In which John McGuffin’s saga of being mistaken for Demi Roussos continues…
I expected a few anodyne remarks from our genial host and was therefore somewhat nonplussed when he brusquely said “loved the book, just what we need for Paddy’s day – by the way, have you ever been a Republican or Anarchist? If so, you can’t appear.” Bit late now, I thought. If his assiduous assistants hadn’t discovered my political and metaphysical form by now I wasn’t about to enlighten them. “No problem, Gaybo, nihil obstat, but can you just answer me one question. I can see why you have a mad pole vaulting Zen Far East, the Yank’s written an important and controversial book, but why on earth have you got the missionary bint on – she says this isn’t her first appearance?” The great one rearranged his vulpine features and essayed what in hindsight I suppose was meant to be a smile. “Ah, but hasn’t she got gorgeous tits!” Well, nothing special I thought, glancing over at Deirdre’s heaving bozooms. “But Gay, she just told me she turned down a part as Helen Keller because she didn’t think she could remember the lines.” Ignoring me the great one swept out and soon the applause of the audience filtered back to the Green Room. The minute Gaybo left, the staff whipped away the complimentary beverages, but Bowart and I, who were due to be on in the second half of the programme, were unfazed. I still had my bottle of West Cork’s finest.
Half an hour later, and feeling no pain, I was ushered onto the set. Peering through the gloom I could see Grimshaw et al.. Better still, Auntie Rita and some heavies had arrived and were obviously enjoying the show. I had watched on the monitor with increasing boredom as the Far East and the lovely Deirdre had sparkled but only woken up when Wally Bowart attempted to explain the nature of the secret mind control experiments which the intelligence services were then conducting in America. Gay, and the audience apparently had trouble with his accent which, I could not help but regret, had perhaps been further obfuscated by my ever generous pouring hand.
I sat down heavily in the seat provided and placed the remnants of the poitin bottle on the table in front of me and Gaybo introduced me to the audience as the author of ‘a wonderful lighthearted book about Poitin which he had enjoyed immensely’. I guess I’ve never been a team player – probably a fatal flaw in the publishing game, but this bastard was really getting on my tits and they weren’t as big or as ‘gorgeous’ as Deirdre’s. “But Gay, you haven’t even read the book. Your researcher only got it two hours ago and you’ve been too busy swilling down the gin and ogling Deirdre’s tits to even look at it. Here, at least have a slug of the good stuff,” I proffered the bottle. Gay was, to say the least, somewhat taken aback, but, experienced trooper that he was laughed gayly – “I hope that’s not any of that illegal stuff.” What the fuck did he think it was! I took a slug and passed the bottle to a grateful Wally Bowart who took a large gulp and vouchsafed “Fuckin’ A, this stuff’s all right.” Gay turned grey and decided that this Northern upstart had better be put in his place. “Look, it is St Patrick’s Day and we all like a but of fun but you are not allowed to drink on this show and certainly not something which I suspect is an illegal substance. Besides, let’s be responsible – poitin can make you go blind.” Ah fuck it. Now or never. Leaning over I took a startled Gaybo’s palm and examined it intently. The superstar hastily withdrew his moist appendage but we irredentists would not be thwarted. “There, Gay,” I continued, “I’m sure when you were a wee boy they told you that certain solitary activities would make you go blind, but I don’t see any hairs on the palm of your hand and you don’t have a white stick and a wee blinkie doggie.”
A sussuration crept around the studio on tiptoe. Surely he wasn’t about to say the ‘W’ word? I didn’t have to. From the second row my hungover fans began to chant, led, as always by the great Grimshaw: “Gay Byrne’s a wanker.” Rita and the team at the back took up the chant. Bewildered elderly ladies turned to their spouses and asked what a ‘wanker’ was, only to emit squeals of horror when informed sheepishly by their consorts. Bowart fell off his seat. Deirdre put her hands over her ears, the Far East squatted and attempted a calming Zen mantra and Gaybo announed a commercial break. As the RTÉ goons escorted myself and Bowart (who’d decided he wanted to join the Lumberjacks) out and joined our fans outside my last sight of Gaybo was him shaking his fist and screaming “you’ll never appear on RTE ever again!” Big deal, Gaybo, we were off to the reception at the Third Police.
To be continued…
Taken from the collection of quaint and gentle yarns, ‘Last Orders, Please!’ by John McGuffin