A Liar's Autobiography
Graham Chapman - (1999)
I woke up to flashing blue lights. There was an ambulance outside. What was that doing here? I felt fine, and I'd had worse cuts. Everyone persuaded me that perhaps hospital was the best thing. Jane was gaping as though she'd just been witness to an exorcism. I was carried off to the hospital, knowing that I'd lost my heroic struggle with the distilleries of the world. (16)
1. Familiar French horseman on the tip of one's tongue ruins musical pedigree. (17)
Do you know, last time I was in Paris I really did ring Jean-Paul Sartre and Simone de Beauvoir answered the phone and said that he was out distributing leaflets. Or was that a sketch? (19)
'This is no time for musing,' I mused. (37)
'Ooooh,' oohed Biggles and Algy. Then suddenly they were through it. Peace. Calm. Ecstasy. They floated, as one, in a post-what can't be described in a children's book sort of feeling. (46)
He died, leaving Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd-Webber to translate it into the Broadway smash-hit, Kiss My Twat, an all-goat musical comedy. (49)
At St Swithin's Hospital I had been submitted to twenty seconds of searching questions:
DEAN: Play rugby?
WARDEN: We've got a John Chapman here. Is he any relation of yours?
ME: He's my brother.
WARDEN: Right. See you in September.
DEAN: Wait a moment. What position d'you play?
ME: Second row.
DEAN: September it is, then. (57)
1. Essay: a collection of other people's thoughts disguised to look like one's own, in the judging of which originality is heavily penalized. (68n1)
I recently submitted an essay (rejected- see note 1 on page 68) to The Lancet, proposing that the pineal body could be the tax centre of the brain - a gland that sends out messenger substances into the bloodstream that call a halt to any form of work when the environment is unfavourable. Thus when a level of taxation approaching 83% is reached, the human body would fall into a state of inertia, all further activity seeming pointless. (69n2)
A week later I had just collected a round from the bar during a lull which was almost detectable in the dull conversation. (76)
I tested it for creakiness and made a mental note to tell the porter to bring me a larger and less creaky place to sleep. (79)
The police greeted an empty plane, while we rushed through the gate into Customs. A fight nearly broke out with the officiaIs, which we would certainly have won in the short-term. (82)
He suggested that we should all take blood from each other, and lined us up in pairs, so that you would take 5 ml of blood from your partner, who would then take 5 ml of blood from you. Fortunately he left, and we were on our own. I refused to have my blood taken by the idiot who was my partner, and I'm sure he felt the same about me. (86)
His abdominal surgery had been mismanaged at another hospital and he'd been brought into the teaching hospital to be sorted out. His abdomen had been covered with aluminium paste in an attempt to prevent the excoriation of the skin caused by his five substitute arseholes. It was as though his bowels had been doctored by a telephone engineer. Any competent plumber would have done a better job. No-one really knew which hole led where. Marcus Pine and myself, as dressers, were ordered by the Sister to bath him. We put him into a bath which we filled with disinfectant, and were both vaguely nauseated by the unformed turds which slipped out of his orifices. He was pleased by the comfort of the bath and the fact that we hadn't thrown up in his presence. We dried him, carried him back to bed, and he died the next morning. (86)
He was the embodiment of the spirit of England - courageous, kind and stupid. (Used here in the sense of having concealed wisdom.) He said 'yup' when a 'yes' would have done. (88)
Then the patient gave an enormous jack-knife type jerk, and the surgeon politely asked me what the fuck was going on. (91)
The first one was the student's traditional friend, a nurse, a sack of flour that you met at a hop and persuaded back to your room for coffee, having put all the chairs in a friend's room so that the only seating accommodation is the bed. She was rather podgy and extremely repellent, but I just wanted to get my end away. She must have been some kind of descendant of Richard Gordon's 'Rigor Mortis' - perhaps her mother was a nurse at St Swithin's in about 1939. She was a real 'lie down, think of hockey and England' type, and after a brief grope that was not enthusiastically received I thought, 'The bar's still open, I'll get rid of her.' (93)
A trip to New Zealand and America made me a little more broad-minded about myself, and immediately after qualifying I gave up medicine and became a raging poof. But no mincing - a butch one with a pipe. (96)
The 408th anniversary of the abdication of King Charles V of Spain, that is the 16th of January 1964, was a cold, depressing day. (97)
As a medical student at that time you were required to drag out at least twenty babies on your own, and sew up the results of your errors. (99)
I gave the girl her child after the formality of tying off the umbilical cord and weighing the placenta. She asked me my name, and, in gratitude, called the placenta 'Graham', though the child had to be called 'Alvar' after its father. (100)
It was the easiest birth I have ever seen, perhaps because she was so young and had none of the fear and worry that is commonly induced by older members of the female sex in order to dramatize their role in life. I have always thought of birth as one of the most natural processes and one not needing the interference of medical science. Most women in the world have their babies behind a bush in a squatting position, in which even a breach delivery can be performed by one person without unnatural interference. For male readers: imagine being nine months constipated having inadvertently swallowed a coconut whole, and then being asked to lie on an operating table, legs apart, with lots of people watching, dressed in silly clothes. Would you be able to shit? In my view, maternity wards should consist of carefully arranged shrubberies, with earplugs for each mother so they don't have to hear, 'Ooh, I had a terrible time with my first'; 'Wrongway round is it dear?'; 'Oh poor thing, twenty-five stitches I had the last time'; and 'They've got you on a drip, have they?' Childbirth would be completely painless if grandmothers had their lips sewn up. (100)
I learned later that the temperance societies in New Zealand were largely financed by the breweries, and that the reason for this was that if the licensing laws were extended they would have to spend more money on pubs and staff to run them. They made a better profit the other way, out of offsale bottled beer and spirits. (105)
Auckland is a larger town than Wellington, and there is even one building you could describe as a restaurant. (106)
Mrs. Lee took us to the best hotels for cocktails, and to lantern-lit floating restaurants with really fresh fish swimming in cages over the side. You pointed out the one you either liked or hated and it would be killed in any way you wished. I had one of my fish killed in a white wine and green ginger sauce, although it was the stuffing of finely chopped scallions, fried almonds and lemon juice that really finished it off. John Cleese's fish was so fresh he had to batter it over the head with an empty sake bottle before it would agree to go down his throat. (108)
A few of the sampans, with untattered roofs, were owned by the Chinese equivalent of the middle class. These families had become 'wealthy' by selling their bodily orifices to foreign tourists. And when I was showing an 8 mm film of Visit to Hong Kong by G. Chapman, I found it rather difficult to explain to my mother what all those little children were doing backing towards me patting their bottoms. (108-9)
Tim and I left feeling radiant - well, not radiant, horny really. I found out that he had also refused 'assistance'. We both regretted that we were English. (110)
But none of this stopped the air-hostess doing her bit over the tannoy: 'On behalf of Captain Morpeth and the Muir of Ord we hope you have had a pleasant flight. Would you please remain seated until the irrational and claustrophobic grappling around the two exits has come to a complete halt. I don't know about you, but this is definitely my last flight with Air Faecal Pellets, and the reason is that I have now spent three years staggering up and down between rows of cramped seats filled with conceited American businessmen grabbing my arse - though God knows why, because they couldn't even fuck their own fists on alternate Fridays – wearing this humiliating priapic costume - where's the so-called "glamour" in that? Even the pilot - who I happen to know is being flicked by a policeman in Benidorm - is hardly likely to come and give me a twatful of God's own juice, which I gather is so good for the teeth. And there's no point in any of you tittering like that - it goes without saying that all of you will have to wait three quarters of an hour in the plane at 110°F, then pour out into an airport bus which will drive you three times round the plane and then zig-zag the twenty yards to the corrugated iron Arrivals Hutch, where you will have to wait another three quarters of an hour at 120° for the privilege of having your passport messily stamped by a myopic, unshaven bureaucrat in Woolworth's "Dago" reflecting sunglasses. While you are standing there you will see Captain "Clint" Morpeth and his co-pilot who thinks he's James Bond (you can tell him by his red face, a stench of Japanese body-rub, and the time-expired packet of Durex in his top pocket) streak through hours ahead of anyone else clutching their contraband, which will be very annoying for you, 'cause by then you'll be dying for a piss and there's absolutely nowhere for you to go. Even then you'll have to face the baggage claim with the suitcase that goes round and round for forty minutes looking like yours, and if you get your luggage, it'll be grabbed by some petty-bourgeois bumbiter of a customs officer who thinks he's General Franco 'cause he's got two stripes round his sleeve, who will force it open at the hinges and sweat torrentially all over your fresh white cotton shirts in search of smuggled dried lizards and illicit pinball machines. Finally you'll get out and there'll be no buses to the town so you'll have to take a taxi and be charged £35 for a two-mile ride on burning plastic seats that scald your ... Oh you'll never learn, will you? Just get off.' Click. (113-14)
1. Quite a nice girl really. I only wrote 'tart' because the back of my neck is aching and I keep being interrupted by telephone calls from Eire about whether The Life of Brian is blasphemous, while being interviewed by the Belgians on the same subject. (115n)
We arrived at the villa which was the upper apartment of a two-floor building, very spacious with two balconies and absolutely covered in fucking bougainvillea, so picturesque it made you want to excrete.
The next day I hired a bicycle and so did John Cleese. He couldn't ride his, but then he was only twenty-five years old. (116)
I think I can say with sincerity that I'm against any large organization, communist, capitalist or religious, that pretends to know best. I would rather have a perverted Roman Emperor or a pederast king than the blinkered and bureaucratic pismires who trammel humanity with their legal systems, medicine, trade unions, armies, the archaic tribal mutilation of circumcision, baton charges against students, students charging police, fish fingers, lard, turgid or tit-and-bum journalism, television programmes that wouldn't appeal to a stuffed walnut, and National Parades. (117)
I mean, let's all of us come off it. What are we? We are tubes - hollow cylinders of flesh. What is our expectation from life? Regular fulfilment of primitive functions at both ends, coupled with the thought that we must progress, leaving at least something behind us, very much in the same way that a dog pisses on a tree. (117)
As we cycled adverbially through the adjectival groves of whatever they were - kind of tree-things - in a detached way I looked at the three of us. (119)
Marty Feldman's head popped up through the sunroof like Marty Feldman's head through a sun-roof. (119)
He homed in on John like a missile programmed to injure Frank Sinatra. (120)
John swam out to sea and was never seen again. (Except a bit.) (122)
Another bang on the door. I made more vomiting noises in Spanish. (132)
But lying down under the stars with the person I loved, I couldn't think that any bug-eyed monster from another world would have objected. And even God has his compassionate moments, presumably. (132)
The next morning we were all having coffee (a euphemism for gin and slimline tonic with ice but no lemon in it, in my case) and just as I was making excuses for not going to the same beach as the others, we saw what appeared to be, and was, David Paradine Frost walking up the street. He had just arrived, having popped over from London for lunch to see how John and I were getting on with the script. He'd no idea where we were staying but then Ibiza is a small island for a man who thinks he's that big. We called out to him. He joined us and chatted intermittently about the film and how super everything was, while signing autographs for English tourists.
He ended up staying one-and-a-half-days - a record holiday. Tim and I took him out to eat and using one of the least sophisticated drugs in the world - alcohol - saw through the outer shell of his psyche to find surprisingly pleasant contents. The sort of man, rather like John Cleese, with whom you would feel you had more in common, if only they drank as much as you did.
Several years later I went to see David at his home in London on a purely friendly visit. He couldn't understand this and was certain that I was trying to sell him something, like a television or film script. I wasn't, but even after reading this I'm sure he'll suspect that I still am. (132-3)
At Calla Bassa David romped around the beach attempting to play football - I didn't want to join in - and amused himself paddling in three feet of water. He can't swim. He was wearing my snorkel and goggles and became more and more amused and high-pitched in his description of the tiny animals called fish that he'd previously only ever seen in restaurants. (133-4)
He died; but, just as people of his stature can, he left a lot of his mind around. What he was certainly affected my attitude towards people and to life. I'm sure he must have changed many other people too. (159)
I looked over and saw two Glaswegian-style football supporters talking to a 'local'. I walked over to the bar, excused myself for intruding and told them that I was a homosexual and didn't much care for sniggering snide comments from ignorant people. Perhaps I could tell them a few things about their misconceptions. My friends at the pinball table stiffened, sensing imminent violence. Number one Glaswegian stared straight into my eyes and I stared back. After a long pause in which a fight to the last cell between his excitatory and inhibitory neurons hung in the balance, he said, 'That was fuckin' brave, that.'
'No. That,' he repeated to his friend, 'was fuckin' brave, you know just to say that, like that, and that. Fuckin' great. I mean he didna know us, we coulda fuck'n killed 'im - 'a mean, what you havin' mate?'
'Well I was just leaving ... '
'No come on, Jimmy .."
Everyone else in the pub agreed with my new friends that I had been 'fuckin' great', sensibly preferring agreement to having their mouths filled with Caledonian forehead. (165-6)
We were sidetracked by the thought that if you used the word 'bedpan' it always brought gales of laughter from the older ladies in the studio audience. We had resented this easy laugh in other people's episodes and decided to put it to the test and so an old X-ray cupboard became an old bedpan-cupboard so that the word could then crop up regularly without trace of subtlety or humour. (The experiment was disappointingly successful; the artless bedpan got the laughs every time.) We were writing about our sixth or seventh gratuitous 'bedpan' when, 'Bring bring bring,' insinuated the telephone. (166)
I was very pleased with the progress they had made, particularly Brendan, who was quite literate. They both took pride in what they had achieved and even invited me round to dinner at their place. I recognized quite a lot of my own cutlery, plates and dishes but I kind of assumed that they knew that I knew I would have wanted them to have them. (169-70)
Jimmy by now was working in a pub. One day his new friend came to see him there near to closing time and an argument flared up. Jimmy rushed off in a fit of pique, expecting to be followed by a contrite friend. He ran home to his flat and decided to stage a little display, just to show how deeply he had been offended. Jimmy's idea of that kind of display was to hang himself from a clothes-line post in the garden, while standing on a chair waiting for his friend. Unfortunately he didn't realize how fatal hanging actually is: the chair slipped from under him and he died. Either the chair slipped by accident or he was stupid enough not to know that your head doesn't like being without a blood supply and that he thought he could hang dramatically there until his friend came home.... (170)
Two weeks later the ambulance service rang me to say, 'We've got a John Robert Tomiczek here who has only given us your address - since you had him admitted, where should we take him?' They actually sounded busier than that. (176)
I asked him about his family and background but because of his strong Liverpool accent and an ability to feel less well whenever he was questioned I let things ride, thinking, 'Well, he'll tell us when he's ready. (176)
It was an uneventful journey apart from a major accident when a twenty-five-ton truck drove into the side of my Vanden Plas Princess at 50 mph. (177)
A marvellous moment this: I heard a distant shout - they must have seen my light. I saw their light quickly return my flash. That was fanbloodytastic. F-bloody-anta-bloody-st-bloody-ic. All thoughts about what Eternity smells like had vanished. (180)
John and I both went up to the police station. We had about three hours before catching the plane for Jersey and we were kept there for two being questioned, John being rather more fiercely interrogated than I; after all I was a doctor. (183)
The old folks were in for a treat; a pantomime performed by locals, followed by a raffle drawn by someone they'd been told was a celebrity and then a cup of tea and some biscuits afterwards. (184)
PauI McCartney had just formed a new group called Wings, and they were making their UK debut at the Hardrock Cafe in Piccadilly, an excrementally trendy hamburger joint. (196)
I arrived at the Hardrock with Tom, my driver, and John. I was supposed to introduce the guest-groups to a crowd of rich pointless layabouts who were showing how cool they were by taking no notice of anything that surrounded them, including each other. (197)
The bouncers wouldn't let me in. I explained that I was the compere. But they were large gentlemen with tiny brains and hadn't been programmed with this piece of information. (201)
Well, it wasn't too bad. I pressed the plunger home. 'O-o-o-o-oh!' I removed the empty syringe, regained some professional dignity, and said to myself, 'There, it wasn't as bad as you thought, was it?' 'Yes,' said my right buttock. (202)
I had expected Cardiff to be a bit of a challenge, but, full of gin and the feeling of superiority over mortals which commonly afflicts the adulated, I had reached my zenith in a naughty and, to this day, illegal act upon the floor of an empty dressing-room. (204)
We arrived at the town and asked the way to the 'Kassette' prison camp, which we knew had been preserved as a 'don't do it again' monument. (214)
Some weeks later a letter arrived at the Python office via the BBC TV Centre. This was from an extremely angry lady who said that someone from Monty Python - who had not had the courage to give his name (I didn't need to, George introduced me and there it was in the closing credits), had appeared on the George Melly programme and had admitted to being a homosexual. Her handwriting became visibly angrier as she went on to say that persons like that should not be allowed to live and would suffer eternal torment in the fires of hell and were an abomination. There was much more self-righteous invective, promising more fire and brimstone, followed up by some twenty pages of prayers which if they were repeated by the offender twice daily would at least place him in some kind of purgatory instead.
Eric Idle wrote back to the 'lady', saying that we ('The Pythons') had found out which one it was and killed him ....
Curiously enough, we did the next TV series without John Cleese.
I wonder what she thought .... (220-1)
[Keith Moon] reminisced gleefully about a few recent 'outrages' and outlined a change of policy. Instead of destroying repellent hotel rooms, he had decided on a more constructive approach. Every visitor should smuggle in a suit case full of building materials, so that he could build some annoyingly permanent memento, like a brick dog kennel, in the middle of the room. (221)
I went round back stage afterwards to congratulate Keith, 'Great, loved it' etc. I said, 'I could hear some of the words with my fingers in my ears.'
Keith laughed and a diminutive, grey-haired old lady said, 'Shall I hit him Keith or will you?'
Keith said, 'Oh you do it.' She then swiftly lifted one of her little legs and kicked me in the balls. Fortunately she just missed the sensitive parts and I said magnanimously, 'Go on, have another go,' expecting her to give up. But she didn't and clipped the lower bit of my left testicle. 'Waaaarrrggghhh,' I went.
Keith apologized for his mother-in-law's behaviour and suggested we should go for a drink. (222)
The film Monty Python and the Holy Grail made a lot of money for me (and for me it was a lot). Unfortunately the tax people demanded 83% of this (cf. pineal gland, Chapter 3) but, having a little left, I decided to invest it in something I knew about. (225)
At the same time EMI had just backed out of their deal with Python about providing $4,000,000 for The Life of Brian production. Lord Delfont himself gave us the chop above the heads of the chiefs of EMI production who had agreed the terms. Keith set about vigorously trying to raise the money for us to save this venture and would have succeeded in time. But George Harrison made an extremely courageous offer which was eagerly accepted by us and the film was on again. Keith was going to play the part of one of the blood-and-thunder prophets in that and when I met him a week before we went off to start shooting in Tunisia he seemed to be looking forward to it all very much. He was still not drinking and had, it seemed, beaten the bottle. But on September 7th 1978 he died . . . having drunk a quantity of wine and taken some heminevrin pills, a deadly combination.
I did not know how to react - the loss was too appalling to comprehend but it left me determined to make sure that his spirit - his visions of right and wrong - his energy would not die with him. Keith was kindness itself and never harmed anyone in his escapades, which certainly brightened up many lives - just because there was someone around who was reckless enough to say, 'Stuff the lot of you! and drive his Rolls-Royce into a swimming pool. Or blow the door off an hotel bedroom with dynamite because a pompous hotel manager complained about his cassette recorder making 'a noise' in the lobby. The amazed manager, staring at the smoking doorway as Keith pointed at his cassette, still playing, was told, 'That's noise mate - this is "The Who".' ... Keith is one person I know I'll see again .... (227)
'Do you realize that in the ten minutes I have been here you've dropped seventeen famous names?'
'Have I?' I said. 'I didn't intend to, it's just that I happen to know these people. They're friends of mine ... er, they live here .... '
'I want you to repeat what you've just said to yourself and think about it as a medical man.'
'You mean I've got ... ?'
My head reeled as the grim reality struck me like a blow on the head from a copy of Cecil and Loeb.
'Yes, Nivenism,' he said. 'It's a common enough complication of Angelitis, a similar disease to that described by Freud as the Frank Harris Syndrome, an endemic autobiographical complaint.'
'What should I do, move to Finland?'
'No, you must face the problem. There is no known treatment. You'll just have to sweat it out.'
'Isn't there anything I can do to speed up my recovery?'
'There is, but it isn't going to be pleasant I'm afraid - Revulsion Therapy. I'm going to prescribe for you an intensive course of Hollywood Parties; it's your only hope.' (229)
The Mood is a Full Baboon (230; chapter title)
'Shheeiiiitttt .. .' drawled David. 'That's Peter.'
Being laid back (obligatory in Southern California), I allowed the customary twenty-minute pause to elapse before responding with, ' 'Pon my soul 'tis.' We allowed another twenty minutes of laid-back time to pass before expecting to hear the doorbell.
'Zzz' it clanged. Both parties either side of the door alpharhythmed away a further third of an hour. Finally after a series of languid phone-calls we managed to get through to Starlite Emergency Twenty-Four-Hour-Luxury-Door-Opening-Service. We'd used them before; they were a good firm and for a pittance of a thousand dollars a week would arrive within minutes to open anyone's doors. (There was of course a fifty dollars surcharge for not being in the Beverly Hills area but, in addition to their activities with portals, they would remove any unwanted 'single-portion-pizzas-under-one-metre-in-width'. ) (230-1)
Harry Nilsson was at the piano performing a duet with a barking robot-dog. Ringo then led a rendition of 'Happy barking robot-dog. Ringo then led a rendition of 'Happy Birthday to You' accompanied by twenty-five lead vocalists who just happened to be there and countless session singers, a gift from Warner Bros. Harry and Marty Feldman added a touch of Keith Moon by using the top of the piano as a drumkit. My mother and father hovered in a state of enlightened astonishment at having found yet another black man who was 'Very well spoken, you know' ....
Taking a cue from Marty, who was by now chasing Hollywood-psychiatrist Stuart Lerner around the room, trying to embarrass him with a French kiss, I chatted up the nearest sex symbol, Sylvia Kristel, telling her to pop in and see Bernard McKenna, who I felt needed a sexual threat to slow down his rapidly developing affair with a gallon of Bourbon. She returned a few moments later, her advances having been repelled by an inflight ashtray. She wandered off into the garden to be consoled by a girlfriend. (237)