Wednesday, April 9, 2008

George Melly Mishears Heckler & Fan

The Observer [UK]
10 June 2007

Pendennis [column]


Give that man an ear trumpet

A new book, Hot Jazz, Warm Feet, by trumpeter and biographer John Chilton sheds new light on the comic genius of the great George Melly, whose long-time support band was led by Chilton. In the 1980s, Melly's hearing grew steadily worse, lending a surreal quality to the repartee he enjoyed with the audience. 'Aren't you embarrassed?' called a heckler at one gig. 'I am plainly here and not in Paris,' replied Melly.

Perhaps the most bizarre exchange occurred at a show outside London, when the singer inquired of a middle-aged fan whether she lived locally. 'Yes,' she said, 'but I spent several years in Uxbridge.' 'You poor soul,' sympathised Melly. 'My heart goes out to you. To have undergone such terror and tragedy and still to be able to smile is remarkable.'

The woman was startled, but managed to say: 'It wasn't quite as bad as that.' 'Such bravery,' whispered Melly, his voice almost choked with emotion. It eventually turned out he thought the woman had said Auschwitz. [...]

[Spotted by Paul Screeton, editor of Folklore Frontiers.]