. In practical terms, that represents the Party's entire political broadcast budget."
"That's not our fault," protested W, "my friend and I offered to do one for nothing. I got this snotty little note from Party HQ, didn't I, saying the executive didn't feel that the tango was a vote catcher at this moment in time. They're so hidebound, sometimes, you could scream!"
"Why didn't we offer him a safe Liberal seat?" asked X.
Nobody said anything at all. I mean, we all enjoy a joke as much as the next man, but there's a time and a place for everything.
"I know," said V, who up until then had. said nothing, "why don't we lean on him a little? 1 could put you in touch with a couple of big navvies who would go round there and scratch his eyes out."
There were one or two "Oooohs!" at this, but I happened to catch Lord Z's eye, and I could see that it was a suggestion with which he was not totally unsympathetic.
"I had thought of something like that," he said quietly. "But would it not be better it the arrangement were rather more, er, permanent?"
There was a very long, and very uneasy silence.
I cleared my throat.
"Don't these, ahem, matters cost rather a lot of money, too?" I said.
Lord Z peered tetchily through his diamantine lorgnette.
"Who said that?" he enquired.
"It was C," said T. "She's ever such a quiet one. You haven't opened your mouth all evening, have you, C?"
Despite the unseemly tittering, I persisted. Y's little squeeze on my forearm helped.
"It's just that I've heard about these things," I said, "and I'm not sure that Party funds would cover it."
"We've got twenty-eight pounds forty in the kitty, to my certain knowledge," snap¬ped Lord Z, "and we haven't had our jumble sale yet."
"Won't, either," muttered T bitterly. "I understand that the scout hut will not be made available this year. I'm not naming any names, but there's some little unpleasantness still hanging over from last year when that big red-headed Ranger won the cherry cake."
"He guessed its weight fair and square!" shouted J.
"Guessed?" shrieked T. "Guessed? I suppose it couldn't be that the person who made the cake might have written down its weight on a piece of paper just large enough to be pressed into a sweaty little palm while that person and the person with the sweaty little palm were putting up. the bunting together?"
"I'm not listening to any more of this slander!" cried J, shoving back his chair.
"All the thanks I get, you can have a bloody shop gateau this year, I hope it chokes - "
"Now, now," interrupted Lord Z. "Let us put the Party first. Are you telling me, C, that we could not get this person shot for £28.40?"
"I do not," I replied, "believe we could buy a gun for less than about a hundred, let alone someone to fire it."
"Couldn't we have him stabbed?" said T.
"You can buy a hatpin for under a pound."
"Not of any quality," murmured W.
"God knows that's true," nodded X. "I've never known Kirby grips snap as much as they do these days."
"We could poison him," suggested T. "J's probably got a cake or two put by, haven't you, dear?"
"Oh, God," said W, "now you've made him cry, you silly cow!"
"Good training," replied T, firmly, "he'll have to get used to heckling. No good dreaming about being Prime Minister one day if you break down and blub every time the going gets personal."
"Is there no cheaper way of getting at this beast?" cried Lord Z. "Couldn't we frighten him?"
"Has he got a dog?" enquired X. "We could shoot it for him."
"Very risky, that," countered T. "It could cost untold votes, shooting someone's dog. I can't see anyone in the Party wishing to associate themselves with anything of that order."
"Blighter hasn't got a dog, anyway," said Lord Z. "Closest he comes is a ginger teddy-bear with one eye. Got a great sentimental attachment to it, mind. I understand he's had it since he was thirty."
"Perhaps we could knock it about a bit?" offered X. "Pull its other eye off, something of that order."
"Doubt if it'd frighten him much," said Lord Z, shaking his head. "'Make him nastier, if anything. No, our only course is to have him put away for good. No messing about. Bang, bang, and on to the broad sunny uplands of the next election, that's what I say."
"But surely," I said, blushing even as I put myself forward, "we have not dealt with the matter of the fee? It could run as high as ten thousand pounds. Whom do we know who would be prepared to back us with that kind of money?"
We were all silent for a time. Then X said, very slowly:
"No individual would take the risk, of course. Nor is the Liberal Party in a position to offer, er, favours to any businesses, industries, property men, that kind of thing, is it? I mean, we're not ever going to be able to put anything their way, are we, or even - "
"Oh, do get on, dear, for heaven's sake!" cried T. "I know you when you've got something up your sleeve."
"And that's not all," said J, who had blown his nose, retouched his eyeliner, and was almost back to his old self.
"All right," said X, smirking rather unappealingly. "There is just one powerful and rich organisation who might be prepared to carry out the mission on our behalf, provided we could offer them something concrete in return!"
We held our breath! We craned! We positively gawped!
"Do we have something concrete to offer?" breathed Lord Z.
X paused for a long time. He can be such a tease, on occasion.
"Well, it's just a silly idea off the top of my thingy," he said, at last, "but how would you feel about some kind of political pact?"

194: Jeremy Thorpe 12

by Osbert Lancaster
in “The Daily Express”, 20 October 1977

On 19th October 1977, after a year and a half’s quiet for the Liberals, the “Evening News” published an interview with the newly freed Andrew Newton – “I Was Hired to Kill Scott”. This set off a chain of revelations over the next couple of days. Various investigative journalist scrambled to beat each other to the punchline, as the public was reminded of things they may have forgotten in the meantime, alongside new shocking details. A lot of circumspection, however, would result from the fact that Newton only said he had been hired by a nameless “prominent Liberal”, thereby leaving the newspapers hanging, unwilling and unable to make a direct accusation.

Monday, 1 December 2008

193: Jeremy Thorpe 11

Thorpe had given his resignation as leader of the Liberal party to David Steel on 10 May 1976. In considering how the great man could have been brought down, if you obviously discount the homosexual affair and murder plot, then you find yourself haring after some bloody strange suppositions.

These two cartoons are based on one of the weirder and more curious byways of investigation shooting off the case. Thorpe had been quite outspoken in his criticism of South Africa, and it was suggested at the time that Scott’s allegations were really sponsored by the South African Bureau Of State Security (BOSS) to smear Thorpe’s reputation. Even Harold Wilson, the soon-to-resign Prime Minister, backed up these odd rumours. Of course, this was all a wrong-headed diversion.

Raymond Jackson, however, takes the opportunity to ring the changes on secret gay conspiracies within several days.

“Evening Standard”, 11 May 1976
In the first, the fat, bearded chap on the far right is a stereotypical thuggish South African, and as far from a gay stereotype as possible, hence the surprise of the joke.

“Evening Standard”, 14 May 1976
In this one, JAK offers us a regiment of stereotypical homosexuals, all looking like variations on Dick Emery’s effeminate Clarence character.

192: Jeremy Thorpe 10

from “The Rutland Dirty Weekend Book” by Eric Idle, 1976

On 1 May, 1976, Scott sued the Metropolitan Police Force for the return of Thorpe’s letters which Scott had given them in 1962. Immediately, Lord Goodman also sued for them, claiming they were Thorpe’s property. The letters were returned to the Thorpe team. In one of the odder, if not stupider, moments of all this, Thorpe then had the letters printed in the “Sunday Times” of 9 May 1976 in an attempt to clear the situation.

The letters included the notoriously puzzling but memorable assertion by Thorpe that "Bunnies can (and will) go to France". The “Sunday Times” also had a psychiatrist analyse the letters, who declared that while they demonstrated some sort of friendly and affectionate relationship between Thorpe and Scott, this did not necessarily indicate outright homosexuality.

The letters did nothing to strengthen Thorpe’s case with his party, as further revelations of semi-regular payments to Scott continued to appear, alongside accusations from ex-colleague Peter Bessel. Thorpe gave his resignation as leader of the Liberal Party to David Steel the very next day on 10 may 1976.

This is from “The Rutland Dirty Weekend Book” by Eric Idle. The first half tries to drum up salacious interest in dreary bread-and-butter letters. The second half plays off that anxiety about using terms of endearment, or even just “dear” whomever, when writing a letter to another man, as was also used in this sketch by Peter Shaffer during the Vassall case

191: Jeremy Thorpe 9

cover of “Private Eye” 19 March 1976

Andrew Newton’s trial for attempted murder began on the 16 March 1976, and he was sentenced to two years in prison on 19 March 1976. No mention was made at the trial about a conspiracy by Thorpe to murder Scott. Scott repeated his allegations again.

190: Jeremy Thorpe 8

by Marc
in “Private Eye” 20 February 1976

A good example of how middle-class manners didn’t quite know where to establish themselves in the whole farrago. What could be more English than to ride one’s high horse, claiming one’s sympathy is with the dead dog, just about the only concrete fact at that point? Obsessing about the dog gives one slight ethical kudos. One can then pretend to be above prurient sexual curiosity or deny any homophobic disconcertion about Thorpe’s sexuality, or have to pass any judgement at all on a rather confusing scandal.

Tuesday, 25 November 2008

189: Jeremy Thorpe 7

from “Private Eye”, 20 February 1976

Until recently, every issue of issue of “Private Eye” opened with an editorial by its fictitious, hypocritically criminal proprietor “Lord Gnome”. In each editorial, the previous fortnight’s embarrassing scandals would somehow be incorporated into Lord Gnome’s mirror existence. “Lord Gnome” is usually vigorously heterosexual and homophobic, but an encounter with a “Mr Sweetie Roughtrouser” (a name suggesting both effeminacy and a hint of s&m?) is too good to miss. At this time in the public knowledge of the Thorpe affair, a guess at an affair involving a male prostitute and hush money wasn’t unreasonable, but of course not even close to what really happened.
The recourse to ravening lawyers is quite accurate though. Thorpe immediately retained Lord Goodman (and who now remembers him?) to put the fear of God into anyone even thinking about making unsubstantiated comments.

188: Jeremy Thorpe 6

from “Private Eye”, 20 February 1976
illustration by William Rushton.

A regular feature of the very early 60s “Private Eye” was “Chatto”, which like an English Jules Feiffer cartoon, would feature several panels of the Rushton-drawn respectable moustachioed figure rather simplemindedly working his way through all the contradictory commonplaces about some current issue. “Private Eye” exhumed Chatto for this hot social topic.
Here, the monologue runs the gamut from a pretense of superior disinterest, to considering Thorpe’s other character issues, to really reveling in salacious gossip. This is all played off against the encounter with the ear-ringed chap wearing the bracelet and the enormous fur coat. And quite what is occurring in the final panel, behind the umbrella held at waist level?

187: Jeremy Thorpe 5

by "Marc" (Marc Boxer)
February 1976

Marc Boxer had a regular pocket cartoon slot in the “Times”. This effort was rejected by the editor of the “Times”, William Rees-Mogg. Marc thought enough of this though that he printed it in his 1978 collection, “The Times We Live In”. A simple reversal of typical lover’s graffiti. Although petulant homosexual graffiti about prominent political leaders might be a bit too strong for the breakfast table. We shall see more of Rees-Mogg and the “Times” a little later on.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

186: Jeremy Thorpe 4

by Trog (Wally Fawkes)
in the “Observer” 8 February 1976

Trog imagines the whole situation in the light of the current Winter Olympics where Thorpe is the skier trying to dodge his way through the obstacles.

The fat man (top right) with the suitcase, refers to another scandal which Thorpe had to deal with at the same time. “London and County Securities” had been a company dealing in second mortgages and property holdings. Thorpe had been a managing director, but had resigned just before L&CS had crashed. Thorpe’s associations with L&CS made him appear greedy and possessed of poor judgment to many in the Liberal party. A DTI investigation report had been published on 30 January 1976 (yes, the same day as Scott’s accusations), which acquitted Thorpe of malpractice, but it only served to remind people of Thorpe’s previous character issues.
The man with a white side parting, his hands in his coat and a slightly quizzical mien of suspicion (right middle) is Jo Grimmond, the former leader of the Liberal party, but still a Liberal MP and therefore also a significant figure in the Party.
The man with the dark parting, pixyish face and his arms behind his back (right bottom) is David Steel, another Liberal MP.
The enormous man wearing a bobble hat (left middle) is Cyril Smith, the Liberal Party’s chief whip. Unlike in most cartoons of fat people, this is a fairly accurate representation of Cyril Smith – any attempt at exaggeration would realistically have to span from border to border.
The man with at with a back widow’s peak and his arm folded across his chest (left bottom) is wholly unknown to me, but he certainly doesn’t resemble Norman Scott.
The rather balletic looking man, (left top) with his right hand on his hip, his left hand splayed at a jaunty angle from his outstretched arm, a rather mincing stance, pageboy haircut, and slightly exaggerated mouth doesn’t resemble Norman Scott, but he’s certainly what people expected a gay man to look like. So that’s good enough to do as Norman Scott, a gay former male model.

185: Jeremy Thorpe 3

from “Private Eye” 6 February 1976

A typically eye-catching cover from “Private Eye”. A good honest innuendo to get over the political observation that the Liberals were trying to put immense amounts of clear water between themselves and Thorpe. A homosexual “ducky” to point up the innuendo in “members”, or if you want, that Thorpe’s behaviour is beyond the pale even for homosexuals.

184: Jeremy Thorpe 2

by Osbert Lancaster
in the “Daily Express” 30 January 1976

Printed in the wake of the British media at long last acknowledging Norman Scott’s accusations against Jeremy Thorpe. Nothing sneering or condescending about either homosexuals or the Liberals, just good honest shock. Which would be a fairly honest response by most of the populace at the time. Osbert Lancaster’s cartoons, since they are just little pocket cartoons, rather than the larger canvas used by most editorial cartoonists, can often just use rely upon simple interaction between its characters rather than having to inflate the point to fill the available space – no need for masses of collapsed women in a collective faint or enraged men clenching their fists in horror and disgust. This cartoon features his two main recurring characters, Maudie and William Littlehampton.

Saturday, 8 November 2008

183: Jeremy Thorpe 1

from “Private Eye”, 20 July 1974

Actually nothing whatsoever to do with the "Trial of the Century", but I include here just to kick things off.
One of those accidentally and suggestively embarrassing newspaper clipping so beloved of humorous magazines. “Bedfellows” in the sense of Heath trying to arrange a Con-Lib alliance. “Private Eye” had been made aware of rumours about Thorpe’s homosexuality, but a source like Tom Driberg was not entirely reliable. Besides, Thorpe was twice married, whereas if you wanted a political butt for comic suggestions of homosexuality you couldn’t ask for a better target than the pretentious, unmarried Prime Minister Edward Heath

Jeremy Thorpe - 0

Ah me! While we may not reach a three digit figure I’ll be surprised if this lot doesn’t run somewhere into the high 20s at the very least. And there probably would have been a lot more material if it hadn’t be for a lot of circumspection, or cowardly pussyfooting if you prefer, by the national media in fear of law suits.

And do please remember in all of this, Jeremy Thorpe was acquitted of conspiracy to murder and he’s still alive. So let’s mind how we go, okay?

Christ, though, but where to begin in all of this? Whole books have been written about this. And I don’t mean to add to them.

Jeremy Thorpe had the traditional Establishment background. He was born April 29, 1929, schooled at Eton and studied Law at Oxford University. He was the Liberal Party MP for North Devon, from 1952 to 1979. By this time the Liberal Party was just a hint of its former 19th and early 20th century glories, but Thorpe stood out as a young headline-grabbing showman. In 1967 he became the leader of the Liberal Party. By the 1974 General Election the Liberals had recovered to the point that they were now in a position to refuse an offer of a coalition government from Edward Heath’s Tories, making it possible for Harold Wilson’s Labour government to scrape in with the smallest of majorities. (This is the almost unfathomable reason why a man in a strangely horse-like mask and a trilby hat keeps appearing to wave at the camera throughout the very last episode of “Monty Python”.)

In late 1960 or early 1961, Thorpe casually befriended a young groom called Norman Scott, leaving Scott an open-ended invitation to come see him if he ever needed anything. In November 1961 Scott, twenty-one years old, unemployed and recovering from a nervous breakdown, visited Thorpe at Westminster. Scott alleged that on the night of 8 November 1961 Thorpe seduced him with the aid of a copy of James Baldwin’s novel “Giovanni’s Room” and a pillow. Their “affair” lasted for several years but Thorpe eventually found Scott too erratic and left him. Since this was before decrimalisation in 1967 any homosexual relations were illegal. Thorpe got fellow Liberal MP Peter Bessell to make a series of payments to buy Thorpe’s silence. Scott would eventually take his allegations to the police, giving them several letters Thorpe had written him but no further investigation resulted. In 1971 Scott’s claims that Thorpe had been his lover had reached the Liberal Party. An internal investigation exonerated Thorpe, and Scott was again left feeling victimised. By 1974 the Liberal Party treasurer David Holmes had taken on the responsibility of buying Scott’s silence. When Scott gave some of his documents to his then physician, Dr Gleadle, to look after, Holmes would purchase them from Gleadle. By 1974 Scott had moved to North Devon and would still talk to anyone who would listen, but few people were inclined to believe a former male model’s accusations against one of the UK’s foremost politicians and his claims of mysterious threats. David Holmes then arranged through various intermediaries to use “election expenses” to hire a former airline pilot, Andrew “Gino” Newton, to kill Scott. On Friday 24th October, Newton met Scott and pretending that he was there to protect him, convinced Scott to come away with him to Exmoor. Scott would only get in the car though if he could bring his beloved Great Dane, Rinka, with him. Newton had a phobia about dogs but let Scott bring Rinka with him. Newton drove Scott down a secluded lane, and formulated an excuse to get Scott out of the car. As the two men got out, Rinka also leapt out of the car. Newton was suddenly panicked by the excitable dog and shot it in the head. Newton was having problems with his gun and the sight of the distraught Scott cradling his dead dog only further compounded Newton’s lack of control over the situation so he suddenly drove off. The police made a pretence of investigating but again it went nowhere. Journalists had started to pick up on rumours about the shooting of a dog belonging to a man who had been making claims about Jeremy Thorpe but still it wasn’t a story worth pursuing. Then at the end of January 1976, Scott appeared in court on minor fraud charges (which Scott claimed to have perpetrated as a means of gaining a soapbox). A horde of journalists had been prepped that something momentous was about to revealed, and Scott was finally able to repeat his allegations that Thorpe had sexually corrupted to an interested audience.

Which is where we start this whole mess, and just from the précis above you already know more than most of the participants did at the time.

There are an awful lot of cartoons about this farago. Most of them are about the Liberal Party’s machinations to evade the embarrassing Thorpe, but not actually confronting the whole murder and homosexuality thing, which is of course why Thorpe was such a liability.

newspaper cutting in “Private Eye”, 20 July 1974

Osbert Lancaster cartoon in the “Daily Express” 30 January 1976

“Private Eye” cover, 6 February 1976

Wally Fawkes “Trog” cartoon in the “Observer” 8 February 1976

Marc Boxer cartoon, unpublished, February 1976

William Rushton “Chatto” cartoon in “Private Eye”, 20 February 1976

editorial parody from “Private Eye”, 20 February 1976

Marc Boxer cartoon in “Private Eye” 20 February 1976

“Private Eye” cover, 19 March 1976

Thorpe letters parody by Eric Idle from “The Rutland Dirty Weekend Book”, 1976

Raymond Jackson “JAK” cartoons in “Evening Standard”, 11 May 1976 and “Evening Standard”, 14 May 1976

Osbert Lancaster cartoon in “The Daily Express”, 20 October 1977

“Lloyd George Knew My Father” parody article by Alan Coren in “Punch”, 26 October 1977

"Auberon Waugh's Diary" in "Private Eye", 29 October 1977

“Times” editorial parody from “Private Eye” 11 November 1977

David Austin cartoon in “Private Eye”, 15 September 1978

“Private Eye” cover, 24 November 1978

Michael Heath cartoon in “Punch” 29 November 1978

Michael Heath cartoon in “Punch”, 13 December 1978

Auberon Waugh’s "Dog Lover’s Party" campaign materials in “The Spectator”, 28 April 1979

“Entirely A Matter For You” sketch by Peter Cook from “The Secret Policeman’s Ball”, 29 and 30 June 1979

“Private Eye” cover, 6 July 1979

“Auberon Waugh’s Diary” in “Private Eye” 6 July 1979 and 20 July 1979

“Notebook” by Alexander Chancellor in “Spectator”, 7 July 1979

news parody in “National Lampoon” October 1979

Nothing to Do With What This Is Usually About

Just before we start all over again, many years ago I had a website about the amazing writer Thomas M. Disch. The website eventually vanished, but what I know about his life I’ve put into a rather exhaustive, or maybe just exhausting bio, over at
Certainly, for wit, surprises, dark humour and some beautiful writing, you really ought to read a couple of his books, stories, essays or poems.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Temporary Suspension of Service

Unreliable and erratic as my postings have been recently, I think it fair to point out that I'm not going to be able to post anything for at least the next 6 weeks, as I'm off round Europe.

Quite surprisingly, as far as I can make out, there are a couple of hundred individuals who have passed through and continue to return here - so thank you all for your attention.

I hope to be posting again at the very end of October, or maybe the beginning of November. I shall be back with the thrillingly sordid tale of Jeremy Thorpe: rent boys, politics, attempted assassination and unnecessary cruelty to dogs. As far as closeted political drama goes, it beats several types of weak piss out of some pathetic American foot-tapping in a lavatory stall.

- matthew

Sunday, 14 September 2008

182: Gay American Football

from “National Lampoon’s Sunday Newspaper Parody”, 1978

A reasonable parody of the sort of buddy movies that the late 70s sprouted like mushrooms. They did indeed all seem to star either Burt Reynolds or Kris Kristofferson. David Kopay was an American football player who came out in 1975. Gore Vidal and Isherwood as screenwriters for this aren’t very plausible, but this largely indicates that the authors can’t think of anyone else who might reasonably be expected to write this gay buddy film. Vidal and Isherwood are just the only names available – we’re just lucky they didn’t rely on Liberace or Tiny Tim.

181: Gay Baseball

by Arnold Roth, from “Keep Your Hands Off My Machismo” in Punch” 19 March 1975

from “Mad” October 1978

America’s sports are integral to America’s ideas and expression of its masculinity. Unlike most European sports, baseball and American football are about sheer grunty muscle mass.
American football consists of massive specimens of meaty neanderthalism crashing into each other for short periods of time, with game-play interrupted by lengthy intervals allowing for the alternating distractions of jiggly pom-pom girls or beer adverts.
Baseball is all about the necessary resources of intense upper body strength to facilitate hitting a ball with a stick.
If your average Ameri-gay is often bigger than his Euro-poove counterpart then it is because the body-ideal exemplified by their national sports are so different. Ideals of attractiveness are often moulded during adolescence, and just compare the difference in builds between an athletic American high-schooler and his continental equal.
It doesn’t necessarily have all that much to do with what’s above, but it’s an observation from last spring when I was in Los Angeles, and I was struck by how positively anorexic I seemed in comparison to everyone else.

180: Gay Boxing 2

“The Magic Christian” by Terry Southern, 1959

The Champ was a national hero. He became a TV personality, and his stock in trade was a poignant almost incredible, ignorance. He was good-natured and lovably stupid - and, boy-oh-boy, was he tough!

Well, Grand got through somehow, put his cards on the table (two million, tax-free) and made an arrangement whereby the Champ would throw the next fight in a gay or effeminate manner and, in fact, would behave that way all the time, on TV, in the ring, everywhere - swishing about, grimacing oddly, flinching when he struck a match, and so on.

The next big bout was due to go quite differently now. The challenger in this case was a thirty-three-year-old veteran of the ring named Texas Powell. Tex had an impressive record: 40 wins (25 by K.O.), 7 losses and 3 draws. He had been on the scene for quite a while and was known, or so the press insisted, as a 'rugged customer', and a 'tough cookie'.

'Tex has got the punch: they said. 'The big if is: Can he deliver it? Will he remain conscious long enough to deliver it? There's your Big If in tonight's Garden bout!' Well, the fix was in with Tex too, of course - not simply to carry the fight, but to do so in the most flamboyantly homosexual manner possible. And finally, a fix - or zinger, as it was called in those days - was in with the Commission as well, a precaution taken under best advice as it turned out, because what happened in the ring that night was so 'funny' that the bout might well have been halted at the opening bell.

Fortunately, what did happen didn't last too long. The Champ and the challenger capered out from their corners with a saucy mincing step, and, during the first cagey exchange - which on the part of each was like nothing so much as a young girl striking at a wasp with her left hand - uttered little cries of surprise and disdain. Then Texas Powell took the fight to the Champ, closed haughtily, and engaged him with a pesky windmill flurry which soon had the Champ covering up frantically, and finally shrieking, 'I can't stand it!' before succumbing beneath the vicious peck and flurry, to lie in a sobbing tantrum on the canvas, striking his fists against the floor of the ring - more the bad loser than one would have expected. Tex tossed his head with smug feline contempt and allowed his hand to be raised in victory - while, at the touch, eyeing the ref in a questionable manner.

Apparently a number of people found the spectacle so abhorrent that they actually blacked-out.


“The Magic Christian” was a cult book of the ‘60s. Guy Grand is a multimillionaire, who uses his wealth to practise assorted anarchic practical jokes upsetting society’s standards, all to prove that people will really do anything when offered enough money.
Here, Southern undermines the fetished masculinity of popular sports, in this case professional wrestling. At this relatively early date, knowing that he is writing only for a minority hip readership, Southern can afford to be quite explicit about what he means by gay. In 1959, Southern can, slightly smugly, think that a public display of sissiness is enough to outrage and shock his fictional lumpenmass. When the book was adapted for film in 1969 the stakes had to be upped and so the sketch ends with the two boxers kissing each other.

179: Gay Boxing 1

An illustration by Stan MacMurtry in “Punch” 2 May 1973

This was supposed to accompany an article about a more artistic appreciation of boxing. However, McMurtry’s boxer is more “artistic” then artistic.

Tuesday, 9 September 2008

178: Gay Bodybuilding 4

from the "The Appallingly Disprespectful Spitting Image Book", 1985

And I think this just about wipes up pretty much every other joke about bodybuilders and homosexuality.

177: Gay Bodybuilding 3

Saturday Night Live, 27 October 1990

Hans – Dana Carvey
Franz – Kevin Nealon

Hans and Franz were popular recurring characters in the late ‘80s and early ‘90s on “Saturday Night Live”. In comic Austrian accents and padded grey workout suits, they mimicked Arnold Schwarzenegger. The sketches largely consisted of alternating between praising the “plumpitude” of each other’s muscles and denigrating the pathetic lack of definition of assorted “girlie men” (a provocative and leading term, hein?).
However homosexuality was usually off the menu, except in this case where an appreciation of Patrick Swayze’s flexibility plumbs hitherto unknown depths.

176: Gay Bodybuilding 2

in “Playboy” December 1977
by Harvey Kurtzman and Will Elder.

A few relevant excerpts from an instalment of Little Annie Fanny about bodybuilders, inspired by Arnold Schwarzenegger's then novel rise to fame. Kurtzman and Roth flirt with the homo-eroticism that all this preening narcissism suggests. But again, in the final panel, a fag is a sissy, so there’s no confusion.

175: Gay Bodybuilding 1

Male narcissism and vanity are terribly dangerous things to provoke and indulge.
If a chap wants to confirm whether he’s good looking then he’s simply got to start eyeing all the other fellows up to see if they’re good looking or not. And once you start eyeing up chaps and start deciding whether they’re attractive, well then, it’s almost inevitable you’ll want to start feeling the other chap’s muscles to compare firmness and vascularity. And maybe slipping into posing pouches to compare builds, and then maybe a shared oiling session. And could a buddy help another buddy by giving a hand?
And then, well, maybe, ooops, oh dear, I’ll get a cloth.
You see the dreadful slippery slope from rugged he-manliness into unspeakable and unnatural depravity. Such a shame.

by Al Jaffee in “Playboy”. August 1966

I’m sure I’ve also seen a parody of those “Charles Atlas” ads, where the wimp of the beach after becoming a muscle-man abandons his erstwhile lady companion to go off for some mutual comparison of vital statistics with his muscley former tormentor.

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

174: Gay Sports - Football 5

Bernard Cookson in “The Sun” 25 October 1986

Well yes, as far as “The Sun” will ever care, if gay men play football, then of course they’re going to be skinny effeminate twinks in stockings, who when they’re not wearing skirts are wearing just the shortest shorts, with their hands on their hips and carrying handbags, more concerned with gossiping and bitching. Except for the howitzer smoking a pipe on the far right who, I assume, is supposed to be a lesbian.

173: Gay Sports - Football 4

John Jensen in “Punch” 26 September 1984

An illustration to an article about football scouts. There was nothing about footballers kissing in the article so this is Jensen’s own choice. Except for “gay”, all the little thought bubbles coming from the spying scouts are various football commentary clichés or acronyms. While all the other pieces I’ve posted so far are obviously about homosexual attraction, this is the first cartoon that I’ve seen to actually feature the dreaded word.

172: Gay Sports - Football 3

“The Goodies” – “Football Crazy”, 16 January 1982
Start at 8.10

From an episode mainly concerned about football hooliganism. Tim Brooke-Taylor starts off adopting an elder generation denunciation of modern players’ unmanliness and concern for their own appearance. But as Tim lists off how the players’ appeal on the field is more sexual than sporting, he finds himself succumbing to the “sporno” enticements of the game to the point of almost uncontrolled ecstasy.
Where the Pythons just slightly goosed-up contemporary football celebrations, “The Goodies” examine all the other homoerotic appeals of the game and its players, as Football becomes more and more as one with the entertainment/celebrity business.

171: Gay Sports - Football 2

On February 14, 1976 the newspapers all got rather excited over a report from the Football Association match and ground committee. A proposal was made to the F.A. executive and disciplinary committee that footballers who “kiss and cuddle” could be charged with bringing the game into disrepute. Most of the actual news reporters adopted a rather stiff up-lip - “I say, come on now, chaps” sort of a tone, attributing this kind of unmanly behaviour to having been picked up from foreign players. It’s always those continentals who induce our good innocent lads into all sorts of beastly un-British practices and spoil things for everyone. Cartoonists have the license to point out that it wasn’t exuberant exhibitionism making the crowds antsy, it was the full-throttle man-on-man lip action and what that could really mean. The no kissing and cuddling rule was ultimately rejected by the F.A as “not practicable”.

Stan MacMurtry (“Mac”) in the “Daily Mail”, 15 January 1976

“Giles” in the “Daily Express”, 15 January 1976
This one definitely revels in the taint of mano-a-mano attraction, with every player absolutely avid for a kiss.

Keith Waite in “The Daily Mirror”,15 January 1976
And here, it’s the suggestion that this is all too “adult” to be seen by children.

Thursday, 21 August 2008

170: Gay Sports - Football 1

Well, since I’m sort of English, we might as well start the ball rolling with football. Not that I like football. Ball goes one way, then it goes another, and at the end of it all you’ve lost some ninety minutes of your life. Big fun, I’m sure.

There was, in the 60s and 70s, a tendency for on-pitch celebrations by footballers to become a little over-intense. Rolling around, hugging and kissing each other borne aloft on the ecstatic wash of victory. Which of course aroused some discomfort among the supporters and fans. Since these are the heroes of the working man and young boys everywhere they couldn’t quite come out and plainly call their country’s top players a load of old poofters. But they almost wished they could - so now there’s that little germ of irritation from which result all the following comedic pearls. Or something.

from “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” 23 November 1972
(play from 4.07 – 4.40)

A little light music, some slo-mo, and the whole farrago becomes an awful lot more romantic, dontchathink.

Bernard Hollowood, in “Punch” 20 November 1968.

169: Leo Abse

in “Private Eye” 6 January 1967

Leo Abse, who died on Tuesday 19 August 2008, was the Member of Parliament who introduced the Sexual Offences (homosexual reform) Bill. It was passed as an Act in 1967, decriminalising sex between consenting men over the age of 21.

I've never seen "Francis" before or since as a cartoonist. It's a relatively sweet and inncouous cartoon.

Wednesday, 20 August 2008

168: Gay Sports - Anxiety and Embarrassment

Almost all the cartoons I shall be dredging up over the next couple of days, when they’re not about inappropriate sexual attraction, are instead demonstrating how gay men are unfit to play sports and therefore silly and ridiculous. Here are a couple of cartoons where heterosexual discomfort is the engine of the joke.

in “Mad Magazine” January 1973

A little gay panic. Vast tracts have been written and rewritten about homophobia and homosociality in sports, about how you can only have the intense heterosexual affection demonstrated in team sports through the explicit disavowal of any homosexual feeling – blah blah blah, blah bla-bla-blah. I’m not even going to attempt to add to any of that.
Here, given “Mad Magazine”’s target teenage audience, it just comes down to anxiety about how, when you’re least expecting it, normal manly behaviour suddenly turns into an unexpected sexual encounter. On several levels this is a refusal to play by the acknowledged rules.
I didn’t notice it immediately, and then only after I’d looked at this several times, but the gay player not only has a limp wrist but there also appear to be some lacy frills poking out of the bottom of his shorts. It is a fairly good thunderstruck expression on the first chap though.

by Richard Guindon, “Minneapolis Tribune”, 1977

In this one it’s about feeling the shame of being beaten by gay players, when in the natural scheme of things one might expect to be superior to a gay team.
And has there ever been an article with a gay team that hasn’t included the question, “How do the other teams feel being beaten by a gay team?” Well done, Mr Guindon for being decades ahead of the curve there. And I do often admire Richard Guindon’s cartoons – particularly one from the late 70s/early 80s which is spot on in its prediction of the horror of a world where everyone has a mobile phone.

167: Gay Sports - The Games

by Larry, in “Punch” 6 October 1982

Outside of killing and/or fucking (or maybe even both at the same time, gggrrrr), what can be more traditionally masculine than participating in competitive sports. The commonplace straightness of organised sports almost inevitably invites comically contrasting visions of homosexuality.

Here Larry offers assorted femmy images: bouffy hair, high-heeled boots, purses, lipstick, earrings, etc. In competition his homosexuals are not merely unmanly, but almost infantile – hide and seek, bell horses?

Larry’s cartoons are inspired by the first “Gay Games” in 1982.

Monday, 18 August 2008

166 - Gay Summer Camp

Summer camp is a traditionally outdoorsy and active, rough and tumble boysy American rite of passage. And in contrast we all know that young gay boys are such delicate and sensitive hothouse flowers, to be forever constitutionally disqualified from participating in the free and easy lifestyle that is normal male bonding. So basically here we have three different variations on the same joke – what would a gay summer camp be like?

From “Mad Magazine” June 1971

Here it’s not just that little gays boys are effeminate, but they actually want to be women. Drag, hair styling, interior decoration – well fair enough. They even give us flowers around the border. But Mah-jongg? Really! Who knew gay boys wanted to be Jewish widows? Although I did enjoy “Golden Girls”.

from “National Lampoon” May 1977

Probably the best, and most thorough of the three. This isn’t a camp like the other two, where artistic youngsters have their sissy proclivities indulged and developed. No, the joke here is that this summer camp programme is intended to enable its young campers to participate fully in the experience of being that slightly bullied, awkward, excluded and un-athletic proto-homo.

from “National Lampoon” June 1979

Here’s it’s all about late ‘70s sensitivity development. Hell, I wouldn’t mind having gone to one like this. Although I did do one summer at Johns Hopkins nerd camp, which is about as near an approximation as one could wish.

Note also the first and last make reference to Fire Island. To which we did once go on holiday for one day when I was about thirteen, and where we all utterly failed to notice anything.