05 November 2008

Gervais' 10 stoopid things Americans say

With the election still going on, you can tell it's a dull night if this is the only post i can think of.

i've actually gone off gervais since i first saw The Office, but then i didnt hear him prattle 'til recently *and* i sense that success has gone to his head.

i won't bother to list the 10 here but i lived for a while in the States and no one ever asked me anything close to what he enumerated on Letterman. In fact, they sound like a very dated list of what americans would like to think other americans come up with.

That whole language accent thing is over. OK, so all accents sound the same over there - toff, cockney, brum, Oz, french, s'th efrikan et al  - but so do a lot of regional american accents to me, save for the exaggerated southern and Bawston of course where i lived for a while and mingled with wonderful Hahvud types as well as those distinguised brahmins.

This was back in '80s, the tail end of the british accent's rule.

I recall arriving at a party of distinguished types, fluting away in my Fauntleregal tones and some Mike Caine double, complete with dirty rotten scoundrels blazer, slithering over and asking in a hostile hiss what my game was, fearing a rival.

I was relieved to tell him that i had no game, being there as mere husband of my Little, Brown editorial wizard of a wife.

He was suspicious and right to be. Later that evening I was introduced to some society matron who took me to one side and asked me to do a Henry Higgins/Zoltan Carpathy number on the chap. Apparently he was into advising on stocks etc (mega commission, natch) and given to poncing around with a CV that included Eton, MCC and some Cambridge college.

Well, I was able to tell her straight away that his vowels were pure Edward Heath (the original estuarian) which made me doubt the Eton bit.

I gave her a tip: to ask ever so sweetly and in wide-eyed admiration in which house he'd been at Henry VI's charity crammer.

The houses have names like Waynflete, Villiers, Mustians, Jourdelay's, Baldwin's Bec, The Timbralls and so forth but  - as I knew from dating a housemaster's daughter - are referred to by the name or initials of your housemaster. Neat, huh? And a good way of also signaling your years there.

"If he tells you Macindoe or JST, he's probably bona fide , alas."

Well, they didn't have wikipedia in those days and the bounder prolly didnt expect such a detailed query because he apparently came up with,

"Oh ... I was in Fleur de Lys, damn'd good house ... also made Pop - d'ye know about Pop?" (At which point, she didn't need to.)

Anyway, he seemed to do ok with the whole Brit accent thing and I saw him about at all the parties and clubs, oozing and schmoozing and seeming to do all right. I asked him a cricket question once - something about the Bedser twins - that he got absolutely right after which he would latch onto me and talk Wisden all evening which boosted his rep no end.

I was in fact acquiring a taste for basket ball: the Boston Celtics (seltics not keltics, please) were in the ascendant and watching Larry Bird, Robert Parish and Kevin McHale in action was - now i think back - like that classic photo of New York jazz alley listing Bird, Monk, Miles and god knows who else in concert in separate joints.

We got best seats thanks to Steph working with a sweet girl whose married boyfriend had contacts. He was also a cop, mildest mannered cove you could hope to meet and a true friend. One game he stood up to remove his jacket and some oik yelled at him to stop blocking his view. John turned to apologise, at that moment revealing the pistol at his belt. A silence fell.

A few weeks later I was dining with an old Secker author, the great George V Higgins and ex assistant DA and I asked him, did I imagine it? Would he have been carrying his gun at the game? It seems such a good story ... was it wishful imaginings on my part?

"Yes, he'd've been packing," said George, and gave me the detail which I forget because I so loved the word 'packing'.

I later sent him an LP of the Secret Policeman's Ball because I loved the sketch of an Englishman going out to LA and being invited to a party: "Everyone bring pieces," was the advice, at which the Limey wondered, "Pizzas??".

Good times.

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