» Cult TV Convention
BILL ODDIE - CULT TV CONVENTION 2000 - TORQUAY
(by Kay Dickinson)
(from C&G #59 November 2000)
The annual Cult TV convention was held this year in Torquay, Devon (though not at Flowery Tw..erm, Fawlty Towers) - and one of the guests this year was none other than Bill Oddie (Tim and Graeme couldn't make it due to ISIHAC commitments). The format of the convention was that the guests would be interviewed on stage for 45 minutes or so, and then the audience were invited to ask questions.
Bill's session began with the showing of "Wild Thing" from "The Goodies Almost Live". It was great to see Bill standing below one of the two giant screens, watching himself, Tim and Graeme singing the classic song.
Once he'd sat down on one of large sofas on stage, Bill found it highly amusing that, as well as the microphone on the stand in front of him, there was another positioned behind the sofa which had slipped down and he ended up sitting on it. He wondered what sounds that one was designed to pick up - and mentioned that he had written a song entitled "Blowing Off"!
Robert Ross was interviewing Bill, and he started things off, referring to Wild Thing, asking Bill about his being a frustrated rock star. Bill was then interrupted - by his mobile phone ringing! It was his wife, Laura, and Bill informed her that she was talking to 400 people and got us all to shout "Hello, Laura!" to her!
They went back to discussing the frustrated rock star, and Bill commented that, of all the songs he'd written, they had to show a clip of one of the few that wasn't his!
"I really got my rocks off" said Bill of being a pop star. The level of adulation heaped on them all from "comedy groupies" had scared them though - at a signing at the Arndale in Manchester, the police had actually told them that they couldn't guarantee their safety! He also mentioned that he'd pulled in Torquay once! Reference was made to Tim's raunchy "You move me" during Wild Thing from the clip, and Bill commented that Tim couldn't do that any more, 'cos his back's gone!!
Bill revealed that he can't remember an awful lot about the Goodies - and said that had Tim been there, we would have been regaled with the full details! He says that he doesn't really like living in the past that much, but that when he went over to Australia to promote a nature programme he was involved in, all the interviewers wanted to know about was The Goodies. He told everyone how big The Goodies are in Oz, because of the re-screenings.
They went on to discuss Cambridge Circus, and Bill told how it had opened to rave reviews on Broadway - and how he kept being mistaken for Eric Burdon of the Animals! (which he seemed rather pleased about). Despite the reviews, the audiences were very low - the reason for this became clear when they found out that the promoter was famous for putting on big, showy productions and ballets - he'd evidently thought they were a real circus! They were taken off Broadway after three weeks, but continued in a club off Broadway for nine months.
Bill went on to say that he'd been farmed out as a writer and had written stuff for Tommy Cooper (of whom he then did a very bad impression!) And Ronnie Barker, who was more compos mentis than Cooper "or at least he is now!" - writing a script for Tommy Cooper was a pointless exercise, because he never remembered any of it. He wrote a lot of visual pieces for Ronnie Barker, which he physically couldn't do - one of which was the scene from Kitten Kong of Tim being dragged around the park by Twinkle the kitten - "nothing was wasted"!
They then went on to talk about I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue - the only show of which he'd said, "oh, f***, I can't stand this!" "It was agony" - the best bits happened in the pub beforehand, and it was all "Graeme's stupid bloody idea!" - "it made me ill".
For I'm Sorry I'll Read That Again, the cast acknowledged that John Cleese was always the genius of the show, but that the critics took years to see it. They always liked Bill because of all the songs - despite his own opinion that he was "crap"!
The conversation turned to the relationship and work they had done with the Pythons - and that The Goodies was a reaction to Monty Python but that they were not rivals. He commented that Twice A Fortnight was subtitled "Match Of The Day Part II" to try to get more viewers!
Monty Python was the "quintessential sketch show" and that the reaction that the Goodies tried to create was of "something completely different" - no pun was actually intended there!! Their idea was to do a half-hour story - and it annoys him that people refer to Goodies "sketches" or even worse, "skits" - a word he hates and says is, "so wet".
The "sketch" (sic) of Kung-Fu Kapers was then shown - and Bill makes notes during it. He then elucidates (you do and you clean it up yourself!) on his notes.
"Some points", he says, "if you're not interested, you can fall asleep"
He comments that watching the clip had reminded him of how good Tim and Graeme were. Graeme was always the one who was able to keep a straight face but Tim and Bill giggled so much that they sometimes had to record in separate studios - and even then it didn't work!
And it "doesn't rankle at all" with him that Tim got a writing credit AND a third of the money, "despite not doing a f***ing thing!"
Bill and Graeme, "the scriptwriters!" would write a bunch of topics - a straight list that could have been for Panorama - and put two with absolutely no connection together to see what happened.
He said that one of the great satisfactions of the shows was to be able to give so many of the people working on the show - the costume designers and props people - a sense of satisfaction themselves - like with the huge flat caps. They'd come to them with a cap an inch wider than it should be and they'd say, "no, it's got to be enormous" and the props people would come back and back until they'd say "well, we've got this one, but it's ridiculous" - and the Goodies would say, "that's the one we want!"
They would also often use the same extras in the scenes - Bill says a "nerd's challenge" would be to watch all the episodes back and spot the same extras!
The guest stars they had would usually be guest villains - and they would often be lumbered with a big star - and end up just laughing at them, wishing they were as good. They then decided to become their own villains.
Bill hates "Charity Bounce" - he says it was the most painful - physically - of the programmes to make. He then did an audience poll of who'd had spacehoppers, who didn't and who still wanted one - "very sad"! He said that the spacehoppers had big phallic ears - like a kangaroo! (referring to the Cult TV cardboard cut-out of Skippy on stage - (don't ask!)).
The reason it was the most painful was that they had a metal harness on their heads and over their shoulders for it. When they bounced (and he demonstrated this by bouncing all over the stage!), the harness kept hitting their heads - it was "absolute agony" - and what was worse was that they didn't need to have done it, they could have used stuntmen because you couldn't see that it really was them, "but, oh no - WE do our own stunts!" It was apparently a good job that it was a silent scene - every time they bounced, all you could hear was assorted swear words!
With regard to injuries sustained during this, the doctor amongst them was, "no use at all, Graeme, bless him - he can't even look after himself. And he smokes too much."
They thought of themselves as cartoon characters - the downside being that they then set themselves up as human props and were often treated as such.
He then talked about the Kitten Kong scene when the mice run off the top of the office block - they were discussing the technical difficulties of the scene and how to go about filming it. Bill realised that he'd really lost his grip on reality when he said to the others that, as it was only a small drop, they should forget the special effects and just do the scene themselves!!!
On the issue of the BBC's continued refusal to repeat The Goodies, Bill said that it had puzzled them, annoyed them and hurt them a little - especially with all the 70s programmes on TV - although he thought that the "I Love The 70s" programmes were crap! (Bill says that he's recorded an interview for a Christmas programme called, "Spangles at Christmas or Flares at Christmas" or something like that). He says, though, that he's not bitter over Jane Root (although he didn't name her). When they were approached over the video releases, the three of them had to go though all the episodes to pick the ones to be released and, "some of the programmes were SO bad!"
The reason they were told that the distribution and advertising for the video releases was so awful was that the BBC would only spend time and money on a release if the programme was being screened at the time!!? Figure that one out!
The Comic Relief clip was shown in full (all 85 seconds of it) and Bill reckons the BBC have an official policy of, "never give The Goodies more than 85 seconds - ever!"
The floor was thrown open for questions and someone asked what Bill's favourite Goodies song was - and said that he had their "Criminal Record". Bill pointed out that "Criminal Record" was a book and "Nothing To Do With Us" was the record. He joked about putting the book on the record player and said that if you did, you'd find out that Tim died 30 years ago!
What killed them off as a recording act, apparently, was their defection to Island records. The others weren't happy about it at all, but Bill was in his frustrated rock star mode - and he says that the reason it didn't work out with Island was that " the staff at Island were more into turning on than turning up!"
His favourite song is from Nothing To Do With Us - The Policeman's Opera. It was written as a send up of Bohemian Rhapsody and Bill was completely in his element as he got to work with great musicians on it - Joe Cocker's band and Rick Wakeman.
Someone then asked a really, really obscure question about her impression that Bill had been offended with someone on an interview once (there are some, shall we say "unique" people that attend these conventions!) - and then I asked him a question - who would he have liked to have had as a guest on The Goodies that they didn't get?
Cue much hilarity as Bill's predictable answer was Michelle Pfeiffer and Jennifer Aniston! He also suggested Tessa Wyatt. He also said that he'd have loved to have worked with a big name before they became famous and would really have loved to have worked with Rik Mayall, or possibly Rowan Atkinson (although there was some of his stuff that he hadn't liked).
The classic clip was then shown from Goodies Rule OK, with Bill and Ben, Dougal, Zebedee and the Wombles. After the clip, Bill let us into a little secret that Tim's been keeping to himself all this time - when Zebedee bounced down between Tim's legs, he, um, didn't miss!! It has apparently taken Tim a long time to recover from this experience! Brings tears to the eyes.... Especially Tim's!!
Bill finished the session by saying that the whole of The Goodies was very dream-like - "and what better dream could you have than to kick a Womble in the nuts?"
Later that evening, Cult TV held their Awards Ceremony. Bill was invited up to present the award for "Cult Campaigner of the Year" - "what's an aigner?" asked Bill. "Is this an award for people who are famous now and might just be remembered in 10 years' time?" The nominees were, Harry Hill - "he's pinched our lettering!" moaned Bill, Charlotte Hudson (Watchdog), Graham Norton, Jonathan Ross - "clapped out old bugger!" and Mark Thomas. Graham Norton won - "I was right about the Camp Aigner" heckled Bill from back at his table after the video of Norton accepting the award.
A little later on, the award for Best Animated Character came up. They had Sooty to read the nominations! Obviously, there was a major problem with this, and the compere consulted with Sooty and said that Sooty wanted someone good to read out the nominations for him. "We've got a Good-y - will that do?" - "Is there a Goody in the house? - Bill Oddie - have you heard of him?" the compere asks the puppet. Sooty scratches his head, looking thoughtful. Up comes Bill to the podium again and starts throwing insults at Sooty (which I have to confess I can't remember because I was laughing too much, and had also not brought my notebook with me!), which culminated in Bill wiping his nose on Sooty. Cue clip of Harry H Corbett on the phone to Tim, wiping his nose on the puppet.
Bill tells Sooty that he was responsible for writing that script - and it originally wasn't his nose that Corbett was scripted to wipe on Sooty! Sooty tells Bill that he's got a surprise for him, and if everyone in the audience shouts, "Easy, peasy - lemon squeezy", he'll let him have it! Everyone does, and Sooty squirts Bill with his infamous water pistol! (NB: for Australian readers - I'm not sure if you're aware of Sooty's history, but this is how he treated most people!) Bill then reads the nominations, insulting Sooty throughout - and Sooty again soaks Bill with the pistol! (if you're interested, Bagpuss won!)
The last award of the evening, and the compere tells the audience that it's a completely new category. This is an award for a Cult TV programme that is celebrating an anniversary and isn't being remembered anywhere else. There are three awards lined up. It's The Goodies! Bill's back up at the podium - "you've made this up so I don't feel I've come here for nothing!" He said something to the general effect that he wasn't going to pass the awards on to Tim and Graeme 'cos they couldn't be arsed to be there - they can come and get it themselves! This is only the second award The Goodies have won (Montreaux didn't count because it was only a silver rose!) - the first being the Best TV Comedy of 1976 from, of all things, "The Sun"! "The Sun! No-one reads The Sun! You use it for loo paper, but no-one actually reads it!"
Then the awards were over and people started leaving. Armed with camera, Goodies books and pictures I approached Bill's table. I'd introduced myself quickly earlier, after the interview session and as I got to his table, Bill turned round - "Hello, weblady!" (no jokes about being Spiderman's wife from anyone, thank you!) He was quite happy to sign all my stuff (I've got some pics and a book signed for prizes for the "Goodies Rule UK" get-together) and I took the opportunity to ask some questions I'd been requested to ask him.
He'd be quite happy for someone to look into re-mastering and releasing the songs from the shows that had never been released (Bunfight, Needed, Come Back etc.) but he didn't have them and didn't know where the original tapes were - probably at the BBC.
I mentioned our get-together in Cricklewood on the 11th November and the possibility of a convention next year - "2001 and a bit" and said that he thought he'd be able to be involved, depending on the timing of it.
The series due to be shown in the UK, "Bill Oddie Goes Wild" - has been put back to January next year, instead of the original scheduling of September this year.
Due to his reaction in the interview, I assumed that this question had already been answered, but mentioned it anyway - he would actually quite like to appear on I.S.I.H.A.C. again - although he hasn't approached Tim or Graeme about it - and he's not sure whether or not they'd want him on it!!! Tim???
Lastly, and by no means leastly.... I'd had a nosy as to which guests Cult TV had invited and not got - and they'd invited both Rolf Harris and Nicholas Parsons!!! Bill was rather amused at this when I told him - though he says he actually does get on very well with Rolf - and that Rolf loves the Scatty Safari programme and is the proud owner of a copy of it! Opinions on Nicholas Parsons were not forthcoming....!!!