Saturday, 30 April 2011

Saturday, 23 April 2011

That Big Fat Gypsy Royal Wedding

Some two years ago or so, I was told by somebody close to an editor at a national newspaper that there’s no way that Photoshopped satire was ever going to succeed. At that time, I was producing one or two 'cartoons' a day. Occasionally a picture would get picked up by the newspapers and my blog would earn a mention. But as far as producing work for newspapers: they weren't interested. Editors, I was told, were very twitchy about the copyright issues of Photoshopped work. Like most people working in digital satire, I had to 'borrow' my source images from elsewhere. Working for nothing and producing no income from your work means that it’s impossible to pay photo agencies upwards of £50 a picture, which you then pull apart and combine with other pictures, also priced upwards of £50. It was a depressing thing to hear after two years working on ‘The Spine’ but I knew other Photoshop satirists were discovering the same thing.

Realising I needed to do something different, I quit the blog and went off to write a couple of books. Yet at the same time, I was also being enlightened by reading Nige’s blog. It was Nige who introduced me to the work of B. Kliban. I’d always been a huge fan of cartoons but I'd never studied them with any seriousness. It was through Nige that I started to form an attachment to the holy trinity of Ronald Searle, Ralph Steadman, and Gerald Scarfe. American illustrators interested me less, though I would eventually be drawn to the work of American counter-culture cartoonists, notably Robert Crumb, Spain Rodriguez and Drew Friedman, as well as modern satirists like Steve Brodner, Pat Oliphant, and Tim Kreider. Yet discovering Kliban was an utter revelation. His cartoons filled an empty space in my brain. The first time I saw one of his gags, the click was almost audible. I realised that I wanted to try real cartooning myself, that the execution mattered less than the joke, and that I should try to draw the kinds of cartoon that amuse me.

I began posting the results on my private blog. At the beginning, they were very basic line drawings created in Adobe Illustrator. I couldn't draw but that wasn't the point. I just wanted to create cartoons that made me laugh.

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I created hundreds of cartoons over a year or so until a couple of real artists who read the blog persuaded me to start using ink.

Ink! It was a horrendous feeling at first. I couldn’t get over the fact that there was no CTRL+Z to allow me to go back and fix my (many) mistakes. I also wasn't set up for using pen and ink. It was a matter of simple things like arranging a place to draw, buying a lamp, a drawing board (and eventually a chair and drawing table). It was finding the right instruments, struggling to understand how dip pens work, and to find which pens suited me. Then I had to find the right paper. I began drawing at A3 scale but discovered it was far too big for the one or two cartoons I was trying to produce every day. Then there was the physical side of sitting over a desk, living with my fingers almost perpetually covered in ink... But I was cartooning on a daily basis and I was enjoying publishing the results on my private blog.

Yet daily satirical cartoons have a short shelf-life and I realised that I might as well do something with them. I’m working on other things which keep me busy and it sometimes makes it a struggle to update here every day. Some weeks, like this last week, I'm not in an ideal mood to cartoon. Yet for all its sins, badly-drawn figures (sometimes, to my chagrin, commented upon, sometimes not), jokes which only I find amusing, and the horrorshow of the statistics, this blog has been something I’ve enjoyed.

Yet the world’s hard brutal irony has a way of creeping up on a guy.

I link to Gerald Scarfe’s website because he still has the devil’s flair. His strokes are wild, loose, yet absolutely precise. I buy his books. I search out his work in the newspapers. I check his online shop. I try to figure out his techniques and yet get nowhere when I study his crosshatching.

Today I noticed that there’s a new book listed there… It’s called ‘The Big Fat Gypsy Royal Wedding’ and it’s written by Scarfe’s two sons, Alex and Rory. It’s a clever idea, looks a funny book, and I'd encourage you to go out and buy it (though only after I've begged you to buy the book listed top right of this blog). But what frustrates me, leaves me standing against the wall banging my head against the plasterwork until my brains leak into the cavity beyond, isn’t the fact that it’s is a royal wedding satire when I couldn’t get a publisher to look at the book I’d written eight months ago…

It’s the simple fact that it’s not a book of cartoons. There’s not a single bit of splattered ink in sight.

What frustrates me, makes me gasp with sheer irony of it all is the one simple fact: the whole bloody thing is Photoshopped.

Ed Miliband Set For Op to Cure 'Bunged-up' Voice

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The Grand Scheme of Things

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A Little Minecraft Humour

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Don't worry, I'm just clearing my sketchbook of dumb ideas and this cartoon makes no sense unless you're one of only 2 million people who play this game and also have a sense of humour as inexplicable as my own...


Friday, 15 April 2011

Margate’s New Gallery Celebrates Opening With Tracey Emin Goose Installation

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Margate’s new £17.5 million gallery of contemporary art was opened today by artist Tracy Emin who provided the gallery with its newest installation as she strangled a live goose on the steps. Watched by civic dignitaries, Emin explained how the goose’s struggle was symbolic of the creative act of getting up in the afternoon, scratching yourself, randomly doing something, and then presenting the result to a gallery for a nice slice of Art Council funding. The goose will now be attached to a fifteen metre rubber hosepipe and installed the main hall where visitors will be encouraged to play it like a bugle.

‘This is going to be on the country’s best galleries so I was delighted to be on hand to strangle this goose and to turn it into a rubberised bugle,’ said Emin.

Animal rights campaigners did not mar the event after being assured that it was only a metaphorical goose strangulation being used for the purposes of lowbrow satire.

Miliband Makes Amends For Gaff

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Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Roman Abramovich Buys The Art World's Most Flawed Masterpiece

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I know... Not come out as well as I'd hoped. Surprisingly difficult to produce a parody of Edvard Munch with your fourth attempt at using watercolours. Bloody stuff gets everywhere. You should see the state of my carpet...

Church of England Cracks Down On Sham Marriages

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Back Soon

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I will take some small crumb of comfort knowing that this cartoon goes live just as I sit down in that damn chair.

As it says, back soon...

Friday, 8 April 2011

Man With Three Voice Boxes Earns Promotion

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In any normal walk of life, the misfortune of being born with three voice boxes would be considered a disadvantage.

‘You would think that. You might think that. That’s something you might consider,’ says Gary Neville, an unemployed 36-year-old from Manchester, who has bravely overcome his disability to be awarded the lucrative job of Sky Sports' annoying pundit, a position recently vacated by Andy Gray.

After years of therapy, Gary has learned to overcome his problems by training each of his voice boxes to say the same thing but in a slightly different way. He finds it a boon when commentating on matches.

‘Sir Alex always said you had to keep going,’ said Gary as he put pen to paper on the five year deal at twelve o’clock today. ‘Sir Alex never let us give up. Sir Alex said you had to keep playing until you hear the final whistle.’

Yet as disability groups celebrate Gary’s success, there have been some who cast doubt on the appointment.

‘Three voice boxes might be an advantage,’ said an anonymous source inside Sky, ‘but not one of them can say a decent thing about Liverpool.’

When this was put to him, Neville responded with remarkable candour. ‘Sir Alex said that you should always respect the opposition. Respect the opposition, that’s what Sir Alex always used to say. At the end of the day, you have to beat the team on the field especially when they’re a team like Liverpool.’

Sky are delighted in their new acquisition and have dismissed concerns that some viewers might be annoyed by Neville’s habit of rephrasing whatever he’s said another two times.

In unrelated news, Sky have announced that subscribers taking their HD service have dropped significantly over the last two months, with the biggest fall seen around noon today. Sky also admit that viewers using their 3D service might find that they experience more nausea in the coming months. They say this is normal and there is no need to report faulty equipment but paper bags will be going out with this month's Sky viewer's magazine.

Crisis at BBC

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BBC Centre was briefly evacuated this morning when Richard Madeley’s ego was left partially exposed during routine maintenance. It is believed that that levels of gin and tonic normally used to cool the ego were allowed to run low at 8.27AM. Madeley's ego then began to compliment itself as to the job it was doing presenting Chris Evan’s morning radio programme. The BBC has stressed that the incident lasted no more than five minutes during which time Madeley announced his ambition to become the next Archbishop of Canterbury, explained the invention of the clockwork cog, and declared his interest in all things Liberian. The Liberian Embassy has since assured us that his claim to own 95% of the country is unfounded.

Events leading up to the incident are now sure to figure prominently in the BBC’s formal investigation. Space around the ego had been filled with unfiltered coffee earlier in the day as part of the usual routine for producing high energy radio. It is believed that this only compounded the danger once the G&T ran out.

Madeley was later said to be comfortable and his ego back down to operating temperatures. He will be monitored in the coming days to ensure that there is no further leaking of his ego into the environment. His wife, Judy, has refused to evacuate to a safe distance but precautionary measures have been taken to issue her with lead-lined mittens and a long stick.

Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Bob Dylan Plays China

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Things That Are Inexplicably Different

Things that are inexplicably different

Defective Spoons

Defective Spoons

Continuing our 'Clearing-The-Decks-Of-Any-Dumb-Cartoon-I've-Left-Over-In-My-Old-Sketchbook' Day here at The Spine...

Shocking Michael Jackson Sculpture Appears in Hackney

Michael-Jackson-Baby-Hanging-SculptureThe story.

Accountant To Star In Fantasy Film

Nicholas Cage's account to star in his next filmI'm a bit behind with my cartoons today, so excuse them if they're a bit rushed. I blame my having watched 'Season of the Witch' last night instead of working late into the night.

Have you seen ‘Season of the Witch’? Basically, a couple of Crusaders (Cage and the ever magnificent Ron Perlman) are doing their bit for the crusades when they are suddenly struck by their consciences and decide to give it up. Returning to Europe, they discover the land infested by plague, which the Catholic Church believe is caused by some young looker (Claire Foy) who they’ve decided is a witch. Herein, Cage and Ron agree to transport the witch to an abbey where monks possess the last Book of Solomon which can vanquish the plague.

I could go on but it was a load of old hokum with absolutely no thought to historical accuracy and some of the worst casting I’ve seen. Their guide on the quest is a scoundrel raised on the streets of this Medieval European village with a sun-baked California accent. The only thing to be said other than Ron Perlman should be cast as the lead in every film (and, while I’m about it, can I recommend the woefully underrated ‘The Last Supper’ as his best), is that I hope Nicholas Cage pays off his debts soon because I don’t think I can take much more of this.

Tuesday, 5 April 2011

Steve Martin Exposed: The Secret Life of Hollywood's Most Reclusive Star

Steve Martin, Comedian, Banjo player, Heart-throbberFrom his home, high above the smog and poor people in the Los Angeles hills, life might seem idyllic for Steve Martin, the legendary comedian, writer, banjo soloist, intellectual, and self-professed Hollywood hard man. Yet his rags-to-riches tale eclipses more than a few of the hard luck stories set in the City of Angels. Not many men have battled demons as hard and as long and few tales hide as many dark secrets – secrets that are only now being revealed by those who were once close to ‘Steve’ but are now beset by hard times and open to financial enticements from unscrupulous foreign websites.

What secrets does Steve Martin keep hidden? Why does he insist on Twittering naked except for his favourite banjo tie? Why did he say ‘no’ to the much ridiculed Scientology but ‘yes’ to the even more ridiculed Buttockology? What does he keep in a rented hangar out in the Nevada desert? And why do some people say that Steven Martin doesn’t suit a hat, though he insists on wearing one anyway?


Born August 14, 1945, into a Greek Orthodox family with Italian leanings, Stavros Martinee, was a large child. Some say he was the biggest in the county but that record was held by another boy called Gern Blanston who would grow up to wrestle hogs semi-professionally across the Midwest. Yet for the young Stavros, the pig pen held no special attraction. He was instead fascinated with the workings of his Uncle Pepe’s dairy farm which is where he spent so much of his childhood. Under Pepe’s guidance, Stavros learned to feed cattle, clean the barn, spit whilst leering at the neighbour’s buxom daughters, and, most importantly, discover the pleasure of handling milk-rich udders. Udders fascinated the young Martinee. Some boys have a special proficiency with the violin, maths, or sports. With the young Stavros, it was the ruminant teat. Revealing himself to be a prodigy when it came to sitting astride a three-legged stool, he could fill a bucket in sixty seconds, a county record, without spilling a drop. His skills didn’t go unnoticed. Given the chance to attend the local farming school, he enrolled when still only twelve years old and rose to the top of his class having undergone the ritual of running his genitals through a threshing machine at the tender age of fourteen.

Yet udders were not to be his life. One day whilst handling a fully-laden teat, his hand slipped and he fell awkwardly from his milking stool. Before he could react, his hand was crushed beneath the rear hoof of a one-ton Friesian. Learning to use that hand again would take many years. The family doctor encouraged the boy to take up magic and the banjo to help improve his dexterity and Stavros soon proved adept at both. No boy could saw a banjo in half quite like the young Martinee and he entertained the elders of the village many a night with the tunes he produced on a deck of cards ruffled close to their ears.

Aged 16, Stavros’s life changed forever. Whilst throwing quoits around the village duck for the purposes of polling in the local county elections, he was spotted by a travelled carnival owner and invited to tour. Aware that the young Stavros’s foreign name might impede his career in the conservative world of the carny, the showman Anglicised it and Stavros Martinee became Mrs. Edith Flankduster.

Edith would travel with the circus for four years, rising to the rank of bearded lady number three, but by the time he was nineteen years old, Edith Flankduster had already decided that he wanted a life away from punters pulling his whiskers all night. It was the early 1970s and, like many men his age, Edith wanted to shave his chin and to wear tight underwear visible beneath even tighter trousers. It would be the last time he wore a beard and the first time he would be known by his new name: Steve…

Mrs. Edith FlankdusterAt first, he called himself Steve ‘The Scrotum’ Martin because he thought it gave him added charm. Yet life was difficult that first year. Complaints from the heavy metal band, of the same name encouraged him to drop his 'Scrotum' and he found his fortunes immediately improve. Unsure what he could do in the world with only one good uddering hand and three years of experience as a carnival freak, Steve Martin had gravitated into show business and made his début (emphasis on the accent) at the 45th Street Comedy Bar on November 23rd, 1971. People who attended his first performance remember it as one of the most memorable nights in LA’s history. It was the night that the sewers backed up and there was a terrible smell over fifteen blocks. Little else is remembered about Martin’s act, though some say it involved erotic contortions and steroid abuse. However, by 1972, the act had evolved to include four of the five jokes that would serve him well over the next two decades.

He rapidly established his popularity at local comedy clubs by buying drinks for the crowd and then, on the 17th March 1975, he declared that he would be the first comedian to fill the Hollywood Bowl. Advertising went up on March 18th, and, after a week of hectic promotion involving collecting social security and sitting in doorways rattling a tin cup and prodding a blind dog, Martin finally walked on stage to meet his adoring crowd. They’d been promised a ‘night of large breasts and motorcycle jumping’ so they were in an excited state when Martin appeared in his trademark white suit. From a distance, the suit looked like leather and his white hair resembled a crash hat. The crowd were also heavily influenced by weed, LSD, and liquorice torpedoes so they were off their guard when Martin launched into his act consisting of juggling, jokes, and yawning.

The night would go down in entertainment history as Steve Martin mesmerised his audience for the whole of the twenty seven minute set, later released on VHS for a ridiculous price for such a short show. But this would not be the last time that Martin’s business acumen proved valuable. With the consummate skill of a man trained to get the very last drop of milk from a dry teat, Martin leveraged his popularity with doped-up college kids to amass a fortune by selling merchandise such as t-shirts, records, posters, beer mats, mittens, socks, turnips, emergency rubber washers, and personalised back scratchers shaped like Martin’s badly-deformed hand (now perpetually locked in a clawhammer, though proving helpful when playing the banjo).

Friends who knew Martin at the time say that money changed him. No longer willing to run to the bathroom before the cheque for the meal arrived, he now fled the state, left no forwarding address, and started to part his hair down the middle. He was also driving around LA in a yellow Rolls Royce and guarded at all times by South American mercenaries instructed to call him ‘chief’ whenever in he was in the company of ‘tall blondes, brunettes, redheads or really cool bald chicks’.

What did he do with his money at this time? At first he wasted his money at the Playboy Mansion but eventually his began to channel his fortune into films. ‘The Jerk’ (1979) was originally planned as a cinéma vérité study of poverty in the Cuban ghetto in the years after the revolution. Problems with the script and trouble with the Cuban authorities after Martin was caught smuggling a family of refugees beneath the ‘famous comedian’s cape’ he’d adopted by that time, meant that the finished film was considered a failure. However, much to the filmmaker’s delight, it seemed to resonate with a student crowd who considered it a comedy masterpiece. It was quickly trimmed from its original running time of four hours twenty seven minutes, redubbed into English, and launched on a mainstream audience who were unaware of its art-house origins.

Again, Martin was not slow to grab the proverbial tit and he quickly milked the success of ‘The Jerk’ in order to make a succession of films, all of which found popularity among a heavily-medicated audience.

His 1982 masterpiece, ‘Roxanne’, was a critical highpoint. Originally conceived as a sex education film for the space programme and titled ‘Your Upside Down Is Heaven To Me’, it was eventually turned into a light romantic comedy starring Daryl Hannah. The script was changed and all the footage destroyed from the three weeks that Martin had spent on a closed set filming explicit sex scenes with a variety of household objects. It was during this time that Marin badly burnt the end of his nose whilst getting intimate with a lava lamp, meaning that he had to wear a prosthetic through filming. It would be the last time Martin directed himself in a lava lamp environment.

The next few years saw Martin try to establish himself with a family audience. ‘Parenthood’ (1989), ‘Father of the Bride’ (1991) and ‘Bilko’ (1996) were all big hits with people’s mothers but despite abandoning his core audience of ‘druggies, wierdos, and people who keep chickens for recreation’, these big-paying roles suited Martin as he was devoting more time to a new passion.

Steve Martin saw his first monster truck in 1988 and instantly fell in love. He described the moment with typical candour in his 1999 Rolling Stone interview in which he eloquently equated it to seeing ‘this big noise thing’. By 1993, he had the largest collection of Monster Trucks in Hollywood, though they were often hidden away from the public’s gaze in the large annex to his home that Martin claimed to have built for his art collection which he was also amassing at the time for tax purposes. The truth was that the art collection was housed in an old aircraft hangar in the Nevada desert, where they remain to this day, exposed to freezing nights and heat of the desert sun.

Martin’s next films were a series of serious dramas. The Spanish Prisoner (1997), Novocaine (2001), and Cheaper by the Dozen 2 (2005) established his reputation as an actor with a remarkable bank balance. Yet, again, Martin wasn’t satisfied and looked to abandon Hollywood as he started to spend more time playing his banjo with the notorious paramilitary folk group, the Steep Canyon Rangers.


Today Martin lives the life of a recluse, his only contact with the outside word being his Twitter account and occasional appearances at folk festivals where he plays the banjo and mumbles incoherently into a microphone. Allergic to poor people, Mexico, and spruce, Martin is choosy about the theatres he plays and instructs his management to levy high prices for tickets for the concerts which, true to his roots, are still only twenty seven minutes long including intervals.

Although a new younger audience has come to love ‘Uncle Steve’ through his hilarious tweets, Martin’s love affair with technology is more sordid. Unable to type due to his long standing milking injury, Martin travelled to India in 1992 where he spent six months with the guru Siri Mau Flidiahisa. There he was initiated into the mystical world of skiitatrijakjohja, derisively known in the west as ‘buttockology’. Teaching patience and promoting good circulation through the rhythmic clenching of the buttocks, the meditation techniques also taught Martin how to type using only his gonads. This he continues to do to this day, with this trademark typing errors attributed to the busy life of a Hollywood star but, in reality, caused by the sudden and rapid temperature fluctuations in the hills above Los Angeles.

Neighbours speak of hearing the clattering of his keyboard late at night as Martin works on his novels. Short in pages and large in print, each one is a masterpiece and takes him three long years to write using only his testes, but critics agree that Martin has a flare for words and hope that he will write more. Now a level three advocate of buttockology, he is currently writing his memoirs, spending long nineteen hour periods one buttock before switching to the other as words drip from his nuts.

He tours the UK with his banjo later in the year. Prices are exorbitant and he won’t be performing anywhere near his fans. ‘I don’t want those people near me,’ he was quoted as saying recently. Yet fans need not fear being deprived of Martin’s genius for very long. As one of his oldest friends said confidentially, ‘Steve’s a twisted marvellous genius of a fellow but so long as he’s got a pair of testicles and a willing audience, he’ll always put on a show’.

Steve Martin on twitter

Monday, 4 April 2011

Auditions Begin For 'Britain's Got Talent'

Auditions begin for Britain's Got Talent with Ant & Dec and guests...

It’s the show that critics accuse of exploiting vulnerable members of society but the family of its latest star are quick to point out that he’d be the first person to boast about his appearance on the new series of Britain’s Got Talent coming to ITV later this month.

Only, when the footage of last night’s audition is aired, it’s very unlikely that Harry Swollen will be able to enjoy his fifteen minutes of fame. In all likelihood, he will be in the same Level One coma he’s been under for the past eighteen months.

Swollen is but one victim of the rash of trampolining accidents that have filled hospital waiting rooms in the past twelve months. Only, for Harry, there was no hour long wait in A&E followed by a plaster cast and weeks spent preventing his wife’s slow brother Verne from covering his leg with semi-pornographic doodles. His trampolining accident threw him through a second floor bathroom window where he cracked his head on the bidet before momentum carried him out onto the landing and down the stairs. He has been unconscious ever since.

‘We’ve certainly been through some dark times,’ admits his wife, ‘but we have to keep going and look forward to some happier days for the children’s sake.’

Those happier days are the work of amateur puppeteer Maxwell Higginbottom and the story of Harry Swollen’s success is really the story of how the two men came together and started to make dreams happen.

The 2010 series of Britain’s Got Talent holds bad memories for Higginbottom. Unable to proceed past the qualifying round, he failed to win over the judges with his five minute shadow theatre of Polish folk tales performed to Stravinsky. It was the kind of disappointment that might have ruined a less determined man but Yorkshire-born Higginbottom admits that he can be stubborn. ‘Northern grit we call it,’ he says from his workshop in Halifax. ‘I just had to go back to the basics and reassess where I went wrong. Turns out I was missing the X factor.’

He found that X factor being fed intravenously two hundred miles away in a hospital in Hillingdon. After reading of the story of Swollen’s accident, he approached the family and proposed that he could turn their grief into laughter by reanimating their husband and father via two lengths of sold three by two for the purposes of song and dance.

‘It’s remarkable what he can make Harry do,’ explained Hilda Swollen as she washes down her husband ahead of a candid photo session with a national newspaper. ‘The first time I saw Maxwell at work, it was just like Harry had woken up and was eager to get down to the Labour club. He always loved to dance, did Harry, though I think he’d surprised to discover how good he’s suddenly become at tap.’

Hilda and the family have sworn to keep the result of the audition a secret until the day of broadcast but Higginbottom has dropped a few clues as to how it went.

‘Let’s just say that we’re keeping Harry’s bikini line well waxed and we’re putting him through twice daily stretching sessions to help make him more supple. I want to see Harry finish a dance with the splits. It’s hard work on my wrists but if we can work the right amount of slack into his groin I think it could be the kind of performance to win over the hearts of a nation.’

That news is certain to please Swollen’s growing number of fans who believe the coma patient might become this year’s Susan Boyle. ‘Where SuBo led, HaSwoI can follow,’ says family friend, Jimmy Pool, who is now acting as Swollen’s manager. ‘This time next year, we expect Harry to be conquering America, assuming, that is, that we can get him through customs as hand luggage.’

BBC News Denies Charge of Nepotism


BBC News nepotism

It's all a conspiracy, I tells ye!

Mike Sergeant

Dan Snow

Roland Buerk


Friday, 1 April 2011

The Parable of the Ass

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Click the image to see bigger version.

Or click here to read more.

Helpful Pocket-Ready Answers

Profile: Barry Norman

[singlepic id=56 w=600 h=450 float=right]Here, for the first time, I'm pleased to reproduce a chapter from my forthcoming book, ‘Famous Men Called Barry’. If it proves successful and you enjoy this, I might publish other previews of the book, including my chapters on Barry Sheen, Barry Took, John Barry, and my two chapters on the greatest Barry of them all: Barry Humphries.

Chapter 27: Barry Norman

Although eventually he was to become Britain’s favourite film critic, Barry Norman’s career began in the rag trade in the East End of London in 1952. Originally trained as a lingerie draftsman specialising in girdles for the larger cut of womanhood, Norman was responsible for the first press-studded gusset and elasticated thigh supports which were to become industry standards by the end of the decade. Yet by 1963, the hippy movement saw the advent of the liberated female figure. The classical hourglass shape of the 1950s, popularised by pneumatic stars such as Marilyn Monroe, gave way to that of pot-bellied crystal bangers such as Mama Cass. Girdle sales plummeted and when the industry faced its severest cutbacks of all after the failure of the 1964 elastic harvest, Norman faced redundancy for the first time in his life.

Yet with the wiles that would later serve him well among the elite of Hollywood, Norman saw an opening in the rapidly expanding world of print journalism and, in 1965, he became the first fashion correspondent for the Racing Post. Establishing his reputation as an investigative reporter, he went undercover as a jockey for the whole of the 1967’s racing calendar. He won only five races and raced for half the season with a broken collar bone but his exposé about the secret world of high society ‘butter jockeys’ led to his being named Sports Journalist of the Year. It marked a new phase of his career.

Moving to work for the Daily Mail, he began to specialise in showbiz news and, in 1970, wrote the first contemporary account of Hollywood’s treatment of the post-Oz munchkins. ‘Sit On My Lap, Little Man’ was not a best seller but it caught the eye of producers of the BBC’s new movie show, Film 72.

The offer of work was originally to have been for six weeks whilst Raymond Baxter, the regular host, was on sick leave after accidentally swallowing aviation fuel during the filming a segment about Spitfires in the movies. Baxter never returned to the show, though would continue to make documentaries about Spitfires until he was shot down in 2007. Meanwhile, Norman was confirmed as the series’ regular host and would continue in the job until 1998.

Norman admitted that he was nervous to find himself the nation’s chief arbiter of movie tastes and in his first few seasons he would rarely criticise a film, choosing to instead mock them with his trademark dry humour. However his dislike of subtitled films from Eastern Europe involving symbolic shots of wheels soon established him as a favourite among film fans. He was popular among movie stars too and would often call upon his old skills to provide custom underwear, including the hand-stitched black basque he provided for Joan Collins iconic performance in The Bitch (1979).

Despite his success and popularity, there was a dark side to the Barry Norman phenomenon. He was irritated when the public began to know him by the phrase ‘and why not’ and he spent most of the 1980s writing letters to the newspapers to explain that he’d never uttered this phrase. Over the years he attempted to develop an alternative catchphrase of his own but the British public never took to either ‘it didn’t tickle my nachos’ or ‘did it succeed? You can call me Aunt Gracie if it did’. It was a bad time in Norman’s life. As his fame grew, so did his frustration, leading to the notorious events of the 1992 Bafta Television Awards when he had be pulled off a prostrate Rory Bremner by Caroline Quentin and Christopher Biggins.

Yet, by the 1990s, Norman had reconciled himself somewhat with his catchphrase. He had come a long way yet, to his credit, he never forgot his roots and would continue to mention one item of lingerie in every single show over the thirty year run of the show.

Officially classes as a natural treasure in 2002 and recently spared from government attempts to sell him to France to reduce the country’s debt, he now lives in retirement and spends his time watching cricket or dozing in a comfortable armchair with a film on in the background, occasionally muttering ‘and why not’ though, of course, he will always deny it when he wakes up.

BBC Headlines Deliberately Misinterpreted

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Not much about it here.


Gaddafi Inner Circle Shocked By Defecation

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