Tag Archives: Monty Python

March 30th

On this day in 1840 a man who had been the toast of high society at the beginning of the century, died penniless and insane in Caen. His name was George Bryan Brummell, better known as Beau Brummell, and when it came to wearing clothes well, he was aces and skill! When it came to many other things in his life, George Bryan was a bit of a dick, a git and a twat, but we’ll try not to hold that against him.

 

Yes his nose was broken

Brummell was born in 1778 to a relatively humble family. Relatively because the boy did get to go to Eton and then Oriel College at Oxford, but he wasn’t an aristocrat and his grandfather had been something as tacky as a grocer or something. His father got to be the private secretary of Lord North, because the grandparents had let out rooms to the la-di-das and by virtue of not nicking from them had earned themselves a few favours. Papa Brummell then made even better by marrying up. By the time George was out of university (which he was after a year as he found it all a little too dull), his father had died (in 1794) and left him somewhere between £20,000 and £30,000 which was the equivalent of roughly £2 million in today’s money. Brummell bought himself a commission into the 10th Dragoons, a troop of fops, fools, in other words the great and the good of Britain, including the Prince Regent himself and started his career as  a dandy.

 

It was while he was a captain in the Dragoons that he came to the attention of Prinny. He had a reputation as a wit and a sharp dresser and the Prince Regent liked that sort of thing more than anything except pies. George the lesser (Brummell) didn’t stay in the army for long once he’d got to be bessie mates with George the greater (Prinny). He wasn’t much one for either fighting or venturing north, so when the Dragoon was about to be stationed in Manchester and it looked like war was about to break out (the Napoleonic ones), Brummell resigned his commission and set about becoming the most admired ponce in Christendom.

The thing with our George is that his whole life revolved around clothes. He was good with words, he could have been a writer; he wasn’t a bad artist and could have painted a few half decent canvases. But no. George found literature too boring and painting too foolish. Instead he put on clothes, went out and about so people could see him in clothes, hobnobbed with the aristocracy and did rather a lot of gambling. As such, is he worth even bothering with? Well, not really, but he did bring about some great changes in male fashions.

Everyone knows that Beau (cos he was all beautiful, innit) was  dandy, but most people probably think that means he was all powder and bright colours and stockings and shit. He wasn’t. In fact, George was responsible for getting men out of their satins and trimmings and make-up and into more sober colours and trousers! While he wore breeches during the day, in the evening the man was all about a nice narrow trouser. He wore only dark blues, buffs and whites, his clothes were “simple” and elegantly cut and his biggest foppery was his mental cravat. The cravat – in white –  was  foot wide and stiff.  It had to be gradually folded over and the chin brought forward bit by bit, in order to be worn. To accommodate this he also wore shirts with collars that would make Harry Hill‘s look conservative. And la! That’s what the dashing beau did for men’s fashion.

He managed to remain a man of fashion and influence until 1816 and then it all went a bit tits up. George spent all his money on

They've up a statue of him in Jermyn Street (home of ponces)

clothes, snuff boxes and gambling and the gambling did for him. He was okay for a while, his friends were happy to help him out, but then he fell out with the other George and he was basically fucked. Quick overview of the falling out. No one knows for sure what caused the argument, but we do know that not long afterwards, and before our own George had to leave the country, there was one last meeting between Prince and Beau. They were both promenading with friends and both determined to cut the other dead. The Prince did this by being terribly friendly to the Beau’s mate and ignoring the Beau. The Beau took all this with sang froid and then as they walked away, said to his mate, in a very loud voice, “So, who’s your fat friend?” Result! Fact is, the Beau was a fool, but a fool with a certain panache .

 

To escape debtor’s prison, which was beckoning quite insistently, he buggered off to Calais. He lived there for a number of years, getting subs off mates and spending it on clothes, snuff boxes and fancy wines. As his luck worsened he moved to Caen where he got a position at the British Consulate. He was such a dick that he managed to lose that job by writing to the Prime Minister and telling him that the Consulate in Caen was surplus to requirements. He long outlived his usefulness and by the age of 61 he was loco in the coco (having imaginary dinner parties with former friends who weren’t there) and a slovenly mess. He got moved to the poor house and died friendless, penniless and pointless in 1840.

Writing even this much about him is almost certainly a waste of good words, but, ah, but. The man did look fine in his finery and he did diss the Prince Regent to his fat old face, so, you know, he wasn’t all bad!

 

Today is the birthday of Slowhand guitarist and durr-brained racist, Eric Clapton.

Eric Clapton a racist? Some of you might be thinking. Yes, it is true and there is plenty of evidence for it. Exhibit One, his words to the crowd of a Birmingham gig in 1976. Please note he was off his face at the time

“I used to be into dope, now I’m into racism. It’s much heavier, man. Fucking wogs, man. Fucking Saudis taking over London. Bastard wogs. Britain is becoming overcrowded and Enoch will stop it and send them all back. The black wogs and coons and Arabs and fucking Jamaicans and fucking (indecipherable) don’t belong here, we don’t want them here. This is England, this is a white country, we don’t want any black wogs and coons living here. We need to make clear to them they are not welcome. England is for white people, man. We are a white country. I don’t want fucking wogs living next to me with their standards. This is Great Britain, a white country, what is happening to us, for fuck’s sake? We need to vote for Enoch Powell, he’s a great man, speaking truth. Vote for Enoch, he’s our man, he’s on our side, he’ll look after us. I want all of you here to vote for Enoch, support him, he’s on our side. Enoch for Prime Minister! Throw the wogs out! Keep Britain white!”

 

A dog gives his considered opinion on Clapton

Ah, but he was drunk! You might say. But then when interviewed about it a couple of months later, he said this:

 

“I thought it was quite funny actually. I don’t know much about politics. I don’t even know if it would be good or bad for him to get in. I don’t even know who the Prime Minister is now. I just don’t know what came over me that night. It must have been something that happened in the day but it came out in this garbled thing… I thought the whole thing was like Monty Python. There’s this rock group playing on-stage and the singer starts talking about politics. It’s so stupid. Those people who paid their money sittin’ listening to this madman dribbling on and the band meanwhile getting fidgety thinking ‘oh dear’.”

In 2004 he gave another interview where he maintained that Enoch Powell was right and then in his autobiography from 2007, he wrote:

“I had never really understood or been directly affected by racial conflict… when I listened to music, I was disinterested in where the players came from or what colour their skin was. Interesting, then, that 10 years later, I would be labelled a racist… Since then, I have learnt to keep my opinions to myself. Of course, it might also have had something to do with the fact that Pattie had just been leered at by a member of the Saudi royal family.”

To be fair to Clapton, he has also said that there is no way he could be racist as it would make no sense, which is true, but at the same time, he does appear to be a little bit of a bigoted prick.  At no point, as far as I’ve been able to maintain, has he said “I was a dick back then and never, ever should have said what I did. I am sorry.” So, I guess we’re all supposed to think that he loves his fellow-man whatever their race or religion because he’s Eric Clapton and has made his fortune off of copying black musicians.

He also supports the Countryside Alliance (cuntryside alliance) and wants the ban on fox-hunting lifted.

Oh and yeah, he’s made some music and stuff.

Anyway! Dear Eric, I am not going to wish you a happy birthday because you mostly disgust me. I will however say, don’t think of it as being another year older, think of it as being another year closer to meeting up with your mate Enoch Powell. You tosser.

 

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March 8th

On this day in 1911 Clara Zetkin started up the first ever International Women’s Day and launched it in Copenhagen. Although she set no official date for it, the date she started it has since become the date it is celebrated  upon following the  1977 UN decision to mark UN Day for Women’s Rights and Peace. It was celebrated behind the “Iron Curtain” before then, but has only been a thing in the west for 34 years.

Clara was a fine woman and if you don't think so you are a wronger

This year marks the 100th anniversary of the founding of the day and we’ve come a long way since then. Many  people think we’ve come far enough and don’t need a women’s day and why isn’t there a men’s day and anyway get  your tits out love and shut your mouth, where’s my tea you slack bint, gertcha!

Don’t worry, darlings, I’m not going to write a long feminist treatise, mostly because if I started I don’t think Id be able to stop myself. However, to those who truly hold the opinion that we’ve come far enough, I do have three words to say: do fuck off.

Instead of making your eyes bleed and your hearts weep with how far we have to go, I’ll concentrate instead on what a great bunch of lasses, Clara Zetkin was. She had intended to become a teacher, but early in her life she became involved in leftist politics and the women’s movement and from then on devoted her life to politics. This meant many periods in exile as socialists weren’t exactly welcome in Bismarck’s Germany. While in exile she did a lot of work to set up the Socialist International and became great friends with Rosa Luxemburg.

They were both members of the SPD but, along with many more far left elements in the party, they split with them over the issue of the war. The SPD supported it and they did not. Along with Karl Liebknecht they formed the Spartacist League (named after Spartacus and his wife) and produced illegal anti-war pamphlets throughout the war. Clara was arrested several times, but she fared better than Rosa and Karl who were both murdered in the uprising that took place after the war. Clara became a member of the KPD which grew out of the Spartacist league and remained prominent in the party, with a strong interest in women’s issues until 1933, when we all know  who came along, fucked the communists and either killed or imprisoned them. Clara went into exile for the last time. She ended up in Moscow and upon her death later that year she was buried by the wall of the Kremlin.

To many she may seem a troublesome leftie bitch and some of those might even see this as a bad thing. A pox on you if you do. Clara Zetkin was a good woman on the side of those who most needed a voice. She spoke up for the poor and oppressed and she spoke for women everywhere. So if you’re doing anything to celebrate International Women’s Day today, remember Clara Zetkin and if possible raise a glass to that fine German firebrand.

Today is the birthday of Carol Bayer-Sager, songwriter, lyricist, singer and artist.

When Carol graduated from New York University, she had already written her first hit single, A Groovy Kind of Love. Over her career she as collaborated with, among others, Marvin Hamlisch, Neil Diamond, Neil Sedaka and Michael Jackson, as well as her ex-husband Burt Bacharach.  She’s won an Oscar, two Golden Globes and a Grammy for That’s What Friends are For which was originally written

Talented woman but WAY too much plastic surgery

for the movie Night Shift, but was later released by a group of singers and Elton John to raise money for AIDS.

Her career has been long and her success pretty constant. She didn’t record as a singer herself until 1977 and hasn’t released any albums of her own since 1981. She’s basically a talented woman and seems to be an all round good egg. I wanted today’s entries to be all about women what with it being IWD an’ all, but Carol aside, most of the candidates I found were either porn stars, so-so actresses or beauty queens. I mean really, c’mon! I don’t know much about Carol and I don’t have any strong feelings about her either way. Although, I do hate That’s What Friends are For with a small passion; it’s so bloody schmaltzy! But I like a lot of her stuff with Burt’s Bees and I admire her for being an incredibly successful person in an industry which was far from woman friendly when she made her name.

So, la! This lacks teeth or sweetness, but it’s honest. Probably. Happy birthday to you Ms Bayer-Sager. It will not interest you to know that I always hear your name in the faux American voice of Eric Idle in drag in The Meaning of Life, but I’m telling you because  I’m trying to pad your birthday greeting out. I love your songs, but please no more of that awful schmaltz and no more Elton John. Oh and anyone in LA, Ms Bayer-Sager has an art exhibition opening this month, er, somewhere in LA.

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February 25th

On this day in 1095 the Archbishop of Canterbury, the bishops of the land, the nobles and the King came together at the Council of Rockingham, to discuss some shit about the pallium and receiving it from the pope. It probably tells us something about the popularity of the king and the archbishop among their own peers, that the bishops sided with the king in the argument that ensued and the nobles sided with the archbishop. There was, of course, a bit of fallout after the event, but in order to have the faintest idea what they were arguing about in the first place, it’s necessary to have a little bit of context. These medieval types were very complicated and decidedly odd.

 

Buggery bollocks! I've killed the king!

The archbishop in question was called Anselm. All things considered he was probably a good one. He was quite holy, cared about reforming the church and all those nice sorts of things, although that said, he had a fair amount of money, so his holiness only went so far. Like just about anyone with a bit of influence, he was of the French persuasion and had been the abbot of a monastery in Normandy before his accession to Canterbury. He and the king were at loggerheads from the get go. That king was William II better known as William Rufus.

 

Rufus’s image has been handed down to us by the chroniclers of the time. They hated him, but this was because he didn’t give a flying fart about the church. As a result they painted the picture of an evil man whose court was corrupt and a non-stop of orgy of, well orgy type things; mostly sex but also cruelty and devil worship. The chroniclers were pretty much the Daily Mail of the Middle Ages. Rufus was no angel and he was exceptionally spoilt and greedy, but unfortunately his life wasn’t a crazy merry-go-round of debauchery, he just didn’t care to be all pious, which was pretty unusual in his day and age.

There are two other issues that need to be considered in this vastly unimportant affair: the papacy and the pallium. At the time there were two popes, well a pope and an Antipope (please note this is not the same as an Antichrist, although it would be a lot more fun if it was). Urban II (named because he was well into Dizzee Rascal and Tinie Tempah) was the pope most people recognised, Clement III was the Antipope. William Rufus decided that he preferred Clement III and wasn’t going to recognise Urban. Confused yet? Well here comes the pallium! It’s a strip of material that goes over the bishop’s frock and when seen from either the front or the back is shaped like the letter Y. The only person who could bestow it was the pope and at this point in the Catholic church’s illustrious history, the pope was making bishops pay big money to get one off him. Those popes and their simony! What a bunch of utter thieving bastards!

So, there’s the background. More or less. The council was called because Anselm wanted to go to Rome to get his pallium, but Rufus didn’t want him to go because he wasn’t down with Urban and, to be perfectly honest, because he just liked making life difficult for Anselm who got right on his tits. The council ended in deadlock and when the bishops all legged it down to the pub, Rufus phoned Rome and made Urban send a legate over – a special emissary type, from his mouth to the pope’s mouldy ear, sort of person – and to bring the pallium or else. The legate came, so did the pallium. Rufus suddenly found he could pick out Urban in a crowd. He told Anselm he could have the pallium, but he wasn’t going to get it from the pope, but from William himself. Anselm sulked, there was more fannying about and eventually Anselm got his letter Y, but not long after that he had to go into exile because Rufus was so irritated by him that he threatened to punch him up the throat.

Anselm’s exile did not last for too long; by 1100 William Rufus was dead by an arrow through the chest. There are many versions of how this came to be. The most popular is that someone mistook him for a squirrel and fired the arrow at him by mistake. This is a lovely story, but William Rufus did not look like a squirrel (he had blond hair, a ruddy face, wall-eyes and a pot-belly). Another story is that he was hit by an arrow that was intended for a stag but misfired. This may be the truth, or he may, as many believe, have been murdered for taking too much money off the church and getting too many backs up. Either way, he was dead, Anselm was back in the hood and Urban, well Urban was probably spinning some radical mash-ups back in the Vatican.

There is something to be learned from this strange and convoluted tale. People have odd notions that life was simpler and less confusing in ye olden days and this small snapshot from days of yore proves once and for all that it really bloody was not!

 

Today was the birthday of George Harrison, the best looking of all the Beatles. He played guitar and wrote some beautiful music, including Something, which is rated by those who know about these sort of things, as one of the most beautiful songs ever written.

*sigh*

 

In the aftermath of the Beatles split, Harrison continued to create music as a solo artist and many years later with The Travelling Wilburys. He also became an accidental film producer when he stepped in to help out the Monty Python team whose Life of Brian had been left high and dry by EMI who pulled out because they were a bit scared of the material. Harrison got together the £2 million they needed to get the film made. He hadn’t intended to go into the film business, but he did and over the next 16 years produced films such as Mona Lisa and Withnail and I before selling his company – Handmade Films – in 1994.

 

In many ways, George was the easiest Beatle to like. He didn’t divide opinion like John did, he was far nicer to look at than Ringo and he didn’t have a mouth like a cat’s arse, like Paul. His death in 2001, nearly 21 years after the murder of Lennon, was another hard loss for all fans of the Beatles, anyone who’d enjoyed the films he’d helped to get made, and for many who just thought he was a top bloke who should have hung around for a lot longer.

These small paragraphs cannot really do justice to George Harrison, so go and read more about him, listen to Something, chant Hare Krishna and when night falls, look up at the stars and wish a very lovely man a very happy birthday. Thank you for all of it, George, especially Mandy mother of Brian!

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