Friday, March 21, 2008
The Easter Binny
Back in London for Easter, a guest of the noble Dr Whipsnade, whose munificence abounds with every passing year. To create a fitting ambience, the cook is preparing hot cross buns, Simnel cake and other seasonal treats. There will be no Easter eggs, however, out of respect for the doctor’s venerable ancestor who served the British Raj in Bengal. This emissary of the Crown was heinously tortured by local bandits, who thrust a hard-boiled egg, hot from the cooking pot, into his rectum. By such devoted abstinence, his suffering is remembered alongside that of the founder of the Christian faith.
As is customary, a stream of guests will visit the Whipsnade residence to pay their respects and sample the seasonal fare. To my surprise, the first to appear is Trevor Bumphries-Maddocks, the Welsh actor who took lodgings in the garden shed last Christmas . This being his second visit, he is permitted to enter the kitchen for a slice of cake and a cup of hot chocolate. After joining him at the table, I hear that he has dispensed with the stage name ‘Trevor bin Laden’ on account of the unwelcome attention he was getting from overzealous security men, who on one occasion had ordered him to lift up his shirt in a crowded theatre foyer. He had also overheard his agent refer to him as ‘Binny’, which had wounded his feelings. I ask him about his current situation.
“As of now, I’m touring the home counties with an experimental theatre group,” he replies. “The whole enterprise is being funded by Vanessa Feltz, who is also a member of the cast.”
He looks at me expectantly, evidently hoping that I will be impressed by the name of the impresaria. Knowing the importance of self-esteem to an actor, I do not reveal that I’ve never heard of Vanessa Feltz. (I have since discovered that she’s a former TV chat-show host – a heavyweight of the genre by all accounts. I publish her photograph below for those unfamiliar with her appearance.)
“What splendid news!” I exclaim. “Your career will surely go from strength-to-strength as a co-star of the talented and beautiful Ms Feltz!”
“Well I wouldn’t quite go that far,” replies Trevor doubtfully. “She’s more of an avant-garde conceptual type than a stage idol. Our production has a ‘Harmony of Nature’ theme which I think you’d appreciate. Vanessa is the female lead.”
“Do you play peasants then?” I ask.
“No, we actually pretend to be animals. In one scene Vanessa is a queen bee who shares her royal jelly with the hive – I play the first drone. In another she’s a cow in a lush meadow who shares her milk with hungry foxes and badgers – I play the bull. You get the idea. The symbolism of the whole thing is quite powerful. That said, I don’t see it helping me to break into mainstream family viewing.”
“Best live in the present and enjoy what you’re doing,” I advise. “Who knows what the future will bring? Three months ago you were living in a tool shed. Now you’re in an artistically-acclaimed stage production, eating three meals a days and living in your own hotel room.”
“As a matter of fact, I don’t have my own room,” corrects Trevor sheepishly. “Vanessa and myself recently bunked up together. I suppose you might say we were something of an item.”
“You sly dog!” I gasp. “Now that’s what I call ‘method acting’! Don’t worry about ‘casting couch’ slurs. You’ve got to use all the tools at your disposal in show business. Marilyn Monroe did it and look what a superstar she became!”
“I’m not bothered about that,” says Trevor. “What worries me is that my off-stage performances are becoming more demanding than my on-stage ones. It’s a bit of a shock to the system having to puff away every night when you’ve only been getting it once a month at best. I don’t want to be taking Viagra at my age. It makes me wonder how you gorillas manage it with your harems.”
“Female gorillas have an oestrus cycle,” I explain. “When they’re not in season, it gives the male a chance to renew his zest for the hairy kerfuffle.”
“Well the only season she seems to have is permanently horny,” remarks Trevor wryly.
“I believe there are ways for a fellow to satisfy a woman without straining his manhood or draining his virile juices,” I suggest.
“I don’t think any amount of that sort of fiddling about would satisfy Vanessa,” responds Trevor glumly, shaking his head. “Her needs run deep, if you see what I mean.”
“In that case, you must show her the instruments!” I declare. “Order them from cybernooky.com, lay them out on the bed and make the woman whinny like a mare!”
“That’s a very interesting idea,” muses Trevor. “A proposition of considerable labour-saving potential. But I dunno, Bananas, the last time I took your advice I ended up inside a pantomime horse’s arse!”
“What have you got to lose?” I ask. “If she doesn’t like the toys, they’ll probably ruin her appetite for it by any method of delivery. You win either way.”
Trevor nods thoughtfully and asks me to write down the web address on a piece of paper. As I hand him the chit, a horrible thought occurs to me. Ms Feltz is surely not the kind of woman who would attempt to use a sex device on a man, is she? Best keep quiet about that disturbing possibility. You can’t go through life planning for every worst-case scenario.
Wednesday, March 12, 2008
Reading the stars
A young American woman at the safari camp asks me what my star sign is.
“Gorillas don’t have star signs, Miss,” I explain. “The zodiac is a human invention for the classification of humans.”
My answer seems to puzzle her.
“But you know your date of birth, right?” she inquires.
“Certainly,” I reply. “I was born on the 7th day of Hairygus in the year of the She-Elephant’s Udder. What that is in the human calendar I could not begin to guess.”
“Uh huh,” she says. “My boyfriend’s really into astrology and did my charts based on my exact time of birth.”
“How thoughtful of him,” I remark. “Did you discover anything interesting about yourself?”
“The position of Venus when I was born means I’m, like, passionate and sensual,” she answers. “I’m a woman who needs to give men pleasure to be happy.”
“Is that so?” I muse aloud. “Tell me something, Miss. Would your boyfriend’s star sign happen to be The Bull?”
“Yeah,” she replies in a tone of earnest surprise. “Howja know?”
“Lucky guess, Miss,” I say, shrugging my shoulders.
We part on amicable terms.
I have no idea whether there’s anything in astrology, but it seems to me that its best days are behind it. Back in ancient
The last practitioner who really hit the big time was Nostradamus, although how much astrology he used in his prophesies is debatable. It was rumoured that he saw glimpses of the future when he gazed into a cauldron of water, which might explain the haunted look in his eyes. (My peepers look the same after I’ve stared into the
Incidentally, I’ve often wondered what happens to Bond’s leading lady after the movie ends. A long-term relationship with 007 would be out of the question, given that he’s married to the Secret Service and as frisky as a goat on Viagra. Yet it wouldn’t be his style to drive her to a Tesco Superstore and desert her while she’s shopping for kitchenware. Perhaps he has a rich cousin called Felicity Carruthers, who takes his conquests in hand and grooms them to be hostesses in her raunchy ladies’ clubs. Sizing up beefcake talent for burlesque shows might be the best remedy for a Bond infatuation.
Getting back to the subject at hand, I’m glad to say that my circus never allowed fortune tellers on the venue. That sort of thing creates bad vibes for performers who do dangerous stunts. A trapeze artist can lose his mojo if he gets funny looks from a spooky-looking dude in a turban. We did once have a spat with an old gypsy woman who incapacitated one of our lily-livered clowns by putting a curse on him. When I tried to solve the dispute by diplomacy, the silly old crone actually threatened to put a hex on me! The cheek of the woman! Little did she know that we gorillas are unhexable. I eventually got her to see reason by turning her urine blue. This was not achieved by magic, I should add, but by doping her groceries.
Friday, March 07, 2008
Full of western promise
When I say I’m a fan of the western, I include the memorable TV shows I watched in my circus days. A lot of people imagine that my life in the circus must have been pretty cushy. “GB,” they say, “you were a natural performer who didn’t need to rehearse, so you must have had loads of free time to get up people's noses and generally arse around.” They’re basically right, of course. However even arsing around gets boring if you’re doing it all the time. That’s when watching a TV programme featuring gunmen, gamblers, cowboys and Injuns can rescue you from a daily routine of putting itching powder in the ringmaster’s trousers (and deeds of similar frivolity).
So which TV westerns did I enjoy the most? A lot of people loved Bonanza, but it certainly wasn’t my favourite. I could never believe that the men were brothers, nor understand why the big fat one was called “Hoss”. Did he eat like a horse? Did he smell like a horse? Did someone ride him like a horse? That unexplained mystery nagged away at the back of my mind and stopped me getting into the stories. I generally preferred humorous, wisecracking shows like Alias Smith and Jones and Bret Maverick. Yet the one I relished most of all was a fairly serious cowboy drama called The High Chaparral. This was the name of a cattle ranch in
Especially commendable was the show’s sympathetic portrayal of the Native Americans. The local Apaches, it must be said, were not the friendliest types – prickly customers to a man, particularly when forcing their hapless foes to canoodle with a cactus plant. Yet when the Indians stole a cow from the ranch, the last thing on Big John’s mind was summoning the US Cavalry for dose of retribution. Instead, he’d ride off to the tepee park for a pow-wow with Cochise & Co, listening patiently to their grievances against the arrogant Palefaces. More often than not, it was all the fault of a corrupt federal agent, who’d typically end up as buzzard food in some dusty canyon after one double-cross too many.
Yet in all honesty, it was worth watching the show just for Big John’s wife