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While you were out

TV stuff you may have missed because you were too busy having a good time. This week: George Melly's Last Stand and the Brit Awards

Published on February 22nd 2008.


While you were out

IT'S not every day you come across a celebration of death, but then George Melly was not an every day guy, so little surprise that his exit from the mortal coil was no humdrum affair.

The Liverpool born
Jew and jazzman might have been slowed by vascular dementia and double lung cancer, but
his final act
saw him joyously raging against the dying of the light

And George Melly's Last Stand (BBC2, Sunday) was, quite simply, that: A celebration. The Liverpool born Jew and jazzman might have been slowed by vascular dementia and double lung cancer, but his final act saw him joyously raging against the dying of the light.

Anecdotes about the colourful life that he and Soho hellraiser chums like Francis Bacon are legend, and have been dealt with elsewhere on this site. Now add a whole raft of new ones from this warm and funny, yes, funny, film by Katie Buchanan.

The film, which followed the last two months of Melly's life, was as much a portrayal of love: the extraordinary love between him and his wife, Diana, them having made it through the minefield of an open marriage for 36 years of 41 without a scratch. Well almost. As Mrs Melly matter-of-factly recalled, when the union was reconsummated in a one-night stand in the 1980s, “George gave me the clap”.

Melly's dalliances featured prominently in this film, and a number of exes, including the still flamboyant Molly Parkin and an American artist called Elda Abramson, with whom he had had a 14-year affair, trooped through the marital home, invited in by Diane, as George became ever frailer.

The one-time homosexual had been converted back to the female of the species long ago. “By the love of a good women?” queried Parkie in an old archive interview. “No, by the love of several good women,” he bounced back. But by 2007 his disease had left the serial paramour with little interest in the burdens of amour. “What do they call it? Impotence? It takes a lot of weight off you,” Melly mused as, nevertheless, he flirted with a nurse.

But there was no indignity and no dishonesty. Melly, covered in warts and all, was determined to get a last gig in. And so he did, at the 100 Club in London, just weeks before the end, in a wheelchair, zoot suit hanging from a once healthy frame, and a Stetson. And, of course, to great acclaim.

“Don't do any jokes about vaginas,” his wife had warned beforehand. Afterwards, in a rare show of forlornness, she said: “He didn't do any jokes at all, because he's forgotten them.”

Jokes apart, the witticisms flowed. Wanting to say goodbye to pals in Paris and Brussels, his doctor came in with a veto. “But I want to see them,” Melly protested, childlike. “Just so I can say 'hello, I must be going.'”

Some might argue that Melly put nothing back, chiding that a hedonist is not really someone to admire.

But they might miss the point. Melly clutched onto a reckless passion right throughout his life, when others more worthy might have tired of it without even realising. It was there, as a twinkle, until the end.

And what's not to admire about passion?

Angie Sammons

THE Brit Awards, at Earls Court in London, (ITV, Weds) saw hosts the Osbournes doing what they do best: slurring and swearing. But who better than this rock'n'roll family to present the annual show, which has seen Jarvis Cocker's bare backside, and John Prescott drenched with ice water, to name but a few episodes of bad Brit behaviour.

Take That picked up Best Live Act followed by another surprising collaboration of the Klaxons 'Golden Skans' and Rihanna singing her hit single 'Umbrella.' This was a reflection of a year of pop in the UK which saw 'Umbrella' being hummed by everyone and their granny along with the nu-rave revolution. (I personally am still trying to decipher what's new, sorry nu, about it). Whether or not Rihanna actually nu who the Klaxons were, is besides the point. It was a beautiful moment.

The Best British Solo the award went to Mark Ronson who performed a 'Mark Medley' with Adele, Daniel Merriweather and Amy Winehouse providing the singing support which has him laughing all the way to the bank. The crowd and viewers had been eagerly awaiting Ms Winehouse, who, as always, didn't cease to surprise with her vocal ability. Slightly flaky in parts it was a wonder how this delirious looking mini-Lily Savage managed it. But thankfully she did. She later gave a solo performance of Love Is A Losing Game which she dedicated to her hubby Blake. Awww.

The big winners of the night were the Arctic Monkeys who took to the stage to receive the British Album and British Group awards which triggered a Formula One winner's response: showering everyone with champers. This along with Take That and the Foo Fighters also picking up two awards each made the Brits a testosterone triumph.

Paul McCartney then rounded off the show with a well received performance which he dedicated to his first wife, Linda, but forgot to mention Heather 'Can-I-have-your-money-Paul?' Mucca. Everybody now with Hey Jude, "Nah, Nah, Nah, Nah-Nah-Nah, Nah". Touching, but Paul even if you didn't mention Heather you could at least have mentioned Liverpool's Capital of Culture. Like Ringo has done so movingly.

Lynda Moyo

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7 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Lord StreetFebruary 22nd 2008.

And what, my dear Agworth, is 'MTV'?

Lord StreetFebruary 22nd 2008.

Ah, I detect from your tone that you might be a lady!No madam, my credentials are impeccable, you may inspect them if you wish.

Aggie of AbercrombieFebruary 22nd 2008.

Lord Street, how can you not enjoy the verve and love of life for contemporary pop culture that is the Brit awards? And how come it wasn't staged in Liverpool this year. If it's good enough for MTV...

Lord StreetFebruary 22nd 2008.

The George Melly programme was a repeat that I'd seen before, but still the most compulsive viewing out of 30-odd Freeview channels of ‘customer choice’ we’re supposed to be having. Good old George signed a book for me at the Liverpool School of Art only fifteen months ago, but I was too awestruck to answer his almost flirty compliment. His reading was good, two women fainted and had to be carried out. As for these ‘Brits’, I would rather watch QVC than a pop music awards 'ceremony', especially one with such a gauche name as "Brits". If they mean Britons or British why don’t they just say so? ('Brits' is actually the Russian verb 'to shave', actually.)

Penny LaneFebruary 22nd 2008.

Pop music is the industrial-scale cynical separation of the young and gullible (and the not-so-young and insecure) from their money. Always has been, always will be. I am disgusted to find that the BBC is using even the once-respected Blue Peter to brainwash toddlers into becoming consumers at an early an age as possible.

Not an old bastard but..February 22nd 2008.

Hear, hear on the Melly show. I saw it and thought it was very life affirming. I also saw the Brits, which was not.

aggie of abercrombieFebruary 22nd 2008.

Are you the same person, a bloke I bet, who did not understand Facebook the other day?

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