Where Are They Now?
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.
- No. 1: Simon Parkin
Simon Parkin, at the height of his fame probably Britain's thirteenth most popular Children's BBC presenter, now scrapes congealed beans off plates in the Little Chef restaurant on the A63 just outside Hull. Simon, who now wears a snorkel parka coat permanently, lives in a skip at the back of the Little Chef with a sock puppet called Jeremy and a small plastic bag of heroin. When we interviewed him about his dramatic fall from grace, he just started shouting 'Buggerit, buggerit, that bastard Otis the Aardvark nicked my job' and urinating into his trousers.
- No. 2: Nick Kamen
Remember him? The 'hunk' (allegedly) who stripped down to his white underpants in the laundrette in that famous Levis ad? The 'singer' (allegedly) who had a minor one-hit-wonder with 'Each Time You Break My Heart', a song which provided much hilarity via his weedy voice and mispwonounced 'r's. Well ironically enough we tracked the erstwhile popster/actor down to a laundrette in Penge, where he earns his keep cleaning out the scummy bits of dried up powder, fluffy bits, extra socks and old condoms which block up the washers and driers. When asked to comment on his new career, he mumbled something about 'resting between jobs' and threatened our correspondent with a packet of Omo.
- No. 3: Brian Cant
Brian, whose surname so nearly described his personality, rose to the dizzy heights of the mediocre children's daytime TV entertainment business with such masterworks as 'Playaway'. However, demand for irritating, talentless curmudgeons soon declined, and Brian found himself on the streets. For some years he explored opportunities in the mendicant sector. But in August 1996 Brian's luck changed. He was asked to do a comedy turn at a childrens' party. Brian thought his career was on the rise again. Unfortunately, on the day of the party, Brian arrived intoxicated, swigging from a bottle of meths, showed the children his bottom and collapsed in a drunken heap into the ice-cream. Today he roams the streets of Putney, shouting incomprehensibly.
- No. 4: Andrew Ridgeley
Chin-challenged songster Ridgeley spent many years of shame under the accusation of being the shit one in Wham. However, he was triumphantly vindicated with the release of George Michael's 'Listen Without Prejudice' album, which proved it was George after all, and began a dazzling solo career. Sadly, however, the usual evils of drink and drugs were waiting for him (in Andrew's case, Vimto and Benylin) and he soon fell from grace when he arrived on stage at a pop concert in Milton Keynes shouting incoherent abuse about 'that bastard George' and 'don't bother waking me up before you fucking go-go, you hirsute Greek twat'.
Andrew now lives alone in a sheltered apartment in the Rick Astley Twilight Home for Mediocre Pop Stars with 8,499 unsold copies of his solo album 'I Was The Good-Looking One in Wham' and a vole called Diarmuid who he has painstakingly trained to urinate over pictures of George Michael.
- No. 5: Chesney Hawkes
At the peak of his fame a woman in Brighton admitted that listening to one of Chesney's records was slightly more enjoyable than having her feet nailed together. The young popster, perhaps more famous for having a silly mark on his face and an implausible name than any singing ability he might have possessed, was to rise no higher in the public esteem. He was soon rounded up and placed him into the usual home for failed pop and soap stars, that is, a West End musical. Until the tragedy.
In 1993 during Chesney's stage performance, a teenager from Kingston, Surrey vomited a length of his own small intestine. Keith Begg, 17, told paramedics, "I could control the retching while Chesney was just acting. But when he started to sing as well, something inside me snapped. Next thing I knew, a lady in the row in front of me started shrieking and pulling my guts out of her handbag."
The show closed soon afterwards due to bad publicity, and Chesney himself was reduced to taking menial jobs: street sweeping, toilet cleaning, and finally, saddest of all, a Channel 5 retuner. He was last seen in August this year being taken away by police from a King's Cross bedsit after attempting to sing a medley of his hits while retuning an old lady's television.
- No. 6: Gaz Top
Cheeky-faced Gaz, whose trademark 'twat' hairstyle marked him as one of the most foolish children's TV presenters of the Eighties (against some pretty stiff competition), was once a household name, in his own household. At the peak of his fame presenting the Saturday morning show Get Fresh a survey found that more than 68% of respondents would like to crush his face with a breeze-block.
Sadly however the usual decline set in and now Gaz, 32, earns a meagre living handing out leaflets in shopping centres while dressed as a chicken, and cold-calling people on Saturday evenings to ask if they'd be interested in purchasing immersion heaters. When we asked him how he felt about his fall from fame his characteristically wry comment was "Fuck off. Oh - unless you'd like an immersion heater."
- No.7: Keith Barron
Keith's pasty face and perpetually slightly worried expression made him an ideal choice for low-quality ITV sitcoms, most famously the execrable Duty Free. Keith's career never quite recovered from being in this - even by ITV standards - titanic turkey, and he now washes windscreens for a living at the traffic lights on the south side of Vauxhall Bridge. Keith's name has also entered the slang lexicon, as in 'That bloke we met on holiday, who kept trying to shag that other bloke's wife and hiding in the wardrobe. What a total Keith Barron.'
- No.8: Steve Wright
Steve and his humourless team of paid gigglers were for many years the mainstay of Radio 1's afternoon schedule, and later his vacuous moustachioed face impaired the television screens of a nation with such commissioning errors as "Steve Wright's People Show". However, Steve's moustache made him a little too reminiscent of the bloke in the pub who could turn quite nasty after a couple of gins, and so his popularity waned. After a season of unsuccessful and swiftly truncated appearances in panto, he moved out of his luxury Hampstead mansion into a more modest accomodation under Waterloo Bridge. He remains there to this day, drinking White Lightning cider and impersonating Sid the Manager.
- No.9: Norman Wisdom
One name is synonymous with a vacuous grin, falling into open manholes and shrieking "Oooh Mr Grimsdale!": the child christened Norman Piejlscewicz, later to take his stage name of Norman Wisdom after abandoning a career in dentistry. For many years Norman was the world's most highly-paid cinematic idiot, playing to enormous audiences who all devotedly wore a comedy flat cap in his honour. Then it all slipped away.
Like many megastars Wisdom became involved in alternative religions. A period of dabbling in Scientology was cut short when John Travolta asked him to leave the group for allegedly saying that L. Ron Hubbard's epic sci-fi novels were 'shit'. His brief foray into Zen Buddhism ended in disgrace when he insisted on falling down open manholes instead of peacefully contemplating his inner being.
Norman is now Deputy Inspector of Environmental Services at Southwark Council. He can sometimes be seen out on the van, collecting dustbins from as far abroad as Camberwell and East Dulwich, still wearing his amusing flat cap and trying to get in the way of people carrying long planks.
- No.10: The Barron Knights
The Barron Knights, a not very funny comedy band who weren't very good at music, were perhaps never destined for the same sort of worldwide renown as Elvis, Hendrix or the Bay City Rollers. However for the last forty-odd years they have inexplicably kept on singing semi-amusing songs in low-rent nightclubs and entertaining old ladies at the seaside.
Since they've never been very popular information on the band is very hard to come by. There is a rumour that their name derives from the fact that all the members are devoted fans of Keith Barron (q.v.). But it probably isn't true.
Where are they now? Where they've always been. Endlessly trolling around Britain's minor coastal towns playing to near-empty clubs and 'comedy bars'. Popular folklore has it that they once played the Cornwall Coliseum at St. Austell, invariably the kiss of death for any band's remaining shreds of credibility. The boys have recently finished a non-sell-out series of shows at the Bournemouth International Centre. And the saddest thing is: that last bit's true.
- No.11: Jay Aston of Bucks Fizz
Who could forget Bucks Fizz? Those two gorgeous all-singing, all-dancing bimbos, pouting for the camera at every opportunity - and the girls were just as bad! We all know what happened to Cheryl Baker and the boys, but whatever became of buxom Jay Aston, who left the group at the height of their success to go on to bigger and better things?
After an intensive investigation, we tracked Jay down to a warehouse on Grimsby docks where she has reached a career high, cleaning and gutting fish brought ashore by her new boyfriend, fisherman Ned Anderson. Her best assets are now covered by a large grey, holey arran sweater, and the once flowing blonde locks are cut short and tucked inside a woolly bobble hat. But fear not, Fizz Fans, Jay is still as athletic as ever, as our reporter discovered when she chased him around the dockside throwing rotten fish at him and screaming 'I am not her! She's a big Hollywood star now! Leave me alone, you bastards!"
Thanks to Sue for the ones about Nick Kamen and Jay Aston. Get in touch!
Please note that Brian Cant's credibility has now soared due to his recent appearances on Lee & Herring's 'This Morning With Richard Not Judy'. But we thought we'd leave him in anyway. Maybe I was thinking of Brian Conley.