"Elias Nebula is practicing Japanese but no one knows."

Thursday, May 26, 2011

"Ain't Been Served; Ain't Getting Served."

New York City. 1:30 PM.
Are You Being Served is on Channel 21.
Do you know where your children are?

Watching five minutes of Are You Being Served -- which is, after all, as much as any thinking person can sustain without imploding -- and squinting into the grey-and-brown-and-snot-green screen, I thought: "And who of this nut-brown, motley bestiary is yet counted among the living and the sensate?" These people were old, broke-down, crooked and crabbed in the late Seventies. It is too much to hope that Captain Peacock is still among the living. Ditto Mrs. Slocombe.

The great shock of course, when one views an old episode of Are You Being Served, is how young Wendy Richard ("Wendy Richards") was in it. And yet when she appeared on our screens next, in Eastenders, she was a hoar-headed half-upright revenant. I believe she is now indeed a tenant of the grave. What happened in that mysterious interim? How badly and rawly and close to the flame did she live, that the gods threw her down so low and abused her spirit-self and bade her grub in the filth for dirt and blood and garbage as her daily bread? She was a frisky pixie one minute; the next she was the she-hag of the moors.

Was WENDY stranded on an island like Odysseus, and forced to "couple" with mythological mermen? Was she obliged to do battle with Cyclopses, and Scylla and Charybdis, to scratch and claw her way back to Borehamwood and Albert Square? Did she feast meanly and jealously on human flesh? Did she slake her devalued and voided soul with sweetmeats from the grave for sustenance in her uncalendered years of dark days?

Contrast the fate of the late Ms. "Richards" with that of JOHN INMAN. He's still alive (if being John Inman can ever really be called "living"), [I just checked and actually he's dead - he died four years ago -- but my point remains I think] {perhaps it doesn't} and well and living in Florida [he isn't] {he's dead} .

[I am going to continue to pretend I don't know that John Inman is in fact dead so that I can make my regrettably somewhat compromised point.]

John Inman is Dorian Gray, while Wendy Richards was his portrait; for every crude, coarse, vulgar, Gott-verboten thing that VICIOUS JOHN did (and they have been called legion, for they are many), it was thrice-damned WENDY who saw another lock of hair turn'd hoar overnight, whose back hunched some more, who grew a horn in the centre of her forehead and felt in her craw a snaggletooth inch another inch.

(M.K. P____ I think it was who once declared an undying and vigilant and pathetic love and admiration for Wendy Richard in Are You Being Served. I think he used to extract weird joy from confessing such things to shock his crowd of young and callow friends. Now LA RICHARD is dead and M.K.P. is in love with an aged corpse. Michael, very well is it said: that death shall catch us all, even our one-time true-loves!)


Admittedly John Inman being dead, and Wendy Richard in fact outliving him by two whole years before she too submitted to vile death, reduces somewhat the puissance of my original point (to wit: that John Inman outlived all his cohorts on Are You Being Served and was alive and well in Florida), but the point can be made to a lesser degree with reference to Barbara Windsor.

Barbara Windsor is older than Methuselah, and she is certainly older than the late Wendy Richard, but BABS is still alive and well (perhaps she even lives in Florida--). Could it be that WENDY "took on" the many sins of BABS and it was those abundant manifold sick vile excesses that cruelly "done in" MS. RICHARDS?

This is of course a matter of purest speculation.

(Pause as the author checks to see if Barbara Windsor is still alive or if she died in 2002.)


As the English firmament spins further away from me and as of course our own childhoods become more strange to, and remote from, us, I find myself having to frown and try to clarify neglected memories. Jamie Oliver on TV said that his chicken and potatos and tomatos dish was "fandabidozi" and as a consequence I found myself in the peculiar position of explaining who the Krankies were to my American wife. Found myself doubting the data as I relayed it: "She was... a Scottish midget... who dressed up as a schoolboy and... pretended to be her husband's son? She was his wife, but... [hesitating; faltering...] ...but she pretended to be his son."

(Sheepish afterword. Following further rudimentary research, I have discovered that Captain Peacock is still among the living. "Which is," to quote Emerson, "what old people called - the gods visible again." That great, grand, old man! That cheat of base, grasping Charon!!!

And ---

What a mess I made of this point I had to make.)

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