Narrated by the legendary John Peel and based on music writer Peter Frame’s extensive rock and roll family trees, this 1995 documentary features some tasty interviews with members of The NY Dolls, Patti Smith, Blondie, The Ramones, Television, Talking Heads, Richard Hell, Jayne County and more.
If you’re like me, you can’t get enough of that New York punk rock.
I started off with the Famous Five, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Gerry Anderson, Edith Piaf, Spiderman, Geoff Love and Big Chief I-Spy.
Big Chief I-Spy was Charles Warrell, a retired headmaster who started a series of spotter’s guides in the mid-1950’s called I-Spy. There were some forty volumes, which were intended to encourage young British children to take an interest in the outside world.
Each book focussed on one subject - I-Spy Creepy Crawlies, I-Spy Birds, I-Spy Working Vehicles, I-Spy Trees, I-Spy Wild Flowers, you get the picture, pocket books with various things to “spy”, with pictures, information and a few dotted lines to be filled with where you saw them.
Once all the contents had been marked up, the book was returned to the Big Chief (c/o his address at “Wigwam by the River”), who then sent you a feather and an order of merit. The I-Spy books lasted from the 1950s-1980s, and hundreds of thousands were sold to enquiring youngsters. In 1991 they were relaunched by Michelin, and again in 2009.
I’ve always thought it probable that the I-Spy books led to a generation of youngster taking greater interest in their environment, who then went on to become involved in various ecological or political groups. Charles Warrell died in 1995, at the age of 106, which suggests an active mind keeps you young.
The publisher and writer, Callum James uploaded these original I-Spy covers onto his website Front Free Endpaper, which is worth dipping into for its interesting book collections.
Not only is oldstream UK media tearing itself apart right now, previously picked on figures are getting their own back too. For the benefit of non-UK readers, “mincemeat” is also known as “ground beef”, and that is exactly what comic Steve Coogan makes of former deputy features editor for News Of The World, Paul McMullan, on last night’s BBC Newsnight program’s round table discussion concerning the phone-hacking scandal, the closure of NotW by Rupert Murdoch, and his still possible takeover of the BSkyB TV network. Paul McMullan is no stranger to celebrity revenge, as a covertly-recorded pub conversation between himself and Hugh Grant, in which he admitted the extent of the NotW’s phone-hacking activities, and which was then published in the New Statesman, was responsible for reopening this whole media can of worms.
Steve Coogan has had a tussle with the tabloids before, when it was claimed he was having an affair with Courtney Love (which was denied by both parties, but which caught the public imagination). But what’s going on here is not simply revenge - as Coogan rightly points out in his very first sentence, Paul McMullan is a walking PR disaster for the tabloid press and News international. He comes across as oily, evasive, self-interested and a hypocrite - perfectly fitting the public image of everything bad about tabloid-level journalists.
Journos love to pick on politicians, but in the British public imagination they are second only to them in terms of being disliked. I’ve always wondered if they know this and pick on politicos and celebs to deflect attention from themselves, or if they genuinely, honestly, believe they are doing some kind of public service. According to McMullan it’s the latter (though I can’t believe that he is completely unaware of the level of animosity the public has for him and those in his trade).
So perhaps they really are that self-deluded, but the other thought echoing through my mind during all of this coverage is “these people work/live/breathe the media - so how can they look so bad on the TV screen?”. OK so the press seem to be trying to outdo each other to find the worst picture of Rebekah Brooks, but also take for instance News International’s Director of Corporate Affairs Simon Greenberg (interviewed here by Channel 4 News’ Jon Snow) or Roger Alton, Joint Executive Editor of The Times (also owned by parent company News international). These people deal in exposé, guilt-admission and subsequent rehabilitation for a living. So why aren’t they acting humbled, the way they tell everyone else they should act?
Interestingly, Paul McMullan has had some bad things to say about his then editor Brooks (neé Wade) recently. Brooks, more than anyone, is the central figure in this row, and it is claimed that Murdoch has sacrificed the oldest running, and most widely circulated newspaper in British history, just to protect her. But McMullan is not the only disgruntled former employee of NotW willing to dish the dirt - internet hype has been building around a Twitter account that has gone online during the last couple of days called ExNOTWjourno. The account is run by a journalist who has now found herself jobless, and who intends spill the beans on life behind the scenes of NotW under Rebekah Brooks, in a new blog. According to the account there are now 16 newly unemployed journalists working on dishing the dirt (and running stories planned for the last ever publication of NotW tomorrow), and the blog is due to go online sometime this evening. This is going to get interesting…
After four on a Saturday afternoon, housewives, grandmothers, and young fearless children watched grown men in swim trunks hurl each other across a canvas ring. These men weren’t just wrestlers, they were household gods worshipped by generations: Big Daddy, Giant Haystacks, Les Kellett, Mike Marino, Jackie (“Mr. T.V.”) Pallo, the masked Kendo Nagasaki, and my favorite, “the man you love to hate”, Mick McManus.
British wrestlers were more like stage entertainers, who traveled around the country fighting 4 or 5 times a week in different venues across England. They mixed the camp (Gorgeous George, The Gay One) with the bizarre (Catweazle, Rollerball Rocco) and the best (Mick McManus, Kendo Nagasaki), and by the time wrestling became the biggest hit for ITV’s Saturday’s World of Sport, most of the big names were in their late thirties and early forties, but it didn’t stop these podgy, middle-aged men from becoming sex symbols.
The people’s favorite was Big Daddy (aka Shirley Crabtree), who had made his name as a rugby player before wrestling under the names of The Blonde Adonis, Mr. Universe and The Battling Guardsman, in the 1950s.
Crabtree, with his ill-fitting leotard (decoratively embroidered by his wife) was coaxed out of retirement and became the most successful and best-loved wrestler of the 1970s and 1980s - even Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher was a fan. Though limited by his size and age, Big Daddy brought such novel wrestling moves as the “Belly-Butt” and “Belly-Splash” to the audiences’ delight, who chanted “easy, easy, easy,” whenever the likable Daddy stepped into the ring.
Big Daddy had feuds with various wrestlers, most notably Giant Haystacks, the 6 foot 11, London-Irish wrestler, who at one point weighed 48 stone. How this giant of a man was ever beaten by Big Daddy is beyond belief, and led to suggestions the sport was fixed. This was later confirmed in 1985, by “Mr T.V.” Jackie Pallo, in his autobiography You Grunt, I’ll Groan. Pallo was a flash, show biz wrestler, with long hair and striped trunks, who claimed referees carried razors to nick wrestlers’ ears to add authenticity (Pallo preferred to bite his lip) and said the sport was TV entertainment:
“Of course it was, it was pure showbiz right from the start.”
Pallo had a career in TV, appearing in The Avengers, It Ain’t Half Hot Mum and regularly on stage in pantomime. Where Palo was a showman, wrestlers like Mike Marino, Les Kellett and Mick McManus took the sport seriously. The short, dumpy, balding McManus was the sport’s anti-hero.
He won his first wrestling title, the British Welterweight Championship, in 1949, by defeating Eddie Capelli. He lost it to Jack Dempsey in 1957 but regained it, then lost it again. In 1967, McManus won the British Middleweight Championship with a victory over Clayton Thomson. He also won the European Middleweight Championship in June 1968 by defeating Vic Faulkner. Though lost it again to Faulkner the following year. Never fear, McManus won it back in 1971, and held onto it for 7 years.
McManus was brilliant, always entertaining, and usually bent the rules with some questionable blows. He was famous for his fore-arm smash and Boston Crab and relished the audience’s jeers. He never seemed to change, and thirty years after his hey-day I once saw McManus in a bar, immaculately dressed in a suit, and looking no different than he did back in the 1960s and ‘70s.
McManus is credited as an influence on Kendo Nagasaki (real name Peter Thornley), who refused to reveal his identity, and disguised himself behind a samurai mask. Nagasaki was another brilliant wrestler, who mixed Martial Arts, Eastern philosophy with incredible skill. He was famously robbed of the CWA World title by Giant Haystacks, after Haystacks ripped off his mask, forcing Nagasaki to abandon the contest.
It was McManus and Nagaski who inspired British Pop Artist, Peter Blake to paint his wrestler series.
Another brief star of wrestling was the world’s first DJ and legendary Top of the Pops host, Jimmy Savile, who fought in golden leotard and boots, before giving it up after losing too many fights.
These fabulous posters from the golden age of British wrestling has been compiled by Jane McDevitt on her fantastic Flickr stream, which can be seen here. Check out some of the pics and names - wonderful.
With thanks to Tara McGinley
More fabulous posters of these wrestling legends, after the jump…
The first major television appearance of David Bowie. Watch as a young Bowie performs “Space Oddity,” a song that was initially thought of—even by his longtime producer Tony Visconti—almost as a novelty record, after winning the Ivor Novello Award on May 10, 1970.
At first I was creeped out by these Japanese “joint stockings,” but now they’re kind of growing on me. I wouldn’t personally wear them, however I could see all the zombie doll lovers out there snatching ‘em up like hotcakes.
From what I can tell (I’m using Google translate here) they’re around $20 a pop. You can order them at Selfer.net.