Saturday, March 25, 2006

A Walk Down Sleazy Lane

Writing the next editorial for The Sleaze (due for publication on 1st April), has had me taking a stroll down memory lane and revisiting some of my earliest attempts at writing sleaze. Perhaps the greatest triumph of my early period was Trumpton Behind Closed Doors, an 'adult' version of the popular children's TV programme. It was a clear signpost to the future, combining smut and sexual innuendo with satire. It was also scarily prescient, with Trumpton's mayor dispatching local policeman PC McGarry to fight the terrorist threat being posed to the community by the Chigley Liberation Front (CLF). Indeed, the story opens with the CLF blowing up the town clock, which, as every child of the 1970s knows, was 'telling the time, never too quickly, never too slowly. Telling the time for Trumpton' - clearly a symbol of the oppressive time-managed society we live in!

As I recall, the main thrust of the plot involved the CLF plotting to blow up Lord Belborough (he was a local factory owner), by secreting 'Windy' Miller in the smokebox of his steam locomotive (which he liked to drive), after stoking him up on baked beans, and letting nature take its course. Looking back, it is clear that my politics were still somewhat confused at the time (I was still in my teens), as the CLF was being led by Farmer Bell - surely a capitalist lackey? Perhaps his Lordship was charging too high a rent on his land, or something. Anyway, I somehow worked a fair amount of sexual perversion into the story. McGarry, for instance, goes to the local army fort for assistance, only to find Sergeant Major Grout sticking a cucumber up the Captain's arse. The Trumpton fire brigade are also caught using their extendable ladders to spy on women in their bathrooms, I seem to remember. The whole thing ended with the CLF triumphant and Lord Belborough blown to bits!

Looking back on such classics always brings up the question as to just what is it about sleazy subject matter which attracts me? I just can't resist the lure of the seedy and unwholesome: given the choice between watching, say, Bergman's Seventh Seal or The Erotic Experiences of Frankenstein, I'll always choose the latter. Even though I know that it was directed by Jesus Franco and will be composed almost entirely of nausea inducing zoom shots.

But why? Well, there's little doubt that sleaze always seems to hold out to me the promise of revealing some fundamental truth about human nature and the world in general - even when it takes the form of a trashy European horror film. Sleaze panders to our basest desires and lays them bare. It reveals people's true motivations - which are more often than not driven by lust, greed and just good old plain sex, rather than altruism. That's why sordid sex scandals involving public figures are so fascinating - the carefully constructed public persona is suddenly stripped away and we're able to glimpse the real person behind it. Take the Frank Bough scandal of many, many years ago - who would have suspected that avuncular cardigan-wearing BBC TV sports and news anchor, 'Uncle' Frank Bough, would turn out to have a private life involving prostitutes, wild sex parties and snorting cocaine off of the nipples of teenage 'models', (I might have imagined that last bit, but the rest is true).

Once things like that are brought into the open, then, just for a while, the public begins to wonder what else might just be a fabrication, and what the real truth actually is. That's the power of sleaze - slowly but surely, like the sea relentlessly crashing against the shore, wears away the layers of so-called 'reality', to reveal the real workings of the world. It is also why it is such a good foundation for creating satirical stories. After all, isn't that what satire is meant to be about - cutting through the crap and ridiculing the pretentions of the powerful?

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