This a true tale, the revealing of which was inspired by Badger‘s revelations of ‘humiliation’ while singing on stage.
It’s 1990. I’m out with Mrs Villain (Rachel) to see the new stage show that has been put together by the outrageously camp and very funny Julian Clary. The venue is Glasgow Pavilion and the show is being performed in front of a sell-out audience of 1,500, the majority of which it is safe to say are either female or gay. Mrs V adores Julian – she’s always had a thing about camp/glam blokes dating back to her love for Bowie and Bolan as a teenager. She warns me before we leave that, if possible, she is going to get on stage with her hero during the section when there will be the inevitable audience participation – she’s certainly dressed for the occasion wearing an incredibly tight t-shirt and skinny jeans combo and looking as great as I’ve ever seen her.
The show is very funny. Julian is as outrageous as you’d hope – full of OTT one-liners and tales that were too risqué for television. He then tells us that it is audience participation time and it’s going to be a live version of his TV game show, Sticky Moments, that had aired on Channel 4 back in 1989 and 1990.
I say game show….but as wiki states:-
the questions, answers, challenges and cheap prizes were deliberately off-centre, and rife with gay innuendo and double entendres, played for laughs rather than actual competition.
Julian tells us that the competition is to be a shoot-out between a straight and gay couple. He asks if perhaps there are any gay couples in the audience and if so to raise their hands. He then spends a few minutes wandering up and down the aisles within the stalls, wise cracking his way through as to why he was ruling willing participants out until he finally finds the two blokes he most fancies. They take to the stage to huge applause.
Julian then announces that he’s already decided who his straight couple are going to be….and immediately I know what’s coming next. Mrs V had already made all sorts of eye-contact with him as he strolled through the auditorium while I had made the cardinal error of trying to look wholly disinterested. He grabbed Mrs V by the hand and said something along the lines of her being so gorgeous that her other half will have no choice but to follow….
There are loud cheers and a few wolf whistles…which Julian is keen to explain are very much for me. He admires my t-shirt which is emblazoned with The Wonder Stuff on the front….he askes me what it means…I foolishly try to explain its the name of a band….he makes a biting retort about it being some sort of gay sex position. It’s clear my role tonight is to be the fool whom the audience laughs at….
To be honest I don’t mind at all. Mrs V is in heaven right now, a smile lighting up her face as she gets up close to an idol. Julian explains that he will ask one half of each couple three questions, all to do with the likes and habits of their partners, and the couple who comes up with best matching answers goes home with the prize. Of course, I’m not to answer the questions – they are to be about me – and so while I’m blindfolded and made to put on headphones to listen to music, Mrs V and one half of the gay couple get talking and answering.
I can sense that the audience is rocking during this section and that the piss is being ripped royally out of me. I should also have said that Julian, when asking my name and being told Jim, said there was no way he could go with anything as common as that nor could he use Jimmy as that would just pander to stereotyping men from Glasgow. I was going by my proper name of James and he was revelling in delivering that word in as camp a fashion as he could.
“Right James. Here’s your first question. Rachel says that you’re very much a boxer shorts sort of man and so I#m not going to ask you what type of underwear you have on tonight….if any. But if you are, can you tell us the colour please?”
“Red and White stripes”
“Are you sure? Rachel is certain she saw you in black before you left the house….”
I pull up the waistband of my boxers to show that they are indeed red and white. We are now 1-0 down.
“Question Number 2 James. I think this one is quite easy. What was it that first attracted Rachel to you? Was it you larger than life personality, your larger than life pay packet or your larger than life penis”
I look at Rachel. She is trying hard not to laugh out loud. I’m trying hard to work out what answer she would have given. Surely she didn’t want to add to my humiliation……
“Julian, I would say it’s my larger than life pay check as after all my other half is a bit of a Material Girl”
“No James….It seems you have a big dick”
The audience at this point is ending itself collectively as I look at Rachel who is smirking. We are now 2-0 down.
“Final question James. Now I know you can’t win and that really is such a shame. But you can go home with a consolation prize if you get this one right. And you should do as it’s about music and we all know you love music what with your fabulous t-shirt. So the question….what did Rachel say you would sing if you were on a karaoke stage?”
Ya beauty! I’d only ever at this point in my life once done karaoke and it was for a laugh at a works night out. I had performed one song very badly and I distinctly remember telling Rachel about it.
“That’s easy Julian. My karaoke song is I Will Survive.”
More laughs from the audience and Rachel looks over to me in a bit of shock. WTF? Does this mean we are going home empty-handed and all this has been for nothing??
“James, are you sure you and Rachel aren’t on a blind date? You don’t seem to know one another very well.. She told us it would be something by Morrissey or The Smiths.”
I genuinely don’t know what to say. The idea of a Morrissey or Smiths song being an option at a karaoke night back in the early 90s just didn’t seem possible. They would have been the last answer I’d have given.
Julian turns to me and says: “James. I can tell that you don’t want to disappoint Rachel, so I’m going to give you one last chance to pick up a prize. Would you care to sing your karaoke number for us here on stage?”
I hesitate. The audience cheer and scream. Rachel looks at me imploringly. I have no choice……
As Russell Churnley, the long-time musical collaborator of Julian Clary hits the distinctive opening notes on the piano, I close my eyes and go for it. Big style.
I don’t know if I was any good or not…I don’t even know if I got the correct words out. But I gave it my all and the crowd loved it, clapping along in whatever sort of time I was keeping. One verse and one chorus and that was it. Thankfully.
Julian gave us the prize which was a plastic replica of Fanny the Wonder Dog (Julian’s pet whippet who had been part of his earliest stage and TV shows) and a bouquet of flowers. But Rachel also got a kiss and I got a hug. We went back to our seats and within seconds I realised I was shaking thanks to a ridiculous rush of adrenalin that I don’t think I’ve ever experienced again.
And that was that. Or so I thought.
Firstly, Julian sang a song in the second half of the show and dedicated it to me (see below)
Secondly….the next day, I boarded my usual 7.30am train from Glasgow to Edinburgh where I worked at the time. I sat down in the my usual seat up in the very front carriage. Another of the regular commuters looked across at me and smiled. She got out of her seat, walked towards me and leaned in close whispering ‘red and white boxers….I wouldn’t have imagined!’
With a wink and a wave she went back to her seat.
Fame, fame, fatal fame….
mp3 : Gloria Gaynor – I Will Survive
mp3 : Julian Clary – The Leader of The Pack
mp3 : Morrissey – Get Off The Stage