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Baffling the journalists

We’re rapidly approaching the 71st anniversary of the first Crazy People broadcast, on 28 May 1951.

As the Goons and producer Dennis Main Wilson attempted to drum up interest in their new show, a number of newspaper items appeared in the days leading up to the recording. Journalists seemed baffled and unsure of how exactly to explain what they had observed, as this article from the News Chronicle from 17 May 1951 demonstrates.

Goons take the air – JP Thomas discourses upon a strange phenomenon in radio

Author's notes: Firstly, how dare you claim that Arnold Fringe does not exist? He is a crucial figure in Goon history, sir, and I'll thank you for not besmirching his name.

I like that Michael Bentine is referred to as a Shakespearean actor. It is true, according to his autobiography, but the full story around the end of his career acting the great bard's scripts is even dafter. Essentially, during the Second World War, he had been trying to enlist for months but kept getting rejected due to his Peruvian roots. He was then arrested by military policemen halfway through a performance and charged with desertion.

Fortunately, he was able to contact the Peruvian ambassador - a family friend - and was quickly fast-tracked to the RAF. Where things got worse, as I've written about before.

The attic of the Grafton Arms is mentioned as the Goons' performance space. There are images from this period around in various books.

Alfred Marks and Margaret Lockwood were mentioned in other proto-Goon material as being involved in the shenanigans at Graftons, but Ronald Searle and John Blythe I am not so sure about. If anyone has any idea who they may be, let me know!

All I can really think of as I read this article is a baffled journalist trying to ask straightforward and/or inane questions of the four Goons, and getting, well, Goonish answers.

For instance, I like the idea of the journalist asking what the show was called and the four of them just cackling and shouting "yakabakaka" at each other.

And then Spike very seriously explaining the nature of a Goon while the journalist nods and furiously writes down every word in his notebook.

There is also the tacit acknowledgement that the BBC has no idea what it's getting itself in for.

Finally, a shout out to Larry Stephens, who drew the Goon illustration. Later Goons, of course, gave up their clubs, as we know from Jim Spriggs' regular declaration: "I don't like clubbing, Jim."

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Roger the Saurus
Roger the Saurus
Jan 20, 2023

Ronald Searle was a noted cartoonist who created St. Trinian's schoolgirls and, later, the Molesworth books - "as any fule kno". John Blythe was an actor who usually played spivs - he would have perfect fot the role of Private Walker in Dad's Army.

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