Thursday, 8 April 2010

The Goons and Willy Wonka

Here is an insight on two late great's Michael Bentine and Roald Dahl.  The first was one of the members of The Goons and anarchic BBC radio comedy that starred Peter Sellers, Spike Milligan, Harry Secombe and Michael Bentine.

It's often these 'backstage' insights that reveal the truth about the real people behind the often manufactured 'celebrity.' 

Michael was in to plug an audio book about his life that he had just recorded, this was in 1992 and we were working on a Sunday 'leisure' show at the time.  I was fascinated by the success of The Goons - I never found them that funny.  Michael Bentine had arrived early so I was able to have a fairly long chat with him.  I still remember him having this air of 'false happiness' and when you spoke to him he replied by entering your personal space and answered just inches away from your face, most off putting.

I wanted to know what it was like to work with Peter Sellers? I expected an erudite reply, this is what Bentine told me.  "He was a mad c*nt to work with, always changing his mind about things, always f*cking around with technology and women, did you know he had one of the first domestic tape recorders and he would record voices and ideas and play them back to us?  I thought a fascinating insight into the pecking order of The Goons, it would seem that Peter was the comedic genius that kept the fire burning in that show.

A couple of years before in 1990 Roald Dahl made a very rare appearance to plug a book called 'Esio Trot' - another one of his fabulous books for children.  I can't tell you how excited I was to meet this man - I had read Charlie and the Chocolate Factory as a child and just loved the story.

Well when he turned up he shuffled up to me with his PR woman looking harassed behind him.  "I don't like doing these things and I do not really want to be here." and that was just his opening gambit.  Never have I met such a bad tempered cranky old man, even the cup of tea I made him wasn't right.  But when he was on air telling the story of his new book he was a different person.  It was like I was the small child once again listening to my favourite story teller.  An extraordinary man but a miserable git as well.


Anonymous said...

The terminally unfunny Bentine was only involved in the initial two series of the Goon Show. It settled into its classic format (with Milligan, Sellars and Secombe) from series three to ten.

Steve Campen said...

Yes I never really got Potty Time that thing he did with models and imaginary fleas.