Wednesday, 30 April 2008

106: GLC 8 - JAK

by Raymond Allen Jackson ("JAK")
in "Evening Standard" 25 November 1982

With repeated antagonistic reporting and distortions from the tabloid press, Livingstone and the GLC began to exclude the press in return – which really didn’t help matters, as this cartoon only proves.
Of course, the way to distinguish a GLC job advertisement from any other, it is that it simply must feature some gay slant.

105: GLC 7

in “Private Eye” 24 September 1982

Fundamentally, the same joke as #104, but with a swipe at modern architects.
Sir Quentin Blunt = Quentin Crisp + Sir Anthony Blunt
Sir Hugh Cashin = Sir Hugh Casson

104: GLC 6

in “Private Eye”, 29 January 1982

Haringey was a Labour-run council in the 80s, and therefore also of the “Loony Left”. Rape was a big feminist issue circa 1981/82 and therefore there were quite a few cartoons and jokes about rape in assorted magazines at this time. Given Ken Livingstone, gays, rape, rate-payers money – why the jokes just about write themselves.

Tuesday, 29 April 2008

103: GLC 5

in "Private Eye" 25 September 1981

102: GLC 4 - Coren / Mahood

Mr Ken Livingstone announces GLC plans for a gay bus route. Travellers will be able to go anywhere for 10p. The necessary subsidy will be met by dimming streetlights by thirty per cent.

From “Old Coren’s Almanac”, by Alan Coren. Illustration by Kenneth Mahood.
in “Punch” 16 December 1981


One of Livingstone’s more notable actions had been to lower bus fares. So, ho ho, this through the magic of associational satire becomes “Gay Bus Routes”.

The creature in the Mahood cartoon has now become a stereotype that has nothing whatsoever to do with contemporary homosexuals. High heeled shoes, flowery tie, bouffant hair, handbag and a limp wrists. This is a shopworn cliché even in the early 70s.

101: GLC 3

in “Private Eye” 28 August 1981

Tchh! Gay police, what a thing!
This draws upon several “Private Eye” in-jokes. The recurring character of Dave Spart is a rambling self-contradictory ultra-left wing commentator, so Livingstone become Leninspart. In their mock news stories, they often use a photograph of someone with a passing resemblance to the real person being satirised. In this care, it’s “Alexander Sinclair”, a recently murdered gangland boss.
“Isaac Newt” is a reference to Livingstone’s keeping newts for pets. He also made a speech to the Harrow Gay Unity Group in August 1981 where he said “Everyone is bisexual”.

Monday, 28 April 2008

100: GLC 2 – Mac

Stan McMurtry in “The Daily Mail”, 24 November 1981

Again, it’s “Mac” with those comical transvestites.
There is more than a hint of petty truth in this cartoon though. Much of the animus against the GLC is about tax money being given to some socio-political group or other, to which traditional white men by default don’t belong and therefore won’t see any benefit. Any right-thinking person would see just how ridiculous it is, and how enraging such a waste of public money must be, surely, yes, hmmm?

99: GLC 1

cover for "Private Eye" 28 August 1981

Since it’s election time in London this week, let’s take a trip back in time some 25 years or so.

Ken Livingston became Labour Leader of the Greater London Council in the May 1981 election, and remained so until the Conservative government disbanded the GLC in 1986. The GLC ran many pro-minority schemes, providing grants to pro-feminist, anti-nuclear, ethnic, and gay-friendly causes. These policies were decried by conservative newspapers and pundits as “The Loony Left”. Livingstone, was given the nickname “Red Ken”, and was called “the most odious man in Britain”.

In this little jaunt down memory lane, we’ll see how homosexuality was used repeatedly to tar the Left and Livingstone as being stupid, senseless, ridiculous, wasteful, arrogant and unrealistic by association.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

98: Gahan Wilson's "Nuts"

in "National lampoon" October 1972

in "National lampoon" November 1972

Gahan Wilson is best known for this macabre cartoons, appearing in “Playboy”, “New Yorker”, “Punch” and many other magazines. During the 70s he had a cartoon strip “Nuts” running in the backpages of “National Lampoon”. “Nuts” was a deliberate riposte to Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts”. “Nuts” was genuinely about kids, whereas Wilson thought “Peanuts” was a blind for Schulz to indulge a peculiar sentimentality and unchildlike philosophising. “Nuts”, while nostalgic, was about the real anxieties of being a kid. How confusing things are when you’re young, the intense desires and pleasures, and the struggle to just get through from one day to the next. Wilson’s slightly squashed and semi-deflated drawing style is ideal for capturing the proportions of a child’s world. As in “Peanuts” adults are only ever partly seen. The appearance of the adult’s hand in the last two frames of October’s strip is rather insidious and creepy. Whether intentional or not, these two strips rather flag up the connections in the public’s mind between homosexuality and paedophilia. Since these two strips are about children interacting with gay men, it’s almost inevitable. Again, any talk about Oscar Wilde is a shortcut to acknowledging homosexuality. The dinner table conversation in the second strip dramatises wonderfully the parents attempts to protect and insulate their child while at the same time only heightening a child’s sense of fear and incomprehensibility about the world.

Friday, 25 April 2008

97: Giles

Carl Giles in “The Daily Express” 18 April 1974

Giles’s traditional working class family faces up to fears about trendy modernising of education. Toddlers calling one another “duckie” would seem to have little to do with homosexual relationships. But it converts anxiety, or even anger, into just silly and ridiculous stereotypes. A genial cartoon fit for all the family isn’t even going to hint anything worse. Although what this evasion in itself is suggestive of is the fear of explicitness that might arise from these lessons.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

96: Stan McMurtry

in “Punch”, 20 March 1968

A joke taking a spin on other hackneyed jokes about an ever-increasingly permissive society. The 60s saw many cartoonists do the same joke: a school child coming through home and telling its shocked parent, “We did sex today”. Well, this one takes it the next step on. Homosexuality with the obligatory “sweetie”.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

95: "Are You A Homo?"

“National Lampoon”, July 1971
by John Weidman. Illustration by Stan mack

Well? Are you?

Amongst all the various corny puns and hints about swishiness and sexual perversion, this touches the nerve of adolescent paranoia about homosexuality, when even denying it only invites more teasing accusations. That not only is being gay the worst thing in the world, but you might also somehow be one and not really know. And that to know enough about homosexuals to know you're not one, will only elicit taunts of, "Well how do you know so much about homos then, homo?"

Monday, 21 April 2008

94: “In Sickness and In Health”

Written by Johnny Speight

Warren Mitchell – Alf Garnett
Eamonn Walker – Winston
Arthur English – Arthur
Richard Speight – Winston’s friend

“In Sickness and In health” was a return in the ‘80s to the character and opinions of Alf Garnett, as performed by Warren Mitchell. Garnett had become a nationally recognised figure in the 60s sitcom “Till Death Us Do Part”. Written by Johnny Speight, Alf Garnett was an ignorant, reactionary, working class, East End, Little-Englander bigot, who was forever venting his prejudices with great force. The character was intended as satire, to expose the stupidity of such views. In expressing such forthright views about politics, sex and race the sitcom was different from everything around at the time and was a lightning conductor for controversy. It was also immensely popular. Alf was the butt of many jokes, but Mitchell’s performance had such vigour, and Garnett’s opinions were such common prejudices, that the character won enormous popular affection. The sitcom was adapted for American television in the 70s and became “All in the Family”, with Archie Bunker as the lovable family bigot.

The first series of “In Sickness and In Health” introduced the character of Winston, a black gay home help for Alf’s wife. “In “Till Death Us Do Part”, Garnett had had his daughter and son-in-law as foils, to rile him up and also refute his bigoted views. Winston was a new character to set Alf off. Alf referred to Winston by the nickname of “Marigold”. Winston was played by the actor Eamonn Walker who has since gone on to bigger and better things in America. I doubt that clips of his performances as Winston get played during interview on chat-shows over there.

This clip I think is from the second series. Only the first four minutes are really relevant. There are two aspects to consider. The first is the performance of Winston. The second is the conversation about homosexuals between Alf and his friend Arthur.

Winston seems to be a fairly broad caricature, but updated for the times. The idea that that gays are now out means that they are in-your-face, with obvious sexual overtones. Every line is topped by an over-the top leer and wiggle. Whether this is a performance by Winston to wind-up Alf is a little lost, since the audience laughs more at Winston’s simpering than at Alf’s questionable statements.

A dialogue about homosexuality on a mainstream sitcom is a moderately daring thing for this time. There are still may who would not want to see such a thing discussed as supposed entertainment. It is ironical then, that Alf is the spokesman for these reactionaries, arguing for rolling back the permissive society. It’s only a positive discussion by default, since the ideal right-thinking audience will reject all of Alf’s small-mind arguments. But the energy and drift of the argument is ostensibly homophobic, and about the only cliché he doesn’t spout is the one about “Blimey, the governments made it legal, they’ll be making it compulsory next.”

Sunday, 20 April 2008

93: Barry Humphries – “Brian Graham”

“Just a Show” 1968/1969

“Brian Graham, a neurotic young Sydney executive with a guilty secret, appeared in 1968 in Just a Show. I played the character in a blond wig, navy blue shorts -and long white socks, a ludicrous uniform which was so much in fashion at the time. that nobody thought it was funny. The scene was a modern office, desk, abstract painting, intercom and three telephones which actually rang.” – Barry Humphries notes in “A Nice Night’s Entertainment: Sketches and Monologues” (1981).

Woman's voice on intercom: 'Mr Graham, Mr Graham. Call from Sydney on the red phone. Call from Sydney on the red phone.' BRIAN Picks up the recover.

Thanks, Cathy, put them through darling.
Hello, Grahamco Fertilisers Brian Graham speaking. Can I help you? Hello there Mr Friedman, my father passed your letter on to me and I've just been chasing up the order. All I can say is that we've put you people on priority and we're pushing it as hard as we can. You people aren't the only ones unfortunately so I'd be very grateful if you'd bear with us for another ten days at the very most.
I perfectly realise that, Mr Friedman, but we're erecting a new superphosphate plant and a new sulphuric acid plant to cope with our future commitments so you'll appreciate. . - - Look leave it with me Mr Friedman will you?
Can do . . . I appreciate that.
Can do . . . I appreciate that. I fully appreciate that. . .
[He repjaces one receiver and Picks up another. ]
Give me my father will you Cathy?
Hello Dad? I've just had Friedman on the blower. He's getting a bit cheesed over the big Agralux order. I told him that, and I think I fobbed him off till after the weekend but he sounded a bit ratty. I think you better give him a bell on Monday, Dad. Look Dad, I can't possibly work back again tonight. I've been living in the office for the last fortnight finalising that big Queensland phosphate deal. If1 don't get in a game of squash and a steak sometime tonight I might as well move the cot in here. Give us a break will you Dad, don't be corny I haven't seen Pam for three weeks. I'm not even faintly interested in Pam,. look if you don't believe me or something you can come along to the squash courts with me and check up. Look get off my back will you Dad have you had the green light from Southern Cross Minerals? If they step up exploration in the N.T. we ought to be able to cut freight costs on double and triple super as well as water-soluble phosphorus pentOxide. Has the lab got any word on Henderson's soil test? Well we're producing a microfine lime with an average particle size of five microns so we ought to be able to cover a layer of root nodule bacteria and correct soil acidity up to a point. With the new anhydrous ammonia distributors we can treat approximately forty-five acres with a sixty-five hp tractor and if Henderson's won't buy that we can do them a more accurate soil test with the atomic absorption spectrophotometer but tell them it'll cost them for Christ's sake or they'll be screaming.
I have not got a female in the office. I told you I haven't seen Pam Cunningham for three weeks Daddo you have to keep niggling about that? I was in the office all night Tuesday. I called Mum. I was probably snatching a coffee when you rang so don't take it out on Mum. Now will you let me get on with it? Look I won't leave the office till I've squared Friedman so tell Mum I won't be in for tea. Look Dad, I'm over twenty-one for goodness sake I don't know when I'll be in I migl1t take in a movie.
[He holds the receiver at arm's length.]
Look Dad. . . if you don't calm down you'll give yourself another coronary. Just give me Friedman's home number. Cathy hasn't got it Dad, if you remember you tore her phone book in half yesterday proving your strength in front of that guy from IC!. What is it? [Writing] Fair enough. OK Dad. Bye for now.
Cathy, get me Mrs Drew Farell will you sweetie?
Hello Josie how are we love? Is your bloke in? Where is he, down
having a few with the boys? I'd watch that one if! were you. Is that that gorgeous infant of yours I can hear in the background? Put him on to me will you sweetie? That you Bennie boy what you do at school today kiddo? Fabulous. What she say' What she do to my Bennie boy? Well you tell Miss Elliott your big mate Brian will be up 'there after her with a big stick if she bullies you any more.
I'm coming up on Sunday Bennie we'll kick a ball around. OK handsome, for sure, be good.
Josie? Isn't he just too dolly? Listen, I'll make it on Saturday.
I'll drive up early. The old man's in the usual tizz down here, I'll come up and cry on your shoulder, listen sweet, do you want anything brought up from the big smoke? Sure? Tell that lovely he-man of yours Roger let me have a case of Sea view Cabernet sixty-three. Ought to go nicely with that tired old avocado salad. I'll bring up a few bottles as a little prezzie'. Big deal eh?
Oh Josie, you remember that b40ke who was just leaving when I arrived the other Sunday, no the quiet one not the architect. Was he a bit gay? No no just wondered that's all. You know me old sticky beak. OK sweetie. Oh sweetie there might be two of us will that be OK? No one you know, he's an old mate of mine from way back in the travel business just down from Honkers. I think you'll like him. Righto back to your chores. Bye now.
[He hangs up, pauses, then slowly dials again.]
Is that Adele Model Gowns? Could I speak to Mr Hatcher, no
Mr Hatcher junior. Mr Graham calling.
[He whistles a cabaret tune.]
Hello Mr Hatcher . . . It's Gloria here.

Well what about you last night! I bet you don't remember. You were well away by the time Vera arrived. Suckin' away at the old gin bottle - what sort of a hostess are you? And who was butterbox - who brought her? Where'd you dig him up from? Sydney eh, big deal. No I don't mean that matelot, had that years ago darling, I mean the number in the nursery curtains and the Minnie Mouse shoes. You 'should have seen her eyes when Trixie did her dreary old Judy Garland bit in her mother's tired old halter-neck silver lame fish tail. If that bitch trots that old number out again she's not coming to my next forties nostalgia party and that's for sure. And I'll tell you another charming little number I'll be scratching off the list: that bit of rough trade from Cyprus with the taxi, don't want Lil arriving.
Did you get those tickets for Marlene ? You got comps? Get you! What you have to do for that? When for? Of pooh, I told you I was probably going down the country this weekend. Josie and Drew's place. Andrew Fatell and his wife. He's not so Bessie Boring dads, he's always sending us up but I think it's a bit of your old still waters there, methinks he protests a bit too much that one - glass houses and all that jazz.
Josie's all right, she's brilliant. Well, yes, she is a bit of a drear I suppose but their house is camp in a fifties kind of way: split level, Grant Featherston chairs, stinky little Dickerson orphan - the full rubbed pine bit. I only go up there for the hoot.
[The phone rings.]
Hold on.
Hello Grahamco Fertilisers Brian Graham speaking. Oh. Dad.
I'm up to my eyes here.
I'll have to go I've got the old cockroach on the line. See you at the sauna at half past eight. You can give us a squeeze with your eyes.
Yes Dad, sorry I've been on the blower to Friedman again about that multigrade limestone order. Look I'll be in for dinner tomorrow night, Dad. Well why does Mum have to carry on like that? I didn't know she was having someone else to dinner. Look I've met Isobel, she's a drag. . . she's a bore. Just leave me alone, can't you? I can't help it if you were married at nineteen, I'm not you! Listen can you hear me, there's no one else in this office.
I'm alone.
[He slams down phone. Buries. head in hands. Another phone rings. And rings.]


Barry Humphries built his career in the late 50s and 60s out of satirical monologues. He exposed the fatuousness and clichés of vast swathes of Australian society. He began by caricaturing the older Australian suburban generation of his relations, with his Moonee Ponds housewife Edna Everage and his hum-drum nostalgic Sandy Stone. He then turned to his own contemporaries, mocking the laddish surfers, self-satisfied beatniks and trendy media-operators. Brian Graham was a character performed in Humphries’s 1968 tour across Australia and then in London in 1969.
The frustrations of Brian Graham must therefore have presented themselves as some new stereotype to Humphries.
If you want to be a little high-toned and critical, one could point out that Brian Graham is himself three different performances:
1 – the dutiful son as businessman, presenting a cracking façade to his family
2 – the genial fag to his off-screen hag
3 – the camp poisonous bitch
Which is the real Brian Graham? Does even he know?
Whether Humphries was in anyway influenced by “The Boys in the Band” (performed in early 1968) I can’t tell. But the character is certainly similar to those.