Tag Archives: entertainment

Hero to Zero

Hero to zero

“Oy! Elvis! It’s your round!” The words sent shivers down my spine. Not because I was in a pub with Elvis (I wish), but because the words were aimed at me and they were spoken by a six-foot tall, 250 pound, heavily bearded Hell’s Angel called Grizzly. I pretended I didn’t hear. “OY!!” he yelled again, “Are you f***ing deaf Elvis? I said it’s your round!” The room fell silent and everyone looked in my direction.

I was 17 years old and I had happily been doing a gig with my band in a pub in the Forest of Dean in England, but after we had finished I was invited against my will to join a bunch of the roughest, loudest, biggest people I had ever seen.  They had been comparatively well behaved earlier, listening to the band play and requesting Elvis songs, but now after a few beers things were getting rowdy. They bought me several drinks even though I told them that I had no money to return the favour, and I tried to leave graciously after each drink, but every time I was told in a good natured yet at the same time intimidating way that I was going to stay there and drink with them whether I wanted to or not because I could “sing like Elvis”. My lack of funds was no problem when they were relatively sober, but apparently things had changed, at least for their man-mountain of a leader. All the regular patrons and the rest of the band had discreetly left the pub earlier, and now it was midnight and I was alone with half a dozen drunken thugs. Even the landlord hadn’t had the nerve to close the bar. My heart was pounding in my chest as I struggled for words, my mouth moving but no sound coming out.

Grizzly lost his patience. He pushed his chair back, stood up slowly and made his way round the table towards me, walking like John Wayne and wiping the beer residue from his thick gray and black beard. I thought about running but I wouldn’t have made it to the door. I sat there shaking as he positioned himself behind me. He leaned down and whispered in my ear, his surprisingly heavy beard resting on my shoulder and his revolting beer and tobacco-laden breath hot in my ear. “Let me help you Elvis” he said. With that he picked me up, complete with the chair I was sitting in, carried me across the room and put me down on top of the bar, still in my chair. The rest of the gang erupted into hearty laughter and started chanting “Elvis, Elvis, Elvis…” I could see the landlord on the other side of the bar trying to laugh and join the chant with them, but his eyes told me he was just as I scared as I was. Not at all what I was hoping for from the one person I thought might be able to save me from the severe beating I was surely about to get. Grizzly spoke loudly over the hilarity. “Barkeep, Elvis wants to buy a round!”

I didn’t know what to do so I sat there in silence and braced myself for a punch. Then the landlord took pity on me. “Ok” he said, his voice shaking, “I’ll just take it out of your band money Eamonn… I haven’t paid you yet right..?” I breathed a sigh of relief. He was helping me after all. It was technically true that he hadn’t “paid” us because we played every Friday in return for beer and pizza (in fact the band was called “Free Beer and Pizza” for that reason). I readily agreed and stammered “Oh yeah… that’s right… you haven’t paid us…  errrr… yet… please get these gentlemen a drink and take it out of our pay…” My saviour quickly started to pour beers and I thought my troubles were over, but then Grizzly bellowed over the laughter again. “What did he say your name was?” I swallowed hard. “Errr… it’s ‘Eamonn’…” Everyone looked in silence at Grizzly waiting to see his reaction. He reacted. “His name is f***king Amy!” and the whole room burst into laughter again, and the whole gang started chanting “Amy, Amy, Amy..” I much preferred Elvis. A couple of hours later they were all so drunk I was able to make my escape by climbing out of the toilet window. So much for groupies.

Fame and fortune (almost)

One night in 1998 after a gig in Manila, a woman approached me and my band and asked if we would like to be in a movie. Scenes of fame and fortune flashed before our collective eyes and we immediately began discussing how we were going to spend our millions. “Wine, women and song and waste the rest” was the consensus as we clinked our glasses together vigorously and slapped each other on the back. The day had finally arrived! Then a sober moment. “Wait!” our keyboard player Guy suddenly shouted over our excited chatter, “It’s not a porno is it..?” We froze in silence for an instant and all eyes fell upon the woman. An uneasy moment passed as she swallowed a mouthful of wine. Then she said “No, no, nothing like that… I want you as foreign extras for a girly bar scene we’re shooting near here next week.” Ah. So we had been type-cast as sleeze bags rather than rock stars and the film was not about us at all. We looked at each other. “Girly bar scene?” our lead guitarist Jack repeated incredulously. Then his face lit up. “Yeah baby!” and the celebrations started again. We were easy to please.

The movie was Brokedown Palace, starring Claire Danes, Kate Beckinsale and Bill Pullman and directed by Jonathan Kaplan (who currently directs Law and Order: Special Victims Unit for TV), and we were indeed cast as foreign sleeze bags frequenting a girly bar called Lollipop which was supposed to be in Bangkok, but was actually The Cotton Club in Pasay City Manila. They couldn’t shoot in Bangkok because the movie tells a true story and it is critical of the Thai legal system and the way it treated the two girls played by Danes and Beckinsale during their drug smuggling trial. Blah blah blah, who cares, back to the girly bar scene.

We showed up early in the morning at The Cotton Club as directed and we were immediately sent inside to take up positions around the bar for the filming. An American woman was in charge of extras casting and everyone had to file past her for selection as if she were a modern-day Mengele. She glanced at us and then pointed towards the area of the bar where she thought we would best fit. For some reason I got sent to sit at the bar right next to where Claire and Kate would be doing some dialogue, and I was given the role of “Tall sleeze bag” who, on a certain lighting cue, would walk up to the stage where the girls were dancing and ask one of them to join him for a drink at the bar. My resentment at this type casting was cancelled out by my eagerness to see the stars close up.

Suddenly a door opened and about 30 young Filipinas walked in wearing nothing but bikinis. Every one of them was very pretty, and every one of them was very well cast, if you know what I mean. They slowly took their positions on the stage, then lights started flashing and on cue they began to dance in time with imaginary music. Claire and Kate arrived and took their positions, and when Kaplan shouted “Action!” they began their dialogue in the strange flashing silence (the background music is added later, otherwise they wouldn’t be able to record the dialogue). I saw my lighting cue, climbed off my stool as I had been instructed, walked up to the stage and silently asked the girl to join me at the bar. As I walked back to the bar with her, I heard “Cut!” and the scene was finished. Well at least, that version was finished. Then a magical voice said “Right, let’s get these girls’ tops off…” Yep. There was to be an 18-rated version for certain markets and we had to do it all again surrounded by topless girls. I missed my cue the first time during the second version. I snapped back to reality when Kaplan shouted “Cut!!! Where is Tall sleeze bag?” I had to apologise. It was hard to concentrate. I hear the film was a horrible flop but it’s one of my all-time favourites even though I’ve never seen it.

Bring back the joke!

Live stand up comedy is more popular than ever at the moment all over the world and I think I understand why. It’s not because we like to throw rotten fruit at strangers, it’s because email has killed the traditional joke. There was a time not so long ago when people would sit around in bars and tell each other jokes all night, and the people who were good at telling jokes were considered “funny” even though they didn’t actually make up the jokes themselves. They just heard them somewhere and basically “stole” them and re-told them.

Today things are different because there are millions of people all over the world forwarding jokes around by email, and the better the joke the more it gets forwarded. This means that people have not “heard” all the best jokes before, they have “read” them before, and the jokes are therefore ruined forever. Jokes need to be told, but because the vast majority of people can’t tell a joke to save their lives, simply hitting the “forward” button gives them the chance to share the joke with their friends without having to tell it.

So the traditional spoken joke and the art of joke telling are basically dead. All that’s left is people who are genuinely funny, people who can make a humourous comment about something “off the cuff” real time without needing to think or practice first. These people are described as “witty” and there are far fewer of them than there used to be good joke tellers. There are also people who can write funny stories from scratch and who make a living by telling them to different people every night as if they are telling them for the first time. These talented people are called “stand up comedians” and they have the rare ability to make people laugh without telling a traditional joke. Of course comedians used to make a living by telling regular jokes on stage, but now they need to be much more original and creative thanks to email. In fact you will rarely leave any live comedy show these days remembering a “joke” of the type you might be able to tell to your friends.

So if you receive a good joke by email please memorise it, practice telling it, delete it, then tell it to your friends over a beer and enjoy a good old fashioned laugh. If you can’t tell jokes, don’t kill it by forwarding it, just delete it without reading it and then wait for one of your funny friends to tell it to you.

As a first step towards reviving the traditional joke and the art of joke telling, I would like to share with you one of my favourite jokes of all time. It was around before email and therefore it has not fallen prey to ruination by email forwarding as far as I know. Unfortunately just this first time you will need to read the joke and thereby effectively “tell” it to yourself, but I think it is funny enough to withstand that test because, more than anything else, it requires you to form a clear mental image of what is going on. When you re-tell it, make it as much fun to watch as it is to listen to by acting out the various parts as much as possible. If you can’t tell a joke, just read and enjoy.

A partially sighted guy is out jogging when he trips on a kerb and falls flat on his face, causing his glass eye to pop out and roll off down the pavement ahead of him. He eventually finds it nearby covered in dirt, so he cleans it up as best he can then pops it into his mouth to lubricate it before replacing it. Unfortunately he accidentally swallows it in the process. He’s not too concerned because he knows it will eventually work its way through his system anyway, so he jogs off home and inserts his spare eye. Two days later he has terrible constipation and absolutely nothing has come through so he goes to see his doctor. Too embarrassed to tell the truth about what happened, he just tells the doctor that he hasn’t had a bowel movement in two days and he has severe pain in his lower abdomen. The doctor asks him to undress and lay flat on the table for examination, and after probing his stomach for lumps he asks him to turn over and kneel on all fours. As the guys kneels there, the doctor pulls the cheeks of the guy’s ass wide apart and peers intently into the depths. Then he stops, pulls back suddenly and says “Mr. Jones, if I’m going to help you, you’re going to have to trust me.”

Good luck!