Brushes With Fame

Here’s what happens to your readership when Boing Boing picks up one of your posts. w00t!

Bill Impro

You’ll remember that a couple of weeks back I retrieved my beautiful Big Briar Model 91C Theremin from storage for an unspecified outing… well I can reveal now that the producers of the Andrew Denton show Enough Rope had tracked me down and asked if they could borrow it for their interview with British comedian (and all-round genius) Bill Bailey, which went to air last night. They sprung the theremin on Bill unannounced, but he made a good fist of playing it (and believe me, that’s no small accomplishment). It’s not too surprising – he does use one in his stage show, albeit as a bit of a gimmick. Go here to see Bill Bailey showing the world how Zippity Doo Dah would turn out if rendered by Portishead.

Aside from all that, Bill is a bit of an authority on the history of the theremin as well, and has written about it for The Guardian.

You can see a snippet of the Enough Rope interview (unfortunately not the bit where he plays the theremin) here. And for some of Bill in the unmatchable Black Books alongside Dylan Moran, try this.


Thanks to hewhohears for grabbing the above still frame from the show for me!


Anne Arkham draws my attention to the sad news of the death of Laura Huxley, who you may recall I wrote about in the post Brief Candles.

Rest in peace Laura. One of my very few regrets is that I never called the number you gave me.

The LA Times obituary says:

One of her last projects was to bring “Brave New World” to the movie screen. It is now in development with a major motion picture studio, (estate attorney) Jonathan Kirsch said.

Personally, I hope that this never happens. Some things should just be left well and truly alone.


Brushes With Fame #4

The year would have been 1980 to the best of my memory. I was about 22 and my day job was working as a floor audio assistant for a major Sydney TV station. By night I was mixing sound for my brother’s electro-folk band.

Tuesdays was the weekly Limerick Castle gig which we’d been doing for several months. We turned up on time as usual but the pub was closed up. Or I should say, the main front door was closed – looking over the back fence we could see that the lights were on and everything was prepared for opening. But it was Marie Celeste-ville baby. We hung around for half an hour but nothing happened. ((This is in the days w-a-a-a-y before mobile phones, so we had no real way of getting in touch with the owners.))

We decided to go around the corner to an arcade (‘Fonzie’s’) where we could spend some coins playing video games. This is in the days w-a-a-a-y before computers, so this was a novelty. ((We figured we’d call on back in another half hour and see if there was any movement at the station. In the event, there wasn’t. And then the Limerick Castle closed down so we never played that gig again. What happened remains a mystery.))

Our favourite arcade game was the old classic Asteroids. Yeah, it looks kinda passé now but at the time it was the bees knees.

It was a quiet night in Fonzie’s and we were pretty much the only ones there. We were there for fifteen minutes blipping away and blowing up chunks of interstellar space debris when this tall, quiet American chap loped up to have a gander at what we were doing. We made affable conversation.

“How does it work?” he said.

“Here, hop on,” I said, plugging in a twenty cent piece. I showed him how to use the controls. He got the hang of it pretty fast and did much better than a first-timer, but declined a second game. He hung around and watched for a while, this older, quietly spoken guy, chatting amiably, and then sauntered off. Our little troupe of avant garde folkies didn’t give it much thought.

Next day I was at work, preparing the floor audio for a national popular variety and chat show. I’d already scanned down the guest list – we often did big name interview segments as I’ve mentioned before – and the only person of any note today was Noel Paul Stookey, better known as the ‘Paul’ from the legendary folk group Peter, Paul & Mary. I was rigging the boom when in walked the lanky Yank.

He looked up to where I stood, cable and mic in hand, and gave me a cheerful ‘Hi! How ya doin’ man?’

It was of course, Paul Stookey.

The looks on the faces of the rest of the floor crew were priceless.

Brushes With Fame #3: Brandon Lee

In the biographical film Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story Bruce Lee’s father inadvertently angers a Chinese merchant who puts a curse on him to the effect that his son, and his son’s sons will die untimely deaths. In the film, Lee dreams of a fearsome supernatural warrior who comes to hunt him down, and then in turn comes for his son. There are touching scenes between Lee and his little boy Brandon in which the fearful father warns the son about the dream warrior who will try to and take his life prematurely. And how he must always be on his guard.

Bruce Lee died in unusual circumstances just after completing his film Enter the Dragon at the age of 32.

In 1993 I travelled to the US to pick up my theremin and to visit my friend Alex in North Carolina where he was directing the feature film of Jame’s O’Barr’s illustrated novel The Crow. Brandon Lee had been cast as Eric Draven a rock singer who, along with his young fiancee Shelley, is murdered on the night before Halloween. One year later he returns from the dead, and as the eponymous Crow visits revenge upon the killers.

I met Brandon and his fiancee Eliza very briefly one evening when I was on the set. He was charming and unaffected and very charismatic. He and Eliza, who were due to be married after the film was completed, seemed happy and comfortable in one another’s company. I remember thinking that young, good looking people like Brandon almost seem supernaturally invincible, which was fitting, given the part he was playing in the film.

Tragically, a week later, Brandon Lee was dead, the unfortunate victim of a simple stunt gunshot which through a combination of unattributable negligence and bad luck went horribly wrong. He was 27 years old.

It is, in my mind, in keeping with the flow of coincidence that every year at this time Brandon returns in the guise of The Crow in theatres and on tv screens across the planet. Not to exact vengeance, for that is the act of a small soul, but instead to rekindle the Spark of Dark Romance that is forever Halloween. Oh that any of us should serve so grand a purpose.

Brushes With Fame #2: Laura Huxley

It was 1987 as I recall, and I was on a British Airways flight from Los Angeles to London. I don’t much like flying, and I was really pleased to find myself in one of those great seats you sometimes get in a 747: Economy Class, but upstairs in the ‘bubble’ where First Class usually is. Because of the curve of the roof up there, they can only fit two seats in on each side, which means extra space and even a little shelf area next to the window seat. Quite comfortable. It’s a pretty long flight and I was hoping I wouldn’t get some really boring or obnoxious person sitting next to me.

The elderly lady who sat down was very elegant and well-spoken. We exchanged pleasantries as you do, and I settled myself down with my new portable CD player.

After the plane had taken off, I must have dozed, and when I opened my eyes, I noticed that the woman was looking at a film script. Being the nosey kind of person I am, I couldn’t help but notice words like ‘mescaline’, ‘LSD’, and ‘Timothy Leary’ on the page she was reading.

“Are you a film producer?” I asked, by way of conversation.

“Oh, no,” she laughed. “I’m just reading a script for a movie that people want to make about my late husband.”

“Oh,” said I. “Who was your husband, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“His name was Aldous Huxley

I had only just finished reading Jay Stevens’ Storming Heaven one of the most informative and absorbing accounts of the influence of psychedelic drugs on the culture of the 1950s & ’60s. My mind leapt to his moving description of Aldous Huxley’s death from cancer, and how, on his deathbed he had asked his wife Laura to administer to him one final dose of LSD. And how she sat there and held his hand as he died.

The gracious woman sitting next to me was Laura Huxley.

I chatted to her in awe. I let her listen to my portable CD player – she had never seen one (they were relatively new then). She wrote her number in my diary, and urged me to look her up next time I was in Los Angeles.

I never did.

But I still have that diary page with her telephone number.

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