John Cleese's mysterious divorce settlement

Published October 19, 2010

A couple of days ago, I went to the Cirkus theatre here in Stockholm to watch John Cleese on his Alimony Tour. As he bluntly informs the audience, he wouldn't be doing the tour if it wasn't for a costly divorce from his third wife, Faye Eichelberger, the terms of which seem excessively punitive. I have to admit that until I first heard about this tour earlier this year, I had no idea that Cleese had divorced his wife, nor that the terms of the divorce actually awarded her more of his money than he himself was left with. If I got this right, the gist of it was that she was awarded $20 million plus yearly payments of $1 million for seven years.

One can't help wondering: What on earth could Cleese have done that was so awful that she had to be consoled by so much money, or what did she contribute to the marriage that gave her the moral right to so much money, or what career opportunities did she give up during their time together that needed to be compensated by so much money? Curiosity got the better of me, and after a little googling I found some articles that informed me of what was apparently the main argument put forward.

According to the Daily Telegraph, "In her divorce testimony, [Faye Eichelberger] claimed Cleese was a 'world-renowned celebrity' and she was used to 'being entertained by royalty and dignitaries in castles'." This need to go on pursuing a life-style that she's become accustomed to is, as far as I've been able to find out, the only reason the judge saw fit to award her so much money.

It's not for me to pass judgment on Faye Eichelberger, even less so since I don't have all the details, but I have to wonder at this strange world we live in. Not least what a case like this says about what a marriage is supposed to be about. Only a small part passion and romance, apparently, and mostly a business arrangement wherein, if you happen to get "fired" from your "job", you are entitled to a hefty severance fee.

By the way, the show was fantastic, and although I'm sorry that John Cleese had to go on this tour for those reasons, I'm glad I got the opportunity to watch him talk at length about his life and career. It's only rarely that there's any onstage entertainment in this town that I want to take part of, but for a long-time Monty Python fan, this was a dream come true.


The Persuaders - lovely crap TV

Published October 07, 2010

People have different ways of coping with stressful periods in their lives. Some turn to drink or other stimulants, others console themselves with food. Although I'm certainly no stranger to trying those methods of alleviating heavy burdens in my life, in recent years I've discovered an unexpected way to distract myself in times of stress: not-very-great television shows from the Seventies.

A few years ago, when my father had just died, I found that when I wanted to relax in front of the television I didn't feel inclined to watch anything too demanding, but nor did I crave a reality show or whatever else passes for mindless entertainment these days. No, the perfect escape was the first couple of seasons of - Columbo. Very popular in its day, today I have to say I was often shocked at how slow and boring it often was. But even the worst episodes were exactly what I needed to divert my thoughts: the lame plots, the wooden or over-hysterical acting, the early-to-mid-Seventies fashion and hair styles - not too demanding, but still oddly entertaining enough to distract me.

I'm currently experiencing something similar with The Persuaders, a show that was originally broadcast 1971-1972, starring Roger Moore and Tony Curtis as a couple of playboys solving various mysteries. It was a show I truly loved as a child, and indeed it was very popular among Swedes in general. Today, of course, it's mainly a time-piece with little to recommend it in terms of plot, acting, or logic. Only John Barry's excellent theme music has stood the test of time.

However, when the news of Tony Curtis' death reached me last week, I didn't want to honour his memory by watching a truly great film like Some Like It Hot. No, it was The Persuaders I craved. I happened to own a DVD with the first four episodes, and found to my great surprise that after I had watched those, I wanted more. Well, being fully aware that I'd had a stressful few weeks I shouldn't have been surprised. Luckily, the complete series is available to rent at my local video store - I'm now up to episode 10...

I have to agree with British comedy writer Frank Muir, who, in a truly informative Wikipedia article about The Persuaders, is quoted as saying that it "must have been the best bad series ever made". Because it does have plenty to offer: a heightened version of the playboy lifestyle of the times, amazing late Sixties/early Seventies fashion (Roger Moore's outfits were all designed by himself) and interior decorating, and a lack of plausibility that is so consistent throughout the series that it somehow ends up working in its favour. Watching several episodes in one go, you find yourself pondering such mysteries as: why does an American like Danny Wilde (Tony Curtis' character) spend so much time in Great Britain, why does he wear gloves all the time, and if you are hit very hard on the back of your head with alarming regularity, wouldn't that result in some kind of brain damage after a while?

I don't know if The Persuaders is the right antidote for you in times of stress, dear reader, all I can tell you is that it works for me.


Honaloochie confusion

Published September 13, 2010

The random links between different strands of popular music never cease to fascinate me. A while ago I was listening to Honaloochie Boogie by Mott The Hoople. The intro reminded me of something else, I just couldn't think of what. Then it hit me. The intro is not identical but very similar to the intro on the song Miss Decibel by Swedish dance band Wizex, originally a runner-up in the 1978 selection for the Eurovision Song Contest. I'm sure the similarity is coincidental, but still: a close connection between a British glam rock band and Swedish Eurovision contenders - who would have thunk it? I guess sometimes a great riff is just a great riff - or, rather more accurately, a great chord change is a great chord change - and its cultural connotations are almost irrelevant.

If you have Spotify you can click this link and listen for yourselves.

Hooray for Bowie downloads!

Published September 08, 2010

As most people reading this will be aware, for the past decade we have seen an eternally ongoing debate about illegal file-sharing versus legal downloading, the future of the CD, the potential of services such as Spotify, and so on ad nauseam. I'm not going to open that particular can of worms right now, except to put the following question: How are music fans expected to legally download tracks when so many artists - from superstars to super-obscure - or their labels simply won't make the music available in download shops such as iTunes? For example, in 2010 The Beatles and iTunes/Apple are still haggling over percentage points, and nothing by The Eagles is available for legal download except their latest album, Long Road Out Of Eden, just to name two major acts.

Therefore, I want to take this opportunity to salute David Bowie. Without claiming to have encyclopedic knowledge of his recorded output, it seems to me that pretty much everything he's ever recorded from 1969 onwards is available on iTunes.

While recently searching for digital files of Bowie recordings that, to the best of my knowledge, were never released on CD, such as the 1982 Baal EP (songs from a television production of Brecht's play) and the single mix of Loving The Alien (far superior to the mix on the 1984 album Tonight), I found that these were actually available as downloads-only on iTunes. What an excellent compromise between the fans' desire for rare tracks, and the somewhat limited commercial potential for these less than celebrated releases.

I suspect that this easy availability may have something to do with the fact that Bowie pretty much controls all his recordings from 1969 onwards, and being an Internet-friendly sort of person he and his representatives probably saw the logic in making everything available for the completists. I only wish more artists and labels would follow in his footsteps and make life easier for those of us who actually are willing to pay for our music. We want to give you our money in return for music that you've already recorded and released - what's the problem?


Pictures of interest #1

Published September 04, 2010

Although I don't care very much for his music these days, I really love this picture of Morrissey with a cat (my favourite animal) from a recent interview in The Guardian.

Morrissey with cat