TV Cream is now on Twitter. So far the updates mostly comprise drink-soused dispatches from The Phoenix on Charing Cross Road in London.
It’s July 1966, and ATV decides to throw a lunch for the England football team at its Borehamwood studios. Bill Ward is your master of ceremonies; seated around the giant trestle table are Bobby Charlton, Mrs Charlton, Bobby Moore, Mrs Moore, Miss Tonia Ramsey daughter of Sir Alf, Sir Alf Ramsey, Mrs Ramsey, Mrs Geoff Hurst and Geoff Hurst.
It’s the couplet that’s sending the most search queries to this blog. It’s the neologism that’s very very very very slowly gaining a bit of a toehold in the national consciousness. Recent aural sightings – if such things are semantically possible – include a Ben Folds gig, a screening of Blade Runner at the IMAX in London, and a New York museum. It’s even being written about in Word magazine, for heaven’s sake.
The thing started almost eight months ago (note how the call-and-responses have already undergone a pith-inspired contraction). It’s high time, i.e. past the point when it could have been genuinely original, to think of how TV Cream can properly join in. We’ve been banging a drum for Adam and Joe’s 6 Music efforts for ages. Might their be a way to take this one step further and stage some kind of Cream-esque STEPHEN! intervention, nay happening?
This isn’t a plea for a kind of joyless Chris Morris/Victor Lewis-Smith hijacking of another TV or radio programme; rather, an imaginative and witty STEPHEN! stunt that could cap the ones essayed to date. Something outside Broadcasting House one Saturday morning? A pre-arranged communal STEPHEN! in one of the nation’s great outdoor spaces? A bit of original video or tunesmithery? Any and all suggestions – and perhaps more importantly participants – welcome.
Anyway, in case you’re still wondering, here’s how it all started.
1) SATIRICAL FROST (1962-3)
Rushton, Percival, Martin, Frost and Kernan bring down the establishment with a long-player and cardboard cut-out versions of their heads.
2) SCHMOOZER FROST (1964-7)
If it’s Tuesday it must be “open-mouth” practice and champagne breakfast with Macca.
3) SERIOUS FROST (1968-9)
A side-parting, a smile and a trimphone send Enoch Powell sprawling.
4) SEVENTIES FROST (1970-4)
Passing through Heathrow with fiancee Diahann Carroll and Duke Ellington; sideburn outlook: fair to changeable.
5) SEVENTIES FROST II (1975-9)
Just time for a snifter in the Playboy Club; sideburn outlook: severe.
6) SUNRISE FROST (1980-4)
Our hero suddenly ages 30 years. Note Parky and Kee struggling – and failing – to adopt “relaxed man of the people” pose; Frostie can’t be arsed.
7) SERVILE FROST (1985-DATE)
Sir David is no longer one of us.
An ex-KGB spy has bought the Evening Standard. If only this were 1969, not 2009…
[AFTERNOON. INTERIOR. A CAVERNOUS OFFICE LINED WITH GIANT PORTRAITS, MURALS AND LANDSCAPES; A CHANDELIER HANGS FROM THE CEILING. AT ONE END, A HUGE MAHOGANY DESK. TO ONE SIDE, A FIREPLACE BLAZES. BAY WINDOWS OVERLOOK LONDON’S SKYLINE. THERE IS FADED CARPET ON THE FLOOR. A GRANDFATHER CLOCK TICKS. A MAN SITS SILENTLY IN A SWIVEL CHAIR BEHIND THE DESK, HIS FACE OBSCURED.]
[THERE IS A KNOCK ON THE DOOR]
PATRICK WYMARK: Enter!
[THE DOOR SWINGS OPEN. AN ENORMOUS MAN IN A FUR COAT AND TALL HAT STEPS INSIDE, WAITS, THEN WALKS VERY SLOWLY INTO THE ROOM. HE STOPS IN THE CENTRE. HE CRACKS HIS KNUCKLES, THEN CLEARS HIS THROAT]
PATRICK: Can I…help you?
PETER USTINOV: That…depends.
PETER: Excuse me, may I have the pleasure of knowing to whom I am speaking?
PATRICK: For now it is enough that you know I am who you believe I am.
PETER: Then let me extend the same courtesy to you.
PATRICK: [SWINGING ROUND IN HIS CHAIR TO FACE HIS VISITOR] That will…not be necessary.
[PETER SHUFFLES OVER TO THE WINDOW]
PETER: Oi-yoi-yoi. London in January is so beautifully decadent, my Western comrade. Why, I think I can ever see from here the, how do you say, the dolly bird?
PATRICK: Come come, I never put your sort down for coyness. Why start now?
PETER: Things…are different now…
[HE PICKS UP A FRAMED PHOTOGRAPH AND, SIGHING, PLACES IT FACE DOWN ON HIS DESK. HE SHAKES HIS HEAD]
PATRICK: The days of the true imperialist are, I fear, long gone.
PETER: [LIGHTING A CIGAR] But I think you will agree that some imperial habits die hard, comrade? [CHUCKLES]
[PATRICK RISES FROM HIS CHAIR AND WALKS TO THE FIREPLACE, WHERE HE POKES AT THE EMBERS DISCONSOLATELY]
PATRICK: My dear fellow, there comes a point in any man’s life when even the most imperial of habits have to be broken…
PETER: …Yes, yes…
PATRICK: …If only to…
PETER: See what is left amongst the pieces? [HE SETTLES INTO A HUGE ARMCHAIR AND DRUMS HIS FINGERS ON THE ARMREST]
PATRICK: I believe you have a proposition, and I would be grateful if you would state it, then get out.
[A KNOCK ON THE DOOR. A WOMAN ENTERS]
BARBARA MURRAY: It is customary the world over to stand upon the entrance of a lady.
[PETER RISES, SHEEPISHLY]
PETER: Madam. One hundred apologies.
BARBARA: For your remiss etiquette or for your country’s outdated cultural barbarism?
PETER: What creature is this, that doth have such a barbed tongue?
PATRICK: The one who fixed up this whole damn deal. Now let’s get to business – the Secretary of State is keen to have this settled before the US market opens.
PETER: Ever the kindly thought for our American cousins.
BARBARA: A few more kindly thoughts from your country, sir, and they would be your cousins too.
PETER: What…are your terms?
[PATRICK PACES AROUND THE ENTIRE ROOM, HANDS BEHIND HIS BACK, CHIN SUNK INTO HIS STOMACH, BEFORE SUDDENLY STOPPING AND POINTING AT PETER]
PATRICK: The whole operation. Every last printing press and stencil. Yours to do what you like with.
PATRICK: No! Hear me out! My mind is made up.
BARBARA: Surely you…
PETER: Control yourself my dear. You heard the man!
BARBARA: I just don’t think…
PATRICK: No. No, no, no. I’ve decided. There’s just too much to lose, what with the Congo, American Tobacco, that ghastly foul-up in Laos…
BARBARA: But yesterday you…
PATRICK: Heavens woman, yesterday was 24 hours ago!
PETER: I congratulate you on your grasp of metaphysics, if not your sense of realpolitik.
BARBARA [FALLING TO HER KNEES, SOBBING] I beg of you…please…think of…
PATRICK: Think of what? Think of Oxford after the war? Think of the Isis in the moonlight, lying in each other’s arms while discussing the putative decline and fall of neo-fascist totalitarianism?
PETER: You have to admit, my lady, he does make a powerful case.
PATRICK: Please believe me. I have no choice. It’s just…it’s just…a matter of expediency…
[THE DOOR FLIES OPEN]
MICHAEL JAYSTON: Stop! Don’t sign! You mustn’t! I’ve…
[A SHOT RINGS OUT]
PETER: Expediency, you say?
[MICHAEL COLLAPSES ON THE FLOOR]
PETER: Hurry now. Name your price.
[PATRICK WALKS BEHIND HIS DESK, OPENS A DRAWER AND PULLS OUT A PIECE OF PAPER. HE SCRIBBLES SOMETHING ON IT, THEN WALKS OVER TO PETER AND HANDS HIM THE DOCUMENT]
PATRICK: My final offer. And believe me, I’ve sacrificed far more for far less.
BARBARA: [HYSTERICAL] What’s the matter? Lost for words, you filthy man?
PETER: One English pound sterling?
PATRICK: Hand it over!
PETER: You will not regret this, comrade.
[HE HANDS OVER ONE POUND NOTE, THEN, CASTING ONE LAST GLANCE AT BARBARA, HURRIES OUT OF THE DOOR]
[INSTANTLY, ANOTHER MAN RACES IN]
PETER BARKWORTH: [PANTING] Was that who I think it was?
PATRICK: Alas, yes. That was the new owner of…the London Evening Standard.
CLIFFORD EVANS [STEPPING OUT FROM BEHIND A PILLAR, WHERE HAS BEEN SECRETLY WATCHING THE ENTIRE SCENE]: And may God have mercy on our capitalist souls.
[CUT TO BLACK]
No more, please. Too many chunks of childhood have already been lost this year to warrant such a rate of expiry persisting any longer.
It’s not fair. January is a barren enough month as it is. To have four masters of the crystal bucket vanish in a mere seven days…it’s just not on. This virtual black armband is starting to lose resonance. How can you celebrate the way things were if you’re stuck only ever having to commemorate it instead?
Of the latest casualty, despite no longer here in any physical sense, the very least you can say is that Tony Hart’s spirit lives on. It lives on in anyone who ever used a wooden stick to carve a giant face on a sandy beach; anyone who ever added a pair of eyes, hands and feet to that superfluous blob of plasticine in the school artroom; anyone who ever borrowed the family Pritt Stick, Copydex or Gloy Gum to doodle the outline of something on a bit of paper, shower the paper with glitter, then tip the paper on its side to reveal…a glittery doodle; anyone who ever filled a used washing-up bottle with paint, suspended it upside down by string, pricked a tiny hole in the lid then let it swing back and forth all over the back of an old bit of wallpaper; anyone who ever covered a sheet of paper with a rainbow of Crayola, then covered that with a layer of black crayon, then used a toothpick to scrape through the black residue and create magical multi-coloured houses, clouds and animals; and anyone who saw other people, people like them, getting their drawings shown on national television and felt moved to try and do the same.
Everyone, basically. His spirit lives on in every single one of us.
Euston Road, March 1978: