Tuesday, 16 June 2009

278: Bonzo Dog Band - Trouser Press

(Disregard the images in the video)
“Trouser Press” by Roger Ruskin Spear
From "The Doughnut In Granny's Greenhouse" (1968) by The Bonzo Dog Band

The Bonzo Dog Band were one of the delights of my late teens. (Balls to U2 and INXS. So very heartfelt, and so very loud: Woah, woah, feelings, with the amp turned to eleven). Intelligent nonsense and parody will always win over turgid rock n’roll sincerity, in my book. (My book is ‘Ulysses’, if you must know.) Every one of their records (five in 1969 -1972) is just crammed with gags, throwaway weird effects, songs that demolish whole genres of music. There’s so much happening in just this one silly little song. However, it’s the spoken word bits which must attract our attention today.

One, two, three, kick!
Come on everybody, clap your hands
Ooooh, you're looking good
Are you having a good time? I sure am
Do you like soul music?
Well, do the Trouser Press, baby!
You’re so savage, Roger!
Ecstasy, Bruce, ecstasy!

This rather effeminate camping about is in contrast to the raucous noise of the main part of the song. These bits are spoken by Joel Druckman, a temporary member of the Bonzos. He was also American, which may go a little way to explaining “Ecstasy, Bruce, ecstasy”, since as I’ve pointed out on several occasions Americans will not be dissuaded that “Bruce” is an innately Gay name. "You're so savage" also seems to be a 1960s West-coast gay stereotype too. The Bonzos weren’t averse to little liner note gags about “Hairstyles by Maison Poov”.
Viv Stanshall’s early performances made for a decidedly camp stage presence, posing on stage in attitudes which don’t just grab your attention but hold it hostage (he had studied under Lindsay Kemp), essaying assorted upperclass drawls. Vide his rather fey Elvis impression when performing “Death Cab for Cutie” on the Beatles’s film of “Magical Mystery Tour”
While I must go and try figure out everything that’s happening in “Rusty (Champion Thrust)” – “Marty and Frank were just full of this Gay Front. They just wouldn’t stop talking about it. What’s with this Gay Front? I mean I only just got the front painted up. Jezuz, aint that gay enough?”

Monday, 15 June 2009

277: The Adventures of Phoebe Zeit-Geist

in “Evergreen Review”, December 1966
Written by Michael O’Donoghue
Illustrated by Frank Springer

Michael O’Donoghue was the great, wonderful marvellous revelation of my first explorations into “National Lampoon” magazine. To say I could almost love him, given his offensive propensities, might seem an extreme, let alone unlikely, reaction. Yet his erudition, his mastery of linguistic style, his surrealism, his accurate satirisation of current culture, and also his penchant for savage black humour exposing the worst of human nature up to and including genocide, all make him a one-man equivalent of Monty Python at its best. There isn’t a collection of his best work. You either have to collect the original magazines, or the earliest “National Lampoon” best of anthologies. They’re worth it. He’s certainly worth it.

Anyway, O’Donoghue first made his name with his collaboration “The Adventures of Phoebe Zeit-Geist”. It was a comic strip, drawn by professional comics artist Frank Springer, appearing in “Evergreen Review” in the mid 1960s. “Phoebe Zeit-Geist” was an unlikely experiment for “Evergreen Review”, a respected alternative literary journal which first featured the postwar European avant-garde and then became a venue for the new Beat writers. Cartoons were beneath anyone’s critical radar, but an early advert for the magazine in the style of Charles Atlas was O’Donoghue’s first collaboration with the comics artist Frank Springer.

O’Donoghue was a huge devotee of Terry Southern and William Burroughs, and his work extends their brand of pinpoint accurate irony and bad taste. “Phoebe Zeitgeist” was a cartoon strip in the tradition of “The Perils of Pauline” damsel in distress. In each instalment, the titular heroine is menaced by some new villainy. But, as in Terry Southern’s novel, “Candy”, these menaces are usually exercises in sexual perversity. Instalments will feature necrophiles cultist, sadists, shoe fetishists, lesbians, torture and humiliation, mad scientists, and Norman Mailer. It’s inevitable that homosexuals will have to feature at some point.

The comic strip became a cult hit, and was much spoken about for often conflicting reasons. Springer executed Southern’s detailed scenarios with matching dedication, and it therefore had a following with genuine comics fans. Some readers objected to the idea of any comics in their beloved highbrow journal (and “Evergreen Review” also ran “Barbarella” at exactly the same time). Some objected to its deliberately provocative content, its sexual imagery, its violence against women, its racist stereotypes. O’Donoghue’s fascination with Nazis, meant that one issue was banned in Germany because it featured banned Nazi imagery, which only made for further publicity. And let’s not overlook the fact that it was chock full of drawings of a naked women in weird sexual situations, which could appeal to some people, I suppose.

“Evergreen Review” wasn’t afraid to feature homosexual content. It had featured serious works with gay content by the Beats, John Rechy, excerpts from “Last Exit to Brooklyn”, explorations of contemporary homosexual life as a previously unexplored underclass. With this comic effort we get fashion-obsessed bitches, camp, petulant, and violently misogynist. Fey, petty or peevish expressions. Hands splayed out, ear-rings, ID bracelets, and note the rather fetishised trousers. Preening and effeminately house-pround, possessed of a trivial manner wholly incommensurate with the effective running of a submarine. Yet they’re not transvestites, or wearing make-up, so it is a thought-out execution of clichés, which is what one would expect of O’Donoghue. Think of them as untrammelled characters from “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf”.

As to what I really think of the sailors? Several people have said this one has made them feel a bit uncomfortable. I’ve been doing this for so long I’ve almost got over most feelings of offence. I look at it and I can see how the high cultural furnishings of Captain Nemo’s submarine might make you think there was an interior designer knocking about the place. And then there’s all the ancient clichés about sailors and homosexuality. So I can see that O’Donoghue’s shown some ingenuity in bringing it altogether to create yet another surprising scenario in which to humiliate his heroine.

Then the two characters are only making brief appearances, and at least he’s got them doing something in every panel. And honestly, is their behaviour much different from “The Boys in the Band”, a couple of years later? It’s a cliché that’s stuck for a reason. A large part of the debate over Gay Pride that crops up in the gay media every bloody year is embarrassment over the “bad homosexuals” who someone always perceives as letting the side down in some way. Or to put it another way: I am gay, You are queer, They are faggots. Straight-acting is a matter of perception.

I just found an old SNL sketch, “The Gloria Brigade” from 1992, and it’s so slow, and the performances are so weak that I find that more insulting, because they don’t think they need to try. That some hack work about gay stereotypes is enough to make people laugh, says more about ideas of gays as a source of humour. So, yes, the two sailors make me wince a little, but it is over 40 years. The clip of a camp young Oliver Reed is occasionally dragged out for laughs, but it was from 1960 when homosexuality was illegal, and any mention had usually be censored from TV, film, radio and theatre. So some outdated stereotype is part of the process of social relaxation about taboos. But in the specific case of “Phoebe Zeitgeist”, everything is attacked, subverted and degraded. If gays were left out, it would mean that they were beyond the pale. Not because our sensibilities are too soft for attack, but because at this time, we would have been censored from the picture. Although there is the underlying assumption that gays naturally fit into this indecent world.

It’s an irony of the 1960s that almost every instance of a gay comedic character or some piece of sustained comedy involving homosexuals originates from a writer or comedian we can assume to be liberal and positively-inclined towards gays and their rights. Homophobes at this time wouldn’t feature them in their jokes, because their attitudes would be that homosexuals were too offensive even to make jokes about.

And finally, as villains, the pair foreshadow the trend of the late 1960s when it seemed like every other stylish thriller/crime caper featured some sort of camp or gay character: Modesty Blaise, Kaleidoscope, Deadfall, The Italian Job, Anderson Tapes, Kremlin Letter (besides the non-gay but camp villains of Batman and The Monkees). It adds a little titillation of perversity and outré mannerisms to plain criminality.

Wednesday, 10 June 2009

276: Monty Python - camping it up

1965 was the breakout year for “camping it up” and “camping about”. Camp, as both an aesthetic and a particular word, had existed prior to 1965, but it was not a readily identifiable part of the public’s frame of reference. 1964 had seen the publication of Susan Sontag’s “Notes on Camp” which was gradually disseminated through all the trendier magazines, intellectual journals and upmarket rags. 1965 saw the appearance of several mass-market entertainments which allowed critics the opportunity to throw around their new-found familiarity with camp, at ease that the general public would know what they meant, and which also meant they didn’t have to use words which directly referenced homosexuality. In England, there was the success of “Julian and Sandy”, and, in America, there was the film of “The Loved One”. It’s worth noting that in all three cases, homosexuals are complicit in these products, are already part of the in-crowd offering camp to the heterosexual audience. Sontag was a lesbian. The two actors of Julian and Sandy, Kenneth Williams and Hugh Paddick were gay. “The Loved One”’s director Tony Richardson was bisexual, the co-writer was Christopher Isherwood, and half the cast (Gielgud, Liberace, Tab Hunter, Roddy McDowell) were gay, before you even figure in the main writer, Terry Southern’s fascination with homosexuals as a font of funny.

Anway, the point is that it is soon assumed that camp is gay and gay is camp. And that there is a certain sort of behaviour that sticks out like a sore thumb. Camp men are fashion designers, interior decorators, antique dealers, and vice versa indivisibly.

Monty Python takes a different path. Their use of camp mannerisms is always surprising. Monty Python’s camp men can be and do anything. Surprise is part of the comedy. Unusual variations, such as the camp judges. Eventually camp men in unexpected professions will also become a cliché, as Alan Coren will offer us camp policemen, camp undertakers, camp Biggles. But Monty Python usually does with without the innuendo which others make such a large part of camp comedy.

7 December 1969
Starts at 0.50

16 November 1972
Here you do get camp hairdressers, but performances as part of the larger comic contrast about Mount Everest. A bathetic drop into effete trivial fashionability after the sketch’s misleading opening pretence of rugged manliness. Admittedly as hairdressers, it’s not much more than saying “bitch” a lot

“Monty Python and the Holy Grail” 1975
Compare this eruption of campness in mediaeval times with Hugh Paddick’s turn in “Up the Chastity Belt”

Sunday, 7 June 2009

275: The League of Gentlemen (1960)

The League of Gentlemen (1960)
Written by Bryan Forbes, from the novel from John Boland
Directed by Basil Dearden

Starts 8.00

Why I remembered this film is because of a brief appearance of Oliver Reed as a young actor, camping it up as a young actor. The most ostentatious manner of putting his hand on his hip – if it were in 3D, you’d have to duck for fear of it taking your eye out. Speaks in a light tone, given Reed’s naturally butch voice, lips in a pout, casting his eyes all over the place. Rather a fluffy jumper he’s wearing too. It’s certainly memorable – even if it’s only because of the embarrassment you feel for yourself and also for Reed.

However I’d overlooked other gay content in the film. It’s a crime caper with many sharp comic touches, in which a bunch of ex-soldiers are brought together to execute a bank heist. However, the film is critical of contemporary society, and also of any of the glamour which has attached to military figures after all those WWII films. Each of the plotters is in one way or another a compromised or corrupt character. Homosexuality features in several of the character’s backgrounds.

Starts 4.40

The most obvious instance is Captain Stevens, played by Kieron Moore. We first see him in a scene where he is being blackmailed. It’s not blatantly explicit, but in the scene it’s gradually made obvious, from enough heavy handed signifiers for viewers to get the gist that Stevens is being blackmailed for his homosexuality (The interest in physical culture; the blackmailer’s comment, “Girls are expensive enough, but, well, it takes all sorts to make a world”; the young boxer’s confusion as to what the two blokes are doing in the novel Stevens gave him; and Stevens saying, “There are thrills and thrills” as the camera lingers on him massaging the young boxer’s body.) Of course, this is when homosexuality was still illegal. Stevens is a perfectly normal macho figure. You’re not made to despise him, it’s just an accepted fact of adult life. This is also a year before Dirk Bogarde in “Victim” (1961), which was also directed by Basil Dearden.

Eventually, all the characters are called together so that the leader can explain his scheme. To prevent any of them from backing out or making pretences to moral superiority, Jack Hawkins humiliates each of them by recounting their misdemeanours.

Stevens was a “One time fascist backroom boy. Mosley speaks and all that. Saw the light just in time and was made an officer and a gentleman. Unfortunately, he couldn’t quite behave like one. The Sunday newspapers had a field day. There’s nothing the British public likes better than catching the ODD men out”. (There is a tradition of homosexual attraction to fascism, but that’s another matter – and a small body of exciting letters in “Gay News” about which BNP leader and his boyfriend had been seen in which pubs when, hmmmm)

Captain "Padre" Mycroft (Roger Livesey) was “Cashiered for gross indecency in a public place” (which smacks of Terrence Rattigan theatrical territory).

It’s not condemnatory, it’s just a way of indicating adult weaknesses, as the other characters also highlight contemporary Britain’s hypocrisies and failure to live up the bright future promised post-WWII.

Saturday, 6 June 2009

274: Steptoe and Son

"Steptoe and Son"
20 March 1970, "Any Old Iron?"
Written by Ray Galton and Alan Simpson

Wilfred Brambell: Alfred Steptoe
Harry H. Corbett: Harold Steptoe
Richard Hurndall: Timothy Stanhope
Roger Avon: Edgar

Harold is impressed by a sophisticated visiting antiques dealer, Timothy Stanhope, but Stanhope sees only one thing of interest in the junkyard - Harold. Albert tries to warn Harold in his bigoted way that Stanhope is a “poof”, but Harold won’t listen. When Harold has dinner with Stanhope, he is in for a big surprise.

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

When this was made, homosexuality had been legal in Britain for barely three years. When it was repeated on B.B.C.-2 back in the '90's, a gay man wrote to 'Points Of View' angrily objecting to the homophobic stance adopted by Albert, and suggested the episode be 'never shown again'. The B.B.C. pointed out that the attitudes were of a different era.
As far I can tell, this is the very first sitcom to feature a fully rounded, explicitly homosexual character. Notably, this isn't some minor sitcom, or something that is just starting out, without the fear of upsetting an established audience. Steptoe and Son is an enormously popular sitcom.
An antique dealer is a bit of a cliché, but it’s a fairly reasonable incursion into the otherwise grotty world of the Steptoes. Alan Bennett did his version of a gay antiques dealer a few years earlier, and “12+1” (1969) had Willie Rushton and Tim Brooke-Taylor as two gay lovers who ran an antiques emporium. While Bennett, Rushton and Brook-Taylor play it as various sorts of camp, Hurndall’s portrayal is upper-class. This is deliberate, so that there is confusion as to where upper class manners end and gay manners start. Admittedly, the audience are lead to the right assumption fairly quickly, so the necessary comedic confusion is mostly Harold’s, resulting in some particularly large laughs. The characterisation does play off English assumptions about upper-class sexual predilections, barely masked by the sophisticated manners to which a certain aspirational type of homosexual also liked to make pretences. A haughty concern for style and a drawling speech – stately home or stately homo? It does also spare us any of the limp-wristed fairy stereotypes which would be so dominant during much of the ‘70s in UK comedy.
It’s fairly even-handed as a written piece and as a performance. Though we largely know Albert is right, since he is such a nasty base little creature, his unremittingly offensive nature actually takes the edge off his offensive remarks. Although it’s noteworthy that the writers resist putting most of the easy and obvious gibes about homosexuality in Albert’s mouth. Instead, he’s more concerned that Harold doesn’t unwittingly surrender himself to Timothy. It is however fairly obvious to the audience what Timothy is, and just where his interests really lie. It is Harold who is made to look a fool, with his naivety, and also his sudden excursion into unisex fashion. Timothy is just the right character to tempt Harold. The main theme of the entire series is Harold’s repeated and failed attempts to escape the scrapyard for a better, more cultured life, so Harold deliberately blinds himself to a possible homosexual approach because of his eagerness at what Timothy represents.
It is however unusual that, unlike most gay characters in sitcoms, the suave Timothy takes an active sexual interest. As a result, this is why at the end of the episode Harold makes a sudden sexual assault on Dolly Miller. As in the cartoons from the Vassall episode, the best way of disavowing homosexuality is a blatant heterosexual display. The capper of the gay policeman is a nice final twist, further winding up but then deflating Harold’s panic. Slightly daring too, in suggesting a senior police officer could be gay.
All in all, this is a much more sophisticated effort than “Up Pompeii”, which can lay claim to featuring the first gay characters in as sitcom. So it’s a bit of a pity, that Galton and Simpson let themselves down by exercising all those same gay clichés when they wrote a camp Robin Hood in their screenplay for “Up the Chastity Belt” (1971)

At the end of 2009, I got in touch with Galton and Simpson through their agent, and they were able to answer a few questions about this episode.

1. Were they conscious that they were writing a “first” of its kind, a sitcom episode about homosexuality, featuring an explicitly gay character? Or were they aware of any sitcom predecessors?

2. Were there pressures put on them not to write this episode? Was there any censorship?

3. Did they feel any responsibility in writing it?

Thanks to Galton and Simpson.

The title “Any Old Iron” is a pun at several levels. The traditional cry of the rag and bone man was “Any old iron”. “Any old iron” is also an old music hall song. “Iron” is also rhyming slang – iron hoof = poof. Certain academics like to argue that the whole song is about secret gay codes; “old green tie”, “you look neat”, etc.
There is a further irony in this episode. The actor, Wilfred Brambell, who played the grotesque Albert was gay and had been arrested for cottaging. Americans will recognise him as “the clean old man” from the Beatles’ “Hard Day’s Night”.
When “Steptoe and Son” was transferred to American TV as “Sanford and Son”, this episode was partly recycled in an early episode, “The Piano”.


(H has been talking about talking about how he wants to open an antique shop. A has accidentally destroyed a valuable painting and a piece of Meissen pottery. A is chased into the yard where, TS, a tall gentleman wearing a cape is looking around the yard.
TS has a suave, resonant, smooth, upper-class voice, rather like George sanders. )

A: Good afternoon, sir. See anything you fancy?. Help yourself. Don’t go in there though.

T: Why not?

A: The ‘orse is in there. She don’t like strangers. Yer liable to get a couple of ‘oofs up yer ‘arris. Was yer looking for anything in particular.

T: No, nothing in particular. But I know you chaps come across the odd piece that is a little out of your line. And I was just passing….

A: Oh, you’re in the trade then?

T: Well, I’m a dealer.

A: Scrap?

T: AN-tiques.

A: I thought you looked too much of a jessy (catches himself. TS raises eyebrow)…sorry, gent for a totter. Antiques? You’d better see me partner, that’s his department. (bellows back into house) ‘Arold! Won’t be a minute. Come out ‘ere!

T: Don’t bother I don’t think here’s anything here that would
(Harold comes out and TS suddenly pauses as he looks on)
T: … interest me. (appreciatively) Good afternoon

A: That’s me son, Harold

T: (looks him up and down) What a Fine looking boy.

(A squints at TS with suspicion)

A:This gentleman is an antique dealer

H: Oh yes, how do you do

T: Ooh! What a strong grip you have! (smiling broadly) Very powerful. I’m sure your biceps are very well developed

H: Oh well, you know how it is, you have to hump a lot of heavy gear about in this game.
(retrieves hand still in TS’s grip) Is there anything I can do for you

T: (looking H full in the face) I’m sure you can

H: What actually did you have in mind

T: Well, that depends what you have to offer, isn’t it. I confine my activities to the 16th and 17th century.

H: Yes, that is a lovely period.

T: I’m so glad you agree. I think that after everything became so nasty, don’t you think

H: Definitely. All that heavy Hanoverian clobber they started making. It’s far too ornate

T: It lost such a lot of its simplicity

H: Exactly. (pointedly appreciating this conversation from which A is excluded) In my opinion. After Chippendale, they turned out a load of old crap.

T: Quite. How rare to find a connoisseur in such UNLIKELY surroundings.

H: Well, I’ve always been interested. It sort of rubs off on you in this business.

A: Not the only thing that rubs off on you

T: Then you do have the occasional thing passing through your hands

(shares his black Russian cigarettes.
TS bends in close to light his cigarette off H’s lit – elicits enormous audience laughter)

T: Well, here’s my card

H: Oh, Timothy Stan-hope

T: Stan’ope. And you are?

H: Harold Steptoe. Wiv an E.

(H offers his hand to shake goodbye)

T: Well, it’s been extremely pleasant meeting you. And if you do come across anything, you will THINK of me, won’t you? Goodbye. Oh, and the number on the right is my home number. . . . (lightly cocks his eyebrow) ANYtime. Good afternoon.

H: Cheerio.

(TS leaves. A trails a little after him. H practices pronouncing Stan’ope. A turns to face H)

A: He fancies you.

H: Eh?

A: You ‘eard. He fancies yer.

H: Don’t be so stupid.

A: He’s a poof!

H: He’s not a “poof!”!

A: Course he is, mate. “The number on the right is my home number. Anytime”.

H: Everybody’s a poof to you, eh? aint they? Anyone who dresses well, talks nice, with a bit of refinement. “He’s a poof!”

A: Well, he’s one. I’m tellin’ yer. I can smell ‘em a mile off. Specially ‘im. (nods head in direction TS left and pulls protracted scowl)

H: Looook, look, that’s aftershave lotion, that’s all. Everyone wears aftershave lotion.

A: I don’t.

H: Well, you ought to. You especially.

A: He’s a poof, I’m telling yer. He’s as bent as a boomerang. You arsk ‘im.

H: I’m not about to go around asking people things like that. (mimic TV reporter holding microphone) Excuse me, my dad says you’re a poof. Have you any comment to make?

A: Well, I’m warnin yer that’s all.

H: I don’t understand you. You’ve got it on the brain. You got poof-mania! Everybody on television is a poof! The announcers, the newsreaders, even the weathermen – they’re all poofs. I’ll mention a film star to you, what do you say? “He’s a poof! Heh-Heh!” How do you know? Where do you get your information from?

A: I’m not going to argue with yer. He’s an iron ‘oof and that’s all there is to it. You mark my words, ‘E’ll be back.

H: I don’t know about that. (disconsolately) There’s nothing here, he’s after.

A: That’s what YOU think!


(TS strolls into yard, swinging cane loosely. A enters yard from door. Stares at TS for a long pause)

T: Good afternoon.

(A says nothing, scowls, walks away then scurries into house to H. H is sat down. A knocks him on shoulder)

A: She’s ‘ere again!

H: Who is it?

A: The girlfriend!

H: Ah, leave it out Dad.

A: Getting a bit keen, isn’t she? It’s the third time she’s been here this week.

H: Well, don’t keep calling ‘im ‘er. There’s nothing wrong wiv…them.

A: Best not keep her waiting.

(H walks out to stop A talking in this vein, followed by A. TS smiles to see H)

T: Hello Harold.

H: Hello. I haven’t found anything for you yet.

T: No, no, that’s quite alright. I didn’t expect you to. The reason I popped round is that yesterday I found some rather amusing Italian Renaissance buttons. And I recalled our most amusing conversation the other day about Florentine art, and how keen you weee on the period.

H: Ah well, I dunno all that much about it.

T: You are a very perceptive and cultured young man, Harold

H: Well I’m always willing to learn

T: Oh good. Well I had these buttons made up into cufflinks. And I’d like you to have them

(TS picks box out of his trouser pocket and gives to H, who opens them up)

H: Oh they’re lovely (almost speechless in gratitude) Oh… I don’t what to say

T: Don’t say anything. It’s my pleasure. Well now I really must dash! (very jolly) I’m going to a charity midnight auction of all things! (causally) By the way, what are you doing tomorrow?

H: Out on the ‘orse and cart as usual

T: I mean tomorrow evening

H: Oh nothing. Why?

T: I have two tickets for the Bolshoi ballet. They’re giving Diaghilev’s “Nutcracker” again

H: (pleased for him) Oh really!

T: (pulling himself to look down on H, full in face) And I wondered - if you’re not absolutely STRICKEN, by the thought of ballet, (slightly breathy) whether you’d care to join me?

H: I’d love to. (TS stares in appreciation) I like dancing

T: You’re quite sure there’s nothing in your book?

H: Oh, no, no.

T: (pleased) Good! (jovial) Well, I’ll pick you up at eight. By the way, wear black tie.

H: Why? Is somebody dead?

(TS leaves laughing)

H: What’s he larfing at?

(A sidles up)
A: Oh it’s presents, now is it? Italian renaissance cufflinks. Bit strong isn’t it. Sprat to catch a mackerel that is

H: That’s your DIR-ty little mind again. This a present from one connoisseur to another

A: “One connoisseur to another”. And what are you going to give to ’im? Three and a half yards of lead piping?

H: I don’t want to discuss it with you any further. You just wouldn’t understand. As Lucrezia Borgia said, To the evil all things is evil. Timothy said,

A: (suddenly pricking up again) Oh-ho, it’s Timothy NOW is it?

H: Mr Stanhope is a very cultivated man. I could learn a lot from him.

A: (downbeat) I bet you could

H: He’s an expert. He knows all there is to know about antiques. He’s gonna be very useful for when I open my shop. (enthused and admiring) He knows all about art and music and literature. And I want to know about them too. (proud) We’re going to the ballet tomorrow night

A: (plaintively) But you always go down to the Skinners Arms on Friday and ‘ave a go at Dolly Miller - she’ll be expectin yer.

H: Then you’ll have to tell I’ve got another engagement, wontcher? I can’t build my life around the Skinners Arms and Dolly Miller. (adopting posher tones) There are broader horizons than hers. If you’ll forgive, I’m going to the ballet with Timothy and that’s all there is to it.

A: (growling to himself) Ballet! Poof’s football, that’s all that is!


(H comes down to A eating supper. H enters with composed strut, as is wearing new clothes, long jerkin-waistcoat, long scarf, and a bag slung over one shoulder. A looks on aghast)

A: Gord-blimey! What does ‘e look like? You’re not going out on the street dressed like that, are yer?

H: I’m glad you don’t like it. That shows it must be alright

A: Did ‘e buy that for yer

H: No he didn’t! I bought it. Don’t you worry, I pay my wack.

A: (mocking) Oh, I see you’ve got yer ‘andbag with yer?

H: This is a gent’s shoulderbag, this is. It’s to prevent any unsightly bulges in the trousers.

A: Man’s shoulderbag! (slightly pitying) Oh stop it Harold, before it’s too late, you don’t know what you’re letting yerself in for.

H: Oh for Gawd’s sake, father, get on with your fromage, stop fussing around me. I shall probably be home late tonight

A: Again? You’ve been out every night this week. Where yer going?

H: Mind your own business. I’m going out with Timothy. Alright?

A: ‘Arold. I am here, to tell you, that you’ll get yerself talked about.

(again adopting posher tones over his cockney) Talked about, by whom, pray?

A: The neighbours, for a start

H: The neighbours? You don’t seriously think I’m concerned with the tittle-tattle of the local petiTT-bourgeoisie, do you? I mean, what would they know of the beauty of the Homeric union between two cultured minds?

A: ‘Arold, you’re on the turn!

H: I’m not on the turn! Look, will you try to realise that what Timothy and I have is a straightforward aesthetic and Platonic relationship. Gawd-blimey, just because he talks a little better than you…

A: Yeah, and wears scent.

H: He don’t wear scent. He wears aftershave lotion. He’s a very cultivated, and a cultured man. He might be a bit arty-crafty, but that don’t mean he’s a poof!

A: Does to me!

H: That remark is typical of you! I’ve said all I’ve got to say! Look, try to understand father – he’s opened my mind to a world of beauty and refinement which is unassailable by vile innuendo and coarse jests!

A: You don’t even sound like ‘Arold

(H by door, ready to leave, turns around to point at A)
H: Furthermore, if I get any more, I shall punch you straight in the throat!

A: Ah, that’s better. ‘Arold, Don’t go out tonight, ‘Arold, stay in at ‘ome with me.

H: No I’m sorry father, I’m having dinner with Timmy

A: Dinner? Where?

H: Round his flat, if you must know

A: (worried) Oh no, ‘Arold, don’t go round to his flat. ( hurriedly and tearfully) Ask ‘im round ‘ere. I’ll get some fish and chips. We’ll use your mother’s best fish knives. They’re still in the box. Please, ‘Arold, don’t go round to ‘is flat - it’s a trap!

(H: explaining) Look, it’s a business dinner. It’s a working dinner, a business conference. Look, he’s found some premises that’ll make a nice little shop for me. He’s going to put the money up.

A: The filthy swine!

H: He’s doing me a favour.

A: Yeah! And what’s he getting out of it?!

H: He’s getting a share of the profits. That is all. It’s a straight forward business deal. It’s what we’ve always wanted. You’re included

A: Not me, mate, I wouldn’t touch a penny of his money. He’s not gonna get away with this. I’ll ‘ave you made a ward of court! I’ll ‘ave the police on ‘im for corruptin a minor!

H: Pater, I’m thirty-nine years old. (puts on large-brimmed hat)

A: (in horror) Oh - no! No, ‘Arold, ‘Arold, please stop it before it’s too late. Come back to the straight and narrow. I saw Dolly Miller today.

H: with disdain) How uninterestin.

A: She was arskin for yer (lewd wink) You’ll be alright there. You was always keen on ‘ere, weren’t yer?

H: Well yes, in an h’animalistic sort of a way. But there was never any rapport of the intellect. Nah, she’s as dim as a glowworm’s armpit, she is.

A: But she’s dead keen. Ring ‘ er up. Blow ‘im out and go around and give Dolly a seeing to. You’ll feel much better.

H: I am not interested in Dolly Miller. A whole new life is opening up before me, and I’m not gonna let it go. I’ve lived in ugliness long enough.

A: (softly) ‘Arold. Be careful

H: I’m quite capable of looking after myself. Thank you very much

(A turns and suddenly picks up a truncheon off sidedresser)
A: E’re, put his in yer ‘andbag. And if he tries anything, ‘it ‘im!

(H takes truncheon and slams it on table)
H: For the last time! There’s nothing wrong with Timmy! Now, with your approval, I shall now go to my dinner.

A: ‘Arold! Don’t go on the bus wearin that! The skin’ead’s’ll get yer!

(H at the door turns to speak to A)
H: I’ve no intention on going on the bus ever again. Timmy’s sending his chauffeur round to pick me up. Goodnight, father. Don’t wait up for me.

A: Alright! Go! I don’t care! I knows what’s gonna ‘appen to you mate! You’re gonna finish up in a drag show down at the Skinner’s Arms. (scowl, which creases into look of genuine concern)


TS’s apartment. TS and H sat across from each other at an intimate table, just finishing meal

H: (in his plumy voice) That was absolutely superb! (dabs mouth on napkin, beat) What Was it?

T: That was a jarret de veau menager.

H: (covering) Oh yes, I thought it was. Beautiful

T: I wasn’t too sure about the wine

H: Oh your fears was groundless. No, the Château Lafite Rothschild ’59? was a superb complement to the jarret de, er, to the meat.

T: Oh I’m so glad. Only I’m not a great wine drinker myself

(H: brightly) Oh aren’t you? Oh, That’s something I can educate you on

T: (intrigued) Oh…

H: As Montaigne said, a meal without wine is like a day without sunshine

T: Oh? Was that Montaigne?

H: I believe it was. It was either ‘im or Fanny Craddock
(smiling TS pours more wine for H)

H: ‘Ang on, ‘ang on! You’ll get me Brahms and Liszt in a moment. About our little bit of business

T: No, no, not now dear boy, we’ll talk business later. (rising from table) Let us relax and enjoy ourselves (gestures to seat) Now help yourself to the Armagnac. I’ll just go get into something more comfortable. Make yourself comfortable on the couch. Is it hot in here, or is it me?

(H, oblivious, pats face with scarf)

H: It’s hot, it’s very hot

T: I thought it was. I won’t be a minute.

(waves to TS as he leaves) Yes, right, right.

(H drains glass, stands up, walks around table, slightly drunk, moves into main part of apartment with many attractive furnishings to couch)

H: (taking it all in) Ah it’s beautiful!

(H sits on couch, stretches out and luxuriates, then sees brandy and pours himself a largish glass)

H: Ah look at that! Birmingham cut glass, Stourbridge. Beautiful! That’s Stourbridge, 1893?

(TS re-enters room)

T: Ah that’s better

(H turns around to see TS is now dressed in rich dressing gown/smoking jacket. H suddenly realises what the situation is, look of panic flashes face as he takes a large gulp of brandy. TS comes around, sits next to H on couch and stretches arm along seat behind H who sits bolt upright away from TS)

T: Don’t you find it rather warm in here?

H: (anxiously changing topic) No-no-no. About the site for the shop?

T: These lights are rather harsh don’t you think?

(TS turns off sidelamp. H swivels head nervously about)

T: You were saying?

H: Yes, about, about the site for the shop?

(T: cutting across H) You know I’m still awfully hot. Feel my hands.
(TS extends palm, which H momentarily touches)

H: Oh yes. How very clammy.

T: Why don’t you take off your scarf and relax? (fingers scarf)

H: No, no, (pulls scarf back) I, I’d rather keep it on if you don’t mind. I’m quite cold actually.

T: Are you? (suddenly takes H’s hand)

H: (unexpectedly brusquely) Watch it mate.

T: (lets go of H’s hand) What’s the matter?

H: (goes back to being politely evasive) No, no, nothing, honestly. It’s just nerves. It’s the excitement. With the shop and all that

T: You know, your hands are just as hot as mine.

(H is wringing his hands by now)

T: Exquisitely shaped hands you have for a man!

H: Have I? I hadn’t looked.

T: Oh yes! The first thing I notice about people, their hands. Yours are exceptionally fine, such sensitive fingers. (leans in) Do you play the piano?

H: No, not really. I used to bash out a few tunes down at the old NAFFI. (mimes ”In the Mood”, with every bar bumping in his seat away from TS)

T: Harold! You’re nervous of me, aren’t you?

H: No I’m not.

T: Yes you are. You’re very tense. You don’t have to be frightened of me. I’m not going to hurt you.

H: I know.

(TS moves across seat closer to H again)

T: Harold, I’ve grown very fond of you, you know that don’t you?

H: Have you?

T: Yes

H: Yes. (pause) It’s getting late. I better be going.

O T: h no. It’s early yet.

H: (fakes yawn) Oh dear, oh dear, I’m so tired.

T: Oh Harold, don’t go yet! You’ve only just arrived.

(As H stands up, Ts does too, standing very close to him)

T: You can’t go yet.

H: I think I’d better.

(H steps behind seat away from TS)

T: Oh please, Harold. Don’t go. I’m a very lonely man, Harold.

H: Are you?

T: Hmmm.

H: Why don’t you come down the boozers. A load of us gets in there. We has a knees-up, a game of darts and chat up a few birds.

T: Oh don’t be so silly. Who wants to go out looking for girls?

H: I do! I can’t get enough of them! The more the merrier!

T: This is not like you.

(T steps toward H, and follows him as H gradually makes for the front door)

H: It is! You don’t know me!

T: But Harold! What have I said? What have I done? Whatever it is, I apologise.

H: Nothing, you aint said nothing

T: But you’re upset. I’ve offended you.

(gets man-satchel off coathook by front door)

H: No I’m not. Good night. I’ll see ya.

T: Oh Harold! We haven’t talked about the shop!

H: Well I’ve changed me mind. I don’t want no shop. Er, no offense, good night.

(opens front door. Outside is a police inspector)

P: Hello, hello. What are you doing here?

H: (panicked)Nothing! Nothing. No, I’m absolutely innocent. Nothing’s happened here.

P: Oh yes. What’s your name?

H: It’s Arthur. Arthur Johnson

(TS looks away)

H: (attempting a mumbled Scouse accent) I’m from Liverpool. I’ve just come up for the match. I’ve hot a train to catch. Must get back to the wife and kids.

(runs off. Policeman steps into apartment. Shuts door behind him)

T: (dryly) Hello Edgar. You’re home early.

[shot of Edgar looking on in consideration.

Cut to H outside in the street and who is appalled,. Swings his man-satchel in frustration. Runs down the street, then turns to flick a few “v”s behind him. Cut to another street. Harold runs on. Goes down a flight of steps. Rings doorbell, then bangs on the door. Cries out urgently “Dolly!”. Surprised woman opens the door clad in only a negligee. H suddenly clasps her to him, kissing her repeatedly about the neck. She squeals in approval. She steps back inside, and H follows her, shutting the door behind them.]

(H comes in the next morning confirming that “she” did fancy him after all. A is disgusted with him, and tells him to get out, his bags are packed. Dolly Miller then arrives to return the man-satchel H left behind at her place last night. A realises “she” is a genuine woman. For one brief moment A is proud of H’s heterosexuality, and then reverts to type, disgusted at H’s permissive shennaigans)

Friday, 5 June 2009

273: Fag Rock 8 - The Phantom of the Paradise

Phantom of the Paradise (1974)
Written and directed by Brian De Palma

If you haven’t seen “Phantom of the Paradise” you won’t believe how much fun you’ve missed. I certainly think it hangs together better as a story than “Rocky Horror”. A better discovery on late night TV certainly. In its own exuberant yet allusive way, it also offers more of the traditional electric pleasures of a horror flick than “Rocky”’s supposed playing about with the same sort of cheesy B-flick conventions. You can call much of it camp in one way or another. It’s the character of Beef, played by Gerrit Graham, which I’m interested in here. Graham had camped it up in an earlier De Palma film, “Greetings” (1968), when he shows his friend how he should pretend to act gay so as to get out of military duty. That bit of schtick was played as insinuating and seductive for maximum comic contrast. Here Grahame is a bit more nasal and abrasive (almost but not quite lisping), more of a bitchy queen, projecting the incompetent egotism of the character. Such a massive man in glitter costume and platform boots only makes for further comically incongruous effeminacy, particularly with occasional limp wrists and hands on hips or else waggling his bottom on stage. There’s a later scene where he frolics about in hair curlers and then takes a shower in his little plastic shower hat. The film satirises the music industry, so each of the singers in the film is hired on-screen on the pretext of cashing in on some current musical trend. So Beef isn’t merely an agglomeration of faggy mannerisms but embodies some slight suggestion of relevant comment. Although, that he is a feaqsible commercial figure, no matter how ridiculous, is satire in itself. Some gay men liked the film at the time. Some reviews in gay magazines found the character of Beef an insulting travesty. I wince ever so slightly but it’s not really offensive, and the film is just too much fun. Being genuinely entertaining will redeem anything in my ledger.

Wednesday, 3 June 2009

272: Fag Rock 7 - Alice Bowie

“Alice Bowie”

Starts at 2:00

From “Cheech and Chong’s Wedding Album” (1974)
Written by Tommy Chong, Gaye DeLorme, and Richard Moore

My momma talkin' to me tryin' to tell me how to live
But I don't listen to her 'cause my head is like a sieve
My daddy, he disowned me 'cause I wear my sister's clothes
He caught me in the bathroom with a pair of pantyhose

My basketball coach, he done kicked me off the team
For wearin' high-heel sneakers and actin' like a queen

The world's comin' to an end, I don't even care
As long as I can have a limo and my orange hair
And it don't bother me if people think I'm "funny"
'Cause I'm a big rock star and I'm makin' lots of money
money, money, money, money, money, money

Musically, this is probably the most ambitious of the various parodies.
As an actual performance on stage, it’s pretty bloody groanworthy, if not outright abysmal.
Putting on a pink tutu and pratting about on the stage like a bad Chuck Berry has little to do with the original song, and is not a terribly ambitious means of eliciting laughs. Baahhh.
God forbid, but this even gets its own Wikipedia entry. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earache_My_Eye

271: Fag Rock 6 - Mascara Rock Star

From “Christmas Cards”, by Judith Wax, illustration by Buck Browne, “Playboy” December 1973

Honestly, this is more like something from an issue of “Mad”, but the subject matter puts it a bit outside of “Mad”’s comfort zone. They were still making jokes about smelly hippies. This doesn't take ony stronger position than assuming it all stems from confusion as to whether they're a boy or a girl.

270: Fag Rock 5 - New York Dolls parody

You want decadence? I’ll give you decadence. Let me form a band.

It’s called Major Lips and the Peeholes. Major Lips is a huge bull dyke who plays electric dildo. The rest of the group is also female, except for the bass player, who no one is quite sure about, because he/she performs in a full butyl-rubber suit such as they wear in the Chemical Corp when detoxifying nerve gas. The other Peeholes perform topless and have their nipples made up to resemble tiny fanged mouths. The glass heels of their platform shoes contain live cockroaches, which slowly die during the evening.

OK. The band heralds its arrival by playing a loud tape of several people throwing up. Then, as slides of various afterbirths are projected onto a huge screen behind them, the Peeholes run onstage, grab their instruments and play an instrumental called "Beer Farts". Now it's time for the entrance of the lead: singer. The drummer does a roll and Major Lips plays her dildo, filling the auditorium with great amplified slush-slushes, and onto the stage prances a high-energy (he's a Leo) gay in Puerto Rican drag. He is called Diarrhea Montez. He looks like a cross between Judy Garland and Cesar Romero. And he has leprosy! So he comes running on, leaving little pieces of himself in a trail behind him, grabs the mike and shoves it up his ass! Yes, he actually sticks it right up the old chocolate factory! And. . . it turns out. . . this is how he sings! The band comes in behind him and, without ever removing the mike, he launches into the Peeholes' current top-ten smash, "Back Door Sheep". And his voice isn't bad!

But wait! They've only started! Before they leave the stage, they hurl dead cats into the audience, hawk phlegm at one another (while singing "Sister Mucus"), bite the heads off live chickens and murder three members of the audience! Now this is decadence!


by Chris Miller
in “Playboy” December 1973

Chris Miller was hired to do this little piece by “Playboy” because he was making a name for himself at “National Lampoon”. He would later go on to co-write “Animal House”. In the editorial intro it’s made explicit that is intended as a parody of The New York Dolls. So, even more than the National Lampoon “Rim Shot” piece, the only perspective this takes is how far can you go in sexual gross-out. I don’t think William Burroughs would turn his nose up at this.

269: Fag Rock 4 - Jesus Christ Superstar

"Jesus Christ Superstar" – Herod’s Song (1973)
Directed by Norman Jewison
Script by Norman Jewison and Melvyn Bragg
Music by Andrew Lloyd-Webber, Lyrics by Tim Rice

And since the last post mentioned “Jesus Christ Superstar”, here’s a little something that’s pertinent to the discussion.

It’s not so much the song but the production which is stylised and comedically camp (particularly since Mostel is such a weak singer, it’s hard to get a real sense of the song, which sounds more like a 1920s jazz effort than yer actual glam rock). Cabaret and The Rocky Horror Picture Show are suffused with a decadent, camp aesthetic, so that is an intrinsic part of the material. The camp extravagance of costumes and mannerisms here (which strike me as being more turn of the decade) is only one section of this musical, and is therefore intended to be a vamp in a comic camp style. It’s a difference in intent and its framing within the work as a whole.

268: Fag Rock 3 - The Goodies

The Goodies
“Superstar”, 7 July 1973
Written by Bill Odie and Graeme Garden, with Tim Brooke-Taylor
“I don’t want your love” by Bill Oddie and Michael Gibbs

Barbara Mitchell as "Isabel Chintz"
John Peel as Jimmy Saville, the host of "Top of the Pops"

The Goodie’s comic satire of the contemporary music business. The first half isn’t germane to my purpose. Watch it if you like, I’m not the boss of you, see if I care, but you won’t get credit either way. The basic set-up is that The Goodies decide that popular music is becoming too sexual. The upshot of assorted auditions is that only Bill gets signed to an agent. The agent establishes Bill’s image as a virile famous pop star called “Randy Pandy” (a pun on the children’s character Andy Pandy, and the word randy, meaning horny). Fearing that the British public maybe in danger of getting bored with him, she decides he needs an image change, and that he will play the lead in a new rock musical, “St Augustine Superstar”.

ISABEL: You are gonna star in a new rock musical. And this is it: Saint Augustine - Superstar.
TBT: That sounds rather nice.
ISABEL: Don't you believe it. He's Saint Augustine.
TBT (horrified): Him!
ISABEL: Oh yes yes yes. He's pure, he's good and he's holy, but above all he's unbearably sexy.
TBT: No he's not.
BO: Yes he is!
TBT: Not.
ISABEL: He's got all the girls screaming for him...
BO: Yes! Yes!
ISABEL: So what does he do?
ISABEL: He goes into a monastery.
ISABEL: Yes, along with all the fellas, you see what I mean?
(She nudges Tim suggestively.)
GG: Oh, come off it. Saint Augustine wasn't a.... nancy.
ISABEL: He is in here. To an extent.
TBT: How much of an extent?
ISABEL: A large extent.
BO: Yeah, yeah, but what about me groupies, miss? I don't want...
ISABEL: Oh, don't worry, hun. This way you get everybody going for you. See, the butch fellas like you 'cause you're not after their sheilas, the sheilas like you 'cause they want to convert you, and you even score in the twilight zone.

Starts at 1:55

So in this parody, glam rock isn’t about sexual liberation, it’s only calculatedly marketing sexual ambivalence for commercial reasons. While you can make some sort of argument that there is a degree of social comment in all this about music and sexuality - that the music titillates its audience of young girls under cover of gay insinuations - really, it’s an opportunity to make jokes about behaving camply. Which is the major problem with many of The Goodies’ attempts at satire - their idea of what is funny is too similar to what the audience for an ITV sitcom would also find funny. It doesn’t go against the grain enough, and so as time moved on, The Goodies got left behind. Hell, we’re only watching it for historical reasons. Earlier in the same episode there are jokes about money-grubbing Jewish lawyers with comically large noses. It’s all that sort of level. In the same way, later on, it’s funny to call someone a “Superpoof”, but for somebody to think you’re a poof is deeply annoying, and hence also funny. Camp men showing their attraction is also amusing. Between the three different gays played by Tim, Graeme, and Bill, you get them dressed up in leather, furs, and shiny materials. And the need to put on gruff voices, and prove you’re not really poofs.
You also get a parody of “Jesus Christ Superstar”, the film version of which had come out only a couple of months earlier the same year. It’s more a parody of the “Top of the Pops” than the musical. So here’s Bill in outrageous costume, pouting, pawing with his limp wrist, skipping about on the stage, and then stripping down to his undergarments. The Mincing Monks are neither subtle as a joke nor as a performance (though they are played by The Fred Tomlinson Singers, for Monty Python trivia fans).
Youtube is not the finest medium, and so I can’t tell whether the final joke of Tim and Graeme, still dressed as gay men, being chased off by police and sailors, is because the mob fancies them, or because they want to beat them up in frustration and disgust.
There may be little bits cut out of this. Apparently the Australians censored this quite heavily. Gay jokes were not popular in Australia in the mid-70s. When Dick Emery went on tour, some parts of the Australian media said he was disgusting for playing a homosexual.

267: Fag Rock 2 - Michael Heath

Michael Heath
from “The Gay 1970s” in “Punch”, 4 April 1973

These are 3 cartoons from a series of 5 about the greater prominence of homosexuality in contemporary British life. It’s telling that all these focus on homosexuality in the arts and entertainment side of things. The idea of homosexuality they portray is a little out of touch, and doesn’t quite reconcile old ideas of homosexuality with its contemporary practice. It’s more about transvestism than homosexuality, rising drag acts like Hinge and Brackett. But then its easier to point at the clothes and say “fag”, than it is to have to think about what the rest of it means So these are more like jokes for your dad, as “Punch” sees something has changed but doesn’t really know what to make of it. I’m inclined to point the figure more at the editorial policy of the magazine than at Michael Heath.

266: Fag Rock 1 - Rim Shot

They tried to change the world with their shiny trousers, rouged nipples and space alieny androgynous antics

I’m far from erudite about rock music, so the following is probably even less accurate than my usual guff-spumes.
Anyway, the early/mid 1970s saw the arrival of assorted brands of rock music stigmatised by traditional rock fans as “fag rock”.
“Fag rock” performers tended to dress in extravagant styles, suggestive of drag sometimes, they tended to camp about on stage, and when they weren’t singing the table of contents from “The Best Science Fiction 1972”, they were hinting at sexual ambiguity. If they were feeling particularly brave, they might even claim to be a little bit bisexual.
In England there was “glam rock”. In America there was The New York Dolls. And there was the transatlantic success of David “Laughing Gnome” Bowie and Elton John. And Jobriath for the special bonus points section of this quiz.
Gender-bending had been addressed in songs like The Beatles “Get Back”, The Kinks “Lola”, and the Rolling Stones had dragged up for the cover of “Have You Seen Your Mother, Baby”, but those had been one-offs, not the basis for an entire musical catalogue.

These are the comedic responses to this music at the time. In at least half of the cases they’re no more thoughtful than the jokes about The Beatles when they first became popular. I’m sure I could trawl through old copies of NME, Rolling Stone and any number of old rock mags for unenlightened jokes from hacks embittered by the pollution and disgusting emasculation of their pure, manly rock n’ roll. In which vein see this later sketch about The Village People on Saturday Night Live. Although when you look at a band like “Sweet” performing, they’re probably more than halfway to deliberate sexual parody anyway. Since music was another area where homosexuality was making itself expressed, these don’t employ the comic contrast of jokes about gay cowboys or soldiers, but are satirical exaggerations of a current social trend. In at least a couple of instances it’s an attempt by the humorist to one-up the bands in effeminacy and outrage.

An imaginative, if not wholly effective, means of acquainting yourself with this musical period is Todd Hayne’s film “Velvet Goldmine”. Even if you don’t care for the music, there’s the very pretty Jonathan Rhys-Meyers and Ewan Macgregor to occupy the eyes. And even Christian Bale, before he decided that a more tight-arsed interpretation of Russell Crowe’s award-winning impression of the delivery of several hundredweight of gravel was the way to go with his career.

“Rim Shot” National Lampoon, October 1972.

A parody of the tendency for rock bands to feature provocative covers on their albums and include ever-more controversial material in their songs. How far can you go? Besides describing the harsher effects of drugs, hymning anal sex, why not analyse pretences to heterosexuality while being blown by another man. Bad taste ahoy! This pastiche is supposedly a long suppressed Rolling Stones album. The lavatory mis-en-scene recalls the “Beggar’s Banquet” cover. Don’t bother trying to figure out who’s supposed to represent whom. (from left to right)Tony Hendra, Michael O’Donoghue, Michael Gross, P.J. O’Rourke, and Sean Kelly