Robin Gibb is Sleeping with the Fishes
He pulls a knife, you pull a gun. He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue! So was said when Sean Connery and Kevin Costner were taking on the mob in The Untouchables (1987).
Risqué BBC comedy panel shows often feature jokes at the expense of certain individuals whose private lives are secret, to the general public, but common currency on the celebrity circuit. They cover a myriads of topics and subjects from the fact that Robbie Williams is actually gay, to that Cliff Richard is actually gay, or that Simon Cowell is actually gay, but the biggest behind-the-scenes secret must be the bitter celebrity gang war that’s been rumbling on for a number of years.
It’s often joked that all celebrities live together in one big house. The notion is, of course, ridiculous as there are lots of them these days. The house-share system is, in fact, operated like a football division where the more famous you become the larger the house you’re offered with fellow celebrities of the same calibre. I hope one day to be offered such a place myself, but the best I’m likely to get is a caravan-share in Rhyl with Eddie Large, one of the Krankies, and that guy who does the voice of K9.
The first sign of a celebratory turf war emerged in 1997 when the Bee Gee gang swaggered into town acting like the cock of the walk. They famously did over former barrister Clive Anderson when being interviewed on his TV chat-show Clive Anderson All Talk.
Upon one of the Gibbs revealing that their original group names has been Les Tosseurs Clive made an innocuous comment and, instead of laughing this off in the humour that it was intended, Barry Gibb chose to retort with: “If anyone is a tosser round here, it’s you, pal!” The Bee Gees then stormed out of the programme after just five minutes on camera.
They stuck it to Clive good and proper, leaving him up the creek without any guests, as the programme barely limped on but Clive Anderson All Talk didn’t make it into the twenty-first century. The Bee Gees had just claimed their first victim.
But as the Bee Gees strutted about like the Krays reincarnated it also meant that the were sticking their hear above the parapet and Maurice was the first to fall. I don’t know how and can only surmise that someone like Valerie Singleton or Jeremy Paxman did him over down a dark alley, but this only brought a young Graham Norton to the fore. Bare with me.
Graham Norton had spent years in a drag-act, a stand-up comedian, the host of various obscure late-night programmes on minority TV channels, and as a comedy priest in Father Ted and yet his rise was like Al Pachino’s in the Godfather: He was the last one they suspected until it was all too late.
Following the death of the Bee Gee it was on his Channel 4 show V Graham Norton where he made the headlines when he joked with his Irish twang:
Back with the Bee Gees and the still breathing Robin issued a statement that Norton was “Scum” and a declaration that should their paths ever cross that he would “Rip his head off”.
The gauntlet was thrown down and this opening Norton-skirmish would soon be dwarfed when, after a transfer to the BBC, he set his sights on a far greater target.
Doctor Who has been running for nearly fifty years and in that time has racked up a notable list of foes that include the Daleks, the Cybermen, the Krotons, and the Master, but pretty soon the Doctor’s greatest enemy would be Graham Norton himself as when the opening episode of the re-launch was broadcast in 2005, eighteen months in the making, it was disastrously interrupted by live feed from Norton rehearsing for his live programme that followed.
If that wasn’t bad enough (and it was) Norton made his presence more firmly felt during the first cliff-hanger of Mat Smith series. Consider the scenario: the Doctor and a group of soldiers hunting a killer stone angle loose in a cave full of ordinary statues work out that they’re all coming to life and, as they only escape route turns out to be a no-go, the statues get closer on all sides, and then… Then a cartoon Graham Norton comes bounding onto the bottom of the screen and dances about to advertise his new show coming up in a couple of minutes… And then the credits roll.
I don’t know what happened on screen. No-one does. Because everyone was watching open-mouthed with horror as a dancing caricature had the temerity to prance about without any deference to the ratcheting tense drama.
This was one of the moments in TV history that bound together the viewing audience. (apart from those fancy people watching in expensive High Definition who didn’t get the same treatment, missed the whole experience, and as a result actually knows how the episode ended). This incident prompted six thousand angry complaints. Mine included. But Norton just went on to mock the incident on his own show.
Graham Norton had shown, after defeating Doctor Who, that in British celebratory culture he’d grown into an untouchable.
And then somehow Bee Gee Robin was taken down. He may have tried to rip Graham Norton’s head off in an after-hours bare-knuckle fight in the car parks of television centre, we don’t know, but he was an old man now.
He sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue!
Remembering what they had done to Clive Anderson, and the camaraderie amongst celebrities and their shared houses, he did just that. Robin may have escaped the coma, although unlike in The Godfather he was unable to escape the hospital alive.
And, of the Bee Gees, this just leaves hothead Barry. And we all know that this is only heading to a one-on-one confrontation: The seventies pop star and nineties bully versus the nineties comedian who’s grown into the British Godfather.
Now host of the BBC’s premier chat-show, with a primetime radio show on the UK’s biggest station, and a job for life as the UK host of Eurovision, then whatever you might think of Graham Norton, be it camp, or puerile, or smutty, then whatever you do just keep it to yourself and don’t you dare say it to his face because, just like Don Corleone, he’ll f*cking kill you! Remember Robin Gibb is sleeping with the fishes.