Thursday, 21 June 2012

Russell Harty Plus (1974)

Here's one of the books I've loved recently - and it belongs to an unusual genre: the interview book. It's a genre I wish there was more examples of. In this one, the late Russell Harty gives us chapters spent in the company of people like Barbara Cartland, Elton John, Edna Everage and Molly Parkin. He quizzes them with genial, lightly mocking persistance. He's sympathetic but gently dogged.

Even though these are edited transcripts of TV interviews from the early seventies, reading them in print gives them an extra resonance, somehow. The words mean more, stark on the page than they do on telly. For instance, the encounter with Frankie Howerd is available to view on Youtube and, when you do, you find a fairly standard, mildly-joshing, borderline grumpy conversation that seems typical of its type.

But read it in print and it's like something out of 'Waiting for Godot':

RUSSELL: I sometimes spend my lunch-hours in Hyde Park.

HOWERD: What you do in Hyde Park's your affair.

(screams of laughter)

RUSSELL: Now, I know from time to time you've mentioned in odd articles that you've done that it's a bit of a strain...

HOWERD: What do you mean - odd articles?

RUSSELL: The odd article...

HOWERD: Oh, that's better.

RUSSELL: ... that has been written about you, that you find it a bit of a strain wandering the streets, walking as you said, you like walking...

HOWERD: I do not walk the streets.

(audience laughter)

RUSSELL: When you're walking the streets...

HOWERD: When... yes.

RUSSELL: ... that people sometimes think that they have proprietorial rights over you, that you're not being a funny man in the middle of the street, doing whatever you do in the middle of the street.

(audience laughter)

HOWERD: The man's a twit, isn't he?

(audience laughter)

HOWERD: I was with you until you got to 'proprietorial'. After that I lost you. Now what did you mean by that? Be more explicit.

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