London’s Prophet and the death of Peter Cook

Rainbow George Weiss texts me at least once a week. The other day I received one which read, “The Quest for LondonWonderCity will …. all being well begin at the General Election when the People of London will be gifted the opportunity to Vote for their City to become its own WonderCityState with its own electronic Wonder Currency … and much more beside”. Just another Monday.

I first met George in 2007 when I was asked to be a guest on Russell Brand’s Radio 2 show. Russell had asked me to debate against George, who was waging a campaign to get Russell to run for Mayor of London in 2008. He’d successfully enlisted the help of The Sun newspaper and was attempting to get one million people to pledge their support. I confess I gave George’s WonderCity based in Hampstead short shrift but somehow our on-air encounter bound us together.
He continued to badger late-night phone-ins with his vision of London as the centre of an Isles of Wonder. He is unrelenting in his prophesying.
I sat in the Heathcote Arms and watched Danny Boyle unveil his Isles of Wonder to the world at the Opening Ceremony of London Olympics. George was sanguine – he’d seen it all before of course, in one of his many visions while tramping over Hampstead Heath.
When he texted me again on Tuesday to flag the article in The Independent about the 20th anniversary of Peter Cook’s death on 9th January, I decided that the occasion should be marked and proposed filming an interview.

It was my mate Russell, then a lanky Drama School graduate venturing onto the London fringe scene, who’d told me all about George back in 1999. How he’d made a pilgrimage to Peter Cook’s London home in Perrin’s Walk  with his comedy partner in crime Karl Theobald (one of the funniest people I’ve ever been in a room with). George had encountered them in the street then invited them inside where he played them some of the hundreds of hours of audio taped conversations he’d had with Peter in 1985. Russell and Karl have never been the same since.

I’d interviewed George before, but he’d been more into pushing a film idea where Russell plays the Wizard of Wonders with George taking up the role of Apprentice Prophet. I was keen to hear about his father, Leopold Weiss, said to be the finest diamond cutter in Hatton Garden and also stories about the ‘real’ Peter Cook. But what I got instead was the tale of George’s lost years in Ireland and dealings with an exorcist in Chalk Farm referred to him by legendary psychiatrist RD Laing.

Finally with the anniversary of Cook’s death looming George was ready to open up on the final days – the dash to the Royal Free at Hampstead hours after Ian Dury‘s son was born (‘one in, one out’, my Nan would say). He had an agenda – the revival of Peter’s What Party with Russell taking on the role of President and leading the people of London into a glorious future. I sat and patiently listened to his plans for a peaceful take-over then read out the text message I’d just received from Russell telling me to make sure George played me some of his famous Cook audio recordings. He relented – but on the condition that I include it in the final cut of the video, ‘Of course I would’, I told him.

He spooled through the tape to these never-before-heard words from the comedy hero’s mouth. A great moment of comedic riffing? Some biting satire? A political diatribe? Revelations about his relationship with Dudley Moore? No. It was Peter Cook calling Robbie Coltrane a cunt. George’s eyes lit up and he laughed.

He texted me this morning to make sure I’d included the clip. I was unsure – what if Robbie Coltrane heard it and was hurt? Also was this the memory of Peter Cook we wanted to give people? ‘

Do you want that to be Peter’s message on this day?’ I replied.
‘One of them, yes definitely!’ he confirmed.

There was much that had to be left out – I got home at 5pm and crashed through the edit whilst still somehow attending to family duties. The rumours of top flight football match fixing, George was a serious gambler in the 1970s and played cards with Lord Lucan. There was also the Captain Kinky story that appeared in the Daily Star and George’s incarceration for selling LSD to a couple of undercover coppers, being labelled one of the king pins of the nascent Acid House scene. I’ll have to dig it all out some other time – once I’ve finished dealing with George’s torrents of texts.

Brandon Estate Cine Club

Diving into the goldmine of the London Screen Archives Youtube channel the other day turned up this precious nugget – the archives of the Brandon Estate Cine Club.

The Brandon Estate was built in the late 50’s in Kennington, South London. The Club made Super 8 films of events on the estate organised by the social club – using a camera bought by 17-year old Brian Waterman with his first pay-packet from his job on the Underground. There’s more about the Cine Club on the Film London website and how the members of the club were recently reunited for a special screening of the films.

The first thing that struck me when I watched the footage of the estate in 1961 with the concrete still fresh was the opening credits of Sean Lock’s classic sitcom 15 Storeys High which used the Brandon Estate for the exterior locations.

Screen shot 2014-02-07 at 13.06.41

The episode where Vince has to return a plough that he drunkenly stole from a pub is a great example of how the estate was used in the series. The Brandon Estate Cine Club footage and 15 Storeys High complement each other beautifully, positive views of life on a south London estate – summer fetes, kids Christmas parties, day trips to Canvey Island, trying to get a sofa up in the lift. I can imagine Vince going along to the screening that was organised on the estate and getting into some sort of light-hearted bother.

 

George Carlin’s Seven Words


In tribute to comedy legend George Carlin who died today (comedians die a thousand times) I’m posting the entirity of his ‘Filthy Words’ routine that was broadcast on radio in the US in 1978 leading to his prosecution for obscenity. I found this in the appendix of the Court’s judgement – well worth a read. Without comedians such as George Carlin I may well not have a job so thanks for the cursing George.

The following is a verbatim transcript of “Filthy Words” prepared by the Federal Communications Commission.

Aruba-du, ruba-tu, ruba-tu. I was thinking about the curse words and the swear words, the cuss words and the words that you can’t say, that you’re not supposed to say all the time, [‘]cause words or people into words want to hear your words. Some guys like to record your words and sell them back to you if they can, (laughter) listen in on the telephone, write down what words you say. A guy who used to be in Washington knew that his phone was tapped, used to answer, Fuck Hoover, yes, go ahead. (laughter) Okay, I was thinking one night about the words you couldn’t say on the public, ah, airwaves, um, the ones you definitely wouldn’t say, ever, [‘]cause I heard a lady say bitch one night on television, and it was cool like she was talking about, you know, ah, well, the bitch is the first one to notice that in the litter Johnie right (murmur) Right. And, uh, bastard you can say, and hell and damn so I have to figure out which ones you couldn’t and ever and it came down to seven but the list is open to amendment, and in fact, has been changed, uh, by now, ha, a lot of people pointed things out to me, and I noticed some myself. The original seven words were, shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, mother-fucker, and tits. Those are the ones that will curve your spine, grow hair on your hands and (laughter) maybe, even bring us, God help us, peace without honor (laughter) um, and a bourbon. (laughter) And now the first thing that we noticed was that word fuck was really repeated in there because the word motherfucker is a compound word and it’s another form of the word fuck. (laughter) You want to be a purist it [438 U.S. 726, 752] doesn’t really – it can’t be on the list of basic words. Also, cocksucker is a compound word and neither half of that is really dirty. The word – the half sucker that’s merely suggestive (laughter) and the word cock is a half-way dirty word, 50% dirty – dirty half the time, depending on what you mean by it. (laughter) Uh, remember when you first heard it, like in 6th grade, you used to giggle. And the cock crowed three times, heh (laughter) the cock – three times. It’s in the Bible, cock in the Bible. (laughter) And the first time you heard about a cock-fight, remember – What? Huh? naw. It ain’t that, are you stupid? man. (laughter, clapping) It’s chickens, you know, (laughter) Then you have the four letter words from the old Anglo-Saxon fame. Uh, shit and fuck. The word shit, uh, is an interesting kind of word in that the middle class has never really accepted it and approved it. They use it like, crazy but it’s not really okay. It’s still a rude, dirty, old kind of gushy word. (laughter) They don’t like that, but they say it, like, they say it like, a lady now in a middle-class home, you’ll hear most of the time she says it as an expletive, you know, it’s out of her mouth before she knows. She says, Oh shit oh shit, (laughter) oh shit. If she drops something, Oh, the shit hurt the broccoli. Shit. Thank you. (footsteps fading away) (papers ruffling)
Read it! (from audience)
Shit! (laughter) I won the Grammy, man, for the comedy album. Isn’t that groovy? (clapping, whistling) (murmur) That’s true. Thank you. Thank you man. Yeah. (murmur) (continuous clapping) Thank you man. Thank you. Thank you very much, man. Thank, no, (end of continuous clapping) for that and for the Grammy, man, [‘]cause (laughter) that’s based on people liking it man, yeh, that’s ah, that’s okay man. (laughter) Let’s let that go, man. I got my Grammy. I can let my hair hang down now, shit. (laughter) Ha! So! Now the word shit is okay for the man. At work you can say it like crazy. Mostly figuratively, Get that shit out of here, [438 U.S. 726, 753] will ya? I don’t want to see that shit anymore. I can’t cut that shit, buddy. I’ve had that shit up to here. I think you’re full of shit myself. (laughter) He don’t know shit from Shinola. (laughter) you know that? (laughter) Always wondered how the Shinola people felt about that (laughter) Hi, I’m the new man from Shinola. (laughter) Hi, how are ya? Nice to see ya. (laughter) How are ya? (laughter) Boy, I don’t know whether to shit or wind my watch. (laughter) Guess, I’ll shit on my watch. (laughter) Oh, the shit is going to hit de fan. (laughter) Built like a brick shit-house. (laughter) Up, he’s up shit’s creek. (laughter) He’s had it. (laughter) He hit me, I’m sorry. (laughter) Hot shit, holy shit, tough shit, eat shit, (laughter) shit-eating grin. Uh, whoever thought of that was ill. (murmur laughter) He had a shit-eating grin! He had a what? (laughter) Shit on a stick. (laughter) Shit in a handbag. I always like that. He ain’t worth shit in a handbag. (laughter) Shitty. He acted real shitty. (laughter) You know what I mean? (laughter) I got the money back, but a real shitty attitude. Heh, he had a shit-fit. (laughter) Wow! Shit-fit. Whew! Glad I wasn’t there. (murmur, laughter) All the animals – Bull shit, horse shit, cow shit, rat shit, bat shit. (laughter) First time I heard bat shit, I really came apart. A guy in Oklahoma, Boggs, said it, man. Aw! Bat shit. (laughter) Vera reminded me of that last night, ah (murmur). Snake shit, slicker than owl shit. (laughter) Get your shit together. Shit or get off the pot. (laughter) I got a shit-load full of them. (laughter) I got a shit-pot full, all right. Shit-head, shit-heel, shit in your heart, shit for brains, (laughter) shit-face, heh (laughter) I always try to think how that could have originated; the first guy that said that. Somebody got drunk and fell in some shit, you know. (laughter) Hey, I’m shit-face. (laughter) Shit-face, today. (laughter) Anyway, enough of that shit. (laughter) The big one, the word fuck that’s the one that hangs them up the most. [‘]Cause in a lot of cases that’s the very act that [438 U.S. 726, 754] hangs them up the most. So, it’s natural that the word would, uh, have the same effect. It’s a great word, fuck, nice word, easy word, cute word, kind of. Easy word to say. One syllable, short u. (laughter) Fuck. (Murmur) You know, it’s easy. Starts with a nice soft sound fuh ends with a kuh. Right? (laughter) A little something for everyone. Fuck (laughter) Good word. Kind of a proud word, too. Who are you? I am FUCK. (laughter) FUCK OF THE MOUNTAIN. (laughter) Tune in again next week to FUCK OF THE MOUNTAIN. (laughter) It’s an interesting word too, [‘]cause it’s got a double kind of a life – personality – dual, you know, whatever the right phrase is. It leads a double life, the word fuck. First of all, it means, sometimes, most of the time, fuck. What does it mean? It means to make love. Right? We’re going to make love, yeh, we’re going to fuck, yeh, we’re going to fuck, yeh, we’re going to make love. (laughter) we’re really going to fuck, yeh, we’re going to make love. Right? And it also means the beginning of life, it’s the act that begins life, so there’s the word hanging around with words like love, and life, and yet on the other hand, it’s also a word that we really use to hurt each other with, man. It’s a heavy. It’s one that you have toward the end of the argument. (laughter) Right? (laughter) You finally can’t make out. Oh, fuck you man. I said, fuck you. (laughter, murmur) Stupid fuck. (laughter) Fuck you and everybody that looks like you. (laughter) man. It would be nice to change the movies that we already have and substitute the word fuck for the word kill, wherever we could, and some of those movie cliches would change a little bit. Madfuckers still on the loose. Stop me before I fuck again. Fuck the ump, fuck the ump, fuck the ump, fuck the ump, fuck the ump. Easy on the clutch Bill, you’ll fuck that engine again. (laughter) The other shit one was, I don’t give a shit. Like it’s worth something, you know? (laughter) I don’t give a shit. Hey, well, I don’t take no shit, (laughter) you know what I mean? You know why I don’t take no shit? (laughter) [438 U.S. 726, 755] [‘]Cause I don’t give a shit. (laughter) If I give a shit, I would have to pack shit. (laughter) But I don’t pack no shit cause I don’t give a shit. (laughter) You wouldn’t shit me, would you? (laughter) That’s a joke when you’re a kid with a worm looking out the bird’s ass. You wouldn’t shit me, would you? (laughter) It’s an eight-year-old joke but a good one. (laughter) The additions to the list. I found three more words that had to be put on the list of words you could never say on television, and they were fart, turd and twat, those three. (laughter) Fart, we talked about, it’s harmless It’s like tits, it’s a cutie word, no problem. Turd, you can’t say but who wants to, you know? (laughter) The subject never comes up on the panel so I’m not worried about that one. Now the word twat is an interesting word. Twat! Yeh, right in the twat. (laughter) Twat is an interesting word because it’s the only one I know of, the only slang word applying to the, a part of the sexual anatomy that doesn’t have another meaning to it. Like, ah, snatch, box and pussy all have other meanings, man. Even in a Walt Disney movie, you can say, We’re going to snatch that pussy and put him in a box and bring him on the airplane. (murmur, laughter) Everybody loves it. The twat stands alone, man, as it should. And two-way words. Ah, ass is okay providing you’re riding into town on a religious feast day. (laughter) You can’t say, up your ass. (laughter) You can say, stuff it! (murmur) There are certain things you can say its weird but you can just come so close. Before I cut, I, uh, want to, ah, thank you for listening to my words, man, fellow, uh space travelers. Thank you man for tonight and thank you also. (clapping whistling)

FOOTNOTES
[ Footnote 1 ] 56 F. C. C. 2d, at 99. The Commission noted:
“Congress has specifically empowered the FCC to (1) revoke a station’s license (2) issue a cease and desist order, or (3) impose a monetary forfeiture for a violation of Section 1464, 47 U.S.C. [] 312 (a), 312 (b), 503 (b) (1) (E). The FCC can also (4) deny license renewal or (5) grant a short term renewal, 47 U.S.C. [] 307, 308.” Id., at 96 n. 3.
[ Footnote 2 ] “Broadcasting requires special treatment because of four important considerations: (1) children have access to radios and in many cases are unsupervised by parents; (2) radio receivers are in the home, a place where people’s privacy interest is entitled to extra deference, see Rowan v. Post Office Dept., 397 U.S. 728 (1970); (3) unconsenting adults may tune in a station without any warning that offensive language is being or will be broadcast; and (4) there is a scarcity of spectrum space, the use of which the government must therefore license in the public interest. Of special concern to the Commission as well as parents is the first point regarding the use of radio by children.” Id., at 97.
[ Footnote 3 ] Title 18 U.S.C. 1464 (1976 ed.) provides:
“Whoever utters any obscene, indecent, or profane language by means of radio communication shall be fined not more than $10,000 or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.”
[ Footnote 4 ] Section 303 (g) of the Communications Act of 1934, 48 Stat. 1082, as amended, as set forth in 47 U.S.C. 303 (g), in relevant part, provides:
“Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, the Commission from time to time, as public convenience, interest, or necessity requires, shall –

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