Thursday 4 August 2011


I mentioned in the previous blog that I would tell you about Producer Dr. Strangelove's new "executive" status.

Due to the unique way the BBC is funded and various regulations and agreements made with Governments and politicians (Incidentally I have no say in any Corporation machinations or decisions and so a lot of it I struggle to understand. I doubt most senior BBC executives would know who I was if I spontaneously combusted in front of them!), for a while now various programmes have been put out to "tender", be they TV or radio. After more beer and sandwiches in smoke-filled rooms, the faceless executive decided that more were needed. So the Best Time of the Day was one of those selected to be farmed out.

What would this mean? Who would it be? Would I be wined and dined by potential suitors? Would we like one another? Would the try and change things?

It felt a bit like I would imagine an arranged marriage could be. I have a suspicion I was the Bride. This worried me. Would I like him? Would he be fat and sweaty? Would he try and do unspeakable things to a pure and unsullied creature such as I?

What would happen to Dr Strangelove?

Despite my constant ribbing of the physical ruin that is Strangeo we have worked happily together for over a year now and he is pretty good at his job when he remembers what day it is. He has a slight problem grasping date and day so Christmas day in his house this year will be on Sunday 26th December. He will counter that I occasionally play the same record twice. (In my defence, I happen to like Big Mountain "Baby I love your way" so thought it deserved an airing 8 minutes after I first played it! Ahem).

So there was the added worry of us being separated like two naughty schoolkids. Would he disappear off into the bowels of the BBC and be last heard producing Good Morning Mansfield on a local station or Burkha or Burnoose on the World Service? Worse still, Hot Hit 20 with Binky on 101 The Bun or Lukewarm FM in Lampeter.

What would that do to the creative powerhouse that is the Best Time of the Day show? The programme that has brought you such highlights as Tri-Team Football, Strategic Fainting and the enchanted land of Nocturnia. I feel very proud as I type these words that so much nonsense has been broadcast over the last 20 years. Liberally sprinkled with fart gags. To think I started out as a temporary filing clerk at the DHSS. My "career" may not have been a runaway success but I have been very fortunate and still am to be doing this.

I wonder what it would have been like to have had a stellar time of it:

"Listeners’ fury at Sachsgate. Brand and Lester sacked"

"’I've had enough’ rages Jordan as she splits from Alex for the fifth time"

"Animal rights fury as Lester attends Grammy's wearing meat trousers"

On balance, I think I prefer what I have.

So we were left to stew as the show was put out to tender.

A phone call from the Controller and the deed was done.

So for the last month we have been produced by a company called "Wise Buddah". They do a lot of shows for 2 including Johnny Walker and Terry Wogan so I am in the best company.

Their master stroke was in hiring Strangelove as my producer. So he works for them and I work for the BBC. It seems a pretty good system. It also seems we get a better deal as there are other bits and pieces they can do for the show that the BBC can't and also they have promoted the Dr to "executive" status.

He not only works on the show but he has other "responsibilities" which he is rather vague about. I am watching his behaviour like a hawk in case this change in status goes to his head.

Over the years I have suffered at the hands of people who developed a power complex.

Once at a station we got a new Programme Director who in the space of a few weeks managed to totally demoralise what was, up to then, a happy ship. Stomping around and issuing orders. Whereas the previous incumbent would gently prod and cajole and - realising that there was little money to be had - praise people and in return got total loyalty and commitment. This guy ended one meeting with the words. "You either do as I say or you can leave". So I did along with a lot of others.

Shortly after, Karma lovers, the station was bought and he was sacked. The Managing Director - a fairly benign creature - was similarly tainted, he also tried to get in on the act by decreeing that everyone had to wear suits to work as anything else would send out the wrong message to advertisers. There are certain jobs where suits are not appropriate and 80's DJ's didn't wear them. I turned up wearing a boiler suit and the matter was quietly dropped.

So would I detect any change in Strangelove?

As a boy broadcaster just starting out one of my jobs was to look after guests for an all-speech current affairs breakfast show. The presenter - a very posh man in a threadbare suit - would turn up each morning at 6am with his briefcase and upon lighting the first of several hundred cigarettes wheeze.

"Special tea boy". So round to the tea machine I would go. Then to the newsroom, open his case (which was totally empty apart from a bottle of VAT 69), empty some of the tea and replace with Scotch.

I soon learned I could control him. One morning the teas were so "special" he started to drool whilst reading the introduction to a big interview with a local MP who, upon exiting the studio, asked: "Someone had a party in there?"

Strangelove gets tea. However, it is Green Tea as we could never trust the milk and green tea has supposedly health-giving properties and he realises his job depends to a great extent on keeping this DJ alive.

There are a legion of stories about Broadcasters being crocked by food poisoning. One guy was so queasy that he had to keep vomiting into the waste bin during the records whilst another misjudged the state of his bowels and had to do the rest of his show wearing a bin liner (Hopefully there were no guests that morning!) Whiskey and cigarettes would have been a welcome stench compared to the niff emanating from that studio!

So far he has been pretty much the same as usual. Although he is not able to spend as much time in bed as he used to as he has "responsibilities".

So he now spends a similar time in the gym pretending to work on his legs but in actual fact he is doing his "guns" as usual. They are coming on so much that a couple of the female producers, as well as a couple of the men, admired them in the Playlist meeting the other week, I am reliably informed.

However he no longer has the luxury of seemingly endless amounts of sleep as he has to go and do various "meetings" and do "presentations". He is probably a "mentor" too. This is a role that has changed significantly since I started back in the 1970's. From my rather hazy memory, "mentoring" usually meant middle-aged grubby men would hope to try and get the knickers off young interns.

I also recall as a young intern retaining full control of my underwear as no one appeared interested in a badly-dressed spotty student who lived at home with his Mum and Dad.

I will watch him like a hawk. Tin-pot despot characteristics include:

Trying to appear taller.

Affecting a military bearing.

Shouting for no reason.

Terrible rages over nothing.

Refusal to listen.

Inability to discuss anything.

No clear idea about anything.

Assertions such as "We always do it like this"

Sudden introduction of ludicrous rules and regulations.

"From now on I want you to add the word "Crustacean" to every link"

e.g "Online on digital and 88-91fm Crustacean this is Radio Two from the BBC"

Changes in dress to military uniform with masses of self-awarded medals.

Being surrounded by nubile interns who are "guards".

References to himself now always in third person:-

"Strangelove doesn't like this. You forgot Crustacean YOU BLOODY IDIOT!!!

So far he has exhibited none of the above traits. Although I know he has been online a lot looking at the Boloxnia site. (You may remember a few years back we invented an imaginary eastern European country which was landlocked yet had a huge navy, ruled with an iron fist by President for life, General Blokoff, who decreed that every year would be 1957 as he was a huge Bogart fan and that was the year Humphrey died. He may be getting a few tips…)

Keep listening to the show with the sharpest of ears in case you notice anything untoward creeping in such as "sense". Dictators have to be resisted.


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markbigears said...

Well, Rick, that's certainly an info-packed blog, and it gives me and your other listener much to ponder (you see! I listen to Radio 2 quite a lot, and know that every shoe has "another listener")

I shall be "eagle-eared" from now on, listening for any subtle changes in your vocal demeanour, which might indicate "interference" from Strangeo (are you still allowed to call him that?)

In fact, that's probably the first thing to watch out for... when he suddenly announces that he'd rather be referred to as something else ("He's something else, that one!") You MUST resist this!

Anyway those are my initial thoughts - hope they help!

Anonymous said...

Hello Alex,

I have a little book that Dr Strangeo may be trying to get his hands on: it was given to me when I achieved “executive status” at work - the book is called “ How to Rule The World” ( A handbook for the aspiring dictator) by Andre' De Guillaume. It covers everything, and it really works.

“ Power has a pretty poor image in today's world of bleeding hearts and political correctness. Some say power should be shared, that too much power in one person's hands is a bad thing, and that power goes to people's heads, but only people without power say these things, while people whom have power know that nothing happens without it. You are nothing without power, and your fortunes will blow in the wind. With power you are a force that can change the world.”

You must keep this book away from Strangeo at all costs: look what happened to me.

Oh while I remember: Professor Mark's name. How about Higgo the Quack?



Slyppery Syd said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Slyppery Syd said...

Scary photo Alex ... argghhhhhh! You'll frighten the kids!