Whenever I see an article by or about Jonathan Miller, famous for Beyond The Fringe and his subsequent directing career, often in opera, I rush to read it. This is partly because he is a brilliant man and partly because almost everything he says about theatre is complete nonsense. The English newspaper The Independent had an article recently centered on Miller’s declaration that he had not attended a West End play in a decade. Miller went on to talk inanely about his disdain for “modern” theatre and showed his complete lack of understanding of how theatre actually gets made. Despite this I still have a soft spot for the man. How can you not love one of the Beyond The Fringers? However, it was not Miller’s diatribe that ultimately captured my attention. Throughout any article on the internet now various words are underlined and of a different color from the rest of the text. When you click on them they take you to some website or other that tries to sell you something. I have never clicked on one of these because I usually don’t have the time to read another article and I really don’t want to buy whatever they have to offer. How do I know this, you may ask. I don’t. I’m just making an assumption, rather like when scanning television channels I do not rest on the shopping channels because ... well, because. They don’t sell books on QVC. Do they? Anyway, certain words were highlighted in the Miller article, among them the names of his fellow Fringers. I rolled the mouse over Dudley Moore. (Is that similar to walking across his grave?) I was interested in what might be on offer in the web world of Dudley Moore. Those of us of a certain age have no great love for the Hollywood years of Dud’s life but are still quoting lines from his seminal work with Peter Cook. May I, just for a moment, digress? Yes, I may. Would all those people who write about artists, particularly successful artists, please stop blathering on about “unfulfilled potential” and “wasted talent”? On a bad day, hung over, with his head deep in the toilet bowl, Peter Cook was a colossus compared to the rest of us who are trying to cobble together two coherent words with which to attract the attention of even one other human being. Bloody journalists who would give their right gonad to have written three lines in a single Peter Cook sketch should just be quiet in the presence of greatness.
Digression done. I rolled over Dud. I really had no chance to ponder what might pop up relating to him because the balloon thing was there instantaneously. It announced that if I clicked on the Dudley Moore related balloon I would be taken to a site offering cheap deals for travel to and accommodation in Edinburgh, Scotland. Now, it happens that Edinburgh is one of my favorite cities in the world. Even if I had not been there recently I might, under other circumstances, have been interested in information about Edinburgh. Why, though, was it linked to Dudley Moore? I could understand if I had been reading about Rod Stewart. He has familial links to Edinburgh, though the chances of my reading articles concerning Rod Stewart are slim. I doubt he thinks much about the theatre. Let me add that while walking near Edinburgh Castle recently in the pouring rain my family and I heard a pounding bass and somewhat familiar guitar riff and were informed by a homeless man that Rod Stewart was performing at the castle. The song was “Do You Think I’m Sexy?”. Like the later work of Dudley Moore, we of a certain age prefer to ignore later Rod Stewart. I decided to investigate further (the internet sales thing, not Rod Stewart.) I rolled over the illustrious name of Alan Bennett, whose pronouncements on just about anything are a delight and an education. I wonder if he still chats with Jonathan Miller? Given that Bennett’s plays are often in the West End I imagine certain topics are off limits. Rolling over Bennett produced a balloon advertising retirement homes. I suppose, given Bennett’s age and the ages of his likely readers and ticket buyers, there might be some very tenuous link between him and the product offered.
I have been pondering these connections in idle moments of late and can find no possible reason why hotels in Edinburgh would pay good money to a website to link them to mentions of Dudley Moore in newspaper articles. I have tried imagining the meeting in which some eager young sales person is trying – and clearly succeeding – in convincing the Edinburgh Chamber of Commerce to pay money to be linked to Dudley Moore. For one thing, what eager young sales person has even heard of Dudley Moore? Perhaps they are trying to capture the business of the three people still living who actually saw the original Beyond The Fringe in Edinburgh in the early sixties. Unfortunately I imagine they are all in retirement homes which they found by rolling over the name of Alan Bennett in an English newspaper.