It will have been early 1988 when the campaign was at its height to prevent an obnoxious Bill becoming law, which was to make it a criminal offence for a local authority (read 'teachers') to promote homosexuality. Our side's 'anti' campaign itself was unsuccessful as the then Mrs Thatcher's government managed to get her Bill through Parliament in the Summer of that year where it remained for a further 17 years until Tony Blair's Labour government got it rescinded without too much trouble. In fact throughout that law's active life not one single prosecution under it had been made, not helped by no one agreeing on exactly what 'promotion of....' actually meant. (All this, of course, was while AIDS was ravaging the country, knocking gay men over like skittles - a gleeful gift to the gay-hating bigots). But much of the energy of our side's anti-law campaign was on the lines of 'if this gets through, what comes next?' - the answer to which, if not worded as the British law was, can depressingly be seen happening right now in the U.S.A.
As part of the 'anti' campaign there were a number of events in support of that side, including theatrical charity dos. In London there were two such which I attended, possibly the biggest one being in one of that city's largest West End theatres, the 1,200 seater Piccadilly theatre, with a large number of stars, including internationals, making a brief 5-minute appearance to make their support known. I can't list all the names now, the long tally-call being quite breath-taking, though I'll still have the programme somewhere - but I do remember Dame Edna Everidge, Vanessa Redgrave, Alan Bates, Alan Bennett, Harold Pinter (and, I think, Tom Stoppard), Simon Rattle with his then wife, the cast of 'EastEnders' and 'Les Mis', Gary Oldman and Sheila Hancock did the seduction scene from Joe Orton's 'Entertaining Mr Sloane'.....and, making their very first live performance ever, the Pet Shop Boys who performed, highly appropriately, 'It's a Sin' (and, I think, 'Always on My Mind').......plus Lily Savage, who was yet to become a national figure though by then very well known on the gay scene. I'd seen her before and, frankly, hadn't cared for her, she striking me as relentlessly bitter and humourless, unless you thought that hurling 'f' and 'c' words with no wit at various celebrities and politicians, was side-splittingly funny which some, indeed, did. I thought his material was all too shallow. Anyway, he did his predictable routine leaving me duly unimpressed. Then after this show I had booked to go straight to another similar event at one of London smaller theatres, half the size of the Piccadilly, with another cast list of more big names but mainly those from the gay circuits. And once again Lily Savage was on that programme too. She came on, same dress as before, and did the very same act which I'd just seen. I was sitting in an end seat on about the third row from the stage, quite conspicuously placed as it was jutting out into a side aisle. In the middle of her piece she suddenly stopped and looked directly at me, probably noticing because I was sitting there, rigid, unsmiling and rather bored despite her best efforts - and it was a looooong, silent, icy, 'if-looks-could-kill' glare. The audience hushed, and I could sense them starting to look for what had caught her attention though I didn't dare to glance around myself. I could have put an end to the dreadful moment there and then by just giving a smile and a thumbs-up, allowing her a sense of relief, but I was frozen into immobility, face and all. Then, after what seemed an eternity, with blood rushing to my cheeks, she looked away. I was certain she must say something, but she didn't. She just carried on with her venomous spiel. She'd have forgotten the moment with me two minutes later, and compared with the vicious heckling she must have got in her early career up to then, it would have been nothing. Yet here am I, over 30 years later, still recalling and cringeing at the memory of that moment of 'nothingness'!
By the time Paul O'Grady died unexpectedly in his sleep the day before yesterday at the age of just 67 (nine years younger than I am now. Eek!) he'd been accorded the now rather over-used accolade of 'national treasure' which is probably fair. He'd ditched the Lily Savage persona for good about 15 years ago and has been appearing on national television since the mid-90s, though in latter years only as his true self, a warm, genial host - a side of him with qualities which Lily Savage's character was devoid and I hadn't been aware of. He was a popular chat-show host, as well as for game shows, though he did also do the occasional theatre appearances, such as the child-catcher in 'Chitty' at the London Palladium - and he was when he died, appearing in Edinburgh as Miss Hannigan on a national tour production of 'Annie', which would actually next week have been in Southampton, just 50 miles along the south coast from where I am.
Paul became particularly well-known for his concern for animals - for which he gets a huge plus from me! - and, in particular, for rescued dogs, the subject of a popular regular TV programme. He leaves behind a husband (rather good-looking, I must say) as well as a daughter from a previous marriage.
Everyone's parting is sad, and it seems my briefest of briefs 'interaction' with him, if one can even call it that, did not do justice to the man.
What a fascinating bit of gay history. It's stories like this that make me glad for blogger... and the fact that they can be recorded and shared. Thanks for this sparkling, insightful piece.ReplyDelete
it's not that often when something happens in my own life which is worth putting on record, so it would be remiss to not milk it for all its worth. :-) Thanks for calling by.Delete
I know I've had cold, wordless moments like that, although never with anyone so famous.ReplyDelete
Was Lily S. really that well known outside his own country? I'd assumed that he was one of those 'parochial' celebrities whose fame didn't travel. Well, well!Delete
Thanks for your visit, Mitch.
I love this story and love that you shared it.ReplyDelete
Thanks for popping by, Bob - and ditto my above response to Mitch.Delete
Just be thankful she didn't do one of her famous waspish put-downs, and merely stared - although that stare was enough to kill!ReplyDelete
I loved Lily Savage (foul mouth and all) and loved Paul O'Grady. The world is a much sadder place for his/her loss. RIP.
She was waspish incarnate, Jon, at least before she became a household name when, in exchange for fame, she had to tone down her act, otherwise she would never have got to where she did - the press would never have allowed that. Can't blame her, but when she was her truthful self as Paul, for me her Lily S. character was always a lurking shadow which never really allowed me to appreciate the man himself. True, the world is now a lesser place without him.Delete
Knowing and being a past drag queen, count yourself lucky, she didn't go all insult comic on you dear!!!! Some queens can be relentless...but for all she knew, you could have been leaving for an emergency or some matter, and left it alone. I could listen to your stories for some time Raybeard.ReplyDelete
I did and do love insult comedy by queens and some filth. I never saw her in person but did enjoy her...but let's be honest. Anyone with a passion for animals is good people too me. I firmly believe people who don't like animals, have a disregard for them, or they are cruel to them, are just purely mentally off and evil.
I have been away for some time. I sure hope you have been well and healthy, as well as the puss's. May we all enjoy the coming relief of spring.
Yes, it was a narrow escape, M.M. - and I realised that at the time.Delete
I'm completely at one with you on how people, in this case 'celebrities', regard animals. If I know that someone doesn't have even half the respect I think animals deserve, they are off my list no matter what else do, whether it's caring for the sick, the old, babies....whatever. For me it's simply unforgiveable. And to think that some churches, principally the R.C., still teach that animals have no souls and are hence 'lesser' than humans! As for the Islam doctrine that animals have been put on Earth for man to 'use' - to be eaten, to work for, to provide 'entertainment' - just appals me.
I am fine, thanks, at least for my age - as are, mercifully, all three pussies who are, like me, getting on in years. But I do wish they wouldn't get into claws-out squabbles with each other. My heart goes into my mouth whenever that happens which, thankfully, is not that often.
As for the final sentence in your first para above, 'ta' very much, but I doubt if I can dredge up much more of interest from my rather dull past life.
I do still follow your own blog, perhaps not every single posting which I ought to, but I can't think I'll ever want to cross you off my blog-roll. Do continue - and go well. XXXX.
I knew of him only recently, when he did an interview about the trans community and how awful they are being treated. And of course, his work with the Battersea shelter. Maybe he mellowed a great deal from his youth? Hope all is well with you and your gang! The excitement here in the U.S. of course is Trump's indictment and upcoming arraignment. Can't come a minute too soon! Although, to be honest, his followers are crazed, and I do not look forward to seeing what they do on Tuesday...ReplyDelete
I avidly follow daily developments in the U.S.A., Elle, on YouTube for non-right wing channels and commentaries. I'm addicted! Lately I've been utterly gobsmacked by how so many religious zealots are STILL bending the knee to 45, even comparing him to Jesus - or better than! Makes one despair at the incredulity of it all AND the incomprehensible gullibility of so many, still enough to make a difference to elections, I totally sympathise with you and the millions of sensible Americans rightly fearful of what yet might happen.Delete
All is fine here - including with my (ageing) little gang. Hope you and yours are all well too. 'bye for now.
I didn't know of him. You wrote a lovely homage and I learned something.ReplyDelete
As I write elsewhere, I'd thought that he was a 'local' (i.e. exclusively British) celebrity, so it's news to me that his fame had spread wider. I don't know about my 'lovely homage' as I was more ambivalent about the man than, it seems, most others, but thank you for that assessment.Delete
Btw: I've no idea why your comments post as 'spam'. I've no blocks against anyone at all, so it's a mystery why you should be - uniquely as far as I know,. But thanks for coming by nevertheless,
This was some week for watching U.S. news, wasn't it?! I got great satisfaction at watching that dreadful human being arrested and the rage he must have felt, no matter what they say. The entire family has no shame, however; they grift off of everything. I'm sure Trump has already raised millions from this latest mess. I believe he is "running" for president just to continue the grift. Sad times all around, though, from the latest school shooting to the debacle in Tennessee. I put great faith in people like myself (old [60-year-olds and up!]) but also the youth. They are really coming out in force to say they've had enough of this nonsense, whether it's the guns or cutting women's rights or treatment of minorities. That gives me hope.ReplyDelete
Still frightening days, Elle - I could, in fact, say 'terrifying' with some justification. I think I'd go near-mad if I was American and be living in, say, Florida. I know I must try to channel your own hope in present and future generations but from this distance it's not easy - especially regarding guns and, very recently, the horror of what's just been happening in Tennessee. Perhaps I watch too many anti-reactionary channels, what I do see being hardly encouraging. However, your own opinion, living as you do in the thick of it, does give me some hope.Delete