New Musical Express September 25 1993.
EDITED BY GAVIN MARTIN
"We did this video for my company, Peter Cook Productions,"
drawls Peter Cook over a deadly-looking cigarette and a Bucks Fizz.
"Not a company that did much. About as much as John Birt Production,
So here I am in a Hampstead faded-posho cafe with the great Peter
Cook, one of the most important figures in British comedy, the man
who went from playing in Beyond The Fringe to starting Private Eye
and thence forward through the '60s and '70s in splendour - and
he is here to promote Derek & Clive Get The Horn a video redolent
of dismalness to the max. Oh well. Let's talk about Derek &
Clive for a bit. These two warped variants on Pete and Dud have,
after all, been very popular.
"We did them for fun in '73 in New York and we got on to that
tape which also included 'The Troggs Tape' - remember that, 'we
need a f---ing 12 string'?" recalls Cook in a West Country
bastard accent. "There was David Dimbleby and Harold Wilson
losing his rag and saying, ' You wouldn't ask Edward heath about
his yacht'. Orson Welles auditioning for the part of a frozen pea
- a number of very funny tracks all on this bootleg cassette. And
eventually Chris Blackwell (Island Records founder) put them out
on an album."
There were three Derek & Clive albums, and this film. Cook
hadn't seen Get The Horn until he and director Russell Mulcahy (Highlander,
lots of pop vids) got together to edit the copious footage.
"I was quite shocked, I'd forgotten some of it," Cook
admits. "I don't play those records for recreation. At my age
you don't play `Derek & Clive' in the Vauxhall as a romantic
Or, indeed for laffs. No-one sane can possibly enjoy the awful
'c--- kicking' routine, can they?'
Cook nods. "That's the most horrible, but on the other hand,
you can't re-edit it to fit in with fashion. It's like all those
Bogart films where he's smoking... I'm not making the comparison,
but it would be foolish to change it because it made you cringe
The video is preceded by trailers for equally excellent product
by Bernard Manning and Chubby Brown. It is worse.
"Filth... Are we not under the sex education arm?" laughs
Cook and then acknowledges the rampantly unpleasant misogyny of
the whole thing. "One of the bits that Dudley wrote was this
awful scene where I'm with the inflatable doll. I wound up slapping
her round the face. It's an inflatable doll, I'm not slapping a
woman. But I'd forgotten I'd done that. When the stripper comes
back, she says I'm awful - an actual woman comes in and we're so
embarrassed. Eventually, I remember getting rid of her by doing
my impression of the c---sucker and strangling her... I edited out
the footage where I stab her and put her in a bin-liner and throw
her in the canal..."
Stop, our sides have split. How drunk were you when this film was
made? Cook looks aghast.
"Not at all. Not any more than Dudley was drunk in Arthur.
A bit of red wine in the control room... They're very easy characters
to portray," he says, demonstrating by mumbling and swearing
a bit. "The number of people who come up to me and go, my mates
down the pub, are funnier than you. Well, why don't they do a f---ing
record instead of talking to me?"
Quite. Moving on to happier topics, it seems Cook is playing a
"cruel Lord" in a remake of Black Beauty and has a curious
"I've always longed to play an SS officer and I've always
wanted to drive round in a jewelled tank," he drawls, louchely.
"I'd like to be Goering, going round taking people's art, going
round with this gigantic showbiz tank. I think I'd have silver filigree
mirrors and Art Deco...
"And the uniform. I think he dressed too conservatively,"
says Peter, warming to his topic. "He should have veered a
little bit more towards the Liberace style. I loved Liberace. I
saw him at the Palladium. He was wearing tiny little Stars &
Stripes shorts and moving about on stage. He said, `I can't dance
but you have to admire my audacity'."
Why not play Liberace then?
"Well, Liberace. . . you have to be careful because he's dead,"
says Cook in an outbreak of tastefulness. "And I don't want
to speak ill of the dead."
"Goering's dead;" points out photographer and accuracy
man Derek Ridgers.
"I believe he is," agrees Cook. "I wasn't speaking
ill of him, though, was I?"
We move on, a bit, to talk of Nazi film director Leni Riefenstahl,
who Cook doesn't want to play, and then to 'Allo 'Allo.
"I mean, talk about tasteless," says Cook. "Occupied
France under the Nazis..."
Does Peter Cook have any taste boundaries?
"I'm not sure I do. As I've said before, if I sat down to
write something to shock - which is a pointless exercise - it would
be a lot more tasteless than Derek & Clive," he declares.
`But why shock everybody? Absolutely no interest in doing it. Dudley
wrote a sketch on 'Derek & Clive Come Again' where he's wanking
over a picture of his mum and dad, and his mum comes in, and Dudley
says, `Oh, sorry, Mum, the doctor told me I've got cancer of the
knob and I've got to get the pus out'. Shocking. That stretched
my limits of shock to the full."
And there we have it. Follow Peter Cook and his career wherever
it may take you, readers, but don't buy any Derek And Clive videos.
© "New Musical Express" September 25 1993.
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