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THE SPIRIT SPEAKS »
posted September 18th 2007
All Aboard Ryan air flight YZ837 at the ungodly hour of 11.AM. for 'a TV'. We've been booked to appear on The Late Late Show in Dublin, hosted by urbane Irish android Pat Kenny. Doing 'a TV' for Mr. Kenny is a bit of a coup, actually. It's a popular, Friday Night show, and Ireland has always been good to us. So it’s a fine kick - off for the new record.
It's the first show in a new series, so It's kind of flattering that Pat has put his faith in us; he has the weight of history on his shoulders; the Late Late show has been running for decades; It's the Irish equivalent of Parkinson, or, er.... Wogan. I remember seeing a clip of the show from the early eighties when it was presented by Gay Byrne, a host by turns irritatingly impish and self - important. Byrne was interviewing the notorious and brilliant psychiatrist, R. D. Laing, during the sunset of his professional life. Laing was a hero of mine who, in the sixties, single handedly revolutionised the treatment of schizophrenics by bothering to talk to them. Laing had a knack for dismantling the constraints of coercive and repressive social institutions, a talent which he demonstrated on the Late Late show by getting totally pissed on Jameson's and swearing at the audience in a loud Scottish accent. As Jake and I enter the glassy portals of R.T.E. I secretly hope for just a little bit of history repeating....
We're ushered into our dressing room (which looks suspiciously like an ante-room of the wardrobe department) by a plump and perky lady with a clipboard, and settle in for the inevitably interminable wait before our soundcheck. Hey, it's not so bad; they've given us 9 packets of crisps and a carton of Ribena.... for free! It's a great business. You know, we've worked with Pat Kenny before. Oh Yes. Old Pat. Lovely old Patty Baby. About 7 years ago he had a show called 'Pat Kenny Live'. These were different times, with different values. In those days, Kenny would wear a cardigan and slacks, talk to a range of celebrity guests in the twilight of their careers, and then we would play 'Woke Up This Morning' in front of a crowd of blue-rinsed grannies. Ah, the innocence of youth. These days Kenny dresses in a double-breasted suit, talks to a range of celebrity guests in the twilight of their careers, and then we play 'Woke Up This Morning' in front of a crowd of middle - aged professionals.
Having soundchecked and been given a fresh undercoat by the make - up ladies, me and Larry go down to the Green Room to drink the free wine, watch the show and stalk David Schwimmer, who is the main turn. There's a slightly nervous atmosphere in the room. It's the first show of a new series, and in order to start the season with a bang, Pat has taken a bit of a gamble with an edgy, controversial new feature:
Live plastic surgery.
Larry and I settle into two leather - effect Habitat armchairs with our gratis chardonnay and on the hi- definition plasma screen in front of us is Valerie. Valerie is a 48 year old housewife from County Cork, who has white strings coming out of her face.
Standing over her, with the air of a novice priest, is a dark and handsome plastic surgeon. He has an Irish accent, and an Indian name. Through a series of holes in the Valerie's neck, he has inserted 8 plastic filaments, which have been drawn through with fishhooks to emerge from her face as bloody tendrils. 'Did you feel any pain at all, Valerie?' asks Pat Kenny, looming over her like the chief Cenobite from Hellraiser. 'er no....just a little bit of....pressure' she grimaces. Larry and I watch agog as the doctor proceeds to pull at one of the strings. A gory worm slowly emerges from her left eyebrow...'
You can see Valerie's eyebrow is really quite raised now'.
They tug on the strings and Valerie's face goes up and down like a pair of pyjama bottoms.
I think of poor old R.D. Laing. As a trainee Neurologist working 14 hour shifts in a research department, he was once given the job of delivering a severed head from one hospital to another, for the purposes of post mortem. Nerves jangling from overwork, he decided to take advantage of local pub on the way, where he poured as many whiskeys down his neck as he could before closing time. As the bell rang for last orders, he looked groggily down at the grisly brown paper parcel next to him at the bar, and thought to himself 'Fuck me. What have I become?' He had suddenly realized that in the process of becoming a successful young doctor, he had become completely inured to the horror that surrounded him on a daily basis, that he himself was part of.
The dark young surgeon pulls another string, distending Valerie's mouth. The effect is enhanced by the widescreen TV. The surgeon snips off ends of the knots holding the cords in place leaving two neat, red puncture marks to the right of her jugular....
‘Now Valerie, have a look at yourself in that camera, what do you think?’
‘Er well it feels quite tight at the moment, but I’m delighted ha ha.’
She looks like Jabba the Hut.
There follows an earnest discussion on the dangers of cosmetic surgery, accompanied by some particularly nasty pictures of botched boob jobs and liposuction catastrophes. Bummer. Then there's a long and tedious discussion with a millionaire property developer, who also seems to possess a certain vampyric quality...(What is going on in this country? Did they make Anne Rice head of the Irish tourist board while I wasn't looking?) By the time we’re due to go on, the atmosphere is positively sepulchral.
We troop on and play our 'Hit'. After the Carnival of Lost Souls that has preceded us, it feels like we're going through the motions, mere meat puppets. According to the classical model, those who refuse to repent their mistakes are sentenced to repeat them. But in this world turned upside down, you are condemned to reproduce your greatest success, again and again, until you die.
Just ask our next guest, David Schwimmer, AKA 'Ross' from 'Friends'. He was the geeky but lovable one who always had terrible luck with women. 'Are you sick of being associated with that character?' asks Pat. David replies, in a geeky but lovable manner, that although he had a great time making the series, and it was just an awesome privilege to work with such wonderfully talented people, he's keen to forge a new path. In fact, he's just made his directorial debut with a film called 'Run, Fatboy, Run'. It's about a geeky but lovable guy who has no luck with women...
After the finale, in which a hysterical woman wins a car by guessing the age of a large owl, we mop up the dregs in the green room and chip off for the Voodoo Lounge to get twisted.
The next day, allegedly, R.T.E received the following email, from the Reverend Luke Maginness:
'After last night's grotesque spectacle on the Late Late Show I feel compelled to say that never have I seen anything so disgusting. To subject human beings to such wanton abuse in the name of entertainment and then to display them like benighted circus animals is nothing short of barbaric.. the feature on plastic surgery, however was quite entertaining.'
© Orlando Harrison 2007