Monday, November 14, 2005

Mr Michael Parkinson May Have Drooled On His Tie, But His Tete-a-Tete With Madonna Was Nothing Compared To Mr Peter Sellers In A German Helmet

For some time now, I have been worried about Mr Michael Parkinson. It is not, you understand, that the old goat is any mortal danger. He has a television show, a house band, and he is allowed to witter at length to his celebrity guests, who are delighted to encounter an interviewer whose idea of an interrogation is a little light banter, a few questions about their relationship with their father, an interlude on the silliness of celebrity, and a free advertisement for whatever it is that they are selling.
Indeed, a year or two ago I was in the cold meats queue at Tesco when I overheard a young woman explaining to her friend why she had just placed a CD by Mr Rod Stewart in her basket, alongside the jumbo packs of potato crisps, the 10 gallon drum of Coca-Cola, and the dieting magazine. "He was on Parkie last night. He was magic." (Having witnessed the alleged performance, I wondered for a while whether the word "magic" had changed its meaning, in the manner of the word "wicked", so that it now meant something with no mystery or sparkle.)
There was a time - around 1974 - when Mr Parkinson's talk show made for revelatory viewing. Some of the guests came from Hollywood's Golden Age, and the deference of the host seemed appropriate, if facile. Memorably, Mr Peter Sellers once wore a helmet and pretended to be a German for 25 minutes, which was peculiar, but more entertaining than anything that was on television last Saturday night. The memory of Mr Parkinson's interview with Ms Raquel Welch still makes me blush in places where the blood does not usually flow.
These days, Mr Parkinson is forced to interview people who are less famous than himself, and he gives the impression that he considers them to be less interesting too. But what are we to make of his behaviour when faced with the singer and dancer, Ms Madonna Ciccone? The fawning was almost obscene to witness, as Mr Parkinson extracted from Ms Ciccone the astonishing news that her father was reasonably proud of her, and that she remained relatively fond of her husband. Ms Ciccone had rehearsed a joke about her love of Timothy Taylor - an ale, and not a former member of The Goodies - and pretended that she was auditioning for a singing job at Mr Parkinson's pub.
Frankly, I was, and am, disappointed. In his interview in the Radio Times, Mr Parkinson revealed himself to be a true son of Cudworth - an opinionated old curmudgeon who would delight in calling a spade a bloomin' shovel. Yet here he was, behaving like an old headmaster with a crush on the French assistant.
I often think fondly of Mr Parkinson's extraordinary interview with Mr Orson Welles, or the special moment when the old gunslinger, Mr John Wayne, appeared at the top of the staircase in a tuxedo; a celestial cowboy, sick with cancer, back for one last ride across the range.
After Madonna, I am nostalgic for Emu.

1 comment:

Learson said...

Michael Parkinson's undoubted sycophancy towards his guests is, surely just a simulated televisual ruse. His oft-repeated admiration for the egregious spoutings of that voluble vulgarian, Billy Connolly, might provide a clue to Parkinson's true feelings. Parkinson is smart enough to know that when dealing with showbiz types, one must constantly reassure them of how beautiful and talented they are, because failure to do so causes the conversation to flag somewhat. Showbiz celebrities should be firmly placed in their deserved position - underneath a pedestal.