Wednesday, 20 May 2009

Question Time

What’s the toughest question you have ever had to ask? No, apart from “can you kindly settle that outstanding invoice?” I’d appreciate your examples. The three questions I would really love to ask are (a) “God, is there life after death?” (b) "Doris (Stokes) what are next week’s winning Euro Lottery numbers?” and (c) "Piers (Morgan) do you realise what a complete tw*t you are?” Journalists, of course, have to ask awkward questions. I recall in the late Seventies the scandal over an alleged plot by the then leader of the Liberal Party Jeremy Thorpe to murder his gay friend Norman Scott to save his political career. With a possible trial looming, Thorpe, probably badly advised, held a media conference to deny the claims. When questions were invited the BBC’s Keith Graves was straight in: “Have you ever had a homosexual relationship?" Thorpe hurrumphed and replied: “If you do not know why it is improper and indecent to put such a question to a public man you ought not to be here.” I once attended a media conference called by Greater Manchester Police who were hunting for a missing young girl. A Mirror reporter Denzil Sullivan, who looked like Father Jack in Father Ted, had already asked what kind of underwear was she wearing, when he added: "I hope you find her soon." To which the presiding Chief Inspector replied: “Denzil, I hope we find her before you do.” On a similar occasion the police had called the media gathering because an officer, suffering from depression, had gone AWOL with a weapon. Colleagues were afraid he would commit suicide. A hack asked: “How proficient with firearms is he?” To which the chairing officer responded: “Put it this way, he’s not going to miss.” Sometimes hacks ask the most stupid or mundane questions. Who can forget the television journalist who asked cricketer Mike Gatting, sporting a bloodied gash across his nose, “where did the ball hit you?” I remember attending a photo opportunity to unveil David Beckham signing a new boot deal worth zillions with adidas. After listening to half a dozen lame questions from assembled hacks on how soft the new boot was and similar tosh I asked: "what happens if you get crocked next week and never play again. Do they take the money back?” Becks grinned and said: “You’re a cheerful chap aren’t you”. But I suppose the toughest question I ever had to ask was put to the wrestler Big Daddy and it was : "is it right that your wife is a lesbian?” Big Daddy, a beast of a man, although born Shirley Crabtree, lived in a picturesque weaver’s cottage in Sowerby Bridge. It would have been an idyllic place to visit except for two things, the snarling Alstatian dog chained to a kennel a few feet from the front door and the note which read “If you are Press go away.” Undeterred, the photographer I was with, Jeff Ross, and I entered the cobbled yard, manoeuvred gingerly around the growling canine, so close we could feel his hot breath, and knocked. Big Daddy, 6ft 2in, came to the door dressed in a light purple track suit. Well, for a few seconds he was like a badly cropped photograph, the top of his head and the sides of his massive torso obscured by the door frame. One look at Jeff’s camera bag told him we weren’t autograph hunters. I put my question as diplomatically as I could but Big Daddy seemed strangely distracted. His wrath, initially at least, was directed at Ross, whom he grabbed in a hold I first heard Kent Walton describe on ITV's World of Sport and that wrestlers used for the notorious “piledriver” throw. This time Big Daddy wasn’t bothered to see whether Ross landed on his head or not. He simply threw him out of sight over the yard’s surrounding wall. It was clear we'd chosen an inappropriate time so naturally, I made my excuse and left, at a not inconsiderable velocity. Big Daddy, famous for his record breaking 64 inch chest and despite weighing 26st 9lbs, gave chase. He was gaining on me and I hate to think where my career would have gone had he caught me. Luckily, seconds earlier, a car had pulled up containing two representatives from the News of the World. Big Daddy stopped and the last memory I have is of him shaking the parked car almost off its chassis like Godzilla. Oh, and before you ask, if I remember correctly, the village gossip was that she batted for both sides. But it was probably just that, gossip.


andrew spinoza said...

Love it, George, love it. I can read this kind of stuff all day long., keep it coming! If I can remember some of my memorable moments from the world of journalism, I'll post 'em as comments.

Like you design, too, you seem to have the ability to load pix which I have to ask people to help me to do!

Andy Spinoza

George Dearsley said...

Thanks Andy, I really appreciate that.