Hooter’s off to Honkers

I am pleased to announce a number of exciting changes happening in the New Year here at The Sharp Single:

To celebrate the purchase of 3 new readers from Feltham (and who hasn’t recently ?) subscribers will be able to enjoy this publication as a 24/7 Operation. Yes, you read that correctly. For 7 Hours a week, 24 days of the month you may (or may not) be able to find something vaguely interesting, funny and/or original right here at what some are already calling  “not a bad blog for someone who can’t spell”.

Secondly, and taking the lead from many of Fleet Street’s finest, there will be a new, full-colour Sunday edition (The SSonS) — available at a minimal premium rate (Paypal only, please. Or small bills. Or a fridge pack of Guinness).**

The Author (left) and his new Honkers Bureau Chief thrash out the details of the contract.

Historic Handover: The Author (left) and his new Honkers Bureau Chief thrash out the details of the new contract.

And last, and by all means least, following the roaring success of the BBC’s move to the Third World (Salford), The Single (Sharp UK Ltd)  is pleased to announce the opening of its very first (and doubtless very last) Hong Kong office, where Ace [please check that someone—mb] veteran reporter A.Heckler will soon be taking hold of the tiller and keeping an eye on the world’s most terrifying economy for us. And the boozers therein.

So we wish good luck to Editor Heckle Fatty Pong and Lady Heckler and look forward to all those insightful and hilarious comments which we’ve all been waiting for while he was stationed in Blighty.

(Easy on the Dim Sum, Harry)

Artist's impression of the new HK office with Correspondent newly-installed.

Artist’s impression of the new HK correspondent’s first day in his office.

**info correct at time of press. Publication dependent on me waking up in time to file. Wastelines can go up as well as down. Successful applications will be notified by post. Probably. Charlton for the Cup. Terms and conditions apply. Typical APR 3974%. Always read the label. May cause drowsiness. Do not operate heavy machinery while reading this publication. Mind the Gap.

Billy Bastard of Natal

I am saddened to hear of the poor health of Bill O’Hagan: Sausage King, journalist, colleague, friend. A drinker of Biblical proportions, and a genuine wit and raconteur.
Speaking from his hospital bed to a friend at the weekend, Bill declared he was “on his way out” and is to move to a hospice at some stage this week. It would seem all that fun is finally catching up with him.
Bill is and has been a man of many parts, some of them still working. Everyone who ever met or worked with him will have their own O’Hagan story, and sadly I feel the obits column will soon be full of them. Many of them will ignore his wondrous sausages and long career working in Fleet Street but concentrate on his drinking. I have to tell you now that my stories and memories are no different.
Some time during the late 1980s I once (well, quite often actually) found myself and a mate in a quiet little drinking establishment called Vagabonds, in New Fetter Lane, near Fleet Street, London. We (my friend Mr Sapsted and I) would decamp there because the pub we had been drinking in earlier had closed at 11 o’clock and we hadn’t finished what we were doing. They were always doing that to us.  It always played out in the same manner: We would arrive in the bar none-too-bright at some stage past 11.00, John the barman/owner would hold up his wrist, point to his watch and shake his head in a “what fucking time do you call this” sort-of-way. We would apologise, promise to spend some money in his bar before 11.00 next time, promise even to join the sodding club and pay the membership fee next week.
We never did, but we weren’t the only ones. I don’t think I ever met anyone who was a member or went into the club while there was anywhere else still open. They came from Fleet Street, Old Fetter Lane, Canary Wharf and Hugh Street Ken. From anywhere that a newspaper had been exiled. They came all through the night after, and sometimes during, shifts. But nobody ever paid to join. And John the guvnor swore at them all, asking “what fucking time d’you call this ?”
Anyway, on this particular night at around midnight, the door burst open and in ran Bill O’Hagan and who, without so much as a “good evening” but with two and a half bounds,  was onto the small stage to the left of the bar.
(Some readers may be interested that on this stage was a stacked a collection of stereo systems and amplifiers and which, when the correct buttons were pushed in the right order, and the requisite leads were inserted into the proper holes, would play instrumental versions of popular and current musical numbers. No-one had ever heard the word Karaoke. Not down our way, at any rate. Other may also like to know that it was on this very stage that I sang a duet (ish) with a visiting member of The Drifters. One of us was very good. I’ll tell you all about it another time.)
Back to Bill in the bar.
Shouting the question “How does an Irishman pull up his socks ?” he proceeded to undo his trousers, letting them drop to the floor. He stood, quite literally, stark bollock naked in front of the stunned drinkers propping up the bar. He then bent over, gave a quick tug on his socks, then pulled up his strides and re-buttoned them. Without further ado, and with not another word, he ran out of the door. Even John, the aformentioned (Irish) barman was rendered speechless. Bill was never seen again that night. Not by us, at any rate. Who knows how many other boozers were to witness his tackle that night. We may not have been the first, We were probably not the last.
That’s how I shall choose to remember him. Apart from another umpteen occasions when he’s made me laugh out loud. Many involving him calling a friend/wife/employer a telling them “I’m gonna be late and I’m gonna be drunk”. And he continues to make me smile. While researching a couple of bits for this piece, I stumbled upon this entry for him on IMDb. How the fuck does O’Hagan get an entry in IMDb ? I want one.  It’s not of the greatest length, but it does sum him up rather well.
Picture 7
Good on yer, Bill. Apart from anything else, I have met met a nice South African.

Death of a Craftsman.

Sorry to have to report the news of yet another great man who has passed on. Seamus was another in a long line of working and drinking buddies who will be sadly missed. He was wonderful to work with, hilarious to listen to and a pleasure to stand at the bar with. He called a cvnt a cvnt (and we worked with plenty of them at The Telegraph) and always stood his corner in The Cat and Canary afterwards, bless him.

Here’s the Evening standard from yesterday:

Fleet St veteran Seamus Potter dies at 57 

Seamus Potter, chief sub-editor of the Evening Standard’s international pages, has died at the age of 57.

A Fleet Street veteran who enthusiastically upheld all its traditions, Seamus was the eldest son of Daily Mirror features executive and author John Deane Potter and Mirror fashion editor Eve Chapman, who was also the News of the World’s agony aunt in the Eighties and Nineties.

Brought up in Chelsea, Seamus added a literary and arty elan to the Evening Standard on his first tour of duty in the late Seventies.

In 1987, he was transferred from the middle-bench of the paper to become deputy editor of the revived Evening News, as Lord Rothermere sought to squash Robert Maxwell’s newly launched London Daily News. The move was a success — and the Evening News was closed soon after it had helped the Standard successfully scupper the opposition.

After a stint heading production at the Sunday Telegraph under Charles Moore and Dominic Lawson, and spells on the Daily Telegraph’s back-bench and then as Scottish editor and City chief sub-editor, Seamus launched The Sportsman as production editor.

When the paper ran out of cash and folded, he returned to the Standard and supervised the foreign pages, dispensing wit and wisdom and offering friendship and support to younger sub-editors and editors alike.

In his early days on the Western Daily Press, he was a founder member of the “Hole in the Head gang”, a group of maverick young Turks. He jumped off a ferry in the Irish Sea miles from Liverpool to save a cartoonist fellow member who dived overboard for a wager.

In his early twenties, Seamus was named among the top 20 most eligible bachelors in London by a society magazine.

A man of firm views, Seamus was a loyal and committed journalist and friend who accepted the onset of throat cancer with dignity, stoicism and a complete lack of self-pity.

His son Luis and his sister Lucinda were by his bedside during his last weeks in Trinity Hospice, Clapham.

A private family funeral service will be held. The Evening Standard is planning a memorial service later in the year.

Sir, The Gentlemen of the Press are Here

The British, or to be more precise, the British Press, or to be more precise, the English Press don’t like Sepp Blatter, though they’re not exactly alone on that one. They think he takes bungs, fixes elections, is anti-English. Fresh from the “row” about whether the English football team could wear poppies on Remembrance Sunday, and following his insightful views on women’s football (“Let the women play in more feminine clothes like they do in volleyball. They could have tighter shorts.”), match fixing (“I could understand it if it had happened in Africa, but not in Italy.”) and homosexuals (“I would say they should refrain from any sexual activities.”) there has been a torrent of outraged copy spewing out of Fleet Street regarding Blatter’s latest decree. The head of FIFA has opined that racism on the pitch should be forgotten with a handshake after the match. A ridiculous opinion indeed, but what a godsend for the hacks of the press ? Immediately headlines such as “Now Beckham and Cameron slam Sepp Blatter over racism in football” (Daily Mail) and Blatter Must Go” (The Sun) have ploughed into nasty Sepp in exactly the way they…er…didn’t attack John Terry when he was filmed calling Anton Ferdinand a f**king black c*nt”.

Exactly the same organs demanding the hated Blatter’s resignation are the ones not calling for Terry to go:  “Terry vows to clear his name in race storm” (Daily Mail) and “Terry is Gagging for Action with England” (Sun). That’s telling him ! Strong stuff, indeed.  The Blatter affair has saved the tabloids from having to chastise the serial-shagging Terry and focus their sights on nasty foreigner Sepp. There’s something quite ironic the Mail labeling someone a racist. But that’s another yarn for another day.

This latest case of double standards pales into insignificance compared to the coverage of the official inquiry into the workings of the press. When not attacking Johnny Foreigner, there’s nothing journalists like better than writing about other journalists. Journos think we, (or rather you) are, like them, equally infatuated with journalism and stories about it. This obsession with their own trade and fellow hacks more often than not supersedes any other story that may drop on their desks. And nothing, NOTHING excites a hack more than when other hacks are deemed to be up Shitestraße, a condition currently afflicting my old colleagues at News International. You may have noticed the absolute glee with which other media outlets have been reporting the phone hacking scandal.  The Guardian clearly has an axe to grind with the Murdoch press and are loving every second of the coverage. The BBC are visibly beside themselves. But they all should be very careful, I reckon.

One can only assume that the thus-far unquestioned members of the press have nothing to hide. Either that or they realise that Inspector Knacker is taking so long over the News of the World and associates, that by the time the law gets round to them the shredders will have been doing overtime and their friendly private eyes will have been shooed out the back door, taking a large wad of cash with them. All evidence of naughtiness will be long gone by the time the rozzers arrive at their door.

Wherever I worked, there was always a deeply held belief in the mantra “there but for the grace of god go I”. The Mail put in the wrong picture ? Poor sods – someone’s due for a kicking. Headline in The Times got a typo in it? Jesus, someone’s for it. We just knew that, sooner or later we’d drop a clanger and it would be our turn to be hauled over the coals. There was always a bunch of annoying hacks giggling about and reveling in the misfortune and the mistakes of other rags, but us photo bods knew better than to behave like that. We’d been there too often to carp.

But the recent events at the NoW are not the result of honest mistakes, no matter what Herr Flick says. This isn’t a case of mistakenly putting a pic of a boy from the wrong school in the paper (guilty as charged- Eton instead of Harrow) or putting a photo in upside down (property page – also guilty, your honour) or accidentally being pissed most afternoons (Happy Days. Oh fuck it, ok, I’d like 173 other offences taken into account). No we’re talking serious, intentionally-undertaken crimes here. As much as we’d like to think that this sort of behaviour was confined to Fortress Wapping, I think we all know that that’s unlikely. If I was the rest of Fleet St, I’d treat the phone hacking story with due reverence and respect. These things have a nasty habit of turning around and biting you on the arse, just when you’re gloating about them.

It only surprises me that all this seems to have come as a shock to most people. How the hell did they think the tabloids (and those pretending not to be tabloids) got their information from ? Through honest journalism ? Concerned readers offering exclusives to those nice gentlemen of the press ? Above-the-table briefings by policemen to reporters?

What will hang Fleet St is the same that has kept the UK tabs thriving for so many years: The ability (thru piles of cash) and the willingness (thru the unique competitiveness of the Street) to work outside the law to obtain ‘scoops’. The Scews was not the most read rag in the world for no reason. It delivered all the tawdry and ugly stories that the British public craved after. Whether the public demand for such shite is reason enough to go get these stories is a moot point. However, they spent fortunes hunting down these yarns, keeping them from the notebooks of their competitors, out-bidding anyone else that showed an interest. So many competing national papers in one small county propagates such a frenzied pursuit of higher readership figures.

The sort of pressures between titles, almost unique to London’s papers, made it almost inevitable that one day they’d go too far in their quest for the best story. What “too far” actually meant was open for debate for a long time. Apparently, if you happened to be successful and obtained celebrity through your work, reporters sneaking around your bins and eavesdropping on your private conversations was truly shocking, but frightfully readable, and understandable.  Gordon Taylor, (“that’s rotten, got any more?”) Elton John (“awful! what else ?”), Hugh Grant (“terrible! love it”). Then the manure hit the air-conditioning system. The Milly Dowler episode clearly was “too far”. Even the well-kept coppers, some of whom passed on vital info to the newspaper,  now displayed the sort of outrage and indignation a guilty party will often show. The mucky business was rife. Everyone knew it, but somehow no-one now admits they did.

A while back I was asked for a colleague’s mobile phone number. This colleague was a reporter who happened to be vaguely connected to someone famous who happened to be in the news at the time. The reporter who asked me for this number had gotten my number from a friend. I gave him a “fuck right off” for his trouble. This reporter was not working for the News of the World. He must have been another “lone rogue reporter” (there’s a lot of them about). I don’t know why he wanted the number. I just had a good idea why he wanted it. He was (and still is) a dodgy, slimy cvnt. I wasn’t playing his game.

Not that I am suggesting that the Mail, Mirror, Express, Guardian etc etc have anything to worry about. This is clearly only an issue which needs to be addressed over at Wapping and Wapping alone.

Nowhere else.

At all.

There’s nothing new here. You’d think that this distaste for and distrust of the press was a new thing. Don’t be fooled. In 1959 Peter Sellers, in “The Goons” episode The Scarlet Capsule had the line:

“Sir, the gentlemen of the press are here. I tried to hold ’em back, but they burst through by putting money in me hands”.

It could have been written yesterday.

…and there’s more…

Back in 1987 Jim Hacker was certainly under no illusions about the newspapers of London – or at least who they were read by.


Over 20 years later, comedians Hugh Dennis and Steve Punt updated it. Not much has changed. Apart from the addition to the list of The Independent and the fact that the Express and the Star are now recognised as newspapers – if that is the right word:
The Times is read by the people who run the country.
The Telegraph is read by the people think they run the country.
The Guardian is read by the people who have run the country for the past 12 years and realised they’re blown it.
The Independent is read by people who got to the newsagents after they’d run out of The Guardian and The Times.
The Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country.
The Express is read by Marcus Brigstocke to wind himself up.
The Mirror is read by the people who vote for the people who read the Guardian and have now blown it.
The Sun is read people who’ll vote for people who’ll run the country to suit the people who read the Financial Times while somehow convincing themselves that those people will give a toss about the people who buy The Sun the moment the election’s over.
And The Star is read very … slowly … with your lips moving.

Minding Your Language

You can bet a pound to a piece of shit that when someone opens a sentence with “No offence but…” they’re about to say something offensive. You can wager your left testicle that if you book Ricky Gervais  to host you awards ceremony he’ll say something that someone somewhere will find in poor taste. That’s why you hire him, right ? Apparently not. The US media (aided and abetted manfully by our own wonderful boys in Fleet St) have launched a thermo-nuclear retaliatory strike on the once-weighty wag for his performance at the Golden Globes.

Now personally I find him hilarious, but that’s just my opinion. Looking around the audience it seems that Robert De Niro and Alec Baldwin do too, though Steve Buscemi looks absolutely terrified of what Gervais may say next. And what about Mel Gibson ? Well, who gives a toss what he thinks ?

Are Hollywood’s finest fair game for merciless and personal attacks by someone who, let’s face it, could be described as a one-joke act ? It’s a matter of opinion, I suppose. How may years can one bloke get by with the “Charlie Sheen is a drunk” routine ? Only time or Charlie’s liver will tell. Personally, it makes me laugh. A lot.

The US media went berserk. Gervais was hounded from pillock to post by critics and columnists condemning his act as hurtful, offensive and/or unfunny. All of which is, again, a matter of personal taste and values, but such was the furore it caused Gervais felt it necessary to appear on the Piers Morgan show on CNN to defend himself. It must be a tv first for Morgan not to have been thought of as the biggest git in the room.

Meanwhile, the Golden Globes get huge play in the media, Gervais’s next tour or DVD will  break all records and someone somewhere will book him again next year to host an awards ceremony. He’s either very, very funny, or he isn’t. He’s brilliant or a blasphemer. So here’s an unoriginal thought: There’s always the off-button if you don’t like him.

The off-button option is one I’ve been using quite a bit recently. I know I’m not alone in finding the BBC’s Come Fly with Me offensive in the way it portrays various minority groups, but beyond the thinly-veiled racism is the one thing that really offends me: It’s not funny. I mean, really not funny. Even though I pronounced this latest offering from Matt Lucas and David Walliams as rubbish having watched the first show, and having read the outrage from similarly enraged viewers, I decided to give it another go this week – to give it a fair crack.

It was even worse than I recalled. Yes it was still racist but it was even less funny than I gave it credit for. I really tried to give it my best shot, but after fifteen minutes of this tosh I found myself yearning for the blessed relief afforded by my grandfather’s service revolver. Fortunately for the sake of my family and the wallpaper, I chose the off-button instead.

Ooh look, everyone ! A fat, lazy black woman !

I find David Walliams trying at the best of times. When I am King people like him will be detained under my strict Anti-Smug Git laws. Quite what he has to be smug about Allah only knows. His characters are at best weak and predictable, at worst blatantly stolen or copied from elsewhere. There’s nothing wrong with nicking jokes. This site is made up almost entirely of stolen photos, jokes and videos from other sources. If Humphrey Littleton or Tony Hancock were alive today they’d probably sue me for blatant plagiarism (for this piece alone).

But I’d like to think I’d never use crap 70’s sitcom Mind Your Language as a base for my material, let alone pass it off as original. But again there’s that little button at the top of my remote control that lets me turn him off, almost a fast as he turns me off. This show offends me but I’m not compelled to watch it, any more than you’re forced to read this twaddle.

If only messrs Gray and Keys had known where the off-buttons on their microphones were. These two Sky TV football pundits were caught giving their considered opinions on the appointment of a woman to run the line for the weekend’s Wolves vrs Liverpool match.

Who would have thought two middle-aged, old-school soccer experts would express such sexist feeling towards women in the man’s game ? Women’s groups were up in arms. Karen Brady was apoplectic. Suspensions and apologies followed, and between the giggling, private support and wholehearted agreement Fleet Street’s finest gave the Sky boys a proper going over. So everyone’s offended. You hate Ricky Gervais, I can’t abide Matt Lucas. She wants Andy Gray banned, he wants Russell Brand fed to the wolves. And everyone, EVERYONE would like Frankie Boyle stapled up by his goolies.

Light the torches, hand out the wooden stakes and the garlic bullets. Make effigies of Jonathan Ross and burn them on News at Ten. In the name of Mary Whitehouse, Peter Tatchell or all that’s decent and holy let’s rid society of these dreadful, dreadful people.

Alternatively, switch the sodding telly off. If enough people stop watching them they’ll soon go away. My one-man campaign to get Gavin and Stacey off the air has failed miserably because one fewer to the viewing figures doesn’t make a blind bit of difference. But if enough switch off, from Chris Moyles, for instance, one day soon those that offend your ears will be but a distant, uncomfortable memory, like Bernard Manning or Kenny Everett.