Thursday, 19 April 2018

FAREWELL, DALE WINTON




So many memories of and thoughts about Dale Winton. Few knew what a prolific London club DJ he was during the Seventies and Eighties. His knowledge of popular music was encyclopaedic. It was what led Phil 'The Collector' Swern to cast him as host of BBC Radio 2's 'Pick of the Pops' in 2000. Dale hosted the show for a decade, and was born to the role.
His TV-presenter image was at times uncool, in the Michael Barrymore/Les Dennis mould. This was unfortunate. While he relished the roles, he never seemed completely at ease in them. I often felt how much better his face was suited to radio, in the figurative rather than the literal sense, and how much more comfortable he seemed behind a microphone than in front of a television camera.
There have been thankfully few bitter words about him. Many of those paying tribute have applied the word 'kind', and he was nothing if not that. I remember once being late for a medical appointment in Wimpole Street, and driving round and round. Edging along Marylebone High Street for the fifth time, I spied DW gossiping with a shop assistant outside the White Company, when it used to be on the opposite side of the street. He must have spotted me circling, because he started windmilling frantically, jumped in his Range Rover, rolled it forwards to make way for my Renault, and cried, 'Don't worry about the meter, I'll be here for ages and I'll keep an eye!' He relished doing a favour. Anyone and everyone. It is the little things.
Much has been made of his failure to attend his great friend Cilla Black's funeral in 2015. But that was easy to understand. Dale had never recovered from the loss of his mother Sheree, upon whom he doted. His personal void could never be filled, because he had not been able to bring himself to come out to his mum. He had never plucked up the courage to reveal his true identity - though it is reckoned that Sheree probably knew. Cilla, a little over a decade older than Dale, became an adoring mother figure to him. He could not face Cilla's funeral because it was like having to confront his mother's death over again. A similar thing happened to Queen's bassist John Deacon. Having lost his father when he was only eleven years old, John was forced to relive the loss when Freddie Mercury died. Freddie had long been his father figure. His death backed John into the corner where at last he had no choice but to deal with denial. John was unable to cope, lost the plot, quit the band, betrayed his wife with another woman, let down his kids... grief does things. Though it is inappropriate to speculate, perhaps Dale went there too. Reckon in the fact that Sheree took her own life. I won't be surprised to hear what I fear to hear.
R.I.P., kind man. I hope they have vinyl up there.

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

THE FREE 9




Great churnings of citizens have evaporated from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea since Kim Jong Un came to power following the death of his father in 2011. The strangely-shaped and shaven dictator has since carved a name for himself as the chief executioner of the modern world, commanding the assassinations of family, friends and officials by firing squad, by blasting them with mortar rounds, by burning them alive via flame throwers, and by feeding their bodies to starving dogs. KJU is a bloodthirsty and murderous goon with the worst human rights record in the modern world. Under his rule, there is no such thing as 'human rights'. There is no free speech, the media is government-controlled, and foreign visitors are strictly monitored. Off to the peninsula on holiday? Mind how you go.
We're often assured that tales of forced labour, torture and human experimentation are greatly exaggerated. But the United Nations, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International all condemn. The thought of President Trump sitting there idly considering five comfy locations for a summit with KJU is more than a little sickening, therefore. Shake hands and smile for the cameras, and all will be rehabilitated and well? Tell it to the estimated 200,000 North Koreans incarcerated in political prison camps tucked away in hostile, inaccessible regions, their existence denied by the NK authorities. Tell it to the family of his former defence chief, executed recently because he happened to fall asleep at a military event, his murder witnessed by hundreds of state officials.
Tell it to the teenagers of South London Youth Theatre, who have performed In-Sook Chappell's haunting, horrifying play 'The Free 9' at Theatre Peckham as part of National Theatre Connections 2018. Inspired by the true story of the 'Laos 9', it drops in on a clutch of street orphans forced to live a life of depravity and degradation while dreaming of a happy-ever-after of consumerism, sugar, fame and pop in the free South. Is their bid for freedom merely a fantasy, or a real and dangerous attempt? Haunted by lost relatives portrayed as eyeless zombies, and by the fear of capture and punishment, there will never be release for these youngsters. Not even if they escape.
How heart-stopping and mind-invading, the true efforts of this incredible group of teenaged performers guided by their producer-director Spencer James. They immersed themselves with every fibre in a slice of what the world needs to know. Out of the mouths of babes, President Trump. Out of the mouths of babes.
www.slyt.co.uk