TTYF! SICK(ISH) REVIEW OF THE YEAR 1997
Written mostly by Kevin Warne (KNW) with some less funny bits from John Harrington (JH)
It may have been the year in which our own tatty little zine Take That You Fiend! finally failed to negotiate the underpass but as my co-editor said after several flat years it was far too good a one to let by without comment.
We used to pretend this was a sick review and indeed when we started in 1982 people actually complained about the content. This quickly passed as Ben Elton, Paul Merton, Jeremy Hardy and all the other "alternative" comedians now inhabiting prime time panel shows first made their collective appearance. Our sad little efforts are now mere token bits of mucus in the handkerchief of life rather than sick.
1997, it was indeed a good year dominated by three historic events. Firstly John Major and the Conservatives got, in the words of my co-editor, an industrial strength kicking on May 1st, then we gave Hong Kong back to those nice cuddly Chinese communists and finally, after a two hundred year absence in their country, the French revived the art of making royal jelly..
Cartoon from http://www.hrtree.demon.co.uk/diana.jpg
The year started with the a flurry of new life, Dolly the sheep was cloned, just in time to find lamb taken off the menu due to BSE. After Mars in 1996 more life was found on the moons of Jupiter as NASA continued the solar system tour desperately trying to justify the budget.
John Major finally named the date of his own execution as May 1st. A month earlier would have been a more apt date if he believed the optimistic claptrap he was peddling to Conservative foot-soldiers about the Tories chances of being re-elected. Election night saw the end of the road for many a political career as the Conservatives got buried in one of the biggest landslides since Aberfan. Tory MPs become extinct north and west of the English border and an endangered species in most urban areas. New Labour, No Cat as Humphrey got his marching orders.
Many people cited the moment Portillo lost his seat (I wondered what that smell was - did you know "to lose your bottle" means to shit yourself? Cockney rhyming slang: bottle & glass = arse) as the greatest moment of the year, possibly of their life. Some of us worry, however, if Portillo is in the process of undergoing the same transformation as Gandalf did in Lord of the Rings, where he comes back from death far more powerful. The good grace with which he accepted defeat (in contrast to David "Up your hacienda, Jimmy" Mellor) and his subsequent reinvention as a recalcitrant wet indicate that this is a very accomplished politician (read: two-faced power-mad unscrupulous bastard). We have not seen the last of him.
In June Britain gave up its last major colony (not counting Bradford) by handing back Hong Kong to the Chinese. The sun finally set on Empire and the royal yacht Britannia.
This started, someone suggested, a tidying up of the loose ends of history before the millennium with apologies for past atrocities like the Irish famine, Japanese treatment of war prisoners and those dire fashions in the seventies. Platform shoes made a comeback underneath two of the shorter Spice Girls; luckily flares, dodgy shirt collars and wide lapels didn't follow. Schools banned platform shoes over a certain height - again
The last days of a hot summer saw a country in shock as Montserrat found out how tight fisted the new Labour government were going to be with compensation. Oh, and some minor royal got killed in a car crash.
Diana showed Grace wasn't the only Princess this century having difficulty negotiating corners. I doubt it was quite what she had in mind when she teased the press several weeks earlier about a big surprise. Instead of staying at the Ritz she decided to crash with her boyfriend. Several million soap-watching women took to the streets and hijacked the nation's conscience with the kind of outpouring of national grief we laughed at in North Korea in '96.
As an anti-monarchist might say, "the death of Princess Di, well it's a good start". The much fancied double with the Queen Mother didn't happen. Interestingly the BBC claimed a total of 31.5 million people watched the funeral on TV, one of the largest audiences of all time. I say interestingly because even allowing for another two million watching live on the streets what were the other 25 million in the country doing that day? (*JH - I was watching Scooby-Doo on Cartoon Network. I'd have got away with it too if it hadn't have been for those meddling kids.)
Princess Di might have been all over the radio, the dashboard and the steering wheel one Sunday but she wasn't the only one suffering from overexposure. The Spice Girls seemed to be everywhere launching Channel 5, talking to Mandela and sacking their manager. Posh Spice increased the obscene repertoire around the football grounds of England by going out with David Beckham.
The only Spice free places appeared to be the Nevada desert where Thrust 2 broke the sound barrier and a strange green far away land where four Teletubbies live in a nuclear bunker and run around trying not squash rabbits. They speak silly baby language, how can children be expected to learn to talk properly complained the generations brought up on Bill and Ben, the Clangers and Spotty Dog out of the Woodentops.
And so to those we have lost in 1997. It has to be said even without the usual suspects like the Queen Mother and Ronald Reagan obliging it was a bumper year for noted stiffs.
The film industry lost two more Hollywood giants in James Stewart and Robert Mitchum with a noted supporting cast of Burgess Meredith, Brian Keith, Red Skelton and Ronald Fraser. Jeffrey Bernard really did get unwell, Sir James Goldsmith retired from politics and everything else. Princess Di and Dodi Fayed were quickly followed by Mother Theresa and cricket lost Denis Compton.
Memories of the seventies were jogged by this years losses. Back then I watched Dr Who (Terry Nation and Sidney Newman, who created the character) and if I couldn't get to channel switches fast enough before remote control I sometimes caught sight of Opportunity Knocks (Hughie Green) and Mind Your Language (Barry Evans). I wondered what some women saw in a bloated Elvis Presley as they wondered why he never toured England (Colonel Tom Parker - great manager but lousy chicken recipe). I winced listening to country crap whilst Lynyrd Skynyrd carried on the Buddy Holly/Glenn Miller tradition of snuffing it between gigs in a light aircraft (John Denver). I watched a lot of natural history programs (Jacques Cousteau), some wrestling (Big Daddy) before the football (Billy Bremner) and tried to avoid the first Mastermind (Magnus Magnanimousofyou-myson) shows, the jazz ones (Stephane Grappelli), Johns dire record collection (Ronnie Lane of Faces/Small Faces and the fantastically named Randy California of Spirit), other peoples naff records (Brian Connolly of the Sweet, Harold Melvin, Billy Mackenzie of the Associates was no longer alive and kicking at the country club) and naff pulp fiction (Harold Robbins).
Other notables included Deng Xiaoping who didn't survive to see Hong Kong returned and Gianni Versace. Paula Yates not only lost her father but the father of her child when Michael Hutchence put in a stonking bid for the I can handle drugs certificate. Does Jack Straw's son qualify for the I can handle drugs (and get away with it) certificate in 1997 when we didn't know who he was or 1998 when it finally came out?
On the sporting scene (writes John Harrington) for a brief period Labour's election victory and the consequent change of the mood of the nation seemed to be having a beneficial effect on our sporting fortunes. In rugby we stuffed the Springboks, in cricket we whupped the Aussies in the one day competition and took a surprise 1-0 lead in the Ashes series, in football we qualified for the World Cup and came within the width of a post of being the first team to beat Italy at their gaff in a world cup qualifier (oh yeah, we won Le Tournoi, a meaningless tournament that became less meaningless when we won it), and I'm told by people who watch tennis that a "Brit" did quite well at Wimbledon.
I put "Brit" in quotation marks because Rusedski is not a proper Brit as he was born in Canada. To be a true Brit you've got to be born here, unless of course you are Lennox Lewis, in which case even though you were born here, really you are Canadian because you subsequently moved there.
Another Canadian with mixed reviews in Britain was Jacques Villeneuve who, according to the British press, made hard work of winning the world Formula One title in the Williams; our Damon, of course, would have had the title wrapped up by the 9th race of the season. The British press continued to perpetuate this fallacy even though Hill, in his flightless Arrows, was frequently being out driven by his team-mate, Pedro Diniz, a seventeen year old taxi driver from Sao Paolo.
The real villains of the F1 circuit however were, as usual, the Germans. Heinz Harald Frentzen for taking Damon's Williams drive away and Schumacher for being just a bit too bloody good and a bit too bloody German.
In boxing, Iron Mike Tyson bit off more than he could chew in taking on Evander Holyfield for the second time and sadly none of Prince Naseem's opponents realised the way to beat the jumped up little prick is to attack him with a flame-thrower at the weigh-in.
Was it the Ryder Cup in 1997 or the year before? Time passes quickly except when you are watching Leeds United play.
In keeping with the TTYF! tradition of schadenfreude I was most amused by Mike Siggins' despair at the BBC who, having ignored baseball all year long, caught him out on Breakfast TV by giving the result of the last game of the World (i.e. USA and a small bit of Canada) Series before he had a chance to watch it on Channel 5. By all accounts it was a thriller with the Atlanta Braves beating the Cleveland Indians. I must admit I watched a bit of it myself but then I had to find something else to do at four in the morning once TTYF! folded.
The Tour de France was won by someone who wasn't Miguel Indurain. Don't ask me who it was, I'm only the designer of one of the best cycling games of all time - Reiner Knitzia probably knows sod-all about modern art.
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