Sunday, 27 September 2009
Monday, 21 September 2009
A little under two decades ago now I went to a pantomime – Jack & The Beanstalk I think it was – and a few of us in the audience were lucky enough to be invited backstage to meet the stars after the show. Now anyone who is at all aware of Keith Harris & Orville, will no doubt know what giants they were in the field of light entertainment around that time and therefore understand why this was the kind of once in a life time opportunity you simply do not pass up. So I duly went behind the scenes where I met Keith Harris, on his own at first. I remember he seemed a amiable sort of a fellow and we had quite an interesting chat in which he explained the concept and basic principles of fondue, which I was unfamiliar with at that point in my life. Eventually Keith excused himself, saying he was going to chase up Orville and that he’d be back in a minute.
Longest minute of my life. I don’t mind telling you I was nervous. This was big moment for me. We all have our idols – my dad had Bob Dylan, his dad had Marlon Brando and his dad had…I dunno, someone from his era…Moses or somebody – it just so happened that for most of my very early years I chose to aspire to Orville Theduck. Sure enough when he returned he was accompanied by his showbiz partner. It’s true what they say you know, you should never meet your heroes.
We struck up conversation again and it was soon clear to even me, a mere child, that something was seriously wrong. For a start Theduck was quite obviously having to be physically propped up by Harris, clearly in such a state he was unable to stand of his own accord. Also, I’m no neat freak by any stretch of the imagination, but he was hardly what you would call presentable either. In fact, shocking as it may sound, he was topless and wearing nothing but a nappy. I’ve since learned of course that concern for their personal appearance is often the first thing to go when the lethargy of chemical abuse sets in. I’m sure that’s what it was. His eyes were glassy and vacant, his pupils were huge, almost taking up the whole eye and his eyelids drooped slightly in the manner of someone struggling stay conscious. He said very little. Admittedly Orville's persona was always famously timid but that particular day he seemed shy to the point of paranoia. An impression backed up by the fact that the only time his eyes did move it was to dart shiftily momentarily to the left and right. Harris must’ve known something was amiss too because on the rare occasions when his friend did speak it was usually childish nonsense and you could see Keith's lips almost moving like he wanted to interject but just couldn’t quite bring himself to do it. After about fifteen minutes Keith Harris graciously said his goodbyes and literally carried an almost catatonic Orville Theduck back to his dressing room.