Frivolous Monsters

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.

A young Graham Norton

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:

I bet Maurice Gibb’s heart monitor was singing the tune of Stayin’ Alive.
Beep… Beep… Beep… Beep… Stayin’ Alive, Stayin’ Alive!
Beep… Beep… Beep… Beep… Beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep!

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.

Why am I hearing Graham Norton?

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.

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15 thoughts on “Robin Gibb is Sleeping with the Fishes

  1. reverend61 on said:

    I remember that Anderson interview like it was yesterday. You don’t go on that show unless you’re prepared for a little light ribbing – his reputation precedes him – and the Bee Gees were easy targets, but I do think he pushed them a little too far. It was just pun after pun after pun and he wasn’t actually interested in talking about them, or the new album they were there to plug; it was just an excuse to get out all those jokes he’d been filing away for years – so in a way I can’t blame Barry for walking out.

    My favourite bit of the scene was after he’d gone and Robin had followed, and Maurice was sitting alone at the desk not quite sure what to do, eventually murmuring “Well, I suppose I’d better go too.” Anderson replied “You don’t have to, we can do the interview with just you if you like,” and Maurice said “Nah, that’s OK, I don’t do impressions…”

    • You obviously have better recall than me, but I think posterity has chosen to forget the rest and just go with the headline event. I did try to find the video of the Norton Bee Gee joke and couldn’t. Either YouTube has got harder to search or someone’s been scouring the internet. So that was from memory too.

  2. Lest we forget: The Bee Gees menace Jamie Theakston when he tried to interview them in happier times:

  3. I almost couldn’t read this post, the picture of those tight, shiny pants and the chest hair were like a dreadful car crash, I couldn’t stop looking in horror and nearly just turned the car around and went home without getting to the end.

    Once I steered safely around it I enjoyed the rest of the post but I know that picture will continue to haunt me. If I wake up screaming in the middle of the night I know who to blame.

    • I know, horrific isn’t it! I was worried if that post was too much on it’s own, but surely they’d push anyone over the edge!

      • If all celebrities lived in the same house can you imagine being the one in the bathroom after the Gibbs were finished? There would be more hair than drain, bleh.
        Perhaps that is what drove Graham Norton to strive for fame (and revenge), the desperate desire to get into a better house and punish them for all those horrifying morning discoveries…

  4. Side note….I own Father Ted and watch it now and again for some yucks. Fr. Noel Furlong!

    • Then you are wiser than even I dared to believe La La! It’s one of the great modern British sitcoms over here as it got out on top, and then the star had the good sense to die straight away afterwards to prevent them coming back again and again to sully the memory… It also means that you will understand my reference to ‘My Lovely Horse’ in my diary this week… I’m having a lot of worries about how I’m going to make some of it understandable to a “wider” international audience.

  5. Sir Cliff Richard, gay? Robbie Williams? Gasp! Funny how there are some things that the press just won’t touch, under any circumstances. There are some very scary lawyers around, obviously.

    Anyway, Sir Cliff is a Christian. So he can’t be gay. But I’ve worked with Robbie Williams, and he’s camper than tit-tassles.

    • I think there was a time when it did the rounds of Take That as to which one was the “gay one” although I think they’re all married now. Not a fan of Robbie Williams and his ego, though. As for Cliff, that one’s been like a constant joke on ‘Nevermind the Buzzcocks’ for years I think, and he’s been pulling the wool over certain eyes for decades as it’s common knowledge he now lives with a de-frocked priest somewhere in Europe. I know he did an access-all-areas TV documentary at his house, but not the house where the other bloke lives. It must be a very odd life he leads.

  6. I was a DJ and lighting technician just before Take That hit the big time and I worked with them for a short time. Sorry, was the question ‘which one of them is straight?’ I’d say LOL now, but I never say LOL.

    • I’ve just re-listened to the Jon Ronson Radio 4 show where he joined Robbie Williams at a UFO convention. Part of me wants to describe him as a wacko with paid hangers-on, but some of the times he (and they) seemed quite normal even if they did seem to be lapping up tall tales.

  7. Of course the interview is online. I actually was surprised myself . . . even thought I knew it was coming. I am still not sure what all was said that made Barry walk off but the brother who first walked off with him was more than prepared. Although Clive looked completely shocked. I never knew Barry was such a “hothead” until I watched Saturday Night Live. They had skits where one person plays Barry and his is always having a fit.

    Ha, I just noticed how old this post is. But it showed up as a link in my notification that you liked one of my post. That is how I ended up clicking on it. Cheers!

    • It is a very old post, and I don’t have time for such nonsense these days it seems, but this gets an awful lot of google hits which includes a lot about the Clive Anderson interview, and about Graham Norton, and a lot of “robin gibb gay” / “was barry gibb gay?” / “was maurice gibb gay”. So some people out there have some searching questions but they can’t agree which was the gay one.

      • Yeah, I was shocked at how old it was since WordPress directed me to it. But . . . I guess they figure if it is still up people might still read it, why not. I don’t have time for such nonsense either that is why after I read the entire thing and noticed it was from 2012 I said, “DANG! This is so old I shouldn’t even bother commenting. But DANG I just spent my time reading it, I am going to comment!” 🙂 And the skits with “Barry Gibb” on SNL are so funny. Not sure if you are familiar with such nonsense as Saturday Night Live. 🙂

        I guess some people actually CARE who is/was gay? Cheers!

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