Monday, May 29, 2006

Uri Geller: forgotten mystic

Does anyone remember Uri Geller, the mystical spoon-bender who shot to fame in 1970s? He recently bought one of Elvis Presley’s old homes for a cool million bucks. The modern-day artiste has much to learn from Mr Geller’s example. Show business is a fickle profession, so the far-sighted performer must invest wisely at the height of his fame if he wants to splash out on luxury pads when everyone has forgotten him. Modern humans are capricious beasts, who will gasp with wonder at latest feat of metal-twisting only to groan with boredom (or hoot with derision) when the novelty has worn off. Any act based on the mind-over-matter motif must be milked for all it is worth while the punters are still interested.

I met Uri when I was in the circus – he asked me if I had a spoon that needed bending. I said “No” and brought him
a hammer instead.

“A hammer, GB?” he inquired in a puzzled Levantine accent. “What am I to do with a hammer?”

“The face is slightly curved, Uri,” I replied. “Try to flatten it by stroking it with your finger.”

He accepted the tool gingerly and rubbed his middle finger around the face in a gentle circular motion. After doing this for a minute, he stopped and shook his head. “My power is for making things crooked, not straight,” he declared. “This hammer is not open to my energies. Feel the iron – it is cold.”

I took the hammer from Uri and agreed that its face was as cold as ice. “Might it be more receptive to your energies if you smashed it against that wall?” I asked.

Uri glanced at the wall in question, which was made of the sturdiest concrete, and raised his eyebrows quizzically to indicate that he was open to new ideas in the field of parapsychology. So I gave him the hammer and watched him bang away until his cheeks were flushed. He then wiped the perspiration from his brow and felt the face of the hammer with his fingertips.

“It is hot!” he exclaimed. “Feel it yourself, GB.”

I took the hammer and examined it carefully. “It is hot, Uri!” I confirmed. “And you have also succeeded in flattening its face, to some extent!”

He took back the hammer and agreed that the face was indeed flatter. Should he demonstrate these hammer-repairing abilities in his act, he wondered aloud? I advised him to stick to cutlery for the time being.

Uri Geller was probably the greatest showman of his kind, but he wasn’t without competitors, even at the peak of his appeal. Hot on his heels was Ali Bongo, the fez-wearing wizard who made humour a part of his act, something that Uri never quite mastered. How sad that these two great maestros were later reduced to the role of sidekick, Geller accepting the position of Michael Jackson’s adult friend, and Bongo hiring out his expertise to Paul Daniels, the bald-headed homunculus. Maybe I’ll invite them to the Congo to compete head-to-head for the Bananas Magicians’ Trophy. It would be the greatest duel since the Ali v Foreman 1974, or possibly even Fischer v Spassky 1972.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Caractacus Potts: great human

I don’t know why the film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is so popular with children. The centrepiece of the movie occurs in the state of Vulgaria, where children are reduced to the status of vermin, scavenging for food in various dank and dirty cellars. Those who manage to escape into open country are ruthlessly snared by an astonishingly evil and big-nosed child catcher, who exhibits them in his cage for the paedophobic Baroness to inspect. All the toys manufactured in the land are for the exclusive use of the Baron, who in spite of being many years older than his wife is himself an overgrown child. Yet the attractive Baroness dotes on her husband, remaining loyally by his side even after he has been deposed. What possible pleasure could a child derive from such a grim and unnatural setting?

The children are rescued from their plight by a pitchfork rebellion instigated by Caractacus Potts, a widower whose own offspring are imprisoned in the Baron’s castle. I question whether this is the right message for the children of today. Violent revolutions have a poor track-record in human history, often fomenting a reign of terror in which the masses reminisce nostalgically about the ancien régime. As the children’s ideological mentor, one might have expected Mr Potts, an Englishman, to advocate a more measured approach. The Baron, perhaps, could have been forced to sign a Magna Carta and accept a new position as a constitutional head of state. And storming the castle on the Baron’s birthday was a mean-spirited decision, more befitting embittered proletarians than fun-loving children.

Yet Caractacus Potts reveals himself as a man of exemplary character when his children demand that he weds Truly Scrumptious. Being a gentleman of the old school, Mr Potts is deeply embarrassed, even though Miss Scrumptious is evidently charmed by the idea. He observes that a union between a penniless inventor such as he and a wealthy heiress such as she would be unthinkable. Nowadays, many would deride Mr Potts’ behaviour as a load of snobbish nonsense, but a gorilla understands the importance of hierarchy in mating decisions. A certain degree of reticence in such matters helps to preserve a climate in which the raffish adventurer is discouraged from soliciting the affection (and possibly infiltrating the petticoat) of the well-bred maiden. The removal of all inhibitions in such matters has done little for the moral health of the human species, which is now infested with scheming gold-diggers at every street corner.

Mr Potts is ready to propose marriage only when he discovers that he too has acquired a fortune as a result of one of his inventions. In his excitement, he rushes to inform Miss Scrumptious of his new-found wealth and kisses her on the lips.

“Well, Mr Potts, now you really will have to marry me!” exclaims the startled Miss Scrumptious.

Although they laugh at this humorous conceit, it is an apt note on which to end the film. Children should learn that a kiss is not purely a sensual embrace and may often lead to more significant things. This is not to say that a gentleman should always marry the first woman he kisses – that would certainly be going too far. But I think it is correct to say that a gentleman should never kiss a woman on the lips unless he is open to the possibility of marrying her. It is subtle points of etiquette like this that preserve humanity from chaos of the bacchanal orgy.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Love me don't

I wrote last month that I had asked Dr Whipsnade to invite Paul McCartney to spend some time with my clan in the Congo. I thought that a relaxing sojourn apart from Lady McCartney would refresh Sir Paul’s creative juices and calm his frayed nerves. Little did I expect that my well-intentioned suggestion would have such far-reaching consequences. In all innocence, I had no idea how strained things had become between Paul and Heather. In mitigation, I should point out that Dr Whipsnade went beyond his remit when he visited the McCartney residence. He has since briefed me on the events of that fateful afternoon.

Sir Paul graciously invited the good doctor into his drawing room where he introduced his attractive wife, who was tetchily thumbing through an issue of National Geographic. Dr Whipsnade began by informing the couple that he was acting as my agent.

“You know Gorilla Bananas!” exclaimed Sir Paul. “I always wanted to see that ape perform, but I didn’t want people pestering me inside a circus tent. Did you ever see his act, love?”

“Never heard of him,” replied Heather, not looking up from her magazine.

Dr Whipsnade then delivered my invitation, using his considerable tact to make it clearly understood that Sir Paul would be expected to arrive unaccompanied.

“It sounds brilliant!” chirped the ageing tunesmith, evidently thrilled at the prospect of a solo vacation. “I’ve always wanted to hang out with gorillas – they’re much more interesting than those seal pups we visited.”

But Heather ground her teeth and scowled at her spouse, giving vent to her feelings after he had spoken. “Only one night apart from Linda during a 30-year marriage, but when you’re with me you just can’t wait to piss off, can you?

At this point, Dr Whipsnade should have staged a tactical retreat and let the couple sort things out in private. But having swotted-up on the ex-Beatle’s career, he had come prepared with a number of apt suggestions, or so he thought. He pointed out that if Sir Paul returned to England on the eve of his 64th birthday, he might then serenade his lady wife with the words:

Will you still need me?
Will you still feed me?
When I’m sixty-four!

The author of these lyrics was delighted by the idea. “That’s great, that is!” he exclaimed. “We could invite the press round and get some good publicity about our marriage for a change.”

Heather, however, was less than enthusiastic about her role as the doting wife in the mooted media event. “If you sing that tripe at me, my answer will be: ‘No I bloody won’t!’” she hissed. “And who the hell is this Dr Whiplash, anyway, that you’re hanging on his every word! Just because he wears a suit and talks posh you think he’s some great impresario who can tell us what to do! I’ve seen pimps in Soho who’ve got more class than him!”

Never before had anyone associated Dr Whipsnade with a pimp, let alone compared him unfavourably to one. It was more than a man of his stature could endure with stoic reserve.

“Lady McCartney!” he huffed. “Like your husband, I am a self-made man who has prospered through the creativity of his mind and the honesty of his toil. Unlike your husband, I have a supportive wife who offers me either hearty encouragement or constructive criticism, as she sees fit. It appears to me that you have interpreted your marital vows in a highly unorthodox fashion, to say the least.”

Dr Whipsnade then gave Sir Paul his card before making his excuses and leaving in high dudgeon. On the way home, he made his chauffeur play the soundtrack of South Pacific to sooth his irritation. A few days later Sir Paul phoned him.

“Send my apologies to Mr Bananas because I won’t be able to visit him any time soon,” he said. “I’m having a bit of a domestic crisis at the moment which needs sorting.”

Dr Whipsnade said that he was sorry to hear of these difficulties and hoped that his recent visit had not aggravated them.

“Actually, I’m glad you came, Whippy,” replied Sir Paul. “Sometimes it takes a view from an outsider to make you realise what’s going wrong in your life.”

The rest, as they say, is tabloid headlines.

Monday, May 15, 2006

Walk on the wild side

It’s good to hear that the Russian authorities have allowed Karl Bushby, the persistent pedestrian, to carry on walking across their county. This will help to counter the widespread – yet erroneous – belief that Russians are sour-faced xenophobes who never smile. Great writer though he was, Alexander “Sunny” Solzhenitsyn didn’t really help the image of his countrymen by portraying them as people who did nothing but suffer oppression or, if the opportunity arose, oppressed others. Allowing a lunatic to wander through your land unmolested is clear proof that you can appreciate a good joke as much as the next man. Can Bushby now dare to hope that rosy-faced peasants will greet him warmly during his hike across Mother Russia, inviting him into their homes for the symbolic meal of bread dipped in salt? If I were President Pootikins, I would issue a decree ordering them to do so, on pain of being ravished by the Cossacks. Having opened their door to the itinerant stranger, the Russians should exploit the opportunity to excel in the hospitality stakes as well.

Should we bother to inquire why Bushby is so intent on traversing the globe on foot? Suffice it to say that he is British, an ex-paratrooper and likes to wear a beard. That’s eccentricity, masochism and delusions of hairiness in a single human being. It would be surprising if such a man were not embarked on some foolhardy enterprise. However, I give him credit for staying close to sea level rather than trying to scale some abominable peak. At least walking around the world will let him see a few sights, learn a language or two, and wolf-whistle at any scantily-clad females who cross his path. On the top of a mountain there is nothing but snow and ice, and no man needs nothing.

Wild animals would strongly support Bushby’s right to roam, in spite of being bemused at the pointlessness of it all. There are no fences in the wild and you can go wherever you want within reason. Admittedly, you might get a good drubbing if you belong to a territorial species and stray into someone else’s patch, but there’s plenty of wilderness that belongs to no one. The off-limits areas, moreover, are clearly scent-marked by animals pissing on the trees.

This brings up the interesting question of where Bushby intends to relieve himself while passing through the Russian countryside. Urinating in the forests would confuse the bears, while defecating on the ground would be a gross affront to local pride. The symbolism of a foreigner shitting on Russian soil would surely be unbearable for a nation still recovering from Operation Barbarossa. I would advise Bushby to pee into empty petrol canisters, which could then be donated to scientists interested in the hormonal make-up of the rugged British adventurer. He should also scrape up his poop into doggy bags to be offered to grateful peasants for use as fuel or manure. It’s little gestures like these that will help to build bridges of goodwill and trust between the estranged tribes of the great human family.

Monday, May 08, 2006

JFK and the Kama Sutra

Can watching a movie teach you about human history? It might do if the filmmaker can resist the temptation to make stuff up. I remember once seeing a film about President Kennedy, who is famous in the jungles of the Africa for sending chimpanzees into space. As an alpha male gorilla, I often use the president’s famous sayings to inspire my band. “Ask not what I can do for you, ask what you can do for me” is one of my favourites.

After seeing this movie, called JFK, I was seething with righteous anger. It appeared that the noble president had been gunned down by treacherous blackguards in the US government, who then framed a goof called Oswald for the murder. But when I complained to Dr Whipsnade about it, he told me that the film was complete poppycock. He said that the maker of JFK was a guy called Oliver Stoned who had spent most of the 1960s high on pot. Rather than tell the truth, Mr Stoned had invented a lot of hooey to make a bogus political point.

At first I was disinclined to believe Dr Whipsnade, whom I suspect of holding reactionary opinions on a variety of topics. But then I watched a
BBC documentary which confirmed that the film was indeed full of falsehoods. Far from being a “patsy”, Oswald was an expert marksman with a history of violence and extremism. He also shot a policeman who had dared to ask him where he was when the president got his head blown off. All of which seems pretty damning to me.

At first, I put this episode down to one bad director who told lies because he was a pothead on a political vendetta. But then I went to another movie which suggested that filmmakers are constantly blurring the line between fact and fiction. It was called
Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love, which I saw in a cinema with Ranjit Ram, the Indian knife-thrower. Ranjit hoped the film would teach me something about the history and culture of his country, but I must admit I was more interested in learning about human mating positions.

The first mating scene occurred early in the movie, as one would expect. But when the sultry servant girl wrapped her thighs around the prince, Ranjit stood up and started walking towards the aisle.

“I am going!” he announced angrily.

I naturally followed him out of courtesy, which provoked a fair amount of hissing and muttering from the people whose view I was blocking. When we arrived at the exit, Ranjit turned around and made the following defiant proclamation:

“This film you are watching has NOTHING to do with India!”

We then made a hasty exist amid a groundswell of shushing and cursing from the exasperated audience.

After we had left the cinema, Ranjit explained what had upset him. It was not the mating scene, as such, but the fact that the seduction had occurred on the day of the prince’s wedding. The idea that an Indian of noble birth would debase himself in this fashion before his betrothal to a princess struck him as a monstrous lie, and a slur on all things Indian. He said he was going to picket the cinema on the next showing of the movie, and I agreed to join him out of a sense of solidarity and loyalty. He made a sign for himself saying “DON’T WATCH THIS FALSE FILM”, while I agreed wear to sandwich boards with the words “AN INDIAN WEDDING IS NOT A JOKE” on one side and “AN INDIAN PRINCE IS NOT A GOAT” on the other.

As luck would have it, a journalist from a local newspaper had come to see the film and briefly asked Ranjit a few questions with his notebook in hand. When the journalist suggested that movie directors should be allowed a bit of artistic licence to make their films more interesting, Ranjit replied:

“Showing one nonsense after another is not art! Filmmakers who insult our history must learn we are not accepting these bullshits quietly!”

You’ve got to admit he has a point.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Gorillas in the movies

It brought a wry smile to my face when Roseanna Arquette complained that there were few good roles for actresses over 40. I would have told her that even fewer decent parts are written for gorillas. Apart from King Kong, whom no self-respecting gorilla would play because of the gross misrepresentations in that trashy movie, I cannot think of a single starring role for a gorilla in a Hollywood film.

I won’t deny I’ve had offers back in my circus days. After a show we gave in Los Angeles, I remember opening my trailer door to a smartly-attired gentleman with a bronze tan and a goatee beard. He was accompanied by a young blonde woman in a tee shirt, who was exceptionally thin apart from a pair of suspiciously large breasts.

“Good day, Mr Bananas,” he said. “My name is Rich Schweiner, president of Titon Films, and this is my vice-president Kelly Zooks. May we have a few minutes of your time?”

I shook both of their hands and invited them to sit down on my sofa, taking a chair opposite them.

“Mr Bananas, what can I say?” said Mr Schweiner warmly. “Your performance today just blew us away. We just loved your energy, your humour, your interaction with the audience…..the whole package”.

“I told Rich you were like a British Charlie Chaplin,” effused Miss Zooks.

“Thank you most kindly,” I replied.

“We think you’d be perfect for the part in a movie we’re producing,” continued Mr Schweiner. “You’d be playing the best friend of the lead character. She’s a woman looking for fulfilment in her life and you’d join her in her travels.”

“It sounds interesting,” I said. “What does this woman do for a living?”

“She’s a travelling masseuse offering her services door-to-door,” explained Mr Schweiner. The title of the movie is Winning Hand or Bust and we’ve already got Jenna Jameson for the part. Are you familiar with her work?”

“Vaguely familiar,” I said uneasily. “What would I be doing with her?”

“Your part would be the comedy side-kick,” replied Mr Schweiner. “Whenever Jenna’s character doesn’t like a client, she’s gets you to take her place while she’s massaging his back. When the guy sees it's you he has a fit!”

Miss Zooks laughed merrily at this and I smiled politely, not wishing to appear unenthusiastic. However, there were a number of issues that required further clarification.

“Are you saying that manipulating a man’s back would be the only physical action required of me?” I asked.

“God no!” exclaimed Mr Schweiner. “What a waste of your talent that would be! You’d do slapstick comedy as in your circus act, ride a bicycle, some nood scenes and a few action stunts. We want you to express yourself fully in the part.”

“Nude scenes!” I chuckled. “Well that should be easy given that I don’t wear clothes!”

Miss Zooks then whispered something into Mr Schweiner’s ear, which caused the president of Titon Films to frown and scratch his beard. He looked me up and down and made the following request: “Would you mind standing up and turning round, Mr Bananas?”

I saw no reason to refuse, so I did as he asked and returned to my seat. Miss Zooks then whispered something else into his ear and he nodded.

“You’ve got a fine coat there, Mr Bananas, but you’d have to take it off for the nood scenes.”

“Whatever do you mean, Mr Schweiner?” I asked in puzzled amusement. “It doesn’t come off, you know. It’s all home grown.”

“That’s OK, Mr Bananas, we’d take it off for you,” explained the movie producer. “Just the butt fur would have to be removed. We’d film those scenes at the end.”

Miss Zooks then executed a snipping motion with her fingers to make their meaning absolutely clear.

Now, I wouldn’t describe myself as an ape given to sudden emotional outbursts, but the idea of having my arse shaved for the titillation of countless voyeurs was more than I could bear with a dignified restraint. I let out a loud snort, which caused my human guests to draw away from me in apprehension. I then addressed them with as much composure as I could muster.

“Mr Schweiner and Miss Zooks,” I declared. “The depilation of my posterior is not something I could ever permit. Furthermore, I am certain that no gorilla would ever consent to such a thing. I suggest you offer the part to Sylvester Stallone. Good day to both of you.”

I got up to open the trailer door and they left dejectedly, although Mr Schweiner did leave his card in case I changed my mind. I didn’t of course.

This sorry episode led me to conclude that the only way for a gorilla to get a decent part in a Hollywood movie is to write the script himself. I’m currently working on a version of The Wizard of Oz in which Dorothy is a middle-aged woman with hairy legs and the cowardly lion is replaced by a forgetful gorilla. The happy ending occurs when the gorilla remembers to shave Dorothy’s legs, enabling her to win the leading role in a new porno film. Now I’ve just got to work out the rest of the plot.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

King of the Cops

The problem with learning about human society from TV is that the messages are quite often contradictory. Let’s examine the question of what good police work is. According to Lieutenant Columbo, it involves wearing a dirty raincoat, asking annoying questions and pretending to be a clot. This lulls the suspect into a false sense of security until – bingo! – he makes a careless remark that gives the game away. I used to find this pretty convincing until I noticed that lawyers never seem to get in Columbo’s way. Is this realistic in a country where members of the legal profession vastly outnumber racoons and coyotes? I then realised that the absence of lawyers is a contrivance to prevent exchanges like this from occurring:

Columbo (scratching his head like a baboon):
If you’ll excuse me, Mr Mellon, there’s something I have a problem with. Why would you borrow your housekeeper’s apron if you were dressing up as the Queen of Sheba?

Lawyer: Mr Mellon, I’d advise you not to answer that question in accordance with your constitutional rights.

Mr Mellon:
I’m so sorry, Lieutenant, there’s a really straightforward answer to your question but I have to take my lawyer’s advice. We can talk about other things if you want. I know a great place to get that raincoat of yours cleaned for five bucks.

This is why the Colombo approach would never work in real life. The dishevelled detective would have no good strategy for a suspect who stone-walled all his questions using a lawyer as a moderator. Colombo thinks he’s incredibly devious, but his whole approach depends on the one-to-one interrogation. Being continually interrupted by a lawyer would throw him off his stride and starve him of vital data. He’d never make another arrest.

So having written off Columbo, I considered the merits of Starsky and Hutch, who could hardly be more different. Their approach to police work involves driving too fast, roughing people up and trying to outdo Huggy Bear in jive-ass ghetto talk. They never seem to bother about clues or fingerprints: it’s all about getting to where the action is and arresting the villains with as much violence as they can get away with. Catching people in the act is the name of the game.

There is no doubt that this method of policing would be highly effective. Instead of waiting for a crime to occur before investigating it, turn up while the offence is in progress and nab the hoods red-handed. Dirty Harry takes the concept to its logical conclusion by shooting the suspects as well, saving the city of San Francisco a fortune in paperwork, legal costs and prison expenses.

But unfortunately it’s all too good to be true. Experts have calculated that the odds of a crime being interrupted by a policeman are one in seven-thousand. And even when it happens, it’s damned difficult, in the heat of the moment, for the police to differentiate between the crook, the victim and the innocent bystander. It must be admitted that criminals are crafty devils who wear identical clothes to the law-abiding public, making it very tempting for the confused policeman to shoot everyone in sight when confronted with a suspicious incident.

My conclusion is that the best policeman is not strictly a policeman at all. I commend Mr Jim Rockford, who has all the guile of Columbo without the foolish pretence that a crime can be solved simply by nagging the suspect. Rockford has no aversion to lawyers, retaining a moderately attractive blonde woman as his own, and is not too proud to get help in furthering his investigations. Dennis Becker (the police officer) and Angel (the nincompoop) are frequently invited to contribute to his projects and share in the glory of his achievements. It seems to me that these are the most important qualities in a law enforcer: the ability to work with all types of people and overcome your natural distaste for lawyers. Never trust a policeman whose best friend is his weapon.

I leave you with Mr Rockford’s
theme music.

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