2023 in Goonland (so far)
Metal underwear up for sale – Spike in Stroud – Seagoon Down Under – Bentine in Watford – A Sellers movie revived – Sabrina! – Raquel Welch – Ellington in Scotland – Comedy shopkeepers
After a bit of a hiatus The Seagoon Memoirs is back! I hope you enjoyed December, walking backwards for Christmas across any and all seas, and hunting down ravenous puddings, and that 2023 has been good to you so far.
Time to review Goon-related shenanigans from the first couple of months of the year.
Another of Peter Sellers’ old cars is being auctioned, following the auction of ‘Old Min’ in 2021. The Lotus Elan S3 belonged to Mr Sellers in the late 1960s and is up for sale for between £80,000 and £120,000 at an auction on 25 February.
It’s one of seven Lotus Elans being sold, known as the “Piddington Collection”. More information is available on the Silverstone Auctions website.
The ‘metal underwear’ reference is, of course, how Spike described Peter’s cars, because he changed them so much. For another example, see this article on Hagerty’s website from January about the Mini Coopers that Sellers commissioned.
Spike Milligan: The Unseen Archive
On the very same day as the Lotus is up for grabs, people in the vicinity of Stroud will have the opportunity to watch a screening of the new Spike Milligan documentary, The Unseen Archive, at Lansdown Hall. There’s a Q&A session afterwards with director Seb Barfield and Jane Milligan, Spike’s daughter.
Seagoon Down Under
Dear old Ned will receive a musical tribute Down Under later this year at the Queensland Cabaret Festival from 24 March. According to this article from Scenestr, Australian singer, composer and director Jonathan Welch (pictured, right) will pay tribute to the late Sir Harry Secombe in a show on 25 March at the Judith Wright Arts Centre in Fortitude Valley.
More details about the performance are available on Mr Welch’s website.
Comedy exhibition to feature Bentine
Another tribute, this time in the Northern Hemisphere: The Watford Museum is apparently hosting an exhibition from 1 April celebrating local comedians including Michael Bentine, who was born there (Watford, not the museum) in 1922.
There’s not much information available online yet, but I’ve contacted the museum to see if they’ll furnish me with more details. I’ll report back!
The Comedy Carnival also features Jeffrey Holland’s one-man show about Laurel & Hardy. Holland played Peter Sellers’ characters in the Goon Again radio show in 2001, created by Dirk Maggs using classic Goon Show material.
Sellers movies revived
A Day At The Beach is a 1970 film featuring Peter Sellers and Graham Stark that has recently been added to the Netflix stable. Written by Roman Polanski, it apparently sat unreleased on a shelf somewhere for 20 years before being restored and released in 1993.
Speaking of Peter Sellers films, I was interested to see not one but two appear on this list of movies similar to Knives Out, the super whodunit that gave the world Daniel Craig’s Benoit Blanc. (In my mind it’s far better than the sequel, Glass Onion, but that’s still enjoyable too.)
It’s not a particularly well written article but Murder By Death from 1976 features, as does A Shot In The Dark, the first Pink Panther/Inspector Clouseau film from 1964. I feel a murder mystery movie night coming on.
Seagoon: Now why is this body lying down? Grytpype: He’s been murdered. Seagoon: Badly? Grytpype: No, very well, he’s dead.
(from ‘The Moriarty Murder Mystery’, Series 8 Episode 17, broadcast 20 January 1958)
Gemma Arterton stars in a new Sky TV series, Funny Woman, that started this month. It’s based on Nick Hornby’s novel Funny Girl, in which the main character, Barbara, is repeatedly likened to that favourite of Bluebottle, Major Bloodnok, and Ned Seagoon – none other than Sabrina.
This Daily Mail article gives a very detailed account of the life and career of Norma Ann Sykes (Sabrina’s real name), and is sympathetic to her efforts to break out of the ‘dumb blonde’ stereotype she was forced into.
The detail that blew me away, however, was that there is an online Encyclopedia Sabrina.
Assuming you’re a Goon Show afficionado (and if you’re not, you must be lost), dear reader, you may already have stumbled across this yourself, but if not I invite you to peruse the work of an Australian man named Mark, who has dedicated years of his life to collating Sabrina-related material and preserving her work. His site was even endorsed by the woman herself, judging by the multiple communications they shared.
Incredibly, the site is still being updated (more often than this one, to my shame) as Mark finds more material. He’s even on Twitter, but not very active.
Raquel Welch RIP
Mr Milligan is mentioned in this article about the late Raquel Welch, who died on 15 February. She starred in the films The Three Musketeers and The Four Musketeers in the mid-1970s. Milligan had a cameo role in the first of these as a decrepit landlord. The films are directed by Goons and Beatles collaborator Richard Lester.
Grytpype: Here is a preview of next winter in Jimmy Grafton's attic... [FX: Gale force winds] McGonagall (Sellers): Oooh, wind, sleet, rain, and trousers are falling. The monkeys are still doing it in the soup, and the snow lies heavy on the slopes of Raquel Welch.
(from ‘The Last Goon Show Of All’, 5 October 1972)
When Ray Ellington came to Scotland
There’s an article from The Press & Journal from January about Albert Bonici, a Scottish-Italian music promoter who helped arrange The Beatles’ first major UK tour. By the time this happened he’d been promoting acts for some time – including our own Ray Ellington, who gets a nice big portrait about a third of the way down.
On the subject of The Beatles, in 1964 John Lennon’s first book, In His Own Write was published, containing much material inspired by his love of the Goons. This article from Showbiz Cheat Sheet features quotes from his first wife, Cynthia, about him and Stuart Sutcliffe (the original bassist) impersonating the Goons.
A nation of comedy shopkeepers?
A slight tangent this one: prolific comedy writer Graham McCann has written an entertaining alternate universe piece about comedy legends who nearly didn’t make it, and what they would all be doing instead. He’s populated a hypothetical street with shopkeepers including Ronnie Barker (of course), Bruce Forsyth, Frankie Howerd, and Peter Brough, of Educating Archie fame.
As for our heroes, what shops would they run? I can see Peter Sellers running either a car showroom or an antiques shop, the latter in character as Henry Crun. Maybe both, switching between Crun the antiques dealer and Grytpype the car salesman?
Harry Secombe, meanwhile, would make a great pub landlord in the style of his friend and manager Jimmy Grafton.
Michael Bentine I imagine running one of those shops where you can buy pretty much everything, and every time you went in you'd find him tinkering with some indescribable contraption.
As for Spike... I think he'd enjoy a quiet bookshop. I'm not sure why, but I see him taking great pleasure in occasionally repositioning books in entirely the wrong category just to confuse people, storing political memoirs under 'fantasy', and all his own books under 'must read'.
Now, back to work.