musings, Uncategorized

12 Angry North Londoners

 

Unknown.jpegLike so many, I am gripped by Making a Murderer.

I am only halfway through, and this may all change (may? the twists come every 8 to 10 seconds), but  it brings to mind the time I did Jury Service in the mid 80s.(Does it, does it really?)

I was a young fresh keen TV PA at a multi national advertising agency. There was no reason to refuse. It was only a couple of weeks.

So up I pitch at Wood Green Magistrates Court.Unknown-3.jpeg We are herded into a room and wait for the call up. I have been advised to show some form of individuality, as it makes you less likely to be picked for serious cases. I carry a pink rubber briefcase.

There is  much hanging around.

images-5.jpeg The court I go into has a selection of many barristers all getting to reject two jurors each. It goes on a long time and there is squabbling.

I stand before them and I am approved for service.  The lurid neoprene bag was not frivolous enough.  I represented youth.

The case is the Crown against 10 young chaps. They had allegedly caused an Affray at a party. Tricky  as we don’t actually understand what affray is and why it is an offence. It is one down from Riot apparently.  A bundle. Two of them are up for ABH as well, which feels nastier.

And it begins. Ten barristers for defence (one each) . And one for the prosecution. Which means this case goes on forever. Every witness is cross-examined eleven times.

I decide early on, in my wet liberal  middle-class  way , that the police are in the wrong here. It becomes evident that this was a botched raid. No WPO, no search warrants, a lot of fuss.

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Whenever there was a dispute, and there were many, the jury was asked to adjourn to an airless windowless room. Twelve disgruntled disparates around a table with no distractions. A chap called Alan brought in his Sun, so he had a certain following in the group as they ogled the  Page 3’s.

I had one friend, a chain smoking social worker. And another guy in PR who I met on the bus. We did not approve.

Once, after a baked potato and chilli at lunchtime, I had to urgently go to the loo while in the horrid waiting room. My bottom exploded. Everyone heard. No one said anything.

On and on the case went. We even  had a day trip to the scene of the crime, where the party was held. A tiny flat in Friern Barnet. Proof again that the events could not have happened as described by the officers on site.

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Bachelor Party 1984

Because I was very conscientious, I would often go to my day job really early in the morning  and at the end of the day. Just to keep my hand in. There is nothing like an ambitious 20- something.

Sometimes for whatever reason the jury let off for the day.  One afternoon we were told we may not be sitting the next day because one of the barristers was sick, but to turn up first thing anyway to find out.

I rock up to the courthouse just before 10am  and three of the defendants are walking towards me.
We nod, and they start talking to me. I turn off my Walkman, and they are telling me to go home, the session is cancelled. So I thank them and turn tail and head into town.

Only on the tube does it strike me I have been hobnobbing with the criminals.

I call Wood Green as soon as I get to my desk and get told that yes, I should never have spoken to them let alone taken their word for it,  and it could jeopardise the whole case. Three weeks in and I could be the victim of jury tampering.

Luckily I have been witnessed by someone worthy and the case continues.

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Party Party 1983

Perhaps at this point I need to describe the accused. All male, late teens early twenties, one really good looking, one well dressed (known to us as nice shirt), a few non descripts and a couple of meaner types (the two ABH’s)

They mostly  looked liked guys we would possibly hang out with. And the party sounded like one we could have been to.

shopping_city_wood_green.jpgThe case continues.More commute, lots of Wood Green Shopping Centre, hours and hours tolerating the laddy chat.

The case is drawing to a close. We start chatting to some of the others girls on the jury in the canteen. I am funny. “Just like that Dawn French”. We are suddenly a bit of a gang.

We are instructed after the closing statements to go back to the Room and pick a foreman.

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Twelve Angry Men

 

Alan- TheSun -Man  gets nominated. Obvs. But to my surprise PR pal nominates me. It is put to the vote. My comedy fans vote for me.

I am the Foreman. Blimey.

I have to then admit that I have irresponsibly  left my notes at home that day and borrow someone else’s.

I find out a lot about people. Unlike me and my sweeping opinions and pre conceptions, most of my fellow jurors were meticulous in their study of the evidence. We debated for hours and hours. It was interesting and fulfilling.

The general conclusion was that there was no Affray.

But if that was dismissed then there was no case for ABH, and those two boys were nasty.

We were a hung jury. 10 to 2 for innocence. I stood in the dock in my green fluffy jumper  and told the judge. He said we had to have the full set.

More debate. A bit of manipulation – “ if we don’t reach a conclusion soon we will be put up in a horrid  hotel overnight”

And finally, NOT GUILTY. I said that!images-7.jpeg

It has taken six weeks.

The crew and I retired to the pub and patted ourselves on the back.

We were mostly disappointed that the newly freed chaps didn’t come to join us and buy us copious vodka.

See you Manitowoc County.

 

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Oh, the Comic Strip

 

In the 70’s there was of Monty Python, Dave Allen and a smattering of the Goons, Morecombe and Wise and the Two Ronnies.

Unknown-2.jpeg But on the telly there was also Dick Emery, Benny Hill, The Comedians,the likes of Frank Carson, Bernard Manning and Freddie Starr.images-6.jpeg

Unattractive men telling mother in law jokes and making cracks about Paki’s.

To be honest it wasn’t in my world, I was too busy with O levels and boys and going to gigs.

Happily in the early 80’s the antidote in the form of Alternative Comedy, to combat all that sexism and racism. And we were all over it.

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On Friday and Saturday nights, at 11.30, we would climb the stairs above Raymond’s Revue Bar (snigger), and immerse ourselves in something new and hilarious, the Comic Strip

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Usually hosted by Alexei Sayle.

In tight mohair suit and a porkpie hat, calling mime artistes bip and snot and singing Hello john have you go a new motor, he introduced such acts as:

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20th Century Coyote (the late wonderful and beautiful Rik Mayall and his crazy partner now successful cook show contestant Ade Edmonson). Dangerous.

The Outer Limits made up of Peter Richardson now an esteemed Director and Soho good egg, and respected actor Nigel Planer, Doing impersonations of space invaders and singing about Rakusens the Kosher Coitus Toast.

And French and Saunders testing the waters for sketches we will know and love for decades.

There waUnknown-4.jpegs also Arnold Brown a full time Hampstead accountant doing stand up at the weekends

“I’m Scottish and I’m Jewish,two racial stereotypes for the price of one.” 

 Other acts came and went, notably Chris Langham with the world’s best impersonation of an owl, Andy de La Tour Ben Elton.  Langham2.jpg

 

 

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images-10.jpeg One extraordinary night Robin Williams skipped on stage.

It was his Mork and Mindy period and he was a much more raw and dark version of the kooky movie star he was to become. He bounced into the crowd, borrowed an audience members “purse” and on stage proceeded to share the contents with us.

“Oh look, Cocaine. God’s way of telling you that you earn too much money”.

He took a fiver out of her purse (which at the time was equivalent to I don’t know, £25), put it in his back pocket and then returned the handbag. Never gave the cash back. Amazing.

All the acts (apart from the number cruncher) were SOOOO young. Fresh, vibrant, energetic and above all new.

We had enormous crushes on the prettiest of them, Rik and Peter, telling ourselves it was because of their wit and personality and not necessarily their cheekbones.

Not soon after we stopped being obsessive regulars, I was working with the then super sexy star of Hazell, Nicholas Ball.

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It was a party period for him, so he often turned up for voice-overs and lay on the floor gathering himself.

One time, prostrate, he told us that he had just done a TV recording with Rik, Ade, Nigel and Alexei.

He played a professor and there was a joke about a tampon and a Christmas tree.

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And thus the Young Ones exploded grubbily and surreally on our screens.

Hard to imagine. in these days of 8 out of 10 Cats and Mock the Week, but back in the day  it was unheard to think that guys you saw at a seedy club would one day come into your living rooms.

There were more comedy nights at various venues, and we keep going, watching guys we just saw in dingy clubs suddenly TV regulars, running quiz shows, doing Blankety Blank.

One notable night in 1979 we went to a benefit to raise money for Paul Merton, who sadly had fallen and broken his leg and needed cash while he wasn’t working. Have I got old news for you!

Then came Channel 4 who on their first night broadcast Five Go Mad in Dorset.

More sophisticated fare from the Comic Strip team and the first of a long running If sporadic series of brilliant and hilarious specials. Always bringing in great comic talent – Daniel Peacock, Robbie Coltrane, Lenny Henry, Kathy Burke, and David Hunter from Crossroads.images-14.jpeg

Each lampooning a genre. Each full of classic lines.

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Fistful of Travellers Cheques “I spit on your punk rock”, and from the Beat Generation (a look at a louche weekend retreat for artistes and musicians) “I’m just tired of this endless knobbing”

So begins 34 years and something like fifty perfect pieces of wit and satire, in groups or as one off specials, with Peter Richardson at the helm.

There was Gino which in my opinion is the best thing Keith Allen ever did except have a daughter who was talented for a while.Unknown-16.jpeg

The Strike, the Yob, GLH, Jealousy. The Feature film Churchill the Hollywood years.

And lately The Hunt for Tony Blair and Five Go to Rehab.Unknown-17.jpeg

And now, bang up to date, Comic Strip Presents Red Top.4903.jpg

Set inexplicably in the 70s, starring Maxine Peake as Rebekah Brooks with turns from Johnny Vegas, Stephen Mangan -reprising his role as images-4.jpegTony Blair, this time a rock star – and a mean Russell Tovey.

It also features Comic Strip Stalwarts, – Richardson coming out from the Director’s chair as Bob Harris, Harry Enfield, Nigel Planer and Alexei Sayle.

Biting and silly, which I think sums up the whole Comic Strip Presents oeuvre, it romped through ghastly Guardian employees, simpering Cameron, Murdoch and his ruthless Kill Bill Bride, and Ross “Listen Slag” Kemp.

It is funny and clever and both familiar and completely original.

May there be 50 more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Review, Uncategorized

Bowie Tribute at Union Chapel

We hear last Monday that there is going to be Starman, a Tribute to David Bowie hosted by the Union Chapel at the weekend. Click the link, buy tickets, and find out what it actually is later.

So on Sunday afternoon we are in Islington waiting Englishly in line for the doors of the Chapel to open. We are still none the wiser, there is no talk of a line up, just a remembrance tree and some face painting.

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As we are settle into our pews we are treated to some great songs on the organ (not the stuff on YouTube, we could see the organist) and a pretty good slide show in an awesome setting.

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The lights go down, and to get us in started, we are immediately encouraged to get on our feet and start singing “Starman” with Massaoke.

Embarrassing for about 3 seconds, and then we are well in the mood.

We are introduced  Stefan Simanowitz, who organized the event. Not exactly sure how, but pretty impressive. We hear  that he had the day off sick on Monday and then got on to it. The compere was a large blond loud Australian, John Robertson.151105_JonRobertson_small.jpg

He valiantly holds it together with a number of outlandish costume changes .At one moment of disorganisation, he chose to distract the audience with a story of when he and his wife first made love (to the soundtrack of Young Americans).

Lots of lovely unknown people came to the stage, some sounding like acts that may or may not have had Boy George turning for them on the Voice. Keen, shaky, heartfelt. One or two tragically didn’t know the words.

One girl sang “We are the Dead” as a piece of musical theatre (probably not deliberate) and brought to mind that Bowie had originally wanted Diamond Dogs to be a proper stage show.13180443935_cb35a31bfa_b.jpg

Peppered through the live acts was some great footage on the big screen, snippets of interviews, videos (“John I’m only dancing “with Lindsay Kemp mime cutaways, “China Girl”, the MTV interview) all beautifully framed by the majesty of the church.

We were up and down a lot too, just like a real service, joining in with all the familiar hymns.

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Who knew “Queen Bitch” would be the first most raucous sing-along?

There were big highlights in the first half – Maggie Ronson sharing her memories and joining in with the band.

Spizzenergy ramping it up with “Andy Warhol” and “Rebel Rebel”.

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Suitably punky and energetic, bedecked with light up rings and a belt with rolling neon type. Just the ticket.

A fabulous re-working of “Moonage Daydream” by a talented chap with a guitar.

And marvellously bizarre moments – the woman performing “Where are we Now” on a Saw. A Harpist. A scary man with a glitter facemask that I worry he will never get off.

There was a change of mood when Darren Walsh, winner of best joke at Edinburgh,( Hans free if you remember) showered us with puns and visual gags and a bit of musical jiggery pokery.
He shared a packet of Celebrations with the audience and told us they could be Heroes, just for one day.

He gave us

O         D          D           I              T             Y

(Space Oddity)

My kind of jokes.

Guy Pratt (bass for Roxy/Pink Floyd) talked us through having his photo taken with Bowie as a young musician in Icehouse, and then joined in the playing throughout the night.

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There was an interval, time to get a cup of tea and jot down our memories, and then lots more tunes.

We were hoping David McAlmont would turn up. After all we had seen him perform with Bernard at the Union Chapel before, and he does do a Bowie night in South London, so he knew the way there, and all of the words.

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And there he was, part of another rollicking karaoke moment, and then gifting us a heartbreakingly beautiful “Sweet Thing”.

Some truly great renditions of many many classics (and then you realise, ALL the songs are classics).

David Baddiel stood up and said pretty much what I say a lot – it wasn’t about being lost or confused for us young North London middle class Jewish Teenagers, it was the music. And he pointed out that Bowie was the best tunesmith ever (I concur).

He called the whole chaotic good-natured slightly strange evening “very North London”.

Des De Moor told us a touching story of his obviously fabulous cabaret show Darkness and Disgrace and treated us to “Slip Away”, which was pretty astounding.

Boe Huntress surprised us with a mesmerising and touching version of Lazarus. Incredible. And brave. Another super talented songstress treated us to “Wild is the Wind” with the help of Romeo Stodart.

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The wonderful “Chubby Little Loser” clip from Extras reminded us that Bowie was a very funny man, as did Clifford Slapper’s anecdotes from the actual recording. He said that he was asked to write some chords for the song in case Bowie didn’t, Bowie asked to hear them and then commented that the similarity was “Fucking Spooky”.

Simon Westbrook’s “Time” and Malcolm Doherty’s “After All” showed us how it was done, as did a tall guy in a frock and a frock coat who tackled Bewlay Brothers with verve and guts. With Quaaludes and red wine, Oh By Jingo, I’m starving for me gravy.IMG_0190.jpg

We had a Bad Seed and Dan Donovan from BAD, A Winkie. The Magic Numbers, Dan Gillsepie Sells from the Feeling, a couple of turns from Glen Matlock, Ian Hunter’s lovely daughter and the Featherz.

We heard of chaos backstage, and felt the love in the room.

It ended with all the performers on stage and 900 punters on their feet singing Heroes.

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And it was good.

My only regret really that so many performers didn’t get a proper name check, And we didn’t get to give them a congratulatory hug.

Thank you Union Chapel Folks, and of course, thank you David Bowie.

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